Thursday, September 30, 2010
Waylon Westman had three Ethermen living inside his body. Their unique talents allowed him to live a life an ordinary seventeen year old could only imagine. Today, that meant blackmailing the local magistrate, or trying to anyway.
Waylon paused in the shade of a stunted cedar. The dry desert heat twisted everything outside of the Magistrate’s grounds into watery lines over the cracked and barren earth. He rubbed his eyes. “Am I imagining things, or are there ponds beside the manor?”
Why would you be imagining things? Etherman Booka asked, his words just a voice inside Waylon’s mind.
“The heat… sometimes it makes mortal’s brains go a little… funny.”
Really? Truly, people are so fragile. I’m quite glad I’m not one. But no, you are imagining nothing. There is indeed a pond, and trees and vines, and potted plants hanging from the precipices of the towers.
Waylon smiled. If the Magistrate could afford to keep a pond filled and plants watered when the ground outside his estate baked into cracked clay, they would take a good haul.
“Are you ready?” he asked his Ethermen. He reluctantly stepped from the shade of the cedar and walked towards the Magistrate’s estate. The cedar he’d stopped under was close enough for the guards to see him speaking. They probably thought he was talking to himself, made crazy by the sun. Sharing his body with his Ethermen created some unusual problems. He’d lost count of the embarrassing situations he’d been in because he’d spoken to his Ethermen where people could hear.
We were ready some time ago, Etherman Booka said. You’re the one who wanted to wait.
“It’s hot out here!” Waylon motioned the surrounding desert. “I don’t expect you to understand. You don’t have to feel my skin cooking in the sun!”
Yes, yes, Booka said. We understand. You have such a hard life. At least you get to feel something. I’m relegated to entertaining myself through sheer mental exertion.
Waylon restrained himself from reminding Booka that he’d mentioned being glad he wasn’t a mortal only moments before. Doing so would only lead to a useless argument, and he had enough of those going on between his Ethermen every day.
Etherman Zeekoo grumbled. At least you have that! I don't get to do anything! Why does Booka get to play when I have to watch? It was my idea!
“Because Booka can control people's minds and you can't,” Waylon said, and then added, “Now shut up, you two.”
What about me? Etherman Woko said. Waylon tended to leave Woko out of such statements, Woko was the tamest of his three Etherman, probably because he could only change the appearance of Waylon’s clothes while Booka could control minds and Zeekoo was telekinetic.
You won’t say anything unless Waylon ruins his clothes! Zeekoo shouted at Woko.
“Shut up,” Waylon said again, this time he was close enough to the guards that he could see their muscles tense and the confusion on their faces when he spoke only a portion of a conversation, seemingly to himself.
“Zeekoo, just in case Booka can’t handle things, I give you permission to do whatever it takes to make sure we don’t get into trouble.”
Zeekoo cackled. So I can smash guards together? Send them flying into the air? Anything?
“Only if Booka fails!” He put on his best smile. “Well, no point in wasting any more time.” He threw his shoulders back and walked up to the black, wrought-iron gate. A guard stood to either side, each dressed in a pristine red uniform.
The guards glanced to each other, their hands going to swords hanging at their waists. “What business do you have with the Magistrate?” the older of the pair asked.
Waylon smiled and bowed with a flourish of his robes. “I’m here to alleviate the Magistrate of a few hefty sacks of gold and horses to carry them. Then, I intend to ride out of this gate and be on my merry way. Now, Booka, if you wouldn’t mind, please wipe their memories before they run me through.”
The guards’ eyes glazed over for an instant as Booka worked his magic. They blinked in unison. “Of course, sir,” the older guard said. “Follow the path to the front of the manor then take the stairs to the walkway, one of the servants will escort you from there. And may I add that it’s a pleasure to meet you. Always wondered what it’d have been like to brave the breech at Haren.”
“I’m sure.” Waylon gave a brief nod and held in a laugh as he paraded onto the Magistrate’s private estate. Yes, sharing his body with Ethermen came with some definite perks. He brushed his frazzled brown hair out of his eyes and whistled a merry tune.
Too easy, Booka said. Let’s hope the Magistrate presents a greater challenge. I could have made those guards do anything the moment I touched their minds.
“The guards aren't important. It's the Magistrate we need to concentrate on. Don't forget why we’re here,” Waylon said, and then added, “What did you make them think I was here for?”
I made them believe you were the High Lord of Terrilon, here to negotiate the use of some of Garion’s troops, Booka said.
Waylon laughed at the thought of someone thinking he was a lord, but put his mind back to business, or more accurately, to the bright purple robes he was wearing. “Woko, can't you think of something more appropriate? I look like a peacock; I need to look like a noble.”
But purple suits you, Woko said.
“Calm it down for now, please.”
Waylon blinked as his clothes morphed from bright purple robes into a midnight blue formal tunic which clung to his lanky frame and restricted his movement.
“Thanks, Woko.” He nearly tripped as his loping strides were cut short by the confinement of his new outfit.
I'm going to make you look like a rainbow once we finish.
Waylon sighed and continued toward the manor. Sometimes he wished he could have the benefits that came with his Ethermen without having to constantly appease them.
The white cobbled path to the Magistrate's home wound between lush grasses and under sprawling golden oaks. The smell of sun blossoms floated on a cool breeze. The manor proper was as immaculate as the grounds on which it resided. White marble columns held up a lofty walkway over a series of sparkling blue ponds. The mansion was formed of the same gleaming stone, set in a series of domes successively reaching higher and higher, like a giant set of steps. The last dome stood nearly a hundred feet in the air, a monument to the Magistrate's wealth.
Waylon strode up the steps to the elevated walkway and walked along in its shade until a servant in a long black coat came into view. Waylon slowed down and tried to calm his breathing before the servant came close enough to speak.
“May I help you sir?” the man said with a bow.
Another dim one, Booka complained.
Waylon couldn't see Booka work his magic –he never could– but the servant's eyes glazed over for an instant and then he turned on heel and motioned for Waylon to follow. “I am so sorry, sir. I didn’t recognize you at first. The Magistrate will be most pleased that you’ve arrived.”
“Who did you make him think I am?” Waylon murmured.
The Magistrate's father. Booka laughed dryly.
Waylon followed the servant through sparkling corridors of marble. Colorful tapestries of every sort spotted the walls and the occasional bust of a figure long dead sat upon a golden pedestal, Waylon could probably fence one and buy a dozen homes. As they walked, they passed several servants in sleek black and crimson livery who barely glanced Waylon’s way, likely Booka’s work.
This is boring, Zeekoo said. One of the tapestries came off the wall and stretched taut on its side. Hop on.
In no mood to argue, Waylon stepped onto the tapestry and sat down. As soon as he was seated it floated down the walkway behind the servant.
Do you know how much work you are making for me? Booka said. Now I have to go inside every servant's head and convince them they didn't just see Waylon floating by.
Zeekoo sniggered. Didn't you just complain about your part being too easy?
“Shush you two. I can't think with you jabbering in my head like that,” Waylon said.
The servant turned around. “What was that, sir-” he turned back to the path and continued walking at one of Booka's mental promptings.
After some pleading, Zeekoo let the tapestry down and Waylon hopped off just before they reached the study where the Magistrate sat behind a large oak desk.
“Excuse me sir,” the servant said to the Magistrate, “I have not made accommodations for your guest. If you please, I will take my leave to do so now.”
The Magistrate waved the servant away without looking up. “Now Nicolas...” His eyes widened and then his brow furrowed at the sight of Waylon. “Who are you and why are you here?”
I can't do anything. Something is wrong. I can't even sense his mind! Booka squealed.
The Magistrate rose to his feet in a flash, sending the desk toppling and the papers on it scattering across the room. “You dare to enter my home with those creatures?” he roared.
Eep! Zeekoo exclaimed. He knows about us? How does he know about us?
“I...” Waylon fumbled. “Zeekoo do something!”
I tried! I can't! Run Waylon!
“You impetuous fool. Why are you here? Speak quickly!”
Waylon tried to turn to run, but it was as if his legs were cast of lead. His lanky body snapped erect with his face straight toward the Magistrate as if his whole body were being held by invisible ropes.
“I-I-” Waylon stammered and beads of sweat rolled down his face. “I thought you might be i-i-interested in m-m-my abilities as a p-purveyor of m-mystical a-a-amusements.”
The Magistrate strode forward. He was an average, un-extraordinary man in every way but one. His eyes. He was of middle age with short brown hair, sprinkled with gray. He wore a deep crimson cloak over a white shirt and black pants. But his eyes lit up as with an inner flame.
“Do not lie to me, boy. Do not think me so ignorant as the mass of miscreants which wander the streets. I know what you bring into my home: creatures of the Ether realm! Why are you here?” his voice did not come out as a yell so much as a loud, crisp command.
“N-nothing more than that, my lord,” Waylon said. His eyes burned as sweat rolled into them. “I live a simple life as a traveling magician. It's true what you say; I have brought these creatures, but only for the purpose of plying my trade. I didn't know you... I didn’t mean to offend.”
Lie better you dummy! He will never believe that! Zeekoo said.
