Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Last of the Silver Brotherhood

Another flash fiction challenge from Der Wendig over at his awesome blog terribleminds. The challenge was to completely fuck with a character, drag him through the mud and do everything you can to break him.
I think I might've succeeded on that one. 
This story is a little different from the other flash fiction, though. It's the first one posted on this site that actaully relates to 8th Age, the fantasy setting I'd created that got me wanting to write fiction in the first place. For the record it's not related to Paragon or The Tantalus Company, but it definitely takes place in the same world and shares many of the same themes which is why I created to 8th Age Apocrypha section for it and others like it.
As always please leave any and all comments and please to enjoy!

             Felexas gasped when the blunt end of his tormentor’s spear smashed into his skull. Pain flooded through his body but he refused to scream out. He would not give his bastard jailers that satisfaction.
“I’m not telling you whoresons anything,” he spat out. One of his teeth came out as well. “You’ll get nothing from me.”
                They slammed their spears into him again as a response. This time though he didn’t have the strength to respond. He could only lay and rest his cheek against the cold wet floor of the cell he was being held captive in. He felt his own sweat and blood roll drip off and pool in a puddle beside him. They spat on him one last time before they left, leaving him to the dark. His body was worn from his lack of food and sleep and the daily barrage of beatings. His muscles ached with a pain he’d never known was even possible before now. Still though, his body’s pains were as nothing compared to the pain inside of him, the suffering he felt within. He did not know if his liege lord was safe.

He was a proud member of the Silver Brotherhood, those patriots sworn to protect and serve Asam ap Mirh, the great liberator of Secunda and protector of the faithful.  Through his brilliance Mirh had rallied the Auric kingdoms and forged them into a weapon to strike at the apostate Prizrakis and their false idols before driving them into the sea, back to their desolate lands.  At the time it seemed as if paradise had come to the lands of Secunda, as all hailed and revered Mirh as if he were the prophet come again. Now though, barely five summers after the great victory against Prizrak, the paradise once promised was but a dream unfulfilled, and the faithful squabbled and feuded amongst themselves. There were many who prayed for peace, and many more who called to Asam ap Mirh to seize power and restore order to the realm as a new High King.

Though he knew not his liege lord’s mind on the matter, Felexas hoped that he would follow the latter course and unite the Auric nations into a single Realm devoted to the True God’s teachings. He had been a member of the Silver Brotherhood and had guarded Mirh’s life dearly for nearly three years now, and he loved his master as a son loves a father. The way the man commanded respect in a room the moment he entered it without even saying a word, the manner with which he commanded those beneath him, as if he were making a request rather than an order. The way he could look at you and make you feel as if you were the only person in the room who mattered. Asam was a god in Felexas’ eyes and heart, though he knew it was apostasy to even hold such feelings for  a mortal man.
 Felexas had no one else in the world; all of his family, his parents, his uncle, his sister, had been killed by the Prizraki, crucified for refusing to renounce their beliefs during the war. Just like them, he would not renounce or give in to his captors, whoever they were. He would stay forever faithful to his lord, even if it cost him his life. He would expect the same of any and all of the Silver Brotherhood.

A bright flash of light hit Felexas’ eyes, caused him to wince and squint as he made out three figures open the door and enter his cell. Two of them were the guards while the other was a tall, lean man, richly groomed.  

“It’s no use, m’lord,” one of the guards told the well dressed man. “We’ve been trouncing him for hours and he hasn’t broken. I don’t think we’ll be able to force him to fess.”

“A pity that,” the man replied. He accidentally stepped in shit, made a disgusted face and wiped it off on Felexas’ face. “A confession from him would have quelled any suspicion and lent credence to our story. As it stands we’ll just have to pin the murder on this silver brother. All the rest of them are already dead.”

A cold sinking feeling emerged in Felexas’ gut, and it seemed like his cell around him was spinning.

“What are you saying? Why have you done?” Felaxas’ said, and grabbed onto the well dressed man’s leg. The man kicked his hands away, and Felaxas was too weak to resist the beating. He did however keep yelling at the man, demanding answers he wasn’t given.

Finally the well, dressed man ordered them to stop. He looked down at Felaxas with an expression on his face that was equal parts loathing and disgust.

