[Story] Ember Kindled - Cowardice (Chapter 1):
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Seagulls paint the warm skies at the Kyzon City harbour. The harbour bustles with activity as it usually does late in springtime. Amidst the crowd, a man bellows, “Florina Isles! 2000 bushels for 45000 Auros, paid immediately upon delivery...” Smirking, Alleius confidently exclaimed, “I told you the prices were coming up!” Gavius concerningly gazed as Alleius strode up, negotiated and signed the contract for the delivery of the goods. “This is a big delivery, are you certain you can make good on it?” questioned Gavius. They deliberated, debated and parted ways, with Alleius pressing with his decision to take the risk.
After making the arrangements for the delivery Alleius went home. His shadow stretched before him onto the cobblestone amidst the backdrop of an orange sky, deliberating within about the best and worst outcomes of his decisions.
“To win would change my life forever. No longer would I have to do everything myself, I could hire, build an empire. To lose, I shudder to imagine, would I have the courage to face my wife? But it cannot be, the routes are safe, the weather has been fine, the people I am dealing with are reputable. Surely this chance comes once in a lifetime, a chance my ambition forbids me to forfeit.”
The next day, Alleius stood upon the pier, feeling as bright as the sky, as he observed the final bushels being loaded upon the ship. He turned his back on the departing vessel and went to the popina to make merry. As usual, the atmosphere in the popina was rowdy and drunk. Alleius thought poorly of the other patrons who frequented the establishment, finding them to be squandering their lives. Paying no mind to the ruckus he had a drink and another, feeling his senses begin to diminish.
“Crackle!” a sound that tore through Alleius’ heart. His eyes widened as he sobered up in uncanny fashion. Leaping from his stool, he ran out of the popina, instantly drenched by a torrent and shaken by the gales. His hopes had only left an hour ago and would surely have been caught within this tempest. His heart sank in pessimistic anticipation, it was a mighty storm.
Two long moons passed, the silence exacerbated Alleius’ anxiety, “why has no news come? What had become of my livelihood?” Alleius only received information about harboured ships which had taken damage in the storm. “Are you Alleius Caepio?” asked a young boy serendipitously. “Have you come to bring me news,” Alleius forlornly spoke. “Indeed sir, I come bearing news from the port official. It is my regret to inform you that your ship leaving noonday two days ago has shipwrecked, nothing could be salvaged.” Alleius was limp, thoughts racing through his mind, regrets, alternatives, fate, consequences. He received his closure; the worst had befallen him and all was lost in the unforgiving sea.
The indifferent sun was setting and the city bustled once again, merchants were haggling at the piers and repairs were being made to houses. Inside a lodge, a lady sat in the shadows, a letter clutched in her palms, tears rolling down her cheeks. “How could you… you coward…” she quavered. Grief was not his alone to bear.