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The Scape is a desolate place, a desert covered in dunes, no landmarks to see for miles around. If it was a safe area, one could look around and in two directions; see a seemingly endless line of mountain peaks, continuing on the horizon into the distance. From the other direction from the middle, if all was safe, one would see a seemingly endless desert, continuing forever. Little would the traveler know that on either side of this great expanse is a city. In the beginning, there was only one, but when the population began to increase, the richest of the people built a city on the other side of the Scape. They named the city Brink, and only the richest of the rich live in Brink. The original city, Ridge City, lies to the west. Ridge City may be where only the poorer people live, but it is also where everything that helps run the City of Brink comes from.
Runners, the warriors of the cities, are charged with transporting the goods for Brink from Ridge City, and if this was a safe venture, their caravans would make the journey in less than a week.
But the Scape isn’t safe. In the middle of the Scape reside the Dwellers. The Dwellers are the scourge of the desert, resembling the mythical mermaids that only the old bards still believed in. They were grey in color, about six feet from head to tail, and ferocious. They were a species that had evolved over time as well as the humans. With two massive arms, the Dwellers were a strong opponent for any untrained traveler. The Dwellers had fashioned weapons out of the stone lying somewhere below the dunes, swords, tridents and spears. Unfortunately for Runners, the Dwellers were skilled in battle, and lived right in the middle of the Scape, with no way around them, the Runners were forced to battle through whatever Dwellers were out in the open, and keep the caravans safe to get there. Only the most killed Runners are able to make it to the other side, but thankfully, the journey was only made every few months.
These Runners trained for years, handpicked from a young age by older runners, trained in combat, both close and hand-to-hand combat, until adulthood, when they would begin their roles as the Runners.
The two strongest of the Runners were tasked with clearing the way for the caravan, defeating any Dwellers in their path. Those two Runners are Barek and Ortan.
Barek leaned over the body of the Dweller, as the sand slowly billowed around him. The Dweller had come from beneath the sand, attempting to ambush him, but Barek had merely placed his spear in the sand, and let the Dweller impale itself upon it. Barek was a tall man, somewhere around six feet tall he figured. He was almost twenty three, and he had been a runner for five years now. From the suns heat on his body, his skin was almost the color of the sand around him. Though his hair was a piercing black that contrasted so strongly with the sand around him that he looked light a black dot on white canvas from a distance. His eyes, a pale bluish gray had been likened to the color and intensity of the mythological waters the bards told stories about. Barek, as a Runner, wore form-fitting sand-colored clothing which fit in with the landscape so well that if he lay down, he would become invisible. He had been selected to become a Runner at a young age, and when his parents were killed during a caravan trip, he obtained the drive to become the best, and he had. His only mission in life was to kill as many Dwellers as he could, and he had designed a weapon to do just that. His spear was no ordinary spear. It was a long-bladed spear at one end, and a club at the other. In the middle, the spear would come apart, resulting in a long-handled sword at one end, and a club at the other. It was both a medium-range weapon and a close-combat dealer of death. On a trip to the prosperous City of Brink with his partner Ortan to drop off the next load of food for the rich.
They had no idea as they ran through the Scape, that the situation in Brink was direr than it had ever been.
As Barek pulled the spear out of the Dweller, it began to stir and wake. Quickly, Barek stabbed it once more in its head, twisted the blade, and pulled the spear out, and the Dweller was dead.
“I’m starting to think they’re getting stupider, or were getting smarter.” said Ortan standing beside Barek.
Ortan was, to anyone looking at both of them, almost a twin of Barek. Slightly shorter, maybe by an inch, and lighter haired, they looked identical. He favored close combat with the Dwellers, wielding a weapon he called a Guard Shoto, which looked like any other short swords, but a second handle came off the original handle, which allowed for even quicker and closer movements. They were then strapped to his forearms so they would stay in place, though with only a slight twist, they would come undone and could be used as most swords are.
The two Runners were close to Brink, less than an hour away. To find a Dweller so close to the city was strange, the Dwellers usually didn’t come within ten miles of the cities, to find one within two was disconcerting.
“Do you think something could be wrong in the City?” asked Barek. He grasped his spear a little more tightly, and stood. He looked into the distance.
