The skies were mostly clear and the sun had barely broken the morning horizon as he passed through the large gates of the city's sixty-foot-high eastern outer wall. He quickly made his way north through the Merchant district toward Fisom Market. Less than a block from the market square he stopped, peering into the window of a shop that had not yet opened. The sign above the widow read The Jolly Hunt and inside he could see racks and shelves of weapons and hunting supplies, among which a particularly ornate rapier caught his attention, its scabbard adorned with leopard fur and polished steel. The rising sun caught a green gem in the sword hilt and reflected the light into his eyes, and his desire for it increased.

The scuff of a boot behind him caught his attention and in the reflection of the window, he saw two members of Mayheath's peacekeeping force, The Heron Guard, making their morning patrol. They wore light grey robes under greyish-blue leather armor Each carried a spear that resembled a tall cattail, a shield stamped with a Heron in flight, and a helmet under his arm. Most Heron Guards carried their helmets out of embarrassment, as they resembled a steel heron nesting atop one's head when positioned correctly.  Since they rarely dealt with much beyond the drunk and disorderly, helmets were not necessary.

They did not acknowledge him, as he licked his palm, ran it back over his bald head, and smoothed his fine burgundy jacket with its sabretooth toggles. He continued into Fison Market and slowed his pace to something more casual. Ahead of him, he saw a fishmonger who was still laying out her wares. A quick scan of the table showed a bushel basket of crawfish, a dozen carp, and a half dozen salmon, which the shopkeeper was adding to. Our hero pulled his handkerchief from his pocket with a flourish as he approached the stall. 

"Mernin', Foin day, innit?" The shopkeeper greeted him as he approached, wiping her hands on her apron. She was fair in appearance, with thin brown hair and large amber eyes, and wearing modest garments.

"Indeed, have you any trout? I would like two, please." He asked politely, as he wiped his nose. 

"Two a' me foinest, comin' right up!" The woman turned with a smile toward some open crates filled with ice and he deftly grabbed 3 crawfish in his handkerchief and tucked them into his pocket. The shopkeeper returned with two large fish wrapped in wax cloth. "There y'are, anithin' else t'day?"

"I'll take a half pound of Herring if you please." He said with a smile. She fetched a small bag from under the table with a nod and turned back to the crates of ice. The moment her back was turned, he walked off with the package of fish, weaving quickly through the crowd. Once he was a block from the fishmonger's stall he tucked the package into his pouch before continuing west.

The entire city of Mayheath was dedicated to tourism, predominantly gambling, and was separated into two districts by a forty-foot stone wall. It took nearly twenty minutes for him to walk through the Armorer's Ward to the outside of the Class Wall, as it was called by the locals, that separated the Lower District of Aftica Circle from the upper, more luxurious (and more expensive) district of Mayheath Plaza. 

He made his way along the outside of the inner wall until he reached a two-story timber and brick building with a reinforced wooden door and bars instead of windows. Inside The Welcoming Maiden, Elerwen was wiping down the well-made wooden tables and straightening the chairs, from her neck hung several leather necklaces, each with a charm or pendant hanging from it. 

"Good Morning!" She greeted him without looking up. 

"Sweet Elerwin, your smile makes the day worth dawning at all." He said with a cheerful smile as he walked jovially to a small table in the corner of the tavern. He cricled the table, fished out his package, and took a seat.

"Oh! Mr. Merey, what a pleasure!" she said with a smile. "Mr. Mere ..."

"The pleasure is mine, I assure you." He politely interrupted her, sliding the package of fresh trout across the table toward the approaching woman. "Be a darling and ask Arin to throw these on the grill for us, will you? I just had them imported from Cawic."

"Us?" She replied, peeking into the package to see the fresh trout.

"Unless you are too busy to join me for breakfast." He said wryly, looking about the empty tavern. 

Her cheeks went a little flush with embarrassment, and she opened the package up to get a proper look at the trout. "From Cawic, you say?"  

"Indeed, " He assured her, "I'm told they matured swimming the Nioningal Line, where the Pheana meets the Fathomless Sea." He leaned forward and lowered his voice, as if attempting to keep a secret from the other patrons, "It's said the caviar form Nioningal trout brings fertility and prosperity to all who partake of it."

"Fertile..?!?" Elerwin's cheeks turned bright red. She took a quick breath, turning for the kitchen, "I'll get Arin to put this on the grill "she said with a smile. A few moments later he could hear arguing from the kitchen.

