The Chosen, Chapter 3A

[Today’s post is a continuation of a project begun last December and put on hiatus in January. You can read a summary of the first two chapters here, or if you want to read the whole thing from the start, knock yourself out.]

“We know you’re in there.” Billy remained silent, as the voice on the other side of the door continued. “One of the lads at Two Brothers saw you leave, and we convinced the owner of this inn to admit having seen you as well. We don’t want to hurt you, but if we have to break down this door, I can’t make any promises.”

Billy was scared, but had enough control over his fear to recognize the reality of his situation. “I — I’ll be right there.” He reached down to pick up a gray sack, the only possession which Gil and Ukhala had allowed him to bring. The teen had not liked the idea of moving to another inn for the evening, but Gil had insisted this was the only way they could leave him alone for the evening. If all went well, Crim and Archilochus would have returned from Judge Oliver’s manor by early evening, and Gil and Ukhala from their mysterious “mission” soon after. Judging by the lateness of the hour, and the sudden appearance of the Philos Safety Committee at the door, Billy assumed not much had gone well.

The latch on the door jiggled, but Billy prevented further action from the other side by releasing the lock, and opening the door widely. In the hallway was a short man with a fat body and a fatter face. Two taller men stood behind him, and the teen, in accordance with the Archilochus’ training, scanned the three men for their weaponry. A dagger and pistol each, but no armor. Obviously not expecting much of a struggle.

The taller men began to step forward, but halted on seeing the fat man remain stationary, glowering at Billy. “The guardsman, says you’re his nephew. But you don’t look anything like anyone I’ve ever seen come out of the empire.”

“My father emigrated — ”

FH-WEET! At the fat man’s sharp whistle, he stepped back, the two men coming forward and seizing Billy by the shoulders.

The Chosen, chapter 1 and 2

It’s been a while since the last installment of The Chosen, so for the sake of both readers and author (“Now what exactly did I write back then?”), a summary is in order.

Chapter 1 – Prisoner Three: the Safety Committe from the colonial town of Philos returns to the courthouse with a prisoner, apprehended during an attempted highway robbery of four pilgrims travelling to the shrine on Eighth Hill. The prisoner is identified as Wolf, a lieutenant in the army of Yungen, leader of a powerful criminal gang.

After being tossed into the third cell of the jailhouse, Wolf recalls the failed robbery. Her crew had seen four pilgrims travelling without an armed escort on the road from the Pentapolis, and Wolf had been confident of an easy operation. However, two of the travellers, a nobleman and an Islander, had resisted her gang’s attack, and the pilgrims had gained the upper hand just as the Safety Committee arrived. Her crew was then slain, but Wolf, already subdued by the nobleman, was taken in to custody.

Later that evening, Wolf hears an unexpected voice speaking to her through the narrow barred window of her cell. The priestly woman who had been in the band of pilgrims asks Wolf to lead her party to Yungen. Wolf agrees, provided the priestly woman and her friends free her from jail; the voice thanks her, and abruptly leaves.

Several minutes later, the priestly woman arrives in a room at the Two Brothers Inn. Her three companions — Archilochus (the nobleman), Ukhala (the Islander), and Billy (a teenaged boy) — address her as Crim, and she reports on her conversation with the prisoner. When her brother Archilochus objects to her approaching their assailant alone, Crim responds that Gil, who suddenly appears outside the window of their room, had been with her the entire evening. Archilochus then asks if she chooses to trust the prisoner, and Crim responds that they have all been chosen to trust her.

Chapter 2 – Futile Deals: Archilochus arrives at the Philos courthouse the next morning, and reveals himself to be a member of the Imperial Guard. He then demands that Wolf be released into his custody, so that she can be sent to the Empire to face justice.

A visitor arrives at Wolf’s cell, and introduces himself as Jerdain, a lord from the neighboring colony of New Frisaria. He offers to release her into his captivity, provided she leads him to Yungen, who has expanded his operations into New Frisaria. He then leaves her to consider his offer.

Billy, purchasing bread at an outdoor market, has his money sack stolen; Gil captures the thief and forces him to return the sack. Billy pleads to take part in a mission planned for the coming evening, but Gil demonstrates that the lad is not ready for such risk.

Crim and Archilochus are greeted that evening at the manor of Judge Oliver, a leading magistrate for Philos. They are then joined by Jerdain, who argues with Archilochus over who should have custody over Wolf. Judge Oliver declares that Philos has sole jurisdiction in this matter, and is then interrupted by an announcement of a distrubance at the jail.

