Posted by: lordkyler | October 31, 2015

Random Writing: Devil’s Ink

As promised, here is another totally random snippet of writing, concocted by myself and my brother Tom. We don’t get too far into it, but this takes place on a world which is both magical and technologically advanced, which is always a fun blend.


 

I woke up, gasping for air. Why couldn’t I breathe? My lungs felt as though they were filled with mucus, my mouth full of tar. I could see nothing, and I clawed blindly for air, for something to grasp, anything.

The rings! I tried to call on their life-saving powers, but I found nothing. They were gone. I couldn’t think about that. I had to breathe. I thrashed wildly, until I felt a foreign hand breach the surface of whatever liquid I had found myself in and grasp my own. I gripped it tightly, not caring who it belonged to, so long as it brought me to safety.

The liquid that immersed me was thick, and resisted motion, but after an eternity, my savior overcame the resistance and hauled me free. I came crawling  out of the pool like some primordial swamp creature.

Somebody spoke, though I could scarcely hear the sound through the gunk in my ears. “Stay calm,” said a gruff, masculine voice.

Rough fingers forced themselves into my mouth, pulling out handfuls of the substance like warm taffy. It seemed to grab hold of my flesh like a living thing, and tore the tissues of my mouth when it finally came free, I still couldn’t breath.

I tried to help, to do anything, but my rescuer forced my hands away. He seemed to be searching for something. A moment later, he found it, grasping a hard object at the back of my throat. Then, when his grip was secure, he leaned back and pulled.

It was like he was pulling out an octopus that had wormed its tentacles down my throat and into my lungs. Tendrils, seemingly woven into every fiber of my chest, reluctantly slid free with a slick squelching noise. It felt as though my heart was being pulled out through my throat, leaving an agony of pins and needles behind. But when he was done,  I could breathe again.

I gasped, trying to absorb as much air as I possibly could. I only stopped to exhale when my lungs could hold no more. It was the most beautiful pain I have ever felt.

“Welcome to the Darkwater Abyss,”  the deep voice said. I tried to open my eyes, but they were glued shut by the nightmare fluid.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be able to see in a little while,” the voice continued. “For now, I’m going to need you to stay calm and just follow the sound of my voice.”

I whimpered like a whipped dog, a primal sound of weakness.

“We don’t have time to rest.” he said. “It’s not safe here on the brinks. I know you’ve just been through hell, but that was a laugh compared to what’ll happen if you stay.”

I could not imagine a worse fate, but I wasn’t eager to stay and be proved wrong. I pulled myself to my feet, whole body shaking, and forced myself to begin taking steps. I tried to clear my eyes, but the substance  just stuck to itself. It seemed to be growing thicker, gumming up.

“We call that stuff devil’s ink,” my rescuer said. “When it dries it’ll be much easier to remove. For now, just keep moving and follow the sound of my voice.”

I turned to my left slightly and stumbled across uneven ground after the man, too shocked to do anything else. I couldn’t remember how I had gotten here, what had led up to this nightmare. The last thing I remembered was breaking into the vault to steal the…

I stopped dead in my tracks. “Wurrarmaranns?” I slurred desperately. Talking was difficult. My tongue was slab of clay, my inside of my mouth was hamburger, and my throat felt as though I had been gargling petroleum jelly. But I had to know, and so I coughed, spit, and repeated, more carefully: “Where are my rings?”

The man laughed. “You’re not getting those back. We don’t keep anything from the other side. Especially not thaumic goods.”

“Who’s we?”

“Thieves, killers, practicers of the forbidden arts. Everyone in this cursed cave is an outlaw of some kind.”

Cave? My eyes were still shrouded with devil’s ink, but if I paid attention, noises had a slight hollowness to them. And yet I could feel wind. If this was a cave, it was massive.

I longed to clear my eyes and take a look at my surroundings, but the sludge had not yet hardened. I had no choice but to keep going, following his voice.

“Well, what are you in here for?” I asked, trying to keep the conversation going. I needed to learn as much as I could about this place if I was ever going to escape.

“Murder,” he said casually. I stumbled over a rock.

“Murder? Are you serious?”

“Self defense, really, but you try explaining that to the magistrates after killing an Aeron. I barely managed to say ‘not guilty’ before they shoved the blackworm down my throat and chucked me in here.”

