A storm is coming. Daimaru thought, worried about rain. The night sky was crystal clear, but something in the air had changed. It was the wind, he realized. It had grown more violent. It had grown cold. He grimaced. The warehouse was the only real building in Dartra Fort, which meant he and his men would either have to stand guard soaking wet, or crowd into the small timber structure behind him.
I might be young, but I have the wits and skills to earn an Armylian Belt. Why am I in an abandoned fort guarding a treasure chest?
Clutching his golden three pronged javelin, Daimaru grit his teeth in frustration. He could have been in front of a warm fire, eating fine food and drinking hot spiced wine, but instead he here, waiting for a rider who might or might not come tonight.
"Your contact should arrive in Dartra after nightfall. He will give you more instruction once he receives the chest," his superior had said briskly, but had not said how long after nightfall they would have to wait. Daimaru had not been stupid enough to press for an answer; his commander's moods were...capricious. Considering the temperature was falling fast and there was no place to sleep, Daimaru hoped he did not have to wait much longer.
Where is that bloody rider?
The young captain sighed, wishing he could lie down. He and his men had been marching for two days straight along the First Road, and they needed rest. The conditions had not been hindering, but a forced march without stop had exhausted men and horses alike. The small squadron of dragoons made no outward show of their fatigue, of course, but their leader knew of it.
Sighing, Daimaru surveyed the small, worn down fort. There seemed to be no reason to build a military outpost in the middle of nowhere, but here it was. The fort was situated on the edge of the Dartra Desert, a barren wasteland where there was nothing but sand. It looked as though it had been built dilapidated, its quadratic shape slightly lopsided, the wooden stakes warped and splintered, their pointed tops crooked and uneven. Above Daimaru four watchtowers slanted inward, tall rectangles capped by slated roofs that were in poor condition. An old hitching post of mixed timber was barely usable for the horses. Even the small warehouse behind Daimaru was more rhombus than square, sagging just enough to give it a sorrowful look. He and his mens' aesthetic garments and gilded weapons looked ridiculously out of place.
Above the fort walls, Daimaru could see the tops of the evergreens of the Galian Forest in the distance. The trees rustled and swayed as the high winds attacked them, their dark shadows lurching eerily back and forth in time with the gusts. Daimaru shivered, and not from the cold. He had heard tales about that forest, each story darker than the next. Some said it was haunted. Some thought goblins or ghouls lived there. Others insisted magic users were born there, a race the Empire insisted was real and a threat to good citizens. Daimaru had even heard that the King of Elves presided there.