Storygames Home City of IF
Free online storygaming
 

Chapter Three: A Quicksliver Mind
Click here to go to the original topic

 
       Storygames Home -> The Children of Leyond
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:26 pm    Post subject: Chapter Three: A Quicksliver Mind  

A tied vote gave me the opportunity for fun. Enjoy!
-------------------------


Chapter Three: A Quicksilver Mind


"And you want what in return for this fabulous offer?" His pale eyes hidden in the depths of his hood flicked to each of the three faces around the table, observing and weighing them. Three men, full of foolish pride, their emotions practically bursting through their skin. For a man like Khafi, raised in a place where raising your eyes at the wrong moment could see you beheaded, he found them laughable.

"It's very simple. The barbarian is strong...but united we are stronger. All we need is a weak point to focus our power on, an opportunity. He's been wary of us for weeks now ever since Eldreth here sent one of the Guards after him."

Khafi's eyes flicked from the middle aged speaker to the youngest mage, a rail thin youth with a mop of brown hair and a nervous twitch at the corner of one eye. The sudden blaze of anger that went up at him at the accusation of the former was amusing and Khafi reclined in his chair to allow them to fence with words for a moment. He was loving these northerners more and more as a source of entertainment.

"I didn't send anyone after him! Marco and I have been friends for years, it's useful to have friends in the Guard after all. I was only being sympathetic and pouring the ale for him, I didn't say a damn word about trying to kill the barbarian. He figured that out all on his own. All I remember was something about 'honor' and 'that asshole' and how he was going to 'make him pay'." Young Eldreth shook his head, scrubbing a weary hand across his eyes in a gesture that was years too old for his youthful face. "And you saw how that ended up."

Khafi leaned forward now, breaking into the conversation as his hooded head tilted toward the youngest mage. "No, actually I don't. I heard rumors that some mad drunken guard had been stripped of his position and tossed in the stocks, but I'm only newly come to this town. Knowing that there was already one attempt on the potential target's life considerably ups the risks. In fact, tell me, mages three, why you've come seeking someone like myself when your combined powers could have done something far more spectacular?"

For a moment none of them spoke, then the spindly mage, silent most of the time, spoke in a slow and painfully raspy voice. "The guard was drunk, but not entirely a fool. He waited until the barbarian went to check on his animals in the stable. He picked up one of the hay forks and charged him, puncturing his side. The barbarian summarily broke his arm and beat him unconscious with the handle of the hay fork. The barbarian, oddly enough, would not let him be executed though. Some outlandish barbarian reason. Now, desert dweller, the reason we do not simply aim our combined magical force at him whenever we please is that he is on his guard. It doesn't take a magical genius to reflect a spell, just an imbecile with the timing and a pinch of talent. We need you to open him up, make him vulnerable. All you need to do is twist his emotions around, throw him off balance internally, and then we shall show everyone that he is merely a charlatan. For this we shall pay you most handsomely."

Khafi leaned back, booted feet on the table now as he regarded them from the safety of the depths of his hood. "Leave me that little magic bit of paper and I shall let you know my decision tomorrow. I have much to think about tonight gentlemen." He laughed internally as the three of them rose and gave technically correct but imperfect versions of a southern court bow and scuttled off into the night. He remained sitting there for a moment before turning to the three figures that had detached themselves from the deepest shadows and come to stand next to him. "Perhaps it is time I paid my brother a visit? What say you three...have we wasted enough time in this city that we could officially arrive?"

The moment that message had reached the palace, Khafi had made a break for it. He knew that three things would have happened had he waited to be officially informed. Either his uncle would have had his mind broken and he would have been sent north, an empty vessel for his uncle to fill. Or perhaps his uncle would have sent him north at the head of the army, a figurehead and reason to invade. And possible he'd have been sent north with a rich entourage that would have killed him, his two half brothers, his cousin, and his Grandfather in their sleep one night.

