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[The Prisoner of Arimar]

    • 245 posts
    August 1, 2017 5:29 PM PDT

    The Prisoner of Arimar


         The prisoner’s chains rattled against the cracked, wet stone floor he had slept on for nearly two years. His bedding, a single bronze bowl, and one stone lion figurine that he had carved to pass the time was the entirety of his possessions. The inmate in the neighboring cell scratched his goodbye against the wall, and the prisoner scratched back his own sorrowful goodbye.


         This day was the first day in years that he looked forward to the future. Would he be welcome anywhere? Would he want to come back? Would he be dead by daylight? Will he ever see the sun gleaning through the tower Oaks again? Or smell the grimberries and pine as he drifted to sleep? Hopes of home gave him strength to lift the burdensome chains. He dragged them over to the door and stood anxiously waiting for the wooden slat to slide open or the latch at the end of the hallway to slip open. He stood in silence. The scratching from his neighbor became more frantic.

         KACHINK! The latch at the end of the hallway echoed through the prison. His heart thudded inside his chest, echoing like a drum in his ears. SCHLINK! The wooden slat opened at the top of the door, and the green eyed guard looked down at him waiting at the doorway. “Face the far wall, little man,” he ordered. Clumsily, the prisoner hefted the chains with the weakened slothfulness of a prisoner who had only eaten potato water since his arrival. The chains clambered against the wall, and a subtle cry bled out from the next cell. The loss of his friendship could not match the yearning his heart he held for Sorhiryth.

         A mist of rust ejected from the door frame as the green eyed guard unlocked his door for the first time in two winters, and a squad of fully armored guards broke through to pin the prisoner against the wall. The lead guard raised his keys toward the prisoner’s wrists, but paused for a moment. “You know why we’re here?” The prisoner faced the wall and nodded his head. “Good. Don’t do anything stupid.” He nodded again. In a single swift motion, the heavy bindings fell to the floor and the prisoner’s shoulders raised a bit as a lighter set was attached.


         “Move out,” He ordered. The troops encircled the prisoner as they emptied into the hallway.

         It was the first time that the prisoner had seen anything other than his own cell since his arrival. The door at the end of the hallway emptied into a massive, spherical cathedral room with a platform at the center where the warden worked and the guards kept watch. From their perch, they could watch every single door that, no doubt, opened into similar cell blocks. Looking up, the prisoner counted twenty levels of non-conspicuous doors; looking down, fifteen more levels before the room faded off into a misty darkness. The walls were made of stone, not crafted stone, but wet, natural stone. He imagined the prison being carved out by magic and fortified heavily against the outside world.


         The guards led him out onto a series of wooden bridges and ramps. The ropes and wooden platforms creaked as the troops moved from platform to platform, eventually rising up to the central watchtower. The warden paced back and forth in a hooded, black silk robe emblazoned with golden runes. From his hands shot tiny bolts of electricity as he worked with a small jagged piece of metal in his hands. “You may place the prisoner there,” he pointed to the only chair in the entire prison. The guard rolled his green eyes as he sat the prisoner down and latched his chains into hooks emanating from the platform below the chair.

         “Do you know where you are?” the warden inquired. The prisoner looked around and up and down, then shook his head no.

         “Good. Good.” The warden nodded and paused a moment to mark something in a file lying open on a nearby table. Then he returned to working with the metal.


         “Do you remember who you are and why you are here?” The prisoner looked down, silent; his stomach churned and his face reflected the pain.

         “Good.” The warden repeated, “Some things shouldn’t be forgotten.” He made another mark before returning to his metalworking. The guard approached with his bronze bowl with his bedding neatly folded inside the bowl, and his lion figurine placed conspicuously on top. The sight of it made the warden scoff, “Ah hah,” he snatched it up and the cavern echoed. “What prisoners do to pass the time is fascinating, don’t you think?” he asked rhetorically, inspecting its details.

         The prisoner’s chains yanked back as he begged to keep the lion. The warden smirked, held it a moment, and lightly tossed it across the room toward the prisoner. The prisoner watched it intently in the air, caught it as soon as it was close enough, and held it close to his chest.

