I've thinking a lot about this story. It's nothing marvellous, but I like the characters and I'm having fun writing it. That's the first part of the chapter one, 'cause it is too long. If there is any mistake, please forgive.
Here it goes, I hope you like it.
After weeks of journey, Dhara appeared finally in the distance. The modest port city spread over the bay, with its white towers pointing at the sky in the same way as the masts, lifted up from the ships anchored in the harbou's docks, flied its flags. The marine breeze carried the salty smell of the ocen and the shrill trills of the seagulls crossing the clouds. And despite all that serenity surrounded it, Thysa could feel the grim halo wrapping Dhara like a da dark veil stuck to the whitewashed walls.
What the messenger had told them was true, and she couldn't deny that Ath had been right about accepting the mission. But admiting it internally and expressing her opinion aloud were two very different things. She turned slightly in her saddle to look back, trying to find him. Perhaps she had rode too fast, but she wanted to make sure that the messenger wasn't wrong... alone. She sighed impatiently, but Ath's black horse soon appeared over the hill. When he saw her, he spurred his mount to hurry up. However, before reaching her, he stopped, with eyes wide open, staring at the city. If she had been able to see the shadows hounding Dhara, Ath should be observating a much worse spectacle, without a doubt.
- We have done the right thing coming here, Thys.- he whispered, pointing at the city.- I'm sure...
- Don't call me Thys.- she replied, dryly, turning again to continue the descense.
- I'm sorry about the solstice, Thysa...- he carried on, following her.- I know you wanted to come back to Dumyat at this date, but...
- I don't want to talk about that.
Ath sighed, but closed his mouth and didn't say another word. He contemplated her while she went ahead, one of her habits. Trying to ignore the blackness irradiated by the buildings of Dhara, he studied Thysa. He used to do it when she wasn't paying attention to him, that was most of the time. He still remembered the first time he saw her, and how she dazzled him with her beauty: her smooth and golden skin, her long and dark hair and her deep turquoise eyes. Those eyes which had looked at him with fury and disdain since the first moment and now didn't do it with much more softness.
Dhara's gates were open, but they seemed completely deserted. However, Thysa noticed three lookouts in one of the watchtowers and sensed the sound of horses' hooves. When they were close enough to be an easy target, they heard a voiced that echoed through the stone walls.
- Stop or we'll shoot you!
Thysa pulled the reins of her horse to stop him. Ath, behind her, did the same and raised his arms in a peace gesture.
- We come with good intentions! My name is Ath, we sent a messenger to...
They heard a cracking noise from inside the city and the sound of approaching footsteps. A group of five armed men, two bearing bows and three carrying swords, appeared by the big and old wood gates. They stood there with cautious expressions in their faces and holding their weapons fiercely. The one who seemed to be their leader, a middle-age man wearing a waistcoat and black trousers, moved a few steps forward, observing them with distrust in his eyes.
- Ath? The spirit hunter, the mercenary?
- Yeah, that's me. You sent a help call by a messenger, two weeks ago.
- That's right.
- I wish we could have arrived before, but we were far away from here in that moment. We hurried up as much as we could.
- Who's she?- asked the man, pointing at Thysa with the end of his sword.
- She is my...
- ... Business partner.- she said, sharply.
- Yes, a shaman.
The man studied them briefly before nodding with his head. The rest of the group's members put their weapons down. Ath dismounted from his horse and Thysa imitated him. He exchanged a strong handshake with the mand.
- My name's Ruar, I'm the Governor of Dhara.- he said, more friendly.- But we'll make the presentations later. Come with me, please. I guess you'll be hungry and tired.
- I'm not gonna deny that.
When they crossed Dhara's gates, Thysa saw another three men riding horses and armed with bows that now they carried hung in their backs. The path they followed went under a big arcade made of mossy old-looking stone, with drawings of majestous ships, mermaids and storms. The street twisted down, between tall and white buildings that housed shops in their first floors and terraces in their attics. But all the doors and windows were closed. They didn't the merchants' shouts and there were nobody walking around. Everything was silent. Ruar's voice, now more cheerful, strongly contrasted with the desolated appearance of the city.
- There's no real danger in being outside during the day, but people's very superstitious, you know. They're afraid and prefer to sto stay at home. They feel safer that way.
- It's understandable.- Ath nodded, so focused in what was around here that it seemed as if he were ignoring his host.- You will have to give me information about...
- Yes, yes, sure. Don't worry about that, you'll have information in excess. But I think it's better to discuss those things in my place and with something hot to eat in front of you, don't you?
- Of course.
Ruar's home was in the middle of the city, near the central core of Dhara, beside the Main Market and the Major Square.It was a very big and beautiful house, formed by two main buildings and a garden. An imponent front door made of wood and iron, with the Governor's coat of arms on it, welcomed the visitors with an implicit warning. In the gravel yard were some people: two lads working at the stables and a few maids going to the garden. The soldiers separated their ways there and Ruar gave the lads instructions to take care of their horses. After that, and smiling, he leaded them into his house.
