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The Will of Fire: Island of the Old Kings: Chapter 3 (Novel) (1 Viewer)

Mreichardt

Senior Member
Here's another sample from what I'm working on. First I want to say thanks for the comments so far. For some reason it's not letting me post anything else in the thread for Chapters 1 and 2, but I have read all of them and have fixed some things that were pointed out to me. I appreciate anything you have to say about my stuff, positive or negative.

Chapter Three

It was a hard decision, a drastic one, but necessary at the time. Our terrible loss had shaken us, left us with nothing. The people longed for the glories of our homeland, cried out for the King to do something. We needed food, clothing, medicine for the sick… and magick could provide only so much so quickly. We swore to be conscious of their sacrifice, honor them for it, reward them in time.
- Kyrin Nuluram, Book of Lost Things

It had taken longer than expected to round the group up. By the time they had assembled at a table in the corner of the now nearly empty mess it was an hour to midnight. The first night of talks would have to be over within the hour, or else they would risk being discovered by the watch.

Dain sat at the head of the table, Eamon at his left side, a burly brown haired man with a full beard. Roh sat at his right, beside him Yosef, who was still drinking down the nights supper, a thin broth of onions and bits of unidentifiable meat. Frake sat beside Eamon, a balding grey haired man of advanced age. It had been Frake who had delayed their meeting the most. He worked the kitchens, and it had been a busy night.

“Well then, here we are, together at last.” Dain clapped his hands together excitedly as he spoke. “We should get to business. Time will be short tonight.” he glanced out the window, eyes on the looming moon.

“Yes, business. What exactly is the purpose of this little get together, Dain?” asked Frake.

“I think we can all guess at the purpose, dear old Frake” replied Eamon in his deep tones, looking first at Frake as he spoke, then turning to Dain. “I am correct in my assumptions, am I not?”

“You are indeed. We are gathered here tonight to discuss matters that require the utmost secrecy.” Dain paused for a moment, searching for the right words. “I have chosen the four of you to be present for this meeting because I know you to be men of good character and judgment. You are well known and well thought of by myself and our brothers and sisters. What is said here will be shared with no one, at least not until the time is right.”

“Well, this is some serious stuff, eh? Get on with it then. No time for one of your big speeches, not with the guards soon to arrive.” said Yosef. Dain nodded.

“I agree. We are here to discuss escape, from this lovely lifestyle and the kindly masters that have given it to us. From those that robbed us of our history and our family names. Now that the word has been uttered, I must insist it not be used again. As those poor builders learned some months back, not all ears are friendly, even here.”

“As I recall, Mister Eamon here was involved in that… effort.” It was Frake that spoke, looking at both Dain and Eamon in turn. “I do not wish to start trouble, but I must admit I have been curious about his rather lucky escape from punishment.” Eamon glared at Frake.

“You are not the first to have such curiosities. It was not my choice to leave their effort. Nora insisted, felt they were too loud about it all, that they’d get caught. Well, she was right, wasn’t she? I very nearly threw my life away, and all for nothing!” Dain raised a finger to his lips and shushed as Eamon’s voice grew a little too loud for his own good. After a brief pause, Eamon nodded in understanding.

“And does your presence here tonight mean that you are willing to throw your life away for this attempt, but not that one?” Frake again, his mouth a smirk, his eyes a scowl.

“I said that I would come and listen, Cook, and that’s what I’m doing. I don’t recall saying nothing of committing to this boy’s cause” Eamon looked over at Dain. “You have my oath of secrecy, but I won’t promise any more until I’ve heard what you have to say and talked it over with Nora. If I or my wife are untrusted, tell me so and I’ll walk away right now, without saying a word to no one.”

“Peace Mister Eamon, Mister Frake. If your trustworthiness were in question, I would not have asked you here. We don’t know how the Builders were caught. It may be that the Syl have ways of finding these things out that we are unaware of.” Dain looked at Frake for a moment, then waved his hand in an expectant manner. Frake put a face to his palm, sighing deeply.

“Yes, yes. It was wrong of me to put you on the spot like that, Builder, but I felt it had to be said before discussing other matters. I apologize.” Frake removed his hand from his face and Eamon nodded at him in acceptance. “Now then, Mister Dain, speak your part and I will listen.”

