Friday, June 3, 2011

One - Imperial Prison

I haven't gotten to revise the last part yet.  I'm just desperately trying to cover ground and get into the real story.  If you see a blank, that's a place where I need a name...although right now most places/people need names.  I'm using "The King" right now in place of his name, and "Imperial" in place of the country's name.  If you want to make names up, I'd love the help.  I could especially use your help with the fantasy aspect of it.  Love.


Corran sat cross-legged on the floor, straw sticking through the thin cloth pants they’d given him. They’d taken his clothes, his few belongings and he felt uncomfortably exposed. Sometimes he slept like this, sitting up, eyes open, but he hadn’t slept at all tonight. The horizon ignited a glowing red, and as sun streamed through the barred windows, the scars on his back burned.

He stood with catlike grace and went to the window. There were only a few stars left in the sky, only the brightest, and the sun was rising fast. Dawn had come, as much as he had prayed all night that it wouldn’t. It was a hanging day.

“Wakey, wakey!” Bailiff Grom shouted, clanging his baton along the iron bars as he passed. “Today’s the big day.”

He banged on the bars of Corran’s cell. “I see our Prince of Thieves is already up. Excited, boy?”

“I’m not a thief,” Corran said, staring hard at the last of the stars.

“What are you then? A Finder? A Smuggler? A Delivery Boy?” Grom snorted. “The Hangman’s noose doesn’t care what you did, boys. You’re all criminals, and you’ll all die like criminals. Including our dirty Drakim over here.”

Corran scraped his knuckles against the stone wall, not letting Grom see he was getting to him. Corran had left his Drakim tribe years ago, had grown out his dark brown hair and covered his scars, but no matter how hard he tried to pass, it didn’t stop people from treating him like a Drakim when he was found out. Though most Drakim lived in the Badlands, and only did dealings with the border towns, their reputation spread through all the lands. They were seen as savage nomadic tribes that worshiped fierce reptilian gods and lived by their own laws. They rarely got involved in the battles of the non-Drakim, but they were fearsome warriors, running into combat with strange symbols all over their bodies and inhuman scars, seeming invincible and fearless.

His blood was still Drakim, he was doomed to wander, a stranger in every land.

In an hour, after they’d been fed water and one slice of bread, the guards began taking out the prisoners that were to be executed. The first one wailed, snot and tears getting into his dirty beard, his thin body wracked as if in pain. The second had to be dragged by two men. Corran held onto the bars of his cell and watched silently. There were only four stations, it could be a double hanging day, when they’d hang six of the city’s prisoners, but they’d gotten a late start and he was hoping it wouldn’t be. The third man led away didn’t cry or struggle, he couldn’t even speak the imperial language, and Corran had no idea of his crime. He could have been innocent. Finally a guard unlocked the cell across from him. “C’mon Thomas, you’re the last one.”

Corran sighed without realizing and then Grom’s baton bashed against the bars in front of his face. He lurched back.

“I wouldn’t be so relieved, Drakim. Captain Theuden himself wants to see to you.”

Adan Theuden was the Captain of the Imperial Soldiers and the King’s Military Advisor. There was no reason for him to interrogate Corran. Sure, he’d been set up by one of his most frequent buyers which made him think the Imperial Guard wanted him for some reason, but all he did was transport stolen objects and smuggle some unsavory people. It wasn’t even like the kingdom had restrictive travel policies yet.

He wracked his brain. A few months ago he had taken a dissident south, smuggling him out of the city disguised as a Drakim. He shouldn’t have returned to the Imperial City so soon, the King was infamously He knew he shouldn’t return to the Imperial City so soon. The King was known for the way he handled those who opposed him. Had Corran not smuggled that man out of the city, he’d most likely have ended up flayed, hanging in the center of the city’s market as a warning. Of course, that wasn’t why Corran had done it. He’d been paid a bar of gold.

Drums sounded in the courtyard. He head a few stray shouts. The tug of ropes. Cheering.

