Thursday, April 24, 2014

Prompt Story #2: Interview With a Shartu

             So I had a bad day yesterday. Without getting into too many details, a number of things went wrong for me, and I found myself alone and bored with no internet. On the plus side, said boredom got me to finally hammer out another prompt-based story, and here it is. Coincidentally, this one is also set in Kunskaborg, like the first story. I should make sure the next one is set somewhere else, I've got plenty of Terranis to explore.

“While writing an autobiography,
A 400-year old vampire,
Comes down with short term memory loss.”

Interview With a Shartu

               “Hello?” Munin pushed the heavy wood door open slowly and stepped into the expansive house. It was dark inside, blinds drawn over the windows. He saw no signs of movement. Through a door down the central hallway, however, he saw a flickering light, and slowly stepped towards it.
               Inside was an ornate study. Countless leather-bound tomes organized on rich mahogany shelves lined the walls around a central table. Atop the table was a small candelabrum, the five candles providing the only illumination. Behind the table, Munin saw a dark figure hunched over a tome.
               “L…Lord Loqis?” Munin said quietly. The figure looked up immediately, dark hair framing a pale face, and bright eyes glittered in the candle-light as they regarded Munin with hostility.
               “Who are you?” Lord Loqis demanded.
               “I’m, uhh, scribe Munin, sent on behalf of the Royal Academy as per your request for an autobiographer.” Munin fumbled for the seal of his profession, hidden somewhere inside one of his many pockets. His other hand nervously gripped the notebook and quill he carried. Lord Loqis’ face remained frozen in hostility for a second or two after Munin finished speaking, then suddenly transformed into one of warm geniality.
               “Yes, of course! Please, be seated! I’m so glad one of you has finally made it. Every time the academy says they’re going to send one, they never seem to arrive.” Munin stepped forward and pulled a chair out, wincing as it scraped against the wood floor. He sat down, slid forward slightly, and set his book and quill down.
               “I apologize for that, my lord. Both of them have, uh, disappeared. I’m not sure if they both happened to fall ill, or if something else happened, but, as far as I know, they haven’t reported in for a week or two now. But I’m here, and we can start whenever you like.”
               Loqis smiled. “Excellent. Can I get you anything?”
               “Just water, please,” Munin said. Loqis reached over to a pitcher on the table and poured a goblet of water for Munin. The scribe blinked, not sure if the pitcher was actually there a moment ago. It was dark, he probably just hadn’t noticed it. He took a sip; it was sharp and cold.
               “Please, you may have the candles. I apologize if it’s dark, my eyes have been painfully sensitive of late.” Loqis lifted the candelabrum and set it down closer to Munin. It left his face mostly hidden in shadow, and the scribe tried not to stare too much. Instead, he withdrew a bottle of ink and readied his quill.
               “Well then, my lord, I suppose we can start at the beginning. Just tell me everything you can remember about your life. Basic details are fine for now, we’ll focus on just an outline today, and then go more in-depth later,” Munin felt the familiar routine of scribing bring calm to his mind.
               “Yes, of course,” Loqis leaned back in his chair, his face further descending into shadow. He folded his hands before him and became completely still, other than the suggestion of movement around his mouth when he spoke. “I figured it might be best to have my life recorded while I’m still of sound enough mind to recall it all. My memory is starting to go. I’m getting a bit on in years, so perhaps I feel more inclined than before to request such a service.”
               “Are you? You don’t look that old to me.” Curiosity got the better of Munin and he inwardly cursed himself for being so bold, but Loqis didn’t seem to mind. The scratching of Munin’s quill began to accompany Loqis’ voice.
               “You’re too kind, but I am indeed older than I look. Regardless. I was born here in Kunskaborg, and abandoned almost immediately. I have no idea who my parents were, perhaps some lowly beggars who couldn’t afford a child, perhaps a scandalized noble who didn’t want proof of their affair to be found. I suppose it doesn’t matter. My earliest memories are feeding on rats in the Lower Quarter.”
               “What year?”
               “I’m sorry?”
               “Do you know what year you were born?”
               “I actually don’t know for certain. I didn’t even know how to speak for several years after my memories began. It was just a continual hunt for survival, finding food and warm shelter. Really, though, it’s rather drab and macabre stuff. I’d rather move on to the more interesting parts.”
               “Of course.”
               “It was well into my teens that things finally began to change for me. I had fallen in with a small group of others like me, forgotten creatures living in the darkest and most abandoned corners of the city while civilization churned onwards above us. We taught each other to speak the language of those above, how to dress like them, act with some measure of humanity. We obtained a few discarded books, or stole them, and taught ourselves to read.
