From this high up, the city of Talimour was breathtaking. Meparik clung fiercely to the wall that surrounded the seaside capital. Any handholds to be found were precarious, only enough for his small toes and fingertips to grasp.
He was only ten feet away from the top.
Meparik hadn’t gotten far before the grit of the wall tore his gloves to tattered threads. The wool had caught on the stone and metal, and after the fabric was ruined, his hands had taken the brunt of the damage. Every fleck of iron stung. Drips of luminous white blood streaked his sleeves and made his stomach turn. His ears tensed sharply back.
To distract himself, Meparik looked out over the city he was leaving behind. The sun set over the ocean, painting the rooftops with orange glitters of light. Aside from a darker spot of run-down buildings — the feyrie-run Upper Reaches — lanterns and torches already dotted the streets. He could see every temple and house of nobility towering on the horizon. He could even see Herald-Regent’s citadel for the first time from up here, blocky spires of white stone set sternly between the open sea and the northern wall.
As beautiful as it all was, Meparik dreamed more vividly about what lay outside Talimour. He swore he could smell the forest in the wind. Soft earth, greening leaves, and real trees. And more importantly, freedom. None of that could be found in the stony cityscape behind him.
He just had to make it over the wall.
Polished metal gleamed in the corner of his eye. Meparik glanced down, and then froze. An Irongardhe patrol, in full armor and arms, marched past on their nightly rounds.
No. No, not now, not when he was so close. He held his breath and clung tightly to his perch. Motion would catch their attention. But if he didn’t move, he might lose his grip. Meparik could already feel his fingertips burning and his toes giving way. It was all he could do to hunch in place, so close to his goal, desperately trying to maintain his hold and his center of gravity. He was a good climber, he told himself. He could hold on.
One pace . . . the knights were getting closer. Two paces . . . the knights were almost underneath him and they hadn’t looked up. Three paces . . . the knights were below him. Four paces . . . they were starting to leave! Five paces . . . his foot slipped.
He was falling.
Panic shot through him. Meparik grabbed fiercely for the wall again, but winced as the iron-flecked rock sliced his hands. He slid down on a trail of his own glittering blood. A shout rang out from below. Instantly, Meparik knew the jig was up. Even a full-grown fey was no match for a knight, and he wasn’t even half-grown. Arrows would follow soon.
Gritting his teeth, Meparik thrust away from the wall. He let himself fall. His breath slammed out of him as he landed on a tin roof, cringing as the metal dented beneath him.
Not hurt. But not safe, either.
All he could do was retreat. Back into the Reaches, away from the outside world.
As Meparik leapt up on trembling legs and fled over the rooftops, the sunset dimmed and a light rain began to fall. When he looked over his shoulder, the bright streaks of his blood against Talimour’s wall dimmed too, all signs of his struggle washing away.
Shadow Herald is set to release May 20th, 2021. Learn more here!