Saturday, September 10, 2011

Story Time: A Paladin's Tale (Chapter 1: Weight)

The young paladin hid under his slumped shoulders, protecting the drink like a fortress with his arms. His eyes stared at the bottom of the glass. The pub was near deserted this time of day, except for a few mercenaries and barmaids. Those women, if any man ever looked at their faces and not their corsets, looked older than their years. Some had a kicked-dog look. This was not the cheery inn he rarely frequented. This was a place to become a shadow.

The thud of a gold piece hit the hardwood bar. The coin was made all the heavier from the jugs of the blood smelted into its alchemic mix.

A hollow voice spoke.

“Buy this young hero another ale, on me,” said a rogue. An assassin. Stealthy as love and as draining as a skipped heartbeat, the rogue smelled of oiled tannic leather and whisky-imbued sweat. His bloodshot eyes burned the back of the paladin’s neck.

Pushing back the gold coin has if it were made of goblin spit, the barkeep said, “Keep your money, blackguard. It’s not wanted or needed here. Get on with your business, and get the hell out.”

“Blackguard? You flatter me,” the rogue smirked.

Ignoring the glares of the weary innkeeper, the rogue turned his attention squarely on paladin.

“What troubles you, my friend?” the rogue slithered.

“I’m not here for conversation. Leave me be.”

“Ah, I see your stalwart reputation is true. You are a man of few words. But I ask again, and this is the last time, for I can slice out that tongue faster than you can tell me if the sun is out: what are your troubles?”

The paladin felt weakened. He was already at a disadvantage, having been in his cups since daybreak, and exhausted. He felt a need to surrender. He turned his head and looked at the rogue, face on.

“Just having a drink, friend. Nothing to report, and I want, or have, no trouble for you. What do you want?”

“Well, you were known to be an honest paladin, but now I am not so certain. Seems I have caught you in a lie. I have my own specialties, and detecting corruption is one of them. You sir, are a liar. You have plenty of trouble, hero," sneered the assassin. 

The paladin stayed in his seat, but shifted slightly. 

"There are those who have been searching for you. For some reason, and, I have no idea why, for you seem worthless to me, your family is concerned about your whereabouts." The rogue shrugged, continuing, "Seemed easy enough to find. So, little lamb, if you get lost again, I can lead you back to the slaughter house.”

“I will pay you double not to tell them a thing.”

Only the scythe of the Reaper outmatched the rogue’s patience. Timing was everything. Sometimes the best way to start a defeated man talking was to remain silent.

The paladin shrank, and said “I, er, can’t go back. I am done with being a champion for lost causes.  Their ignorance…it has become a burden to me,” the young man haltingly confessed.

 “Ah, I understand, sincerely and true. You do need a break, my friend. You have carried the stupidity and carelessness of a hundred misguided souls, haven’t you? But you should know –we assassins don’t give up our quarry without an accord. Let us come to some understanding."

Relief at knowing he had some control again, however miniscule, pulled back the paladin’s shoulders. He lifted his head, slightly, and the rogue's whisper chinked the armor of solitude and isolation.The words were like snake’s fangs, striking quick and deep. 

The rogue whispered, "A girl, it's always about a girl."

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

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