It wasn’t until after a lunch of water and vegetable stock that Corran heard the sound of metal boots marching toward the prison. He heard the prisoners erupt as the party entered and then silence immediately. He stood. Not much could silence men who’d just escaped the hangman’s noose. As the party marched the aisle and passed him he understood. Four High Legion Imperial Soldiers were escorting Captain Theuden and Lady High Chancellor Erryhn down the aisle. And it has hard to speak when you were breathless.

Lady Erryhn was a member of the Arwe race, and her very being seemed to defy the laws of this world. Her dress was the color of an opal, layer and layers of gauzy fabric that floated around her, heedless to the laws of gravity. Silvery-blond curls fell around her thin shoulders, bouncing and waving as if they were snakes with a life of their own. She had the pearlescent white skin characteristic of her race. He swore he could see her curls and the fabrics of her dress crackle with energy when she walked. As she moved passed him, a low hum came into Corran’s mind.

The Arwe lived on the border of the magical realm and the mundane realm, guarding the gates between the two. They were the protectors of the balance between the two worlds, and so, though they existed as magical creatures from storybooks to Corran and most the people of the mundane world, there were one or two Arwen ambassadors at every court.

Corran knew Lady Erryhn was powerful, both in magic and influence. It was custom for the king to appoint an Arwen ambassador as High Chancellor, but Lady Erryhn had become one of the king’s closest confidants and advisors.

After quiet words were exchanged between, Corran guessed, Theuden and Grom, two guards came down the aisle to his cell. They shackled Corran’s hands behind his back; his feet were already shackled, and led him to an old storeroom that he’d seen them use for interrogations. He felt like his heart was beating so hard it would crack his ribcage.

The four Imperial Soldiers stood outside the door, all stiff and staring straight ahead but one, who was studying Corran. His face was mild, expressionless, but Corran felt like he was sizing him up, forming his own assessment behind the good-soldier exterior. He had deep frowning creases on the sides of his mouth and a scar along his jaw, and wore his dark dreadlocks in a ponytail. He looked about forty, and from the way he stood, the way he wore the Imperial Soldier armor, Corran guessed he had spent most those years a soldier. Corran dropped his eyes, not wanting to give anything away to this man—though he had no idea what he was seeking—and allowed himself to be led into the room.

Captain Theuden and Lady Erryhn stood together, they were not looking at each other, not talking, but they seemed united, silently resolved. Captain Theuden gestured to the chair in the center of the room, and the guards forced Corran into it. One went to shackle him to the floor but Theuden stopped him. “Please unshackle him, thank you.” His tone was cool and perfectly measured, the tone of a powerful man.

Corran made it his job to know everything about the lands he was traveling in, from geography to customs to the King’s councilors, but he’d never imagined that he would find himself in front of the king’s closest advisors. Serving as a guide to a big mouthed, deep-pocketed activist couldn’t have been enough to garner the King’s attention. What did they think he had done? Corran wanted to shout, to protest, to defend himself, but he kept silent, waiting for Theuden to speak and reveal something of their hand.

When the guards left, Erryhn walked to the door and said a soft incantation in the old language. “We can speak freely, Adan.”

Theuden nodded. “Such a young man for such a long career of crime. Corran you have been arrested and found guilty of the charge of theft, transport of stolen goods, murder and treason—“

“What? You have no proof!”

“—You have been sentenced to die by hanging one week from today—”

“This is insane. You can’t be serious. What do you want from me?”

Corren was surprised to see Lady Erryhn smile. “You’re very astute, Drakim. It is true; we have a job for you.”


“The Chosen Prince has been found. He is currently safe in the Citadel of the Arwe, but he needs to travel to the Capitol Palace in the Southland, where Emperor _____ will protect him. The journey, dangerous enough already, must go through dangerous lands. You have the reputation as the best guide in all the lands.”

Corran stared at her. The prophecy of the Chosen Prince was not unknown to him, but like everyone, he’d believed it to be a myth. But now two of the King’s closest advisors were standing in front of him, proposing treason and saying they’d found the man destined to bring 100 years of peace.