“We can’t have him howling out during the execution. The people might become suspicious if they hear him.” He scratched his gin with his finely gloved hand while he pondered what to do.  “Cut out his tongue and then get him to the executioner.”
He tried to fight back but failed as one of the guards grasped him and held his mouth open wide while the other drew a knife. He felt the the blade tear into the muscles of his tongue and the wash of his own blood fill his mouth and flood down his throat, nearly choking him. He tried to scream out but all that came was a rush of bile. They wagged his own severed tongue in front of his face, letting him stare in horror at it before they threw it to the ground and stomped on it like just another piece of shit. Afterwards, he barely felt them grasp him by the arms and carry him out of the cell.

He heard the crowd’s roar before he ever saw them as the guards dragged into the light of day and into the grand city forum of Deamoth.  At first they looked like nothing but a multi-colored, bobbing  sea, but as his eyes adjusted to the sunlight after so many days of darkness he saw that they were nothing more than an angry, hate filled mob eager to see blood spilt this day. The guards threw him onto the raised wooden platform before the crowd.  The city magister and another man stood there as well and Felexas recognized the other man as Veronus Tremplie,  the High Master of the Alchemist Guild and one of Asan ap Mirh’s closest allies. His confusion mounted as the shouting of the crowd turned to a crescendo so loud he could scarcely think. Surely Tremplie would stay his execution and put an end to this farce. Why would he risk offending his greatest ally by killing one of his bodyguards. His heart sank when he saw Tremplie smile and greet the well dressed man as he walked onto the platform and stood beside them. The magister smiled as well and stood forward with his hands raised, urging the crowd to silence.

As quiet fell over the city forum Felexas steeled himself, found some last part of himself that was not tainted with fear and humiliation. He would die with honor at least, and although he believed the well dressed man when he said his brothers were dead he knew that his master would avenge their death as well as his own.  

“We are gathered here today to pass judgement on this man Felexas,”the magister called out, his voice clear and loud enough to reach even the back of the mob. “Once a sworn silver brother and protector of the great Asam ap Mirh, he has forsaken his vows and committed a terrible sin that not even the One True God could forgive him now. Look upon him good people of Deamoth and know that here lays the apostate who has betrayed and murdered your great hero.”

The mob erupted, screaming out and throwing rotten fruit and rocks at him. He withstood the blows as his mind went numb and his world shattered. They’d murdered Asam. They’d killed him and his silver brothers and there was nothing Felexas could have done to stop them.  And now they would cover their sin by blaming him for it. He wanted to scream, call out to the crowd and tell them the truth of it, but all that came from his mouth was blood. He could do nothing now, nothing but watch as the executioner forced him down and shoved a wooden block beneath his head. A sudden thought  struck him then,  that he would forever be known as the traitor who betrayed his master and killed the greatest man since the prophet walked the earth, all whilst the real killers profited from his death.  His will broken, he looked out over the crowd and realized that the magister was still speaking.

“This was what bought the traitor’s honor and compelled him to the task,” the magister said, and threw down a bag of coins. “Base Prizraki silver seduced this faithless man, and whilst Asam slept he crept into his room and shoved a dagger into his heart. I ask you gathered faithful, should such a betrayal go unpunished?”

The crowd booed and hissed.

“Then watch good people! Watch and bear witness that justice is done!”

The was no last thought in Felexas had before the axeman’s blade struck his neck. There was only darkness and then, nothing.


Friday, 5 August 2011

The Market Price

      Friday's come around once again, and there's a new flashfiction challenge over at Chuck Wendig's terribleminds blog.This week's challenge is about flea market's and the kinds of stuff you can get from there. I tried to mix it up, and tell a story from the vendor's perspective. Somehow, though, the story kind of took off from there and went, well, let's just say 'left of center'. As always, comments are always appreciated and please to enjoy.
               The most important part of this business, kid, is finding the right mark. A lot of sellers at the market’ll play the numbers game, try to get as many people as possible. And yeah, I suppose that’s not a bad way to go. If you’re starting out or just don’t fucking know anything.

