After they were a mile past the bridge they stopped, prepared a cold breakfast, and studied the map. Two miles down the road presented three choices: upriver to more villages and small towns much like Groakpod or Rackarn. Downstream and veering gradually off to the east the road led to the one big city on their map—Chorkald. It was rumored to have over ten thousand Riotori living within its borders. It was surrounded by farms and ranches and filled with markets and stables and smithies and saloons and every kind of commerce. There was no doubt they would find many beautiful females there; they would probably have their pick of pleasing young women.
Or they could go straight and eventually reach The Old City. It had been named something else, of course, a hundred or thousand years ago when it was still inhabited by more than a few strange dedicated disciples that tried to keep the fires going and the factories producing and the buildings in repair. It was said that this work passed from parent to child and had done so for more generations than any Riotori could count.
The Old City had been the source of all weapons and armor for a thousand miles around at one time, centuries ago. There were mines dug deep into the mountains that enfolded the city on three sides. The mines brought forth iron and copper and silver and gold...and one day, legends say, it brought forth poison.
Mists belched from one of the mines, issuing out like wind-blown drizzle, covering the city and then dissipating slowly as winds pushed it out beyond the city's borders.
The small rivers that were the lifeblood of the city were contaminated and killed all who drank from them even miles downstream.
The city died. Thousands of Riotori lay in the streets and the buildings, dead. Their carcasses decayed in the sun of the streets and the shade of the buildings and the rooms inside. The stench became unbearable and deadly. Carrion eaters crept into the city, feasted on the dead, and became dead themselves. The poison remained in the flesh of the dead.
An entire generation of Riotori avoided the city of death and even the rivers that flowed from the mountains. Then some brave souls dared to visit. Some were the grandchildren of those who had fled the city in time, or had been luckily away on the day of death. Others risked it for the treasures rumored to be ripe for the picking in the city and the mines.
Those too impatient or too careless died. But others continued to investigate and eventually it seemed that the curse of the poison was passed.
The Old City was not inhabited except for the previously mentioned disciples but there were three towns near its perimeter.
The twins had never discussed what they would do when this decision was presented, but there was never any doubt. There was no need to discuss it.
They ignored the roads to left and right and continued straight ahead.