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!

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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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Prompted Story – Chapter 2

Just a mini-chapter today, as it was a constrained writing prompt that involved beginning a 500 word story with the phrase “we’re the ones who ask the God damn questions here”. It was pretty damn hard to write this up in such a short word count! I wish I could edit it more to improve it, but, alas, I am at 499 words.

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“We’re the ones who ask the God damn questions here” rumbled the hairless and neckless heap of muscle looming over me. Markas stood next to him, wearing a self-satisfied smirk.

The only thing I had uttered since waking up in the dark, stinking basement was “wha..?”, but that was apparently enough to provoke this meathead. I had been gazing around at the mouldy walls and suspicious-looking stains in a daze, but as my wits returned to me, so did my fury.

I growled at them, feeling like a rabid dog as I strained against my chains. I wanted to snap and snarl, bark and bite, dart past that clod of a henchman to rip Markas’ damn throat out. But the clod did not so much as blink at my wordless threat, and Markas just chuckled. I felt my rage swell.

“Ask away, piss-drinker” I spat.

“Now now,” Markas chided in a soft, sing-song voice, wagging his finger at me as he smiled. “That’s not how we talk to people, is it?”

I braced my feet on the floor and struggled to break free of the chains, feeling them bite into the raw flesh of my wrists, neck and waist. It was painful as hell but I wasn’t going to complain; at least the chain wasn’t around my damaged ribs.

Another chuckle echoed around the dank room. “Oh Jarla,” Markas sighed, “do stop that.”

I spat blood at him in response, and it arced through the air to land squarely on the breast pocket of his fancy shirt. He sighed and nonchalantly brushed the mess off with a kerchief, but behind that air of indifference I could see his clenched jaw and the hardness in his eyes. Now it was my turn to smirk at my small victory.

Meathead the Henchman spoke up again. “We know you have it,” he said, mashing his fist into his palm for that special intimidation factor, before adding: “and we will do anything to find out where it is.”

Unfortunately for him, I was not easily intimidated. Ignoring Meathead – much to his chagrin – I looked at Markas. “I don’t know what or where ‘it’ is” I croaked, realising that perhaps I should have cherished the little moisture I’d had in my mouth rather than hurling it at Markas. On second thought, that bit of fun was worth it. “Perhaps Meathead here just lost it?”

A huge fist hurtled towards my jaw. I could do nothing but take the hit and see stars.

“Perhaps ‘it’ ran off with his brain” I slurred as Meathead began to fume, “and his cock. ‘Cos they’re both clearly not present.” I just about managed to turn my head towards Markas to growl “just like your backbone.”

The hardness in his eyes became sharpened daggers. He nodded at Meathead. I knew what was coming and braced myself, but it was no use. As Meathead’s knuckles crunched against the side of my head, the world went black once more.

Prompted Story – Chapter 1

Inspired by the Medieval Tavern Image Prompt that appeared quite a while ago now. There was some absolutely justified criticism on my Prompt Inspired Post, and I have not changed anything in light of this criticism to preserve its integrity.


The door swung wildly on its hinges as we tumbled into the tavern, already merrily drunk and laughing raucously. Moving from the cold stormy streets into that warm room was like crossing the threshold of another world, and I shook myself to cast away the both its physical and mental reminders.

A fire crackled merrily away to itself in the corner, chasing away the cold that had resided permanently in my bones for the past year, and small candles on almost every available surface gave off a soft and welcoming glow. As my companions and I stripped off our drenched travel cloaks, still laughing at some joke that we probably couldn’t really remember, I felt more content than I had in years.

Our grand entrance had earned us a frown from the barkeeper, but when his eyes found my face they lit up in recognition and the frown was soon replaced by his familiar smile. I sauntered up to the bar, attempting to cover my intoxicated wobbling with a cocky swagger, whilst my band of lovable miscreants piled into a booth and began shouting for an ale boy. I could feel the ale from the previous inn sloshing around in my empty stomach, and it put me in mind of the sea that we had just traveled. Perhaps the solitary hunk of bread that I had consumed that day was our boat, struggling against the waves. I stifled a giggle as I imagined tiny little butter sailors climbing the doughy rigging, and realised that it was definitely time I got some more food inside me to soak up some of the alcohol. Only so I could begin drinking again without fear of sickness, you understand.

