Treason

Dec. 3rd, 2012 11:35 pm
thulcandran: (Default)
So... someone requested more excerpts of NaNoWriMo. This isn't exactly that - it's the short story that kicked off The Tide Game, which was this year's win. That latter piece is still... well, it's in rough shape. The scenes that I'm happy with don't work posted out of context, mostly, and the scenes that are needed for context are... really, really poor quality. But this story, I think I can work with. So here! Part one, as a hopefully acceptable compromise.

The cave echoed, faintly; she kicked the wall, listened to the clank go back, the wall, come all the way... yeah. Again, with her wrists. It wasn't altogether uncomfortable, though that might be from being too exhausted to really give her nerves all the attention they needed. Too much time, and too much energy spent on keeping her thoughts far away from anything serious. She clanked the wall again, and listened for the echoes.

A light came, this time, with the faint clattering, at the far entrance of the cave. There were boots, now, echoing down from the other direction, and she tried not to giggle at the reversal. Pay attention now, Dain. Pay attention. Focus. Hey... ah, there they were, several booted guards. She looked up, past the heavy scaled tunic and the weapons, to the badges and insignia. One of them swore, and shook his head.

"Who the hell thought this was a good idea?" He glared at Dain, as if it was her fault, and sighed. "He's as good as gone, in here, if we don't figure this out."

One of the other guards made a noise, and glanced back towards the light. "He's as good as gone if we leave him, too, Gareth," she replied. "And I would think he could handle this alright." She looked down at Dain, who wasn't bothering to look disinterested; this was the most interesting thing that had happened in the past twelve hours. "She's pretty well subdued, wouldn't you say?"

The lead guard, apparently - his badge was hard to read, in the torchlight - made a face and shrugged. "It looks like we don't have a choice," he said, pulling out a key. "You three, stay here. Baro and Edan, you come with me." He turned, and two of the troop followed him, leaving Dain alone with the other half.

"You probably aren't this stupid, but just in case, don't try anything destructive," the guard closest, who had spoken before, told her. "This isn't something I'm in favor of, but you've still got to stand trial, so we can't just bash your skull in and leave you here."

One of the other guards grunted. "You probably would anyway, but he wouldn't like it, eh, Tai?"

She glanced over her shoulder. "I believe in the due process of law, like a good officer. Shut up."

Dain shrugged, finally finding her throat semi-clear. "I don't know what any of you are talking about, but I'm not planning on... trying anything." She held up her manacles, smiling slightly. "Even if I was, this is something of a deterrent, wouldn't you say?"

The first guard - Tai - grinned. "Well, yes. That's the general idea of the things, you know. To deter people from trying anything stupid."

They were spared further conversation by the return of the echoing footsteps - more hurried, this time. The rest of the troop returned, and the man apparently in charge glanced down at her again, swearing under his breath. "Tai, Edan, get those things unhooked. Apparently there's a place further down that's got the fortifications they were talking about."

"Sonuvabitch!" Tai dropped quickly, and slipped the other end of the chains off the wall, grabbing them to hook around her scimitar's handle. "Still don't do anything stupid," she said quietly, firmly.

The other guard, Edan, slipped the other wall hook, and shook his head. "This is a terrible idea," he said, reaching across to unhook the catch on the ankles.

Gareth gave him a dirty look. "I know! Look, can we stop talking about how this is a shitty place to be? I wasn't the one who started the fucking revolution, alright?"

Dain winced, and Tai gave her a dry look. "Yeah, don't bother."

Another torch appeared at the opening of the cavern, and Gareth took a deep breath. "Out of time, lovelies. Let's move." He turned back to the light, and cupped a hand around his mouth. "Identify yourselves!"

The voice that came back was painfully familiar; strong, resonant, and rough, it was generally accompanied by some form of trumpeting. "Just one of me, Captain. I sent the courier back - he's needed out there. As are the rest of you, actually." The torch, as it approached, illuminated the face, harried and haggard over a suit of well-worn leather armor, entirely free from the gilt that usually accompanied the Emperor's ceremonial battle-wear. He grinned tiredly as all four guards glanced at it in surprise before saluting. "Crowns tend to get in the way, when one has to do any real fighting." He looked past the guards, to where Dain was trying to decide whether to look defiant or fade into the floor. The silence stretched out for a moment. Damn. Damn, damn, damn.

