The Wayfarer's Tale

Your non-LEGO tale or ballad, unillustrated or illustrated with either photos or drawings not related to LEGO.

The Wayfarer's Tale

AlbaVik
Instrumentalist
AlbaVik
Instrumentalist
Joined: 10 May 2010, 17:59

02 Jul 2013, 13:51 #1

The Wayfarer's Tale is the first of a number of stories I'm planning to elaborate on the timeline of this big old fantasy project of mine.
It's set in a world that's somewhat different from ours, but the lore and technical facts (yay, scientific fantasy!) will be expanded on later.

As I write the segments, they will be added to this post. I write in smaller bits, though, that will be posted as replies as they come, then gathered here for an approach that's more structured and friendlier towards new readers.

The Lord Mayor, Your Excellencies, ladies, gentlemen and fellow peasants, without further ado,


-------------------------------|The Wayfarer's Tale|---------------------------------

----Chapter I----

Ekil woke with a sudden start as he felt someone shaking him lightly, the movement accompanied by a hushed whisper:

- Wake up… shh… be quiet and help us pack

Arine, his mother, said softly, the poorly hidden growing panic evident in her voice as the hardy woman pulled her young son to his feet and shoved him towards the loosely spread remains of their camp. Ekil shook his head to clear his sleepy thoughts and proceeded to help his mother stash together their gear as quietly as possible. It was not the first time they had been forced to run in the middle of the lowlight, and he knew what to do. Every now and then, the permanent denizens of a cave would decide that the resident travelling population had grown beyond their comfort, and initiate a massive raid to “clear them out”. In the distance, he could clearly hear the shouts and noisy movements of the so-called cleansing patrol. His father, Gatt, stamped out the last glowing embers of their fireplace before venturing a short distance into the monotone wall of seven feet tall reeds surrounding the small clearing.

He returned just as Ekil had turned his attention back to gathering the few remaining objects, murmuring something barely audible to Irine as he came. The sounds from the patrol of armed men became ever clearer as they rummaged through the swamp, unknowingly but inevitably closing in on the family as the minutes passed. Throwing a last look around the campsite to make sure that everything was packed down, Gatt hurried across the open space, gathering bags on his shoulders as he went, to lift his son on his right arm. Then, he led the way through the stiff mass of long, slender plants. From his bumbling position on his father’s arm, Ekil stared in fear at each and every perceived motion among the stalky reeds, constantly expecting malicious faces and raised cudgels to come crashing through the vegetation, searching like vultures for prey to fall upon. He felt his father slowing to a walk as the sounds of the approaching patrol gradually became lost in the concealing dimness of the late lowlight behind them. Just as everything seemed calm, a sudden, piercing cry of alarm shook away the illusion.

- Down, get down!

Gatt vehemently hissed as he dropped to his knees, bringing Ekil and his whole baggage with him. Behind them, Arine followed his example and hurriedly sank low between the growths. There, less than ten yards from the crouching trio, an example of the destiny they had so far narrowly avoided unfolded before their eyes in all its cruelty. Ekil watched the scene in terrified fascination as the patrolling citizens came upon a travelling family of four. A man, apparently the father of the two children, and an older boy went to meet them with all the desperate courage being cornered brings. The man shouted a defiant, wordless challenge and swung a blunt object wildly at the first intruder. He managed to strike the approaching foe across the face and bring him down before both travellers drowned below the whirlpool of batons brought on by some half dozen of cleansers.

With a loud scream, the woman, who had so far stayed in the background, ran to the scuffle and struck randomly at the compact, shapeless mess of fighting people for a moment before getting lost in the chaos herself. At the other end of the open space, only a brief movement of the reeds betrayed the escape of the girl who was the last member of the family. The plants quickly formed rank again and hid all signs of her passage. Ekil felt the muscles in his father’s arm tense in futile anger as Gatt whispered, a carefully built-up wall of calmness covering his voice:

- Better get going while they’re busy

They proceeded onwards, wary to rustle the leaves as little as possible while the fighting ceased behind them and the unfortunate family was dragged off to some unknown destination.
Suddenly, something moved right in front of Gatt’s steps, and Ekil flung an arm towards the shaking reeds in shock, barely managing to contain a surprised shout that he knew could be a killing blow to their chances of escape. Registering the movement mere moments after his son, Gatt hurriedly pulled his carpenter’s axe from its sheath in his belt and lifted it threateningly over his head, ready to strike down whatever stood in his way. A small figure on the ground scrambled backwards, and as it left the shadow of the readily poised man and the trio could see it clearly, Gatt lowered his weapon with a sigh of relief. A pair of petrified eyes staring wide open from above a frail, clearly underfed body, Ekil reasoned that the girl lying among the reeds was about eight to ten years old, a solid couple above his own age. His mother went up beside them and leaned down, whispering softly to the little girl who had just evaded arrest:

- Easy, now, we’re not going to harm you…

She was cut off by sudden shouts from a group of cleansers, much closer than the family had thought they were. The sounds immediately shut off the short glimpse of rising hope Irine’s words had ignited in the girl’s eyes as she stumbled fearfully to her feet and disappeared into the darkness. Muttering a low curse, Gatt began sneaking ahead once more, eager to lose the patrols behind. Ekil, still casting frightened looks at their monotone surroundings, kept hoping to spot the runaway girl again. He didn’t, however, and soon they had left the uniform cover of the swamp and its plants behind them.

