28 Chapter twenty-eight: [Interlude] Webs Are Spun (II)

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~~~Viewpoint: Varys (the spider) fourth moon, 276 AC~~~

I stood looking out of the caravan window at the great canyon I was passing through. From what I had seen, the passage to the giant gates was a great black stone bridge that glowed in shades of purple. 

I did not know if this design was due to a natural phenomenon or was part of the so-called rumors of things being created out of nothing, but leaving that aside, I did know that trying to invade the city by land was almost impossible, thanks to the great chain of mountains that made the passage impossible, in addition to this great canyon that left no passages in sight to reach the city or attack the city walls. 

The time on the land bridge did not last long, and soon we passed through the great black gate, and the material of which the gate was made astonished me even more. 

I had no military mind, but I still understood that the only way into the city by force was through the two giant gates, along with the gates that let ships through the Worm River. 

But now, seeing the gates up close, I understood that such a task would be difficult, if not impossible unless someone could create a way to destroy or break Valyrian steel, for yes, the gates were made of Valyrian steel. 

It was here that I began to think: how rich would someone have to be to use such a precious metal in a simple door? But I dismissed the thought that, even if you had all the wealth in the world, there was not enough Valyrian steel in the known world to make these doors. 

Unless such metal was created in the city, it was not so far-fetched; many smiths in Qohor knew how to forge the metal, but none knew how to create it. Looking at these doors, that was the only possible explanation. 

As we passed through the gates, a beautiful sight greeted me: houses in the background made of clean white stone, with wide, unblemished roads, much like the roads the cursed Valyrian created. 

The caravan stopped when we came to a huge building, made of black stone with red roofs. Now that I think about it, everything in this city was on a gigantic scale. 

In that building, which I learned was called Customs, we lasted several minutes, precisely because the people who worked there searched the cargo that Bario was bringing. At the same time that they documented the names of those who came with him, they also wrote down the date on which I entered the city and gave me a document that verified my stay in the city, which also specified how long I would be allowed to stay in the city.

From what I learned, if I exceeded the time allowed and did not report to customs at the exact time, I would be sentenced to hard labor in the mines, or worse, I would be killed. 

This was something that left me speechless. Hell, didn't the cities benefit enough from the merchants and traders that came to their cities? Many times, I could even see how they treated Illyrio like a king just for the simple fact of coming to their harbors. 

But now, a city punishes all its visitors if they stay too long in the city without permission. 

It was a strange thing. 

By the time I finally made it through customs, it was time for lunch, and being under the gaze of those men with their dead stares made me uneasy, so the only other thing that would lift my spirits, besides information, was food. 

But here was the first drawback: my money. In this damn city, they didn't accept foreign currencies, so if I wanted to buy anything, I had to change my money into the currency called Colfree. I swear, this damn city does whatever it takes to scare people away. 

That's why I had to go back to the customs office to change my money. I could do it in the bank of the city, a bank called Central Bank, but since that building was located in the part of the city behind the walls, precisely in the castle, getting there would take me two hours, and my stomach wouldn't hold all that time, especially now that I wasn't used to being hungry as I was years ago. 

Bario had already left for the imposing building called the Public Stable, a place where the merchants came to leave their mounts and goods, and then take them to the commercial area. 

This section of the city was beautiful, with wide streets and a scent of lavender in the air, mixed with the salty breeze coming from the sea, which no doubt made the view and the stay very pleasant. Perhaps that is why so many people visited it, even at the expense of its unsophisticated welcoming practices. 

One thing I had noticed was that men mounted on horses patrolled the streets constantly, in their plate armor and with a cool aura. That was not the case in the other places I had had the pleasure to meet, even more so in this case, where the castle was miles away and where the city guards commonly patrolled the most. 

After a while, I arrived at an inn. The atmosphere inside was comfortable and welcoming, and at the same time, I could see how well-behaved they were inside, both merchants and normal people. It seemed that the constant presence of guards in these areas ensured that good behavior and order were maintained. 

I sat at a table by a window, which overlooked a large lake in the distance, along with the harbors located there. 

Soon, a young girl approached me and, with a modest smile, told me the menu of the day. I quickly ordered a lamb stew, with breads and biscuits, along with a pumpkin pie, which the girl said was the specialty of the house. 

All this cost me six copper coins, a bit cheap, considering that the food I had just eaten would cost at least one silver coin, although this was to my advantage, since after the exchange of money, I got ten gold coins and four silver coins, and although at first, I thought it was little, I realize that it is a large sum, at least if you refer to this place.

However, the food was very tasty, made with delicious spices; I would even say they were better than the ones Illyrio traded. 

