Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chapter 2a: An Unsavory Captive

"Without a soul he sits before you
What he whispers will seem like it's true.
Though you think he is the danger you fear
The true danger isn't that near."


~A Parable



"This is the rotter that the night watch captured this morning." Captain Patrell announced, cocking his head in the leper’s direction. His voice horse with exhaustion.


A thin, balding man in black robes scratched his bearded chin. His soul piercing gaze studied the leper’s violent movements. Chains rattled as the inflicted creature roll and thrash on the cell floor, covering his broken body in straw and grime. "I heard there were five of them. What happened to the others?"


Patrell sighed, "The night watch did a hell of a job on them. Their captain, Drummen, beat one so badly that you wouldn't recognize him as a person no more." Patrell hated Drummen and wanted to make sure that he received full credit for his irresponsible behavior. He detested Drummen more than usual because the man had walked off duty after crushing a rotter's head to a bloody pulp, forcing Patrell to come in and work most of Drummen's shift after working his own shift the day before. The guard was no place for a mean drunk.


After a few silent moments, spent nervously scratching his head, he continued. "The other lepers didn't come out much better."


Without breaking his gaze from the thing flailing on the dirty floor the black robed man said, "I see. Yet this one was able to be captured."


Shortly after apprehending the leper, the soldiers began to talk amongst themselves of the rotters will to fight, of how nothing short of death would stop them. The stories spread like a wild fire across the ranks, the men gossiping like a bunch of old bitties. The story didn’t take long to reach the higher ranks and finally the Duke himself. After hearing the bizarre rumors, Duke Renier had sent his own wizard, Wellan, to investigate. The wizard made Patrell nervous. He couldn't read the man. The wizard didn't show any emotion and his thoughts stayed veiled behind his casual comments. His mind and spirit seemed to exist on a higher plane, separating the from those around him. Patrell was going to scratch a nervous hole in his head if this wasn't resolved quickly.


"Yeah. This one was seriously maimed when they found him. He was missing his left arm all the way up to the shoulder and both feet were gone, one all the way up to the knee." Patrell switched from scratching the top of his head to rubbing the back of his neck as he continued. "We don't know how he got like that. The guards used a net. Didn't lay a finger on him."


"And he was found just beyond the walls of the Duke's palace?"


Patrell swallowed, "Uh…well…you see, he hadn't made it up there yet. He was stopped and captured about two blocks from the main gate, near the Tristall estate."


A heavyset man entered the corridor and looked through the bars at the prisoner. His robes were regal with holy symbols stitched into the cuffs and shoulders. Gold jewelry adorned his fingers and neck. Looking over Wellan’s shoulder the heavyset man gasped, "Oh my!"


Wellan stepped back from the cell bars, allowing the priest a better look at the prisoner. He acknowledged him in a neutral tone. "Lithor."


Patrell’s nervous scratching intensified as he said, "Evening, Piet Lithor."


The priest turned to face Patrel, ignoring Wellan for the moment. "Good evening….Patrell isn't it?"


Patrell grinned; amazed and honored that the priest knew his name. "Yes, Piet Lithor."


Piet Lithor turned to Wellan. His pleasant smile vanished, and his tone turned dry and uncordial as he acknowledged Wellan, "Wizard."


The wizard stepped around the priest to resume his study of the prisoner, while Patrell went back through the events of the night before with the priest.


When Patrell had finished giving his summary of the night's events Piet Lithor turned to the prisoner, a quizzical look on his face. "I wonder why he isn't dead? Any one of the wounds appear to be mortal."


Wellan continued to study the prisoner as he casually replied. "He's as dead as any of the men you have said rites over before consecrating them to your god, Lithor."


Patrell cringed and a flash of anger crossed Piet Lithor’s face. No one referenced the high priest without including the honorific; no one but the Duke’s wizard. Piet Lithor gruffly replied, "Well, Wizard. He looks awfully lively for a dead man."


Turning to the priest Wellan said, "Yes. To the casual observer he does, doesn't he?"


Piet Lithor’s face flushed, and his nostrils flared. Wellan ignored the irate priest and turned to Patrell. "When Lithor is finished examining the prisoner, have him taken outside and burned. Burn him to..."