Only to face yet another dangerous distance to cover, they realised, as the only winch baskets of the cave were located in the other end. Ekil’s parents discussed the situation for a moment before deciding that the walk to the opposite wall where an open stripe of fields separated the rocky cliff from the town was too long. If they were to take that route, they would not be able to make it out of the cave before well into highlight, by which time it would be too late. Furthermore, they would have to risk encountering returning cleansing parties on their way along the outskirts of the settlement.

As the distinctive shapes of houses grew into sight in front of them, looming darkly against the pale lowlight emitted from the roof of the cave, it became evident that they could not leave without passing through the town itself. Landing each step with cautious silence, the family found the main road that went more or less straight through the middle of the cave and began following it. Advancing nervously in fear of waking anybody, let alone encounter those cleansers who were already on their way home, they moved on between the houses without a sound.

Gatt and Arine ducked their heads under a hanging inn’s sign and encountered a yellowish pool of light spilling onto the street from dirty windows. Careful not to be seen, they were forced to turn away from the comforting shade by the walls and move into the middle of the uneven stripe of worn cobblestones. On the other side of the blurred windows, the family saw the few remaining visitors that were seated by the bar, their various slurred conversations a low, guttural murmur through the wall. To the travellers’ relief, nobody inside bothered to look past their own glasses, and soon, the dangerous spotlight was lost beyond a curve of the road.

It was by a mere hair that they noticed that they were no longer alone outside. Behind them, a creaking noise followed by a sudden increase in the amplitude of the drinkers’ words betrayed that the door to the inn had been opened. Turning on their heels, the travellers heard a series of greetings, some drunken, some sober, before the door was shut close again. Only now could they decipher the sound of approaching footsteps from the low noises of the inn. Gatt swung around and marched onwards, Arine following quickly in his steps and Ekil clinging on to avoid falling from the hastily moving man’s arm. Cautiously balancing speed and stealth, they hurried on until Arine abruptly stopped, tucked Gatt’s arm and pointed quietly to a small side alley besides them. Throwing a last look down the road, they spotted the first persons behind them gaining the bend they had just passed. Unbeknownst to the trio, an old knot in Gatt’s intricate baggage gave up just that moment and dumped its sack of assorted dried seaweed soundlessly on the smooth stones.

The smaller path was almost completely covered by the roofs of the neighbouring houses, and was therefore virtually untouched by the light from above. This left the travellers’ urgent path down it to a state of feeling their way along the ragged walls until they discovered a large, shapeless stack of thatching reeds. Looking over their shoulders once more to check if they had been discovered, they crouched low behind the dried plants, careful not to touch the pile of brittle, easily rattled growths. Ekil froze in terror as his eyes finally caught the tell-tale bag where it lay by the mouth of the lane. The talkative voices of the incoming strangers grew ever louder as he panicked and tore himself away from Arine’s protective grip before hurrying to the edge of the main road. His heart racing and his hands trembling, he bended over and plucked the sack from its site on the stones. Only the weak light and the busy conversation among the approaching group saved him from being seen. Still, just as he reached back to his parents, their outraged, weary whispers not silenced before he managed to briefly explain the bag, a voice behind him uttered:

- Ay, what was that? Think something went over there, lads…

To the dismay of the cowering travellers, the newcomers stopped as one by the alley mouth, holding high a couple of weak lamps and trying to pierce the darkness with their eyes. The one who had spoken took a few testing steps into the darker lane, and Ekil sensed how Gatt quietly seized his axe once again.

- Nah, probably just a rat,

the man, a bulky, otherwise rather nondescript build, shrugged off his former worries. While the family silently breathed out as one, they suddenly realised who the bypassing group were. Amidst seven men brandishing heavy, wooden clubs with an obvious unfamiliarity, four dismally looking persons of varying age were towed by a slacked rope, their heads hanging and their hands tied firmly behind their backs. Ekil watched in wonder for a moment before recognising the smallest of the prisoners as the girl they had stumbled upon in the swamp. Turned out she had been rounded up by the cleansers as well and was now being brought away along with her family. He had heard tell that nobody could be sure where arrested travellers where sent, but that a life under slave-like conditions in one of the nearby mines was a safe bet. Despite being a serious, constant threat in their lives, the travelling children would still make up various colourful, frightening tales of what awaited those whom the cleansers got their hands on. As such, Ekil had found that telling truth from haunting hearsay was excessively difficult in cases like this.

The voices and footsteps of the patrol receded painfully slowly into the lowlight until everything was finally calm and silent around the hidden family again. As they rose from behind the stack of reeds and returned warily to the main road, stretching the tensed, bent muscles of their legs, Ekil noticed that the darkness was on retreat. He turned and looked up to inform his parents only to understand from their worried glances towards the distant cave ceiling that they had observed the changes as well. Gatt hurriedly picked Ekil up again and followed Arine who was already on her way out of the town. They were drastically nearing highlight, and if their travel was delayed for much longer, the citizens would inevitably begin awaking around them. Being caught in the middle of the town at highlight right after a cleansing would spell doom for their last chances at getting away. They took the consequence of their long wait in the small lane and began half running onwards, the shapes and details of the surrounding houses now evidently more visible than earlier.

Once the had family had passed the last houses in the outskirts of the town, the darkness of late lowlight had fully receded and turned to a dim, gradually brightening highlight. The first signs of awaking life began stirring in the households behind them, but they were relatively comfortable that nobody would come this way so early. None the less, Irine and Gatt kept up their fast pace as the complex structure of the baskets firsts came into sight up the road that winded its way through a brushy landscape of wild bushes and trees, all held in a monotone greyscale by the weak lighting.