"This was a terrible idea," she said, faintly.

Gareth growled under his breath and gestured jerkily towards the darker end of the cave. "Sire, you are apparently the only one here who's been briefed about this, so I must ask you to lead the way."

Emperor Xerxes VI shifted his gaze back towards the mouth of the cave, where for the first time, faint, barely discernable noises were beginning to echo down. "I think not, Captain. The battle out there needs men rather more than I do." As the captain looked uncertain, he added, "That is an order, if you need it to be."

He sighed. "Let's move, troop. Tai - get them down to safety, and then follow us back up, hit the barracs if you need orders. Understood?"

The guard nodded, remembered herself, saluted, and turned to follow the Emperor, who had already turned down into the darkness, his torch casting their shadows wildly back towards the light.

The chamber at the end of the winding tunnel was small, sparse; there was a tap on the far wall, and a low doorway, darkened, next to it. A single cot, several small ventilation grilles, and a fireplace... it was about six paces in length, two or three in width. The emperor unhooked a key from around his neck, beneath the armor, and handed it to Tai.

"This stays with you. Do not give it up, even to Gareth," he told her quietly. "When the fighting has been pushed out of the capital, return for me - the time will come, I will yet be needed."

She nodded, pushed the heavy door shut, and locked it behind her. As her footsteps receded down the cave, Xerxes VI reached up and turned three heavy deadbolts into place.

"Could be important," he muttered. "Shouldn't even arise, though." He sat down heavily on the cot, still musing. "Unless they take the key off her body," he explained finally, looking up at Dain, "The door won't even be visible. Not an easy trick, but it does come in handy."

"...Ah," she replied, hesitantly. It... wasn't a summary execution, there was at least that.

Emperor Xerxes I rubbed a hand over his face and extended the torch to the fireplace; with a word whispered under his breath, it caught instantly. Even in the firelight, his eyes showed up greenish, reptilian, penetrating. His leathery skin, though mostly appearing human, took on a distinctly beaded pattern and a reddish hue around his neck and ears; the effect continued, presumably throughout his body - at least showing on the back of his hands, clawed rather than nailed. Powerfully built, instantly recognizable, this was still only the third time she'd seen him up close. He looked up from the fire, studying her in return, for a long moment.

"Here," he said finally, handing her the torch. "Put this back up."

It didn't occur to her to do otherwise. She crossed the room, her gait only somewhat diminished by the manacles, and hoisted the torch into its sconce easily.

She turned to find him watching her, still. "So. It was a bad idea, you say?"

Dain nearly laughed. Of course he knew what she'd meant. "Not one of my better ones, anyway," she answered.

He grinned at her in return, looking worn. "You can sit," he told her, leaning back against the wall, "If you wish. I suspect we will be stuck here for some time."

She sat down against the wall, beneath the torch, and realized she was more tired than she'd thought; her body had been suppressing it for some time, and she'd ignored one of the hard and fast rules of a courier's life, and taken none of the many chances to sleep in the past few days. She was unsure of why - she'd certainly been in worse places to sleep, though probably not in more dangerous situations... that time with the bear nearly qualified.

The scene in the room changed very little, the few times she did open her eyes. Xerxes used the tiny desk next to the cot and wrote, for some time, or stared into the flames. At one point, she awakened fully to the smell of something cooking.

"Aha." He handed her a hunk of flat bread, and a rough-hewn stone bowl, quite warm. "Someone appears to have stocked it well."

Dain took both, not showing her surprise. "Oh. Um - thank you." The titles and proprieties occurred to her only belatedly - she did not bother appending them. After the past few days, it would be a hollow courtesy, and he knew it as well as she did.

The meal over, she took both bowls to the tap and set about rinsing them. The time passed, imperceptibly. Finally, when she could clean them no further without risking the integrity of the hull, she treturned to the business of Waiting.

Perhaps it was the fatal nature of the situation at large, making her bold; perhaps it was the deadliness of the dull blade of boredom, felt for the first time at length in years. Perhaps it was simply the overwhelming curiosity that had so often nearly killed her.

