It was a calm morning, the birds were chatting, diving between branches and nestling next to each other. Winter was arriving soon, the leaves attested to this, betraying their true colors and slowly turning yellow. It had looked like the sun had dyed parts of each leaf a different shade of yellow, as though it suddenly decided to take up painting the entire forest, splotches of green and light green mixed with yellow spread throughout the forest as a new theme: half-summer, half-fall. Woodland was also a part of this theme, however it looked as if small puffs of cotton also floated with the barely palpable wind.
Or were they fairies?
Veron’s horse huffed, exasperated at the overnight journey. It was tired, hungry, and a little annoyed they didn’t stop to rest near the river a while back.
“We’re almost there,” he reassured the beast. It shook its head, pulling at the reigns a little in impatience, the nearby grass enticing its gaze.
As they approached Terrasylvae, the Garrison loomed and grabbed Veron’s attention first. He peered inside any window into the rather large building as he passed it by, going to retire his horse within the village stable. After conversing briefly and rather vaguely with the stable hand, he began his way toward the Garrison, however something caught his attention. There seemed to grow a small line of people, villagers mixed with several fighters Veron recognized from his previous visit, all waiting to receive what smelled like breakfast. Flavors drifted toward Veron in the form of eggs, bacon, pancakes or waffles, and loaves of bread or rolls. Watching further, the small bakery was producing rolls or small loaves of bread, and none of the other aromas he could tangibly taste. He was curious if it was possible for him to taste any of the flavors or find any of it filling to him. He waited at the back of the line, watching as several people before him repeated the same actions; wait patiently, pay the baker some amount of coin, and leave with a handful of what looked to be a delicious looking muffin, roll, or small loaf of bread, depending on what they asked for.
As the line thinned, he realized he was the last one, no one dared to continue the line further behind Veron, which struck him as strange. Those that beheld interest hesitated slightly, then went off elsewhere. As he approached the bakery front, he waited and watched as the baker with her hair tied up into a bun, feverishly working a large amount of dough. She turned to briefly look behind her and realized someone was waiting to order.
“What’ll you have, dear?” she called, looking back at her dough, but listening intently for the response.
Veron paused, thought a moment, then replied, “Just a loaf of bread.”
She continued to work, placing a small amount of dough onto a wooden paddle, and sliding the dough into an oven then portioning out more for further orders. He waited several minutes until she brought him the fully cooked loaf of bread.
She however paused as he held out his pay, seeming to recognize him. “Wait, what’s your name?”
“Veron Tepes, son of Vlad,” Veron replied, setting down his payment as she seemed to refuse to give him his loaf, eyeing him up and down, trying to recognize where she’d seen him before.
“Wait, you’re the one who spoke with Haute that one day! Damian is looking for you, you should go see him in his office in the order garrison. He’s on the top floor in his office,” she gave him his loaf and coerced him in the direction of the garrison, while villagers deemed it comfortable to approach her bakery again upon Veron’s leave.
Veron shrugged, taking a bite out of his loaf. It tasted like mulch mixed with salt and beheld a moist aftertaste. He was disappointingly correct; he could not taste anything anymore and it seemed to hardly phase his hungry stomach. He finished the loaf as he made his way to the order garrison, watching as several fighters were practicing in the court yard. While approaching, some of the fighters paused their duels or talk on the side to passively watch as a stranger casually entered their garrison. As he went inside, the aromas from before were intensified, realizing a kitchen was within the room to his right upon entering the order. He peered inside, seeing steam rise from upon a stove, and someone rummaging within a somewhat stocked pantry. There were several counters and hanging kitchen appliances along with pots, pans, and variety of other utensils dotted around the place. Veron continued along the hallway, seeing two sets of staircases, one spiraling downward into the dungeon where Damian had given Veron the human cage. The other was a straight staircase going to the second floor. He took the straight staircase and came unto a small area with a little table and few chairs with a small bookcase along the wall, a window peering out into the forest just beyond the building. Looking to his right, he noticed an ajar door with voices laughing and conversing from within. He peered inside absorbing the room’s decor; there were several lounge sofas, some able to seat several, a dining table with several chairs, a chute that looked to connect to the kitchen below, and uncountable shelves lined with books and scrolls, the western side of the room had windows which overlooked the courtyard below. Those that were conversing and laughing before were eating breakfast at the dining table, others were conversing or reading. Toward the back was a door that led into what looked like an office. Veron slowly entered, and as he did so, groups of people slowly paused their conversations, or began to slowly stop eating. Eventually everyone was silent, recognizing briefly this new intruder, yet no one dared to speak up and ask.
Suddenly the door at the back opened, as though he could sense something was aloof. Damian instantly recognized the intruder and greeted him warmly.
“Veron! It’s so glad to see you again, please come inside where we can talk more openly,” Damian beckoned Veron into his office, Veron slowly making his way, trying to anticipate what request Damian had in mind.