ONE

ONE

A Chapter by Sloane Goldflies

ONE

 

There is light.   There is air.  He gasps in this air and opens his eyes to this light and is awake.  At first all he can see is the pale gold of the sun, but as his eyes adjust he can discern rough beige stone stained black with soot.  There is a large hole in the wall that serves as a window and lets in the early morning sunlight and an unfamiliar collection of sounds.  He struggles to sit up and finds that he has been lying on a table made of scorched granite placed in the center of a round stone room.  The blackened flagstones the table rests on are littered with shards of wood and glass and in one corner, bone.  Tattered bits of cloth and meat still cling to the curiously smooth white of the ribs and spine.  A cracked glass lens in a battered pair of bronze frames hangs crookedly on the howling skull.  The arms are thrust out away from the trunk, reaching longingly for the broken wooden door hanging dejectedly in the warped frame.  Beyond he can see stone steps curving away out of sight.  Now that he is sitting, more of the outside world can be seen through the window-hole.

Below him there is darkness.  What once might have been a vast green field has been churned to muck, gauged and flattened by wagon wheels and hooves and the heavy boots of men.  It is gray and ugly.  But beyond that, along the horizon and so far away that he almost cannot see it, is a town or a village or perhaps even the edge of a city being eaten and ravaged by flame.  He can pluck some of the sounds out of the general cacophony now and understand them for what they are: the crackle and roar of fire, the clamor and clang of metal clashing, and shouts, and screams.  As he watches he sees smaller clumps of fire peel themselves away from the fat bodies of flame consuming buildings and bodies and sail neatly into areas still unburned.  Mages, he thinks, not knowing or caring how he knows.

He swings his stiff legs over the edge of the table and eases his feet to the floor.  He is naked but that is not important; he has no shame to cover, no skin to feel hot or cold or pain.  Using the granite slab as a springboard he hauls himself to his feet and straightens slowly.  At his full height he is maybe seven or eight feet and uncomfortably close to the ceiling.  He rolls his broad stone shoulders and clenches his thick stone fingers into a fist.  His stoneskin glitters with thousands of tiny crystals.  Suddenly he hears groaning nearby.

It takes a moment for his awakening senses to determine the direction of the noise.  It comes from beyond the wasted door, out on the stairs.  He gathers his focus and turns slowly to face the doorway.  With effort he manages a lumbering half-shuffle that takes him to the buckled frame.  He is dimly annoyed to find he is at least a foot too tall to simply walk through, and must now somehow squeeze himself through.  The groan comes again, louder and coupled with a moment of panting.  He assesses the doorway and decides that it is too badly damaged already to try and break past; anymore stress and it may collapse and seal him in.  Instead he will have to try and perhaps crawl out.  He bends and folds himself, stone grating on stone and some of the larger pieces of crystal making a melodic tinkling as they came together.  It takes time but he is patient.  Soon enough he has crawled out of the small stone room and onto a landing.  This room is also round and small, but it is tall, much taller than the previous room, and stairs wind all along it, down and down for dozens of feet. 

At another landing a few flights down he sees the source of the moaning and panting: a small body lies in painful repose upon the cold stone, one leg held at an impossible angle.  The stone giant stands again, and glances at the steps at its feet warily.  These, like the doorway, present a problem to him.  He is still stiff and clumsy with new life.  But like with the doorway he is patient and slow, and quickly he has gotten the hang of it, and descended to the body.

The form is unconscious, panting and moaning in the fevered sleep of a person in mortal pain.  Severe burns cover every inch of exposed skin, in some places straight through the skin to muscle and sinew and bone.  Their leg is broken and so is one arm.  Blood seeps like sweat onto the floor and into their tattered clothes.  They will die soon.  He steps over the twitching form, unsure what to do to help them, as he continues down the winding stairs.  He can still hear the distant sounds of the assault through the thick stone walls and feels compelled to go there.  It is as though there is a beacon calling him there, that if he were to listen closely enough the sound would rearrange into a voice chanting his name.  If he had a name.  As he descends he periodically passes slits in the wall that serve as more windows as well as potential vantage points for archers.  Through one he sees the distant chaos, through another the opposite side of the tower, which is nothing but flat muddy grassland as far as his eyes can see. 

At length the stairs end and he is faced with another door, this one intact though open.  This time he does not need to crawl, merely bends himself in half and sidles in sideways.  Through the doorway is an enormous empty hall.  A dusty red carpet stretches from his feet to the opposite doorway, branching off into another path at the midpoint that leads to the large front doors.  Nooks filled with armor and sculpture carve into the stone walls at intervals, with the space between hung with large dull tapestries that depict ritual sacrifice and outline infamous tales of conquest and pillage.  The hall extends back and away from the doors to his left, and at that end houses a long table empty of everything save the carved and scribbled messages of past visitors.  The place has obviously been long-deserted, the grandeur spoiled by the dilapidation and disrepair.  None of this concerns him though; he ignores all but the great double doors and the warsong beyond them. 

The massive wooden slabs are heavy, but are no match for his endless strength.  He pulls apart the thick coils of chain locking them closed with no more effort than he uses to breathe and, bracing a gem-studded shoulder against one of the ancient oak panels, forces his way out onto the field. 

Wind he cannot feel tugs at the doors and gushes into the vacant great hall.  From the ground he cannot see the buildings or the flames except as a delicate smudge along the edge of the earth; only the cloud of oily black smoke studded with flecks of ash and ember and the occasional ball of magefire arcing through it can be easily seen.  He walks towards the roiling blackness and the heavy cluster of sound as though in a trance, following his instinct.  Perhaps it is merely that it is the only life around for miles that draws him to it; but something at his very core denies that, feels it is some other reason, buried deeper still.  Whatever it is that calls him from just over the horizon he will find it, and he will make it his.   



© 2011 Sloane Goldflies


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Added on July 3, 2011
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Author

Sloane Goldflies
Sloane Goldflies

Chicago, IL



About
I am a writer. That's what I do. I hope I'm good enough to get published some day. Tell me honestly what you think of my work when you review: I want to know where it's weak, where its cheesy. more..

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TWO TWO

A Chapter by Sloane Goldflies


THREE THREE

A Chapter by Sloane Goldflies