Chapter 1: Across Seas

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 250

Across Seas

Inside his cell Elk could hear the other prisoners jeering. The sound grew closer as the target of their crude words walked further along the dungeon hall, closer to Elk.Elk’s oversized armor creaked as he shifted on his cot, his armor making it impossible to be comfortable, “ I slept better in the dirt on the isles, then in this shit.”

“Perhaps you weren’t so sure of death then.” An elegant voice washed over his cell. Elk’s helm made it impossible to look up. He clumsily sat upright, the armor sounding off.He locked gazes with the richly dressed man waiting patiently outside his cell.

“I’m not sure my chance were too much better then.”

Then man’s expression changed to honest agreement, before he clasped his hands together, “I see my students have done an excellent job with that armor! Please sir would you stand up.”

Elk was certain his glare was lost in the shadows of his helm. He lifted himself from the cot, pivoting towards the man, finally getting a full visual.

The man was short, especially in comparison to Elk’s own stature. Surprisingly muscular for his profession, perhaps he had once been an actual battle mage and not just another academy pawn, his accent could have fooled anyone.  The mage stood calmly his dark face looked on in satisfaction at Elk’s display.

“Truly you’ll put on a great show.”

“And if decide not to fight?”

“Well that’s what I’m here for, now let’s test this out. I’m sorry, but if this works it’s going to hurt… a lot. “

“And if it don’t?”

“Well, then it will probably kill you.” The mage scratched his nose

“Might even kill me.”

“All right,” the mage rolled back his sleeves as he finished his statements in mumbles. “I am called Fisher by the way. Sorry if I kill you.”

Fisher raised his right hand, touching all five fingers together, pointing towards Elk. He quickly opened his hand.

Elk dropped to his knees, his blood turned to fire, the white-hot pain of directed magic setting all his nerves in motion. His hands reached for his head, attempting to rip off his armor as his eardrums felt as if bursting. Elk screamed, the sound echoing in his helm before penetrating the thick walls of the dungeon.

The pain ended suddenly, waves of nausea retreating all too slowly as Elk attempted to regain composure. Still on his knees Elk could see the man had closed his fingertips.  Elk grinded his teeth and used the iron bars to lift himself to his feet. 

“You’re a real fuck.” Elk had to pyre himself  from the cell door.

“Excellent, it seems to have worked just fine!” The man’s excitement un-refined , “As you can see Elk you have little choice but to fight.”
“So I’m supposed to value my own pain over the lives of others.”

The man’s grin turned to stone, like his own mother had slapped him in the face.

“You know I’m not just some Esirian guild stulch, you can’t get me to do shit with a little torture.” Elk patted his helm with his hands, shaking off more dizziness, “ Good for you I don’t like disappointing a crowd.”

The mage regained his composure and looked dryly at Elk. “Last I saw you were better at enraging them, hunted devil.”

Elk grabbed the iron bars as the mage turned to leave. One important thought came up. “Mage! What do I do when I have to shit!”

 

Taber made his way through the surging crowd of Esirians.  The sun still barely rising from the tops of the desert city’s skyline, the market was packed with merchants looking to take advantage of today’s arena games, the judicial execution of Taber’s famous friend as the main act.  Taber cursed to himself, like he had many times this week.  He was helpless; the fate of his friend had proven out of Taber’s hands this time.

“You looking for trinkets to take home my friend?” A fat merchant, his heavy garment patterned with crimson fabrics, stood directly in front of Taber, his head nodding slowly, causing his excess jewelry and hanging trinkets to ring in unison.  “I said, do you want the trinkets to take-“

“I’m no tourist fool, step aside, I have business.”

The man continued his nodding, “You really have important business? Can you not enjoy the city at all?”  The man slurred and accentuated his word seemingly at random.

“Don’t let my skin fool you, it’s been a long time since anyone has been idiotic enough to mistake me for a tourist.”

His nodding still did not cease, nor did he budge.  Taber’s hand found the hilt of his dagger.

“It is you who are being the fool. Now you must come see my stores. It is now your important business.”

