Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Story Rises Again to Enthrall the World.

A few months ago I posted a post about how I was writing a online group story thing-a-ma-jig.  For those of you who may have been following it you may be asking yourselves "Where is the next installment by that daring and brash young writer we've come to know and love?"  Well it's not on the Story Blog (Feel free to take a look at Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.)  I'm not sure what has happened to my writing cohort.  He's probably just busy.  But the fact that it's my turn to write the next part has me fearing that you, dear readers, might be fearing that I wasn't writing it.  Well let me assuage your fears gentle readers and sate my insecurities.  Here is part four complete with scrounged pictures.  Please enjoy and discuss.

Part Four by me.
“A good question,” Redcloak said looking at Harlan who winced to himself before turning around.
“Now is not good time for this,” he said.
“We have a good half an hour or more before the Rune Kin can get through,” Redcloak said.
“And we should use that time to get as far away from it as possible.”
“I'd prefer to know just why we're dealing with a Rune Kin in the first place,” Redcloak insisted.
“But it's wounded now. Won't it stop, doesn't it need to heal or something?” Sally asked
Harlan started to shake his head “no” when Redcloak spoke.
“That depends on its runes. The Kin were created with powerful magic’s. Each one is different; this one may be “healed” already. It's hard to say because their strength is linked to their weakness. There is a correlation between the two. For example one might be invincible so long as it touches the ground. To kill it one would need to take it off the ground. The greater the strength the greater the weakness. That's why they hide knowledge of their existence; it’s a form of self preservation. It's why they kill all who know of them, or try to kill them at least.”
“You knew about them and you’re still alive,” Alric said.
“It hasn't killed me yet,” Redcloak corrected. “Whether or not I stay alive remains to be seen. It won’t stop until we're dead or it is.”
“How many of them are there?” said Sir Callahan.
“No one knows for sure. Not a lot. More than you'd want to exist. A dozen maybe less. One is more than enough.
“Will it bring others?” Sir Callahan asked.
“Doubtful. They're very individualistic. Asking the others for help would mean admitting failure. They would likely kill it and then come after us. But make no mistake, it would sacrafice it's self to the others rather than let us escape.”
“Has anyone ever killed one of them?” Kain asked. Redcloak didn't answer for a long time. The dark of the tunnel seemed to grow more oppressive. Everything quieting except for the constant muffled digging noises.
“There are legends,” Readcloak said at length, “but nothing verifiable.”
“Need to solve a puzzle just to kill the thing,” Kain muttered. “Won't stop. Won't rest.”
“Well depends on the Kin. It may need rest as part of its strength-weakness rune magic. The ones with less pronounced strengths have less pronounced weakness. Depending on how you look at it the less powerful ones are more dangerous. The relation is intricate and linked,”
“So what is its weakness, Inkeep?” Sir Callahan asked Harlan
“How should I know,” he answered looking back surprised
“That pouch you threw at it... what was that by the way?”
“Alchemists call it, dragon's grain. Pull the neutralizing cord and it burns like a dwarven smelting core.”
“Not something you'd expect to see in the hands of an innkeeper,” said Redcloak. “Not just because of the price either. No simple business man needs the destructive power of something so dangerous, yet so short lived,”
“Not unless one was running from a Run Kin,” said Harlan.
“Glad you had it too,” said Kain. “Although it does make one wonder why a Rune Kin would be chasing you.”
It kept coming back to that. No matter how Harlan tried to avoid it. The day he had feared had come. Even so it was not quite what he had expected. He was alive for one thing, and he gotten tangled up with a bunch the likes of Callahan, Kain, and Redcloak. He wouldn't tell them the truth, he couldn't. Not after everything he'd sacrificed. Not with someone like Sir Callahan waiting to pass judgment. Harlan could see the scales in the man's eyes ready to weigh in. He wouldn't tell them the truth but they wouldn't accept silence either. Redcloak knew about the Kin so no simple lie would suffice. He'd never believe a mundane reason for them to be pursuing Sally. So he latched onto an idea. It was straight out of a bard's song but it was grandiose enough to merit a Kin. Even if they suspected the falsehood the Kin was real and that might be enough to give credence to the untruth.
“Sally is the heir of Ielliane,” Harlan said.
“Ielliane?” Kain said, he sounded incredulous. “As in the mythic city of the mages?”
“The tales are true,” Harlan said. “Sally is the last mage of the air bound city. She is destined to unseal its people from their sleep and allow them to rain down wonders on the land.” Harlan tried not to overdo it, but the tale he had chosen was a particularly lavish one. “But only if she makes it to her twenty birthday. We just need another year and half.” The very last part was true at least. Eighteen more months. If he could just stay out of the Rune Kin's grasp for that long...

