Trespass (episode 11)


Through the heavy fog of unconsciousness, Milak heard the scraping of metal across stone.  Bone weary as he was, he knew that sound.  Food.  He rolled on to his side, throwing his arm across his body he opened his eyes so he could snatch the bowl before the rats came.  Too late, he realized a rat came along for the ride as he pulled the bowl closer to him.  He pulled the rat off the bowl and set it down in the corner.

He peered down the hallway, catching a glimpse of a short, bald man rounding a corner heading back to the guard’s desk.  Stretch, so glad you are on shift.  The guards kept an irregular schedule, sometimes Stretch had the duty, other times it was a tall, wiry, dark-haired man he had named Lanky, and then other times a muscular woman with short-cropped blonde hair he had dubbed Pudgy.  Of the three, Stretch was the only one who provided even half a bowl of gruel, the others sneered at him and the bowl just of reach, forcing Milak to watch as the rats fed.  He finished the meal, assuming one could call it a meal, and tossed the bowl towards the corner of the cell.  He picked up a stone and marked the wall.  My sixth meal, assuming a meal a day, I have been here a week.  He really had no way to tell, Amzi never let him get more than what he guessed was three hours of rest at a time.

He sat in his cell with his back against the wall and his knees pressed against his chest.  Wrapping his arms around his legs and his head on his knees, he controlled his breathing and entered a meditative state.  It helped with the dozens of fresh cuts and bruises that rested on top of another dozen older, barely healed cuts and bruises.  Amzi always kept someone nearby to Heal him just enough that he would not bleed out.  Of course, the Healer did nothing to ease his pain from the multitude of knife cuts that crisscrossed his arms and back.  With every twist or turn of his body, that pain wove through his body like lightning strikes.  Any time now, she would saunter in ready for another session.  He might have understood the torture if she had asked even a single question, yet once she started she never said a word, instead an intense smile spread across her face.  She could not help but express the sheer joy she received from causing pain.  At least the meditation helped prepare him for the next onslaught.

He could not tell how much time had passed, maybe ten minutes, maybe an hour, before he heard the familiar click, click, click of Amzi’s boots as she strode towards his cell.  Here we go again.  I am ready.  At least he hoped he was.

“My my my, you’re looking a bit gaunt; you really should eat more, you need to keep up your strength.”

Not even lifting his head from his knees he said, “At least it took a week of torture and starvation for me to look haggard; you come by it naturally.”  So, the dance begins.  Every time she came to torture him, they spent time throwing barbs at each other.  She always gave him an opening so he could insult her, often times smiling even more when he took the less obvious path through the exchange.  Most days she stoked his anger slowly, as if she were savoring a particularly well cooked meal.  Other times, she pressed the attack immediately baiting his anger openly.  One way or another he gave her what she wanted; she glowed with pleasure each time.  He learned more control each day, but in the end he knew today would be no different from yesterday.

“You’re stronger than I gave you credit for.  I’m sure I can convince Grimtok to spare you for a time.  Our troops need targets to practice their skills.  Yes, I think our newest recruits could use some experience.”

“If your troops want training dummies they need look no further than their leaders.”

“Don’t you worry about our training dummies, a burned corpse works just as well.  We’ll just burn another village; there is one just across the river.  Dead or alive they don’t fight back, they’re the perfect dummies.”

He lifted his head and stared at Amzi; she cut away the pretense and drove her point home early today.  “As much as I enjoy our conversation, maybe we can skip the pleasantries today and get right to the torture?  The knife is easier to handle than your screeching.”

Amzi chuckled under her breath, “Screech, do I.  You know I never expected you to be so … resilient.  After your dismal failure defending your village, I thought you’d snap like a weak gear.  You fail your family, getting most of them killed, and those that don’t die, you abandon.  I mean really, your father is no longer working at full pressure is he?  How does it feel to know that you are responsible for The Corrupted Warrior’s indiscriminate killing sprees?  Tell me, what really cracked his piping?  Was it the loss of his wife or the realization that his son was too much a coward to do anything about it?”  She smiled, seeing pain, grief, loss, and rage in Milak’s eyes.

