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Thread: In his final hours...

  1. #1
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    Default In his final hours...

    There were few travelers out after dark in the market quarter this night. A well dressed young man moved hurriedly down the cobbled stone street. His head was swinging from left to right and back again as he seemed to be looking for someone or something in the side ways and alleys along Baker's Way. He carried a fat pouch on his belt and looked very nervous.

    Marek, who sat huddled beneath the steps leading up to a bakery, had little better to do than to stare at the fellow as he passed by. It was gonna be a cold night under there and he couldn't force himself to sleep yet. Marek had spent many a night under the baker's stoop and the proprietor, Gerrald, had an arrangement of sorts made with him. Each morning, just before the shop opened for business, the baker's apprentice would place the chamber pots just outside the back door of the shop along with a single fist sized chunk of fresh day bread. Marek's part of the deal was to take the two pots and empty their contents into the sewer. In return for this minor service, Gerrald the baker didn't run Marek off with a broom whenever he decided to sleep under his stairs. It was honest work and guaranteed Marek a dry place to sleep at night so long as the rain didn't fall too hard.

    Marek continued his survey of the dandy traveler as the fellow approached from the west end of the street. Usually, there were many folk out and about on business in the first few hours after sunset and Marek often spent his evenings watching the passers by while imagining himself taking their places and stations in life. He would keep this up until he finally fell asleep and escaped his dreary world for a few hours.

    Not so over the last week though. It all began when two of the local criers spread word of a gruesome murder that occurred on Jewelry Lane barely six days ago. Normally such news would raise an eyebrow or three and then be forgotten but, this one was different. The corpse was missing its head. Two days later, another body, this one was found only one street over. The first was never identified but the second was known to many locals, even without its head. It was old man Stubs, a friendly beggar that always had a good tale to share if you had a nip of the fire to share in return. Marek was shocked at his friend’s death and wondered who could ever do such a thing to a nice old man like Stubs. It was not something he cared to dwell on though and tonight he had a small flask of the fire to drink in Stub's honor.

    The streets were quiet after sunset now as most folk were locking their doors early and staying in during the dark hours. The dandy was passing just in front of the shop now and so intent was he on surveying the shadows and alleys to the sides that he failed to notice the loose brick in the path ahead of him. Marek almost laughed aloud at the fop's clumsiness as the gent tripped and fell face first onto the cobbled stones of the road. Marek had seen many folk stumble over that very same stone in the past and it never failed to amuse him. Tonight though, fortune must have been with Marek. The distinct sound of loose coin bouncing hard along the ground rang out in the all-to-silent night. Marek spotted a few flashes of light along the ground near the man's fall and realized that the man must have split the seams of that fat purse when he landed. Marek stared in awe as two of the coins rolled away from the dandy and came to rest right at his feet where he sat huddled up in the darkness.

    Marek held his breathe as he stared at the coins. One was certainly silver while the other was a fat piece of gold. Gold! One silver and one golden crown... a veritable fortune for one of Marek's station! Should he pick them up? Should he shout for the dandy to come collect his loss? Why should he... it's certainly a trifling amount to that fop while Marek could live for a long time on such a treasure.

    As these thoughts passed through Marek's mind, the dandy was busy picking himself up and getting back on his feet. He groaned loudly and held his hand to his face for a moment before drawing it away and holding it out before him. His eyes grew wide at the blood and he stared at it dumbly for a moment. It was then that Marek's mind must have played a devious trick on him. For a brief moment, he thought he saw an evil cast pass across the face of the dandy and it looked as though he was staring Marek right in the eyes. The vision passed quickly and Marek could only sit frozen in fear as the young man knelt to the ground and picked up the few coins he could find. He didn't search very far from where he fell and soon enough, Marek was watching the man's back as he disappeared into the night.

    Marek's gaze strayed back to the two coins that lay at his feet and it wasn't long before they were resting in the palm of his hand.

