the methods and means of procrastination

A Rock & A Hard Place: 1
Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Read/Post Comments (0)
Share on Facebook
A Rock & A Hard Place
Chapter 1
1:1 The House of Abel
1:2 The Commons Room
1:3 The Lion's Den
Chapter 2

1:1 The House of Abel

The House of Abel stood in its own shadow. The east slope neighborhoods seemed to hum as the morning sun touched them, but here all was peaceful. Nothing more than a stray moved down below. From his second-story window, the foreigner watched the neighborhood wake.

The street litter looked vaguely like the morning after. The festival must have been religious in nature. A few too many candles and prayer scrolls scattered here and there for it to be a regular old market day. The man leaned out the window and looked at the inn's facade. Looked like these revelers had even gotten up to doing some graffiti as well. Shame how fanatics wreck property.

The skinny stray sniffed around the inn's stoop, knocking over the last candle burning, than turned to take a leak on the graffiti. "A properly absurd comment on the whole event," the man thought. He turned away from the window with an ironic smirk and continued to fill his pack. There was a slight tap on the door.

"Enter." It was the dwarf.

"Where are you off to this early in the morning, friend Wayland?"

His traveling companion unconsciously planted himself a few feet in front of the only exit. His eyes glittered from beneath his bushy black brows, his face blank. One of his hands strayed to his belt. Wayland noticed the hand lightly tap out a quick tattoo on the hilt of the dagger there before it was stilled by its owner. Wayland always found dwarves to have a vaguely militant air about them. As if they did practice drills in their sleep.

"Well we can't stay here. The authorities will be on us soon. These people are more god-crazy than those back home." Wayland grabbed another bundle and stuffed it in his pack. "I say, get out while we still can."

Delver sighed and made a non-committal grunt. His stance relaxed as he moved closer to the table where Wayland's pack rested. "It's just a shame to abandon the innkeeper in the midst of these barbarians."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Wayland retorted, "They aren't any more barbaric than your average peasant. People back home have done some pretty barbaric things when left to their own devices."

"War will do that to folks." Good old Delver, always standing up for the little guy.

"Oh, the war," Wayland pursed his lips. He set down the roll of paper he had been popping into a map-case and looked his companion directly in the eye. "Did it ever occur to you that that war was more symptom than cause? I doubt it's finished for good. People will always find other people to torture, maim, kill. Human Nature." The room was silent for a moment as the two men eyed each other. With a tilt of his head, Wayland raised his eyebrows, gave a small shrug and went back to his packing.

"Cynic," The dwarf grumbled into his beard. He wandered over to the window just vacated, stroking his beard. "That's odd."

"Hmmm?" Wayland began to attach his bedroll in it's straps at the bottom of the pack.

The dwarf was silent for a moment. "Looks like we have company."


1:2 The Commons Room

The visitor was dressed in much finer clothing then anyone the travelers had seen so far. Even the priests they had seen in town seemed to only go for the unbleached cotton look. This man was dressed in deeply-dyed blues and greens, with a bit of yellow silk peeking out at his collar. he wore no turban as was custom in this part of the world, but he did have a dark blue skull cap with gold trim. Obviously this was no desert dweller. Wayland figured he would be as easy to spot in a crowd as they were. It was hard to get a good impression of the man though, what with him groveling at Delver's boots. Wayland was reminded of the innkeeper going through similar antics the night before.

The entreaty had been going on for some time. Silas was proving a difficult sell. Wayland glanced over at the big man, seated at the center table. Neatly dressed and clean shaven, he sat with legs extended and arms folded. Wayland could just make out Silas' medallion as it glittered within the folds of his white shirt. He was sitting very still, frowning into his fist as if he wished to stop the man speaking.

Their party was one short. Nadah had stormed out last night, after the extent of their folly had become apparent. Silas was probably debating reestablishing contact with her or following this lackey to his master. He certainly would never conceive of quitting this place for more amiable surroundings. "Trust a man of god to ruin your escape plan," Wayland thought.

Delver interrupted the clerk, "By what means can we be assured of safe conduct?"

The clerk never raised his eyes above the dwarf's kneecaps. "O powerful one, the most wise Emir whom I serve only wishes a word with you and your companions. You will be as safe as a babe at his mother's breast."

"The lack of body guard speaks louder than his assurances," Wayland murmered from his place just behind and to the left of their visitor. From where he leaned against the wall he could hear the inn's family fumbling around in the kitchen, trying not to listen.

Silas glanced Wayland's direction. Wayland returned his stare and gave a terse shake of his head. This was not a good idea. They should get out. Silas then exchanged glances with Delver. Delver shrugged.

"Alright, "Silas deep timber rumbled, "We go to the lion's den."

Wayland thought the clerk would expire with relief.


1:3 The Lion's Den

After some debate the visitors were separated from their weapons. "Or most of them," Wayland thought as he brushed the slim blade hidden in the fabric of his sleeve against his side as they strolled through a colonnade. They came upon an open courtyard, complete with benches and a looking pool. Their new friend, the clerk, politely excused himself as the second call to prayer sounded. Bowing as he backed away, he disappeared into the building. The trio seemed to have the courtyard to themselves. Wayland took the opportunity to relax his muscles and practice his breathing.

There had been guards present as they had entered the palatial estate, but Wayland doubted they had seen much action here baby-sitting one of Quehabat's magistrates. The town itself was one of the largest Wayland had ever seen. It could support a lot of bureaucracy. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie here. He wonder briefly what it would take to get his own piece.

Delver slowly paced the length of the pool, stopping periodically to squint at this capital or touch that column. "Admiring the architecture," Wayland thought sourly. He began to run through some short patterns from his earlier days at the monastery. He was in the middle of the 5th pattern: consider the chipmunk when a page appeared and motioned for them to follow him silently.

The boy led the party deep into the palace. It took some moments for Wayland's eyes to adjust to the shadow. He could begin to make out different hues of fabric, hung from ceiling to floor, to make divisions within the forest of columns. It often seemed the fabric poured from the top of a column and then pooled at it's base. Wayland wonder if there was a solid wall in the whole place.

Off to their right, Wayland began to hear this region's particular drone of worship over their muffled footsteps. All men in good standing with the local deity would be found praying 5 times a day, facing the city's center. The party had heard the calls and the subsequent responses every day since they had entered this land. It seemed his traveling companions and himself were in a socially well-adjusted, god-fearing household of Al-Maghrebia. Wayland was surprised, therefore, to find a very well dressed maghrebian revealed not praying but sitting on a low dias as the child held back one of the hangings.

The man stood as the three of them entered and raised his arm in a welcoming gesture. "Welcome Prior Marcus of Dale and you Sir Semoc of Zatio. I am Hakem, son of Jabir, Emir of the Fourth Prefecture and your humble servant." He was dressed in the relaxed attire of a man of means at his ease. He seemed neither fat nor fit, and was surprisingly clean shaven for a maghrebian. A low black tray with a tea set lay off to his left, along with a sheath of papers. Wayland also caught a wiff of some spiced scent as they stepped closer to the dias. "I am glad to make your acquaintance," said the man in a slightly accented zatane dialect, "You are earlier then we expected you."

Wayland saw Silas blanched slightly, but then quickly cover his reaction. "I'm afraid, most honorable sir," Silas responded, "that you are mistaken."

The man's smile dropped.


Read/Post Comments (0)

Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Back to Top

Powered by JournalScape © 2001-2010 JournalScape.com. All rights reserved.
All content rights reserved by the author.