Thus he had gone to the stables and taken the three fine horses he'd won from a nobles son in a game of cards, and been allowed to keep because the shame of it had pleased his uncle greatly. He'd ridden out of the palace with all great speed, loosing the guards in the market place and on the twisting streets of the poor district. Finally, he'd ridden through the town of the sand-scourged, those people marked with the disease of the flesh. Nobody had dared followed him through there.

He'd gone to his place, a small house at the edge of the sand scourged town, and he'd waited for his falcon to come. A clever bird if ever there was one, that small and swift desert raptor. It came with broken jesses and dried blood on it's talons, preening as if it had just trapped the sun in it's beak. He'd fed it scraps and sent it on it's way, carrying an important message. And then he'd checked his supplies of water and been off on his way again.

Two weeks later, in a tiny town considerably north of the capital, his companions had finally arrived. The six people in all of the south he could trust. Once they had been part of a traveling carnival famous enough that they had been invited to preform for his uncle. The carnival master had gotten greedy and bold, he'd tried to steal. These six were those that Khafi had gotten to safety. And in the south, that meant a debt of lives. They would serve him until death, faithfully, or be damned in the afterlife.

They had gone north slowly after that, adjusting their thin desert blood to colder climes and carefully purchasing and selling goods. By the time they'd gotten to Leyond's boarder, they had joined a larger caravan of merchants as a small, but respectable, group. Khafi's savvy, and skilled gambler's hand, had allowed them to collect the trappings befitting a prince. And their darker skills had assured that rare trinkets fell out of the hands of the careless and into their hands instead.

Word had spread in the underbelly of Leyond, in that hazy world of those that worked opposite the law, that they were a competent crew. Likely that was how the court mages had learned of them. Still...it amused Khafi to no end.

He looked at them again, noting their silence, and grinned a little wider. "Well then we should all get some rest, for tomorrow we shall arrive in style." He rose, nodding quietly to the three of them and disappearing into his bedchamber beyond the room while they slipped off to whatever tasks they chose.

He did not sleep though. For the entire night he lay there, staring at the moon through his window, pale eyes reflecting it's light. Who was this barbarian to frighten court mages. His elder half brother? Was he really as stupid as they believed or was the man canny enough to wait for them to tip their hand against him. Obviously enough he knew the price of loyalty, that was why he hadn't allowed the guard to be killed. Would he be the most dangerous opponent in this game? Khafi wouldn't back down, he couldn't. After all, for him this was a game of all or nothing. He had no home to return to, he'd be executed on sight, and he doubted that any other kingdom would shelter him once his identity was known.

And he didn't want to die. He never had. Was that too much to ask the Gods? That he could just...be alive? It would be bliss to be alive and important, wealthy, a man whom the community respected. A man without power was hardly a man...he was an item. Khafi had learned that lesson in the south and nothing he'd seen so far had changed that opinion. Even here in the north were not the beggars laughed at and spat upon, were not the urchins impressed to do tasks others would not undertake for enough coin for bread to fill their bellies?

Dawn broke him of his thoughts and sent him seeking a scented bath, scrubbing away the tumbled thoughts of the night and perfuming his skin. Sej'ah, the tattooed knife dancer, had charged herself with the styling of hair in his small household and it was a task she preformed well. Under her skilled hands, his unruly mane of curly brown hair became sleek and curved well around his skull. She smiled at him as she stepped away and he returned the smile warmly. He cared for these people, he would not have saved them otherwise.

Other tasks were completed as they dug out the fine clothes they had slowly collected on their travel north, and some that had been stolen over the course of years and smuggled out of the palace and into their care. Before the dawn had truly faded, they were outside the gates of Eresinne, bejeweled and robed as though they were a royal ensemble from the palace of his uncle. Jer'eeb, the heavily muscled strong man who's skin was the burnt black of the deep desert dwellers placed a curved horn to his lips and blew a long undulating note in the air.

