In this installment of “It Takes a Thief,” a little bit of a history lesson.
It Takes a Thief, Part Four
No one knows if the Edolian Peninsula got its name from the Edolian Sea, or the other way around. What is known is that this jagged, rocky piece of land has played an important role in the growth of trade across all of Erden.
Beginning at the foothills of the Midland Mountains, the flat plains of Edolia provide an easy land route between the kingdoms in the west and those in the east. The bays, coves, and inlets that dot the coast provide natural harbors for ships crossing the sea. Market towns and trading posts grew up around these land and sea routes. Small farms worked what little fertile land there was. Shepherds and goatherds tended their flocks on rocky hills, and small fishing villages were settled along the coast.
Over two hundred years, the trading posts grew in size and wealth, eventually becoming cities. The five largest, wealthiest cities absorbed the smaller villages and farms around them, forming the City-States of Edolia. The city-states have no kings, no queens, no lords. Merchants, bankers, and traders are the city-states’ nobility. It is said that the navies of the Edolian city-states are the most powerful in the known world, but their sole duty is protecting the ports and harbors from pirates and privateers.
“They say thieves and pirates are executed without trial in the city-states.”
Farris leaned against the gunwale, the occasional moments of fresh air doing wonders for his seasickness. He watched the cliffs of the rocky coastline in the distance as the holk continued its westward voyage.
He considered the words that had been spoken by the young soldier standing guard next to him. At least he thought the soldier was young. Hauflins retain a youthful appearance well into adulthood, making it difficult to guess the age of humans. Elfs and dwarfs were easy: assume an elf was older than it looked and a dwarf was younger than it looked. But humans? It was a guess every time.
“Do you travel much?” he asked the soldier.
“What? Oh, no. This is my first time away from home.”
Youth, Farris thought. “You do know that most thieves and pirates rarely benefit from fair and just trials, right?”
Their debate was interrupted by a sudden commotion on deck. Farris turned around to see the sailors hurrying about, climbing rigging and tying off lines. The ship’s sails flapped in the breeze. The hull creaked and groaned as the holk came about to round the Black Cliffs of Edolia at the southern tip of the peninsula. Solaria was the westernmost of the five city-states, often called “The Gateway to the West” in the Seven Kingdoms.
As the ship rounded the Black Cliffs, Farris could see the tall masts of galleons and other large trading ships off in the distance. Smaller ships floated here and there and, although he couldn’t make out their markings, he was sure they were part of the Solarian navy.
Solaria had three harbors: the Upper Harbor, the Lower Harbor, and the Outer Harbor. All three harbors were protected from the open water by massive walls of polished white stone. Watchtowers, manned day and night, protected the walls at regular intervals. Carracks, galleons, and other large ships docked in the Upper Harbor. The shallow waters of the Lower Harbor were safer for smaller ships. The Outer Harbor, where the city-state’s navy was berthed, encircled both.
Beyond the harbor, Farris could just make out the three walls, made of the same polished white stone as the harbor walls, that encircled Solaria. The outer ring was the largest, surrounding the farms that helped feed the city-state’s population. The middle ring was home to shops and markets and the men and women who ran them. The inner ring was home to the wealthiest citizens of Solaria. Bridges, causeways, and gatehouses separated one ring from another.
“That is a big city.”
Farris had long since accepted the fact that his twin could sneak up on him. “Have you ever seen anything like it, Fayra?”
“They say the city-states are unlike anything the world has seen since the fall of the Daeneric Empire.”
“Fah! That’s twaddle, brother dear. Khaladur means ‘Jewel of Heaven’ in Westronne, and I don’t think that’s the kind of thing the gods allow unless there’s some truth to it.”
Farris questioned his sister’s logic, but said nothing. “How are we going to find this Sekk in a city that size?”
“Skill, twin of mine,” Fayra smiled. “With just a hint of luck and a heavy dose of wiles.”
“Oh, good. Wiles.”