- Hey, you! Wait!,

a sudden, hushed voice sounded from beside the road. Convinced that they now faced yet another threat, the family saw the slightly bent over form of a man fight his way through the dense growths and onto the road. Throwing nervous, harrowed looks in all directions, he approached them cautiously and continued:

- You travellers too, right? Yes. They’re guarding the baskets, we can’t get out…

Gatt had put down Ekil when they stopped, and now he tensed up and reached absentmindedly for his axe, as if a part of him wished to strike down this stranger in pure frustration over the news. He was to be about to say something when the hunched, tattered figure spoke again, a growing hope now evident in his rasping, staccato voice:

- But there are only two of them now. Tired ones as well. Been here keeping an eye all lowlight. You lot are the first to come by. Nobody else got out. We can take them, you and me. They’re not even used to fighting.

The last persuasive, staggered lines were directed specifically at the sight of Gatt and his firm hold of the weapon that was tucked under his belt. The stranger smiled crookedly as he produced a long, slightly rusty knife from somewhere under his clothes and straightened his posture.
His brow furrowed in watchful concentration, Gatt reasoned that, was the tale of the guarded baskets indeed true, following the schemes of this unappealing individual might be the better choice. If the man’s claims turned out to be false, they would have lost nothing, and, knife or not, the stranger did not seem like somebody he could not best if it proved necessary. The hardships of a long life on the road had taught Gatt to trust no one, especially not those of his “own kind”, the landless wayfaring people.

- Alright, lead the way,

he replied, urging the other man on with a nod towards the baskets that had once again disappeared behind a curve of the road. The other traveller narrowed his eyes in a last bout of distrust before nodding in reluctant agreement.

- Vinte’s the name,

he rasped nonchalantly as he put his blade back to its hidden sheath under a fold of cloth and began proceeding towards the baskets, his confidence obviously increased.

- Gatt,

Ekil’s father answered curtly, his discontent with the situation gleaming through in the shape of the abrupt remark. Arine kept quiet in worry while Ekil himself did not even consider replying. The family followed Vinte, Ekil now walking beside his mother.

Gaining a final bend, the vegetation cleared and they walked straight into the baskets that came suddenly into sight in front of them. A towering wooden construction of platforms, ladders, pulleys and the namesake baskets, it reached almost to the roof of the cavern where the long wires disappeared into the distance of a passage upwards. Another set of solid roping that sank through a massive crater in the ground led to lower caves.
Peeking past his father, Ekil saw that Vinte had been right: Between the four travellers and their way out stood a duo of cleansers. Vinte and Gatt stopped as one, each eyeing the other man’s movements with care as the guards blinked in waking suspicion and approached the newcomers, hands on the hilts of the heavy cudgels that hung from their belts. Arine leaned down to Ekil and whispered:

- Get back to the trees, and hide, understand? We’ll call for you when it’s over, right?

She pushed him gently in the direction they had come from, and those were words he did not have to hear twice. As worried as he was for his parents, the events of the past lowlight had well and through worn him down. He dropped the few bags he was carrying and ran to the trees, his pulse racing as he vaguely heard an inaudible conversation begin behind him.

When the decreasing murmur of the voices rose to a shrill scream of terror, Ekil instinctively stopped mid-step and turned his head to look. Arine and Gatt had both dropped their baggage on the ground and held respectively a heavy stick and the carpenter’s axe in their hands. Beyond them, Vinte and the younger of the guards stood as if in an embrace, the sleek blade of the wayfarer’s knife gleaming viciously between them in the early highlight. Ekil felt his stomach revolve in disgust, his fright greatly increased by what he had seen, and he turned to stumble onwards once again just as the other shocked watchman was galvanised into action and poised his weapon to strike.

Ekil fell low behind the first tree he encountered, his eyes shut and his face pressed into the ground though listening anxiously through the darkness. As a startled grunt of pain sounded over the noises of the skirmish by the baskets, he froze, a stinging wave of fear rolling over him. He had no doubt that the voice was his father’s. Too scared still to open his eyes, he held his breath and heard the groan being replaced by the blunt thud of metal striking against wood. A desperately gargling, hissing cough followed along with the sound of a limp weight dropping to the ground and the beginning highlight fell silent around him.

- Ekil… come out! Ekil!,

Arine called. Ekil opened his eyes and crawled to his feet. Peeking past the gnarled tree, he felt the tightly knotted pounding of his heart stop and his eyes silently fill with tears of relief. He barely noticed the still bodies of the two guards as he pushed himself past the tree and ran back towards the baskets.
Beside the platform stood Arine and Gatt. Grinding his teeth, the later clutched and massaged his right shoulder but was otherwise unscathed. Arine turned to greet her son with a smile and hugged him protectively for a moment before turning her attention to Gatt’s heavily bruised shoulder.

Ekil suddenly remembered Vinte and spun around to look for him. The stranger stood facing the body of the younger guard, his head bowed and his hands crossed, palms outwards, in front of his chest. Hanging from a necklace and balanced between his little fingers he held a crude, metal rendition of the angular religious symbol known as the Eye of Saruna.