After that...Khafi found very little difference between entering Eresinne and any number of desert cities where he'd been one more fetch boy in his uncle's procession. There were upturned faces full of fear and wonder, a throng of people all pressing too close for comfort. And guards, there were always guards. He sat straight and tall, his eyes ahead, fixed on the winding road to the palace. He did turn and listen to the guardsman that guided them, nodding to him quietly, trying to ignore the fact that weapons were casually handled in his direction. It made sense, the south had been the enemy of the north for years. He'd have done the same in their shoes.

And when the hammered iron gates of the palace shut, he felt trapped in that courtyard, a place designed to be a killing ground for foolish enemies should they breach the gates. He waited for a time, smiling at the hesitant stable boys that came up, dismounting as was indicated. "That's alright boys, just show my stable man where they're going to be." He indicated a wiry man and the boy standing next to him. Acrobats both and some of the most skilled pickpockets Khafi had ever come to meet.

The efficiency of the place did surprise him, he'd expected more chaos than this. Then again they'd given plenty of warning of their arrival. Still, it was only moments after dismounting that a guide was there to show him his rooms and porters were busy unloading his wagons under the supervision of his 'servants'. It gave him little time to observe the courtyard as he would have liked but listening to the guide speak gave him plenty of time to observe the palace. And he had to admit that it wasn't as opulent or richly decorated as his uncle's palace...but it would take a siege better. Siege's did not go over that well in the desert. It always came down to how long an army could go on rationed water.

His rooms faced the east and the dawn, a thoughtful gesture for his uncle. The dawn was important in desert culture, it meant that the gods had chosen not to kill them all for another day. It was well decorated and well appointed and the moment he was left alone in it, he left it. He had business to attend to after all. And it couldn't be hard to find his barbarian brother, Alasdair was by all accounts an incredibly tall man. And Khafi had been very tall back home, although here he seemed to be only medium in height. Still, he remembered how easy it was to be found when you were a head above the rest.

Alasdair proved to be head and shoulders above the rest. Dressed in leather from boots to breeches to the light coat with a collar trimmed in fur he was surrounded by laughing joking...barbarians. Huge people not as tall as he was but very nearly as broad. They were saying something in their harsh northern language that Khafi didn't understand and couldn't interrupt on. They saw him soon enough though, he was blocking their path.

They pulled to a stop and Khafi had to crane his head upward to meet the eyes of his elder half brother, something he found unsettling and didn't very much care for. He was used to people looking up at him. "You are Alasdair, son of Caur no? I am Khafi son of Caur. And I bring you a warning my elder brother, that right now your death is being plotted and sought. My sources tell me that you should ward yourself well against magical attacks now."

Nimbly he dodged the hand that came out for him, not from Alasdair, but from one of the men next to him. Daggers were free of their sheathes in an instant, opening a line across the man's knuckles before vanishing again...much like a schoolmaster rapping the knuckles of an unruly student with a cane. "Foolish man, I was warning him, not threatening him. If you can't learn the difference then expect no further help from me."

"And why would you want to warn him anyway, Khafi son of Caur? You know it casts suspicion upon you to do so. And sources...so my sources are correct. You've been in my city for some time now and said nothing. Clever boy...but that quicksilver mind of yours is thinking in terms of a different court in a different land." Astor, King of Leyond stepped out of a nearby doorway, a door to a room lined with books and dominated by a massive desk. The old man observed him, weighing him as any housewife might weigh her grains in the market.

"You're not going to make any friends by backstabbing everyone. It's only going to prove that you're a southern serpent that cannot be trusted. You must learn the game all over again Grandson before I'm going to allow you to play it."

"Do not listen to the old man Khafi. He delights on trying to cut us off at the knees. He's a spiteful and vicious old bastard...that's what being king has done to him. If that's the future you want then by all means, continue seeking his throne and his crown. I, for one, want no part of the foolishness. And thank you for the warning and now I'll give you one in return. It is unwise to move against the man who has nothing at stake. Your sources need to guard themselves now and I shall guard myself. Grandfather, when your done taking stripes out of his hide, you may want to remember that of us all, he has the best chance at making your death seem like an innocent accident."