"Were there really no other options?"

He quirked an eyebrow. "Than?"

"Than the emperor and the traitor, locked in the same cell."

"Ah. That." He shrugged, turning fully towards her. "Would you believe I was curious?" At her responding expression of clear disbelief, he did laugh aloud. "No. Not solely, anyway. This is the most secure place on the palace grounds, and easily so. That key around the guard's neck - it does not unlock the physical door; those deadbolts can only be turned from this side. The key contains the image of the door, and indeed the room - visually, it appears to be a nondescript wall, unless one has the key. Only the bearer can see through the illusion.

"To answer your more subtle question - there is no prison in reach that would not have put you and your guards in grave danger. Your actions," and here, for the first time, his eyes flashed with quickly concealed anger, "Ensured that the entire palace was overrun to the point of saturation almost immediately, giving us little time for preparation. I could not drive them out at this stage, they were far too prepared for that, the blood rites would've done for the entire city - and so we had a separate strategy altogether.

"The guards will be alright, in the majority, as the defenses were so wholly geared towards myself and the royal contingent leading the charge. One of their few slip-ups. So there was nothing for it, but that I go immediately into hiding, and the royal guard flee. And you - much the same. I don't know if they intended you to melt away and rejoin the attacking force, or to just vanish altogether in the chaos, leaving no trace of their inside link.

"Either way, having you alive to be questioned is most likely an option I rather suspect they did not intend, and therefore an advantage I am unlikely to give up, either by allowing your death, or your escape. So the safest room is this place, for both of us. Likely for the empire." He sighed and handed her the empty bowl. "I could use a drink, if you've still the desire to be cooperative."

Entirely rattled, Dain stood, taking the bowl, and returned it to him, mostly full. "You're taking this... very rationally," she said, as he took a drink. "It caught me more by surprise than you, it seems - I didn't expect things to move so fast."

He smiled. "Well, yes. I've been waiting for them to strike for months now. Certain factions of the Council have more or less sworn alliance already."

A heavy rattling noise sounded through the vents - like several thousand boulders down a mountain. Xerxes glanced at her. "Here comes the cavalry," he said quietly. "You planning on calling a rescue?"

She laughed bitterly. "They find me locked in a cell with the emperor, in the safest room here, last place anyone will look, and you think they'll be mounting a rescue?" He frowned, curious, and she continued; it could hardly hurt. "You were more right than you know. I was supposed to vanish altogether - by blade," she told him. "A part of the plan that somehow didn't manage to come to my attention until my supposed comrade-in-arms drew on me in the immediate aftermath. They find us down here, they'll take the opportunity to run us both through."

He nodded, slowly. "I see. You think--" he stopped, the bowl in his hands. There was a noise, somewhere on the other side of the door. He put the bowl down on the cot next to him very slowly. There was a series of metallic clashes, very faint, and shouting, echoing back and forth; the caverns made distance hard to judge. The voices grew louder, and were cut off quite suddenly. A louder crash, and more voices, harsh and loud, grew close. There were no footsteps; these weren't guards. Dain strained to hear them, wondering if she would recognize any. Xerxes shot her a look, unreadable, before returning his attention to the door. The air was taut. Words began to register through the thick.

"If they'd just picked it up!"

"Yes, I know. Look, someone's - no, shit. That's Fal's blood. This has to be a dead end."

"Just like the old lizard, to fill the ground with dead-end tunnel mazes."

The response was faintly amused, tantalizingly familiar, and Dain tensed automatically. "You're an idiot. These are at least as old as the last dynasty. Did we send someone down both ends, up there at the bend?"

"Of course." She could practically see the smirk.

"Good. That'll be done with Jon and Fal. If they manage to make it back, make sure Kali has her orders. We're not going to find the damned dragon," he finished, his voice going clear as they drew closer. "He's gone to ground. But if we can finish the dissenters, the whole thing won't be in vain."

"Yeah. Ah, damn it. I told you - dead end," came the reply.

"I figured. Let's get this over with, they're butchering us up there." One side of the emperor's mouth quirked up in satisfaction.