“Why should I believe that you would betray the King?” he asked when words finally found him.

Theuden, despite the Imperial crest on his armor and the scarlet sash of a high ranking military official, said, “I am a soldier, but I want nothing more than peace for (my country) _____. My allegiance is to her.”

“The Arwe are the guardians of balance. The King has betrayed that balance and his fate has been decreed. We facilitate fate, not fight against it.”

Theuden wasn’t going give him time to let the information sink in. “Lady Erryhn and I do not have much time to spare. The terms are as follows. Should you agree, your part will begin immediately. You will accompany the prince from the Citadel of the Arwe down to Vermar city, across the Vermar Channel, through the _____ Desert to the Emperor’s palace in Southland. You must agree to have Lady Erryhn will place a curse upon you ensuring that should you betray the prince, you will meet immediate death. In return, when you complete the journey, you will have your freedom and a reward of gold to start your new life.”

They waited.

“And if I don’t accept, I’ll be executed next week?”



Erryhn placed her hand on his shoulder. He flinched. It was small and delicate and hot. She said an incantation and he felt a wave of heat rose through his chest. It throbbed in beat with his heart, spreading to his skin, making his whole body burn until the pain was eclipsed by unconsciousness, and he fell into a death-like sleep.

Captain Theuden and Lady Erryhn left him slumped on the chair in the interrogation room. Lady Erryhn strode out of the room but Theuden paused. “He didn’t make it,” he announced to the guards and Grom, the bailiff, who positively beamed. Theuden turned to one of the guards. “Leon, dispose of the body, please.”

As Leon retrieved Corran’s lifeless body, Theuden and Erryhn returned to the castle.


Corran and Fehr

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Neighbors v. 3

We arrived at school on a Sunday, a flood of six-hundred freshmen breaking on the stone campus like waves, rising through the dormitories. The first few weeks were spent standing in doorways and introducing ourselves, making conversation with people who would never become friends.  My roommate and I knew each other from summer camp, and it was hard not to just stay in our room with the few girls we'd befriended, watching things unfold through the frame of our door.  They would say my name and I would look at the skyscraper heels shuffling past or the stumbling lax bro, and know the insult biting into their tongues.

At first we never saw people going into the dorm room next door, just people leaving.  One, then a little while later two more, then another, like clowns quitting a clown car in a constant, implausible stream.  It seemed like every boy in our hall crowded around that room, boys with names that blurred between similar faces and boys that ignored us after they realized we wouldn't giggle at everything they said.
It wasn't until the second weekend that we figured out who actually lived there, two boys we renamed Babyface and Crazyfuck.  We had left a party early because we couldn't get to the keg, and they were drinking alone.  We sat on the black futon and looked around.  The room was a mess, with boxes of Cheeze-Its, bags of Combos and clothes scattered on every surface.  A poster of Kim Kardashian hung on their wall.  She arched her back, presenting herself to the camera.  Every boy's room we'd been in so far had the same poster.
We talked about drinking and they finally offered us Vladimir vodka, which we shot with no chaser, even though my roommate hated Vlad.  I still don't know if we grasped for alcohol because we knew we had it in common or because it was all we had in common.  Crazyfuck and I talked about his poster (Kim belonged to Babyface)--a catalog of mixed drinks, a challenge.  He said by the end of the year he wanted to drink every one.  Crazyfuck was sweet-looking, if a little simple.  Tall but shaped like a boy not a man, short-cut blond hair, flushed cheeks that invited great-aunts to pinch them.  Eyes heavily lidded from being drunk all the time.  
I told him the ones I'd already drank, reaching on my toes to touch the higher ones.  Jack and Coke and Rum and Coke and High-school Screwdrivers.  Daiquiris, margaritas, sangria and cerveza on our trip to Mexico, when I'd been free to order from the resort bar and go to local clubs.  If they’d been the other type of guys I’d have talked about Lebron James.  My roommate and Babyface made stilted conversation in between taking reprieves in their phones and Facebooks.  Babyface was built just like Crazyfuck, but with curly brown hair and a soft, protruding bottom lip.  {MORE CHARACTER FROM YOUR SKETCH}
After a while Crazyfuck took off down the hall on his skateboard.  Babyface rolled his eyes at us then chased after him.  We left, because for college boys they were pretty dumb, and weren't paying enough attention to us.
Later, we heard the Head Resident down the hallway calling, "Hey!  Stop, skateboarding!”
Crazyfuck rode into our view. “What?” 
We stopped playing Playstation and watched the exchange from our futon.  We were a little tipsy from the Vlad and I was eating Frosted Mini-Wheats, pulling the most sugary ones from the box and putting them into my mouth. 
The HR stopped in front of our doorway and jabbed her finger toward the skateboard, so close she had to smell the alcohol on him.  “No sports in the hallway,” she said.
“Skateboarding isn’t a sport,” he said.
“I’m going to have to write you up.”
He started arguing with her.  It was two in the morning, she hadn’t realized he was wasted yet, and he was fighting her on a minor write-up.  The HR was getting pissed, saying “Well I’m sorry.”  Whenever she tried to walk away we hissed at him, “Take the win, take the win!” but he just kept getting louder and louder and whinier, until he might’ve been crying and we ducked our heads and closed the door, afraid of being busted by association.