    A warm bed. A hot fire. A warm meal... with meat!!! A bottle of fine whiskey to keep his insides warm and a good fat whore to keep his outsides warmer! Marek could purchase all that and more with his newly gained wealth.

    "Wait a moment... no... I can't just squander this away... Lady Luck has finally smiled upon me and I'd be a fool to waste it on a single night's pleasure!" Marek muttered to himself as he sat huddled up under the stoop. "I've lived like this for years; I can spend another night here and think on how to avoid doing so again. If I play this right, I may never need empty another pot again after tomorrow!"

    Marek was about to tuck the coins away and settle down to sleep for the night when he heard a deep and menacing voice respond to his words...

    "You will not live to see tomorrow you worthless fool, for you have been deemed unworthy of life and have but three hours of suffering left in this world. I have been kind enough to give you the means to enjoy yourself before I claim your pitiful soul. When the single bell chimes to mark the first hour after midnight, I will arrive to end your miserable existence."

    The last syllables seemed to echo in his mind and Marek's face went pale in the darkness. He began to look around quickly to spot whoever had spoken. When he realized that there was no one else around, his heart began to pound and he replied meekly... "Who... who said that?"

    His only reply was the ringing of the bells to sound the tenth hour of the night.

    ~
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  2. #2
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    Very nice, Ao. I like it.
    A wolf with wings can do many things and be many places as well.

    Thou shalt not meddle in the affairs of dragons for thou art crunch and good with almost anything.

  3. #3
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    seems the old posts that continued this tale were confuddled when we moved to Vbulletin so, I'm putting them back now... I might even finish this tale soon... of course, my main motivator for writing it is long gone.

    I wrote what you find here a while back when my father, a hardcore drunk with 5 DUIs, was down visiting from up north... when he left, I lost my inspiration.

    Anyway, here's the lost text...
    Marek sat paralyzed with fear for the full sounding of the bells. He suddenly recalled the imagined evil he had perceived moments ago when the dandy had seemed to stare right at him. He thought of his old friend Stubs and wondered if perhaps that foppish looking young man had been involved in the beheading of his friend. It was hard to imagine such a well dressed and primped fellow performing such a vile act though.

    “Am I going mad?” Marek asked himself quietly. “Perhaps too many nights spent sleeping in the cold and dirt have clouded my mind or stricken me with a sickness of the head.” Marek’s voice raised just a bit as he said that and there was no reply from the darkness. Gaining a bit of confidence at that, Marek spoke again. This time, in a whispering shout, “Who goes there?”

    His only answer was the whispering of the wind as it blew across the rooftops.

    Marek sat for a few more moments, his eyes darting back and forth as he surveyed the street. He realized that he still had both coins in his hand and looked at them again. He considered throwing them back out into the street for a moment and even went so far as to draw back his hand but, the logical part of his mind took over and he halted the motion. Instead, he reached for his flask and emptied the last few drops of Stub’s tribute. He then raised the empty container above his head and it bumped against the bottom plank of the porch above. “Rest well good friend…” he shook the flask and frowned then, “Perhaps I shouldn’t be out here in the cold tonight eh. Maybe this is a sign from you old fella. I think the fever might be comin’ on me and we sure could use a bit more medicine.” Marek gave a chuckle to himself and crawled out from under the steps.

    Marek looked down the street and began to walk in the direction of the Broken Spoke Inn when he all of a sudden recalled that this was the same direction that the dandy had been travelling. “No need to be following in that fellow’s footprints,” he said to himself as he mimicked a soldier making an about face and continued his march in the opposite direction. A light rain began to dampen the street as he made his way towards the Fallen Stag Tavern and Marek though to himself that this couldn’t have been better timing for a shower to come down. He so hated sleeping in the wet mud that always puddled up under the steps during inclement weather. The light rain had turned into a steady drizzle by the time Marek pushed through the double doors of the tavern. He stood for a moment and shook the water from his hair before taking a quick look around and moving toward the bar. The place was busy tonight and he had to shoulder his way past folk as it was standing room only.

