Monday, April 27, 2009

The Tale of The Exile -- The First Night: Into The Darkness (Part 8)

Part 8: Over The Pen Wall

We reach the wall after ten minutes. With the Shadow spooked off, that magic maze must have gone with it, because we didn't get lost once. “What now?” She says.

"Before you ask, Jessamine, we aren't heading for the nearest gate. We have no time, no way to open it once we're there or deal with guards on duty. So we're going to climb over the wall."

"Over the wall? We can't climb this! We have no rope!" She looks a little panicky.

I'm enjoying this. "Don't need rope. Just hand and foot holds."

The wall here is rough and weathered, and there's a nice crack that goes all the way up. That's not what concerns me. I'm still badly hurt. The stitch in my side is a dull ache, but my foot still hurts and my arm is numb from the redcap's knife slash. And I'd have to carry her. I could do this alone and uninjured, no question. But the additional complications will make this tricky. Still, it's only twenty feet.

We make preparations. She insists on tearing strips of her dress and tying herself to me. If she were not possessed, I'd enjoy being so close. I catch a foothold, and begin hoisting myself up. She clings to me. Distracting. She fidgets--don't do that! Three feet, four, don't wiggle! Seven feet now, eight--slow going. The crack is barely adequate, and my fingers are numb. Nine feet now, halfway--ACK! Don't grab there! No-

I am so sick of being airborne.

We fly gracefully through the sky, land much less gracefully on the cobblestones. Ow. That really hurt. Hopefully her more than me. "Next time I tell you to STOP MOVING, I suggest you listen to me!" I grumble as I find my feet. Ow. Stupid girl. I untie us and turn to help her up.

She's glaring at me. It's the Other--the one with the hollow eyes. "Stop moving? You may get your wish sooner than you'd like. Dawn comes."

"What is it with dawn, anyway?" I grumble as she hastily ties herself to me again. The law, Naros, and Jessamine are all obsessed with dawn.

"When dawn comes, God turns his attention to his work. When night comes, God's thoughts are free to wander." she says. Another fun thought.

Up again, foot by foot. It's slow going--that fall knocked the wind out of me gave me a few more bruises to worry about. She's calmer. Good. Seven feet...eight..huh. There's a band of light near the top. The sun must just be breaking over the horizon. "Faster, Gaven!" she hisses.

"Going as fast as I can, girl." I grunt. "Unless you have magic healing powers, I have to take this slow or injure myself more and fall."

"You do not understand. Dawn is coming fast. We still have a long way to go, and I can't help you when the sun rises." She's insistent.

"Yeah, well, I can help myself. When the night ends, all the weird scat stops, right? So that means all I have to worry about are guards." She doesn't answer. In fact, she goes totally limp. Dead weight. SCAT! I struggle to hold on. "Very funny."

We've passed into the band of light, though. Almost there. Just a few feet more! Thrice-cursed sack of potatoes back there isn't helping--arms tired. I consider cutting her loose and letting her drop. Alone, I can make my way out of town from here, through the Cobwebs to freedom. So tempting. But she did save my life. But she's trouble...and possessed, too. Dragon take it. We can part ways once we get to the top. I can do at least that much. She didn't ask for this. She doesn't deserve it. Do I?

I did chose Exile, but I was tricked. They didn't tell me everything. They didn't mention wizards, monsters, or ghosts. It was all a trap. But perhaps I did deserve this. I stole in a town before I knew all the rules. Didn't prepare well enough. I was sloppy, got caught. Or maybe I deserve this for other reasons. I have not been, shall we say, a paragon of virtue. Is this all my ill deeds coming back to haunt me?

Enough philosophy. Almost there. Arms are so tired...just a few feet more. Finally! The lip of the wall is in my hands. I climb over.

"OK, enough with the helpless act. We've still got a good quarter mile to go." She says nothing. I untie her. She collapses. I turn to look at her. She isn't moving. Her eyes are staring, empty, glassy...she's not breathing...her limbs are stiff. I touch her...she's very, very cold. Oh, no. Oh scat! Is she...

Dead? Oh, no, no, no. Oh, this can't be happening, this is just another trick, this is..she said she'd be useless at dawn! Oh fuck! Oh, what the Boiling Belly am I going to do now? The guards are never going to believe I had nothing to do with this! Oh, fuck...Oh dung...

She said...oh, she said she panicked, and then the "presence" entered her...but this sort of spirit can only enter the bodies of the dead... Did she...did she kill herself, when she woke and found herself set up to be an offering? Has she been dead this whole time? Oh...Oh god...

Got to calm down...oh to think...Oh, what am I going to do? I can't leave her here, but I can't carry a corpse through town! I collapse against the battlement. The guards will be looking for me now that the sun's up. What will they do when they find the corpse? The penalties were excessive for robbery and blowing out a candle. But murder? I don't want to know. I know they'll blame me! I know it!

Naros. Only Naros can help me now.

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