Piet Lithor gasped. "Wizard, have you gone mad! We don't burn men here. If they must be executed then they are hanged...in a respectable manner."


"If you wish to hang him you are more than welcome to. Just don't touch him and make sure and burn the body to ash when you realize that hanging doesn't seem to bother him a great deal." Dismissing the priest, Wellan turned once again to Patrell. "As I was saying, when Lithor is done with the abomination, whether he chooses to examine him, preach to him, or hang him, burn the body to ash. Don't touch it in any way. Use a rope around its trunk. Tying a rope around what’s left of his limbs will just cause them to fall off. Most importantly, remember not to touch the thing."


Piet Lithor was flabbergasted. His jowls quivered slightly. "You have no authority here, Wizard! I will file a complaint with..."


Ignoring the priest’s complaints, Wellan said, "I am going now to give a report to the Duke. If you don't agree with me then I suggest you do the same."


With that he walked up the stairs and out of the dungeon, leaving a furious priest and a distraught guard behind.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Chapter 1d: Leper's Mission

One leper didn’t run very far before scurrying into an alleyway. The Voice compelled him to hide there until told otherwise.


He hungered, but he couldn't feed. The Voice wouldn't release him to feed. He could sense food everywhere. It walked in the streets all around him, ignorant of his desires. Oh, how he wanted it. Tender flesh. Warm blood, pulpy organs. He craved the elastic texture of the flesh as it parted between his clenched teeth. He needed to taste that coppery tang on the remains of his decaying tongue. The desired to feel skin stretch to its limits then rip as he bit down and pulled filled his cold chest and made his mouth water with excitement. He wanted these things more than anything but he wasn't free yet.


Voices tormented him as more food strolled by his hiding spot. His tongue pushed against the bandages with a will of its own, hoping to get a taste of the flesh he craved. The bandages parted and his gray and black-splotched tongue protruded past the gauze, swiping back and forth with a mind of its own.


A dozen tormenting minutes passed before the Voice spoke. The time had come to continue his mission. He stepped out of the alleyway and walked through a maze of streets. His gaze pointed to the ground, and kept his head hidden deep within the hood of his robes. He stayed on the side streets and moved within the lengthening shadows; the Voice instructing his every move. It was his master and he had no choice in the matter. Choices had been given up long ago. He didn't miss them. He didn't remember them. The Voice and his hunger defined his world. Sometimes the Voice left him and only his hunger remained to guide his actions.


Within minutes he arrived at his destination. "Wait!" The Voice commanded. He stayed in the shadows, just another dark form in a pattern of silhouettes. More meat moved nearby. He could see them, could sense their presence. Two women stood with buckets next to a well. The sound of their laughter drew him like a leach to blood. His tongue darted out through the gauze; a snake tasting the air for prey.


He stumbled forward, overcome with hunger. "Wait!" He stopped, hunger almost overriding the Voice. The desire for flesh buffeted him in painful waves, but he stopped. He could taste it. He could feel it. The smell of flesh drifted through the air tantalizing him and calling him forward. His jaws worked up and down. His mouth began chewing what remained of his lips, biting down on his decayed and rotting tongue. A black flood filled his mouth and soaked the bandages, spilling over the ragged slit where his tongue protruded through the gauze. He didn't notice. He didn't feel it. His own blood didn't help; an hours d’oeuvre held before a starving man. The chewing was neither a conscious nor unconscious reaction to his hunger, it just happened.


If he could have let out a gasp of frustration he would have, but his lungs had given up on the same day that he gave up having a choice about matters.


The women collected their buckets and walked away, their voices fading into the darkness. They became like wisps of smoke in the lepers mind, diminishing in proportion with their voices until they were forgotten about all together.


"Now!"


As commanded, he walked to the well and pulled a narrow black dagger from within his robes. He placed his boil riddled hand over the edge of the well. Without hesitation he brought the edge of the dagger down on the last two fingers, pinching them between the blade and the hard stone of the well itself. He pushed down on the knife and didn't stop until his fingers separated from his hand and tumbled down the narrow shaft. They hardly made a splash as they fell into the water far below.


"Good. Good. Now on to the next one."

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