Outside Atium

Dear Aelise,

There was a huge hold up at the gate where the guards were waiting for people to be cleared. I say the guards were waiting because they seemed to be waiting for a certain man to allow anyone into the city. All weapons were surrendered to the guard as people entered, even items like staves or pitchforks were tossed into the pile of confiscated goods. It took us the better part of the day to get in and so, while Gavrael was content on waiting for our turn, I wandered about. It seems that the city has spilled beyond its walls, as there is a huge encampment encircling the city, and is particularly thickest at the gates. I thought it was an army, but closer inspection revealed I was wrong.

Peasants of various sorts linger about the makeshift tents, and dirty children and scruffy dogs alike wander down the muddy pathways between the tents. Two mugs of beer bought from a questionable source managed to loosen some tongues. A small area was set aside for drinking, with men on little wooden stools and their legs, too close to the ground, were either was crouched back in a near fetal position or splayed out like fallen marionettes. The beer itself was thin as water. I’m not sure if it even can be called beer. But the people there enjoy it well enough, or at least, manage to drink it. I talked to some of these people. Some have a faraway look in their eyes, others move slowly, as if in a dream.

These people are the dispossessed, fleeing war and hunger, but are not allowed into the city and so instead they brought the city out. I too found out where all the wood went. At some places, there are huge campfires set up to provide warmth, and they require feeding constantly, especially since the nights are getting cold. I wonder how long they will last. The only true forest hereabouts is the Imperial forest, and the trees there are protected.

After a time, I made my way out of the tent-city and back into the queue. We got in without much issue, since Gavrael had some kind of special pass that his rich patrons provided him and managed to convince the guards that I was one of his servants. It wasn’t too difficult, with all the layers of dust and dirt from travelling.


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