The boys could be interesting, entertaining, but they were always running off, chasing after something we didn’t know, conversations hanging, unfinished.

 They started coming over randomly, at three in the morning after our suburban campus was dead and everyone who was coming home were passed out in their beds.  I think they liked us because we didn't flirt with them, we entertained their drunken ramblings and drank as much as they did.  They would bring 40’s--Crazyfuck loved 40’s--and we would share our vodka, and tell them we were better drinkers.  It was possible we were all alcoholics that year.

There were four of them, Babyface, Crazyfuck, Cutie Pie and Earrings.  They were best friends and they all came to college together—Babyface said Crazyfuck was the mastermind, but Crazyfuck just shook his head.  Babyface said a lot of things that made Crazyfuck just shake his head.
They were from the same high school, the same small town in Jersey.  Half of them had Italian last names.  Some of this was figured out from Facebook and some from asking questions.  They were good at fielding questions, sitting on our orange futon, telling us about their lives.  Earrings had a girlfriend back home who he would never, ever cheat on.  Babyface had a girl back home who he sort of wanted to date, who he used to date, who he loved as much as a drunk, handsy baby could.  They had slept together, but he looked me in the eye and made sure I knew that it had only been with one girl, the one girl. 

When he climbed into my bed, they had started dating again.  You have a girlfriend, I said.
No, no, no, he said.  She's cool with this.  I just can't have sex, he said, sliding his hands down my back and under my tights.  I tensed into him.  He bit my bottom lip.  I told him to turn off the light.  He pulled me on top.
I did not like him the most.

Crazyfuck freaked out sometimes.  We would hear him screaming down the hall, shuffling, bodies hitting, strain, somebody holding somebody back.  "Just take him to my room!"
“Let me go let me fucking go!  I’m going to fucking kill him!”
“Calm down be quiet!”
“Just take him to the room!”
“Jesus fuck I’m going to fucking kill you!”
All night my body rattled as he punched and threw things at my wall. 

Crazyfuck was slightly drunk and waving around an ID he found.  He and I were arguing about returning it.  He was pretending to be an RA.
“You don’t want to make him mad,” Cutie Pie joked, sitting at my desk.  He had a pretty face.  He might have been the nicest.
"Oh, I know how he gets when he's mad.  I sleep there--" I pointed to my bed, pressed up against our shared wall, “so when he freaks out and starts throwing things at the wall, I hear it all night long.”
Crazyfuck looked up.  In the light of my room, his eyes were dark, my face reflecting in his pupils. He wanted me to understand him.  “It’s not the wall, it’s what’s between.”
We were silent, locked in for a minute.  He knew I knew that parallel to me in the room next door was Babyface’s bed.  Crazyfuck was letting me in, giving me something serious and honest and strange, and I wondered why.