Tressemie's main avenue paraded past Lord Pelinal's estate in a constant swirl of frenzied activity. Nobles, laborers, and urchins formed an unending flow in both directions as hawkers plied their wears from behind dozens of makeshift stands.

For Gallus Dre, the view had long since lost its shine. His headlong rush to reach the city, fraught with danger the likes of which he'd never imagined, had come to an abrupt, anticlimactic end at Pelinal's front gate, where his posting as a guard had occupied him these last three weeks.

It was what he'd expected, of course; his father had sent him away to keep him safe, after all, and safety and monotony were fast friends. Regardless, it chafed. Fear had consumed him out on the road, but with time to reflect came the admission that there had been an edge of exhilaration to it all, and try as he might to resign himself to his new station, Gallus thirsted for more.

An elbow dug into his ribs; not as sharp as the guffaw that accompanied it as the other guard pointed out toward the alley across the street. "Guess she weren't too flattered, eh noble boy?"

His eyes followed the finger to where a man was holding his cheek and cursing as a finely dressed woman, native by the look of her, was striding away. Her head was held high, haughty eyes narrowed in unmistakable anger.

"Hilarious," Gallus murmured, gaze already leaving the woman to sweep the milling crowd once more. Unther's company, like the street they were charged with watching, had also lost its shine.

Unther shook his head in disgust. "Bah. Can't believe I'm scheduled with your surly arse all week."

Vigilance was difficult under the circumstances. The only threat they'd ever faced was a beggar who took offense at being barred from the estate and pulled a short knife from within his rags. It was only a few moments before his thoughts began to wander again, creeping along like the sweat trickling down his back.

"That's close enough." Unther's voice rang out, a sudden hard edge to his words that caught Gallus' attention. He looked over to see an unassuming man standing motionless a half dozen steps from the gate.

"I have an appointment with Lord Pelinal." The man said simply, still unmoving.

"Sure you do," Unther snorted. "And my other job is servicing the mistress."

"Pelinal's mistresses are none of my concern," he shrugged, "but his missing caravan is. Are you going to let me in, or are we going to wait here until he comes out to look for me himself?"

There was something in the stranger's tone made defiance seem laughable. Or perhaps it was his stature. The myriad swords strapped to his person should have seemed comical, but one look at his eyes told Gallus he knew how to wield each one with lethal grace. "Open the gate, Unther. I'll show him in."

"Suit yourself, noble boy."

He ignored the jab and turned to the stranger as Unther busied himself with the mechanism that secured the gate. "You never gave your name."

"Stalt." He replied flatly, then swept past, leaving Gallus to follow in his wake.