"Mmmm. Not exactly the retreat I wanted. We've got to be more careful with recon on the next one, this..." the voice trailed away to inaudibility. They waited several moments in tense silence before Xerxes VI stood quietly and walked over to the door. He put a hand against it and pushed, softly; the entire wall swung away like a door, for a moment, framing the dark and empty cavern before them. Satisfied, he withdrew his hand and let the illusion fade before sitting back down.

"Not long now," Dain said, more to herself than him. He glanced down at her, hesitated a fraction of a moment.

"So. The revolutionary heroes?" His tone was deceptively mild - no need to lay it on thick, after that.

She winced. "That was, unless I miss my guess, Tor, with either Baril or Lucas. And... yes. I thought. Tor had... a lot of push. Everyone was on his side."

"Apparently not." His voice was heavy with irony, and she stared at the door uncomfortably.

"I... wouldn't have thought. Thought... he and Jon were always together. They were the ones all of us looked to."

Xerxes smiled slightly. "There's your answer, girl. 'They.' What good is it overthrowing a government if you still have to share power?"

She shook her head, declining to argue the point, but he pushed on.

"So - if you're answering to a damned dragon, still, answer me this." She glanced back up. "Why?" He surveyed her closely, eyes probing. "Why you, I mean. People don't usually betray their entire country on a whim, even for handsome and charismatic speakers, not in my experience."

Dain rubbed her eyes tiredly. "Gods, you're ruthless. For... the alliance of the Roan Isles," she said, thinking back. It seemed like so long ago - she'd been so passionate, it had seemed so black-and-white, they'd made such damned convincing arguments. By the time the cracks had shown, by the time she'd realized how very morally gray the whole conflict was, it was far too late to simply walk away. Not just her, either - Fal had thought a lot of the same, she thought, but his response was to commit more fully, as if he could somehow force their struggle to be more righteous through sheer willpower. "Now, I - but, there's still that. Why were the embargoes never lifted? Why has the Council never investigated the injustices of that embargo?"

He growled quietly, dangerously; it felt like a suppressed roar, and Dain froze. For a long moment, he was silent, staring at her - controlling himself, she realized.

"Because of the -atrocities- in the Roan Isles," he hissed, finally, his voice like ice. "Because while their ambassadors and diplomats claim, on the floor, that the embargo is strangling their men and their trade, their people know firsthand that any supplies reaching the Isles only touch the red-handed tryants - and their people, more than half of them, live only to provide the blood-price for their rulers' lunacy, and their -decadence-." He stopped, and took a long drink out of the bowl before meeting her eyes again. "Didn't your glorious leaders tell you that?" Even after the edict, I made it clear that the embargo would cease as soon as we were assured of a civil peace. Even the Council--" he paused, correcting himself. "The Council, excepting those who stand to benefit from trade with Roan, of -course-, stood behind it."

Dain took a deep, shuddering breath, forced herself to relax; she hadn't even realized she'd pressed into the wall. "We were told the blood sacrifice was voluntary. Not - not lethal. That was why the other--" she stopped. This was- dangerous. If she finished that sentence... taking a deep breath, she crossed the chasm. "That was why the Thrice factions, from Lodestone and the Syro Shore, were with us. They talked of making it a rite again; talked about stuff like, like ending the persecution of the wizards." She didn't bother mentioning how quickly it had become obvious that the government was allied with ending persecution of wizards; didn't tell him about the time she'd discovered plans for the Anti-Runic Riot last year that had turned violent, in Jon's authority. She had a feeling he knew better than she did exactly how double-edged the revolutionaries had been.

Something had dawned on his features, as he stared at her. "From Syro? Gods. That's why Leid went out of the running," he said, blankly. "I thought... ah, damn it all. That puts Lar in their camp too, doesn't it." He glanced at Dain, half-questioning, and she shook her head.

"Blackmailed. I think. He wasn't in any of the circles, not that I remember. It was a common response to extra pieces."

He nodded. "That's something, anyway." If it's true, he didn't say, for which she was incongruously grateful. He reached over the side of the mat, Dain stood. She went to fill his bowl again, but he caught her hands half there. She fought the reflex to lash out, and something clinked against the metal; the cuffs dropped free.