They went through corridors with wide windows and white walls until reaching an inner courtyard where there was a fountain, tables and chairs and a woman reading a book. When she heard footsteps she raised her head and frowned imperceptibly.
- Darling, they're the spirit hunter, Ath, and his business partner, Thysa.They're here to help us. She's my wife, Duna.
- My pleasure, my lady.- whispered Ath, with respect.
- No, the pleasure is mine.- she answered, smiling.
Ruar raised his hands and clapped three times, and the sound reverberated in the walls. After a few seconds, a man and a woman appeared in the courtyard, dressed as servants.
- Emmer, Silia, begin with the preparations for lunch, please. We'lle have two more companions at the table, as you can see.
- Yes, my Lord.- they said at the same time, bowing their heads.
Ruar fell heavily over a chair, near his wife, and urged them to imitate him. Thysa sat down bu the fountain and admired how the clear water reflected the shimmering sun. The courtyard was a beautiful place. It was uncovered, so it was possible to enjoy the breeze and the briny fragance, to look at the sky and to listen to the birds. The tables were made of sturdy wood and the wicker chairs had white and blue cushions. The fountain's whisper was like a lullaby.
- Did you have any difficulties to come here?- asked Ruar, seriously now.
Thysa focused her attention on him. He should be around forty, perhaps, but he was a strong and vivacious man. He had dark hair, marked features in a wide face, shrewd eyes and thin lips. As opposed to him, his wife Duna had a slim constitution. Her skin was tanned and her chestnut hair was over her shoulders. She seemed quite quick-witted, though she tried not to show it.
- Not at the beginning. But as were approaching the city, nobody wanted to give us any kind of information. When we saw that people avoided us, we started to lie and the problems solved themselves.
- That's not surprising, we recieved our last visit months ago. We're fine so far, though, but things will get worse soon if the situation doesn't change.
- We hope to be able to help, sir.
- That's what I hope, too.- Ruar laughed.
- Do you truly believe that you will help us, sir?- Duna asked, slightly defiant.
- I don't like to promise anything, my lady.- said Ath, gravely.- Despite my experience I'm not a god and there are some things impossible for me. I don't know everything I need to give you a clearer answer, but I'm possitive about the solution of your problem.
- What do you need to know?- Ruar asked.
- Would you mind to tell me whay happened again, from the beginning? I read your letter, but I'd thank you to repeat the story.
Ruar sighed and nodded. Thysa leaned forward, resting her arms over her knees, in order to move away from the fountain's noise and to listen better to the Governor's words.
- Everything started almost three months ago. At the beginning we thought that they were just ghost stories, maybe encouraged by some bored sailormen, naughty children or who knows. Rumours said that every night, in the bay's part where the cliffs begin, it was possible to see the spirit of a possessed captain prowling around and looking for souls to devore. Very typical, so we didn't give it any credit during some weeks. However, days passed and more people swore having seen the specter. The first victim appeared soon.
Thysa noticed that the Governor's wife hugged herself and raised her eyes to the sky. Ath was all ears, so focused on the story that he seemed to find some morbid pleasure in listen to such tales.
- It was a woman that lived in a cottage by the cliffs. She was a widow, and she worked as a seamstress. She was forty two.
- Do you know how she died?- Ath asked.
- Is... is really necessary to tell that?- replied Ruar, looking concerned at his wife.
- Don't worry about me, darling.- she said, in a sweet voice that didn't match with her hard and cold eyes.
- It is, I'm sorry. I need details, sir, and that could be relevant.
- In that case... the corpse was naked and ir has burns in the neck, the chest, in arms, waist and thighs. And eyes opened.
- I see.- he commented, frowning.
- Then we hired the services of an exorcist. We had one in the city.
- Do you pay him for that?- Ath interrupted.
- No, it wasn't necessary. She didn't want the money. She was truly scared and only wanted to get rid off the threat as soon as possible.
- Anyway, she didn't manage to do it. She died, too, trying it. In a different way, though, if you're gonna ask me. She commited suicide, stabbing herself with a dagger, into her heart.
Thysa squinted her eyes, assimilating the information. The big difference among those two deaths should be something important. She observed Ath and recognised in his face an expression she knew well: he was thinking the same.
- For a time, there weren't any more deaths. Sometimes people lost something, mostly personal objects and money. People stopped seeing the condemned captain. But things turned worse. We found corpses again... some of them seemed murdered, others had commited suicide. PPeople started leaving the city and at the beginning, they did it. Then some came back: they were delirious and had high fever. We weren't safe anymore. We called another exorcists, from foreign cities, but the majority never came here. That's when I sent the messenger to find you.