History is ordered and understood by the Ages. In the beginning, there was the Age of Ignorance. A time when demons were few and men arrogant. The two forces went about their lives separately until, unknown to man, demons amassed a great army and attacked.
Driven by necessity and discovered by accident, warding brought an end to the Age of Ignorance. It allowed protection from demons and ushered in the Age of the Deliverer. A man sent by the creator to not only protect, but fight back against demons. The Deliverer brought with him attacking wards that allowed men to take back the night.
So powerful were these wards that they drove the demons back into the core. A time came when no demon rose with the setting of the sun. This allowed the Age of Science to flourish. As men populated the earth, unhindered by demons, he grew jealous of his fellow man and nations rose and fell and fought against each other.
For 3,000 years, the demons slumbered. So long were demons gone that they became nothing more than myth and wards nothing more than a forgotten art.
The Age of Destruction lasted less than a year. The demons returned and in a single night, nations were annihilated. Vast resources of knowledge gone with the sun. Some thought it the end of humans entirely.
They were now in the fifth age. Unnamed. Some called it the Age of the End, believing humans were going to slowly dwindle to nothing. Others called it the Age of the Return, believing that they only need hold out until the Deliverer was reborn.
Eames didn't care what the fucking age was.
Eames glanced around the table, then took another long look at his hand. For the last three nights he'd been playing with nothing. Today, they demanded he either win big or cough up what he lost.
He just wanted to live.
"Cards on the table," the bartender, also acting dealer, called. There were grunts and sighs as cards hit the table. Eames looked up with a grin, reluctant to reveal his cards but knowing he had to act fast.
Make a little money maybe.
His cards hit the table and he was halfway to the door, turning to observe reactions. Smirking at the confusion, he couldn't help but shout, "Ah lovelies, I really must be going-"
He had tried the straight and narrow path.
Grew up in Fort Angiers, apprenticed to a Warder, got himself a girl. Eames made himself a name and earned a pretty little shop he worked by himself. His niche was warding houses so deep inside the walls as to never be tested.
Eames stopped as he backed up into the solid wall of Jenki, the local giant. He turned and ducked fast enough to escape, but any chance to retrieve his goods – on his horse across town in the stables – just vaporized. Already shouts were breaking out from the tavern.
He had the instinctive knack for warding others could only be jealous of. No need for a straightstick or equations – a glance and he could point out the holes in your wardnet.
He didn't waste the time it'd take to reassure he had his light bag of essentials. When the adrenaline calmed he'd likely feel it bouncing against his back anyway. Rather, he sprinted for the edge of town. If he made it far enough out, no one would even bother to chase him.
But it was so boring, and it didn't matter anyway.
So he took a couple shortcuts. Left out a ward here, didn't bother to correct for a corner there.
He ran for an hour straight, stopping only when he started having trouble breathing. The sky was starting to darken and shadows grow when the realization that he had no protection and no one to ask succor from hit.
You see, warding is a precise science.
Panic rose as he grabbed his bag. A warding kit, a spare set of clothes, a sparker, a blanket and lunch he had forgotten to eat. He didn't even think when he flattened the blanket out and began drawing.
For all science earned itself a dirty name when it helped the art of warding fade, there was a reason for the equations and straightsticks. A reason it became a profession rather than a household skill.
It had always been a theory of his. Warding on more loose and unstable surfaces. It had gotten him laughed at and lost him jobs. Besides, who wanted to test something like that personally?
If a wardnet wasn't established properly, corelings could break them or escape through them. People died.
And when the Warding Guild in Fort Angiers learned the failed warding was due to Eames shoddy work he had barely enough warning to leave before they strung him up.
Eames finished and looked up to see the last sliver of sun disappearing. Corelings began to materialize and there was nothing else to do but lay flat and wrap the blanket around himself.
For all his skill, warding took time and precision. Gambling, on the other hand, was much easier.
He just had to be careful when they caught on to his cheating.
The warmth of the sun woke him.