                How do I do it? Hey that’s a good question.  I like that. Shows you’re a lot smarter than you look. So my way’s a little more…selective. Where other vendors go for quantity, I go for quality. Only the special ones for me. Oh sure, I guess you could say that they’re all pretty special; you don’t get an invitation to this flea market unless you fit the special mark and you can’t get find us here if you don’t have an invitation. Them’s the rules and there’s no way in hell you can break’em.

                What? How the hell should I know who sends out the invitations? I’m just a vendor . I ain’t got nothing to do with that part. It’s management that handles that. You wanna know you take that up with them and you can find them right at the back in the dark shadow next to the boiler room. Yeah, that’s what I thought. So sit down and watch me do my thing. You’ll learn more that way.
 As I was saying the best way to get ahead at the market is to look for the best marks and you can find them by checking out their -- Yeah that’s right. I guess you could call it that. I like the term flavour myself but aura works just as good. You can read a mark like a book if you pay attention to their aura. For example…yeah, that one. You see her, the chubby one in the black t-shirt? Just take a look, a good look at the aura around her, the twists and whirls it gives off. What does it tell you? What was it that drew her to us, that made management send an invitation?

Yes that’s right; loss. She lost something very valuable to him…looks to be her… wedding ring. She’s not here to find it though. Which is good cause we don’t know where it is. She’s here for something else. Don’t call her over though. We’ll leave her for one of the other vendors.
                Now then, look what we got here. Tall guy in the glasses to your left. Take a good look. He’s prime. What’s his aura screaming out, hmmmm? Yeah, that right:
                ‘I should have been there when she died.’

                And that kid is a mark worth pursuing.

Excuse me sir, might I interest you some of the wares we have on display? Please have a good look; I’m sure that you’ll find something that catches your eye. How about this little ceramic unicorn statue or maybe this lampshade. Yeah, yes, it is a very diverse selection at this table. Take your time ...oh I see you’ve already found something. I have to say you have very good taste. Yes, it’s a very cute plush cat toy. It reminds you of your daughter? You don’t say? Well, if you want it I’m certainly willing to sell it to you… oh sir, no no no. Please put your wallet away. We don’t deal with money at the market here. It said so on the invitation you received. Oh course, I’m sure that slipped your mind. Now if you want it, please, just…yes, that’s it. Whatever you have in your pocket is fine. Some lint and old carnival tokens? You don’t say. I think we can make a deal. Kid, make yourself useful and bag the nice cat toy for the gentleman. Now if you could sir, just hand me the payment…Ah-ha.

                Hmmmm? No sir, I didn’t notice it get cold in here. Most likely a gust of wind I’d guess. This old warehouse isn’t exactly the most draft proof place in the city. Oh course, you have a lovely day as well sir.

                Now kid, take a look at this. This here’s the real deal. No, not the crap he gave me from his pockets, look beyond that. See that flickering light around it, the small glimmer that matches the guy’s aura? Yeah, that’s the stuff. A small piece of a soul in genuine, despairing pain. There’s nothing else in the world like it. You don’t see a whole lot of these at the market, and not too many other vendors know what to look for. But yours truly here can spot’em a mile away, and their worth their weight in…well, souls.

You see kid, that’s what we do here at the market. Every transaction gives the vendors a little tiny piece of the buyer’s soul and the more pain that soul’s suffered through the better the exchange. Hey, don’t look at me like that. I ain’t no necromancer, stealing souls like some kind of petty thief. Each buyer knows exactly what they’re getting into, what they’re giving up even if it’s only a partial understandin’.  And I know why they do it to, why they give up a little piece of themselves with each buy. It’s cause everyone here’s lost something or had something terrible done to them. And they’ve had to live with that hurt, that soul ache for so long that they just don’t want to deal with it anymore. They just want it to stop, period, and they don’t care how whether that’s through healing the wounds or just plain having it ripped out like we do here. I’m not sure what side we’re on in this, whether we work for angels or devils and I don’t give a shit either way. There’s nothing better in this world then collecting soul pieces from the marks and the …rush that you get when you get your hands on a new one.

Now you may think the whole thing's disgusting, but then again, you’re still here. I’ll give you one chance to walk away, forget all this and … oh, okay then. Good. Now that we got that out of the way, I want you to keep an eye out for any good ones. I have a feeling we’re gonna see a lot of business today. A lot of business.