Read Meadowcity Online

Authors: Liz Delton


BOOK: Meadowcity
9.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub







This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 Liz Delton
Map of Arcera by Liz Delton
Cover art and city seals by Christopher Creed.

All rights reserved.



I’d like to thank those who were the first to venture into Meadowcity and who weren’t afraid of the wolves or offering criticism.  I would especially like to thank Jeff Delton, Sabrina Wierzchowski and Sam Gati-Tisi.


To the guy who makes me smile





















Chapter One


The sun was setting, sending shafts of orange light through the trees at odd angles.  Sylvia’s boot scuffed across a twisted root, jerking her thoughts back to the path in front of her.  She hefted her long knife and scanned the woods around her, immediately chastising herself for not paying better attention.  She had been traveling for weeks, and was finally nearing the end of her journey. 

Almost there,
she thought, knowing her goal would soon be in sight.  Her shoulders ached from the weight of her pack, and she shrugged them to loosen the tension.

The trail began to curve to the right, just around an enormous boulder.  She picked up her pace, and was met with a rewarding sight as she reached the top of the valley.  Meadowcity spread out before her, its trees and hills lit spectacularly in the light of the setting sun.

The trail sloped downward into the valley, and as it did, she left the forest proper.  An open stretch of grass surrounded the city, dotted with a few young trees.  Sylvia’s silent footsteps on the forest path turned loud when her boots hit the wooden planks of Meadowcity’s walkway, leading straight to the gate.  Her shoulders relaxed ever so slightly.

Squinting into the sun, she gazed at her home, having not set eyes upon it in over a month.  Meadowcity’s only entrance, framed by the two tallest trees in the forest, loomed above all.  The old branches met at the top of the gate, intertwining to form an immense arch.  On either side of the gate, comparatively smaller trees planted one next to the other formed the city’s famous treewall.  They had been planted long ago and now grew so close to each other that nothing could pass between them.  Planks of wood could be seen in the gaps between some trees, as much a part of the wall as the trees themselves, since the trees had grown around them.

As the wooden path sloped gently downward, she felt a new energy course through her, bringing life back to her aching muscles.  She could see lamplight shining through the tiny windows of the gatehouse.  A lone guard stood outside, gaze intent on the forest.

The path began to flatten as she neared the gate; her hand absently reaching for her parcel to make sure it was still at her hip.  The gate trees now loomed far above her. She looked up and met the Gatekeeper’s eyes, grinning once she recognized the familiar face.

“Evenin’,” he rumbled, having watched her approach from the top of the hill.  The man was as big as a boulder, and his form took up quite a bit of the gate’s entranceway.   

“Corin, hello!” Sylvia’s voice cracked from lack of use.  She hadn’t spoken to anyone in a week, except maybe herself a little. 

Clearing her throat, she continued, “It’s good to see you,” a warm smile gracing her face.

“Good to have you back, Sylvia; now get inside the gate, it’s about to get dark.”  The deep scars that ran across his face and down into his beard looked frightening in the dimming light. 

“Another Rider?” a bored voice drifted out of the gatehouse.

Corin scratched his beard, “Aye, and it’s a good thing to see her in one piece too, not like that last one. At least Sylvia here can take care of herself.”

Sylvia’s brow rose. “Who was that?”

The man inside the gatehouse tipped his chair back, falling into view. Sylvia recognized Bolt’s gangly figure, rocking precariously on his angled chair in the warm lamplight.

“Nobody,” he said quickly.  “Where have you been all these weeks Miss Thorne?”  He tipped his chair back to the floor with a loud smack, and angled it towards her, eyes intent.

Sylvia sighed, thinking hopeful thoughts of falling into bed soon.  She wasn’t surprised by Bolt’s curiosity.  She was almost always bombarded with questions when she got home from a journey.

“Do you pester all the Riders like this when they return from their journeys?”

“Nah, just the ones we think have good stories.”

