Chapter 7: The Governor of Alnoc

The small city of Alnoc lay on the southern tip of the land of Sendorra, bordered by a long stretch of mountain ranges that extended from the north and northwest to the almost impenetrable jungles of Alanca in the east. The treacherous waters of the Corian Sea made up the southern borders, making Alnoc one of the most isolated cities in Sendorra. Nevertheless, Alnoc's location in the warm south, far from the administrative clutches of the imperial government made it a center for merchants trading in the black market. Occasionally, trader ships would sail through the rough waters of the south seas or venture through the dense Alancan jungles to reach Alnoc where they would negotiate and sell to the highest bidder. When the emperor decreed for magic to be prohibited to all citizens and that magical artifacts to be confiscated and brought to the capital, many of the black market merchants flocked to Alnoc, far from the probing eyes of imperial soldiers.

Governance of Alnoc, as with most far flung cities of Sendorra, rested solely with the Jad, the appointed head of the most prominent family. In the case of Alnoc, it was Jad Enzir who inherited his position of power from his father, a black market merchant who was killed during an altercation with another trader. Having been raised by his father at a time when magical artifacts were still freely bought and sold, he grew an almost insatiable interest in magic and was keen on keeping the status quo of Alnoc as one of the remaining places in the empire that still practiced magic and where trading in magical artifacts still happened.

Jad Enzir stood by the window and watched his servants as they approached the mankora with caution. They pushed a cartload of grain forward and tipped the contents to the ground as the giant bird looked with interest. Suddenly, the mankora flapped its wings and flew several feet above the ground towards the pile of grain. It would have landed nearer the pile but was stopped by a thick rope that tied its foot to a massive stone block on the courtyard. It squawked loudly and pulled its foot, but the stone did not yield. The mankora then stretched its neck forward and was able to reach the pile of grain. The servants pushed the grains towards the mankora with shovels and were obviously scared to move closer. Enzir laughed at his servants and wondered how they can be scared of the mankora when it only ate grain and worms when it was still a regular sized Alnoc chicken. Surely, it would not eat humans, or would it? Enzir scratched his beard and thought about his question.

The mankora was one of Lankko's most successful experiments, thought Enzir. After countless trials, his keeper of secrets was able to extract the power of magical artifacts into a blue elixir that Lankko himself regularly gave the mankora to drink.

It was not just his chicken that Lankko experimented on. His experiments on the garden slugs yielded his psylugs. Enzir was not too happy with how Lankko named them, unlike the name 'mankora' which Enzir himself thought of. Still, the psylugs were quite useful in getting information from suspected spies while giving a good light show.

Enzir frowned as he remembered the stranger they brought in that morning for questioning. His arrival in Alnoc was quite suspicious. Enzir had asked the soldiers who discovered the stranger how he arrived and the soldiers told Enzir about the ball of light that suddenly appeared in the marketplace near the ancient Fountain of the Seven Spheres. Most of Alnoc's citizens were still asleep, but Enzir's soldiers posted in the area noticed the bright light and approached it. When the ball of light dissipated, there was the stranger standing in its place.

No one knew who he was nor where he could have come from, but the manner of the stranger's appearance made the soldiers decide to bring him to Lankko. This was in accordance with Enzir's instructions to bring any suspicious individuals to Lankko for questioning. Enzir rubbed his chin, thinking of the possible origins of the stranger, but he suspected that it could be the emperor planting a spy on Alnoc. Or, could it be the Guild of Healers who wanted the pearl returned to them? Or, could it be the Sorrelian mercenaries sent to recover their beloved pearl? Or, black market merchants from somewhere else in Sendorra who wanted the pearl for themselves? There were just too many people who could be looking for the pearl, he realized. And then, there was the mark on the stranger's back...

"Jad Enzir…" It was his servant, telling him that his breakfast was ready. Enzir left the window as he remembered the events almost a week ago that led him to possess the most coveted object in the whole of Sendorra.

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