“Is that so?” The Magistrate was suddenly perfectly calm and composed. He closed the distance between them and took Waylon's chin in his hand, moving the boy’s head back and forth in examination. “I do not believe you. But you are no threat, only a fool playing with forces he does not understand.” He turned around and went to sort his papers. “I’ll keep you locked up, of course, just in case I am mistaken.”
“Sir... I truly meant no offense.”
The Magistrate let out a chilling laugh which sent Waylon's teeth chattering. “And none has been given. You shall receive your reward for your actions.”
What do you suppose that means? Booka said.
“But sir-” Waylon cut off as the invisible bonds holding him up disappeared. The sudden release almost sent him to the ground, but he caught himself just in time to see the Magistrate flick a hand in his direction. The world spun for a moment and then everything went black.
When Waylon woke his wrists were chained together and he was in a dank cell in a set of filthy rags. “Woko...”
The rags blinked into a bright red conical hat, a sky blue vest, and baggy yellow pants.
The rags made more sense, Woko said in a small, squeaky voice.
A haze clouded Waylon's thoughts and his head pounded. He tried to grab at it, but the chains restricted his movement. “Zeekoo, can you do something about these chains?”
Nope, nope, nope. Can't break metal, can't undo locks. I can lift up some floor stones. Does that help?
You really ought to stop asking him questions. He is incapable of intelligent thought, Booka said.
Shut up! Zeekoo retorted.
Woko whimpered. Nobody cares about me. There’s no one to see the beautiful clothes I've made for you in here…
“Will you all please be quiet? I need to think.”
He examined the room around him. The floor and walls were made of solid brown blocks two feet across. The room was four paces by three paces with only an iron door. Slivers of faint light squeezed around the doorframe; otherwise, the room was black.
“None of you could do anything in the presence of the Magistrate... Can you now?”
It is hard to say, I don’t have anyone to test with but you three, Booka said, sounding as if he hoped to get permission to play with one of their minds.
I’ll try! Zeekoo said. A bit of dirt in the cracks between stones floated lazily into the air. That’s it? Something is still wrong. I can barely do anything!
I can, Woko said, for once sounding as happy as could be.
Of course their powers weren’t blocked. Woko had already changed his clothes, hadn’t he?
That’s only because what you do is easy! Zeekoo said.
Woko cried and Waylon did his best to shut them all out. To his surprise, the inside of his mind suddenly went completely silent, but the emptiness lasted only a moment.
I find a similar restriction upon my abilities as Zeekoo, Booka said.
“You played with my head?”
I thought, given the circumstances, you would not be opposed to me granting your request for silence, Booka said. Plus, I did have to find some way to see if my abilities were intact. I believe I can function at probably one-fiftieth of my usual power.
Waylon leaned against the cool stone wall and closed his eyes. For ten years he’d wandered through every major city in the Spire Kingdoms. And while he’d met a few people with minor abilities that neither he, nor his Ethermen could explain, he’d never run into abilities as strong as the Magistrate’s. “Could he have Ethermen of his own?”
The Magistrate? Booka said.
No. Not even the most powerful Ethermen could dampen or stop our abilities.
That’s not true, Woko said. His crying had died off during the talking and he was back to his usual timid voice. Wakoro can do that. But he couldn’t be here.
I wasn’t aware Wakoro had such abilities… Booka said, for the first time ever, with some level of deference in his voice. Are you sure?
“Who is Wakoro?”
He’s the Lord of the Ether Realm, Booka said, though it sounded as if he was stopping himself from saying more. Odd. Booka loved to talk, especially when he could make someone feel stupid for not knowing something, to hear him hold back was unusual. “Why couldn’t he be here, Woko?”
He’s bound to the Ether Realm…
“Well, if he’s bound to the Ether Realm, then it doesn’t matter.”
The Ethermen had never talked much about the Ether Realm. For some reason, Waylon hadn’t imagined there would be a lord of it. Why would there? They were just spirits. The idea was a curiosity, but Waylon needed to face the reality of being locked up. “Okay, well, we know it isn’t him. Do we have any ideas how the Magistrate stopped you?”
A voice came from the hallway. “Quite easily.” The door opened and the Magistrate stepped into the cell, wearing a satisfied smile; behind him stood one of the gate guards, staring blankly ahead. “Your Ethermen have quite… singular gifts. Mind control and telekinetic powers are quite rare, even among Ethermen. As for that,” he motioned to Waylon’s clothes. “I’m not sure what to call that trick. It is rather amusing though, isn’t it?” The Magistrate’s robes changed colors as he talked, from red to yellow, to black, and then back to red. But Waylon noted the Magistrate’s clothes did not change form, as Waylon’s clothes did when Woko used his ability.
My abilities have been nullified again, Booka said.
The amusement and joviality dropped from the Magistrate’s face, which made Waylon nervous, until the chains binding him suddenly and for no apparent reason unlocked themselves and fell to the floor. “Branen here will show you about the estate. You are free to do as you like under two conditions: you do not hurt anyone, and you do not try to escape. I assure you, either of these acts will end with your death.” With no more ado, the Magistrate turned and left.
Why do you think he came down here just to tell us someone else was going to show us around? Zeekoo asked.
He’s afraid of us, Woko said, matter of fact-like.
He couldn’t possibly fear us, Booka said. We can’t hurt him with our abilities. We are no threat.
I don’t think he’s afraid because we could hurt him, Woko said.
Woko, you don’t know what you’re talking about¸ Zeekoo said. He could squash Waylon and we couldn’t do anything. He probably just gets pleasure out of capturing people and making them work for him. I know I would.
We’re not all as evil as you, Booka said.
Zeekoo started to retort, but suddenly the blank faced guard named Branen stopped staring blankly and finished walking into the room.
“Hi, I’m Branen. I’ll be showing you around. What’s your name?”
“Waylon.” Then, figuring if he was going to find a way out of the mess he’d best start gather whatever information he could, he asked, “Does the Magistrate always show up like that before letting a prisoner out?”
“The Magistrate?” Branen stuck his head out the door and looked up and down the hall in a panic. “Did you see him? I just know he’s been looking for a reason to finish me. Ever since his medallion went missing he’s been out for us guards.”
There’s another interesting development, Booka said. Apparently, the Magistrate can do a bit of mind control of his own. Which leads me to believe he didn’t want Branen to hear about our abilities. Oh, and I can use my abilities fully again. Perhaps we were only partly limited in what we could do so he could safely observe our powers?
“Why don’t you leave, if you’re so scared?” Waylon asked, trying to focus while Booka mused.
Branen gave a nervous laugh. “Right, as if that’s a choice. You didn’t figure it out when you got thrown in here? Service to the Magistrate is a life sentence; ain’t a one of us here by our own choice. Far as I can tell, we all did something to set him off. Me, I tried robbing him.” He gave a sad laugh. “Stupidest choice I ever made. What did you do to fall on his bad side?”
Waylon couldn’t help but laugh. “The same thing.” He’d never had any real friends outside the Ethermen, having voices in his head made that a bit difficult. But Branen seemed like the type of guy he could get along with.
Branen stuck out a hand and helped Waylon to his feet. “Well, Waylon, welcome to the darkest hell this side of the Spire, probably anywhere in the world. Well, that ain’t so, I guess. I heard they got some prisons that treat you real bad. Making you eat other people ‘n such. At least we get decent food. Just got to stay on your toes and out of his way. Course, if he wants you, best to do exactly what he wants, quick as you can. That’s how you avoid his… tricks.”
“What do you mean?”
The Magistrate’s abilities, you imbecile, Booka said.
Waylon had to stop himself from scolding Booka and telling him to shut up. For all of Booka’s self-proclaimed intelligence, he often lacked the ability to reason out what Waylon was trying t do. In this case, that meant fishing for information.
“He can do some things that isn’t natural. Weird things like making you see stuff that ain’t there. Sometimes, I think I can even hear him in my head. But Jimn says that’s just me imagining cuz I’m worried I done something wrong. One time I saw him make a fire in his hand with no strike stones. That’s why nobody tries to escape. Poor bastard tried when I first got here. I never seen someone take so long to die. The Magistrate tied him up, ten feet in the air, then made him sweat out his own blood for two weeks. He kept feeding him and making sure he had ‘nough to drink too, just so the bastard would stay alive to suffer longer.”
Branen shuddered and took a look around before he continued. “Like I said, best just keep your head low and be quick about doing what you’re to do. Speaking of, I’m supposed to show you to your room. You lucked out, got a nice one in the top tower. All fancy up there. Course, that’s where he sleeps, so maybe not so lucky. Guess you’re one of the smarter ones, huh? Never seen him ask for reports on his visitors before. Don’t know what you could possibly have to say that he couldn’t figure out his-self. Well, come on.”
He talks more than you do, Woko said to Booka, who went on at length explaining how that wasn’t so. Naturally this led to a fight between the Ethermen that gave Waylon a tremendous headache, and also made listening to Branen almost impossible, which was fine, since he seemed to be rambling anyway.
