It’s been a long time. I intend to start posting semi-regularly again, so here we go! I wrote a (very) short story the other night. You know those moments when you’re lying in bed, but instead of feeling tired you get a surge of inspiration and if you don’t get it all out immediately it will surely evaporate and you’ll never get another chance? It doesn’t happen often for me, but it did on Thursday, and I thought I might as well put it out there.
Jan 18 2018
The sound of gold pieces jingling inside large packs was nearly loud enough to get the attention of the guards stationed around the grand house. If it were not for the extravagant fountain in the connecting courtyard, the thieves may very well have been heard making their escape. The three men ducked behind a wide column each as they waited for the courtyard guards to change shifts. The overconfident, or under trained, guards were very lax in their routine and paused to speak with those relieving them before heading inside. The thieves expected this and when the guards were sufficiently distracted they seized the opportunity to scurry along the courtyard wall to some shrubs large enough to hide behind. Once there the leader of the operation picked up and threw a rock the size of a crab apple over the 10 foot high courtyard wall. This signalled the fourth accomplice to throw a rope ladder over the wall so that the thieves could climb out of the courtyard and to freedom.
The Rock was thrown and the ladder was being positioned, but Lyma the thief was distracted by something in the middle of the courtyard. Or rather someone.
The owners of this grand house had a bizarre style of decor that mixed noble riches and beauty, such as the ornate gold painted fountain, with dreary, bloody macabre, such as the old man who hung strapped to a wooden cross, crucifixion style, about 15 feet away. The dirt below him was stained red with his blood. His tunic was in tatters and only covered the bare minimum. It seemed as though he had been there for several days, presumably without food or water. He looked to be dead already until his head lifted slightly and looked directly into Lyma’s eyes.
Lyma’s heart stopped. Even through the shrubbery that hid them and the darkness of a night with no moon, somehow this man stared straight at Lyma, straight into his eyes and then into his soul. A voice inside Lyma said “This is not where his story ends. Go to him.” Lyma took off his pack and set it on the ground.
“What are you doing?” hissed his accomplice Nerij. The leader, Ro, was already climbing the rope ladder, but stopped to look back and give a frustrated motion to the top of the wall.
“Take my bag, I’ll be right back.” And before either could protest further, Lyma snuck around the shrubs and ran as quickly, quietly, and as unseen as possible to the hanging man. He took out his dagger and cut the ropes binding the man’s legs then arms, and held him around his middle as he sunk to the ground. The man gave painful moans as his joints and muscles moved back to natural positions for the first time in days. And when Lyma touched the man’s back he felt thick cuts with dried blood and welts from being whipped. He was incredibly light, even after being starved he still appeared heavier than he felt. Lyma held the man against his chest, one arm under his shoulders, the other under his legs. Again he ran as discreetly as he could back to the cover of shrubbery and the rope ladder. Nerij was almost to the top now. His pace was slow because of the second bag. Lyma shifted the man to a potato sack position over his shoulder so that he could climb the ladder. It was awkward and slow going until they heard a cry from the guards.
“Hey! You there! Stop! Intruders! Sound the alarm!” Suddenly the quiet night air was a cacophony of chaotic cries, heavy and fast footfalls, bells ringing and horns blowing!
Nerij, Ro, and Clintan, the fourth, were screaming at Lyma to hurry up! They told him to drop the man he was carrying, to jump down the outside of the wall, that they would leave him if he didn’t move fast enough. But Lyma held firmly onto the man and somehow made it over and down the wall and then down the hill into the town proper and through their escape route until they reached their destination: a warehouse filled with disorganized crates and barrels, and a hidden back entrance that led into an apartment building with a basement, and another hidden entrance to an old tunnel that led out of town into a ravine know for it’s sink holes and where city guards did not dare to go. These four thieves however knew the safe paths through the ravine to a series of hidden caves. There they rested. All out of breath and ready to collapse. They had lost the guards far back, but didn’t allow themselves to slow their pace until they were completely safe. In the morning they would divide their loot. Some would pay off outstanding debts, some would go to needy families, much of it would be spent on gear and supplies to travel far away from this town, and the rest would be to spend on their new lives on the road to adventure.
All four boys sat catching their breath and letting their minds wander and dream about the wonderful new life that awaited them. They passed around a water skin that they had stashed in the cave, along with some lanterns, food and bedrolls for the rest of the night. Only when they had quenched their thirst and could breath easy did they turn their attention to the stranger that Lyma had brought with them. Lyma sat next to the man, propping him up and against his chest, across his lap, like a woman would nurse a child. Lyma brought the water skin to the man’s mouth, and even though he seemed barely conscious, he took a sip, and then another and another. The stranger drank and as the four boys watched by the flickering light of the lanterns a change began to happen. The withered, starved, beaten and bloodied old man began to transform. His sallow skin took on a glowing, golden complexion. His limbs shortened and he became not so gangly, but petite and proportioned, with curves at the hips. His greasy white hair grew long and thick and a dark, dark brown. And his face became that of a young woman, beautiful even under all the dirt and blood that remained. The thieves stared in awe, and wondered if this was really happening? The girl slowly opened her eyes. They were big and green, and when she looked into Lyma’s eyes his heart swelled and his breath caught in his throat. Her eyes told a story. It was a story of hardship and pain, but it ended with thanks. “Thank you” her eyes said. “You’ve given me life.” And she gave the same look to each boy in turn, and each one felt the same overwhelming feeling. Perhaps the feeling a mother has for a newborn, grateful for this miracle and a never-ending need to protect and cherish and love.
Later, on the road, after the girl had healed enough to tell her tale, the boys learned her truth. She was of the Forest People, magic users who lived off the land and stayed away from city humans. One day she had wandered too far and was captured by bandits. In the night, while imprisoned in an iron celled wagon on the way to the city to be sold, she transformed herself into an old man. When the bandits awoke she told them that the young girl was an elf and tricked him, a wandering beggar, into taking her place and in exchange she would grant him a great fortune. The bandits laughed at the beggar’s stupidity, but remorsed at their own lose. After capturing more prisoners from nearby small villages, the bandits took everyone to the city. All prisoners were sold, except for the old man. He was given to the Lord and Lady of the grand house to be on display in their courtyard while he died. And that is where he stayed. He was beaten and whipped and used as target practice as he hung. For almost a whole week he hung there. She hung there. She wouldn’t break her spell because humans would do even worse to her if they knew the truth. Many stories were told to young Forest People about kinsmen being dissected and experimented upon by greedy humans. So she stayed there, resigned to death. Until she felt a strange presence one night. A heart not full of hate, but love. She reached out with her feelings and asked for help.
A long time later she would return to her people in the Forest and tell them stories of her travels with the four humans who rescued her.