For the first time, Ekil really took in the appearance of the other traveller. Despite his slightly bent posture and ragged clothes, he appeared to be no older than in his mid-twenties. The lightly brown colour of his shabbily cut, thick hair betrayed that he spent most of his days under the more prominent light of the upper caves. Suddenly, Vinte snapped his eyes open and glared disapprovingly at Ekil, at which the boy promptly looked away and returned his attention to his parents.
Gatt’s shoulder was getting better, and Ekil noticed only a short, disconcerted look at the praying Vinte before his father gathered himself and went to pick up the baggage once again. Arine followed his example and collected the remaining bags and gear. When they were finished, she looked towards Vinte. Having witnessed the younger man’s cold murder of the basket guard and subsequent reverence to Saruna, a minor deity of highly dubious morals, made her no less uncomfortable about his presence. But still, she reasoned, neither party would have made it past the guards without the other.

- You coming?,

She questioned in his direction. Tucking the Eye back under his shirt, he looked up, nodded silently, and followed the family up the stairs that led to the baskets. Gatt led the way until they reached a prepared basket of fitting size.

- Look!,

Ekil whispered and pulled the leg of his father’s trousers. Visible from their elevated position, a trio of heavily laden men was approaching from the town beyond the forest. Gatt hissed in annoyance and the group quickly got aboard. As the two men began working the intricate set of pulleys and chains, the wooden frame and thick, weaved reeds that made up the old basket creaked under the weight of the travellers and their belongings, but held. Vinte and Gatt turned the pulleys eagerly, and the cave floor was soon lost behind them. For a solid while, nothing was to be seen except the monotone rock wall of the vertical shaft around them, broken only by the occasional weed and a single bird’s nest that was perched on a small outcrop.

When they finally emerged into open space again, the travellers found themselves approaching a one-way basket station in the middle of the lower cave. Holding their breath as one, they moored their mean of transportation by one of the platforms and left it behind, reassured by the residents’ lack of reaction that the cleansing had not been coordinated with this cave. Ekil breathed in heavily, thankful that the chaotic events of the past lowlight were finally over.

- Got to find a place to rest while time is,

Gatt remarked matter-of-factly and proceeded confidently down a random street where citizens of the town were beginning to take up their daily chores. Shrugging in mute agreement, Vinte followed the other trio of travellers.

Slowly making their way through the chaotic flow of the people coming and going from the platforms, the group went onwards along the road. Worried that he might get lost in the pressure of the surrounding crowd, Ekil held carefully unto the lower end of his mother’s dress. After spending what seemed like an eternity between the unexciting twins rows of thatched wood-and-clay houses, he finally noticed what the adults must have had seen already: the denseness of the buildings was thinning, the outermost cottages and barns built gradually longer away from the street, allowing it to broaden and eventually turn into open fields.

As the landscape opened up, the concentration of moving people thinned as well, and what turned out to be a large campsite showed up in front of the travellers. Spread out across a downtrodden, bare piece of muddy ground were about twelve ragged tents or mere stashes of belongings, a trio of large, shared fireplaces forming something of a connecting point between the individual travelling groups.

- Seems to be where they keep our... kind here,

Vinte pointed out sourly and gestured towards an open, still relatively vegetated corner of the field. The man had not spoken since the bloody skirmish by the baskets, and now that Ekil was aware of his young age, his seemingly chronically hoarse voice startled the boy even further.

Gatt grunted an indifferent agreement and began leading the group towards the unoccupied little patch. Greeting the nearest camped travellers as they passed, the family and their recent acquaintance eventually reached their new campsite. As one, they discarded their bags and other belongings and dumped to the ground around the charred remains of former residents’ fireplace, all weary from their disrupted sleep and the dramatic events of the morning.

Resting his back against a sack of his mother’s, Ekil beheld their young companion in curiosity through the corner of his eye. Careful not to make himself noticed, he spotted the cord holding the Eye at the man's neck and turned away with a shiver. Seeking something else to occupy himself with, he settled for observing the comings and goings of the others on the campsite, slowly building a picture of his new neighbours.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

----Chapter II----

The following morning, Ekil woke to the sound of his father’s angry voice.

- Hah, I guess that slimy one didn’t find our company good enough… and the rat just had to steal those fish as well,

Gatt cursed. Arine retorted:

- Oh, I’m just glad we have that unpleasant guy far away. Never mind the fish, dear

- What’s going on? Where’s Vinte?,

their waking son joined in as he looked dizzily around their camp.

- Ran off with the fish… ‘twas the last damned meat we had,

his father, actively moshing the sparse remaining grass by their fireplace with his annoyed pacing back and forth, explained.

Soon after, Ekil’s parents set out to look for a building site in need of labour, and the boy, whom they told to stay outside town, took to wandering the countryside around his new home. As he neared a calm stream that had dug its way well into the ground, he heard a commotion and rustling of the thicker vegetation by the brook. He dropped to his knees and crawled closer. Pushing his way through a cluster of reeds, he spotted the source of the noise. Halfway down the five feet of sloping riverbank, three boys of about his age were rolling about, struggling on the slippery ground, and the circumstances became evident to Ekil as one got himself on his feet, his companion still working hard to hold down the third.

- Take that, trav’ scum!,

the standing boy yelled in a high-pitched, morbid fascination of his own power, and landed a heavy kick in the travelling boy’s side. As the victim’s scream mixed with the laughter of the others, the upright one pulled back his leg to kick again, and Ekil broke from the cover of the reeds. With a guttural child’s war cry of his own, he practically flew down the couple of feet and smashed his whole body clumsily into his target. The boy, surprised and standing on one leg, was tossed into the stream with a shocked yelp and spluttered for a moment in the chill water before climbing to the bank and hurrying away in terror. Ekil fumbled to his feet and turned to see that the other one had taken flight with his friend. Left by the stream were only the two young
travellers.

