View Full Version : Sleight of hand

January 26th, 2019, 03:43 PM
https://www.writingforums.com/threads/180425-Old-Gherwinn - prologue (kind of)

Sleight of hand

Martin had always had this need to fiddle with things. When he was younger it was with sticks, when he got older it was with
cards. The rush of gambling was what kept the blood pumping through his veins, what kept him going when he made his mistakes.
The cruellest of heartbreaks and the worst of decisions never dimmed the unparalleled joy of losing everything,
only to gain it back by an outrageous streak of luck. Or by cheating. By his own words, honour was an idea constructed by
those too incompetent to find ways to give oneself an advantage.
The exquisite oak tables covered with scarlet cloth and the refined atmosphere... this was where Martin belonged.

"Are you going to sit there all day, or will you actually play the game?"

Martin looked up from his cards, "Sure, if you would just grant me the courtesy of having time to think." Six of hearts and two of
spades. His worst hand today.

"I raise by two hundred moons..." The other man, who Martin recalled as a certain Aldwinn, did a poor job of containing his excitement.
Martin flashed him a smile, and his rather lacking self-control forced him to look intently into his cards. It just made it all the more
evident, that his cards were rather good.

Leaning back in his leather armchair, Martin took a sip from his glass. This place was quite luxurious, being able to afford finely crafted
glass; due to how difficult it was to make it was costly to obtain. He'd never really enjoyed the bitter taste of alcohol, but it added
to his personality. Aldwinn didn't seem to have the same mentality; he had emptied his glass several times already.
Martin drew a card and put it face up, and decided to do a little guesswork about his tipsy compatriot

"So why have you turned to gambling Aldwinn? Is it wearing on you to satisfy the demands of the council?"

Aldwinn looked up and furrowed his thick brows "How did you know I was an inventor?"

Martin loved messing with people, both because of how useful it could be and because it gave him a sense of power.

"Come on, it's apparent. When you came in here you looked like a walking corpse, and it was after nightfall as well. No one in their
right mind would stay out after nightfall, except inventors that is."

Aldwinn drew a long sigh and massaged his temples "Fair enough."

Martin leaned forward from the leather armchair "It's interesting, I've yet to meet such a sane inventor as you. The work must be hard."

The statement seemed to strike a cord within Aldwinn.

"You have no idea. Like everyone else I have to resort to the mist..."

He gazed down the marble stairs toward the exit with a tired expression.

"Nonetheless, I'm here to forget about work."

Shaking his shoulders he resumed his attention to the game, putting another card on the table with his gloved hand. He twitched a bit
as the second card came up, something Martin interpreted as the inventor having drawn a bad card.

"Sharing one's troubles with a friendly soul can be a way to alleviate the pain."

"I'm not sure I count you as a friend"

"Perhaps not. But, as an inventor, managing friends can't be easy. I think it would do you good to talk to someone, even if that someone
is just a stranger at the card table." Martin drew another card and Aldwinn took a firm grip around his glass, quaffing the alcoholic
contents with remarkable speed. At first, Martin thought it strange that he would hold it so intently, but as Aldwinn put the glass down
and he once more saw the twitch in his hand it all clicked.

"You don't even know me, and I can't even remember your name."

"The second problem I can easily dispell; My name is Martin. And although it's true that I don't know you, I can still guess some. Like
the fact that you probably wished to be a constructor arcanae, instead of an inventor."

The sad glance Aldwinn gave his hands confirmed his suspicion.

Looking up again, he wore a dreary expression "You're sharp, Martin, but that doesn't make you any less of a scoundrel."

"Look, it isn't my intention to suck the fun out of this night for you, but I can tell you that living with denial is going to be worse in
the long run."

"Well, what is there to do except denying?" The interest in the game had mostly disappeared by now. "I have to work until I either pass
beyond the veil or until I go mad, and for every day that passes I find the latter more likely. The mist sets my mind free like nothing else,
lets me think in new and unprecedented ways, but the more time I spend in it, the more detached I become."

Martin filled in the rest "And because of the, shall we say, less than admirable reputation of the inventors you've been abandoned by
friends and family, left to suffer alone."

