Prompted Story – Chapter 3

It’s been a while since I posted as I have been busy with this month’s r/WritingPrompts challenge, but I needed a break from that because I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with how hard it is to write long sections of dialogue. I therefore decided to finalise this one that I had been working on beforehand.

The prompt was:

Write about a character reminiscing about times long gone; times they hold dear in thought.

I embellished a lot on this prompt to make the story flow so at first there isn’t much reminiscing, but it does appear, I promise!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I awoke to find the burly henchman gone, and Markas sitting on a stool in the corner reading a huge leather-bound book by the soft glow of a candle. He hadn’t noticed that I was awake, so I took a moment so surreptitiously check the room. Like I should have done back in the damn tavern.

The room was an unnecessarily large square and therefore probably not a purpose-built prison of any kind, but judging by the smell and the stains it had certainly seen many scenes like this before. Water seeped through parts of the ceiling and trickled down the walls, leaving in its wake dark patches of mould that crept out and out until they covered huge swathes of the dark stone blocks. The water collected into tiny streams that joined together as they ran through the foul gutters, and then gurgled down an open drain in the corner. I shuddered to think of what else that drain had consumed over the years.

Although the room was musty and dank my mouth felt bone dry. I had no idea where I was, or how long I had been out for. I tried to run my tongue over my cracked lips but it seemed only to irritate them further. The pain felt distant, though, and unreal. I felt disassociated from my body, as if I looked down upon torn and bloody and bruised skin that was not my own. It was probably the shock, partly of the poisoning and the beating, but mostly of Markas’ betrayal.

My throat itched like hell and I couldn’t help but cough, causing the man I used to call a friend to look up. He placed a bookmark of embroidered silk between the book’s beautiful pages, gently closed the cover, and regarded me with mild distaste. After placing the book delicately on the table, Markas got to his feet and walked over to where I sat in the middle of the room.

I realised that my chains were gone, and was vaguely surprised that I had managed to stay upright. I suppose the dynamic duo of Markas and Meathead thought it safe to remove them as I was too weak to fight and too clever to even try, for it was quite clear where the power lay in this farcical interrogation and what would happen to me if I made any sudden moves. Although why they would want me free I did not know.

Markas stood and looked down at me, his amber eyes cold and empty. I stared and I squinted in a desperate attempt to see if any love remained inside, but he was as bare as the desert in which we first met. It was as if the winds of time had blasted their bitter sands against any oasis of true emotion that had ever lain within him. Now there was nothing left but a barren wasteland, smothered in the oppressive, simmering heat of anger and jealousy.

He was the one in my position, back then in that desert, though I was not the one in his. We had gone to free Brielle from her captors and I decided on a whim that I would also free the strange, silent boy sitting broken and bloody on a chair beside her. I saw something in him despite his youth, for I too was young but strong. I wondered now if I regretted releasing him and letting him into my life, and realised sadly that I did not. I still cherished his friendship.

Back in the dark basement, the first punch hit me. I was shocked not by the fact that Markas struck me, but by the fact that he chose to do so knowing that I could not strike back. He used to enjoy our fights. We both did. So evenly matched were we that it was like a dance, a performance, a more beautiful art than any you would see in the grand, echoing theatres of the Golden Gardens.

From the first time we faced each other in the training hall it soon became clear that we were both quick and agile fighters, and very much an even match. We would fight frequently, striking each other like lightning, ducking and weaving in a blur, laughing as we tricked and tripped each other again and again. But now I just sat there, weak and helpless, as he hit me over and over, feet rooted to the spot.

A particularly hard punch landed with a sickening crack. Markas never used to be one for super-powered punches, it just wasn’t our style. We had trained with guild siblings that fought in those heavy styles, of course, but neither of us particularly enjoyed it. There was no fun in running circles around a heavyweight and occasionally catching a hefty fist on your jaw or in your stomach, so once the necessary training was over we would end up face to face again. Whatever magic we shared when we fought would always draw us back together.

Just one more bout, we would say, but it was always more than one. Once the others had removed their gloves and their handwraps to go off to the taverns and the brothels, we would remain. We needed no alcohol for our rush in those days. Sustained by the tense excitement that thrilled inside us, we danced to our unique rhythm in a battle that was never truly won. But now, as his frenzied blows weakened my already fragile grip on consciousness, I wondered if one of us would finally emerge victorious.

Of course, although we may not have needed alcohol in the early years of our fighting, we still enjoyed it. Once our bruised and battered bodies could take no more we often staggered to the cellar and drank to our hearts’ content. When we were not matching wits and fists on the training floor we were matching wits and tongues in conversation. So alike were we and yet so different that our conversations never failed to amuse or infuriate, if not both.

Markas began to tire and his assault slowed, allowing me to raise my eyes to his face. Once and only once did our intoxication and our fire lead to intimacy, but needless to say we proved just as passionately in-tune with one another between the sheets as in the training hall. I could not believe that the lips now tainted by an ugly snarl were the same lips that had once kissed me with a passion I had not imagined possible.

I looked again into his eyes as a final blow hit my tender stomach, and wondered where all that passion had gone. Even in this rage-fuelled beating of his former friend and Kin Master, this wild assault on a broken woman, there was no passion.

He stared back down at me and I saw anger, yes, and I saw hate, but they were somehow empty things, devoid of the fire that used to sustain him. Something had wormed its way inside him and doused that fire, then scattered the charred remnants far away from this place. I wondered if he could even remember the beauty that used to be inside that ash-coated hole.

I watched Markas pick up the chains from the floor and begin to tie me back to the chair. He drew his knife and twirled it lazily around and around. An empty smile spread across his lips, but I could still see the angry snarl that tugged at them, as if it were now a permanent part of his being that he was unable to replace.

Again I searched his face and his eyes desperately for some sign, a ghost of the man I left behind a year ago. It felt like half of my life, half of me, had been sucked away in an instant and I was suddenly off-balance, stumbling through the dark unknown.

I should have felt sick, desperate, betrayed, weak, enraged, afraid, any of these would have done, but all I felt was a gaping emptiness. As he slunk towards me in that catlike way of his, knife glinting wickedly in the candlelight, all I felt was grief.

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