- You… you’re alright?,

Ekil asked the still prone boy, who finally sat up and wiped the mixture of tears and dirt from his face.

- Yeah, I’ll do. Thank you.

- I’m a traveller too,

Ekil responded awkwardly, and suddenly found himself wondering: Did that explain his actions? He tossed the thought aside, and they sat for a while in silence, until the other boy got himself to his feet.

- I should get back now. My name’s Kale. What’s yours?,

he asked, and Ekil joined him on his way up the bank.

- I’m Ekil. You live in the camp over there too?

- Yes. I think all of us here live in it. We’ve been here for a few weeks, me and my mother…,

Ekil’s newfound friend left the bitter sentence hanging in the air, and from his multiple bruises, the other boy understood that this wasn’t the first time the children of the town had bothered Kale. Such were the circumstances travelling children lived under. With their arms over each other’s shoulder, the two tiny soldiers made their way back to the gathering of tents, speaking idly of their families and past homes as they went.

- Come with me,

Kale invited, and Ekil followed him to an off-white round tent at the edge of the campsite where the high-pitched sound of a small hammer repeatedly hitting thin metal greeted them. A woman Ekil assumed to be Kale’s mother looked up briefly from the jumble of buckets, boxes and other containers requiring repairs at her feet. She dismissed him as just another hungry travelling child and remarked sharply to her son:

- Now don’t make him fat on our food.

Then, noticing the dirtied, bruised state her son was in, the woman’s voice softened. She sighed, reached out one arm to hug him and changed her mind.

- Oh, forget it. There’s some flatbread in the sack over there. Serve yourselves.

Kale broke loose from her grip and quickly produced a thin, angular and slightly charred bread from the bag she had pointed at. His mood evidently improved now, he broke it in halves and tossed one to Ekil, and the boys sat down by the closest fireplace. A few embers, all that was left of the morning fire, still shone their orange light among the burnt out logs and branches. They were still sitting there, talking of this and that and chewing on the last remains of the bread when a cheerful voice called out:

- Ekil! Come on, we’ve found work!,

Arine smiled from the other end of the campsite. Although he knew work meant food, Ekil couldn’t help being annoyed at the timing.

- I have to go. Thanks for the bread,

he explained.

- Thank you, too,

Kale replied. They exchanged a smile of camaraderie and Ekil purposefully kept a slow pace on his way to his parents who were waiting by the shelter they had pitched the other day.

- We’re in good luck, chap. A blacksmith’s burnt half down some days ago, and the town’s own carpenter’s too busy,

Gatt, his full set of carpenter’s tools hoisted on his back, explained when Ekil reached his parents. Finding work as a traveller always relied on one’s local counterpart being either ill, busy or unusually overpriced. He enthusiastically patted his son’s back and led the way back into the town. Outside the busy traffic of the mornings and evenings, Ekil found, the main road was far less cluttered with people, and this time, he had no problems keeping sight of his parents. The irregular clanking noises from the loosely packaged dividers, knives, chisels and so forth of his father’s bag made an easy target to follow as well. They kept walking for a while, and Ekil, eager to develop his mind’s map of the cave, did his best to keep track of every road they chose. After a last sharp turn, the damaged building showed up in front of them. Save a few scorches and one window cracked from the heat, the surrounding houses had been spared. The front half of the smith’s workshop itself however was largely gone. Only the huge stove and a sledgehammer’s head nobody had yet bothered to recover betrayed the former purpose of the burnt building. Half a dozen people were present at the scene, some digging for useful tools and materials in the ashes, some planning the reconstruction.

- You’re the faring carpenter, I take it?,

a brusque, heavyset man guessed.

- Sure I am,

Gatt replied and shook hands with the blacksmith who had just made his way out of the ruin. Like any town dweller, he was suspicious of travellers, but his genuine smile showed that he was first and foremost a man to value good craftsmanship. Craftsmanship he hoped this particular traveller held and could use to restore his home with.

- And those two? Good for anything?,

he continued, waving a hand at Arine and Ekil who stood a little behind Gatt.

- My wife and son. She knows some carpentry as well, and the boy can move rubble and materials,

the carpenter replied. Knowing that the blacksmith’s sceptic look came from a worry of having to pay multiple largely useless travelling workers, a situation many had been in before him, Gatt quickly added:

- He’ll work for free.

That seemed to seal the deal, and their employer led Gatt and Arine to a table to discuss the construction plans and introduce them to the three unskilled workers he had found hanging around the town. Ekil looked up in amazement at the tall chimney that had somehow survived the fire. Standing on its own, the large fireplace of bricks looked far more magnificent than when packed tightly into a house and hidden from plain sight.

- You boy, stop gazing. We’ve got things t’remove,

a greying worker shook Ekil from his fascination of the construction. His back bent and his fingers crooked from a long life of unskilled labour, the man peered about the remains of the house and directed the boy to the far corner of the burnt section.

- Toss’t ‘side the street, we’ll remove it later,

he said in a heavily wrought accent, and led the way, bending that worn back even further in search of planks and clay wall segments too heavy for the slight boy to move. Ekil followed with a sullen look and dug his hands into the thick, uneven layer of clay lumps, ashes and broken off bits of charred wood that hid the blacksmith’s floor from sight. When he pulled them back up, a pile of rubble came with them, kicking a murky cloud of ashes into the air. Ekil coughed loudly and dropped what he held to rub the dust from his eyes.

