Attempts At High Fantasy: Chapter II

Yeah, so I wrote chapter two of that last thing I did… you might want to read that before you read this. You know… so you know what’s going on.

As before, comments are both welcome and expected. This chapter has a lot of dialogue, as well as a long internal monologue, so I fully expect it to be several degrees more horrible than the last one I posted. I would appreciate help with anything you consider awkwardly worded, or just plain wrong-sounding.

I still don’t have a title, so here we go:

II

 

That tavern in Gilean’s Crossing, thought Azar as he was marched toward the dungeons. That’s where my troubles began.

This time, he amended himself. That’s where my troubles began this time. Well, not really. I still have all those overarching troubles to deal with. It’s just that right now I have to deal with more immediate troubles. And those troubles began at that gods-damned tavern.

What happened there, anyway? I remember ale… quite a lot of ale, in fact. And there was that barmaid… she certainly was attractive… although, in retrospect, that may have just been the ale.

So, why in the seven hells did I wake up the next morning gagged, bound, and surrounded by soldiers? I guess I may have been a bit loose with my tongue… I vaguely remember bragging to that barmaid that I was the leader of the rebellion… of course, I also remember bragging that I had invented the longsword, so that shouldn’t have done it at all.

Was that it, though? Did she call some soldiers based on the fact that I might have been the leader of the rebellion? I suppose she could have; I can’t even remember how much gold they’re offering for my head at this point. After all, why not take the chance? If I was lying, it didn’t particularly matter; if I was telling the truth, she gets rich. A wonderful catch on her part…

Well, if the barmaid is why I got caught, I guess this entire incident is my fault. But damn it, I deserved some celebration! We’d just won a major victory, we blew up… damn, I can’t even remember what we blew up. It was something to do with those damn wizards… the renegades, or the black serpent or whatever in the hells they’re calling themselves now…

What’s with wizards, anyway? Why are they always so… eccentric? I mean, I heard the reason the renegade order exists is because some damn wizard set fire to some other damn wizard’s cat… of course, I heard that from a drek, so in all likelihood it’s total rubbish. But who’s to know? It could happen. Anything can happen, with wizards. Like all those experiments with reality the renegades were doing… in that strange tower… with all the rods and things coming out of the roof… gods, how far away do they have to put the damn dungeons? Can’t they just throw me in some cell already?

What were those things on the roof for, anyway? I heard something about them being used to channel the body heat given off by moths into usable energy… who did I hear that from? Damn, I think it was another drek… I really need to stop talking to those guys. Or just stop remembering. Anyway, some of those experiments were really unethical. I heard they were using dwarfs as test subjects… and I’m pretty sure I heard that from a human, so it’s at least halfway credible. Someone really should destroy that tower… oh, yeah. That’s what we blew up. That’s why we were celebrating. Of course, the smart ones in the group advised against going to some tavern to celebrate. Too dangerous, they said.

But how could anything have gone wrong? I was surrounded by loyal rebels. All drinking and having fun… ah. That’s what went wrong. Maybe next time there should be someone who doesn’t get drunk… that’s a good idea. I’ll take along one of those young ones next time, someone who still has some idealism left.

That is… if there is a next time. Damn, why did I have to think that? That really didn’t help. I have to keep an optimistic-

Azar’s train of thought was interrupted when he was thrown headfirst into a cell. Behind him, the cell door slammed shut.

Azar picked himself up slowly and looked around. The cell was roughly five paces wide by five paces long. Grime and filth covered the walls. Two objects barely qualifying as beds moldered in the darkness, one along each wall. A torch on the wall of the corridor outside the cell barely illuminated the front half of the cell. Shadows cloaked the back half. Sitting in the darkest corner was a person. The shadows obscured the person’s age, race, and gender.

“Another one?” said the person. Its voice revealed it to be female.

“Another what?” asked Azar in reply.

“Another prisoner thrown in here to be interrogated later. I guess this means Finley finally gave in. Such a pity, I was starting to like him…”

“Why do they put prisoners they want to interrogate in here?” asked Azar warily.

“Oh, back when they first threw me in here, some of the guards were looking at me in a way I didn’t like at all. So I pretended to be crazy to turn them off. It’s worked out great – of course, now they put all the people they want to crack in here. I think they think you guys will cave sooner if you’re in a cell with a crazy girl, but that really doesn’t work very well, what with me not being crazy and all.”