    He made his way to the bar finally and spotted Haggard rushing frantically to and fro in an effort to service all of his guests. Myra, the serving girl, was nowhere to be seen. She was a little thing though and her slight frame would be hard to spot in such a crowd. Marek just leaned his elbows up against the bar and stared in Haggard’s direction until he at last caught the burly man’s eye.

    “Well I’ll be bloody werewolf’s knuckle, if’n it ain’t Marek! It’s been a long time since you last showed yer face around here. You still runnin’ pots for ol’ Gerrald?” he shouted across the bar.

    The din from the crowd was overwhelming and Marek had to shout back his reply. “Aye man, it’s been a while at that. I’m still runnin’ the pots but, I lost my job at the docks and have had no extra coin to spare for pleasure.”

    “So what’s the occasion then? Did ya find work someplace finally?” Haggard asked. Before he could reply, Myra appeared as if by wizardry at his side and was tugging intently at his apron in order to get his attention.

    “Hey, whadda ya mean by chattin’ it up with ol’ Marek here when there’s work to be done. Get to it!!! I can’t handle this all myself ya know!” She raised her empty wooden tray above her head and threatened to bash the man with it.

    Haggard, as big as he was, looked like a child for a brief moment as he stood before the dainty woman whose nose barely came to the top of his rounded belly. He gave a helpless look towards Marek and shouted, “So what’re ya having tonight mate, the usual?”

    “No, give me a whole bottle of the Huskvarnen Fire.” Marek replied without pause for thought. He knew it was the best but, he was celebrating and a bottle of the best dwarven barreled whiskey in the land was called for. It would also be certain to stave off all but the worst of fevers.

    Haggard and Myra both raised their eyebrows at this request and haggard was the first to speak, “Eh, that stuff costs near a full silver for a full bottle man, how’re you gonna afford that? You know we like ya mate but, I need to get the coin up front before I go and tap the Huskvarnen for anyone.”

    Haggard hated having to be so firm with his friend but business was business and he knew that Marek had never even held a silver piece in his hand before. He was doubly surprised, therefore, when Marek produced a fat silver noble from the top of his boot and flipped it nonchalantly towards Haggard. Haggard wasn’t the fastest man around and he closed his palm on naught but air as he missed the catch. Myra on the other hand, was quick as a hawk. She snatched it out of the air deftly and brought the coin to her mouth to bear down on it with her front teeth.

    “Well I’ll be damned, it’s real,” she stated with wonder.

    “I ain’t gonna ask…” shouted Haggard, shaking his head in wonder before continuing, “You gonna be wantin’ supper with that? It’ll save me the hassle of making change for ya.”

    Haggard grinned at his comment as Marek shouted back, “Yea mate, and a room to lie in afterwards!”

    “Rooms are all taken friend, but I’ll include a night by the fire in the common room into the deal on the house. Fair enough?”

    “Fair enough, have Myra bring my food over to me near the hearth. Good seein’ ya friend!” Marek gave Haggard a quick salute before he took his leave and moved towards the massive open hearth that was located in the center of the common room. He had to beg the pardon of numerous patrons as he squeezed past them to find a spot to plant himself for the night.

    Marek found an open space against the ledge that surrounded the giant fireplace and quickly made himself comfortable as he waited for Myra to bring him his meal. It was long before she appeared carrying a fine looking bottle in one hand and a heaping plate of food in the other. Marek barely had time to thank her as she dropped his order on the ledge next to him and moved off to serve the other guests.

    He relished in the taste of a warm home cooked meal but, his stomach, being so used to more meager fare, could only suffer so much of the hearty food. Marek tucked his plate up next to him and decided to save the rest of it for breakfast. It’d be foolery to waste good ham! Having made ready for breakfast already, Marek uncorked his other treasure. A good long pull off of the fine dwarven spirits set his throat aflame and then froze it soon after. It was a potent formula for sure!

