Oceans of Gold
Vasher is fairly lean Shadar Kai of middling height. Modest in physical appearances his most striking characteristic would be his eyes, not the color, but the fervent zeal that seems to burn from within them.
Like most Shadar Kai Vasher has several tattoos, but if one were to study closely they are almost all unfinished. The only one that is complete is the elaborate markings of what appears to be a hand or claw on his chest, fingers curled over where his heart would reside. Vasher has no piercings to speak of, but his left ear is completely shredded and he has a few long healed markings of where piercings may have once been.
It’s funny Vasher thought how many things begin with my getting thrown into prison.
The guards laughed to one another, slamming the cell door shut with a clang. Vasher stood and dusted himself off, rolling his shoulders and wincing. While the bottom half of the cell door was solid wood, the top half was barred, and he could see the three guards open his large duffel and rifle through his possessions.
One of them noticed him watching. The guard was an oversized beast of a man with a shaved head and a dirty uniform that barely retained the bright yellow and blue coloring of the New Creation city guard.
The large guard sauntered up to the cell door, leaving his friends to amuse themselves with Vashers belongings. “They say you’re pretty tough,” the man said, sizing up Vasher.
Vasher did not respond.
“The bartender says you beat down some twenty men in the brawl.” The guard rubbed his chin. “You don’t look that tough to me. Either way, you should have known better than to strike a priest. The others, they’ll spend a night locked up. You, though … you’ll hang.
Vasher turned away. His cell was functional, if unoriginal. A thin slit at the top of one wall let in light, the stone walls dripped with water and moss, and a pile of dirty straw decomposed in the corner.
“You ignoring me?” the guard asked, stepping closer to the door.
“Here, now,” said one of the men looking through Vashers duffel. “What’s this?” Vasher had always found it interesting that the men who watched dungeons tended to be as bad as, or worse than, the men they guarded. Perhaps that was deliberate. Society didn’t seem to care if such men were outside the cells or in them, so long as they were kept away from more honest men.
Assuming that such a thing existed.
From Vasher’s bag, a guard pulled free a long object wrapped in white linen. The man whistled as he unwrapped the cloth, revealing a long, curved-bladed sword in a silver sheath. The hilt was pure black. “Who do you suppose he stole this from?”
The lead guards eyed Vasher, likely wondering if Vasher was some kind of nobleman. Though new creation had no true aristocracy, many neighboring kingdoms had their lords and ladies. Yet what lord would wear a drab brown cloak, ripped in several places? What lord would sport bruises from a bar fight, a half grown beard, and boots worn from years of walking? The guard turned away obviously convinced that Vasher was no lord.
He was right. And he was wrong.
“Let me see that,” the lead guard said, taking the sword. He grunted, obviously surprised by it’s weight. He turned it about, noting the clasp that tied the sheath to the hilt, keeping the blade from being drawn. He undid the clasp.
A sleight chill filled the room and Vasher could feel the almost imperceptible shift in his awareness, his heartbeat quickened and he became tense with excitement as the swords magics worked there way into it’s current owner.
“Be careful, friend,” Vasher said softly. “that sword is dangerous.”
The guard looked up. All was still. Then the guard snorted and walked away from Vasher’s cell, still carrying the sword. The other two followed bearing Vasher’s duffel, entering the guard room at the end of the hallway.
It was a shame really, the guards knowing he was Shadar Kai of course put Vasher into a cell with magical wards preventing him from just shifting out. But they weren’t cautious enough to search his shoes for the two keys he had hidden there, courtesy of a mischievous Halfling named Garret.
From the guards room down the hall Vasher heard sudden shouts of surprise.
Not much time, He thought.
Reaching down and pulling from his right shoe Vasher grabbed the basic skeleton key he had purchased and with an inward sigh of relief he heard the doors lock click open as he used it.
The yells from the guard room died out. The dungeon fell still. He had to keep moving. Opening the door he didn’t walk towards the now ominously silent guard room-and the exit beyond it-but instead turned south, penetrating deeper into the dungeon.
This was the most uncertain part of his plan. Finding a tavern that was frequented by priests of the World Smith had been easy enough. Getting into a bar fight—then striking one of the same priests—had been equally simple. New Creation took their religious figures very seriously, and Vasher had earned himself not the usual imprisonment in a local jail, but a trip to the dungeons.
Knowing the kind of men who tended to guard such dungeons, he’d had a pretty good idea that they would try to draw Nightblood. Which would give him the diversion he needed.
But now came the unpredictable part.
Vasher stopped. It was easy to locate the cell he wanted, for around it the stone had been carved with various runes of warding. The walls inside the cell were a dull grey almost as if they had been drained of color. This was a cell for their most dangerous prisoner. Vasher stepped up to the door, looking through the bars. A man hung by his arms from the ceiling, naked and chained. His skin was pure tan his bruises brilliant splashes of blue and violet, unnatural.
The man was gagged. A precaution against any supernatural attacks he may have.
