The Morass - A Walkers Novel

Just north of Terillsa, the furthest settlement, lies the Morass, a dark, unforgiving labyrinth of misted bogs and dense forests. It's ancient depths hold the spice mines, the source of Terillsa's unrivalled wealth, but also hold a myriad of powerful and unforgiving dangers.

Amerlee is a Walker, one of a company of former murderers, orphans and vagrants, taken in and trained by a rich man of Terillsa, who alone know the secret paths and hidden pitfalls of the Morass. The uneasy alliance between the spice merchants and the Walkers who, desperate for a share of the spoils, protect them on their journeys into the dark wastes is starting to crack as fewer and fewer merchants are returning alive or intact.

Something is shifting out in the Morass and Amerlee's next walk with the strange man requesting to get to the mines could very well be her last.

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1. Walkers

Terillsa. The last settlement before the Morass. Any one with half the sense of a commoner doesn't venture out across those dark and ancient labyrinths alone. The mists hang thick over the twisting bogs and endless rolls of blackened hills. Only the Walkers know the paths to quietly tread to avoid waking the most fearsome of things in the darkness, only the Walkers can navigate safely across. Any one who takes so much as one step out there alone, is asking not to be seen again.

You'd think with all the danger people would just leave that place well alone. But that's money for you. Across the Morass are the spice mines and spice means gold, for them that need guiding, and for me. I've walked many a man into the waste, and those who listened to what I said, they tend to come out the other side alive. No Walker has a perfect record, people die out there, but then, these spice merchants don't have any choice. If they want the spice, they need us. And lucky for some of them I just so happen to be one of the best Walkers around. 

Apart from paying us to get them across, people don't want much to do with Walkers. Probably because we don't tend to have the most reputable of pasts. Walkers tend to start for one of two reasons; they've got something to prove, or they're desperate and they've got nothing left to lose. Me, I guess I was a bit of both.

I was fourteen the day I arrived at the gate of Terillsa, just two weeks after losing my mother, and with her, my whole life as I knew it. She had been a travelling merchant of kinds. She told me she sold her dancing, and sure enough, even though we were commoners, many men would come each night as we moved from place to place to watch her move and snake her body through shapes and air like she was made of magic powder. She had a little magic in her, and that's where I get mine, still it wasn't enough to save her.

She thought I didn't know what she was selling out there on the roads. I played ignorant each time I would set up the tent where she would dance, knowing for one lucky man, she would be selling every part of her. Still, I didn't blame her. Crantos isn't an easy place to survive if you're a commoner, least of all if you happen to have eastern in you, like my mother. She was beautiful, and the pigs here, they knew it. They would travel far to catch something of the 'dancing she-dragon'; a name that came from her eastern looks and particular ability to conjure the blue fire. An ability that unfortunately would bring about the end of my mother, the dragon. After she died, I made a promise never to play with fire and no beast on the Morass has made me break it yet.

And that's how I ended up scraping the door of Stampton Cheswint, top Walker recruiter in Terillsa. He knew a desperate case when he saw one, and female Walkers are something of a novelty, so he took me on, training me up to navigate, to fight, to use magic, preparing me for what was out there, until I was ready to Walk. And I did - Everyone remembers their first Walk.

 

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