Branen led Waylon out of the little prison and into the fresh air beneath the elevated walkway he’d been on earlier. The door placement was a clever trick of angles, coming out at the edge of the pond so it looked like a stone instead of a door. Not that anyone who came calling could see it anyway, hidden from the path as it was.
They reached Waylon’s new room and Branen excused himself, reporting that he’d be killed if he took any longer getting back to his rounds.
Nice place, Zeekoo noted. Maybe this won’t be so bad.
The room was every bit as brilliant as the estate. The walls, floors, and ceiling were all the same gleaming white marble. One side of the room was colonnades opening to see the western side of the estate, and the muddy wash of sunset across the desert floor beyond. In the center of the room was a plush bed beneath a crimson silk canopy that held at least a dozen silk covered pillows. A writing desk sat in the corner with a stack of fresh parchment and a stoppered-ink-well.
I hope he doesn’t expect you to write your reports, Booka said, apparently latching onto the parchment and connecting it with what Branen had explained of his duties.
“Might be I’ll finally get to learn.” He hoped he would. If he was going to be stuck in a bad situation, he might as well grab any good thing he could until he figured a way out.
Who needs to write? Zeekoo said. Waylon’s got us. Writing’s for people who can’t find a better way to make money.
Writing is for the educated, Booka said. Of course I wouldn’t expect you to understand. It seems to be regarded with high esteem. Indeed, from what I’ve gathered, the ability to read and write grants one status among mortals. Naturally, Waylon would want to learn.
I want to learn, Woko said quietly.
You? Zeekoo laughed. What for? You couldn’t do anything with it!
Could too! Woko insisted, but Zeekoo just kept laughing.
Another servant in black and crimson livery entered the room, silent as can be, and frightened Waylon since he hadn’t seen the man until he spoke. “The Magistrate is to meet with a friend in short order. He requires your attendance in the antechamber and gives instruction to: figure out what the old fool wants so I don’t have to listen to him drone on all night.”
Waylon nodded to the servant, but stood there, uncertain where to go.
A droll smile crept across the servant’s face and he said, “Follow me.”
They walked to the antechamber in silence, well, silence in the world around them, Waylon’s mind pounded from the arguing; Zeekoo was bragging about something and Woko was quietly insisting that Zeekoo bragged to compensate for being an idiot.
The antechamber was a small room, little more than a widening to the hallway, that Waylon had passed through when he’d first gone in to meet the Magistrate. The servant leading him nodded to a simple desk beside the wall then took his leave.
Waylon wondered what he was to do, when a man appeared around the corner. He was an older man, perhaps in his fifties, graying hair and all lines as if he spent much time smiling, and frowning.
“Well, who’s this? A new toy? Mofin is awfully fond of collecting servants. His personal retinue could easily match the King’s. But that is no matter. I take it you are here to inform your lord of the arrival of his guests. As it pleases you, my name is Nicholas Dunwall, and he’s been expecting me, and I daresay, letting himself become annoyed that I’ve taken so long to arrive. Will you take my name to him?”
Waylon sat dumbfounded for a moment. He wanted to talk to Booka, to ensure the Etherman was peeking around the man’s mind, but he hated doing that when eyes were focused on him. “Nicholas Dunwall… I will inform the Magistrate of your arrival.”
Waylon pushed the door open, and whispered under his breath to Booka, “Did you figure out why he’s here?”
Of course. He’s a strong-willed one. A decent challenge, for once.
Zeekoo laughed. You couldn’t do anything to the Magistrate and you still act as if you’ve had an easy time with every fool you encounter.
Waylon forced himself to concentrate and ignore the argument that was starting up as he gently closed the door behind him and stood before the Magistrate. He had his head down, a pen in hand and was scratching away at bleached parchment.
Without looking up he said, “Well? I assume you know what you’re to do or you wouldn’t be standing there. Out with it.”
Booka laid out, line by line, essentially what Nicholas was there for, and Waylon repeated the Ethermen as he went along. “First, he is hurt you did not attend the wedding feast for his daughter; he wishes to know if the gift you promised her will be forthcoming; the Magistrate of Forest Rise is hoping you’ll attend him and sort out a brigand issue, and lastly, he is wondering if you’ve found an answer to the problem he presented to you at his last visit.”
He also wants mutton with sautéed green tomatoes and leeks for dinner, Booka added.
Waylon repeated what Booka said and the Magistrate looked up and laughed. “Waylon, I wish you’d come here sooner. I would have been two hours getting all of that from Nicholas! Well done! You are excused. Let him in.” The Magistrate buried his face back in his papers and waved Waylon away.
Waylon returned to the antechamber and Nicholas asked, “Am I free to enter? Or has your master deigned to make me wait as I have made him?”
“You can go in,” Waylon confirmed. The old man disappeared into the room and Waylon was once again, left sitting and wondering what he was to do next.
You know the Magistrate will be busy, Zeekoo said after Waylon had voiced his thought. Let’s find something to steal and get out of here!
“Do you remember what Branen said? The Magistrate will catch us. You’ve already seen some of what he can do. I’d reckon he has a few tricks up his sleeve…”
Zeekoo cackled. The Magistrate’s a fool who’s forgotten to keep an eye on us. Even if he could track us, he’ll never keep up if you hop on another tapestry and I fly you away.
“That’s what we need, half the kingdom raving about me flying away on a tapestry. Think of the problems that would cause.”
He speaks sense, Booka said, a rare admission. I don’t know what capabilities the Magistrate has, but I think he’s overly confident and underestimating the fullness of our capabilities. Let’s find a storeroom, take what we can, and be gone. We can be careful about staying apart from roads and cities until we’re safely away.
We should help the others he’s trapped here, Woko said, meek and quiet as ever.
Too much work, Booka said, noble as it would be. That’s not why we came, and Waylon would end up dead or worse if he tried helping others escape.
We should at least help Branen, he’s nice.
You take to liking people too easily, Zeekoo said to Woko.
People are better than you think, Woko said.
“Enough,” Waylon said. “Argue later. First we need to find something to steal and get out of here. If we can, we’ll try to bring Branen along. Will the extra weight cause problems for you moving us, Zeekoo?”
Zeekoo snorted, or made a sound as if he had, since Ethermen couldn’t actually snort. You’ve moved boulders as large as wagons. What do you think? It’s not that much extra work to hold the tapestry taut and move it around with an extra person.
Waylon nodded to himself. He could see this working. The blackmailing hadn’t gone anywhere near expected, but if he could get away at all, even if he didn’t manage to steal something, he’d be happy. And maybe afterwards he could find a way to get the people the Magistrate had enslaved freed…
“Let’s find Branen.”
He’s making a walk of the wall, Booka said.
“How can you tell?”
Look out the window.
Sure enough Branen was outside the window, in plain sight. Waylon rushed down the hallway, and down the sets of stairs that led to the elevated walkway. The light chopping of water against stones echoed off the marble around them and the sun beat down in the distance, but was oddly gentle on the grounds themselves.
“Branen!” Waylon called out.
The guard turned towards him, and drew his blade uncertainly. “What’s wrong, Waylon?”
“Put the blade away. I need your help.”
“With wha-” he cut off and his eyes glazed over for a second and instantly he was nodding.
You’re welcome, Booka said. He knows our plans and he wants to do it. Or I should say, I’ve made him believe he wants to come along. If it’s too out of his nature that might not hold for very long.
“Okay, let’s go,” Branen said. “He’s got a small storeroom with a few valuables at the base of the tall tower. It won’t be locked. We couldn’t get into his strong-room even if we had the tools and a week, but there should be something worth taking. Will we need food?”
He’s not so dumb as he looks, Booka said.
“I’ll show you the way to the storeroom. You round up what you can while I grab some provisions.”
Branen rushed across the green yard and into the shadow of the tower. On the backside of the building there was a small trap door, he produced a key and crawled inside. “I’ll meet you back here in a few minutes.”
Waylon nodded and Branen took off.
Adjusting to the weak light of the storeroom took a few moments, but soon Waylon was looking over a smattering of valuable odds and ends. A gem encrusted dagger sat upon a shelf next to a moldy tome. A gilded mirror sat dusty in the corner. Pieces of fine armor, blades, and books were sat scattered about with old linens, used writing desks, and a cart axle.
I’ve got it.
The mirror and gem studded dagger floated over and set down upon a sheet which unfolded itself. Bits of armor and some of the finer blades whipped across the room to settle down on the sheet as well, one of the nicer looking books, and an unopened, but obviously full pouch which Waylon hadn’t seen, soon joined the pile. It was only a minute before the sheet held what looked to be the best of the rooms belonging and Waylon was tying it into a pack that would be easier to carry.
“You made short work of it,” Branen noted as he came back into the room carrying his own little pack of supplies. “You said we’d be able to escape. I’m ready, what do we do now?”
We need to go back and find a tapestry, Zeekoo said.
Does it have to be a tapestry? Booka asked. Couldn’t you use a sheet?
A tapestry would work better; it’s stiffer, and would take less work to keep it taut and move around at the same time than a sheet would.
Waylon nodded and left the room, heading for the hallway lined with tapestries. Branen followed.
“Are you going to tell me what’s next?”
“You’ll see,” Waylon said.
