Percy shouldered his way through the crowd streaming past him. The God-Empress was giving another one of her speeches and he was seemingly the only one who didn’t really care. She would go on about how the city was doing well, how the other Gods were pleased with everyone’s work. Blah blah blah. It was always the same anyway, it wasn’t like he would be missing a whole lot. His parents would be a little pissed, but he was almost a man now and there was no requirement stating that he had to go. No one had to go to her speeches, but it was just the done thing. Besides, he had gone to practically every other one since he had been born so what difference would one make? He could pray later tonight, the God-Empress didn’t need to lead the prayer for the other Gods to hear him.
He ducked around a group of people and into a small alley, deciding to wait a little for the crowds to clear. It was much easier to be standing out of the way like this than in the surging crowd. Less people would shout at him for being in the way too.
Once the road was emptier he stepped back out of the alley and continued on his way. It was a nice day, the sun shining overhead. They said it was going to rain later, but Percy couldn’t see how, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Percy stopped and looked around, he was the only one on the streets. He turned slowly, looking at all the closed doors and windows. It was weird, like being out late at night, but even then there were still people about the place, sitting outside smoking, returning home from a bar. He continued walking, looking all around as he did so. There had to be people still around, the entire city couldn’t have gone to see the speech, could they? As he walked he began to get nervous, what about the criminals? Surely some of them would hang around, break into houses during the speech. If they came across him now they’d easily rob him. He didn’t have much on him and he’d heard stories of people being killed because they didn’t have enough to give to the robbers. Percy looked behind himself, trying to see everywhere at once. He stopped and took a deep breath, of course they would still have guards doing patrols, if that happened he could always run, and besides that he knew where people were. He could get there quickly if he really had to, he was always a fast runner. Feeling a little better Percy continued on. He already knew where he wanted to go, Percy wanted to visit the gates. They had always fascinated him, and with so few people around he could stand and look at them all he wanted. He might even be able to touch them. Normally the guards didn’t allow it, but they might make an exception because he would be practically the only one there.
The gate had been locked and barred hundreds of years ago, everyone knew that. There had been war and sickness ravaging the land. Great raiding parties riding great beasts that attacked and slaughtered without mercy. The only entry point to the city was the gate and if that was sealed no one would be able to get in. The walls of the city were huge, tall and thick. In the cities entire history they had never been scaled. Not even from the inside, where people would be paid to try climb them so the architects could spot any flaws or test new security features. The God-Empress had been in her first year as ruler when the gates were shut, she made the wise decision to protect everyone, they had more than enough to sustain themselves forever. Behind the palace stretched miles and miles of fields that were used to raise animals and grow crops, ensuring there was enough food, and the river supplied them with clean and fresh water.
Percy had always dreamed of seeing the top of the wall, of being one of the defenders. It was unlikely he would ever see it though. No one was entirely sure what the defenders did, after all no one could climb the wall. Percy thought that they were just observers, tracking the wars and diseases through telescopes. One thing was certain and that was once you passed your training and were accepted, you went up, but you never came back down. He didn’t think his parents would allow that and he knew it would kill them if they never saw him again, he was after all their only child. The defenders lived on top of the wall in guard towers. Food and water was sent up on a regular basis and they watched over the world outside, sending reports to the God-Empress. Percy knew that one day, when the land was once again safe, the gates would open and people would be finally allowed to see what was outside. Percy didn’t think that would happen in his lifetime, wars still raged outside, seemingly never ending.
When he reached the square, he found it entirely empty. There were no people and not even any guards. Percy approached the gates slowly, taking them in. They were at least forty feet high and thirty feet across. Every five feet or so a thick, iron bar crossed the doors, preventing them from being opened. Each bar looked immensely heavy, Percy wondered how many men were needed to lift each one. The ends of each of the bars were capped, preventing them from being slid out or lifted, unless the caps were unlocked and removed. The door itself was made of a dark metal that gleamed in the sunlight. Gently, Percy rested a hand against the door, it felt cold to the touch. Even with the sun shining on it all day, it was cold. Just how thick was the door? He thought he could feel it vibrating lightly against his hand, but he knew that had to be just his imagination. What could make something that vast shake without affecting the ground around it? Percy closed his eyes, outside this gate was the rest of the world, a huge, vast place supposedly ten times the size of the city. Percy didn’t know how true that might be, he couldn’t imagine something so large, so vast outside the walls. Maybe five or six times the size of the city, but that could be the absolute limit. And even at that, what in the world could fill all that space? There wouldn’t be any real towns or cities outside, no buildings taking up room. Slowly Percy dropped his hand and looked up at the wall as it stretched into the sky. That was it, he knew it, he had no other choice. He would go up there, stand at the top of the world and look over it all, no matter what it took.