- Ay no, kid. What’ yer doing? We’ got a shovel over here,

the old labourer chided and produced the mentioned tool from behind the large fireplace. He handed it to Ekil and bent down to pick up a heavy plank of six feet, groaned wearily and walked it out of the ruins. Ekil proceeded to lift the unwieldy adult’s shovel and dug it clumsily into the ground. However heavy and difficult to handle it was, he thought, it was none the less better to be at a distance of the flying ashes that came in the wake of each shovelling.

--

Comments, blunt hatred and criticisms are always most welcome! :)
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Quill Master
Ye Olde Guard
Quill Master
Ye Olde Guard
Joined: 26 Sep 2005, 12:29

03 Jul 2013, 04:19 #2

Very good beginning! It's an action-packed start from a more unique perspective - of people on the run from "cleaners"!

I'm actually planning a similar story starting next year, using clones. :P

The way you wrote it really did make the reader "feel" some of the urgency of the moment - a bit tense but stealthy. Actually it reminded me of the border crossing from Mexico but that might be because I've been watching too much news lately. ha ha ha.

Will this story have Lego pics? If not I'll move the thread to non-Lego stories as I think it wouldn't be related to Lego?

It would be interesting to make the cleansers another race... lizard men! :lol:
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AlbaVik
Instrumentalist
AlbaVik
Instrumentalist
Joined: 10 May 2010, 17:59

03 Jul 2013, 08:56 #3

Thanks a lot, Quilly! :)

I'm glad the urgency effect worked out, because that's exactly how I intended the story to seem. You could acctually call it a fantasy world border crossing to some extent.

I'm not sure if I'll have to time illustrate this as well, so I'd like it to be moved. A brick-built side of the story might come as well, but it's not sure.

As for now, they're more just civilians who take up arms bent on defending their private property from somebody they believe will try to take it if allowed to unite in large numbers. But all is to be revealed eventually.
Our POV narrator is only ~6 years old, so we can't be expected to understand everything yet either ;)
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Quill Master
Ye Olde Guard
Quill Master
Ye Olde Guard
Joined: 26 Sep 2005, 12:29

04 Jul 2013, 05:02 #4

Very cool - fantasy world border crossing! B) B) B)

I also like the POV of a young child... this does indeed leave a lot of room for creatively revealing more about the plot and about characters... :spear:
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AlbaVik
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AlbaVik
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06 Jul 2013, 19:32 #5

It's a small update, but it's an update none the less. I'm afraid I will mostlypost shorter pieces like this one, but at least I'm getting somewhere ;)

--

Gatt and Irine ducked their heads under a hanging inn’s sign and encountered a yellowish pool of light spilling onto the street from dirty windows. Careful not to be seen, they were forced to turn away from the comforting shade by the walls and move into the middle of the uneven stripe of worn cobblestones. On the other side of the blurred windows, the family saw the few remaining visitors that were seated by the bar, their various slurred conversations a low, guttural murmur through the wall. To the travellers’ relief, nobody inside bothered to look past their own glasses, and soon, the dangerous spotlight was lost beyond a curve of the road.

It was by a mere hair that they noticed that they were no longer alone outside. Behind them, a creaking noise followed by a sudden increase in the amplitude of the drinkers’ words betrayed that the door to the inn had been opened. Turning on their heels, the travellers heard a series of greetings, some drunken, some sober, before the door was shut close again. Only now could they decipher the sound of approaching footsteps from the low noises of the inn. Gatt swung around and marched onwards, Irine following quickly in his steps and Ekil clinging on to avoid falling from the hastily moving man’s arm. Cautiously balancing speed and stealth, they hurried on until Irine abruptly stopped, tucked Gatt’s arm and pointed quietly to a small side alley besides them. Throwing a last look down the road, they spotted the first persons behind them gaining the bend they had just passed. Unbeknownst to the trio, an old knot in Gatt’s intricate baggage gave up just that moment and dumped its sack of assorted dried seaweed soundlessly on the smooth stones.

The smaller path was almost completely covered by the roofs of the neighbouring houses, and was therefore virtually untouched by the light from above. This left the travellers’ urgent path down it to a state of feeling their way along the ragged walls until they discovered a large, shapeless stack of thatching reeds. Looking over their shoulders once more to check if they had been discovered, they crouched low behind the dried plants, careful not to touch the pile of brittle, easily rattled growths. Ekil froze in terror as his eyes finally caught the tell-tale bag where it lay by the mouth of the lane. The talkative voices of the incoming strangers grew ever louder as he panicked and tore himself away from Irine’s protective grip before hurrying to the edge of the main road. His heart racing and his hands trembling, he bended over and plucked the sack from its site on the stones. Only the weak light and the busy conversation among the approaching group saved him from being seen. Still, just as he reached back to his parents, their outraged, weary whispers not silenced before he managed to briefly explain the bag, a voice behind him uttered:

- Ay, what was that? Think something went over there, lads…

To the dismay of the cowering travellers, the newcomers stopped as one by the alley mouth, holding high a couple of weak lamps and trying to pierce the darkness with their eyes. The one who had spoken took a few testing steps into the darker lane, and Ekil sensed how Gatt quietly seized his axe once again.