" ... he still ain't paid his tab from last month ..." The cook said with frustration.

"He works on the Council, I'm sure it's just an oversight  ..." The bar Matron responded. 

"Foin! I'll cook it, but if ye canna pays me, 'cause he ain't paid you ..."

"Oh for the Gods sake', Arin, when have I ever not paid you?!" She replied, showing her frustration.

He heard footsteps coming back from the kitchen and quickly reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a smooth stone with a few intricate arcane symbols painted on it, held it out in his palm, and began speaking to it.

"... Have we heard back yet from Glenn over at The Atlantic Blossom Casino?" He paused as if listening to a response that Elerwin could not hear as she approached his table with trepidation. He held up a finger to her, to prevent her from interrupting his conversation, and a moment later he looked up at her. "Yes, Love?"

"S-sorry to interrupt," She hesitated, "I-it seems your last payment for your tab has not..." 

"Taylor, Can you have one hundred gold sent over to The Welcoming Maiden? Yes, thank you... No, tell that imecile he's fired and have Carl bring it over ... Thank you, Taylor, see you this afternoon." He paused another moment, again pretending to await a closing response, before tucking the stone back into his pocket and looking up at the barkeeper 

"I-I didn't mean to get anyone fired …" Elerwen said, her voice carrying notes of regret.

"Nonsense!" He replied with authority, "I've suspected that lecherous half-wit of skimming gold for weeks." 

"Oh, okay." She said, a little bit relieved. "Can I get you anything to drink?"

"How about you a couple of Dwendalen Coffees to go with our breakfast?" He suggested with a doe-eyed smile.

"Whiskey?! With breakfast?!" She questioned, with a teasing, matronly tone.

"Well, we can't make the caviar do all the work, now can we?" He replied with a wink. With flushed cheeks, she headed to the bar.

The two enjoyed breakfast and flirtatious conversation together for almost an hour before another patron entered the tavern. As they parted company, he circled her once, brushing against her slightly, and blocking her path mid-stride for the briefest of moments before heading out the door.


The Aethereal Port of Tyne was alight with activity.  An eighty-story tower carved from a single piece of white marble that sat atop a hill overlooking the sea of Lusa. The domed roof, which encompassed the top 5 floors, was topped with red tiles and It was surrounded by a staircase that wound about its outside. The upper floors were reserved for travelers with a more discerning eye for luxury. Floors 80 down to 76 were heavily secured as they catered to the ruling classes, with Kings & Queens on the 80th, Dukes & Duchesses on 79th, Lords & Ladies on the 78th, councilors, ambassadors, and diplomats on the 77th, and so on. Inside, these floors had high vaulted archways and tall stained glass windows that would shift and change to depict the 12 most powerful individuals present on the floor.

Each floor of the tower was lined about its outside edge with portals through which often poured groups of travelers from every realm in the known multiverse. They were met by greeters, who would welcome them and provide basic directions and information about the realm.  About the tower's central core were many shops selling maps, supplies, and souvenirs.

Heavy rain began to fall as he climbed the stairs outside the eighty-story marble tower, and he moved to the inside, next to the building to avoid getting wet. By the time he reached the 75th floor, where the stairs reached their pinnacle, the traffic on the stairwell had dropped to almost exclusively port staff, with the occasional footman or servant here and there.

He made his way clockwise about the circular floor, toward the lounge, scanning the crowds of tourists. The travellers on the 75th through 70th floors

He found a tall table with a few barstools about it and lapped it once before sidling up. "Whiskey, neat. " he said absently to the serving girl when she came about. He retrieved from the pouch which hung across his body a parchment scroll which he rested on the table as he looked about.  

As the 75th was named, the Azure floor catered to the mercantile and industrial elite. Rulers of imports and exports, many of them pirates or gang leaders, gained their positions through illegitimate means.  As such, it maintained an atmosphere of brash bravado and he had often overheard the staff refer to it as the 'DYKWIA floor, as they joked that the most common question asked there was "do you know who I am?' 

His drink arrived as a Kenku woman in indigo feathered robes sidled up to a table about ten feet away and flagged down the server. 

"Oy! You're at the wrong table, Little bird!" A broad-shouldered elf, in the regalia of a commandant or fleet captain, stated loudly as he approached her from behind. He grabbed her by the shoulder to shove her away from the table. "Fly away little bird." He mocked. 