A violent explosion rocked the tunnel around them and roared through their ears. Dirt shook from the ceiling and walls while old wooden trusses groaned and creaked. Harlan thought he heard a couple snap. He feared the tunnel would collapse on them but aside from a few minor cave ins the beams held the earth back.
“That,” Harlan said coughing up dirt, “would be the rest of my dragon grain.”
“I'm a princess?” Sally asked. Harlan rolled his eyes.
“More than that,” he said and again he didn't have to lie, “much, much more than that.”
“I never knew... you never told me.”
“I've had you under an enchantment for years now. Think back girl do you remember your mother or father? Your childhood even? This whole life of yours has been a disguise to hide you from those who want to harm or use you and your gifts.”
“I think we may be able to help you,” Sir Callahan said looking very thoughtful. “Perhaps it is fate that has thrown us together. You see my friends and I have the Scroll of Valorian if you recall.”
“Valorian, wasn't he the god that taught the dwarves smithing?” Sally asked.
“He wasn't a god,” Harlan said before he could stop himself. Redcloak narrowed his cold eyes on Harlan which made him shiver. Sir Callahan harrumphed disdainfully.
“Well his godhood is, I suppose, a matter of opinion. Regardless, is he was a crafter of unimaginable skill. The scroll we have leads to one of his creations.” He turned to Redcloak and asked, “What we're after, the Blade of Tarsin. It could kill the Rune Kin couldn't it?”
“Well.. possibly,” said Redcloak, “It depends on the Kin's enchantments, it would at least give us a chance of surviving a confrontation with it until we can discern its weakness.”
“Then that's what we'll do, it's a lucky day for you innkeep, A Rune Kin comes calling on your door and some men who happen to have the means of defeating it are there with you.”
“Lucky day my missing arm!” Harlan swore. “I don't care what you do or where you go but me and Sally are going to run. We'll get on a ship and sail away so that the Rune Kin will have a harder time tracking us. Now come girl,” Harlan said motioning with the torch, “it's time to be gone.”
“I can't let you do that,” Sir Callahan said stepping between Harlan and Sally meaningfully.
“And why is that?” Harlan asked his patience draining.
“This girl needs to survive to her twentieth birthday, you said it yourself. Her best chance of doing that is by coming with us.”
“Survive. By going on an insane quest?”
“How long do you think you'll last without us?” Redcloak asked. “Especially now that you out of dragon grain pouches. Not to mention money, how much do you have on you now that your inn is gone.”
“I'll manage without you. I've done so for eighteen years, I can do so again. Besides wasn't your best idea about dealing with the Kin back in Speckled Dragon to run. No, I'm taking Sally once we’re out of this tunnel and sailing away. I don't care what happens to you. If you stay on land with any luck the Kin will hunt you first and it'll buy us some time.”

In Sally's mind she was weighing her options while Harlan and the others argued and weighed them out loud for her. Her world had just collapsed around her. Her entire life had been a lie, an enchantment concocted by Harlan. She was a princess, no, something more than a princess. Now that she thought about it she wondered why she hadn't seen it before. Her whole childhood was a blank. She couldn't even remember thinking about it before now. No parents, no siblings, no friends, nothing. Just serving at the Speckled Dragon.
Now a being that frightened some of the hardest of men she had ever met was hunting her. Harlan said he was taking her away from it on a ship. But he didn't sound too hopeful about escaping it. Redcloak and Sir Callahan did. And Kain was incredibly muscled and looked like he could take on a battalion of men. Then there was Harlan. Old, one handed, Harlan. The man that had lied to her all her life.

“I'm not going with you Harlan,” she said abruptly and loudly.
Harlan stared at her for a long minute.
“You what?”
“I'm not going with you,” she said “You've lied to me every day of my life. And now, if what you’re telling me is true, my life is in danger and I don't trust you with it.”
“What makes you think you have any say in the matter.”
“You don't own me.”
“This is not a decision you get to make, you have no idea the importance, the... crucial.... no idea what it's taken to get here nor what's at stake.”
“With all due respect innkeep,” Sir Callahan said with a decided lack of respect in his tone, “The girl has a point. I will not see her harmed. Not by that thing, not by you, not anything. Not while I live.”
“Who do you think you are? In my day-” but then Harlan stopped, he bit back his sudden anger, but just barely. It was no longer his day. He clenched his fist around the torch, which only angered him because it reminded him once more of what he'd lost and of what he no longer was. He looked at them all. Sir Callahan who stared back at him resolutely. Kain who looked bored but his posture was ready to fight. Redcloak stared with icy eyes intently as if he was looking through everything. Alric who had remained oddly quiet. And Sally who looked like she was about to cry. The tunnel was silent save for the digging noises still growing nearer.
“The Rune Kin is after us,” Redcloak said, “and if the circumstances were any different I'd say yes, run. But we have a chance here. If we can find the blade of Tarsin before-”
Redcloak was cut off mid sentence by Harlan's bitter, mocking, laughter.
“The puzzle sword?! The blade hasn't been seen since the war with the forbidden religion. And you’re going to find it before the Rune Kin finds you?”
There was deadly silence among the three, and by its quality it was clear that they were not accustomed to be being laughed at. Harlan's disdainful mirth drained away. He had only laughed because of the absurdity and the direness of the situation. Had he not laughed he would have broken into tears or madness. But now he was growing afraid. These men who surrounded him were dangerous and not just in the physical sense. Harlan knew of men likes these. Men who spoke and did great things so often they forgot their limits.
Not having limits is one thing. God's didn't have limits... usually. Which was why Harlan had done what he had...
But to be unaware of limits. That was an insanity common to both the hero and the fool. Only time could determine which was which. The difference was indicated by death. It was almost a type of magic. People had done the impossible because no one had told them it was impossible. The most wondrous things of all creation existed because of beings that defied their bounds. But there were also the most terrible nightmares made real by the same “magic.” That was what he saw in those three men's eyes. He remembered when he had seen it in himself.
“You’re all mad,” he said in a whisper that was as terrible as it was quiet.
The gravity of the situation had shifted into darker realms. Harlan wished he had the strength to strike them all down and take Sally, by force if need be. But he didn't. There was a time when he did, but it was long gone.
“You’re decided in this foolishness then?” he asked Sally. It took her a moment but she nodded. “Then you've decided for me as well. Let’s go find the blade of Tarsin.”


Do you know how tricky it is to find art on the internet that matches the tone, setting, and characters you've created in a story?  Considering the fact that none of the pictures I found were drawn for this story nor were they drawn by the same artist I think I did pretty well.  Of all of them Kain's picture matches the closest to what is in my head.  And good luck trying to find a proper image of a one armed innkeeper.