Taber’s hand released his dagger; he gave the merchant a look of understanding. The man continued to nod for some time. Once more his eyes scanned Taber before he spun around and began walking through the crowd, his trinkets coming to a dead silence.

The merchant led Taber to a large tent on the outskirts of the market square. There were two men guarding the main entrance, the merchant gestured and the two men let them through.

Taber stepped through into a room filled with smoke. The tent was a Jej bar, the strong stench of the drug causing Taber to breathe softly. As Taber followed the merchant through the tent he saw men and women splayed out among pillows and rugs. Most were passed out or seemingly comatose, some still puffed on long decorated pipes. 

The tent was sectioned off into several rooms. The merchant led Taber to an entrance of one such room that had another set of guards. The men gave Taber and his escort a quick nod before the merchant pushed through, Taber following close behind.

The room was not covered in smoke like the rest of the tent, Taber looked on to see a troop of Gerdili women tattooing the faces of over a dozen men and women.  Taber was ignored as the women quietly worked their needles into the bulky forms of their clients on the table. Taber decided to speak up first.

“The shattered face of a once great people. The most loyal followers of a man who tried to re-birth an Empire only he could remember.”  The artists stopped their work, while only a few of those being tattooed even bothered looking up. “Yet, so many of the bearers had no choice in this modification, their faces marked as children. So why do some make vibrant what could be a few worn scars of a fight long since lost?”

To Taber’s left, a muscled woman sat up, her dark face bleeding slightly from the lines of blue sketched on her face. The voice she used was cool and strong, “Because of what was done to us because of these marks, because we are proud of our past, our survival. Because we will never forget those who are not here now.”

Taber looked at the woman until his demeanor was lost by the absurdity of this woman’s will power. “You’re going to try to get the bastard out aren’t you Jata?” Taber smiled his tight features fighting back.  “And here I thought I had to do it by myself.”

 

 

 

Taber waited patiently as the tattooing was finished, the fat merchant long since gone.  Jata was the leader of the Children of Jahdain a gang that grew out of the surviving members of Esiria’s decimated sister city.Taber was given a meal of pita and fava bean he quietly ate before Jata finally stood.

“Taber, I have brought you here with a plan all ready set in place. We will succeed without your help, but it is welcome.”

Taber nodded

“We’re using munitions to break through the cage.”

“Do you know how many people will get killed if you do that? That’s the whole point of having the cage, so people can get close as all hell to it!” Taber could see the seething crowd that would be in the pit surrounding the arena cage; the kind of carnage a Teargal munition would cause would be un-paralleled. 

“The merchant, he paid to have that section of the pit cleared.The city promised a square of guards, they will die.“ She let out a sigh “ He requested to not tell you his interest in your friend.” 

Taber didn’t ponder on it long, Elk had a way of attracting the interest of characters from all over. “So, where can I fit in.?”
“We will have a battle to fight once the cage is open.”

Taber had no issues with her plan, the thought actually disturbed him. “Jata how can this possibly outweigh the backlash it will bring down on you? People will die long after this day over one man. Why are you doing this?”

“When the Esirians took us to their mines, when they enslaved us, my people learned how to survive.  We learned that we could never really on anyone but each other.  It was Elk who once saved the life of my brother, and it was us not the Esirians that gave us our freedom.” She gently touched the blue marking on her face, “We must always look out for our own or we will perish. I have the backing of every immigrant clan of this city.  We will show the Council the strength we have. We will show them they can no longer murder us like dogs.”

Jata received the nod of everyone in the room, the massive forms of her best warriors dark sentinels spread across the dim room.

“Come Taber, we only have a few hours. Before Elk begins his fight.”

 

Fisher could hear Elk screaming from deeper inside.  His great chant churned the insides of the mage while his dark hooded escort seemed to hardly notice in their complete silence.  The usual jeering of the prisoners was replaced by figures crammed in dark corners, their gazes following the mage as if seeking protection.