- Nah, probably just a rat,

the man, a bulky, otherwise rather nondescript build, shrugged off his former worries. While the family silently breathed out as one, they suddenly realised who the bypassing group were. Amidst seven men brandishing heavy, wooden clubs with an obvious unfamiliarity, four dismally looking persons of varying age were towed by slacked ropes, their heads hanging and their hands tied firmly behind their backs. Ekil watched in wonder for a moment before recognising the smallest of the prisoners as the girl they had stumbled upon in the swamp. Turned out she had been rounded up by the cleansers as well and was now being brought away along with her family. He had heard tell that nobody could be sure where arrested travellers where sent, but that a life under slave-like conditions in one of the nearby mines was a safe bet. Despite being a serious, constant threat in their lives, the travelling children would still make up various colourful, frightening tales of what awaited those whom the cleansers got their hands on. As such, Ekil had found that telling truth from haunting hearsay was excessively difficult in cases like this.

The voices and footsteps of the patrol receded painfully slowly into the lowlight until everything was finally calm and silent around the hidden family again. As they rose from behind the stack of reeds and returned warily to the main road, stretching the tensed, bent muscles of their legs, Ekil noticed that the darkness was on retreat. He turned and looked up to inform his parents only to understand from their worried glances towards the distant cave ceiling that they had observed the changes as well. Gatt hurriedly picked Ekil up again and followed Irine who was already on her way out of the town. They were drastically nearing highlight, and if their travel was delayed for much longer, the citizens would inevitably begin awaking around them. Being caught in the middle of the town at highlight right after a cleansing would spell doom for their last chances at getting away. They took the consequence of their long wait in the small lane and began half running onwards, the shapes and details of the surrounding houses now evidently more visible than earlier.
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Quill Master
Ye Olde Guard
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10 Jul 2013, 04:40 #6

I'm packing up about 1,000000 boxes right now as I move from China to the US this Saturday so I might not get a chance to read until next week... but very glad to see a new installment!

I'll read when I get out from under this mountain of boxes! :blink: :blink:
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AlbaVik
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10 Jul 2013, 07:46 #7

All fine with me, that just means I'll get a chance to write something more in the meantime. I've had guests around the last few days, so progress has stopped for the time being.

Hm... it's turning out kind of dark, but I suppose that's alright for now since I'm trying to etsablish antagonisms at the moment. Just to have something to shake around and turn upside-down later on ;)

Best of luck with the packing and moving, and welcome back to the civilised world :P
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AlbaVik
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20 Jul 2013, 20:59 #8

Ba-dum... Argh, it's already been ten days. Well, I've been busy, but here goes the next installment.

--

Once the had family had passed the last houses in the outskirts of the town, the darkness of late lowlight had fully receded and turned to a dim, gradually brightening highlight. The first signs of awaking life began stirring in the households behind them, but they were relatively comfortable that nobody would come this way so early. None the less, Irine and Gatt kept up their fast pace as the complex structure of the baskets firsts came into sight up the road that winded its way through a brushy landscape of wild bushes and trees, all held in a monotone greyscale by the weak lighting.

- Hey, you! Wait!,

a sudden, hushed voice sounded from beside the road. Convinced that they now faced yet another threat, the family saw the slightly bent over form of a man fight his way through the dense growths and onto the road. Throwing nervous, harrowed looks in all directions, he approached them cautiously and continued:

- You travellers too, right? Yes. They’re guarding the baskets, we can’t get out…

Gatt had put down Ekil when they stopped, and now he tensed up and reached absentmindedly for his axe, as if a part of him wished to strike down this stranger in pure frustration over the news. He was to be about to say something when the hunched, tattered figure spoke again, a growing hope now evident in his rasping, staccato voice:

- But there are only two of them now. Tired ones as well. Been here keeping an eye all lowlight. You lot are the first to come by. Nobody else got out. We can take them, you and me. They’re not even used to fighting.

The last persuasive, staggered lines were directed specifically at the sight of Gatt and his firm hold of the weapon that was tucked under his belt. The stranger smiled crookedly as he produced a long, slightly rusty knife from somewhere under his clothes and straightened his posture.
His brow furrowed in watchful concentration, Gatt reasoned that, was the tale of the guarded baskets indeed true, following the schemes of this unappealing individual might be the better choice. If the man’s claims turned out to be false, they would have lost nothing, and, knife or not, the stranger did not seem like somebody he could not best if it proved necessary. The hardships of a long life on the road had taught Gatt to trust no one, especially not those of his “own kind”, the landless wayfaring people.

- Alright, lead the way,

he replied, urging the other man on with a nod towards the baskets that had once again disappeared behind a curve of the road. The other traveller narrowed his eyes in a last bout of distrust before nodding in reluctant agreement.

- Vinte’s the name,

he rasped nonchalantly as he put his blade back to its hidden sheath under a fold of cloth and began proceeding towards the baskets, his confidence obviously increased.

- Gatt,

Ekil’s father answered curtly, his discontent with the situation gleaming through in the shape of the abrupt remark. Irine kept quiet in worry while Ekil himself did not even consider replying. The family followed Vinte, Ekil now walking beside his mother.

Gaining a final bend, the vegetation cleared and they walked straight into the baskets that came suddenly into sight in front of them. A towering wooden construction of platforms, ladders, pulleys and the namesake baskets, it reached almost to the roof of the cavern where the long wires disappeared into the distance of a passage upwards. Another set of solid roping that sank through a massive crater in the ground led to lower caves.
Peeking past his father, Ekil saw that Vinte had been right: Between the four travellers and their way out stood a duo of cleansers. Vinte and Gatt stopped as one, each eyeing the other man’s movements with care as the guards blinked in waking suspicion and approached the newcomers, hands on the hilts of the heavy cudgels that hung from their belts. Irine leaned down to Ekil and whispered:

- Get back to the trees, and hide, understand? We’ll call for you when it’s over, right?

