Chapter 3: Under the Keep

Chapter 3: Under the Keep

A Chapter by TheGrayOutcast

Chapter 3: Under the Keep

    There is a great contrast between the servant halls and the main corridors of the Plated Keep. For one, the servant halls are narrower and less well tended to. It's not uncommon for a few broken limbs to happen because of a frighteningly large dust bunny or the odd broken step. However, the age of the Keep is only in these decrepit halls. Each step is like a lesson in ancient architecture. The gleaming white and gold décor in the warmlanders' hallways is replaced by an eerily inviting gleam of tiny gem studs embedded in dark blue walls. Sharp corners replaced by curves. Plants and ponds replaced by stairs and service elevators. Luxury was not appreciated in the past, but that all changed when the warmlanders moved in.

    Tazz thought about the glorious living going on behind each of the sparkling walls that he skimmed past, how much nicer the rooms were, how beautiful the art was. He appreciated gems as much as the next beast but after eight years skirting against them, slashing his face on the jagged edges, the whole appeal of them had drained away. He dreamed of the day when he was allowed to walk in the smooth marble halls and walk in the fresh, breezy gardens. All of a sudden, the halls filled with buzzing and chattering. Tazz's misted dream faded and he looked at his timekeeper. It was almost sundown. That meant evening meals in the Keep. It also meant he was going to be late. Again.

    He cursed under his breath and took to flying, brushing the low ceiling with the tips of his wings. His client was a regular of his, a noble. His residence was all the way at the top of the Keep. That was a good thirty minute journey, even by wing. That would be another strike on his record and another few lashes at the end of the week. His eye twitched as he remembered the jeering and humiliation of being flogged in front of the nobles. Despite this, he still couldn't find it in his heart to hate the felines and the humans in all their self-involved luxury.

    A few minutes later, he had reached what the scullery maids affectionately referred to as 'The Devil's Speedway'. Fastest way down to the bottom of the keep. Most terrifying ride of anyone's life. A person that managed to survive the trip without blacking out was king for the day. Well, if that person took any stock in such things. Tazz was someone that didn't. If he did, almost everyday his head would have been filled with clouds and hot air. The ride was nothing to him after doing it so often. The wails of an aphid maid echoed down to Tazz as he prepared to leap on, quickly followed by the woman herself. Waiting a few moments to check for more incoming bugs, Tazz checked his timepiece again. The hands hadn't changed.

    “Damn, I'm getting paranoid,” he whispered before hurling himself into the chute and curling up. His wings closed down over his shoulders and he rotated himself onto his front. Two thin antennae waved wildly as the wasp shot down the tube.

    A thud and a groan escaped Tazz's body as he made impact with the net at the bottom. He nodded warmly to the silkworms working the net, each of whom waved back down to him before going back to their absent-minded spinning. The wasp hurried away down a wider corridor and burst through a heavy set of iron doors. He hoped beyond hope that she was here. Another set of doors flew open before him and he froze in mid-stride.

    “Decorum, young wasssp,” rattled an aged voice. “Isss very important down here. My experimentsss are... delicate.”

    “I know Lelandri but I need a favour again!”

    From a darkened corner, behind a shelf filled with glowing concoctions and some crystal alembics suspended by wires, emerged a thin, wraith-like form. It wheezed heavily with every movement and its clothes were beaten and dusty. This was the servant's healer, Lelandri. She was a termite, and a remarkable specimen. Her chitin was the average brown but she seemed to glow with an ethereal quality. Her ragged wings hung limply at her back, serving no purpose but for show. She was swathed in a black robe, tied up randomly with brightly coloured beads and plants. She clicked her tiny mandibles and Tazz was dropped to the floor.

    “Another favour? What can you trade?” she asked, her voice like bones in the wind. From her belt, she took a few long sprigs of nightshade and a mysteriously coloured mushroom and added them to a mortar.

    “It depends what you want, I guess?” Tazz responded, watching as the ingredients macerated themselves under Lelandri's wizened hand. More strange powders were added to the mix and a substance that looked suspiciously like blood. More flower petals and some enigmatic words and Lelandri seemed to be satisfied.

    “You know my ssservicesss are cossstly, magic being outlawed to the lower cassstesss, therefore my price is high. You are ssseeing a noble, yesss?” Tazz wasn't given the opportunity to respond, or even question her prescience. “Lord Arembal? Of courssse it isss. Ssstrange man, ssstrange tassstesss.”

    She spat haughtily into her mortar and waved her hands over it. The mixture started to churn itself again.

    “What I desssire in return for this gift, my dear boy,” Lelandri continued. “Is a ssstaff. Do not asssk more about thisss, sssimply do as I will. This ssstaff bears a ssseal that looksss... like thisss.”

    The witch's hand extended and lights flitted to her palm, forming a pattern that wavered and changed before settling itself. The design was simple enough, a shield with three vertical lines down the middle, almost meeting the bottom, with the zeroes and ones etched into the empty space. Tazz studied the pattern for a moment before the witch snapped her hand closed. The lights scattered away into nothingness.

    From a pocket hidden within the robe, Lelandri pulled a glass vial with an ivory stopper. Tazz tensed in revulsion as he thought of the poor soul that lost a tusk for such a minor piece. The vial was filled with the purple liquid in the mortar and the stopper was replaced firmly.

    “What is this?” Tazz queried, taking the vial and inspecting it.

    “That is an ancient alchemissst's recipe. It is good for three usesss.”

    “That's all very well, but what does it do?”

    “Ah yesss, it allowsss the user to teleport. Sssimply fill the ssstopper, it's hollow you sssee, and then drink deep. Picture your desired location and you shall be taken there.”

    “Thank you so much Lelandri! You're the best!” Tazz exclaimed, embracing the withered hag. She patted his back awkwardly before breaking the hug with a gently nudge.

    “Now go you little ssscamp, go, jussst don't get caught.”

    “I won't, I promise! And I'll get your staff for you.”

    With that, Tazz scurried to an alcove just outside Lelandri's quarters and poured the thick syrupy liquid into the ivory stopper. He hesitated for a moment and visualised Lord Arembal's quarters, and the adjoining servant's entrance. He gulps the liquid down and vanished, nothing left of him but a puff of purple smoke. In her chambers, Lelandri smiled. It wasn't a particularly nice smile on a not particularly nice face. She threw her hands out to her sides and cold flames appeared at the base of the back wall.

    Illuminated in the chill light were dark markings. A sequence of ones and zeroes, sprawled out against the curled and worm parchment that had been hastily tacked over the wall behind it. Lelandri sucked air between her mandibles and clicked her hand chitin together. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly.

© 2012 TheGrayOutcast

Author's Note

Three for three! Whoop whoop! Here's a bit of magic for ye and a bit more of an insight into the Keep and it's thrumming underbelly.

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Added on July 13, 2012
Last Updated on July 13, 2012
Tags: Desert, Kings, Magic, Tech, Science, anthropomorphous, war, fantasy, adventure, insects, mammals, birds, fish



Herne Bay, Kent, United Kingdom

Name: Jordan Board Age: 16 (22/8/1995) Gender: Male Sexuality: Gay Personality: Basically, I'm bitchy, controlling and argumentative most of the time. But I can be kind and funny... apparently. W.. more..