“Thank you, Mister Frake. Now, I know you are probably asking yourselves, ‘What’s he planning? What’s he got that hasn’t been tried before?’ Well, no more stalling. I will show you. Roh, if you would.”

Roh leaned forward and placed his hand over the candlestick that burned at the center of the table. A moment passed and suddenly the candlelight had extended upward to become like a long strand of fiery string. Dain had to cover Eamon’s mouth to stifle a yell of surprise. The flaming string stretched upward to touch Roh’s hand, then continued to stretch, wrapping itself around each of his fingers one at a time.

“Magick… but, in all my years…” Frake struggled to find his words for a moment before managing to finish. “Never seen one of us that could use it.”

“Well you have now, good Cook.” Replied Dain jovially. Roh lifted his arm up, the fire-string slipping off his hand as he did so. Like rubber it snapped back into place, resuming its original size and shape on the candle wick.

“How’d ya do it? Learn magick I mean. The Archive?” asked Yosef to Roh.

“Just sort of… found out I could by accident. Fire’s easiest, but I can do other things too.” Roh looked around the table. All eyes were on him now.

“Well… this does change things” muttered Eamon. Yosef and Frake nodded.

“Can I count on your support then?” asked Dain. There was a long pause as many glances were exchanged. Each in turn looked at Roh, at Dain, at each other and around the mess hall, where the few slaves still eating remained unaware of the meeting. Dain took another glance out the window. The moon had risen considerably. Time drew short.

“What says Roh on these things? You have been very quiet, boy. Do you believe we have a chance at success?” The old cook said at last. Frake gave him a long stare as he searched for his words.

“I…” he began at last. “I do, as good a chance as any have had” even as the words left his mouth he questioned them. He said them, but did he really believe them? Would they? “I don’t know how or why I can do these things. I don’t know my limits or how much use I will be… but I will do what I can.” Another long period of silence followed, most of which was spent with all eyes on the timid young boy in which they were being asked to place all of their hopes in.

“If the gods still watch us, if they did not abandon this world long ago as the Syl say, this might be called a blessing” said Frake at last. “I haven’t more than ten years left in me. If gambling them means I might spend them a free man… then gamble I shall.” Yosef burst into laughter at this.

“Stirring words, stirring words if ever I heard em’. Well… if this old skeleton’s willing to risk it, I don’t have much of a choice, do I? Ya can count on me to be quiet, to help ya get yer hands on whatever might be useful, and to run as fast as I can when the time for runnin’ comes.” Yosef looked across the table at Eamon expectantly.

“I…” he began. “I won’t abandon Nora. I will gladly play my part in this, but I will not leave without her. This is risky business, but what I just saw has me thinking that it might not be impossible after all” Eamon looked at Dain. “What do you have in mind?”

“I’ll be honest, the plan is something of a work in progress, but I have the basic details laid out. First of all, we will need a distraction, something to get the guards out of the district while we make our escape…” he looked at Roh as he spoke. “A fire would do nicely, set on the far end of the city.” Roh nodded slowly.

“Our distracter would have to be outside of the District gates before sunset. The guard is fairly light in the early evening. I’m sure something could be arranged to divert their attention long enough for him to slip outside.”

“There will be people in the streets at that hour. Wouldn’t he- I… be caught?” asked Roh, trying to contain his nervousness. These men had just pledged their lives to this effort, because of him. He would not let them down.

“An ordinary man would be caught, certainly, but we are not sending an ordinary man. I have seen Mages work. They have a talent for finding things that are hidden, as if they had a sense beyond sight or sound. You will develop this sense, and use it to navigate the streets safely.”

Roh thought of the book he had taken from the Archive, which now lay hidden within his bedroll. He had shown it to Dain, but had not had long to look through it since returning for the evening. Nevertheless he seemed to recall seeing several techniques like the one Dain had described.

“A fire would draw most away, but not all. They will not abandon their slaves, whatever the reason” reminded Frake.

“Very true, but we will be ready for them. I can promise you weapons. Maybe not swords or spears mind you, but something to defend yourselves with as we make our break for the main gate.” Roh was surprised at this. Weapons? He knew that Dain worked with metal, but it was common knowledge that they were not instructed to make such things at the Smithy. He trusted that Dain meant what he said however, and it seemed that the rest of them shared his trust, for nobody opened their mouths to contest his claims. Clearly wanting to break the silence, Eamon cleared his throat and expressed the other question they all shared.