"Seems pointless, if we're stuck down here anyway," he explained, reaching for the other set. She stood back, rubbing her wrists. "Especially as we appear to both be in the same level of dead if the wrong people come out of this."

There was a searing 'boom' that shook the ground beneath (and above) them, and Xerxes nodded grimly to himself. "There it is," he said aloud. "That's them effectively finished."

Dain nodded mutely.

"So." He fixed her with a thoughtful, searching look. "Was that cooperation, or a foolhardedly - though admittedly brave - attempt at sabotage?"

She shook her head. "Cooperation. I doubt my situation at present can get much worse, short of shoving my hand into the fireplace, or something. If I try to escape and rejoin the other side, I'll be killed in short order - if not by you, than by them. To do nothing and remain in stasis leaves me in the same fairly awful situation. My only shot at improving my lot, right now, appears to be to move in the other direction, which means cooperating in full."

He made a noise deep in his throat, but declined to comment on the entirely self-serving logic in her reasoning. "And here I thought it was my charming personality," he said.

"Hah. I'm unlikely to fall for that twice in one war," she replied. "I didn't realize... well, a lot, about the whole side. And by the time I had, I was too far in to get back out - the only way out was through, I kept telling myself. I thought maybe, once we'd won, I could work things out more peacefully. I told myself the Imperial government was just as bad, and clung to that, even when it was... patently obvious how much of a lie it was. It was an easy narrative. Overhearing that - overhearing Tor - probably too much of a beam of light for even my usual amount of self-deceit to cover up."

"Hmmm." Footsteps began to echo, again, and he said no more.

---

Xerxes held up one hand. "Don't move," he told the guard. "It is almost certainly a trap."

She stopped and turned. "I came down alright," she said uncertainly. "There's blood on the ground, though..."

"Fal's," the prisoner muttered, behind him. He glanced back, catching a tiny, sardonic grin.

"There should be two dead bodies - at least - in the other forks, farther up. I would be surprised if they didn't intend for a few more to wind up here."

The guard looked around, and her eye, by chance or intent, fell on the prisoner. "You," she said, thinking, and stopped.

The emperor remained silent; he had a great deal more information now than he had when he had come down this tunnel, and his spies should be more than equal to following the leads. The courier's continued testimony was, strictly speaking, unnecessary. She knew this, he realized, as she stepped past him, casting a worn smile in his direction.

"You should stand back, then," she said, "Both of you. The magic they use tends to be... explosive."

Tau - muttered something under her breath, but nodded. "Sire, if you would..." she gestured behind them, taking a few leading steps.

He looked once moe at the girl who'd let the revolution into his palace, standing half-turned towards them, waiting. She smiled again, and half-shrugged at him. He hesitated a moment before offering a salute in return. She grinned again, and turned. Tai raised her bow, nocked an arrow, just in case.

Dain stepped forward. There were two muffled booms in quick succession; the floor and ceiling erupted, and the prisoner let out a cry and dove forward in an attempted dodge. Tai dropped the bow to her side, the look in her eyes for just a moment half guilty, and strode forward.

"Oi, you!"

Something stirred, under the rocks, and Xerxes let out the breath he'd been holding. That was... good. He followed Tai; nothing further seemed to be falling, though he felt a tang to the air that put him on edge.

"I'm fine, thanks for asking," a faint voice muttered from somewhere under the rubble. Tai began shoving rocks out of the way, and the prone form of an ex-courier appeared, looking rather battered. "Sloppy work, for their usual standards," she remarked, her voice strained under the flippant tone. "Barely lethal at all."

"It wasn't aimed at you," he informed her, as he finally realized what the tang in the air was. "He must've figured out I was down here somewhere - tracked me, somehow. That's a poison you're smelling. It only works on my kind."

"...Oh." By now, combined efforts of the guard and prisoner had extracted her most of the way out of the pile. "Should you be breathing it in?"

He smiled. "It's not a full dose, at this distance, and mainly works through the bloodstream - as you can see, an effect they were rather counting on." For as she stood, there were several spots of thick greenish powder left on her skin, where it showed, and lacerations covered her upper body.

She grinned through the red mask. "That would explain every surface contact being sharpened. Smart work, them."

Tai studied both of them with an expression somewhere between curiosity and suspicion. "Let's get you out of here, all the same," she told him, moving towards the surface.