    Nearly an hour had passed since Marek received his windfall and it wasn’t long before he had forgotten all about the dandy, the coins, and the accompanying visions of evil he had imagined earlier in the night. He sat with his back against the ledge and whiled away the time by watching the crowd that was gathered and listening in on the brief snatches of conversation that drifted in his direction.

    “I hope they catch that bugger what killed them bums.” He heard these words spoken by a fat teamster who spoke across the top of an oversized wooden mug of ale.

    “Would that they would.” Was the inane reply of his drunken companion who seemed barely able to keep his eyes open..

    From his rear he heard the boasts of a boisterous youth, “I’d take right good care of that no good murderous filth!”

    “Sit down and shaddap Morley, you couldn’t fight yer way out of a potato sack” was the anonymous reply.

    Marek eventually focused his attentions on watching Myra as she bustled to and fro among the customers. The skill with which she sidestepped the groping hands of an entire table full with sailors just in port was commendable. One of the men’s aim was so misguided that his groping hand found the crotch of his fellow instead. Unfortunately, his friend did not appreciate the gesture and returned a meaty fist of his own to illustrate this point. Marek got a good laugh out of that incident and then realized that he had chugged half the bottle of whiskey in almost no time at all.

    “Better save this fer breakfasht too…” he slurred to himself before fumbling around with the cork as he tried to replace it in the bottle. He failed miserably and finally gave up with a sigh and set the opened bottle next to his stash of food for the morning.

    He then leaned his head back against the ledge of the fireplace and shut his eyes with a toothless grin plastered on his scruffy face. He was startled awake suddenly by a deep and menacing voice.

    “What’s this, a full belly and a light head? Going to sleep so soon? That’s not fun at all you worthless sack of meat! You’ve got little time left to live and this is how you spend it!” The voice paused a moment and Marek looked around quickly to see who was speaking but, there was no one near enough to account for the voice. And then it spoke again, “You’ve still got a whole gold piece in your pocket and only two more hours left to enjoy it. If you’re not off your backside and enjoying yourself by the time the bells strike the eleventh hour, I’ll see to it that you will be soon enough… mwhahahh hhahhah hahhahah…”

    Marek was left with the sounds of that menacing laughter echoing in his head as he looked frantically back and forth and wondering who in the hell could be speaking such evil to him. He was paralyzed with fear once again and couldn’t force himself to move from his position near the fireplace. “There’s no way he could harm me in here… there’re too many witnesses… I’ll just sit here til it starts to clear out and speak with Haggard about a more secure place to bed down for the night. Soon after he made his decision to remain where he was… the bells began to sound for the eleventh hour.
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  4. #4
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    Marek remained frozen in place with fear. As the bells slowly beat their cadence, he cast his gaze around the crowded tavern once again. “There, the fellow in the dull brown tunic… is he staring at me?” Marek tried rubbing the fog from his eyes in an effort to try and see the man more clearly. When he looked again, the stranger was gone. Marek whipped his head suddenly towards the door to the tavern as it burst open violently and without warning. A man’s shape appeared silhouetted against its frame and, as he stepped into the the Fallen Stag, there followed a furious gust of wind that caused the torches and candles lighting the room to flicker violently and more than a few patrons to take their lord’s name in vain.

    For the span of a single heartbeat, Marek looked towards that figure and would swear to this day that the devil himself had entered the Fallen Stag. The stranger took a step out of the darkness and into the flickering lights of the common room. It seemed as if every head in the tavern turned as one to regard this new patron. Marek had never seen a man so tall as this one was. A dark traveling cloak was drawn tight around the stranger’s thin frame. The hood of the cloak hid the man’s face in a cloud of shadows. Marek’s eyes grew wide as he carried his gaze to what the man held in his right hand. It was a short oaken staff with a long curved blade set atop it.