         “Reflexes check out.” The warden made another marking. With a wave of his hand, the prisoner’s bedding was turned to ash in the bowl it rested in.

         “So, now that you are free, do you know where you will go?” He inquired.

         The prisoner managed to squeeze some air across his dry, useless vocal chords, but could only get out a, “hhhhnnnnuuummm.” He cleared his throat to try again and produced a large clot of ash and mucus, but still couldn’t manage a discernable word. Instead, he made an untranslatable hand motion and shrugged while looking the warden in the eye.

         “Hmm, I’m not supposed to let you go unless you can communicate effectively…,” he trailed off and turned his back. In a blink, the warden materialized next to the Halfling and drove the jagged metal against the prisoner’s forearm. He seized, paralyzed by the electricity shooting along his arm. The flesh melted under the great heat and the smell of his hand burning made him holler out so loudly it startled the guards.

         With that, the warden blinked across the room again and made a final marking in his file. “I see you are in pain,” he grinned evilly looking over at the prisoner, “that’ll do.” “You may remove his chains now,” the warden waved the guards over. The chains fell to the floor, the guards dragged the Halfling over to an elevating platform, and they stood in formation around him. He desperately clutched the lion against his chest.

         “By the power vested in me, by her majesty, Queen Amenthiel, I hereby declare that you have paid the price for your crimes against her kingdom. Please spend your remaining days living by the laws of the land and become a contributing member of society.” The warden raised his hand high in the air, “Gammy Wildwit, you are free to go.” With a snap of his fingers, the lion figurine in his hand exploded into a hot blast of air against his chest, knocking him back off the platform and sending him falling deeper into the misty darkness below.


    Lion Man


         Rain was the first sensation of freedom Gammy Wildwit would feel after his incarceration. A hot desert breeze blew in, drying out the rain as soon as it reached the earth beneath. He stood up and strained his eyes to open but could not break the natural reaction his body had to the light. He reached out toward the rain to feel the gloomy clouds above, eyes closed, allowing the rain to cleanse as much filth as it could.

         The second sensation of freedom he felt was pain. Soot, mud, and dry, arid sand coated the mark burned into his flesh by the warden. As soon as his eyes could open, he inspected the scar, looking closely for open skin or black, burnt flesh, yet found none. “At least it’s a clean mark,” he thought to himself, still unable to force out words. He tore a piece of burlap from his prison shirt and wrapped his forearm into a fist wrap, careful to protect the mark from unwelcoming eyes. That was when he noticed the lion shaped burn mark in the center of his shirt from the exploding figurine trick. He tried swiping at it to see if it would flake away, but it did not.

         The rain drained away his filth only to muddy the dry, savannah plain he stood upon. It was flatland as far as he could see, and only the grasses waved to him, greeting him in waves of hot, drying breaths. He was standing under a baobab tree. High above him, monkeys watched his every move; some of them throwing sticks and what he hoped were rocks. He saw a sandstorm whirling on the horizon and immediately decided he should travel in the opposite direction. With nothing in the world to call his own and weakened shoeless strides, Gammy took his first steps of freedom out onto the wild savannah plain. The gray, replenishing clouds continued to rain for most of the day, and, toward evening, he nearly wept when he finally saw the sun for the first time, again.

         He dragged himself across the empty plains until the red sunset faded in the west and the full midsummer moon illuminated the evening fields. Each horizon he reached only revealed more horizons and equally empty acreage. Hunger, thirst, and weakness finally set in as he collapsed, exhausted in a stand of trees. Rest would be welcome, but sleep evaded him for most of the night. For hours, he looked at the stars above, amazed they still shined. By the time he gave up on sleeping for the night, the stars finally hypnotized him into a calm slumber.