“Pretended to be – look, may I see the person I’m speaking to, please?” asked Azar politely, if rather impatiently.

“What? Oh, sure… I keep forgetting about these damn shadows, always being so… shadowy.” The girl emerged from the shadowed corner.

She was young. Azar guessed she had most likely seen eighteen years. She wore rags that had probably once been finery, but were now dirty and torn. She was slightly too skinny to be healthy, but still very attractive, with raven hair and pleasant brown eyes.

“Hmm. Anyway, how did you pretend to be crazy?” asked Azar curiously.

“Oh, it was easier than you’d think,” replied the girl. “These guards are so gullible it’s almost criminal.” She then pulled her hair in front of her face, and spoke in a voice growing steadily more raspy, and wavering more with every word, “Blood for the faceless priest! Souls for the nameless god!” Returning her hair to its place behind her ears, she giggled slightly.

“Very impressive…” muttered Azar. He began to wander the cell, pawing the filthy walls and knocking in certain places.

“What are you looking for?” asked the girl.

“A way out,” said Azar, still wandering around the cell.

“Why would there be one?”

“This dungeon was built by aristocrats. They’d have left themselves some way out, should the people rise against them.”

“That’s silly. No one would do that, it’s too much work.”

“How do you know? It’s aristocrats, they’re like wizards, everything we consider odd, they consider normal.”

“Hey! That’s not true!”

“Again, how do you know?” asked Azar, turning toward the girl. She seemed reluctant to speak.

“My… my father was an aristocrat. It’s why I’m in here, they consider me untrustworthy. The only reason they didn’t execute me as soon as they took over was that my mother was a peasant woman,” said the girl, speaking fast.

Azar took in this information, and then turned to the wall and continued to search. After a while, the girl spoke again.

“Your ears… are you a half-elf?” she asked hesitantly.

“Quarter. My grandmother on my father’s side,” said Azar, still looking over the wall. “I don’t envy her, so far she’s outlived her son and three grandchildren…” he muttered under his breath.

There was silence for a while more. Azar walked all around the cell, putting his ear to the wall and rapping it with his knuckles. The girl stood around, looking vaguely bored, watching Azar move around. After a few minutes, her eyes narrowed and she looked at Azar interestedly.

“Hey… I think I’ve seen you before…” she muttered. After staring at his face for several seconds, she snapped her fingers and smiled. “I know! You were on a wanted poster in town. Something about arson.”

Azar paused in his inspection of the walls and looked at the girl quizzically. “When did you see that? They’ve only been putting up posters about me for a year or so… how long have you been in here?”

“Only a few months. Before that, my father and I were in hiding.”

The quarter-elf looked as though he were about to say something, but turned and went back to examining the wall. The girl stood around looking bored for several more seconds before speaking again.

“So, is that what they put you in here for? Arson?” she asked.

“At this point, they’ve stopped caring about individual offenses,” said Azar, chuckling. “I’ve committed so many crimes, I doubt they can even keep track of them all…”

The girl looked at him interestedly for several seconds, and then opened her mouth, as if to ask a question. She appeared to change her mind halfway through, and closed it again.

“What kind of crimes did you commit?” she asked warily after several seconds.

“Oh, quite a few… to be honest, I can’t even keep track of them anymore,” said Azar absentmindedly. “Arson a few times, assault at least once, quite a lot of theft… maybe a bit of graverobbing? I can’t exactly recall…”

“What are you?” the girl asked, slightly frightened. “Some kind of bandit?”

“In a way. Tell me,” he said, looking up from his work, “how much do you hear of the outside world?”

“Some. Every time a new prisoner is thrown in here, I find something out. They’re usually quite talkative.”

“What do you know of what is currently happening in this glorious kingdom of Esyrea?” asked Azar, speaking the last phrase with massive amounts of sarcasm.

“People are unhappy with the way things are going… there’s a rebellion against Lord Sheth… ooh!” she said excitedly, “Are you a rebel?”

“Technically, I’m the leader of the rebellion,” said Azar, going back to his examining of the wall. “That’s why I’m in here… any other rebel, they probably would have just executed.”