"Aye." He followed the two of them, adjusting his armor. No more fights today, but the time was drawing very near indeed.

Bah.

Oct. 31st, 2012 09:05 am
thulcandran: (Default)
So I was literally in the act of clicking the login button to post this when the power went out for good, the night before last. The morning revealed a telephone pole, cracked about four-six feet from its top, leaning at about a fifteen-twenty degree angle, and the afternoon revealed a tree that had split off entirely at the base, and taken down an entire net of power lines, a block farther south. Describing this to friends prompted "Oh God are you okay!" sort of reactions, but honestly at this point I'm under-awed by this kind of weather. This is the third such storm in two years, and at this point, it's just sort of "...really, another hurricane? Fine." I'm glad power's back on, though. Eating in the dark is more tiresome than you might think.

Now, without further ado, and given the quite unnecessary drama, the thing.


It's my job to tend the spiders. That sounds worse than it is, probably. The kids from the village probably would think so, but they don't know their arses from their elbows. I've been here in the keep for years, now, I don't know. Maybe ten? I remember when the land was at war, vaguely, usually when I'm waking up. I remember the village as a dim haze through smoke, and then nothing. I only saw it for the first time last year, other than that. The keep is my home.

I know more than they think, though. I know the keep wasn't always my home, I know I used to be in the village. I never knew my parents, but I think they must have been villagers. But when I was very small, too small to remember really, Hanna took me in, and I've lived here ever since. The village kids have said enough just out of earshot for me to know that this - well, that, and the generals. This village used to be under someone else, and the keep, too. There was a seige, some time, a long time ago I think, and now Lord Darvhill rules it. I don't know if he is a better ruler or not, but I think he must be, because the guards are always patrolling, and there isn't fighting anymore, not like there was so many years ago.

Hanna works for Lord Darvhill, she makes things run smooth and keeps the mold out of the castle and when the weather is bad, she keeps things from going worse. Last year, there was a lot of rain and it flooded and the villagers had to come into the keep. The guards weren't happy about it, but they couldn't do anything. They kept saying things went missing afterwards, that's when I got to see the village, we all went in to see about the headman and people getting settled in. The kids from the village said that Lord Darvhill was a vile hillman and his guards were petty mercenaries, and I got in a fight with some of them. Hanna was upset.

But things are mostly good. I tend the spiders, and collect the silk they spin, and Hanna uses it in her potions when she makes them. Someday I'll know how to do everything she does, she said. Lord Darvhill says he doesn't know what he would do if anything happened to her, but she said someday I have to take on her work so everything keeps going and the village stays okay. I don't know why the village wouldn't be okay.

Jared told me that Hanna kept the village from burning down when Lord Darvhill put the keep to seige, and that's why the villagers don't like her or me, because she was in his camp. I don't know why keeping the village from burning was a bad thing. If the villagers had burned down rather than let Lord Darvhill take the town and the keep, they wouldn't be around now to trade their wool and crops. Jared is the captain of the guard, and sometimes Hanna makes me go into the forest to get berries while she makes something for his neck that he hurt in the seige. I saw the scar once, it's down between his shoulders.

Once I walked into Hanna's room while she was helping his neck, and she was rubbing it between his shoulders, but I left before I saw anything else. She doesn't want me to see her with Jared, I think she thinks I will tell people. I don't know who I would tell, besides the guards, and they already know, I heard Korren telling him that he should have found a prettier witch in the village, and then Korren was cleaning the latrines for a week.

I know I'm supposed to take over for Hanna someday. But I think that when I am old enough, I'm going to go out the wall with Korren's son and we're going to the city to join the Emperor's couriers. They always need more people. It's dangerous, but it's better than staying here forever. We're going to see the rest of Fiel and then the whole world.

-Fin-

I shall note here that this piece, born merely of the first sentence, which just sort of popped into my head, ties both into the story I've been working on for the past few months, and the novel I plan to do starting at midnight tonight. During NaNo, to avoid trying to post anything coherent of the story here, I'll be breaking the short story into pieces and posting those in something resembling chronological order. Perhaps one a week, perhaps more. Iunno. Anyway, good day and good luck to you all.
thulcandran: (Default)
*gasp*

*cough, hack, etc*

...I am all but drowning in work right now. At first, *it was just homework, then it was homework and **assignments for the newspaper, now it's homework, assignments for the newspaper, and ***a work schedule back at my old job.