“Let’s keep going, Barek. I’m sure this was just a runt in the litter.” said Ortan, though he also gripped his blades with a little more urgency.
The two men started at a jog, and then broke into a dead sprint through the dunes towards Brink. They were trained to sprint for miles at a time, and still be able to fight when they stopped.
As they reached the last mile, they could see the city in the distance, but when they turned around a dune, they saw a black shape in the sand on the next dune. Knowing there shouldn’t be anything there, they rushed over to it. It was a shirt, or at least what was left of it. It was tattered and cut to pieces, and covered in blood.
“That doesn’t look good at all. We need to get to Brink, now!” said Barek, dropping the shirt and breaking into a sprint, Ortan right beside him.
Breaking over the last dune, with a quarter mile of flat desert left to run through, they saw a signal fire in the top window of the city. It was the emergency beacon.
“Oh no, what is going on?” asked Ortan. The two men ran harder than they ever had, practically flying over the sands. As they got closer they saw a man waving at them from the gate, which was wide open.
The man walked forward to them, wielding a spear in his hands.
“Finally, Runners! You must get to the king, the city is falling, and the food supply is gone! It has been poisoned! We have little left we can eat!” said the man,
Ortan and Barek stopped and looked at each other. It would take at least two days to get back to Ridge, another two to get the food ready, and another week to get it to Brink. That was not enough time. Passing the old man, they rushed up the street, as the citizens of Brink stepped to the side to let them pass, cheering as they did.
The City was set up to have the lowest buildings in front and the higher buildings toward the middle, so the city looked like a pyramid from the ground, so if the city ever came under attack, the citizens would be able to defend themselves from higher ground.
In the direct middle of the town was the king’s home. It was a white stone building, four stories tall; it was the tallest building in the city. Guarded on either side of the door were two of the City’s Guards, highly armored men wielding heavy weapons, they were formidable fighters, trained only in killing Dwellers. They let the two Runners through without a word, though they did salute them with their weapons as they passed through the archway.
The King was in the main lobby, where he had relocated his throne. King Arron was a large man, almost too heavy off of years of being spoiled by his wealth and excess. But now he seemed sickly and tired.
“My lord, what has happened?” asked Barek as the two Runners knelt before the king. The king shifted in his seat, looking down upon the Runners.
“The last food shipment you sent us has become infected, we are not sure how. There is only enough food left for a week at best for the people of Brink. What do we do?”
Barek and Ortan looked at each other, knowing of only one option the people of Brink could take.
“My lord,” said Ortan. “To get a new shipment of food would take almost three weeks. Even by rationing the remaining food you have, you would run out long before we returned from Ridge. ”
The king nodded and looked around his castle, as if in another world, looking upon his domain as if for the first time.
“Then what option is there, Ortan?” he asked.
Ortan looked nervously at Barek, willing him to answer.
“The only possibility, King Arron, that I see, is to move the people of Brink back to Ridge City. There should be enough food to last the trip.”
The King looked at Barek questioningly, shuffling his feet at the thought, “And the Dwellers? Moving an entire city through the Scape would be no quiet task, we would be destroyed! We only have twenty or so Guards, they can’t defend the hundreds of citizens of Brink from the Dwellers!”
Barek nodded, “no sir, they wouldn’t be able to defend them, we would be destroyed. That is why I say we should take on the Dwellers, not just fight them when they attack, I say we defeat them on their own turf, kill all of them, maybe we can distract them long enough for the people of Brink to go past unharmed.”
The king stood from his throne, stepped down the marble stairs separating them, and stood in front of Barek.
“You are talking about suicide, there is no way you would be able to defeat all of them, we don’t even know how many of them there are. They would kill you and then us.”
“But if we do nothing we all die anyway and if we all go we die as you said, so that is our only option.” said Barek.
Ortan looked at Barek and nodded his head in agreement. The king looked from one to the other, thinking hard, finding no other solution.
“You can take half of the Guards. Go in the morning, take food for a few days, come to me in the morning and we will talk more. For now I’ll think about it.”
The king turned and walked through an archway leading away from the entry. Barek and Ortan stood and left the kings home, out into the street. They looked around at the city. Its people were running around, trying to keep busy, though the same look of worry was present on their faces. Some of them stared at Barek and Ortan as they walked down toward the city gate, to where the Runners stayed while they were in the city.