Outside the city walls, the ground was covered with ashes. Nashtra stepped off of the road and pushed the toe of his boot through the scattered piles. Now and then, he bent down to pick something up. After a few minutes of this, Himeko stepped over to see what he was up to.
“Did you find something?” she asked him.
Nashtra nodded. “Most of the people battling the noir beasts do not know, and many who know do not care, but when the sun rises and they turn to ash, sometimes you can find a little something left behind.”
“What is it?” Cerys wanted to know. She had followed Himeko to find out what the elf was up to.
Nashtra held out his hand. In his palm was an assortment of metal chunks, each about the size of a pebble. Cerys picked one up, looking it over in sheer awe.
“Is this silver?”
“Platinum,” he told her. Then he handed her a different one, paler, shimmering more in the daylight. “This one is silver.”
“Are pieces like this worth anything?” Himeko asked him. “They are so small.”
“Nevertheless, they are quite valuable, ” he replied.
“What do you do with them?” Cerys asked.
“I can use them as currency, if the shopkeeper likes them,” Nashtra explained as he began to walk back towards his horse. “Sometimes I have to sell them first, usually to a jeweler. Now and then a blacksmith will want them to fashion a fancier sword. Either way, they are worth looking for.”
With their collecting thus finished, they rode on. The road, as well as the grasslands to either side of it, was littered with piles is ash, noir beasts burned by the dawn. Cerys imagined to herself that there were a great many of them in the night, and she wondered whether they wandered aimlessly, or if they all head in a particular direction. After all, there were more of them the closer they got to the capital.
It was a long road through the kingdom of Summerlay to get to the capital. They rode all that day, stopping only as the sun was setting in the nearest village, and only because they had to avoid the noir beasts.
The next day, it was another long ride, but they came into view of the largest city had yet seen in Summerlay. The sun shone on ivory bricks and pale yellow couples. There were tall buildings jutting up from behind the wall. This was it at last, the capital city of Summerlay. They paused at the crest of a hill, taking in the sight of it all, then, spurred on by being so close to the destination, rushed down towards it.
They rode as fast as they could until the countless travelers in the road, going to and from the capital city, slowed them down. At the gate, there was a terrible crowd. The guards struggled to control the masses, and soon Cerys and her friends realized that there was a great amount of yelling going on.
“Is it usually this chaotic?” Himeko asked.
Nashtra eased his horse to a much slower pace. He gazed at the city cautiously, looking as though he did not like what he saw. “No,” he replied. “Something is going on.”