She pushed him gently in the direction they had come from, and those were words he did not have to hear twice. As worried as he was for his parents, the events of the past lowlight had well and through worn him down. He dropped the few bags he was carrying and ran to the trees, his pulse racing as he vaguely heard an inaudible conversation begin behind him

When the decreasing murmur of the voices rose to a shrill scream of terror, Ekil instinctively stopped mid-step and turned his head to look. Irine and Gatt had both dropped their baggage on the ground and held respectively a heavy stick and the carpenter’s axe in their hands. Beyond them, Vinte and the younger of the guards stood as if in an embrace, the sleek blade of the wayfarer’s knife gleaming viciously between them in the early highlight. Ekil felt his stomach revolve in disgust, his fright greatly increased by what he had seen, and he turned to stumble onwards once again just as the other shocked watchman was galvanised into action and poised his weapon to strike.

Ekil fell low behind the first tree he encountered, his eyes shut and his face pressed into the ground though listening anxiously through the darkness. As a startled grunt of pain sounded over the noises of the skirmish by the baskets, he froze, a stinging wave of fear rolling over him. He had no doubt that the voice was his father’s. Too scared still to open his eyes, he held his breath and heard the groan being replaced by the blunt thud of metal striking against wood. A desperately gargling, hissing cough followed along with the sound of a limp weight dropping to the ground and the beginning highlight fell silent around him.
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Quill Master
Ye Olde Guard
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Joined: 26 Sep 2005, 12:29

22 Jul 2013, 16:13 #9

Great scott!! That was a twist!

I had a feeling that might happen - I was hoping it wouldn't though! :)

I really liked this line:


Gatt had put down Ekil when they stopped, and now he tensed up and reached absentmindedly for his axe, as if a part of him wished to strike down this stranger in pure frustration over the news.


I know this feeling!
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AlbaVik
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02 Aug 2013, 19:11 #10

Note: Arine/Irine had been renamed because i's and e's in names were growing too prominent.

--

“Ekil… come out! Ekil!”,

Irine called. Ekil opened his eyes and crawled to his feet. Peeking past the gnarled tree, he felt the tightly knotted pounding of his heart stop and his eyes silently fill with tears of relief. He barely noticed the still bodies of the two guards as he pushed himself past the tree and ran back towards the baskets.
Beside the platform stood Arine and Gatt. Grinding his teeth, the later clutched and massaged his right shoulder but was otherwise unscathed. Arine turned to greet her son with a smile and hugged him protectively for a moment before turning her attention to Gatt’s heavily bruised shoulder.

Ekil suddenly remembered Vinte and spun around to look for him. The stranger stood facing the body of the younger guard, his head bowed and his hands crossed, palms outwards, in front of his chest. Hanging from a necklace and balanced between his little fingers he held a crude, metal rendition of the angular religious symbol known as the Eye of Saruna.

For the first time, Ekil really took in the appearance of the other traveller. Despite his slightly bent posture and ragged clothes, he appeared to be no older than in his mid-twenties. The lightly brown colour of his shabbily cut, thick hair betrayed that he spent most of his days under the more prominent light of the upper caves. Suddenly, Vinte snapped his eyes open and glared disapprovingly at Ekil, at which the boy promptly looked away and returned his attention to his parents.
Gatt’s shoulder was getting better, and Ekil noticed only a short, disconcerted look at the praying Vinte before his father gathered himself and went to pick up the baggage once again. Arine followed his example and collected the remaining bags and gear. When they were finished, she looked towards Vinte. Having witnessed the younger man’s cold murder of the basket guard and subsequent reverence to Saruna, a minor deity of highly dubious morals, made her no less uncomfortable about his presence. But still, she reasoned, neither party would have made it past the guards without the other.

“You coming?”,

She questioned in his direction. Tucking the Eye back under his shirt, he looked up, nodded silently, and followed the family up the stairs that led to the baskets. Gatt led the way until they reached a prepared basket of fitting size.

“Look!”,

Ekil whispered and pulled the leg of his father’s trousers. Visible from their elevated position, a trio of heavily laden men was approaching from the town beyond the forest. Gatt hissed in annoyance and the group quickly got aboard. As the two men began working the intricate set of pulleys and chains, the wooden frame and thick, weaved reeds that made up the old basket creaked under the weight of the travellers and their belongings, but held. Vinte and Gatt turned the pulleys eagerly, and the cave floor was soon lost behind them. For a solid while, nothing was to be seen except the monotone rock wall of the vertical shaft around them, broken only by the occasional weed and a single bird’s nest that was perched on a small outcrop.

When they finally emerged into open space again, the travellers found themselves approaching a one-way basket station in the middle of the lower cave. Holding their breath as one, they moored their mean of transportation by one of the platforms and left it behind, reassured by the residents’ lack of reaction that the cleansing had not been coordinated with this cave. Ekil breathed in heavily, thankful that the chaotic events of the past lowlight were finally over.

“Got to find a place to rest while time is”,

Gatt remarked matter-of-factly and proceeded confidently down a random street where citizens of the town were beginning to take up their daily chores. Shrugging in mute agreement, Vinte followed the other trio of travellers.

--

I don't feel like going into cliché "protagonist with no parents stuff" and doubt that I could pull it off originally. Just wanted a little cliffhanger moment there ;)

Agreed about that line, having felt like that in real life actually inspired me to write it.

Also, in general, thanks a lot for your feedback. I know the Lego story community is mostly more of the silent watcher type, and that's all fine as well, but having somebody to discuss quirks and specific lines with is great as well :)
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