Here you'll find


Old Rose



In this story we travel to the city of Saygorr in south-eastern Revnash. This bohemian city offers a refuge for many of those, who wish for a relief from the ultra-conservative attitudes prevailing in Revnash during the rule of Queen Varentha.

- ONGOING. Overall rating MA.


Chapter 1

"Holy shit."

"Man, you're always as eloquent!"

"And you're always as funny."

Arjan leaned his elbows on the bulwark and tried in vain to sweep the long black ponytail behind his back. It kept spilling over his shoulder, and after a few attempts he sighed in resignation and just let it sway in the wind instead.

"You're the funny one," he tried again. "I mean, is 'holy shit' really all you can say?"

"Shut up," Loren murmured, eyes never shifting from the vista that opened before them. "You're distracting me. Let me decide first what I'm going to say, okay?"

Arjan grinned amicably and turned to admire the sight as well. At least he knew that his friend liked what he was seeing, the look on Loren's face told that clearly enough, and that was the most important thing. He could wait to hear it vocalized.

To be honest, he wanted to enjoy the scene as well. The little coastal ship they were on had just sailed round the Three Sisters Point and was now approaching the city of Saygorr almost directly from the sea, so that the whole amazing spectacle was in full view in front of all the people who'd gathered on the deck to gape.

Built on the eastern shore of Bellar Bay, Saygorr had somehow squeezed itself into a sheltered spot between the sea and a high ridge of rock that ran along the western bank of Mineath Peninsula. This particular inward bend in the shoreline boasted a deep and easily accessible natural port, as well as a narrow swath of sandy beach that almost disappeared under the waves at every high tide. It was no wonder that people had at some point seen its merits and decided to make it their home.

However, a fishing village and a city are two very different things, yet a city was precisely what Saygorr had grown into. And, because the distance between the sea and the peaks of the mountains wasn't all that great, the city had quickly occupied all the even relatively horizontal land there was, then done the natural thing: it had begun to grow upwards.

The buildings of the city now sprawled over more than half a dozen ledges, carved by man and nature to the mountainside to provide room for construction. The layers were connected to each other by a road that zigzagged steadily upwards, making long detours on either side of the actual city to find a place where it could turn around. Seen from the sea, the sight was truly bizarre: the ship was still so far away that the onlookers couldn't really make out the depth of each layer, and thus the entire Saygorr looked two-dimensional, like a cardboard cut-out. Rows of houses stacked on top of each other, separated by stripes of green and glittering through the afternoon sea-haze; a mirage city.

Arjan could see that the effect was not lost on Loren. Sky-blue eyes squinted incredulously at the city that basked in the sun like some self-satisfied bird perched on a stone to enjoy the warmth. Loren looked stunned. Good – at least he couldn't accuse Arjan of exaggerating any more.

He smiled to himself and turned his attention back to the city. He hadn't had many opportunities to admire it from this angle, and didn't want to waste this chance. Besides, for him it had yet another meaning: Saygorr was his home. It sure felt good to be coming back, to see it again after spending nearly two years away.

Not that those two years would've been in any way wasted... Arjan could see Loren's outline in the corner of his eye, and congratulated himself yet again. Wind was ruffling Loren's shock of blond curls, his lips were parted, and the well-bronzed line of the neck that disappeared inside the low stand-up collar of his shirt – oh, Arjan knew well enough where it continued. He didn't even need to close his eyes to picture the rest.

A glance at the tanned hands resting on the bulwark ushered his mind still a bit further into inappropriate territory, and with grim determination Arjan fixed his gaze instead on the handsome Casino building looming ahead. At least that was a safe object of admiration right now.

Other passengers of the ship had gathered on the deck as well, and the noises of hull and rigging and wind on canvas mixed with exclamations of delight. Gloved hands were pointing at this or that building that stood apart from the rest, and the throng by the bulwark seemed to increase by the minute. Arjan pushed himself up and glanced at his friend.

"Hey, let's go and make sure we've got all our stuff together," he said. "We might just as well get our things out of the cabin."

Loren didn't budge until Arjan nudged him with an elbow. "Did you hear me?"

"Yeah." Loren tore his gaze from the approaching city and flashed an expectant grin at Arjan. "It's totally stunning. Can't wait to really see it properly."

"Won't be long anymore," Arjan promised. "Let's go now."

In truth there wasn't much to pack, but at least double-checking their little cabin and shoving their few belongings into spacious backpacks gave them something else to do than just standing in the middle of the little crowd and feeling out of place. After unnecessarily many inspections they finally glanced at each other, hands still on the cover flaps of their packs.

"All clear?" Loren looked hopeful.

"All clear," Arjan confirmed and pulled the straps tighter. "Let's get out of here."

When the ship finally moored, the two young men were the first ones to leap out onto the pier and head towards the shore with brisk steps, leaving behind all the stylishly dressed couples with white gloves and straw hats and parasols and at least three or four large trunks each. The port office swallowed the duo through its double doors for the while it took to check of their documents, then regurgitated them on the other side.

"So." Loren stopped and craned his neck to look at the city rising above them, mouth open. "Where to?"

"Told you many times. First of all we'll go to my father's place." Arjan glanced up as well with a grimace. "There we'll have a roof over our heads until we figure out what we're going to do. Now there's just one problem."

"What's that?"

"Getting there." Arjan pointed ahead. "He lives on the Fifth, and that means a hell of a lot of stairs. Many more than I care to remember. You're not used to all this climbing, and I'm badly out of practice. This is going to be pure pain."

"Hey, I'm no sissy!" Loren began to march towards the indicated flight of stairs, his expression grim. Arjan followed and shook his head.

"I know damn well you aren't," he said. "But you just don't understand... hey, slow down! We'd better take it easy to start with."

"They're just stairs, all right?" Loren quipped over his shoulder. "In case you've forgotten, we have stairs back in Beltrionas, too!"

"Don't be a baby," Arjan sighed. "What I mean is just... oh well. You'll see soon enough."

He hurried his step so he could walk side by side with Loren, for no other reason than to see that adorably annoyed pout, and decided not to argue his point. In silence they reached the sandy walk at the root of the sharply rising cliff and followed it to the bottom of the staircase. There Loren stopped and looked up again.

The stairs were of course made of stone, on the outside an ornate wrought iron railing, on the other a thick rope attached with large rings to the rock. They climbed up and up and still up some more, reached a small landing and then turned around to go on once more. Wherever the stone offered the tiniest nook to contain some soil and the least foothold for anything green, plants were growing. Hardy climbing roses had taken over much of the cliff, reaching around like tentacles, some blossoms peeking over the ledge as if daring anyone to try and get to them. Their smell wafted in the breeze.

Arjan took a deep breath and hoisted his backpack up so that it sat better, getting mentally ready for the climb. Loren turned to look at him, mouth curved into a grin that mixed apology with despair.

"I think I see what you mean," he said.

"Please don't look like that," Arjan murmured under his breath. "You make me want to kiss you."

"Hush." Loren instinctively glanced around, then looked casually up and tightened his shoulder straps as well. "How many steps are there actually?"

"You don't want to know, and I don't remember," Arjan stated. "Better not think about it. Besides, we've got four levels to climb. Let's get started."

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