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  1. It was just past noon, and the mist had long-since burned off the Kur River, its surface a brilliant silver stripe under the bright spring sun. The great capital of Roshek sat on the river's southern bank, its many docks and warehouses trailing into the waters like a merchant's robes. Further inland, Aldred spotted the clean marble facades of the Academy and the domed silhouette of the Council Assembly building looming over the bustle and din of the lower districts like disapproving parents. He'd heard the first sounds of the city over a mile out, but now as he approached the arch of Tradesman's Gate, the noise was almost deafening. People jostled and shouted, tradesmen hawked their wares, and everywhere, Aldred felt magic. It thrummed in his bones like the drone of a low pipe, tugging, urging, pulling. He gripped the strap of his pack tighter and shoved the humming into the back of his mind, watching as a young woman juggled five balls of flame while balancing on the tip of one toe. Her other leg arched back until it nearly met the crown of her head. She caught Aldred's eye and winked. "State yer business!" Aldred was shocked out of his reverie by the voice of an older man sitting just under the Tradesman's Gate. He had a wooden placard in his hands and a quill behind one ear; both his hand and ear were splattered with black ink, which rather spoiled his stern expression. Aldred grinned at the man, whose scowl faded as he looked him up and down. "Oh," the man said, some of the gruffness leaking out of his voice. "Apologies Sayer, I didn' mean nothin' by it." Sayer? Aldred blinked in surprise, then looked down at his robes. They were filthy, hem stained at least six inches up with mud and river water, and he'd patched it in at least a dozen places. It barely looked blue anymore, as though the cloth itself had largely forgotten its original purpose. Rather like Aldred himself. Aldred resisted the urge to smirk, instead putting on his most humble smile. He hoped he wasn't too out of practice. "Think nothing of it," he said, placing a hand on the man's ink-stained right shoulder. "I come from afar, ready to report my travels to my brothers and sisters, and to give thanks to Vania for a blessed season of knowledge and truth." The man's scraggly face split into a yellow grin, and Aldred had to physically stop himself from recoiling. "Welcome to Roshek, Sayer... uh..?" The man trailed off expectantly, slipping his quill out from behind his ear and readying the tip with ink from a little pot. Aldred sighed, taking his hand from the man's shoulder and placing it on his breast. "Think of me only as a servant of truth," he said, and sauntered through the Tradesman's Gate into the city. It spread out before him in a wide swath of chaos and smells and bodies and magic. You'll know my name soon enough, he thought, finally allowing that smirk to spread across his lips. Soon enough.