Branen mumbled something about being strung up and foolish notions. “Wait, what about Jimn?”
“Who’s Jimn?” Waylon asked.
“He’s one of the guards. I can’t leave him behind. Or Dosen, or Jak. We can’t leave everyone behind!”
“Do you want to escape or not?” Waylon asked.
“Of course, but-”
“No buts. It’s just you. I can’t help anyone else. Either you come now or I leave without you.”
“Okay…” but there was serious hesitation behind his words now.
They found the hallway with the tapestries and one floated off the wall, stretched taut and Waylon hopped on. He turned to see Branen’s eyes go wide.
“You’re like him…” he stepped back, his eyes clouded over for an instant, but the moment they saw the tapestry again he began to yell for help.
“Go!” Waylon screamed.
They zoomed out of the hallway on the tapestry. His hair flapped in the sudden burst of wind and he nearly fell backwards off his flying ride.
I knew bringing him was stupid! Woko, you always get us into trouble! Zeekoo said.
“Right,” Waylon said. “It’s Woko that causes the problems. Shut up and go, now!”
They were almost to the wall when the tapestry simply stopped in mid-air, as if they’d hit a wall, and then it fell. Waylon smashed into the ground and had the wind knocked out of him and his senses raddled.
“So soon to test me?” the Magistrate called from across the yard.
Even through the pain of trying to suck in another breath Waylon recognized the Magistrate’s voice and panic set in. He rolled to his feet, clutching his chest and trying vainly to get a scrap of air. His head ached and it felt as if he’d sprained a wrist when he’d landed.
The Magistrate was walking calmly across the estate grounds and Waylon couldn’t even whisper to his Ethermen for help, not that he thought they could do anything now.
And then he was clad in gleaming armor with a sword in his hand, though neither seemed to weigh anything. “Woko?” he grunted. Breath started pouring back into his lungs, but it ached and stung and was labored.
We won’t go back into a cell! Woko said, in his confidence he sounded nothing like the timid Etherman Waylon had always known him to be. The Magistrate can’t stop what I can do!
“I don’t understand…” But questions for Woko would have to wait, at the moment his blood thumped through his veins and all he could think to do run the Magistrate through with the blade Woko had created. He charged forward, blade held clumsily before him. In the back of his mind he could hear Booka and Zeekoo frantically asking what was going on, but he was only dimly aware of their words.
No sooner had he begun running than he stopped much as the tapestry had. Like his first encounter with the Magistrate he felt invisible ropes coil around his body and snap him erect and immobile.
“That,” the Magistrate said, pointing to Waylon’s armor and blade, “Is no ordinary trick. How have you done that? You shouldn’t be able to do that.” There was a brief flash of hesitation in his eyes before the confidence and gloating crept back. “It is the third Etherman, isn’t it? Tell me little Etherman, what is your trick? I find it intriguing, though hardly of use when the boy can’t move, don’t you think?”
He doesn’t know what I’ve done. I can stop him, Woko said. Keep him talking, Waylon. I just need a few moments…
“You won’t stop me this time. I’m leaving,” Waylon said.
The Magistrate laughed a chilling laugh, but it sounded forced and lacking his usual coolness. “Truly? Well I shall stand and await your efforts.”
When Waylon didn’t move the Magistrate laughed once more before growing somber. “I could give you a better life than the one you seek, boy. You came to rob me? You came to make your fortune? I have more than I could need.” He motioned to the growing number of servants looking on. “I have people to attend my every need. I have everything. A part of that could be yours. I won’t deny you your usefulness. Those Ethermen are a gift, and you’ve wasted them. You’ve squandered them. Now, when I’ve given you a fine room and a chance to make a real life you decide to run? Run to what? What do you have that is better than this?” Once again he gestured, but this time to the grounds around him. “It is never cold on my estate. It is never hot. You will not go hungry or need to worry about being caught when you try to pull another one of your stunts…” His words trailed off and the fire behind his red eyes went out, and he looked… certainly not terrified or worried… confused?
I’ve created a barrier about him; he’s cut off from his power. Go! It won’t hold long, Woko said.
As Woko spoke the invisible bonds holding Waylon simply went away. He swung the weightless sword in his hand and rushed forward, ignoring the aches and pains caused by the fall with the tapestry.
Zeekoo cackled more fiercely than Waylon had ever heard, it was almost frightening, and the blade leapt out of Waylon’s hand and zipped forward like an arrow to the Magistrate’s heart.
The moment the blade would have touched skin the Magistrate reached forward with inhuman speed, grasped the blade and it evaporated into silvery dust. He looked for an instant as if he wanted to speak, to offer some retort, but the fire behind his eyes was gaining strength again, and instead his brow narrowed and he held forth both hands.
Waylon was raised into the air and flung against the wall, the armor took most of the impact, but he still felt as if he’d fallen all over again. A warm trickle ran through his hair and down his neck and the coppery tang or blood filled his nostrils.
He’s trying to stop us again, Booka said. I have an idea…
Waylon blinked and realized Booka had made five of the guards rush the Magistrate. It was enough for whatever block the man was putting in place to drop away completely. Zeekoo used the opportunity to send the Magistrate flying, and smashed him against the wall, not a pace from Waylon.
In the din of things, Waylon forgot about his Ethermen, forgot about everything but wanting to finish the man before him. He dove with his arms stretched out and put his hands around the Magistrates neck, but his sprained wrist blossomed with pain and he pulled back.
But the Magistrate’s focus was not so lost. He pushed Waylon away with an invisible force, stood erect and the air about him began to glitter and grow cold.
Ice crystals formed in Waylon’s nose, clogging them and making his breathing labored. His lungs felt as if they were being stabbed from the inside. Needles pricked every part of his body and all he could do was scream.
Beneath his screams he could hear Woko yelling something and then just above the Magistrate’s head a boulder three times the size of a man appeared, and fell. There was a loud cracking of bone and squishing of flesh as the boulder crushed the Magistrate, but there was no time for reaction, no time for screams. He was simply there, and then gone but for a small pool of blood that leaked out and quickly soaked into the ground.
“You killed him,” Branen said, his voice hollow with wonder. “You killed him!” He ripped off his crimson tunic and threw it to the ground and spat on it. Many others did as well, and soon the grounds were filled with shirtless men grinning like fools.
Waylon stared at them dumbly then collapsed from the exhaustion and pain. His insides burned and the feeling of needles had only lessened, not gone away.
“What do we do now?” an elderly servant asked, still fully dressed and wringing his hands.
Waylon cursed and rolled to his side, grabbing his gut and emptying to contents of his stomach. The sour taste of bile coated his mouth and its stench filled his nose. “I don’t care,” he mumbled. “Go away. Do whatever you want.”
Get up, Waylon, Booka said. They’re looking to you.
“They should look somewhere else,” he said under his breath. “What do they care what I think?”
Branen’s hand was on his shoulder. The young guard smiled down at him, offered a hand and pulled Waylon to his feet. “You’ve set us free, Waylon.” He smiled broadly. “I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a worry eating me inside… now…” he looked around the estate and the smiling and nervous servants that stood about. “I’m sorry about earlier… I shouldn’t have called the Magistrate; I was just frightened is all. But this is good -you’re a good man. Even if you ain’t natural.”
Waylon managed a weak smile, but even that was more than he felt. “I came to rob him, Branen. I’m not a good man. He’s dead because I wanted to escape. I didn’t do this to free anyone.”
“Aye. But you tried to free me. And he’s gone nonetheless. ‘Sides, you’re not the only one who came here looking to fill their pockets. Ain’t a man of us here wouldn’t be in jail somewhere. Least now we have a chance.”
Waylon nodded. “Best take your chance and get going then,” he said loud enough for all to hear.
Everyone in the yard hesitated.
They’ve been stuck here too long. They don’t know what to do with freedom, Booka said.
“Will you stay, my lord?” one of the shirtless men asked.
“Aye, stay, my lord,” said another man.
“The coffers are full!” another exclaimed. “We’ll stay on. It won’t be so bad with him gone.”
Waylon looked on in shock. “I’m no lord. I don’t want to stay. I wouldn’t even know what to do!”
You can’t stay, Booka said. The Magistrate was an important man; the King will send men to investigate when they realize he’s gone missing. You need to leave. Everyone here needs to leave. Tell them.
Waylon related what Booka had said, and many faces in the crowd looked dismayed. Then Waylon spotted Nicholas, the elderly guest he’d let into visit the Magistrate just before trying to escape. The man met his eyes and held them with a look.
“You can come to my estate, those who wish it,” he said. “I’ve no illusions about why you are all here. Magistrate Mofin was never a good man. He had treachery in his heart and enslaved you all. I don’t care the cause; no man should ever have done such things.” His eyes never left Waylon’s and behind his words Waylon could tell the man was speaking to everyone but him.
“I’ll be on my way,” Waylon said.
We could stay, Zeekoo said. Booka could wipe the minds of everyone who comes to investigate. He could make everyone think you’re the Magistrate. All this could be ours!