    “My gawds… the devil hisself has come to take me!” Marek thought desparately.
    Marek’s heart began to beat so loudly that he thought it might burst from his chest. He reached for his bottle blindly as he couldn’t take his eyes from the figure of death that had come to claim his soul. The strange figure slowly turned and faced Marek’s direction.
    Marek, his mind still a mush of sour mash and hops, suddenly stood up quickly and shouted, “You said two more hours!!! I gots two more hours you bastard!!!” All heads then turned towards Marek as he began to run towards the specter of death that was threatening to end his life this night. His half full bottle of Huskvarnen Fire held high over head like a club, Marek failed to notice a large crack in the flagstone floor and fell flat on his face after a single step. The bottle of whiskey flew out of his hands and back over his shoulder to shatter on the edge of the great hearth. The potent brew splattered all over the place and a great burst of flame shot up and out of the pit to feed on the potent fuel. A large man who had fallen asleep near the flames was suddenly up and screaming as his homespun wools were fed upon by the flames that reached him. The poor fellow’s flailing arms knocked over an oil lamp that was hanging on a peg near the window. In a matter of moments, the whole room brightened as the lamp shattered and soaked the curtains with oil.

    Marek was oblivious to all this as he tried to figure out how he had ended up on the floor all of a sudden. He recovered what wits he had left and pushed himself to his knees. The air was filled with smoke and screams. Marek rose quickly to his feet but not before some bastard stomped on the fingers of his left hand. Marek winced in pain but had no time to dwell on the pain. The whole room was aflame behind him and the only way out was through the front door.

    Marek then recalled that death was waiting for him just outside that door and for a split second considered giving up here and now and just lying back down and letting the flames consume him. “Are ya daft man… death by burnin’ ain’t no way to go out!” he said to himself. The fire was nearing the back wall where Haggard stored the various spirits he served as Marek gathered himself for another run. This time, he was goin’ out that door and naught but death itself was going to stop him. He realized that he was the last man left inside and that the heat and smoke gathering indoors were becoming very uncomfortable. He took off for the front door then.

    Marek was sobering up quickly after the last few moments of sudden action and he was smart enough to grab a near full bottle of whiskey off from an abandoned table on his way towards the exit. He managed a glance at the label as he passed the bar and thought to himself, “Not a bad find, another bottle of Husk…” Marek’s appraisal was cut short as he heard a loud roaring noise erupt behind him. It felt as though a great foot had planted itself in his back and shoved.

    It was then as if Marek had been gifted with flight.

    Out the front door and past the line of folk who had formed up and were passing buckets of water. His arms and legs were splayed wide as he soared across the street. For a moment, Marek enjoyed the sensation of flying through the air. Sadly, he was a creature of the earth and Marek quickly realized that his flight was about to end fairly abruptly. He closed his eyes while drawing his legs and arms into his chest. He tucked his chin to his chest and hit the ground hard. Marek heard a sharp cracking sound followed by pain that shot from his left arm straight into his eyes. A burst of white filled his vision as he rolled to a halt on the other side of the street.

    He landed flat on his back and soon the white flash that blurred his vision faded to reveal the dark sky above. A throbbing ache coming from his left wrist would not let him just lie there and rest as he desired. He turned his head to the left and for a moment caught a
    glimpse of what he imagined hell would be like. The Fallen Stag was no more. Instead, the
    space it had once occupied was a raging inferno that had spread to the buildings beside. The flames were hungry and had all they could eat.

    All around him, there were people getting back to their feet and Marek realized that these were the folk who had moments ago been lined up to fight the flames. He went to push himself to his feet using only his right hand for support when he discovered that he still had that bottle he had grabbed just before he was so suddenly ejected from the tavern. Cries for the water wagon could be heard amidst calls for the city watch and clerics to help with the wounded.

    Marek’s mind flashed back to his last memories before the fire and began to look for the man he thought to have caused all this. Where was the man in the cloak? Marek couldn’t see him anywhere amongst the figures who were recovering from the blast. He took a good hard look before deciding to take a long draw from the bottle he had salvaged. The strong brew went to work quickly and after a couple more quick chugs, the pain in Marek’s wrist dulled enough to allow him to think rationally.

