The road to Mir is paved with roads to Hell. Even in Year 482 (Manderian Calendar), before relations with the three-fold city reached their lowest ebb, the roads were already unsafe. This is not to say that merchants did not brave the muddy, uneven pathways north; they did. Consequently, some of them never returned to Manderia.
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If you had been headed that way during the long, wet winter of 482, it is just possible that you may have passed by two figures, standing by the side of the road, or perhaps walking bent-over against the wind. The taller of the two- a fine, strapping lad with a touch of farmer in him- would be walking in front, or else standing with his thumb outstretched. A shock of white hair would cling to his shoulders, damp and unwashed. His eyes, a faded blue, would meet yours as you passed. And if you happened to look past this curious boy, you might notice another, smaller figure standing nearby.
Saros Rimilia did not have the broad shoulders or the ropy, homespun muscles of his brother. He was lean- almost cadaverous- and bony. His face was angular, all sharp points and skin. His yellow eyes blazed out from beneath his lank black hair. He spoke little, sometimes not at all.
None of this bothered Andrew. He had an immense respect for his brother, though he would be hard-pressed to explain exactly why. The boy had saved Andrew’s life in Manderia, but was that all? Instead of digging deeper, he would turn his mind to the road, laying aside his cares for another time.
The brothers Rimilia had an exceptionally difficult journey. The winter of Year 482 was a wet, cold, and generally miserable testament to the sadism of Northern Leran weather. It was the sort of winter the elderly dread, for it often proves fatal. Andrew and Saros, blissfully ignorant of the northern climates, were forced to take shelter in abandoned barns, behind windfalls, and in what few ditches the northern road possessed. Once, while they were huddled in a fire-gutted house, they came upon a friendly, domesticated dog. Andrew roasted it.
When the snows came, and they could not go further, Andrew led them to a farmhouse near the road. Silently, he opened the door for Saros; then stood by himself upon the stoop, shivering and thinking about nothing in particular.
There was a short, high-pitched wail. Then nothing.
They spent the night in the farmhouse, and when the snow let up the next day, set off with full stomachs and packs full of plundered food. Their progress further north was slow: Monotonous weeks spent trudging through snow that reached waist-deep in some places. Day after day of cold gray skies and chill winds that cut through their clothes, no matter how many layers they wore. Their time-sense disappeared. They continued north.
So it was that in the very heart of winter, half-frozen and dying of malnutrition, Saros and Andrew Rimilia came before the black gates of Mir, and found that they were finally home.
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.