Corin chuckled, a deep rumbling.

“You Riders are the only ones who go anywhere—do anything worth talking about,” Bolt said, clearly trying to flatter her.

She grinned.  “I guess so.”

She certainly enjoyed the freedom of her profession: traveling far past the forest that swallowed up Meadowcity to deliver messages, arrange trade, or in rare cases, escort citizens to one of the other Cities.

“Where have I been?  Well, wouldn’t you like to know.”  She reached down and slipped her long knife into the sheath in her boot. “Take care, Corin,” she said, making as if to leave.

“Fine,” Bolt drawled. “We don’t know who he is.  He came stumbling out of the forest and collapsed when he saw the city.”

Sylvia’s eyebrows shot up.

“I think he was holding on ‘til he figured he was safe,” Corin mused.

Bolt continued, more animated now, “Ven had just came in from hunting, and he had to go out and pick ‘im up.  Took him to the Healers’ Hall.” 

He crossed his arms over his chest, raising an expectant eyebrow at Sylvia.

“I’m delivering a parcel to Governor Gero from Skycity,” she admitted.

A low whistle came from Corin.  Bolt squinted his eyes, not satisfied with the short answer, urged, “What sort of parcel, eh?”

“I wouldn’t know.  Why don’t you ask Gero after I give it to him?” Sylvia mocked.

“You like it up there in Skycity?” Corin asked.

“Up there?” Sylvia shuddered as she pictured the terrifying view from the top of their city, perched on its enormous mountain peak. “Too high for me,” she replied, shaking her head.

“Aye, I can believe that.  I like it down here on the ground, thank you very much.  Who wants to live up there?”

Sylvia shrugged.  Far off in the forest behind her, a loud noise that could only be described as a wail interrupted the silence.  Sylvia shivered, her hand straying absently to the knife at her belt.

A third guardsman poked his head out of the gatehouse, a loaded bow in hand, as Corin cleared his throat. “Best be getting in Sylvia, we’re closing the gate.” 

Looking sheepish for having kept her, he nodded his head as she walked towards the entrance.  Corin and Bolt joined the third guardsman to begin shutting the enormous doors.

Bolt, clearly unable to contain himself, called out as they heaved their shoulders against the heavy wood.  “You’ll let us know about that Rider right?  Ask Ven what happened?”

Scuffing her boots along the wood planks, Sylvia chuckled as she passed under the gate.
It was good to be home.

Leaving the long shadow of the gate trees, she entered the city proper.  Citizen’s Hall loomed up in front of her, and the wooden walkway split between left and right.  The path ran a circle around the city’s entire inside perimeter. 

First things first,
she thought.  Deciding it was past working hours, she turned left towards Gero’s home, and her body fell into its familiar walking rhythm, disregarding her fatigue.  She headed towards Gero’s villa and lifted her hand to run along the treewall, counting absently, her fingers gently brushing the bark.

The lamps along the walk were being lit, and Sylvia smiled or nodded to a few citizens that she passed, on their way home to their villas.  The air was becoming cool as a slight breeze meandered through the city, weaving through the leaves of the treewall. 

Her shoulders had finally relaxed, now knowing that she didn’t have to watch her back as vigilantly as in the forest.  Once the gate was shut, the city would be sealed from the wild for the night.  The always-present fear of being stalked like prey tended to disappear when surrounded by the wall.

At last she came upon the largest villa this side of the city.  Like all the surrounding villas, it appeared as if its face protruded from a small hill, but it was a long standing practice to grow a thick moss to cover and insulate their homes.  Long ago, the farmers cultivated the special moss to cover the villas, creating a superior barrier from the cold and wet.  If you peered across the entire city, at the right angle, it looked like a hilly meadow covered in green and spotted with chimneys. 