“So this plan ends with us charging for the front door after all. I had hoped for something a bit more subtle… and it may all fall apart if any of the remaining guardsmen happen to be Mages… The main gates will not open without climbing it and pulling both levers, and there will absolutely be guards there if anywhere.”

“Once more, very true. The main gates are nearly impenetrable, but only nearly. You see, they have one major flaw.” Dain’s grin became wider than it had been throughout the meeting. “That flaw of course… is that they are made of wood.”

***
Roh awoke to the familiar sound of bells. He sat up and quickly looked around the room for Dain, as he had been told to do the previous night. Spotting him already standing beside his usual sleeping space, he got to his feet and hurried over.

“Morning Roh. Now then…” Dain bent down and began to dig through his bed sheets. He rose a few moments later holding something large and brown. After a moment of close examination, Roh determined it was a burlap sack.

“Where did you get that?” inquired Roh sleepily.

“I asked Frake to smuggle it out of the kitchens for me as we were leaving last night. It’s an onion sack.”

“And… what exactly are you planning to do with it?”

“Good question! To put it simply, I’ll be using this to deliver those weapons I promised.”

“But the Overseer, the Collector-“

“Won’t know I ever had it” interrupted Dain. “And that’s where you come in. You told me you managed to sneak that book out past the Collector by turning it all invisible. Think that will work on this?” He held the sack up high.
That will fit plenty, assuming it doesn’t rip… it’s brilliant. But it’s a good deal larger than a book, not to mention…

“It’s not as simple as just shrouding something. You’ve got to maintain concentration on it or the spell won’t hold.” Dain’s expression grew worried. “I can try, but I only learned it yesterday, and I’ve never done magick without eye contact, or at the distance you’re talking about.”

“Well, see what you can do. If things go wrong, I’ll figure a way out of them. Over here.” Dain led them aside to the back corner of the room, which was quickly emptying as slaves filed out into the courtyard. He handed Roh the sack.
Roh did as he had with the book, visualizing the bag disappearing with all his might. It came to be, with less of the difficulty that had come with his previous attempt at creating a shroud, though it did tire him noticeably just as it had in the Archive. Dain clapped him on the back.

“Good work. Now just do your best to keep it this way until I return, and we’ll be well on our way out of here.” They hurried out of the room to join the others in the square.

***

Roh had guessed that maintaining a spell for the amount of time that Dain required would be difficult, and as it turned out, he was entirely correct. The first few hours weren’t too bad. Despite the complicated sorting work he had been tasked with by Elsard (the Archivist on duty, who shared Lumin’s age but lacked his kind demeanor), the state of the bag as a transparent thing was always present in the back of his mind. He took the growing ache in his muscles almost as a comforting thing, for it at least told him that the spell was still in effect.

It was around midday that holding the spell began to take a serious toll on him, when his aching muscles had reached a state of absolute burning. He felt as if he had spent the morning jogging while being beaten by clubs. Despite taking deep breaths, he could never seem to get enough air to calm his lungs. Still he worked through the pain, never letting the image of the bag that wasn’t there escape from his thoughts.

Dain, this had better be worth it!
***​

Dain’s own task had been far easier than he had predicted. Roros wasn’t particularly attentive as far as Overseers went, but he was in a particularly bad mood that day. The old cyclops had spent most of the morning picking on the more tired slaves, giving them a series of vicious smacks from his chain if he felt there was too much time between the falls of their hammers. Dain took these opportunities to slip a few iron bars from the table beside him into the phantom sack that he had tied to his waist, handling them as gently as possible to avoid making noise by bashing them together. Shortly after the second water break had come, the sack was as full as he dared to make it.

For the first hour or so he had dreaded that the spell would fade and expose his theft. If Roros had caught him trying to steal from the Smithy he had little doubt that he would be beat to within an inch of his life, if not further. However, the spell held, never showing the slightest sign of itself for the many hours it hung at his side.

Kid’s got talent. I love it when I’m right. Perhaps Frake was correct, and their fortune was a gift from some forgotten god. Well, get us all out safe and I’ll swear to relearn your name. Names even, if there are more than one of you.

