As quickly as they came, the invaders left the town, but not before they had smashed the townhall to smithereens and set most of the buildings on fire. Even the shebeen, relatively hidden in a narrow alley, had not escape the waterloo.
Those who had survived the attack emerged hesitantly, afraid the invaders might return. When it was clear the invaders were not returning, they congregated in the town square. There was a hubbub among the survivors as each and everyone voiced their speculations on why they had been attacked.
Elporta was a small, quisquilian town, hardly worth the notice of any one, let alone an invader. A peaceful community, they had nothing to offer and nothing worth taking. Indeed, the invaders had not even seen it fit to raid the town after their sudden attack.
Nicodemus the Wise tapped his staff, calling for silence as he studied the frightened faces of the survivors. “In answer to the question you must all be asking, it would appear that Elporta has somehow caught the attention of the new Emperor.”
A sardonic laugh cut across Nicodemus’ words and its owner stepped forward to reveal himself. It was Greggory the Tailor. “Why on Montezuma would the Emperor be interested in us? Surely he would be far too busy conquering real cities that defy him to be concerned with our town of little value to him. What makes you even think the invaders that attacked us were the Emperor’s men?”
“Because they came on dragons and the Emperor controls the dragons.” The answer came from a young, unkempt girl, blackened by soot.
Nicodemus turned sharply to look at the girl. Dressed in rags, she wore only a tattered poncho that served like a dress over her balbriggan leggings. She must have been no more than twelve years old and yet her awareness of the situation at hand belied her age.
“The Emperor control the dragons?” Greggory snorted, clearly amused but disbelieving. “The new regime may be praetorian, but I hardly think the Emperor would have gone to the point of selling his soul to harness such dark magic. Besides, that still doesn’t answer why he would attack such a small town of little consequence.”
“They were looking for them,” the girl answered again, pointing a grubby finger at a mother hugging her son. Jewel looked up, fear etched into her deep, blue eyes as she wrapped her arms ever more protectively around Jared.