Gero’s villa was well lit already, even though the sun just started to slip below the horizon.  She turned off the main walk and stepped onto the uneven stone path leading up to the cluster of villas.  The wooden face of Gero’s villa gleamed in the lamplight as Sylvia approached, her hand going to her hip, checking again for the parcel.  She strode up the small stone path to the door, and lifted her hand to knock.

The soft singing that had been coming from deep in the villa was cut short at her knock.  “Just a minute!” Sylvia heard through the door.  Quick, light steps grew louder as they approached the door.  Sylvia nervously adjusted her short blonde hair.  The heavy wooden door was pulled inward, and Sylvia found herself face to face with Gero’s wife, Anna. 

“Well come in, Sylvia, how nice to see you,” she said, her voice as silky as her beautiful black hair.   Her elegant blue dress brushed the floor as she motioned Sylvia to enter.   Stepping into the villa, Sylvia tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

“Is Gero home?” Sylvia asked, trying to take in the well-furnished villa without looking nosy.  The front room glowed from a cheerfully crackling fire, impressively large, surrounded by a massive stone mantel.  Across from the fireplace, a narrow wooden staircase ran up the left side of the room to the second floor.  A beautifully crafted wooden bench sat directly in front of the fire, its tall back comprised of intricate carvings. 

Anna moved to sit at the bench, patting the seat next to her.  “Not at the moment, I’m afraid.  A long day at the Hall it seems.” 

A soft cry began in a back room, slowly increasing in volume and need. 

“Excuse me.  Just wait a moment while I hush up Cari.”  She stood, her dress twirling as she turned to the other room.  “May I get you anything?  You look tired, Sylvia.” 

Anna’s voice faded as she reached the baby’s room. 

“Thank you, I’m quite alright.  I’ll be heading home soon,” Sylvia called down the hall.  She adjusted the parcel on her hip, hoping to be rid of it soon.  She had never been inside Gero’s house before, and she glanced around as she leaned back into the bench.  The muscles in her back nearly cried out in joy after such a long day of journeying.

The Governor’s house was beautiful; Sylvia guessed that Anna had a lot to do with that.  Anna was one of the rare citizens here who hadn’t been born in Meadowcity.  Her home had been Skycity, until she met Gero.  There was a terribly romantic story behind it, Sylvia recalled.  Gero had met her on a visit to Skycity and—so the story went—whisked her away to Meadowcity to get married.  Sylvia had still been in school when their Governor returned with the woman, a stranger.

It wasn’t entirely uncommon to move to another city, but still very rare.  Most citizens wouldn’t leave their own city to walk two feet outside its gate, let alone travel four days through the wild forests.  Then, to have to try and make a new home in an unfamiliar place—where everyone else already knew each other—it was enough to keep most citizens at home where they were born. 

But Anna took to Meadowcity like it was her own.  At first, the citizens were wary of the Governor’s new wife, coming into their city as a stranger.  Eventually, though, they warmed to her presence.  Being the Governor’s wife certainly helped, but Sylvia thought that Anna won everyone over with her charm.  The woman was so kind to everyone; you couldn’t help but like her. 

Sylvia ran her hand along the bench’s arm rest, cleverly carved with thick vines and delicate leaves, the woodwork astounding.  She heard a soft singing, evidently coming from Cari’s room.  After a moment, she heard Anna’s soft footsteps returning.  Anna entered the main room, now holding Cari in her arms.  The little girl was bundled in a soft white blanket, with tiny purple flowers sewn around the edges; her eyes wide and staring.

Sylvia stood, eager to be done with her task.  She would have to head over to the Citizen’s Hall to find Gero, and then she could go home. 

“I’m going to head back to the Hall, Anna,” Sylvia’s short blonde hair swung forward again.

“Oh, you shouldn’t have to walk all the way back there! Come now, I’ll make you a cup of tea, and we can wait for Gero here.”  Anna made as if to take Sylvia’s arm to direct her back to the bench, but Sylvia smoothly turned to make a step for the door. 

BOOK: Meadowcity
9.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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