For an instant Waylon considered it, but he shook his head. “There are lines we shouldn’t cross. Lines we shouldn’t have been crossing. We’ll find another way to make a living. One that doesn’t involve messing with people’s heads and stealing from them… Something that won’t end with us in a cell if we mess up.” He felt as if he ought to have known that all along, but somehow, seeing all these people, all these men and women who had been slaves because the paths they chose to follow, it set something in his mind straight. “We could do something good for once. Like we did helping these people.”
You want to be a hero now? Booka said, exasperated. Should we get you a sword and you can charge in on a horse to save the day?
“Oh, it doesn’t have to be like that,” Waylon said, aware that many confused eyes were on him for what appeared to be a one-sided conversation. “There’re a lot of ways we can help. We can do something.”
Yeah, Zeekoo said, not sounding all that thrilled about Waylon’s notion. But if we’re going can we get going? We still need to get far away, ahead of the rumors so people don’t think it was you who killed the Magistrate.
We should go, Woko agreed. He sounded timid and quiet again.
“Aye,” Waylon mumbled.
Every eye on the grounds was on his, wondering, curious, some even looked a bit afraid. Nicholas stared at him the most intently, but the elderly man didn’t say anything more.
“Good luck,” Waylon said to them all, and then he hopped onto the tapestry and with Zeekoo’s help, zoomed over the estate walls and across the cracked desert floor. “Woko, you’ve got some explaining to do…”
Zeekoo laughed loudly inside of Waylon’s head. What do you figure everything we got is worth?
Waylon looked at the tied up bundle of sheet with the gem encrusted dagger and gilded mirror inside. “Who knows? Enough to give us a start, whatever we do.”
Sunday, May 16, 2010
So you might be saying, “Brandon, who cares?” Or you might just not care. Either way, you’re in an understandable position. Should you care about this? I don’t know, and as vaguely ironic as it is to say, I don’t care. I’m writing this because that’s what I do. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll end up with a hodge-podge of thought interesting enough to read to the end.
Moving beyond tangents and side notes, tonight’s lack of sleep has led to a rather… how might I say, enjoyable period of self reflection. One in which I realize that despite being far from the situation I desire to be in, I still live in Hawaii, still go to the beach, still have incredible friends I can rely on, and still get awesome on a regular basis. Oh, and I’ve got some amazing happenings on the horizon, such as Orson Scott Card’s “Writer’s Boot Camp.” It’s these moments of happy reflections that leave me wondering why the deuce I have unpleasant sleepless nights at all. From where I’m sitting the good weighs about a buck ninety-five and the bad comes in at a measly thirty cents. Not too shabby, I’d say. So what gives? Seriously. That wasn’t rhetorical. Anyone have answers for me? Is it a simple fact of human nature that we must inevitably dwell on what sucks when we’ve got a plate of awesome at hand? I don’t believe so. When I hear the crashing of waves, the wind rustling leaves, and smell flowers in the air, or experience any other handful of incredible sensations every day, I think of how incredible life is. What is it about a queen sized bed in an air conditioned room late at night that tends to make me think, “You know what, the terrible stuff in life counts for more than the good stuff?” I’ll leave that question open.
It would be nice to come to some kind of resolution, or find some kind of forward progress through the course of writing this. But this isn’t a story. This is my mind churning things over. I’m not the hero, changing for better or worse. I’m just sitting here, looking at my clock, thinking I ought to sleep. Heck, I’ll give it a shot. Probably won’t work though.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Where to start? I know, a quote from my younger, well traveled brother who’s toured the world playing piano. “Everywhere is pretty much the same.” You know what? I agree! Not to say Japan wasn’t awesome, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by the differences, so much as the similarities.
We drove to my place of residence for the trip (the ever so hospitable Mierzejewski family home) after 17 hours of travel. The moon was up, the stars were out, and I was tired and sore from being cramped up in an airplane seat made for the average Japanese person, who I’m guessing is not 6’2”! The first thing that struck me as we drove were the lights: I felt like I could have been driving the strip in Vegas, in fact, I said so. Pachinko parlors lined both sides of the streets, a rainbow of lights polluting the night air. And what are pachinko parlors? A place to gamble of course. I suppose everywhere is pretty much the same.
When morning came the next day I discovered I’d traveled thousands of miles to visit an island that had nearly identical flora and fauna to my home in Hawaii, albeit slightly greener. Ironwoods tainted the mountainside, banyan trees sheltered coves teeming with plant life, and hibiscuses bloomed with fair regularity. I suppose everywhere is pretty much the same.
I spent the next few weeks going on hikes, exploring beautiful waterfalls, experiencing the local culture, being lost in a sea of people I didn’t understand, and eating food that added a nice layer of padding around my midsection I intend to start working off immediately. Was it fun? Certainly! Was it terribly different from what I’ve experienced so far in my life? Not really. Minus being the tall bearded man in the land of little people who didn’t speak my language, and a few cultural oddities, I could have been exploring Hawaii.
So what did I do that stood out in my mind while in Japan? I took pictures of cars with unusual names. Did I expect to see a “naked” driving down the street? Of course I did, my hosts told me I would. But I think it would have shocked me otherwise. And you can tack on to that cars named: Cami, Gina, Super Saloon, Succeed, Life, Move, Cube, Comfort, Vitz, Every, Custom, That’s, and a dozen more. What else was different? I’ll tell you! Any semi-decent apartment building (usually near the ocean) was called a mansion. Funny, considering the rooms are like college dorms (I’m told… I didn’t go invading people’s homes). Even places that are pretty much the same have their quirks, I guess.
I’m not going to spend pages and pages spilling the stories from my trip. The snorkeling was amazing; the sites were inspiring, thought provoking, or just simply weird; and the food was delicious. I’ll give you one story, and that’s all you’ll get from me out of here. I’m not a huge fan of writing lengthy descriptions of the awesomeness that is my life (you know… like going to a zip-line park. Awesome).
It all started with an hour and a half drive and an hour and a half hike --correction, make that a two hour drive and a three minute hike. Those other times were false estimates I was given. Imagine my disappointment in learning my daylong hiking excursion would be cut to a brief walk. Lame. Not to worry though, we managed to salvage the day! The hike led to a series of waterfalls with large deep pools. The first thing I noticed? The waterfalls were smaller than I’d hoped. The second? A rope-swing. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Me, Michael, and Drew were hopping from rock to rock, looking around and generally enjoying the natural beauty around us when I turned and heard Drew squeal. That probably wouldn’t be the way he’d choose to phrase it, but that’s what it was. “Ahh! A Habu!” He yelled this and scampered away. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t until my visit) the Habu is a poisonous snake that’s venom causes your muscles to rapidly swell to the point that that burst, leaving nasty wounds that often split the skin as well. I’ll say his reaction was justified. But me, I’m an idiot. Did I stay away? Of course not, I ran over to see it, and upon doing so realized there was only one logical course of action: I had to kill it. I certainly couldn’t let a poisonous snake be stalking my afternoon turf. I looked around, picked up a good sized rock, and used my non-existent pitching skills to hurl the stone at the snake, striking it about 1/3 of the way from the end of its tale, and cutting it off. Good thing I can aim from five feet, huh? I didn’t really think what would have happen if I’d missed. But I’d like to think that doesn’t matter, because the god given talents I got from my dad have imbued me with a primal, snake killing awesomeness that can only be described as sheer manliness (hey, I’ve got to have something that ups my testosteroneitivity; these lanky limbs and not-quite-low-enough-voice certainly won’t do the trick for me). And that folks, is how I became known as Brandon the Snake Destroyer. Drew calls me a Tweed though. Yeah… it’s an insult…
Remember that rope swing? Let’s get back to that.
With the snake dead we all had time to move onto the object of my attention: the rope swing. Yeah, baby, time to bust out the back-flips. Oh wait! I’ve never done a back-flip off of a rope-swing! Heck, I can barely do one off of low rocks and diving boards. But I certainly couldn’t let that stop me. After three attempts that left me looking completely retarded (and somewhat less manly than I hope to appear to the general public) I finally got one right. It wasn’t pretty, but I flipped, I hit the water, and I came out smiling. Of course, that means my little brother Michael had to take a shot, nail it on his first try, and make it pretty in the process. What a jerk. It’s not enough that he’s a concert pianist, an awesome surfer with a body to match, and makes girls hearts explode when they look at him (we won’t get into what happens when they look and listen to him playing…), but he has to show me up even when its just us an our good buddy Drew? Yeah, jerk. Of course I’m only partially series. Michael is the man, I’m just envious of his many mad skills… moving on!
So after a few dozen back-flips, and a cut up shin from slipping on the rocks climbing from the water, we decided to migrate to the larger falls with the smaller pool. This falls was a spiraling series of cascades roughly as high as Waiamea rock which I’m putting somewhere in the 25-30 foot range. The water at the bottom was churning and somewhat murky. Should I jump in? I can’t tell if there are rocks… Correction, I can definitely see a few rocks, but I’m not sure about the area I plan to jump to. Drew tells me he’s seen people do it, though discourages me. Michael eggs me on. Come on, we all knew I was going to do it even if there were rocks, I’m brilliant like that sometimes. So after giving a show of a few minutes of terror (I assure you, I was fine, don’t listen to what anyone else says) I decide to take the leap. Short fall, but long enough. I hit the icy water and went down, down, down. No rocks. But that’s no reason not to mess with those you care about. I made sure I stayed down a bit longer than was necessary, and when I finally rose to the surface I let out what I’d like to believe was a blood curdling scream. You know, that one that inspires terror and hints of unspeakable pain? Apparently I fooled Drew. Classic. Michael knows me too well. Still, I thought it was funny. It made me smile and laugh. Rage!
