The chalked sketch was a masterpiece of its craft. Depicting the climax of the great sea battle that shattered the Hegemony’s grip over the Gulf of Fainborne and ensured that the League of Free Cities would keep their liberty at least a decade longer, every detail was clear, every face was perfect. In the foreground was the famous hero of the battle, Captain Platner, as he leapt aboard the Golden Doom, flagship of the Hegemony. At his side was ‘Lucky’ Isambard, a face known to every man in the Market Quarter. This local hero had distinguished himself in the battle, but had fallen in the struggle aboard the enemy ship; the Rostral Cross was awarded him posthumously. Victory lit the eyes of the sketched warriors as they leapt into the battle’s heart.
As rain began to fall from the steel-grey skies, the sketch ran and faded. A woman dressed in widow’s weeds turned away from the picture, the light that had briefly touched her eyes fading. She dropped a tuppence into the artist’s battered tricorn as she sadly trudged down the street. No one heard her whispered words, "Goodbye, Izey"
On the litter-strewn streets of the run down market quarter, a man can be seen on his hands and knees, a "screever" carefully sketching with colored chalks on the cobbled thoroughfares and sooty brick walls. The busy artist squints and clenches his brow in concentration as he works, for his eyes have been slowly failing for many years and he can barely see the masterpieces his labor produces.
The tools of his art lie on the ground around him, pieces of brightly dyed chalk, charcoal, a ruler and set of curved pieces of wood, all common implements owned by a humble man. As they pass, busy merchants and tired workmen often glance down at the vivid images and toss a few pence into the hat beside the busy artist. Only a rare few stop and truly see the screever’s work for all it is.
Another day, this one full of glorious promise as the sun warms the springtime air. The artist quickly puts the finishing touches on another sketch. His carefully depicted colors show a different scene, one drawn from ancient myth: The centaur Gevellus was receiving a gift from the enemies of his king, a lovely centaur filly to be his wife. She would one day murder the king and bring doom upon Gevellus as well as herself.
As the artist worked, a tired looking soldier watched the picture taking form. His hand touched against the fat purse in his greatcoat’s pocket and he considered the price of treason. Making a decision, he dropped the pouch into the screever’s decrepit hat and turned toward the barracks. "I wont do it! I wont take the Hegemon’s coin again!" he quietly muttered as he shouldered his way through the crowd.
Balding, with his long hair tied back to keep it out of his eyes as he works, and a pair of spectacles perched on his narrow nose, Stolvi Screever is not what most would call an impressive man. His clothes are worn and covered with chalk and grime from his art, his shoes are scuffed and full of holes. Only in his pale eyes is there something unusual, a light that few men have ever shared.
Stolvi is quite a solitary man, who has few friends. He isn’t lonely, however. No one knows, but he has a beautiful visitor, an angelic figure that comes to him nearly every day. In the twilight between sleep and wakefulness, his angel, the chooser of the slain, visits him and shares visions of battle and glory, of sacrifice and suffering.
This divine figure has chosen the screever as her messenger, to inspire heroes and reward the valiant with glory, an honor he relishes. She gives him visions to guide his hand, visions that mean little to him, but that he vividly translates into chalked pictures of champions and legends. Most seeing them dismiss them as the product of the artist’s hero-worshipping imagination, but each day, someone passing by sees a picture that touches a memory, that reaches a hardened conscience.