Chapter 4

Greenhill had changed.

Jowy hadn’t seen the city in more than five years - not since Highland’s armies had withdrawn from it on the road to defeat. His last memories of it were the cheers of its citizens as his forces fell back.

But he hadn’t expected it to be so different.

The end of the centuries-long war between Highland and Jowston seemed to have invigorated Greenhill. It had grown to easily double, perhaps three times the size it had been when he’d last seen it, and the new buildings shared the elegant design and size, if not the age, of the originals.

But if the city had grown to three times its size, it still didn’t seem to accommodate the growth in the number of citizens. Some, Greenhill natives most likely, moved about at the same quiet, studious pace that Jowy had seen when he’d first come. Most, though, behaved more like the people he remembered from Muse - getting where they thought they needed to be, and woe be it to anyone who got in their way.

One of those more energetic pedestrians bumped up against Jowy. He would have made off with a coin purse, too, if Jowy’s gloved hand hadn’t closed around his wrist. The man yanked his hand free and fled.

“I liked this place better the old way,” Jowy said to himself as he watched the would-be thief disappear into the crowd.

One thing which he knew wouldn’t have changed was the hatred that Greenhill’s citizens felt toward him. More than any of the Jowston city-states, Greenhill had fallen by his hand.

Jowy tugged on his cloak so that his hood would slide farther forward. It wouldn’t do to take chances.

He came into an open-air market. Open-air in design, anyway. It was so full of people that Jowy could barely see the other side of it, and he certainly couldn’t hear the individual cries of merchants peddling their wares over the din. He thought about going back the way he’d come, but if there was a hostel anywhere in the city that wouldn’t ask many questions, it would be here.

“Watch your step, friend!” seemed to be the most common expression in the New Town of Greenhill - that and more colorful variations of it. Jowy had it directed at him several times, more than once by someone who had blindly walked into him.

He passed by stalls, shops, and stalls in front of shops (one of which was the sight of a heated argument between the owners of the two). None of them interested him, although he did wonder what role the numerous bookshops could have in the city which boasted Jowston’s greatest library.

And then he passed a stall which did interest him. It was covered with printed posters, which was a surprise in and of itself - Jowy hadn’t thought that the printing press, a Harmonian development, had reached Jowston yet. And the posters depicted several known True Runes.

“You, the one in the cloak!” said the man standing behind the stall.

Jowy thought for a moment he had been recognized, but he slowly turned.

“You look like an adventurer, my good man,” the man said. “Someone who could use some good work, most likely. Not much to do with no wars to fight, am I right, hmm?”

Jowy nodded slowly. “What of it?” he asked.

“You’re here for the True Runes, am I right?” asked the man.

Jowy took a step back. His hand unconsciously went to his sword.

“Thought so! Well, you aren’t the first - or the hundredth, either, believe me. There’s quite a hunt on, you know. Why, we’ve four here already, last count! And you might be the one to find the fifth. Lady Teresa pays a king’s ransom for them.” The man spat. “Only thing a king’s worth, of course.”

“Y... yes.” Jowy narrowed his eyes. He had heard that there were True Runes to be found in Greenhill, but he’d dismissed the rumors of a concerted effort to collect them as nonsense. It seemed he’d been mistaken.

“So, will you sign up, lad?” asked the man, shoving a piece of hand-copied parchment at Jowy. “If you find one... live the high life, am I right?”

Jowy considered. He might find something out by signing - but he would also leave a record of his passing. And if hundreds were signing up, he doubted that there would be any real information. “No thank you.”

“Your mistake, lad, your mistake.” Before Jowy could say another word, the man had turned away to heckle another likely candidate.

Jowy wished him the worst of luck - every new mercenary who joined up would be more competition.

He pushed past several more shops and stalls and came at last to an inn. The sign above the door was faded and worn, and so was the building itself - it must have been a country inn once, before the expansion of Greenhill.

“Perfect,” Jowy said, entering the building.

The inside matched the exterior, and was just as busy. Jowy saw an opening and strode to the desk. “I’d like to book a room for an indefinite period of time,” he said, depositing a handful of Potch.

The innkeeper looked up. “Another one, are you?” he asked, grinning.

“Another what?” Jowy asked. He thought back to his last conversation. “Another mercenary, you mean?”

The innkeeper nodded. “Fine people, you are. Defending our country five years ago, and filling my inn now.”

“We do our best,” Jowy said quietly. “I haven’t been here for years, though - what’s happened to this place?”

“Muse refugees.” The innkeeper rummaged around under his desk and found a key. He handed it to Jowy. “After the war, a lot of them who didn’t go to the new capital settled here. Why, my inn used to be in the countryside, and look at it now! This place is more Muse than Greenhill these days.”

Jowy pocketed the keys. “I can see that.”

The innkeeper pointed. “Your room’s the third one on the left, right up the stairs.”

Jowy started up, but the innkeeper stopped him. “You know, this place is pretty famous for your sort,” he said. “Why, Mr. Dyne himself stayed here a year back, when he first came.”

“Mr. Dyne?” Jowy asked.

The innkeeper was practically glowing, he was so puffed up with reflected glory. “Mr. Ghaleon Dyne himself! He stayed in this very inn when he first came to Greenhill. We never would have gotten the Runes if it weren’t for him, bless the fellow. Started all this, he did. Fine man.”

Jowy left him muttering about what a ‘fine man’ Mr. Ghaleon Dyne was.

So someone was using Greenhill to look for the True Runes.

Jowy nodded to himself.

It seemed that he’d come to the right place.