At last the sun began to set out the lone large window of the Smithy. Shortly after came the arrival of the collector, who had to look each of them over before Roros freed them from their shackles. Suddenly remembering that his work was not complete after all, he hurriedly stuffed his smithing hammer into the sack with the bars. There was a clanging sound, low but audible nonetheless. Dain cursed under his breath. The Collector looked away from his examinations suddenly, looked directly at him.

But what does he see? At last the Collector returned to his examinations, moving to each station in turn, slowly getting closer to his own. Despite himself, Dain’s heart began to race as the Mage drew nearer. Here it was, the true test of Roh’s talent, and he wasn’t even there to see it. The Collector stood before him. He looked him up, then down, looking for the bulge of smuggled goods.

At long last the Collector’s gaze left him. He nodded to Roros, who got to work unlocking the shackle around Dain’s leg. He could barely contain a sigh of relief. He speed-walked to join the group gathering at the entrance.

***​

“Ow!” Yosef exclaimed, dropping his knife into the basket of lumber at his feet. Dark blood oozed from the deep cut he had sliced into his thumb. He sucked it, tasting both the metallic flavor of blood and the dryness of the wood shavings that covered both his hands.

It was both lucky and unlucky that the carving knife had been dull, unlucky in that it had been the cause of his injury and lucky that it had not been sharp enough to slice off the tip of his thumb. Many of his comrades in arms had been in similar situations with sadly un-similar knives.

That is what he thought of them as, fellow soldiers in the never ending war against all the damned wood. Every morning the fat old Overseer brought in the bins of fresh wood. Each of them had his own bin and his own pile of sketches depicting the things that he must make. Simple things mostly, benches, feeding troughs, crates and such. They sawed, sanded, cut and hammered at breakneck speeds in an effort to get their daily tasks done, knowing that any work left undone at the end of the day would still be there tomorrow, added on to a fresh batch.

The reckless abandon with which they were forced to work often resulted in injuries, but in this rare case that was not the reason for Yosef’s thumb-suckingly serious wound. He had been deep in thought, a rare thing for a boy who rarely had a mind for anything more complicated than pondering whether or not he could get away with slipping a log or two into his neighbor’s bin, or unrealistic daydreams of what the evening’s meal might be. Not that he was of a slow wit, it simply took a lot to get him interested in using it. Dain’s dramatic little get together had got those lesser-used bits of brain working at full power for the first time in recent memory.

Was freedom something he even wanted? Was it something worth dying for? By the end of the day he had concluded yes to the first question and maybe to the second. He enjoyed being alive, enjoyed what few pleasures came with the life that had been thrown at him seemingly at random. Still, he was no fool, whatever others thought of him. He saw the unfairness of it all, saw the suffering and exploitation of good folk all around him. The world was a big place, or so he had heard. It might be fun to escape the boredom of work, to taste something with a bit of flavor to it.

The back door was suddenly thrown open as fat old Ilonas returned to check up on his peons. Yosef looked out the window and was surprised to see the golden light of the setting sun, snuck up on him while he was deep in thought. The Collector would be arriving soon. He looked down at his bin, realized it was still half full, and hurriedly began digging for his knife with his unwounded hand.

***​

Dain’s group was one of the larger ones, and as such took the longest to inspect. The sun had fully set by the time they had arrived back in the Slave District. As soon as he was out of sight from the gate guards he bolted for his quarters. As he stepped in he was greeted by the sight of Roh sitting on the bench closest to the door at large table within. Eyes half open and covered in sweat, he seemed unaware of Dain’s presence.

“There you are. You look like death.” Roh snapped to life with a slight yelp at Dain’s words. He looked up at him and spoke weakly.

“Dain… Held the spell… Wasn’t easy. You got what you needed?”

“And then some. You did well.” Dain untied the invisible sack from his waist, holding it before Roh. It popped into sudden existence, revealing a sack filled to capacity with iron.

“Good… good…” Free at last of his burden, the boy’s eyes drooped shut. He fell sideways, out cold before his head hit the bench.
 
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Lavender

Senior Member
I'm really pleased you posted another chapter! It seems like they'll be attempting their escape soon and I'm looking forward to all the twists and turns and drama that will undoubtedly follow - if you post more that is! Keep going :)
 
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