Wednesday, November 19, 2014


The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 6

Chester pulled his head back behind the crate. “Promises do not speak quite as loudly as gold...if you see my meaning?” the captain said.

Darrik silently caught Chester's attention. Is that Ignatius? he mouthed. Chester nodded. Darrik mouthed a vulgarity and crouched lower.

“I have your gold right here,” the voice identified as Kelvin said. “And, if this pans out, you'll get paid the same amount again after we're done. Twice as much as last time.”

“Excellent,” Ignatius replied. “And what do you have planned?...You do have a plan, yes?”

“You can see the map can't you?” Chester tried to tilt his head to take a look, but quickly darted back into hiding. A man with shaggy orange hair and a red and yellow vest, not part of the conversation, had walked around the table and had been looking towards the crates he was hiding behind. He held his breath, but nobody approached, and Kelvin continued talking. “We've got enough fire powder to send the whole block sky high. That'll get people talking about us.”

“Hm...Interesting choice.” Someone tapped their fingers on the table. “I'm assuming...this...was not an accident...correct?”

A wicked snicker. “It just adds to the fun.”

We have to get out of here, Darrik mouthed. Chester agreed, but the door they came in was in clear view of the table, and he could see no other way out. Crates blocked his view in every direction. Darrik pointed towards an opening between two stacks of crates, and began to sneak towards it.

Ignatius's boots were clicking around the table. “Yes, well, while you're having fun, I'm going to have the entire Council stamping on my head for allowing such a thing to happen. Of course, I will devise a way to work things out, but not without undue stress upon my own mind...understand?”

Kelvin grumbled. “You're already getting more than you deserve.”

“Then,” Ignatius said with a sigh, “I suppose I won't have the incentive to make sure, say, one of the guards doesn't wander by on his route just as some thugs are sneaking around with crates of explosives...”

“A'right, a'right, you get triple, but only after this goes down.”

Darrik stuck his head around the crate. Chester's heart was a panicked mouse inside the cage of his ribs, trying to find a way to escape. Darrik waved him forward. Chester rounded the corner to find a narrow passage between rows of crates. There were no more arrows indicating which way was out.

Behind the crates, the voices grew muffled. If he had focused, Chester would be able to make out what was being said, but his attention was on making sure each footfall made no more noise than necessary. He felt sorry for Darrik, who was still wearing his metal guard's boots and armor. He would probably get an earful for dragging him into this when they got out. He hoped.

The two guards paused as they looked around for any sign of an exit. They had turned a corner and arrived at the back of the room, compared to the door through which they had entered. However, there did not seem to be an opening in the crates to the back wall, if there was even a way out there. For all they knew, the way in was the only way in, and as such, the only way out.

“Just look!” Kelvin said suddenly. The boxes Chester was leaning against suddenly shifted, and a lid from above came shuddering down to the stone floor. Darrik quickly slid his hand away so that the wood didn't clatter against his metal gauntlet, but he scratched it along the floor. The guards exchanged a horrified glance, and then looked up at the crate which had been opened above them. It was only three feet off the ground.

“That's...actually a lot of fire powder,” Captain Ignatius said.

“And this is just one crate. Go on, open any other one.” Silence, until there was more wooden splintering close by. “This entire room is brimming with it. This is our main storage.” He chuckled, presumably at Ignatius's face. “I'm not kidding around.”

“I can...see that.”

Kelvin laughed again. “You're not my only contact in the Guard. You watch yourself and stick to the plan, or some of this stuff might find its way into your barracks along with a lit torch.”

Chester's breath was struggling to come out of his ears, so he let it out slowly and silently. A hand waved in front of his face, and he looked back over to see Darrik pointing at the ceiling. Chester looked up. One corner of the room, visible over the piles of highly explosive fire powder, was glowing with yellow light.

The footsteps moved back towards the center of the room, and the guards continued crawling, now to find a way through the maze of crates towards that corner.

The light was coming from a hallway without a door. The arch was unadorned, and there were no signs indicating what direction to do in. Chester and Darrik stood up when they left the room, but continued moving slowly. When he was sure they were out of earshot from the Firemen and the captain, Chester put his hand on Darrik's shoulder.

“Hold on,” he said. “What are we going to do?”

“We?” Darrik hissed. “I am going to keep doing my job, and keep my nose out of this. The Captain of the Guard is cavorting with criminals and I'm sneaking around under his nose. That's not justice, that's a death wish! You can risk your neck if you want, but leave me out of it!”

“These Firemen are going to blow something up,” Chester said. “We can't just let that happen.”

“Just stop thinking like that, or you'll end up tied to a chair with that powder all around you, and a fuse fizzling down towards it.”

He kept walking, and Chester followed. He began biting his lip while he thought.

Darrik tried to find a tunnel that led back to the main network, but the farther they walked, the more the architecture changed. The hallways were no longer wide, geometric passages, but looked more like straightened cave tunnels. The cold-torches were scarcer, making their walk lead from light to dark and back, over and over.

“I didn't know these tunnels were here,” Darrik said.

“I don't think much of anyone else does either,” Chester said.

Darrik scouted ahead down a tunnel, then retraced a few of his steps to check another hallway that he had skipped. “I've been trying to lead us in a general southeast direction,” he said, “but I think I've hit a corner. That room might be a bottleneck into this section of the tunnels.”

“It doesn't really look like an infirmary anymore,” Chester said.

“Maybe if we-” Darrik began, but suddenly flinched. Chester stiffened purely as a reaction, but then heard what Darrik had noticed. Soft footsteps were approaching them yet again, coming around the closest corner. Chester's eyes darted down to Darrik's waist, where his sword still hung at his side.

A voice greeted them before the body was in sight. “You mates coming back from a job?” he said. “I've got a...” A half-dwarf wearing tattered clothing put a face to the footsteps. He was carrying a cold-torch. He stopped when he saw the glisten it made off of Darrik's chest plate. “Hey, you're a...!”

Chester grabbed the hilt of Darrik's sword, lunged towards the half-dwarf, and stuck the blade through his chest. The cold-torch clattered to the ground, and the two guards broke into a run. Nobody was chasing them, but that wasn't a good enough reason to slow down.

Chester felt a breeze and followed it until the tunnels led outside to a grassy hill. The sun had just set behind the Shadir Forest, casting violet and orange rays against the scattered clouds. A few stars poked out curiously to watch the two panting guardsmen.

“You did...he was...” Darrik gasped.

“If I had just knocked him out, he'd tell the others that he saw a guard in their base.”

“We don't even know if he was working with the Firemen.”

“I didn't want to find out.”

Darrik collapsed into a sitting position on the hill. Chester looked back, realizing that they were outside the town wall. The Firemen must have used that entrance instead of the main doors into North Hill. It was easier to enter and leave the entire town than it was to break into a military base. The guards didn't even know the tunnels went back that far. Well, Chester realized, the captain knew, but he was keeping it to himself while he took the Firemen's donations under the table.

Darrik took a deep heave, gazing at the few stars. “I'm going back,” he concluded, standing up. “I need to convince Gulstein to not tell anyone that I left duty. Ignatius will notice.”

“You'll be fine. Just...wash your sword first.”

Chester held out the sword, red with the half-dwarf's blood, to Darrik, who grimaced and took it. He wiped it along the grass.

“We'd better go before any of the Firemen come through this way,” Chester pointed out. “We'll talk more about it tomorrow.”

Darrik furrowed his brow. “I don't know why I put up with you.”

“You're a pal, Darrik.”

No comments:

Post a Comment