“The leader?” said the girl, a questioning look on her face. “The wanted poster didn’t say anything about that…”

“They don’t particularly like people to tell people that they know who the leader of the rebellion is, but are completely incapable of catching him,” said Azar. A perturbed look crossed his face, and he corrected himself. “Were completely incapable of catching him…”

The girl looked at him for a moment. “What’s your name?” she asked.

“Azar.”

“Azar?” The girl frowned slightly. “That’s an odd name… it’s not elven, I know that much…” she muttered to herself.

“My mother came from… strange lands. Far to the southeast. She missed her native land greatly, and gave me a traditional name from there…” muttered Azar, still searching the wall.

“Oh…” said the girl. “It’s a nice name, anyway. I’m Katalyn. It’s nice to meet you.” Katalyn waited for several seconds, but he did not return her friendly greeting. “What are you doing, anyway?” she asked, slightly upset at the lack of friendliness.

“I’m searching the wall for hollow places. It’s unlikely I’ll find an actual passage, but a hollow sound could mean a hidden alcove, possibly containing a switch or lever of some sort…” As he said this, he hit an area of wall that produced a decidedly different tone than the rest. Working his fingernails into a nearby crack, he dislodged a thin sheet of stone about as large as a man’s hand from the wall.

Reaching inside the uncovered hole, Azar withdrew a small sheet of parchment, brittle and yellow with age. He looked at it rather disappointedly.

“Parchment. That’s not very useful at all… even worse, it’s written in dwarfish… entirely useless,” he said, tossing it aside.

“Hey! I might be able to read that…” said Katalyn, grabbing the parchment before it fell to the ground. “My tutor was a dwarf, so he took special care to teach me to read and write dwarfish. I can’t speak it though, it’s far too guttural… my throat starts hurting after about the fourth word.” She fell silent, mouthing the words to herself as she read the paper.

After several seconds, she too threw aside the note. “It’s a letter from a dwarf to his wife,” she said. “Boring. And entirely useless. Are you sure there isn’t a switch or something in there?”

“It’s a pretty shallow hole. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing else.”

Katalyn began pacing back and forth. “That’s so annoying! You find something that could get us out of here, and it turns out to be a bloody love letter… ouch!”

“Ouch?”

“I cut myself on that piece of stone you pried from the wall… gods, that hurt…”

Azar picked up the stone sheet that had previously been guarding the dwarf’s hiding place. Along the bottom edge, it was sharp enough to draw blood without much effort.

“Hmm…” he muttered, “We may have a chance to get out of here…”

“What? How?” asked Katalyn.

“How often do the guards make their rounds, and do they all carry cell keys?” asked Azar, ignoring Katalyn’s questions.

“They come here every half hour or so… I think they all carry keys,” she answered.

“Do they come near the cell bars?”

“I’ve heard them taunting some of the other prisoners, but they usually keep their distance from me.”

“That’s no good, then… when do they give us food?”

“Every morning, a few hours after sunrise.”

“Do they come all the way into the cell?”

“Usually, yes…” Realization dawned on Katalyn. “You’re going to kill one, aren’t you?” she asked, horrified.

“Only if necessary. I’d rather just tie them up and leave them here… maybe lock the cell behind me, just to annoy them.”

This didn’t seem to calm Katalyn very much, and she still looked rather disturbed. “How will we get out after that, anyway? They’re bound to ask questions if we just go wandering about the dungeons!”

“We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it. Now, I’ve had a long day, what with being marched for miles and thrown into a dungeon, so I’m going to go to sleep now. Wake me at dawn.” With that, Azar threw himself on one of the bed-like objects and closed his eyes.

“What? Aren’t we supposed to cross bridges, not burn them?” asked Katalyn, slightly confused. Azar, already asleep, did not respond.

 

And that’s that. Be nice.

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2 Comments

  1. pieboy said,

    April 23, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Delicious. I actually really like Azar. He seems like kind of a dumbass intellectually, but he really knows what he’s doing when it comes to practical things, which is a good conflict. You’re also giving almost all the backstory in dialog, which makes it far more interesting.

    You might want to omit the part about Katalyn speaking sophisticatedly, because she isn’t really a noble and it doesn’t really suit her personality, because she comes off as a little naïve and young.

    I’ll leave you with that, because I’m sure Esty will be far more scathing.

  2. tuskedchimp said,

    April 23, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    Sophisticated speaking part has been duly deleted. I’m glad you like Azar – I do too, which is probably a good thing.


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