“The stolen battle chant. The pride of those fools on the isles.” The mage looked at his worn hands, “Elk stole it from them, it spread through our armies like wild fire.” The mage looked at one cell full of scared prisoners. “We were fed up, so we took it, and how they despised us for it. They ran at us head on.  It was suicide you see. Elk killed them all.” He looked at his hands again, the power of his own magic feeling warm on his palms. “We killed them all.”

He drew closer as Elk’s rhythm broke, his ritual breaking into brutal screams, the mage could hear the man’s armor smashing against the solid stone of prison. 

He feigned interest in something on his mind, slowing himself and his escort until Elk finally released his primal bellowing.  The sudden silence replace by the dull thunder of the cheering crowd beyond the thick layer of earth above him.

Elk breathed heavily, his chest heaving inside his metal plating.  He waited as the escort arrived, his mind ready for the bloody task ahead.  The hooded men stood outside and waited as the prison guards unlocked the cell, the roar of the arena crowd erupting once more during their silence. Elk walked out to the torch lit hallway, he saw Fisher standing behind his escort.

“The Executer’s Guild sent their best Elk. Never have I seen such a sign of respect.” 

Elk nervously acknowledged the men the mage spoke of.

“Truly they most think you had good reason for killing the judge.” He looked at the others as if waiting for a response. “I too am sorry you must suffer this fate. Alas I must up-hold my part in all this.” He sighed deeply before straightening his expression. “If you try anything today, I will revisit you with the pain I can deliver.”  

Elk nodded, “He had a knife to Rose. Let’s just fucking go” Elk watched as the hooded figure turned to walk, surrounding Elk as he followed, with the mage following closely behind. Elk’s armor was noisy in the dead silence of the guild’s silent assassins.

“Fisher, that sounds like a war name.”

“Even in the academy, it stuck.”

Elk answered without looking back “It always does.” He could feel the air getting lighter as they moved farther up the hallway.

Fisher cleared his throat. “I hear you got your name long before you joined.  I hear that really pissed off your training sergeant.”

“Yeah my mother beat him to it.”

Elk heard the sudden eruption of applaud boom through the stonewalls around him.  He could see the desert light make its way into the hallway before they turned the last corner, where after one stretch of hall he could see the doorway, the blinding light of the sun pouring through.  The escort continued its pace and Elk finally stepped through.

The crowd bellowed, Elk’s heart raced as he covered his eyes from the desert sun.  He tried frantically to pierce through the obstruction of his vision, faintly seeing the mass of people cheering his display.  He was hurriedly pushed down stairs, he looked down as his eyes began to adjust, the thick sand of the arena floor below his feet.  He looked up to see the red armored legionaries in front of him. Their long crimson shields forming a circle around a lengthy old man holding a scroll, the man looked to the crowds his arms outstretched in the air. 

Elk caught his breath as the crowd finally calmed.  His escort giving him more space. Past the cage was a full circle of seating that besides the solid side of masonry behind Elk, was raised by huge columns.This gave the arena its huge ground pit, where Esirian’s could come and go and struggle amongst the mass of others to get the best view of the deadly games. In the upper seating only a few were not on their feet as they cheered on, and down below the pit was alive with bloodthirsty excitement. Some had even begun to climb the sides of the cage.

Finally the man at the center of the arena spoke, his voice carried by magic.

“Bring the prisoner forward!”

The crowds noise came down to a mumble.  The anticipation of their stares pierced through Elk as his escort led him inside the circle of the legionaries.  He looked back once to see the mage remained on top of the stone rise he came down from.  When Elk reached the center of the arena the man, who Elk knew as a judge, un-rolled a short parchment. 

“Elk of Jhadain, once a hero of The Council Army. You have been sentenced with treason and the murder of a grand judicator. You will be punished by the act of Denu’ tally.You have been casted into this armor so that you may take with you the vengeful souls of your fellow criminals.” 

A beam of light suddenly surrounded the judge before he disappeared, leaving the metallic smell of magic behind him.  He appeared instantly in one of the grander lofts that were above the solid side of the arena Elk had come from.  The legionnaires and Elk’s escort suddenly fanned out to the edges of the cage.