He had killed an arcane agent? If he hadn’t saved my life a moment ago, I would have turned and run. The enforcers of the Arcane Ministry were formidable foes.

He carried on as if his crime was a trifling matter. “So what’s your story, inkspawn?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I muttered. The less that was known about me, the better. I had a certain… reputation that I would rather avoid.

“Suit yourself. I must warn you, talking is about all we have to do around here besides fish, drink, and sleep. And fight, of course.”

“Fight?”

“Oh yeah,” he said cheerfully. “Every couple of weeks, new supply crates come in. The best fighters get the best goods, and everybody knows who’s in charge  for a couple of weeks.” He must have looked back and seen the despair in my posture, because he added, “It’s not usually deadly. A few broken bones at worst. You don’t even have to fight if you don’t want to. Just get used to fish.” He laughed again. This time I could hear it echoing, from a great distance.

I had never been much of a fighter. Stealth and cunning had always been my weapons of choice. But where was there to hide on an island within a cave? Who was there to fool but jaded and suspicious prisoners?

We walked for some time. It was hard to tell for sure, but the ache in my knees suggested we were headed uphill. By the time we reached our destination, I was so exhausted I didn’t hear his command to stop. I walked right into him before coming to my senses.

“We’re safer here,” he said. “Wait a moment while I get Ivestra.”  I slumped to the ground, grateful for a break, and heard him walk off. A moment later his heavy footsteps returned, accompanied by a pair of lighter ones. I heard murmured whispers, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. I felt a shock of sudden cold as someone dumped a bucket of icy water over me. I spluttered and gasped in surprise, my weariness fleeing with my body heat.

“The cold water will help the ink harden,” said my rescuer, sounding amused. “Ivestra will get it off.”

“Hello,” said a new voice, croaking but feminine. She sounded ancient, like some gnarled root. “Let’s see what we’ve got here.” She grasped my face in bony hands and told me to stay still. The devil’s ink had solidified on the surface, but underneath it was still tacky. Ivestra’s hands pulled away from my face, and a moment later, I could feel a light pressure in the center of my forehead, and along my cheeks. A moment later, my skin began to stretch as they peeled the substance off. It came off cleanly, but took my all my facial hair with it.

“You just gotta know how to talk to it,” Ivestra said smugly. I tried to get a look around, but between the blinding torchlight and the removal of my eyelashes, I could see nothing but blurry shapes, but I could finally breath through my nose and hear properly.

“Ooh, a handsome one,” Ivestra cackled. “Once he heals properly. What do you think, Kander?”

“You are blind, Ivestra. I don’t know how you presume to judge a person’s attractiveness.”

“The blind are the best judges of beauty,” Ivestra retorted. “They don’t get all confused by what they’re looking at.”

Despite what I had just been through, I couldn’t help but grin a little. This woman sounded like my grandmother. The good one.

“Help me get the rest of this mess off him,” Ivestra said. She made a series of quick cuts, and then they began to peel back the ink in strips. By the time they finished, I felt like I had been skinned. I didn’t have a hair left on my body.

Kander handed me a length of cloth, although in my exhaustion it took me a moment to realize why. When it came to me, I quickly wrapped it around myself, glad that Ivestra was blind. I was sure I was blushing like like a fool. Modesty had always been a weakness of mine. I had lost more than one prize over the years because of it.

“That’s a loan,” Ivestra said. “I’ll expect it back after the next supply drop.”

“And if I don’t manage to claim some clothes?”

She grinned lewdly. “Not my problem.”

I turned even redder, causing Kander to grin widely. I could see now, although everything was still blurry at a distance. Not that there was much besides blackness in the distance.

Kander was a giant of a man, at least seven feet tall, with tangled blond shoulder-length hair and a dark, close-trimmed beard. His face was scored with a variety of cuts and scars, some old, some fresh. His clothes looked like a cross between rubber and leather, crudely stitched, and he had a jagged knife at his side, fashioned from some kind of bone.

Ivestra was a small, skinny woman. She looked as if she had been beautiful, once, with strong features and many laugh lines. Her eyes were a blank, milky white, but they had the blue tinge of a chronic trancier. Her clothes were just a tad too big for her, and her hair was woven into a braid as thick as her arm and reaching down to her knees.


 

Not too shabby, I think. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll flesh it out. Coming up next, (eventually,) Radiance Part XIII!

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