And thus was my experience that day. It didn’t end there, but the interesting parts of the story do. What did I learn from this and many other experiences? Michael was right. Everywhere (at least that I’ve been) is pretty much the same. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a bunch of unique experiences from the small differences that make all the difference.
Till next time Japan – Let’s Get Awesome!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Click here to check out the cage match tournament and see how different characters have done!
Round 1- Fight!
It was night, and the harvest moon hid behind a wandering cloud as Drizzt Do'Urden entered the Waystone Inn. The room was louder than usual, no silence tonight, but the sound of blades being drawn was not lost in the din.
Though Kvothe had been expecting the drow, he’d decided against sending away his patrons. Let them see a show, he thought. He’d fought legendary characters already, and never once an audience. Who else could have convinced a God to withdraw from such a contest? Bast had been at him for months now, trying to get him to live again. What could be a better surprise for his pupil?
Say one thing for Kvothe, say he was a performer.
He put down his rag and glanced to where Folly rested on the wall, sword play wasn’t dramatic enough for his mood. If he was going to break from this carefully crafted façade, he wanted to shock everyone, even Bast. “Put those away, there’s no need for violence.”
“You must know why I’m here.” A muscle tensed in Drizzt’s forearm, hinting at a readiness that bellied the casual gait the drow used as he approached the bar. The detail would be imperceptible to most, but then again, Kvothe, even as an innkeep, was unlike anyone else.
Silence filled the Waystone. Not a silence of three parts, as was common lately, but the anxious silence of a crowd waiting to see what comes next.
“Leave now, Drizzt Do’Urden,” Kvothe said into the silence. “Mortals should not tread wear angels and demons lay their claim.”
At once the hearth-fire turned blue, the metal in the room rusted, and a deathly chill sprung to the air. The color drained from Kvothe’s eyes until they were black, his already pale skin became white ice, and the flame-red hair upon his head burned with intensity of a true inferno.
“But you’re just an innkeep now…” Twinkle and Icingdeath clattered to the floor, filling a new silence, one of wonder, one of awe, one of terror. “You’ve lost your sympathy… You’re a dried up wizard, that’s what they say.”
“That’s what they say, is it?” Kvothe showed a mouthful of razor sharp teeth in a mock smile that brought the scent of urine from more than one man in the room.
As quickly as his appearance had shifted before, Kvothe changed again. His icy skin now shone opalescent, the dancing flames upon his head quietly returned to normal, and his eyes lost their black sheen and bore a kind touch and an angelic glow about them.
“I’ve started many rumors to suit my needs. I’ve played many parts in life. But remember one thing, Drizzt Do’Urden, I am Kvothe the Bloodless, I am Kvothe the Kingkiller. You believe what I want you to believe, because that is the face I’ve presented to the world. That is the story I wanted told. Do you think I wouldn’t deceive those closest to me to conceal my secrets? What better way to hide the truth from the world?” Kvothe turned to Bast and gave him an apologetic smile, but his student simply stared, dumbfounded, having lost the presence of mind to hide his Fae origins.
Drizzt looked on, suspicion and confusion, and most of all fear, all warring across a face most people who assume to be devoid of emotion. “Tricks and lies. I know your type, Kvothe. Your tongue may be silver, but you are no more than the rumors you’ve created for yourself.” His hand inched to a leather pouch at his belt.
The pouch on Drizzt’s belt erupted into flame and the small onyx figurine inside melted and dripped onto the drow’s leg. He stopped moving and stared in disbelief as his scimitars on the floor turned to dust.
“That’s not sympathy, Reshi,” Bast whispered.
Kvothe reached behind the counter and opened a secret compartment he’d built in below the wine rack. From inside he pulled a polished lute. It was neither grand, nor shabby, but merely adequate in appearance. He smiled. “No, Bast, you’re right. It’s not.”
He strummed a chord, the lute was perfectly tuned, and then he began to play. In that moment Kote the innkeeper of the Waystone Inn, was no more. Kvothe played the sound of sadness, he played the wind blowing through the trees, and with each crescendo the noise grew, its properties refined, until the melody permeated everyone in the inn, and every eye was full of tears.
He played until his fingers bled, and when he stopped, the Waystone Inn was silent.
“There’s no need for violence,” Kvothe said into the silence, with a forlorn look to his lute as he set it on the polished countertop.
“I’ll explain later, Bast. Suffice it to say, your master is a quick learner. You don’t spend time around the Chandrian and the Adem without picking up a few of their tricks.” Once again emotion drained from his eyes and he fixed Drizzt with a stare. “You may stay if you like. This inn is no longer mine. I’ve put up with this farce long enough. I thought I’d finished this when I let that fool ‘Kingslayer’ believe he’d killed me. But I see now I’ll never find rest no matter how far I run, where I hide, or how many I slay.”
Kvothe looked to each person in the room, letting the full weight of his gaze rest upon them. “My name is Kvothe. And you may give me whatever name you wish. I believe I've paid for another tonight.”
“Wait,” Drizzt said. “What do I do now?”
“That is the question, isn’t it?” Kvothe winked. “Consider this a gift.”
One moment Drizzt Do’Urden stood in the Waystone Inn, the dust of his cherished scimitars at his feet, and the next he was gone, sent to Mielikki’s embrace without a word.
Suddenly, Kvothe smirked. “I think I’ll go explain to Rand Al’thor how balefire works when he uses it on people who aren’t a part of his precious pattern.”
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
*Inside the Octagon* (aka a cage- as in cage fighting)
Colin Tu: Remind me why we’re here again, guys?
IS: It’s our turn to show you something we like to do.
Bob: Yeah. Plus, it will be good for you. You know, help you deal with those guys that pick on you at school.
Colin Tu: I don’t know… Wouldn’t you rather just play RPG…?
*Bobdonius and Interesting Steve share a glance*
IS and Bob in unison: No.
Colin Tu: (sighs) Okay. So, what do I do?
IS: Good question! I’m going to attack you, you stop me. Got it? Bobdonius, tell him what he’s doing wrong.
Colin Tu: No… I don’t know wha-
*Interesting Steve attacks! In an act of pure athletic majesty, he runs and jumps into the air, grabs Colin Tu’s head, and throws one leg around his neck while bringing the other leg up beneath Colin’s right arm. In an instant, Colin Tu is on the ground, his neck and arm firmly synched in a fully locked triangle choke*
Colin Tu: Ah, I give, I give!
Bob: See, you did two things wrong there, Colin. First, you don’t say, “I give” you “tap out” by tapping the other person’s body to let them know you quit. And second, you shouldn’t let him do that to you. Next time punch him in the face or something.
Colin Tu: Really? I don’t want to let him do that to me? Are you sure? (mumbling) stupid fighting… I’d win if I had my sword…
IS: What was that Colin?
Colin Tu: Nothing.
*Interesting Steve and Bobdonius proceed to “lay down the smack” upon Colin Tu for another half an hour*
Colin Tu: (panting) Okay guys. I tap. I’m tired of this. Can’t we do something else?
*Bob and IS laugh*
Bob: Sure, Colin. What’d you have in mind?
Colin Tu: (smiling) I’ll show you. Let me towel off real quick though.
*Colin Tu goes to his duffle bag and pulls out a towel, towels off, then pulls out a four foot long Styrofoam guarded plastic sword*
Colin Tu: (calling over his shoulder) Ready guys?
Bob: Sure, Colin.
*Colin Tu smiles and spin around, running inside the cage with his sword held high. Interesting Steve is on the mat, facing the other direction Bob starts to warn him, but is too late, Colin Tu bashes Interesting Steve on the side of the head*
Colin Tu: Bam! You’re dead!
*Colin Tu runs over to Bobdonius and proceeds to beat him atop the head with his fake sword*
Colin Tu: You’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead! *rears his head and laughs* I’ll show you “Ultimate Fighting!” You’re puny skills are useless against my sword of MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter slaying!
IS: Colin, what the hell?
Colin Tu: No, you’re dead! *runs over and smacks Interesting Steve aside the head again* And the Ultimate Fighting Gods frown upon your weakness, and they give all your skills and all your talents to me!
Bob: You’ve got to be kidding…
Colin Tu: Well, that was fun guys!
Colin Tu: Hey guys, when we get home, do you want to play RPG?
IS: How does he always manage to ruin this?
Bob: I don’t know, dude. I don’t know…
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Colin Tu on YouTube (narrated by Drew)!
I think it's fair to say that most people in society today have noticed a trend among "pretty girls." What it is about them that causes such garish behavior is beyond me, but here's a little something based off an interaction I actually saw at the store the other day. (Rhyme added in because I felt like it, not because it happened that way)
The Pretty Girl
“Hello,” he said, as she walked by.