The moment his hand touched her, she dexterously ducked under his arm and popped up on the other side of the table. She cocked her head to one side when she responded. "Yes! Fly away, little bird." She turned and sprinted for the western stairwell, which was barely 15 feet away, hopped up onto the railing, and threw herself off. Deftly tumbling in the air, he watched as she turned back to the sailor and mumbled something before bursting into a purple cloud.

At seventeen hundred feet above sea level, the wind dispersed the cloud quickly enough that he got to see the look of surprise on the Elven Commandant's face before it plummeted from view.

"Fly away little bird." We heard the Kenku woman say again and he turned to find her standing at her table just ten feet away. She locked eyes with him and cocked her head to one side, to which he smiled, raised his glass in salute, chugged back the last of it, and slid the glass off the edge of the table. It landed with a smash as glass and ice scattered across the floor. When the Kenku woman looked back to the table he was gone. 

Seeing how quickly a disagreement can escalate, he decided the risk was not worth the potentially higher payoff and noped his way back down the stairs, deciding to work on a less volatile floor. Once again he made his way to a lounge area and ordered a Whiskey on the rocks.

The twelve support pillars on the sixty-third floor were carved into the likeness of each of the prime deities. The stained glass magically shuffled through depictions of the major and minor deities, representing those with the greatest number of worshipers present, at any given time. 

He saw a small group of mages heading toward the table nearest him and he reached into his pocket to pull out the painted stone again. "What the fuck do you mean you're not coming?!" He spoke loudly to the stone and then paused as if listening to a response. The mages at the next table ordered a round of drinks. They appeared to be fresh out of college and were boasting of adventures yet to be had. "Oh no! I already paid you my last thousand gold, you aren't getting another copper from me..." He paused again, looking around to see if anyone was listening. "No, fuck you, Gary!  You are never getting this map!" he slammed the stone onto the table, where it cracked in half, and clenching the rolled parchment in his hands, he swept the pieces off the table onto the floor with a few swift nudges. The mages at the next table began muttering amongst themselves and motioning in his direction. Further down the port, about eighty feet away among the crowds, he saw an elderly man gripping an open dagger being stopped by the tower Guards. 

"What the fuck do you want?!" He barked impotently at the three mages, finishing his drink with a final swig. The high-elf among them smiled and nodded, chin first, at him, "Trouble in paradise, friend?" Far down the port, the elderly man began shouting at the guard about being swindled out of some money.

"I spent my last thousand gold on a crew to find this fucking Sanctum of I don't even fucking care anymore, "He sighed, "... and now I don't even have enough money to get home." He sniffed and rubbed his eyes as if he were trying to hold back tears. Far down the port, he saw the old man still talking to the guard, pointing in his direction.

"We'll take you!" he said enthusiastically. His friends began to protest when he interrupted them.

"I appreciate that but it's a 5-day trip and my vacation ends tomorrow." He said heartbroken. "All I can do now is try to sell this fucking map for the two hundred gold I need to get back to Tal 'Dorei." The guard down the port, holding the old man's arm, began walking toward him. 

"TWO HUNDRED!" The female Half-elf said, shocked "For a map? No fucking way!"

"Fine!" He offered, "One hundred, and I'll travel in economy class." He held out the scroll toward them.

"Fifty and not ..."

"I'll take it!" He jumped at the offer, then approached their table, "I just want to go home." He added, dejectedly. They began pooling their coin on the table. Behind them, the old man in the guard's grip pointed at him again.

"You, Katari, hold it right there!" The guard commanded. 

Dropping the map on the table, he deftly swept the pile of coins off the edge of the table, into his pouch, and bolted toward the portals at the edge of the circular floor. 

"Stop!" The guard shouted, chasing after him. He listened for one of the travelers standing at portals near him for the name of a familiar city but the bustle of the crowds combined with the clattering armor of the pursuant guard made it impossible to make out. Rounding the circular floor ahead of him, a pair of guards approached to head him off. With nowhere else to run; the Katari sprung with feline agility through the first portal that opened on his right.

He tumbled from the portal onto the hard, stone ground of a bustling open market. The air was crisp and warm under clear skies.

"Oy! Are you alright?" An elderly Dwarven man stretched out a hand to help the Katari up off the ground. 

"Yes, umm, Thank you." He replied, accepting the hand while looking about to glean if he knew his new location. "Is this ..?"

"Yup!" The dwarven man interrupted, Welcome to Khazaram, the City of Stone!"

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