Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pockets, Part One

              The line of undead shifted in their places, reflexively trying to maintain equilibrium on the gray rain-slicked cobbles. A single, battered human prisoner was tied to a post in front of the line, his armor bloodied and sticky, half his hair matted with a darkening substance. The prisoner growled at the armor clad knight who stood over him.
              “You'll not get anything from me.”
              The Knight said nothing, and coolly turned back to the line of waiting undead.
              “Nothing! You hear me?” The prisoner spat at the back of the Knight, missing by several feet.
              The Knight addressed the line of undead, “Say the words, aim them at the target.” The knight lifted his heavy runed blade to point at the prisoner.
              The last undead in the line shifted a bit more than the others. “What words?” it thought to itself.
              The first undead stepped forward and spoke, magic words, words of power, but ultimately, dead malformed words incapable of stirring action.
              The Knight moved to the second in the line.
              “Glurgll, Ughth!” and the thing's jaw fell to the muddy stones. It reached for its fallen jaw, and its arm separated at the elbow, the hand and bones landing in a clattering wet mess on top of its jaw bone.
              “Put it on the cart for Deathknell.” The Knight rode past, his mount shattering wet bones under its hooves.
              The third undead in the row muttered the words, too low for hearing, and too indistinct for effect. Another joined the cart for Deathknell.
              “This is why you will fail! Your undead, your minions, are no match for the Silver Hand.”
              A fourth and then a fifth prospect were more articulate, but also failed. The last undead in line listened intently to the words, its only desire to accomplish what its Knight had asked of it.
              The prisoner, heartened by the continued failures, began to sing a battle hymn.
              “Say the words,” the knight commanded the second to last of his ragged prospects.
              With an inarticulate screech, the undead minion launched itself at the prisoner.
              The Knight, perfectly still save for his sword arm, lashed out with his heavy iron blade. The minion's head rolled the rest of the way to the prisoner, still biting. The body collapsed a step from where it was struck.
              The prisoner, wriggled in his bonds to kick the unliving head away, then began to sing again.
              “Say the words,” the knight left his ichor stained sword in the air, pointed now at the prisoner.
              The undead, last prospect of this batch, pulled his hands from the pockets of his apron and recited the words. The words were familiar, powerful. They rolled from his dead tongue with surprising grace, if not power. It pondered its failure, knowing that there was something more expected.
              The Knight turned to face the final prospect of the morning, sword now almost casually resting on his shoulder.
              “The words are wrong,” the final candidate ventured. The undead reached into its pockets and pulled out needle and thread. “There is more.”
              The Knight, remained motionless as though frozen, the prospect could feel the Knight's eyes narrow behind the visor, see the hand tighten on the hilt.
              “Needle and thread, the words.”
              The prospect recited the words, looking in his mind, in the world for the fabric they would shape. There, in darkness, was a flowing bolt of arcane material. The words wove in and around the material, pulling it into shape, fitting it to the target, the prisoner, who's hymn had suddenly stopped. The prospect felt fire sewn about his fingers, and with his words, drew taut the final stitch. A weak fireball spiraled out and away.
              The prisoner strained against his bonds as the blast of magic fire roared over the wet cobblestones to slam home against his chest. Flames enveloped the prisoner and he roared more in surprise than pain.
              The prospect cast again, stitching the fabric of reality into another fiery ball of destruction.
              The prisoner howled, breaking some of his flaming bonds.
              The prisoner collapsed, trying to cover his head with his arms and drawing himself into as tight a ball as his armor would allow.
              The prisoner ceased complaining with a final wail.
              Fire struck the prisoner, who lay unmoving on the steaming cobbles.
              The prospect searched, but there was no more. “I have run the bolt, I cannot.”
              The Knight turned to the unholy priests waiting in the ranks.
              “Prepare the prisoner.”
              The priests advanced on the prisoner, healing him, reviving him.

              The prospect felt the bolt refill. As the mana laden cloth rolled onto the bolt in the prospect's head, memories spooled into his mind.
              A stoop, overlooking a canal. A woman spinning wool into thread. A young woman, in boys clothing running up to her.
              “Where is the dress we made for you?” The spinning woman asked.
              “It didn't have pockets,” the young woman turned out her pockets to reveal all manner of interesting shaped stones, discarded rivets and pieces of string.
              “Go change, right now.”
              “You're not my mother!”
              “No hurry, dear ones. I don't leave for three more days.” He heard himself say with kindness and affection.
              The young woman took that as permission to resume her pursuits of the day, running off with blown kisses and a quick hug for her sister.
              “Bring me the dress,” He grinned and reached for the remnants of the bolt used to make the dress in question.
              “You're not going to...”
              “If that's all it takes to get her to wear it.”
              “She's already spoiled rotten.”
              “That's what I tell my brother about you.”
              The woman pouted, “I can't believe my husband's sending you to Lordaeron.”
              “There's a new holy order forming, they want vestments, we make the best.”
              The woman reached out to touch his hand, gently, “Still, it doesn't seem fair to send you.”

              The prospect looked up at the Knight, who seemed to be expecting an answer.
              “What are you called, your name?”
              “I am....” The prospect stopped. Where his name should be was gone, a blank expanse of soggy worm castings. The prospect ran his fingers through his matted hair coming up with a small bloodworm, but no answer. He carefully placed the gorged worm in his apron pocket for later.
              “Clean him up, find him a robe.” The Knight gestured to his priests then turned back to the prospect. “You will now answer to,” he paused and looked over the now weeping prisoner, “Meteorus.”
              “Thank you, Sir.” Meteorus looked at his fire stained claws, shaking off the sunny warm memories of a woman's touch for the gray rain-slicked, burned-flesh of the present.
              “I am Meteorus.”
              The Knight turned to face the prisoner. A new row of prospects were marched into position.
              “Pay attention to the words.” The Knight indicated the prisoner with his sword.
              “Meteorus, again.”

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