And with those words the big barbarian moved on, his glowering companions pulled in his wake, leaving Khafi standing there almost speechless. How did he get away with those words? And how did he know? For a moment Khafi looked at his Grandfather, then he bowed his head and backed away in deference. "Apologies majesty, I shall retire to my rooms now. Perhaps keeping to myself is simply the best option."

And perhaps it was time to give those court mages a response to their offer...
--------------------------------

What response does Khafi give them and is he perhaps outmatched in the game he's playing? Only you know.
----------------------------

Hope you enjoyed.
Back to top  
Lost Omega



Joined: 18 Dec 2010
Posts: 88
Location: West Haven, CT

Posted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:14 pm    Post subject:  

Very nice chapter Rai. I'll admit I got lost a bit in the middle but that was probably due to my own distractions.

Now, for the dp... I think Khafi should wait before contacting the court mages again. They won't be worth anything without first finding Alisdair's weakness. He needs to follow Alisdair for a bit and get some intelligence before thinking about his next move.
Back to top  
Muaddib



Joined: 31 Dec 2004
Posts: 1765

Posted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:01 pm    Post subject:  

Stellar chapter and writing! I agree with The Bird, this really is topmost quality plot creation and character building.

Alisdair doesn't seem like the vengeful type but Khafi does. I say that Khafi starts killing the mages off one-by-one and very cleanly so that no accusation can be legally pointed at him.
Back to top  
Lilith



Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 1597
Location: Happily curled up in a Daemon's lap

Posted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 3:05 am    Post subject:  

Have he of the quicksilver mind actually arrest the court mages when he goes to meet them again and bring them before his older brother to shove the suspicion off of himself? I think following the legal proceedings of the Leyond will 'show his grandfather, Khafi is willing to do what it takes.'
Back to top  
Andolyn



Joined: 18 Apr 2011
Posts: 852
Location: sitting barefoot in a tree in the beautiful land of Ardara, writing my tales...

Posted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 3:14 pm    Post subject:  

WOW i love this!! theyre all so different, but it works so perfectly! Alasdair is that strong, comfy character, Lukan is the vibrant youth, and Khafi is the sly, rogue...i love it!!

personally, i think this encounter has given Khafi a new respect for his brother. he knows now that Alasdair doesnt want the throne, so he no longer needs to get him out of the way to that. i'm going to say, we do something to help big brother and get rid of the mages all sneaky like...

keep it up!!
Back to top  
Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:59 pm    Post subject:  

A new poll is up, there is voting to be had.

And I'm rather surprised that nobody suggested blackmail as an option. Almost put it into the poll anyway but...both of these are far more interesting options. After all, if we start blackmailing this early on who knows what deviousness would come along later.
Back to top  
Thunderbird



Joined: 13 Sep 2009
Posts: 2139
Location: Rising from the ashes

Posted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:46 pm    Post subject:  

Crap... tied it.

I continue to LOVE this story Kalanna! Great characters... f5 everything An said earlier!
Back to top  
Shillelagh



Joined: 11 Mar 2010
Posts: 398
Location: Kansas

Posted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:14 pm    Post subject:  

For now, the tie is broken. I was a little up in the air on what to choose, but in the end I went with what I think will make the story better. Khafi is still a pretty fresh character- I am all for him taking distinct actions which will separate him from the other throne candidates.
Back to top  
Tikanni Corazon



Joined: 25 Oct 2009
Posts: 1286
Location: Running through the plains of my mind, my wolf spirit at my side (but doing so in the UK!).

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 10:56 am    Post subject:  

Voted and winning! Woohoo! ;)

And I think this tale has now easily earned the the rank of STICKY. :)
Back to top  
 
       Storygames Home -> The Children of Leyond
Page 1 of 1


Powered by phpBB Search Engine Indexer
Powered by phpBB 2.0.16 © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group