“Excuse me?” she said, not catching his eye.
“You’re beautiful,” he said, hoping it worked.
“That’s nice,” she said, much like a jerk.
“You’re funny and charming, what every man wants.”
“I know all of this,” she says as she taunts.
“Could we go out?” he asked with some hope.
“What do you think, you stupid dope?”
“Well that’s not very nice,” he said, his cheeks fully red.
“Neither is your face, and I’d rather be dead!”
“Forget you then!” he screamed, as she walked away.
Then she turned and smiled and said, “See you at eight.”
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Without further ado... here is my story: Appearances
His last shower and shave had been over a week ago. His hair was mangy, his beard unruly. The clothes he wore hadn’t been laundered in twice as long. He didn’t feel like the type of person he knew he appeared to be, but that hardly mattered to most people.
Modest Victorian homes lined the street, shaded by black walnuts, hemlocks, poplars, and a smattering of other trees. Most of the lawns were neatly manicured already, he’d bypassed those. This yard looked like it could use a trim, and a few hours of work with the bushes and planters that surrounded the immaculate white house.
He rang the doorbell.
A woman was talking inside, most likely on the phone, by the sound of it.
The door opened.
A woman in her mid-thirties stood there. She was well dressed, wearing golden earrings, and had her hair done as if she were going somewhere.
“May I help you?” she held a phone by her shoulder and eyed him with a disdain he’d gotten used to lately.
“I wondered if you needed some help with your yard.”
“No, we’re fine, thank you.” She moved to close the door.
“Only a few dollars, please.” He’d never been much of a salesman. “I’ll mow the lawn, trim the bushes, pull weeds; anything you can have me do.”
She hesitated and looked at him again, differently this time. She put the phone to her ear. “Jill, I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
“My husband usually takes care of the yard.”
Fairly typical in a neighborhood where the homeowners had enough to pay him for a little work, but not enough that they’d have a lawn-service company over every week. “Well, if you can.”
She nodded, still standing just inside the door, still measuring him. Whatever she saw in him must have put her at ease. “I’ll open up the garage for you.”
He smiled. At least that much about him didn’t set people off. “Thank you, Miss.”
“It’s Sandy. You?”
She led him to the garage and opened it. “Mower and weed whacker.” She pointed to each. “And gas, if you need it. I’ll be inside when you’re done.”
He nodded and she wandered back to the house.
Most people didn’t expect someone who dressed, looked, and smelled, like a bum, to do a very good job. He liked ruining people’s expectations.
He spent the next hour mowing the lawn into a perfect checkerboard pattern, then went to work on the hedges. He was meticulous; every blade of grass, every clipping got taken care of.
While he was weeding a flowerbed along the porch he caught Sandy watching him through the window. He smiled and continued to work.
People didn’t expect much from him, but that didn’t stop him from doing his best to make sure their yards looked better than they ever had before. It was late afternoon by the time he finished. He stepped back and looked at his handiwork and then looked to the other houses on the street and smiled to himself.
“Finished,” he said when she opened up the door.
The look on her face this time was very different than when he first rang her doorbell: kind, with a hint of pity. “How much do I owe you?”
He shrugged. “Whatever you think is fair.”
She looked him up and down, and then looked at her yard, then back at him again. “Do you want to come in and get cleaned up? I could get you something to drink. You must be thirsty.”
“I could use a drink, if it’s not too much trouble. But I don’t imagine you’re husband would be pleased to have a random man in his house.”
“Nonsense, it’ll be fine. You worked hard. Come in and get washed up.”
“He’ll be home soon?”
“Will your husband be home soon?”
She checked her watched. “In about thirty minutes. Why?”
He nodded. “I’d love to get washed up. Do you mind if I wait until he gets back? I won’t be any trouble. I’ll just sit on here on the porch.”
Sandy ran her fingers through her glossy brown hair. “Well aren’t you a special breed?”
“I don’t like causing other people problems, that’s all. I realized there are certain lines not to cross that make this easier.”
“That makes sense. Well, let me go grab you something to drink at least and I’ll sit out here with you until he gets back. Or would that be crossing a line?” She winked at him and he loosened up a little.
“That should be fine.”
She returned with a tall glass of ice water, which she gave to him, then took a seat on one of the porch’s rocking chairs. “Have a seat.”
He did and drank from the glass slowly, enjoying the cold running down his throat.
“So, Aaron. Do you mind if I ask a question?”
“You’re what, twenty-five?”
“Twenty-two,” he corrected her.
She raised an eyebrow. “Okay, you’re twenty-two. You’re obviously a hard worker. What happened? How’d you end up… well, like this?”
He took a sip and sat in silence for a minute, not sure how to answer, or if he wanted to. “Life.”
“Not the type to open up much, are you?”
“Well, I’m sorry life has put you here.”
She laughed rubbed the back of her neck. “I don’t know. Seems you deserve more, that’s all.”
“Could be nice,” he admitted. “But I’ll take what I can get. Besides, it’s not bad. I make enough to get by, that’s more than a lot of people these days. You take happiness where you can find it.”
Sandy stared off and said quietly, “Special breed, indeed.” After a minute she snapped back. “How do you do it?”
“I don’t know a single person on this street that isn’t some kind of miserable. Jobs they hate, marriage problems, or just little things. But they’ve all got nice homes, food, clean clothes; they’ve got everything they need. You show up looking like last weeks garbage, no offense, and you’re like… well, you.”
This time he laughed. “I’ve got my worries and problems. Just none of them seem that important when you’re busy trying to stay alive. It’s not like I don’t wish I was in a better spot, or had more, but right now life’s dealt me a different hand.”
“You don’t seem like the homeless type.”
“You know many homeless people?”
Her eyebrows scrunched together. “I guess not.”
“Then how do you know?”
“Well, usually they don’t do anything. They don’t go find jobs and work; they just beg and wait for handouts.”
“Do you think they start that way? Do you think that’s what they want? Some of them maybe, but a lot of them are just people who fell on hard times, or who put themselves in hard time and don’t know how to get out, so they give up. A lot of them try really hard. They go out and do whatever they can. Do you think I went to college for yard care?”
“You went to college?”
He nodded again.
“So what happened?”
“I got a job, things didn’t work out. Some other stuff in my life fell apart when that happened and I ended up doing this.”
“Well that’s a detailed explanation.”
Instead of responding to what she said, he decided to ask a question of his own. “Why are you all dressed up? I thought you were going out at first. Did you just get back from something when I came?”
“What? No. I just like feeling pretty sometimes, that’s all.”
“Maybe I just feel like being grungy sometimes.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Could be why I’m like this.”
They spent the next twenty minutes talking. She asked questions, he answered them without giving any useful information about himself. She pressed; he resorted to dry comedic responses. She gave up on questions and started talking about herself.
A blue Toyota sedan pulled up, cutting off one of her stories. “Just a second, let me talk to him.” She stood up and walked to the car. “Hey, sweetie!”
Aaron watched from the porch as Sandy’s husband got out of the car. He looked confused at first, and then they both turned so he couldn’t see anything but some tense body language. Chirping birds were enough to drown out their muffled voices.
Sandy’s husband was a bald, gruff looking man. He came up and looked Aaron up and down. “You look like you could use a shower.” Probably word for word what Sandy had told him to say.
He nodded. “Probably.”
“Let’s get you inside.”
Sandy came up behind her husband and smiled. “I told you it would be ok. Maybe I could throw your things in the laundry while you shower? Tim has some old clothes you could wear.”
“I don’t want to be any trouble…”
“No trouble,” Tim said.
Aaron showered, leaving his clothes and bag to be cleaned by Sandy in the meantime. He came downstairs in some old basketball shorts and a t-shirt; both were too small for him.
“In here,” Sandy called from the other room.
He followed her voice into the kitchen. The smell of sautéed onions filled the air. “I should have had him give you a razor to use.”
“Oh, that’s okay. It feels nice to be clean. Clothes are a little tight, though.”
In the dinning room adjacent to the kitchen sat a polished, baby grand piano. He stared at it for a minute, trying to decide if he should ask to play it.
“Do you play?”
“Play us something,” Tim said from behind him.
He pulled out the piano bench. Soft, brown velvet, well padded, barely used. He lifted the cover off the keys and let his hands rest on them. They were cool, smooth, perfect. He tested a chord, and then did a slow scale; almost perfectly in tune.
In a moment he’d stepped back from himself, away from himself, and let his fingers touch the keys. They didn’t move fast, what they played wasn’t complex, but they evoked every possible ounce of emotion the piano had to offer. He’d never been much of a pianist. He lacked the technical skill and musical understanding of better pianists. But the feel of the keys, how each note wanted to sound, that was something he’d always understood.
He played a song with his eyes closed, one he’d written six years ago. When he opened them, Tim was standing next to him. “You need to do something with that talent.”
Aaron smiled a weak forlorn smile. “I just did.”
Tim shook his head. “No, I mean it. You need to make a CD or something.”
“It’s not that simple.” He’d wanted to do something with his music since he first started writing it. But while he was good, he wasn’t great. And in a day where thousands of people uploaded songs onto the internet all the time, being a mediocre pianist who had a special touch on the keys just wasn’t a winning equation.
