The stink of the city rose the the nostrils of the patrolmen even before they reached the gate. The clopping of the horses hooves was dampened by the muddy track, and the shlick of chainmail sprung from Boscal’s movements. Beside him the thin whine of stretching leather came from the saddle straps that hugged the horse. Towering over him the man they’d come across swayed in time with the horses steps. The man’s hands were tied and a bag over his head. A Black Bag. Of course it was only a percussion. The might be nothing more than a man. But Black Bagging him seemed prudent to all twelve of the patrolmen.
The cover of the forest felt oppressive in some ways. In the spring the gray days drenched the Nervwood with hard rains only for the sky to open up and the sun to spread it’s tendrils to every hidden seed or sprout. Now the Nervwood was overgrown and the thick trees greens. The thick trees that lined the path hung their branches over and blocked out much of the natural light. If the gentle breeze had been blowing the other way, Boscal lemented, the stink of humanity wouldn’t have reached them–instead they would have gotten the sweet smells of blossoming life. But the breeze blew from the south, and so all they got was rot and shit. And they called the place civilized.
The patrol didn’t talk as they passed through the Nervwood’s outer edges. Boscal assumed each man was, like himself, wondering about what they carried with them. The trees thinned and finally gave way to rolling hills, as lush and as green as any virgin boy–as innocent as well. To the south, down a great rise, sprawled the city. It’s spires still scraping the sky high above the patrol, despite their lofty vantage point. The view was enough to steal anyones breath. Unfortunately for the man on the horse, he wouldn’t remember anything since they Black Bagged him.
They continued down the path, sinking lower toward the city gate ever instant. The dull clouds overhead didn’t rumble with thunder like they sometimes did, but a slight mist began to fall, dampening the vivid hills the track cut through.
It took perhaps another half hour to come to the gate and in that time Boscal didn’t hear anything more than a crude joke about one of the patrolman’s wives that was met by nervous laughter. That kind of joke wasn’t uncommon, the laughter was thin though–humor was something left for more certain times.
As they the twelve patrol and their captive came closer to the gate Boscal saw that it wasn’t open. It was a curious thing. Most days there were long lines on either side and the gate wardens were checking people in out. Seeing the gate completely deserted gave Boscal tense shoulders of foreboding.
The gate was corrugated steel that was meshed together so nothing larger than a man’s hand could be thrust through the holes. Boscal stepped forward and pounded on the gate with the hilt of his sort that hung at his hip. The lack of any warden, or sound of hustle was unsettling.
“Maybe President Miko is making an appearance?” asked Ederly, the youngest of the patrol.
“He wasn’t scheduled to,” said Boscal. “It makes me uneasy.”