So life is good, but wicked busy. I'm still writing, here and there - my reading time has dwindled to while-walking-to-school/work and right-before-bed. But directly prior to all of this landing on me, I was working on what started as a daydream, became a little short story, and grew/evolved into something that's now 7800 words long and about 80% done. Unfortunately, I've hit a wall in what's either the last scene or the second-to-last scene, and the dialogue just isn't coming. So I'm going to write some stuff here that's geared to push the headspace towards a better understanding of the character whose dialogue is problematic. He's not actually the main character - but he comes in close second, and I'm thinking if I decide to be suicidally-workaholicish, I might try to follow his backstory for NaNoWriMo.


The captain bowed low, his face ashen as he stood again, waiting for orders. Xerxes thought, the sudden crashing of his reality working around his mind. He really hadn't expected them to move so soon... this would mean they were allied with everyone they needed, and, more importantly, they had found a mole inside the capital city. He did not doubt this would all become clear.

"Thank you, Captain," he told Sol finally. "You may return to your troops - I want Dar, Ronin, and Delia escorted out of the area immediately - you know the procedure. I will go into hiding at once, when it becomes possible. For now, as long as the perimeter is maintained...?"

Sol nodded mutely.

"As long as the perimeter is maintained, I will ready myself for battle, in the occasion such becomes necessary, and take refuge in the heart of the castle. Good luck," he finished, dismissing the soldier. With a heavy sigh, he turned the other way and headed for his own armory, listening to the bootsteps of the captain disappear in the other direction. This was not unexpected, it really wasn't. But he knew it would not be easy. Memories of his youth sparked and flamed in his mind's eye as he trod the backwards passages, up winding disused staircases and through hidden doors towards the chamber beneath his bedroom. His father's sword, swinging again and again; his brother Boris, rushing down the stairs with a wild shout. He wished he could banish the images - but they brought him courage, of a sort, and he reminded himself that it would be easier, this time. It would go smoother - he was prepared, there was no split, and the capital had been quietly awaiting this moment for almost two years now.

Still, he couldn't help thinking, as he girded himself with the old, worn armor, he wished he'd just had them all arrested, assassinated, and in general brought down. Foolish thought, of course - this boil needed to be lanced, merely pushing the leaders off the top wouldn't have worked. But it would've been nice.

He was on his way down to the root cellars for the city's Council district buildings when the next courier found him, breathless and... distraught?

"Sire!" The young man bowed low, hiding his tremor quickly. Xerxes was impressed.

"Speak," he commanded, continuing his walk.

"The traitor has been found - it was, it was one of our own corps, a girl called Dain - she was caught on Tobin's Wall by one of the sentries, and brought in. What orders would you send?"

Wild thoughts raced around his mind, for an instant, and he appraised the possibilities. If he had her executed now, he lost all possibility of gaining intelligence. Dain... ah, of course he had a memory of her, damn his failing mind in this chaos! If he had her sent across the city to the prison on the South end, he risked losing her, and any guards in escort, to the agents no doubt fighting in the perimeter. Where was the safest place in the castle, the place no rebels would... ah. Of course. He nearly laughed aloud.

"Send her captors to the Council district buildings, and tell them to seek out Vizier Raoul, and inform him of the situation. He will guide them further."

The boy bowed again and sped off in the other direction. Emperor Xerxes VI ran a hand over his face and quickened his stride. If they were coming from Tobin's Wall, he'd make it down to the tunnel just as they were reaching the safe room, as long as he hurried.

--Fin (of the hastily-written Prelude, anyway)--

*I'm taking four classes this semester! Lovely and awesome and great, except that it's a full-time load and wow, that is a lot of homework hours.
**I don't regret it! Joining the newspaper is awesome. It's just... a lot of work.
***Did I even mention this on the personal journal? When I decided to go into full-time classes, I gave notice at work and started training replacements. ...basically, things went a bit awry, and now I'm back.

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thulcandran

May 2013

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