Earlier that evening, Wolf works the bars of her window with a pick she had hidden in her mouth. She then jumps at the sudden voice she hears behind her; turning, she sees a short man, later identified as Gil, who helps her escape from the jail with remarkable ease. When they are outside, Wolf strikes Gil from behind and runs into the woods; Gil pursues and tackles her,

Guards from the courthouse arrive to arrest Gil and Wolf, but they are quickly subdued by Ukhala. Recognzing him as the Islander from yesterday’s attack, Wolf tells Ukhala she is ready to accept the offer made by his priestly companion. Not trusting her sudden offer, Ukhala and Gil then subdue Wolf, and escape with her into the forest.

Step In

Getting back to writing makes me feel like a kid again

Enough already! After a hiatus that has endured far too long, I’m going to resume posting on a regular basis — perhaps not every day, but certainly most days. I’ll begin by picking up where I left off with The Chosen, and mixing in the occasional prompt response, reblog, and commentary.

Felt good to step away for a while, but feels even better to step in once more.

Taking a Break

So much for not being a stranger

The rough draft of chapter 8 was completed on time (final post was on April 30) and right on budget (just over 20K words). Not entirely happy with the result (that last post was particularly disappointing), but I knew when I started on April 1 that this wasn’t going to end with a finished product. But that’s fine — what matters to me is “winning” the CampNaNoWriMo challenge for April, and more importantly, producing an item that I can craft into a more polished document for this year’s NaNoWriMo event.

As I do at the end of each of these events, I felt satisfied yet enervated at the conclusion. Decided to step away from blogging for a while, until my energy and enthusiasm return. Which it most definitely will, perhaps soon — I’m contemplating a return to The Chosen, the sword and sorcery project I started on a lark and wound up enjoying considerably.

But for now, a little more rest, then get back to indulging my enjoyable obsession.

Update on Chapter 8

We’re half-way into the month of April, and the eighth chapter of Gray Metal Faces is progressing well. The goal was to draft 20K words, over ten scenes, and on Thursday I both finished the fifth scene and passed 10K words, putting me a couple days ahead of schedule. Not bad, especially considering that it’s only been about a month since I’ve given serious thought to the chapter.

As I mentioned previously, I’m drafting my remaining work on the novel on a private site (and yes, I will at some point explain why I’m doing this), but am inviting all followers of this blog the opportunity to read that work. Just like this post, or leave a comment, and if you haven’t already been added as a reader, I’ll give you access.

An Invitation

“Helping Hands” has been one of the stories that’s been kicking around in my imagination for years, and it feels good to have a draft completed. Much work will be needed for the revision, but at least now I have something to work with.

Time to move on to my next project, a return to Gray Metal Faces, but with a twist. I’ve created a new blog, which unlike the one you’re currently reading is private, meaning you should get a big ol’ error when you click this link. There’s a reason for making it private that I’ll explain at some point, but for now I want to extend an invitation: if you click Like on this post, or leave a comment, I will add you as a Follower to the new private blog — no questions or favors to ask — which will allow you to read the final two chapters (my plan is to draft chapter eight this month, the ninth and final chapter in July, and then revise both for NaNoWriMo this November). If you’ve followed my novel so far, you deserve the opportunity to see it continue evolving and at some point reach its conclusion.

Since I’ll be writing daily on the new blog this month, new posts here will be sporadic for a while. I’ll try not to be a stranger, but this man’s got some work to do.

Helping Hands, Conclusion

After his call ended, Quentin entered the living room and renewed his proposal to assist with the bedframe. Ven rose from his seat eagerly, and the two men set to the task. Their argument from before the call hung silently in their air between them, like a humid summer evening.

Bonnie-B and the children arrived as the last of the frame was assembled. Nicholas and Hannah raced into the living room and began tearing into the paper, calling to their father in excited tones. As Quentin joined his children, Bonnie-B caught Ven’s gaze, and tilted her head in a silent question.

Ven nodded, a sad smile crawling across his face.

Lunch was consumed quickly, Ven and the Richardsons ravenous from the morning’s exertion. Quentin commanded Hannah to take care of the trash; as she left for the kitchen, Nicholas went to the bathroom, leaving Ven alone in the living room with the two adults.

“Hey.” Quentin and Bonnie-B looked up at Ven’s gentle call. “Really appreciate what you did for me today.”

“Of course,” Bonnie-B replied with pleasure. “You know, your still welcome to come over for dinner this evening.”

“Any evening.” Quentin leaned forward, and gazed intently at Ven. “Just because you’re living in the city now, doesn’t mean you need to be a stranger.”