The judge stood on his dais and gripped the stone ledge surrounding him. He scanned the arena, building the anticipation of the massive audience.He paused for a short time when his eyes wandered along the pit. Elk followed the glance to an area of the pit where a group of guards quarantined a section of the pit.From behind a pile of wine flasks Elk could see a fat merchant surrounded by a troop of women. 

Elk hesitantly looked up again at the judge as he raised his arms in the air, his crimson robe hanging from his skinny frame.  “Release the prisoners!”

 

 

Taber gripped the crossbow under his cloak as he heard the crowd respond to the judge.  Trap doors close to the door Elk had come from were swung open, their heavy frame pounding the ground they hit.  He looked on as ravaged prisoners were belched from the openings.  They eagerly held their flimsy weapons and charged towards Elk with promise that their victory would mean their freedom. 

Taber was to the left of Elk his body pressed between the iron of the cage and the surging of the crowd behind him.He could see the munitions packed wine casks piled on the opposite side.  The vision was blocked as the first prisoner made contact with Elks gauntleted fist.

The impact the man’s skull being crushed rang as two more came to take his place. One man clumsily swung a sword at Elk only to have it torn from his hands. Elk turned the blade quickly piecing through the stomach of the second man before catching the first man with his open palm.  Another three prisoners made contact. Elk broke one’s spear in half before cutting another’s leg off. The spray of blood painting his armor, he threw himself into the other men. Breaking through bone as his size and armor crushed them. He threw his sword at the next man running towards him, piercing the man’s skull as he lifted himself from the bodies of the others. 

More men filtered out of the passageways, this time they stopped and waited.Most were shirtless and covered in tattoos. Taber recognized them as pirates.  Esiria had recently begun a crusade of pirate hunting. These men may give Elk some trouble Taber thought as he tightly gripped the hot iron of the cage.  “Hurry up with that escape plan, Jatah.”

The prisoner began to encircle Elk, he calmly picked a large sword from the fallen men around him.  When the prisoners made a full circle around elk the nervously waited for a signal from the man who had taken charge of the group. Elk lifted his left arm bashing his helm. It was an old gesture; he had used often the war. It meant a lot of things most of which could translate to “Let’s do this” Taber cursed his friend as the crowd once more exploded into cheers.  Then something clicked.

The explosion knocked nearly everyone on the ground.  The sound of bending metal pierced through the air as chaos began to build in the crowd.

The assassins that had escorted Elk from the dungeon had begun killing both the prisoners and the legionaries their deadly dance of knives quickly cutting down everyone on the inside of the cage.

Taber found the mage he knew would stop Elk.  He watched as the man made a quick gesture that dropped his friend into a fetal position. From his vantage point he could do nothing to help his friend he fought his way through the crowd taking quick glances for vantage points He needed to find some way to distract the mage.  Taking a glance at the upper seating Taber saw three Pact members loading crossbows. The fools had a impact munitions attached to their bolts. Taber began to force his way through the crowd helplessly trying to stop the group before they launched their munitions.Obviously these men had never seen the way magic reacts to munitions.

One man released his bolt. The munitions hit the cage, another explosion that sent the thinning mass stirring. The other men released their bolts through the gap left by the first. Quickly the mage released his gesture. Instead raising his hand quickly into the air.  The bolts hit the area around the man, their flight slowed and finally stopped, the man’s hands seeming to quiver with the impact. Taber saw the men once again loading their crossbows. He aimed and fired his own this time, the bolt landed immediately beside on of the fools head.  They turned their aim to see Taber gesturing at them.

“Stop you fucking idiots!” he assumed they were able to read his lips as they shrugged and began scanning for new targets. 

With the mage still preoccupied Taber saw Elk had disappeared.He could think of very little else that could stop the man’s retreat.  The mage stood completely still, his face contorted into absolute concentration. Taber continued his push through the crowd hoping to find a way to the mage. He knew he had to find to find a way to help the mage. He would have run if he thought he could get far enough away from the waiting explosion.


Submitted: April 09, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Eli Weston. All rights reserved.

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