The walls were about twenty metres high and just as thick, so the passage behind the front gate was a corridor, long, gloomy, and full of echoes, like an old well. The circle of light on the other end shone so brightly it was impossible to make out the features of the city from afar, the city that turned out to be as beautiful as a sparkling crystal.
“This is the Capital!” said Vlada with a hearty smile and spread her hands in a welcoming gesture.
All the way through the Gate District, Kangassk couldn’t stop gaping at pearly-white houses topped with intricate spires and steeples, wide alleys paved with colourful cobblestones, and countless fountains of all sizes, some with statues, some with bird baths, some with little swimming pools… He realized that he looked stupid but couldn’t stop. The capital city was an absolute feast for the eyes.
The worldholders were well-known to the citizens and were loved here rather than feared. Many people approached them just to say hello; students, the young mages in training, were especially polite. Unlike poor Nemaan, they knew the face of the founder of their Uni very well, some may have also met Vlada. They greeted Kangassk too, with a certain reserve and caution. They, of course, had no idea who he was but him openly wearing a licensed cold obsidian and accompanying the worldholders gave them a hint that he was someone important.
The pleasant breezy day brightened with the mild northern sun didn’t stay like that for long; soon, a flock of shaggy grey clouds crawled upon the azure blue; it began to drizzle. Sereg immediately put his hood on; half-hidden under its shadow, his face betrayed no emotion. Vlada shrugged, gave her friend a reproachful look and raised her smiling face toward the rain letting the cold droplets wash the road dust away. Kangassk, following his teacher’s example, left his head bare against the rain and it cost him: he got showered by a jet of ice-cold water from one of the ornate drainpipes that were there on every roof. The one that got Kan wet ended with a bronze lion’s head; the head, made by someone who had obviously never seen a lion, had bulging mad eyes and a horrible gaping mouth. Kangassk stuck his tongue out at it.
“Sereg, why are you hiding under your hood?” asked Vlada cheerfully. “The rain is not that bad! Come on, get out of hiding for a while, at least wash the dust off your hair. It’s grey with dust, didn’t you know? And… I thought you liked rain.”
“I did. I still do.” Sereg removed the hood. His face was grim. “I’m not feeling well, Vlada. Something is wrong, very wrong.”
“I don’t know yet,” he shook his head. “But now you see why I so badly want to pay the Grey Council a visit.”
Kangassk, hungry and tired after the journey, barely restrained the pitiful squeak “And what about lunch?” as he heard that. His dragonlighter, who was hungry as well because he had run out of crumbs and seeds in his pocket, climbed up his owner’s sleeve, perched on his shoulder, and sat there, in the rain, as still as a little statue. Even the hungry and wet fire critter kept quiet! Sereg’s gloomy mood was a powerful thing.
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