         He awoke when the sun broke the horizon. His eyes welled up with tears when he looked around and found a small patch of okra growing where he had stumbled into the grove. He was famished, and couldn’t believe he had missed it the night before. Calmly munching on a pod, a thought occurred to him, ‘maybe it wasn’t there last night.’ Greedily, he hoarded the vegetables, claiming them as his own, stuffing his trousers and face with okra pods. The natural juice quenched his thirst just enough, and the vegetable satisfied his hunger pains. Finally having the strength to rise, he scoured the area and found himself a strong, light branch he could use as a walking stick and primitive weapon. He paused a moment to give thanks for the blessings he had just received, before pointing himself onward.

         Days passed before he found any hint of civilization. The fires of a small nomadic hunting party camping on the horizon was cause for celebration, as Gammy still had no idea where he was. He caught up with them early the next morning and identified most of them as Khägan. The lone exception was a short and stout dwarf wielding one of the sharpest, holiest axes Gammy had ever seen. No doubt he was a Paladin.

         “What are you doing out here?” the dwarf rattled in his armor,” There is a huge beast about! We haven’t seen any critters for miles.” He motioned for the group to set up a temporary camp and tend to Gammy. One of the Khägan handed Gammy a skin of cool water, and Gammy slurped it up until he was sick to his stomach and threw up a wet, dark glob of filth. As the cool water streamed over his voice box, he purged the final bit of sticky goo. The final clod of sludge landed on a nearby tree and stuck against it like molasses cooling, and jubilation ran through him. Like a wolf howling at the full moon, Gammy howled victoriously at the midday sun. Never before had he appreciated the pleasures of speech than at that moment, and shouted.

    Let free the wraiths eerie laugh.
    The whole world reads your epitaph.
    May the guard, assembled, tremble,
    For with my voice, I am not so gentle!


         He let out another howl ending on a snarling bark followed by a long laugh of joyful madness as he jumped around riding an invisible horse. The concerned hunting party tried to calm him, but, before anyone could quiet him down, the ground shook and trees snapped over a nearby ridge.

         “Now you’ve done it,” the Paladin growled. ”At arms, boys!” The party stampeded together into an arced phalanx formation with the armored paladin up front. An entire tree flew overhead, roots and all, and landed behind the group, blocking their retreat. Another tree landed in the same location, stacking itself haphazardly against the other.

         As a giant appeared over the hilltop, the Dwarf threw a blinding ball of magic toward its eyes to catch it off guard. The stun took, and the Paladin charged in with his axe twinkling with magic. The impact exploded into a shower of magical sparks as his axe lodged into his Achilles tendon. The giant was paralyzed by the attack as he continued to shake off the blinding stun. The hunters saw their opportunity to unload their bows into his face hoping to distract the giant while the Paladin continued to slash away at his prey. Neither the Dwarf nor the Khägan were doing enough damage to end the fight quickly, though and the giant eventually recovered. The hunters started getting tossed back one by one, their arrows failing to pierce its tough skin or find any critical areas. The Paladin remained immovable though. The giant kicked at the Dwarf slashing away at his feet, but the immovable Paladin magically took the entire impact of the kick without giving a centimeter. The giant howled, wobbled, and reached down to guard his stubbed toe. He took a swing downward toward the paladin, but missed when his fist landed where the dwarf had been standing moments before.

         The giant turned back to focus attacks on the Dwarf, and Gammy took the opportunity to aid in the hunters’ recovery. He rounded them up and directed them to stay behind cover and fire only in unison. He then gripped his staff and charged in behind the giant as the hunters began firing their primitive arrows more methodically, several arrows breaking the skin finally.

         At full sprint, Gammy drove his staff into the ground, vaulted off, grabbed ahold of the giant’s leg armor, and began to climb the beast like a tower oak. The giant swatted at him like he was shooing a gnat, but gammy moved quickly around his trunk, and the giant missed, swatting himself instead. The Dwarf continued to hold most of his attention, so he continued his ascent and climbed up the giant’s torso grasping wads of flesh for grip and dodging the wild swats easily. When he neared the shoulder, Gammy took his taunting up a notch. As the giant raised his arm for an attack, Gammy leapt from his chest, grabbed at his armpit hair and yanked downward with all his weight, swinging him upward and onto his shoulder. The giant howled in pain and a volley of arrows entered his mouth and lodged into his throat. The paladin used the distraction to patch heal his hunting brothers before sending another blinding stun upward.