Aldwinn buried his face in his hands.
"You know how it works, you aren't allowed to quit this job. Unless I meet the quotas I get banished to the mines, and since I know of
certain secrets I'm not allowed to leave. Guards of the lower circle of the city would execute me on the spot if they found me trying to leave."

The uneasy silence that followed Martin did not know how to fill. He had not expected him to reveal this much, drunk or not.

"I've seen the other men who are forced to create inventions and contraptions for the council; deranged and demented, every single one."

Aldwinn looked at his now shaking hands with a mad gleam in his eyes.

"Damnation be upon the gods who cursed me like this. If I had just the ability, I could've been walking the clouds of the earthly heaven."

Martin gestured toward the waiter standing behind a lavish oak counter down the stairs; this man needed another drink.

The waiter ascended the stairs of marble with the glass standing upon a carved silver platter, while aldwinn seemed to feel every emotion
known to man between rage and depression. Martin turned to the white-suited waiter to ask something stronger than usual, and just as he
did the man tripped on the last step with a shocked expression. Martin acted swiftly; grabbing the container with one hand he used the other
to push the waiter away with remarkable agility. The man tumbled down the stairs, striking his head several times in the process, but got
up with surprising vigour. Panic shone through his eyes and tense body; a bleeding cut just over the eye tainted the otherwise impeccably
looking young man. Martin held up the glass, flashing the waiter an excusing smile, and the waiter's tense body loosened in relief. A bruise
was a small price to pay in comparison to what one would face upon destroying such valuable property.

"Would you mind handing that to me?" Aldwinn's raspy voice showed no hint of caring or sympathy. Leaned far back he wore a grumpy expression.

"The wrinkles don't suit you. Tell me, does this incident not provoke the slightest sympathy from your blackened soul?"

"You are quite audacious, Martin. Don't provoke me any more than you already have."

Martin slid the glass over the table with a flick of his wrist.

"You're right, I have been quite obnoxious so far. But I am certain I could make it worth your while. I..."

"I sincerely doubt you could offer me anything that I would want."

Martin smirked, "I wouldn't be so sure if I were you... Or do you have no wish to leave this place?"

Aldwinn sat up just a little bit straighter.

"But of course, there is probably nothing I can offer that would satisfy the great Aldwinn" Martin said with a smug grin.

The veins on Aldwinn's neck started to bulge, and Martin threw up his hands.

"Have you perhaps heard of the Thorned Rose?"

Ralph Rotten
January 28th, 2019, 06:48 PM
Twas a good effort. I liked it, once I got used to the formatting (I think it added extra line-breaks.)
I woulda punched the smart guy right away. Can't play poker with that guy yammering!
Good characters!

Olly Buckle
January 28th, 2019, 09:06 PM
I am not a drinker or card player, so it was a bit alien to me, nevertheless it had me wondering where, when, and why? Good enough it would keep me reading to find out in other words. The only thing that got me wondering was why the younger Martin fiddled with sticks, coming in that early it seemed like it had some significance, maybe make it fiddling with all sorts of things and then coalescing into cards

January 29th, 2019, 08:31 AM
Well, now that you mention it, I do realize that came off a little weird. I worked on this piece for some time, and it has transformed a lot since the start, but I forgot to change the beginning.

Here was what I originally intended to come after those opening paragraphs:

"But on this particular night, it was with knives. A silvery blade twirled between my gloved fingers with almost surgical precision, and I could feel my hands itching to let it loose, to let it fly."

You might notice I wrote it in first person perspective as well, only adding to the weirdness of it all.

That said, I think I'll still keep it as it is since it will become relevant later in the story

March 12th, 2019, 06:10 PM
I really enjoyed reading this. I liked how you slowely revealed that the setting was not our world. The characters were interesting from the beginning so each new hint was another dash of spice to the scene.
One part of the story that I think could be expanded is how Martin guessed that Aldwinn was an inventor. I believe if he points out one or two more details that he noticed about Aldwinn it would be a more impressive feat.

Thomas Norman
April 8th, 2019, 08:17 PM
Enjoyed this story. The characters were well formed and the scene gradually revealed (very well done) I was a little unclear as to how Martin knew Aldwinn to be an inventor.

One small point. I felt there was a little too much 'telling' rather than letting your reader use his intelligence. It slowed the pace somewhat too.

Overall though a most interesting read.