Vasher kneeled down and pulled his second small key from his shoe and using it he unlocked the cell door, then stepped inside. The mans aura was powerful, it sent a chill down Vashers spine and made the hairs on his arms and neck stand on end. This man was quite blatantly evil.
The man swung in his bonds, studying Vasher, gagged lips bleeding from lack of water. Vasher hesitated only briefly, then reached up and pulled the gag free.
“You,” the prisoner whispered “Are you here to free me?”
“No, Vahr,” Vasher said quietly. “I’m here to kill you.”
Vahr snorted. Captivity hadn’t been easy on him. When Vasher had last seen Vahr, he’d been plump. Judging by his emaciated body, he’d been without food for some time now. The cuts, bruises, and burn marks on his flesh were fresh.
Both the torture and the haunted look in Vahr’s bag rimmed eyes bespoke a solemn truth. His captors wanted information from him, and they were close.
“So,” Vahr croaked “you judge just like everyone else.”
“Your failed rebellion is not my concern. I just want your key.”
“You and the entire New Creation court.”
“Yes. But you’re not going to give it to one of the Glassblowers. You’re going to give it to me. In exchange for killing you.”
“Doesn’t seem like much of a trade.” There was a hardness-a void of emotion-in Vahr that Vasher had not seen the last time they had partd, years before.
Odd, Vasher thought, that I should finally, after all of this time, find something in the man that I can identify with
Vasher kept a wart distance from Vahr. Now that the man’s voice was free, he could Curse. Vasher walked around the chained man, finding it very difficult to offer any sympathy. Vahr had earned his fate. Yet the Glassblowers would not allow him to die, not while he held the key; if he died, it would die with him. Gone. Irretrievable.
They wanted it badly enough to forstall the excecution of even a high-profilecriminal like Vahr. In retrospect, they would curse themselves for not leaving him better guarded.
But, then, Vasher had been waiting two years for an opportunity like this one.
“Well?” Vahr asked.
“Give me the Key, Vahr,” Vasher said, stepping forward.
Vahr snorted. “I doubt you have the skill of the Glassblowers torturers, Vasher-and I’ve withstood them for two weeks now.”
“You’d be surprised. But that doesn’t matter. You are going to give me the key. You know you have only two choices. Give them to me, or give it to them.”
Vahr hung by his wrists, rotating slowly. Silent.
“You don’t have much time to consider,” Vasher said. “Any moment now, someone is going to discover the dead guards outside. The alarm will be raised. I’ll leave you, you will be tortured again, and you will eventually break. Then all that power you collected will go to the very people you vowed to destroy.”
Vahr stared at the floor. Vsher let him hang for a few moments, and could see that the reality of the situation was clear to him. Finally, Vahr looked up at vasher. “That . . . thing you bear. It’s here, in the city?”
“The screams I heard earlier? It caused them?”
Vasher nodded again.
“How long will you be in New Creation?”
“For time, a year, perhaps.”
“Will you use it against them?”
“My goals are my own to know, Vahr. Will you take my deal or not? Quick death in exchange for the key. I promise you this. Your enemies will not have it.”
Vahr grew quiet. “It’s yours,” he finally whispered.
Vasher reached over, resting his hand on Vahre’s forhead.
Vahr didm’t move. He looked numb. Then, just as Vasher began to worry that the prisoner had changed his mind, Vahr breathed. The color drained from him. The beautiful iridescence, the aura that had made him look majestic dispite his wounds and chains. It flowed from his mouth, hanging in the air, simmering like mist. Vasher drew it in closing his eyes. “My life to yours,” Vahr Commanded, a hint of despair in his voice. “My breath becomes yours.”
The breath flooded into Vasher, and with it the alien knowledge he had been charged to seek. He gasped falling to his knees as it overwhelmed him, and he had to drop a hand to the floor to keep himself from toppling over.
“Keep your part of the bargain,” Vahr said.
Vasher stood, then pulled a small knotted rope he usually kept as a belt free.
Meeting Vahr’s resigned eyes he quickly wrapped the rope around Vahr’s neck, tightening it, choking him. Vahr didn’t struggle or gasp; He simply watched Vasher with hatred until his eyes bulged and he died.
Hatred. Vasher had known enough of that in his time. He turned and silently left the cell leaving Vahr dangling behind.
Vasher passed quietly through the prison senses keenly watching for any sign of danger. After a few moments of walking he noticed a new color in the hallway. Red
He stepped around the pool of blood-which was seeping down the inclined dungeon floor-and moved into the guard room. Three guards lay dead. One of them sat in a chair Nightblood, still mostly sheathed, had rammed through the man’s chest., about an inch of dark black blade was visible beneath the silver sheath.
Vasher carefully slid the weapon fully back into it’s sheath. He did up the clasp.
I did very well today a voice said in his mind.
Vasher didn’t respond to the sword.
I killed them all, Nightblood continued. Aren’t you proud of me?
Vasher picked up the weapon, accustomed to it’s unusual weight, he carried it in one hand. He recovered his duffle and slung it over his shoulder.
I knew you’d be impressed, Nightblood said, sounding satisfied.
Currently attuned to The Immortal Game.