         Gammy considered leaping off to avoid getting caught up in the stun, but instead saw an opportunity and took it. Just before the blinding light splashed against the two of them, Gammy breathed in deep and closed his eyes, picturing the fight with the giant in his mind. As the light washed over them, their sight blinded and their hearing deafened. Gammy, standing on the giants shoulder, reached for the giant’s nose hair and swung himself toward the other shoulder. The giant swatted at him with his fist and crushed his own nose instead. Gammy climbed up to the top of his head and rappelled down the back of his head using his hair for grip. The disoriented giant, chocking on a volley of arrows and blood from his own attack, chased the Halfling around his head until the blinded, spinning movements made him lose his balance. He toppled into a heap onto the log pile he had created. The sharp branches jabbed into the giant, broke his ribs, and scraped open his thick skin. One sharp branch punctured the giants left arm, pinning it to the logjam.

         With his eyes still closed, Gammy jumped off at the moment of impact and landed neatly behind the line of hunters, while simultaneously shaking off the blinding stun he had endured. The dwarf leapt forward onto the giant’s chest heading toward the throat for the kill. The magical aura surrounding the Dwarf fizzled out at that moment and his axe began glowing shades of orange and white. Gammy noticed the giant raise his free arm into a fist for a final attack of desperation. As the powerful fist raced toward the Paladin, and no time to think, Gammy flicked his wrist, revealing his gift and charged in as fast as he could.

         The only thing the Dwarf would remember seeing in that moment was a Halfling led by a flaming sword, the lion embossed cloth over his heart glowing bright, and the giant’s right hand, separated from its wrist, landing safely nearby in the long grass. Blood sprayed wildly, coating the savannah grass, and the surprised Dwarf was thrown from the giant’s chest as he convulsed in pain. When he stood, Gammy was kneeling on the log near his head, his flaming sword penetrated deep into the giant’s cerebellum. He waited there until the giant’s breathing stopped and the convulsions slowed to a steady twitch.

         As his gift faded, the burlap wrapping around his jagged mark turned to ash and blew away in the wind, revealing the mark to the Paladin. The awestruck Paladin closed his eyes and prayed, “Give me wisdom, give me strength.” He repeated this several times and opened his eyes once more. He motioned for the hunters and pointed at the giant’s feet, but continued to watch Gammy and stare at the mark. The hunters swarmed the corpse, quickly removed the toes, and wrapped them in rags. He continued his judgmental stare, looking sideways at Gammy with haunting eyes, as if he was looking for something he couldn’t find.

         “I am surprised to see such capabilities in a criminal,” he finally commented.

         “I have paid my debt,” Gammy fired back.

         He scoffed. “Why? Because Warden Arimar declared it?” he motioned with his arm raised and mocked him flamboyantly, “By the power vested in me...” He caught himself. “Our debt remains unpaid as long as our heart beats. Only then will the debt collector balance his ledger.”

         He turned away and shook his head in confusion. “What path have you placed me on?” he shouted toward the heavens with his hands raised.

         He continued to watch Gammy for several minutes. “I have seen your aura before. Your heart is right, but what you seek in unattainable. Paladins have never faltered in their faith or reverence for the laws of the land.” Gammy said nothing to this; he simply listened with his eyes toward the ground. “A criminal can’t be a Paladin,” he said walking away, “much less a Halfling.”

         They gathered up all their gear and Gammy helped the hunters carry the severed toes until they reached their village.


    Vito Hasanna


         The Paladin didn’t stick around long. He simply took his giant toes, packed them on a mule and returned to wherever he came from, never giving up his name. Gammy had finally cleaned up. His muddy locks were blueish green again, and he let one of the hunters cut his two year old ponytail as a trophy. His strength was returning, and the Khägan we welcoming as long as he did his part to help out the village. He even kept his burlap shirt after one of the tailors at the village repaired and strengthened it. The lion, magically etched into the fabric would center him and give him courage as he adjusted to life beyond the darkness of the prison.