Ven sighed heavily, and then stood slowly. “I’ll be up to see you, I promise. But, tonight — ” he waved a hand towards the nearest stack of boxes — “I really need to unpack.” Nodding, Quentin stood quickly, and called for the children.

“Mister Ven — ” Ven turned towards Hannah — “I really like your apartment.” Nicholas echoed his sister’s judgement.

“You guys are sweet.” The young man lowered himself to his right knee, and embraced the Richardson children. After shaking Ven’s hand, Quentin then lead the children out of the apartment, leaving Ven alone with Bonnie-B.

 She laid a hand on Ven’s shoulder. “Promise me, that you won’t spend every evening here alone.”

For a moment, Ven considered telling her Aidan was planning to come over tomorrow. But instead, he smiled, and simply said, “I won’t.”

She hugged him warmly, then left to join her family. The apartment door closed, and for the first time that day, Ven was alone in his new home. Sighing, he walked into the living room, located the nearest box, and ripped the packing tape off its cardboard top. 

Helping Hands, Part 10

Quentin removed his glasses, and pinched his eyes closed. “Ven — please understand, we have just as much compassion for Aidan as you do.” The words angered Ven, but the young man decided to let Quentin continue. “But the Bible isn’t a menu, you can’t just pick and choose the passages you like and ignore the rest. We either accept God’s word, or reject it, there’s no middle ground. And the Bible couldn’t be clearer, the laws against sexual deviance — ”

“Do you eat pork?” Ven pressed his challenge. “Shellfish? Do we stone adulterers?”

Quentin shook his head, his eyes downcast. “This again. Acts 10, Cornelius — the laws of Moses were abolished when salvation was opened to the Gentiles.”
Ven lifted his arms wide. “So if I can enjoy a BLT, why can’t you let Aidan live in peace?”

“Ven, Ven.” Quentin sighed wearily. “The New Testament — ”

“Epistles, not the Gospels.”

Hands on hips, head swiveling back, Quentin blew air through his lips, fbbbbbbt. “Aidan will always have my love. I told him that, after… we finished praying.”

Ven listened to the rain pounding on the bay window. He felt their conversation had reached its end, further words would only recycle their tiresome argument. He began searching his mind for a reason to excuse himself — something he left in the van, an errand he suddenly remembered — when Quentin’s ringtone interrupted the awkward silence. Quentin answered the call immediately, like a prison guard anticipating a pardon from the governor; Ven retreated to the living room, and after moving a box from the seat of his cushioned chair, sat and watched the rain.

Helping Hands, Part 9

“Aidan.” Quentin’s voice was distant, his mind engaged in recalling the face for that name. “I haven’t… how is he?”

Ven drew in his breath. “He’s fine, really. And he really did want to help today. But then, I said you’d be here.”

A torrent of rain assaulted the bay window, the percussive impact drowning all sound in the apartment. Feeling Quentin approach, Ven stood up, and turned, to see Quentin’s palms raised towards him.

“We weren’t trying to hurt — ”

“Maybe not, but that’s what you did anyway.”

Quentin blinked, biting his lower lip. “Ven, when you love someone — truly love them — that means you sometimes have to say things, they don’t want to hear.”

“Did you call him a Sodomite?”

Quentin’s face reddened. “I… would not — ”

“But others did, yes? Aidan told me he was kneeling, begging you and the other Elders to just listen to him a moment. But you wouldn’t let him talk — ”

“We were praying, Ven! That’s what the Lord commands us to do, Ven, to seek his wisdom — ”

“What kind of wisdom were you lacking?” His arms raised over his head, Ven closed in on Quentin. “Aidan was confused and scared, it should have been obvious to anyone that he needed to know he wasn’t alone.” He stopped, bringing his arms down. “But that’s exactly what you did, you forced him to remain kneeling and then put your hands on him — ”

“Like we do every time we ask for God’s healing.” Quentin shook his head dismissively.

Ven glanced to his right, then back up. “He couldn’t move, Quentin. He was surrounded, with all these hands pressing down on him. He said it felt like you were pushing him away.”

Friday Fictioneers: 30 Minutes or Less

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

The gate at the end of the driveway was locked, no intercom in sight. Balancing the insulated pizza delivery box on his left hand, Gabe checked the address on the receipt against the brass plaque embedded in the stone column. He nodded.

Gabe walked left, looking for any activity beyond the iron gate. Barren trees and a lawn anxious for spring formed a moat around the lifeless house.

He shrugged, and began walking back to his car — then stopped, hearing the voice behind him.

“You’re on time.” Gabe turned, and saw an elderly man, well-dressed, extending a wad of bills.

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers and view other responses to this week’s prompt by clicking the little blue frog.