fold over clasp

Cerith’s First day on Ravnica

     Cerith sat alone on a high balcony. More of a ledge, really; the tower it was attached to was delapidated. And had the balcony itself crumbled any further, Cerith would not have been confident in its ability to hold his weight.

   Morose, he absentmindedly stirred a small pile of pebbles that rested beside him. Occasionally, he brought his hand up to languidly brush a finger against the large, lustrous sapphire set firmly into the fastening of his belt. Here, he’d flick a mote of dimly glowing blue static off the gemstone’s surface onto his fingertip. Having procured this, he would return his hand to the pile of pebbles, and watch how the varying levels of silicate in them responded to proximity with the weak point charge he held.    This one would only wobble a bit, while another would scoot away a few inches. When he had begun this meditation some minutes ago, there had been a few pebbles which would repel from his charged fingertip violently enough that they skipped off the stone balcony entirely, to go sailing down and away from his perch into the dark expanse that yawned below him.

   The jewel on his belt was nearly his only possession, though an exquisite one. In addition to it, he had only a pair of soft pink-hued droplets tucked safely in an  interior pocket. His mother’s earrings. Those three jewels were all he carried more than the clothes on his back. But in contrast to the indulgent sizing and alluring sheen of the sapphire, or the warm orange light which radiated from the earrings when they caught the sun, his clothes were drab and tattered. Of course, they had been nice enough a couple of days ago, but now they were smeared with grime, and torn in places. While traversing the streets and alleyways of that strange city, he had attempted to fold his shirt over the clasp of his belt to conceal its enviable centerpiece. But there was a gash in the shirt’s cloth where the tip of a sword had narrowly missed cutting him open as he’d dodged past it. And the deep blue of the gem sowed through the breech, attracting unwanted attention. He’d known he probably looked weak and defenseless, wandering about alone and afraid like that.

    For the most part, he was. He was weary, and unfit to run fast or far enough to evade any pursuit for long. The only recourse he’d have if forced into confrontation would be to expend what little power remained housed inside the sapphire. And he couldn’t afford to do that. Afterwards, he truly would be defenseless, at the mercy of anyone who fancied the conspicuous piece of fashion for themselves. Or the money it would be sure to fetch. And he couldn’t lose this belt. He wouldn’t sell it himself– not even for food or water. It was all he had of his father. The energy inside it was his father’s, too. A small cache he’d held back to bequeath to Cerith along with the belt itself which he pressed into the youth’s trembling hands before turning and running back to buy his son enough time to flee. All the rest of the jewels vast capacity had been spent, in the defense of his mother, her healers’ tent, and their village. It hadn’t been enough. Not to save the village, and not to save her.
   He shouldn’t waste even these few sparks of that power his father had left him, he knew. Not on something so frivilous. But he had to focus on something. Had to hold his mind here and now, depressing as his surroundings were. To keep them from slipping into the recent past. He’d already lived through those events… just. He still didn’t understand how. And he couldn’t bear to relive yesterday again just yet.

   He was up here, and out here, out of necessity. On his first venture through the city, he’d gone long a thoroughfare straight to a square near the city center. From there, he’d quickly drifted away from the more central districts to evade the dense crowds he’d suddenly been swamped in. Not only was he unused to and discomforted by the prospect of so many people in the same place, but fewer people meant fewer eyes, he’d thought. Less scrutiny.

    Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. At least in the crowd, he’d stood a chance of escaping notice. Everyone bustling about set on their agendas has no time to waste on a poor urchin, except to put a guarding hand over their coin purses or important missives slotted into the scroll-sheathes slung from their shoulders.
    In contrast, the neighborhoods of more modest population made him more uneasy still. Everyone on those streets saw everyone else. And everyone knew everyone else. They knew he didn’t belong. Their stares burned through him and lighted on the gem he harbored. Each time, their gaze would rest there a moment in surprise, before rising to meet his own. They must be wondering who he’d stolen this prize from. And how much they’d be willing to pay upon its return.

    He’d known better than to stray further still into the darkened back alleyways, among the shifting shadows and flitting glimpses of hooded cloaks. There, he would be an easy target for anyone unscrupulous, who knew the layout better than he, and who would undoubtedly have no trouble finding a buyer for his precious jewel who would ask no questions other than one– “how much do you want?”    So instead he’d returned to this expansive section of destroyed buildings where he’d begun, once a part of the city that bordered it, but no longer. At first, suddenly amongst all this rubble, he hadn’t realized he was no longer in his home village. After being bathed in that explosion of intense, searing, caustic viridian energy, he had not expected the buildings around him to survive either. It was some miracle that he had survived himself. Unexplainable.
    But as his heart and breath had finally begun to slow from that moment of terror, he’d realized that these buildings could not be that of his home. There were too large, and there were too many of them. Their decorative architecture, in stages of efface, did not match that he knew from his home.

   Out here in the Rubblebelt, as he had gathered it was called from snippets of conversation overheard in today’s sojourn,  he had run into no one– seen no one. After the heart and arteries of the city proper, the return to the deserted nature of this place was both a relief and a worry. What was keeping everyone out and away from here? Surely it could at least serve as a shortcut between two more-inhabited destinations.    Those strange hisses and inhuman cries echoing from the edge of earshot had quickly answered that question for him. But he’d not had much choice in coming here. And with any luck, those creatures would indeed keep strangers away during the night. With a little more luck, he wouldn’t find himself face-to-snout with any of them.

   The sun had set not long ago. He’d spend the night here, sprawled in some nook of this tower, head resting on his arm as the only pillow he could provide himself.    Come daylight again, he’d have to set into the city to find some way to procure water and food for himself. He had no other real option. Though he did not trust the city-dwellers, it had to be safer somewhere in the city than out here… surely.
    Though whichever place he’d choose to wander come daylight, he thought– go into the city, or stay here in the destroyed district– he’d have to do his best to avoid any snakes that assuredly lived there.