I placed my hands on the bar and pushed my torso up and over it to plant a sloppy kiss firmly on the barkeeper’s lips. He sighed in mock annoyance, but even after all these years I could tell that my Uncle still loved the affection. Behind his bushy beard I saw his big grin widen further, and he responded to my kiss by wrapping his huge arms around me in a suffocating bear hug. My Uncle and Aunt had struggled to conceive, and when she died he gave up hope of ever raising a child. One day he got what his heart desired but at a high cost, as his brother’s daughter became an orphan. I was uprooted from my home and forced to travel for months to get to this new city – this rough, tough city – to live with a stranger. We both had no-one, then suddenly we both had each other. He feared having that taken from him, and it seemed like every time he wrapped his arms around me his embrace was a little tighter, his willingness to let go ever reduced.

When he released me I noticed an ale boy of no more than 14 crouched on the floor cleaning a spill, staring up at my cleavage where it was visible as I leant over the bar. I stared pointedly back at him, waggling my eyebrows suggestively. He met my eyes, realised he had been spotted, and turned a fantastic shade of crimson as he returned to his scrubbing with renewed vigour. I tried to stifle the giggles but they slipped out regardless, sending him scurrying away in embarrassment. My Uncle frowned at me and I looked guiltily back at him, promising to apologise in the morning.

A burst of laughter erupted from the corner that my guildmates had commandeered, and I turned in time to see Rhys doing his best impression of foppish Lord Olka. He pranced about with his nose in the air, powdering his face and hair daintily with a napkin powder-puff covered in the leftover flour from a bread plate. I grinned to myself; Rhys’ impressions were a sure-fire hit after a few ales, despite being so highly caricatured that they were almost unrecognisable to anyone not familiar with his repertoire. I ordered a cauldron of stew for our table, grabbed a huge bottle of my favourite honeywine from where it waited for me on the bar, then made my way to their table to join the merriment.

I clambered over the bench behind them to squash myself between Cydney and Brielle, spilling a fair amount of the honeywine along the way. Sliding down the fur-backed bench to sink my arse into it’s fur-covered seat was heaven, and at that moment I did not even slightly miss the hard life of the road. Walking on rocks, eating on rocks, sleeping on rocks; even the meager softness of scrubby brown grass was a luxury in the places we’d been. As I sipped the honeywine I felt its warmth spread down to my belly, and I sighed in contentment. This was some damn good stuff.

In time the stew arrived and we attacked it ravenously, scooping out great lumps of steaming meat and vegetables with chunks of crusty bread and stuffing them into our mouths. Another round of ales was ordered, and I watched the group guzzle it down greedily. We really were not a graceful lot. Well, not when we ate, anyway. Those who saw us in battle would definitely argue otherwise.

The silence that fell upon us whilst we satisfied our hunger gave me time to surreptitiously check out the tavern’s other occupants. Normally this would be the first thing I did upon entering a room but, what can I say? I was back in our city, and sometimes you just gotta throw caution to the wind and enjoy life. My gruff, muscled Uncle was protection enough anyway.

As well as the general public there were members of other guilds dotted around the room. I could see the tattoos of all but one, and I knew them all. As it should be. Whilst I trusted Markas to take care of my own guild while I was on the road, I could not prevent my departure from allowing people to become daring and create new ones. When someone embarked upon a mission such as mine they were generally not expected to return, and people often used their departure as a chance to take liberties. I was pleased to see that Markas had kept them scared, and that my trust in him had not been misplaced. He was a good man and a strong fighter, well worthy of being my right hand, and he would be in for a suitable reward. Probably something from the gilded chest I had hidden beneath the floorboards of my personal hideout.