He bolted to his feet with only the bars separating the, he need only reach out and grab her then he could slam her against the cage until her neck snapped.  As if reading his mind, she leaned closer to the bars, taunting him.  She deserves to die, for the pain and suffering she has caused my people.  I could extract Vengeance for my family.  Maybe than my father could know peace.  A quiet corner of his mind ask a simple question, then what?  He knew she never had the keys.  Using every bit of the will he forced his arms to his side in a calm voice said, “I could lay my pain at your feet.  However, you are nothing but worker’s tool, a hammer.  He will cast you aside when you are of no use to him.  I pity you.”  He turned his back on her, willing himself still.  He waited for the next attack, wondering if she would kill him now.

From behind him, he heard a loud thump followed by a thud as if a body hit the floor.  He turned to see Amzi crumpled on the ground.  Elandria loomed over her unconscious body; she clutched a mighty and ornate scythe.  The wrought-silver handle ended at the blade looked like an owl’s foot with three talons holding the blade.  Off the back-end of the blade was a long-nosed owl face; it connected to the blade by darkened steel feather tufts.  Unknown runes and a smattering of topexxes embellished the blade, which appeared massive compared to Elandria’s small frame.  He watched as Andra landed on her shoulder; he noticed she wore a mask in the shape of an owl’s face.  The finely worked silver outlined her eyes and cheeks, with several pieces arcing out to feathery points, each with a topexx embedded at the end.  Stretching across her nose was a finely crafted silver piece, worked to resemble an owl’s hooked beak.

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“I am glad to see that owls are back in fashion,” said Milak.

Elandria chuckled as she unlocked his cell and let him out.  “We must hurry.”

“Have you found Nuala?”

She lowered her head, and put her hand on his shoulder and shook her head softly.

It is my fault; if I had not said we should come here, she would still be alive.  Deep down he knew that was not true, yet he could not shake the guilt that came with the hearing of her death.  “How?”

“There is an airshaft nearby, we –”

“How?”  He did not move.

Sighing, “I found her knife.”  She held it out for his inspection; the charred handle and warped metal delivered the final telling.

He squatted down next to Amzi and undid the straps holding her fire contraption to her arm, and tucked it into his belt.  He rolled her into the cell and locked it.  “Now we leave.”

He followed her out of the holding area right past Stretch, who lay unconscious, slumped over the desk as if he had decided to take a nap during his shift.  She led them through the twisting and turning tunnels, avoiding all patrols, until finally, they stopped.

“Here.”  She shrugged her shoulder and Andra lifted off and flew up out of sight.  “Can you climb?”

“Like a child conquering a tree.”

He boosted her up so she could grab the edge of the vent; once situated she helped him get into the shaft as well.  Climbing hand-over-hand surely was not as fast using a rope, however, they had no choice at this point.  After what felt like hours, at least to his muscles, they crested the top of the vent and emerged in the woods just as the sun crested over the horizon to the east.

“We cannot stay here, not even for a moment; we are on their land.  Quick now.”

He had no time to catch his breath before they started jogging westward.  He hoped that they made it across the river before the Kelrand caught them.


Aye, matey, it do be story day on the high seas! Arrgh! Hehe, pirates rocks, well the imaginary pirates do, I don’t think I want to meet a real pirate. I do be proud to present the final version of Trespass. In the last episode, Milak and Nuala do be captured by Amzi, while Elandria do be lost. What does Amzi do with her Hos’lathi prisoners? Can they escape her clutches? Read on and don’t forget to be telling us how you liked this episode.

Polly wants a cracker, squawk! –Aj

PS:  Jenna and I are still on our cruise.  If we something happens and we can’t post to the schedule listed below we will catch up as soon as we get home.  Thanks!

 

Next Episode:  EscapeFinal release September 30, 2016 (first draft on Sept 23, second draft on Sept 26, and rough color on Sept 28)

Previous Episode:  Tunnels

First Episode:  Rainfall


This episode was originally posted on the Space Monkeys Down Patreon as Beating the Drums of War:  Trespass.

Beating the Drums of War: Trespass
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