“Actually…” Sandy stepped up beside her husband. “Well, let’s talk about that in a minute. I made some corn chowder. I know you’re both hungry.”
The chowder was incredible. Much better than anything Aaron usually scrapped by on.
“Where’d you learn to play?” Sandy said.
“I took lessons for a couple of years when I was a kid.”
“Only a couple of years?” Tim said.
“I took lessons for five years and I can’t play that well.”
“Good teacher, I guess.”
Tim looked at him, weighing him. “Sandy said you went to college?”
“What was your degree in?”
“And you’re mowing lawns and scrapping by?”
Sandy touched her husband’s arm. “Leave him alone, honey.”
For some reason Aaron felt he could open up now. It wasn’t that he was shy, or nervous, he just didn’t talk about himself usually. He’d put himself in an interesting situation most people didn’t understand. But right now, he didn’t mind doing a little explaining.
“I don’t get it, Aaron,” Tim said. “You’re obviously a hard worker, you’re smart, and you’re talented. Hell, behind all that dirt, you’re even a good looking kid. Why are you going door to door working for scraps?”
“I felt like it.”
“Do you want some help?” Sandy asked.
“You’ve been very nice already.” Aaron smiled. “Thank you.”
She pushed on. “I have a friend who does music stuff. Organizes concerts, that kind of thing. Can I talk to her about you?”
Aaron laughed. “I don’t see how I could stop you.”
“I’m serious. I want to help you with this. Can I?”
He thought about it. It was almost too tantalizing to touch. Failure, disappointment was something he didn’t handle easily. Not again.
She must have seen the hesitation in him. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to push you. I just… everyone deserves a chance.”
Tim spoke up again. “She’s right. You deserve a shot… I don’t know if you’ve had chances before. You probably have… Actually, I’m sure you have. What brought you here?”
Aaron breathed out heavily. “I had one too many of my dreams fail. I gave up. I gave up on dreaming, on hoping. I gave up my job; I gave up everything I knew. I couldn’t stand to be around it anymore. Everything reminded me that what I wanted most, the things I tried the hardest on, always failed.”
“So you decided to mow lawns?”
“Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Are you happy?” Sandy asked.
He thought about it for a moment. “Happier than I’ve ever been. Not as happy as I’d like to be.”
“Well, it’s time we fixed that.”
Aaron recorded a CD. He played concerts. People cried, people smiled, people said he had a gift. Maybe he did, who knows?
He never told Sandy and Tim that he had a bank account worth more than their mortgage. He also didn’t tell them that he still mowed lawns when he wasn’t playing concerts or recording. Sometimes he still went weeks without showering, still wore dirty clothes. Not because he had to –he’d never had to- but because somewhere along the line, after he’d given up on what the world told him he needed, he’d found that the best things in life, and in people, didn’t appear to be what they were inside.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
This song is called "Sad Song" it's recorded on a laptop, so the quality isn't mind blowing. And the singing is done by yours truly, which, sadly, also means it's not so mind blowing. But don't let that stand in the way of the natural awesomeness that is this song.
Sit back, relax, and try not to let your ear drums pop.
Click here for the Sad Song
Friday, March 26, 2010
Colin Tu: Hey guys!
IS: Hey Colin
Bob: Hey Colin
Colin Ti: No, no... its Colin... Tu!
Colin Tu: So... I got a cool new game. You guys wanna play?
IS: What game?
Colin 2: Its the best game ever! Other than RPG of course.
Bo: So what is it?
Colin Tu: Rock Band!
IS Is that the one like Guitar Hero only with a drummer and singer and everything?
Colin Tu: Yes! And I got it! You guys wanna play?
Bob: Yeah, that sounds like fun.
Colin Tu: Alright! Its up in my room, come on.
*Up in Colin's Room*
Colin Tu: Okay, first we need to decide on a band name!
IS: How about Fallacy Ridden?
Bob: That name is terrible dude. You need to do something clever, like...
Colin Tu: The Band of Britannia!
Guy 2: Uh no... I was thinking more like...
Colin Tu: Okay, so we are the band of Britannia! Now get into your costumes.
Bob: But I don't like...
IS: Dude, just let it go... Wait what did you say Colin?
Colin Tu: I said, get into your costumes.
Bob: But its just a game...
Colin Tu: Just a game? Just a game! We are the Band of Britannia! How would the king feel?
Quick, put on your costumes!
IS: Sorry Colin, we don't have any costumes.
Colin Tu: That's okay, I have extra. Here, you can be the dwarf- remember to act grumpy like a
real dwarf... and since you are the dwarf you should probably play drums, because dwarfs are good at hitting things.
IS:But I don't wanna pla-
Colin Tu: (cutting him off) And you.... You can be... a wizard! Wizards cast a lot of spells... so you
should be good at speaking. You can sing.
Bob: But I can't sing Coli-
Colin Tu: (cutting off again) And I will be the human fighter on axe guitar! Well, hurry up and get
into your costumes!
Bob: (Mumbles and grumbles)
IS: Just do it dude.
Bob: Yeah, yeah...
Colin Tu: Okay! Now we are ready to play our first show! So, I don't really like any of the songs
on the game, so I'm going to mute the TV and play the theme song from Lord of the Rings on my
Bob: (rolling his eyes) Oh no...
IS: Colin... won't that make it hard to play our instruments and sing along? Plus, that song
doesn't even have words.
Colin Tu: Why would it make it hard? And don't worry. I wrote lyrics before you guys came
Bob: Oh crap...
*Colin hands over the paper with lyrics*
Bob: These aren't lyrics, this is just one of Bilbo's poems you stole from the book. You just
crossed out a few names and put Britannia in their place.
Colin Tu: No, I wrote it! Now, let's play Rock Band!
(Colin starts the game)
Colin Tu: (singing quietly) Oh we are the Band of Britannia... Yeah, we are the band... yeah... I'm
good at this... everyone wants to pay to see my show!
Bob: (just staring at the screen and at the paper)
Colin Tu: You are not singing! We are going to fail!
Bob: We would fail anyway, because that's not the song I'm supposed to sing.
IS: Yeah Colin, I don't think the game will work this way.
Colin Tu: (looking at the screen) Oh great, you guys lost me 300 fans! The King of Britannia kicks you out of his band and gives all your money and all your instruments to me! I mean... someone who looks like me...
IS: Bye Colin.
Colin Tu: Hey wait you guys... Don't leave!
IS: What now Colin?
Colin Tu: Wanna play RPG?
*All characters are fictional until proven otherwise*
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Interesting Steve (abbreviated IS) and Bob (short for Bobdonius) are walking home from school when the front door of a nearby house creaks open and Colin Tu steps out.
Colin Tu: Hi, guys!
Bob: Hi Colin.
Colin Tu: No, no, no! It's Colin Tu!
Bob: Right... Forgot.
Colin Tu: You guys wanna come play RPG?
IS: What's RPG?
Colin Tu: You don't know what RPG is? It's only like the best game ever invented! So what do
you say, do you want to come play?
Bob: Uh, sure, why not.
Bob: Oh come on, he doesn't have any friends.
Colin Tu: I'm right here you know...
IS: Okay, Colin. Let's go play RPG.
*Up in Colin Tu's Room*
Colin Tu: Okay, first we need to decide what kind of characters we are. Interesting Steve, you can be a dwarf fighter.
IS: But I don't want to be a dwarf.
Colin Tu: And Bob, you'll be the human paladin.
Bob and IS exchange glances and shrug.
Colin Tu: Okay! Let's get started! So, your standing on the Wall of Britannia! What do you do?
IS: (mumbled) This is stupid...
Bob: We go east?
Colin Tu: Ya can't.
Bob: Why not?
Colin Tu: Ya just can't.
Bob: Okay, we go north.
Colin Tu: Ya can't.
Bob: We go south?
Colin Tu: Ya can't.
Bob: (sighing) We go west?
Colin Tu: Okay! So you're heading west along the Wall of Britannia! The wall is like... a million miles long! So you guys walk for like a hundred years. A lot of interesting stuff happens in-between. The human fighter gets really old, and the dwarf gets grumpy. So, after a hundred years you've finally reached the end of the Wall of Britannia, and at the end of the wall is a fearsome dragon! What do you do?
IS: We attack.
Colin Tu: Okay, roll the dice.
*Interesting Steve rolls*
Colin Tu: Oh... not good enough! And the dragon eats you! Quickly, human paladin, what do you do?
Bob: Um, I cast a holy spell at it?
Colin Tu: But the dragon has magic resistance and doesn't notice your puny spell. Then he eats you too!
IS: Well that was fun-
Colin Tu: With the puny mortals out of his way the dragon takes all of your stuff and gives it to me! I mean... someone who looks like me.
IS: Well, we're going to go Colin...
Colin Tu: Wait!
Colin Tu: You guys wanna play RPG?
*Exit Interesting Steve and Bobdonius, both shaking their heads*
*Disclaimer: All names have been changed for the sake of the parties involved. Any relation they have to any person, real or fictitious, is simply awesome*