All this was well and good, but I was still bothered by those whose tattoos I could not see. I feigned a stretch to lean back – I know, it’s oldest move in the book, but in my defense I was drunk – and craned my neck to get a better look. A face and tattoo became visible as my perspective changed, and I jerked my head back into the group so fast that I felt my neck crack. Brielle looked at me and raised a thick blonde eyebrow, and I gave her a tight shake of my head. Don’t react, it said. She gave a sharp nod in return and returned to gazing into her flagon, but I could see every muscle was taught, waiting to act in an instant. She was not the kind of person to ignore any perceived threat.

He knew we were here – there’s no way he could have missed our entrance. I cursed myself for letting my guard down and thinking I was untouchable. How did he get here before us, and what the fuck was that tattoo? I took a deep breath and tried to think. My contemplations were interrupted by a crash, and I looked up to see Rhys convulsing on the floor amid the contents of the overturned cauldron.

As one, my siblings and I leapt to our feet in the suddenly silent room. I looked around with murder in my eyes, trying to spy the cause of Rhys’ fall. Nobody moved, nobody made a sound. A strangled cry preceded the thud of Cydney’s body slumping back down onto the bench, and this seemed to break the spell. The tavern began to rapidly empty of normal customers who knew better than to be around at a time like this, and the thumps of another two bodies hitting the floor pushed the other guilds into running too. Wise cowards, I thought to myself bitterly.

The only people left in the room other than the ale boy from earlier, rooted to the spot in fear, and my Uncle, were the three people whose tattoos were hidden from me at first. I spared a moment to mentally kick myself again for being so complacent, then I vaulted over the bench and was at their table in an instant, knife at the ready. A second passed before I realised that my siblings were not with me. I knew how I would find them, if I was foolish enough to turn and look behind; each one of the nine would be collapsed, dead, dying, out cold, whatever, it didn’t matter. Fear suddenly clogged my throat, and I desperately tried to swallow it down.

He was smirking. The bastard was smirking behind his steepled fingers, still sitting casually at his table, making it clear that it was his work. As if it wasn’t clear enough already. The ale. It was the only thing my siblings had consumed here that I had not. With a jolt I realised that the ale boy had not been looking at my breasts but at the guild symbol displayed on my neck, clear as fucking daylight. He was definitely the one who brought their refills. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I backed away, and was surprised when the men let me. Risking a look sideways, I saw that my Uncle was no longer behind the bar. I did not think I nor anyone else would be seeing him again. I felt faint. I had been so arrogant, so foolish. The warm fire suddenly felt stifling. I could feel the sweat drip down my forehead, along my spine, and off my nose.

I wavered, then stumbled down to one knee as his smile grew. He extended his finger with a languid flourish, pointing behind me. As my legs weakened and I slumped sideways to sit on the floor, I knew exactly what he was pointing at: my favourite honeywine that had been sitting on the bar, unstoppered, just begging to be taken.

He stood and ambled slowly towards me as I tried to scramble to the door. When I found I could not properly control my legs, I tried to push myself to the door with my left arm whilst my right swiped and slashed at him weakly with my blade. To this day I don’t know why I bothered – I knew there was no escape. I suppose every cornered animal has some instinct that it must obey when it is dying. My instinct was to kill, maim, hurt. My instinct was to make the bastard pay.

As I lost all strength and my body hit the floor, limbs too weak to support it, he sunk down onto his heels to take up my entire field of vision. That self-satisfied smile seemed to fill my whole mind with its betrayal.

“Goodnight, darling” Markas purred, and I fell into blackness.

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The criticism of this, for those who did not follow the link to the reddit post, was that there was not enough description of the tavern and its atmosphere. I totally agree with this, and it’s pretty poor work on my part considering the original prompt was the room itself.

Having said that, the idea of the prompt is to go with the flow. My flow went in the direction of a story, and eventually got so long that I didn’t feel I could go back and add much description in.

Once again I’ll put this in the “gaining experience” category and hope to do better next time.