    “I beat ‘im. I beat that bugger! How’s that fer a tale eh,” He stood up straighter as he came to this realization and took another pull from the bottle. He almost whooped for joy at his victory but realized that amidst all the havoc that he must have wreaked during the fight for life that it would not be appropriate. “I must’ve been in a fugue during the fight… for I can’t recall a thing but, if’n I’m a standin’ and he ain’t well, I’m not complainin’.”

    Marek entertained thoughts of searching out Haggard and sharing the tale to help comfort
    his friend and perhaps make the loss of his lively hood more bearable. The longer he
    thought of it though, the more he realized how insane his story sounded.

    “Some tales aren’t meant to be shared I’m thinkin’. Haggard’s got enough on his mind and might think me a loon.” Marek decided that he should probably get his wrist looked at and that he’d search out Haggard on the morrow to offer his condolences on the incident. Knowing full well that the proprietor of the Broken Spoke Inn was a former battle medic,
    and also having gold in his pocket, Marek set off to have his injuries tended.

    The Broken Spoke was devoid of any patrons when Marek arrived. He was not surprised as he had passed them all on the street as they went to watch or help with the growing fire at the other end of Baker’s Way. The owner of the place, Faden Crowsbeak, was standing on the front porch and staring at the raging inferno that was still going on down near the Fallen Stag. On spying Marek, his eyes widened further and he rushed over to help Marek up the steps. Faden guided him to a bench that was set just outside the front door while asking in a rushed voice, “Gods man, what happened to ya? Were you at the Stag? What the hell happened over there?”

    Marek still had his bottle of Huskvarnen and took another long pull before answering. “I’ll tell ya Beak, I’m not quite sure myself. I think it was sorcery… straight from the depths of hell… He was comin’ for me… death himself… but I beat’im… I don’t know how… but I beat’im!” Marek took another pull and went on. “I blacked out sometime during the fight and when I awoke, the whole damned bar was on fire. I made a run for the exit just before the whole damned place went up!”

    Marek leaned his head back against the wall and raised his injured hand. “Do ya think you could set this for me? You told me once long ago that you used to fix the guys up back in your fightin’ days. I’ve got gold.”

    Faden was giving Marek a bit of a frown and figured that he was listening to the ramblings of another drunk. At the sight of Marek’s mangled wrist and the mention of gold, the frown
    was replaced by a look of concern tempered with a hint of greed. “Lemmee have a look at that,” Faden took hold of Marek’s forearm with one skinny hand and supported the limp wrist with his other. He moved the injured hand up and then down one time quickly. Marek suddenly screamed in agony.
    “Gods that hurt man! Don’t do that!”

    “Yep, it’s broke, be right back.” The skinny inn-keep rushed inside and Marek was left alone for a few minutes to reflect on the wild night he had lived through.
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  5. #5
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    I am particulary bad at helping people with their written works. That is the main reason my time on some of the Fiction sites like FictionPress or FictionPost did not go all that well. Give reviews and get reviews is pretty much how they work. I am so picky about what I actually read that the system just never worked for me.

    I consider it a personalty flaw but one I have learned to live with. So with that in mind...

    Not bad at all. I think it would read better if you pulled all the dialogue out of the surrounding text but that is a matter of style rather than substance. The only other thing that struck me is that you use Marik's name a touch often. I think you can assume the reader knows who you are talking about a little more often or maybe use other words for identifying him a bit more.

    It was dark and a little gloomy. In the end I was not overjoyed for him but I was happy he was still alive.


    A.T
    (-)

  6. #6
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    It's technically unfinished but, I'll prob never pick it back up again. I want to start fresh using that gem of advice ye gave me via PM recently.

    I was just going over this old thread and realized that it had been screwed up in the database transfer.

    I certainly agree that I overused the name. I'll keep that in mind when I next set fingers to keys and gets to writing up something decent.

    So far as the gloom... it reflected my mood.
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