After that heavenly-tasting meal, I paid and walked to the street, and everywhere I looked, people were walking on beautiful pavements, others were passing through the streets on beautiful steeds, and even many well-crafted carriages being pulled by two or four horses were passing by from time to time. 

That was something new to me, the more so because in Pentos or Volantis that was not to be seen, for steersmen were used for traveling between cities, not within them, though in this case, the wide and very comfortable streets made it easier to do so. 

"Friend, do you want to go somewhere? Only twenty coppers a ride."

Looking behind me, I saw a man in a black and luxurious-looking carriage, with two strong horses pulling it. 

Thinking it was a good idea, I decided to accept. "To the Zone Rosa, please," I said to the man, to which he nodded and told me to get into the carriage. 

Heeding him, I opened the carriage door and entered the carriage, being greeted by a spacious cubicle, with an L-shaped seat, plus a small bar with fruit, jugs of wine, and water. It was very nice. 

After taking a seat, a small window opened, connecting the cubicle with the place where the man who was driving the carriage was standing. 

"Hello, I'm Michael; you're a foreigner, aren't you?" Started a conversation, with Michael, catching my attention. 

"Yes, I'm a foreigner; is it very noticeable?" I asked him, wanting to know more about the people of this place. 

Michael chuckled softly, as he pulled the carriage forward. "It's not hard to tell; everyone who comes to Xandar for the first time sticks out just like a severed finger." 

Nodding, not making sense of the man's strange analogy, I decided to ask more questions: "So, what's your life like here? As far as I heard, the king is a Khal Dothraki, so that's strange in itself". 

Michael lasted a few seconds in silence, and when I thought he wouldn't answer, I heard Michael's voice again. 

"My life is much better now, and yes, the king is a Khal, a very big one, by the way, and yes, he is very strange." 

I analyzed that this Khal was different around leading, judging by how good people looked, but I knew it could be a facade and, that they didn't want to show the true color of things. 

"We'll pass the river, as foreigners can't get in or out through the gates in the wall north of this one, so it'll take us another half hour; no problem with that, is there?" 

Holding back a sigh, I said, Okay, whoever set up this system has something against foreigners. 

For the next few minutes, Michael was silent, while I looked very carefully at all the places we passed. 

One of the places that filled me with the most interest was the huge harbor outside the walls, built on a lake, with huge ships anchored at the giant docks. 

As we entered a special harbor, Michael expertly maneuvered the carriage into a kind of plank. 

The planchón was a large wooden barge, without sails, with a wide and rustic deck, where other carriages were, as well as people riding their horses and others on foot, all waiting to cross the river. 

After several seconds, it closed its gates leading to the dock and began to move forward, cutting the surface of the water and advancing at a steady pace. 

"The plank is moving forward thanks to the cables dragging it," Michael said to me, making me look at him. 

"The operators on the other side activate the mechanism and a pillar starts to rotate, winding the cable around itself and pulling the planchón towards it, so it advances, without needing sails and much faster" Thanking him, I focused more, and I could see how huge they looked under the water, this being the reason for the planchón's advance. 

Crossing the river took us no more than ten minutes, so by the time the plank reached the shore, Michael moved the carriage in the direction of the southern gates of the harbor walls. 

This time, it took us another half hour to get to the ramparts, and by this point, my legs were starting to go numb, although the soft cushions and refreshments inside the cubicle made the ride appealing. 

When we arrived at the gates, I was greeted by huge red gates, capable of letting in ten elephants side by side with no problem. 

At this point, I noticed that there were more guards on patrol, passing in groups of four or six every two minutes. 

This time, I had to head for another customs house; only this one was bigger and more protected than the one at the big canyon gates, which made the atmosphere more serious and colder. 

"Name and purpose in entering Sector A of Xandar" a woman, seated behind a glass display case, spoke to me, without even being able to lift her gaze from her documents to look at me. 

"Charles, my name is Charles, and I am getting to know the city; I find it very beautiful," I replied, in time for the woman to look up and let me see her. 

With her pale face and completely black eyes, she made the woman a strange beauty, highlighted even more by her expressionless and apathetic eyes. 

The woman stared at me for a few long seconds, until I began to get impatient. 

"Hello, excuse me, could you come with us?" I heard them talking behind me, and turning around, I saw that behind me were four guards wearing armor, their hands resting on their long daggers. 

But what caught my attention instantly was the fifth presence in the group: a person dressed entirely in black, revealing no hint of skin, as well as giving off a cold, deathly energy. 

Magic' I thought, with an imperceptible grimace appearing on my face, remembering my encounter with that cursed creation from hell.

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