         The entire village gathered around the fire at night to dance and tell stories. With drums beating and the night chirping with crickets, Gammy stood to share a story about Sorhiryth, a spring moon curse, and a champion sent on an unfinished quest. The tale, so intriguing, hushed the villagers into whispers as they all hung on every word; hoping the hero would emerge victorious. The tale ended unfinished, and the village priestess saw clearly that they were another chapter in the tale. She stood and approached Gammy with her boney finger outstretched and poked him in the chest.

         “Lion man,” she spoke, “our tales intersect. We are forever woven together like the lion on your shirt. Let me tell you one of our tales. Perhaps you will find wisdom in it.” The drums died down with the crickets of the savannah sat eerily silent as she spoke.

    One day, a rabbit and a monkey were talking. While talking, each one of them was constantly indulging his own habit. The monkey constantly itched himself all over, and the rabbit kept turning his head watching for predators in all directions.
    “It’s amazing that you cannot stop scratching,” said the rabbit, “not even for a moment.”
    “It’s more amazing that you look all around you for no good reason,” replied the monkey.
    “I can easily stop anytime I want to,” said the rabbit.
    “Very well,” replied the monkey, “let’s make a wager. We both must sit still. The first to move loses the bet.”
    “Agreed,” replied the rabbit. And there they sat, staring at each other until it became unbearable for both of them.
    The rabbit suddenly got an idea to trick the monkey. “I was out in an open field one day, and in terrible danger,” he began. “Dogs were jumping in the fields in all directions. They were all around me, to the left, the right, the front, and behind me.” As he told his story, he turned his head in all the directions to illustrate his story better.
    The monkey, wise to the ruse, said, “I have a similar story. One day I was being tormented by children from all directions and they were throwing rocks at me. One hit me here; one hit me there; and over here, too.” Each time, he demonstrated the rocks hitting him by thumping his skin where it itched.
    The rabbit laughed loudly, “let us declare a draw,” he said, “as much as we would like to, we cannot change our nature, this proves it.” “Agreed,” snickered the monkey as he blatantly itched his leg.

         Gammy thanked her for the story as he helped her back to her seat. The party continued on as he reflected on what the priestess was trying to tell him.

         The hunter that took his ponytail sat down next to him, and Gammy shuddered as he noticed the locks of his hair tied around the hunter’s belt. “You cannot change who you are, little lion man,” he said as he handed him a leather bracer. Gammy inspected it and slipped it on his wrist over his jagged burn. The hand crafted leather settled in place cleanly, covering the mark completely, and supported his wrist perfectly. Gammy felt across the surface and discovered two words embossed into the surface.

         “Vito Hasanna,” he read inquisitively.

         “Live from the heart,” the hunter said, “like the rabbit and monkey, you cannot change your nature.” He knocked on the leather. “Fireproof too!” he grinned.

     

    • 346 posts
    August 1, 2017 7:22 PM PDT

    Amazing story!  Waiting for the next chapter for sure!

    • Moderator
    • 7553 posts
    August 2, 2017 2:37 AM PDT

    Nice job Larr, that was a good read, my friend :)

    • 489 posts
    August 2, 2017 3:08 AM PDT

    Thank you Larr, I was engrossed from start to finish.  Grimberries to The Tale of the Rabbit and Monkey, this is a masterful work.

    Vito Hasanna indeed.  Bravo!


    This post was edited by Kumu at August 2, 2017 3:09 AM PDT
    • 2685 posts
    August 2, 2017 5:33 AM PDT

    Good job as always, Larr!

    • 265 posts
    August 2, 2017 3:31 PM PDT

    Larr, I very much enjoyed that story and the short stories within the story. Awesome job my friend.

    • 245 posts
    August 4, 2017 9:13 PM PDT

    Thanks for reading! My mind works a bit haphazardly, so heres a little something extra =) 

    What if the giant had won the battle?