The Fall of Avalon
The Lost Years
It’s a bustling market day in the township of Hertford. Thousands of people have come from miles around to participate in the almost-festival, their voices creating a loud cacophony that echoes through the streets.
Merchants can be heard raising their voices above the din from time to time, haggling and gesticulating wildly in an effort to sell high and buy low. The smells of fruits, breads, and cooked meats mingle in the air with the perfume of fresh herbs, vegetables, and oils from all the stalls populating the central common square. The local tavern is fit to bursting with tipsy clientele, with coins flowing as freely as the artisinal ale.
The crowd moves in roiling, undulating patterns as people move from stall to stall. A glassblower tries to convince a rather portly man and his wife to reconsider the rainbow-hued dragon figurine being appraised in a meaty paw. The Mapmaker and Bookstore owner have combined their stalls in an effort to push their latest collaborative effort onto the foreigners in town, the rustle of paper just audible over their laughter and fabricated tales of high adventure. The blacksmiths apprentice nervously fumbles over his sales pitch to a tiny crowd of mercenaries as he tries to sell his master’s less-popular work. A group of locals roll their eyes and chatter amongst themselves near the street-food cart as they discuss the now-disappearing masked crusader, who recently just helped a flusterest merchant girl with her pickpocket problem. The actual pickpocket quickly slides through the throng of people with recently acquired purses ferreted away, as her patsy-of-the-day gets escorted away by the guardsmen on duty.
Today is a good day, filled with laughter, broad smiles, and full bellies. No one can be certain who exactly will come out on top, but everyone is enjoying the ride as long as it lasts. Previous market days have gone on long into the night, but today’s festivities are cut short.
The bright blue summer sky goes dark and red as arrows and burning boulders rain down from the sky. Green miasma flows in from the streets and up through the sewers. The joyous cacophony is replaced by screams as people are peppered by arrows and hacking coughs as most succumb to the toxic fog. The panicked crowd flood out of the square into the neighbouring streets into the waiting arms of the invading force, cut down for their effort to save their own lives. The smell of blood and burnt flesh mingle with the heavy presence of rot and decay as the army in black wades through the town, destroying and murdering everything in their path. The guardsmens are caught unaware and quickly overwhelmed and slaughtered. Brave citizens hold their own, with a clash of steel, a flash of feather, or a spark of magic, but nothing sways the onslaught in meting out the inevitable. You’re not faring much better. A mass of black-clothed bodies lie at your feet but the tide of war continues to crash against you, oppressive in both force and smell of death. A creature, barely human and mostly rotting lunges as you as you fend off another group and its talons find purchase in your throat.
You wake up and sit bolt-upright, breathing heavily and drenched in a cold sweat. You’re not sure if you screamed, but your throat feels hoarse and stings, as if the claws are still wrapped around it. The dream is the same as always, different sights and smells feel more real each time, but the outcome is always the same. Perhaps its an overactive imagination playing on the times when the Monsters assaulted the town some years back, but something in the back of your mind tells you it’s more than that. You look out the window. The early morning fog hangs in the street, giving the town an eerie feeling, shadows playing in the periphery of your vision. The houses are fine, no signs of siege or fire damage, no bloodstains in the streets, no militant force patrolling the cobbled streets. Nothing to show the dream was based in any kind of reality… but then why does it feel so real each time?
You wash your face briefly and head back to bed. Things will be back to normal in the morning, as they always are. Still, something tells you its time to do something different. Time to make a change. Time to take an active role in protecting your town. Your eyes close as you head back to a thankfully dreamless sleep. Outside, the shadows linger a moment and shrink away, before dawns first light pierces the fog, illuminating the city to a brand new day.