“The others merely wanted to be able to pass through the city without drawing attention. I, however, wanted to live amongst its people. I had grown tired of living on rats and discarded refuse. I saw how the real people lived, and I wanted that for myself. So I obtained clothes that weren’t little more than rags, I washed my hair for the first time in my life, and I went into the city. I simply acted as if I belonged, and no one looked twice at me. I tell you, Munin, it was exhilarating! The rush of knowing that everyone around me was ignorant of my living in the sewers, the sense of belonging…” Loqis went silent for a moment, and Munin thought he could see the noble close his eyes and smile. The two remained silent for a moment.
Just as Munin was about to open his mouth and speak, Loqis continued as if he hadn’t paused. “I secured employment with a merchant that very day, helping him carry and sell his goods. It was as if I had been training for it all my life. The first time I purchased real food, it was exquisite. Rabbit steaks. I still remember their taste as it simply exploded in my mouth. I never knew sustenance could be so delicious.
“Within a month, I no longer lived in the sewers. The others of my kind, they were content to hide in the darkness, but I wanted to step into the light. I purchased a small room, new clothes for myself, and discovered all manner of hungers I never knew existed. That first night I felt the embrace of a woman, I discovered my truest passion, my truest hunger. Elsa, the young daughter of that first merchant I worked for. We had always eyed each other furtively when I worked for him, and several months later, we found ourselves alone.” Munin found himself starting to blush slightly, and felt glad the light was dim. “Her lips were delicious as we kissed and tore each other’s clothes off, and then…”
Loqis drew silent again for a moment. “You know…I don’t actually remember how the rest of that night went, other than the vaguest of impressions. It’s like…a hole in my memory.”
Munin, despite his blushing, felt a twinge of disappointment he wouldn’t get to hear the rest. “That’s, uhh, quite alright. Such…details probably wouldn’t be in the published edition anyway. Perhaps you just had too much to drink that night to remember?”
“No, that couldn’t have been it. I don’t drink alcohol.” Munin’s eyebrow arched in surprise ever so slightly. “Regardless, I do remember a few days later her father being very angry with me, and blaming me for her disappearing. I’m not sure what had happened. Perhaps he learned of it and she fled out of shame. We argued for some time, and…I don’t remember again. But that was the last time I saw him as well. Perhaps I paid him off, but I remember moving soon after.
“My life became a whirlwind after that. It seemed like there was always some deal to be struck, some trade to be made. I slept little, and most of my time seemed to be spent either earning more money for myself or indulging my…appetites. As my fortune grew, so too did my reputation and hunger. Within twenty years, I had purchased this mansion and began to operate outside the city.” Munin stopped for a second as he tried to recall what he knew about the city’s history. He wasn’t aware of this mansion being sold anytime in the last several decades at least. Then again, real estate was far from his area of study.
Loqis continued. “For the first time in my life, I stepped outside the city walls. It was a wide, open world for me, and there were even more deals to be struck abroad. I wound up spending many years traveling and managing things. I only just returned to Kunskaborg a few years ago. I’m glad to see my estate was well-maintained in my absence.”
“Your travels abroad could make for excellent reading material. Can you tell me more about them?”
“Of course. My first venture was south, to some of the nearby cities. Smaller deals, testing the waters as it were. Once I felt comfortable, I flung myself as far west as I could. It wasn’t long until I reached the valleys near the Ostenstrom and met my first Kornethiens. Oh, what a lovely people they were.”
“The…Ostenstrom?” Munin looked up, confused. “You mean the Ren An? That river has been part of Saernis for centuries, after we seized it in the Unity Wars.”
“Has it been that long? My, I really have lost track of time. I admit, I was asleep for a long period, but I didn’t think it was that long.”
“What…what are you talking about?” Munin dropped his quill as he felt his previous trepidation return.
“Yes, it’s coming back to me more clearly now… It WAS about four hundred years ago, wasn’t it? Early seventh century, yes. And it’s the early eleventh century now.” Somehow the shadows around Loqis seemed to grow darker, yet the parts of his face that were visible became more clearly visible.
“How…how could you have been alive so long ago?” Munin leaned back, trying to put distance between himself and Loqis, but finding his chair to be in his way. The noble leaned forward, his pale face coming into view again, and his eyes seemed to shine even brighter than before.
“Well, my good scribe, it’s rather easy…when you’re a shartu.” Outright terror gripped Munin now as he realized how much danger he was in. Shartu, a subspecies of the Great Enemy seemingly purpose-built to mock the divine form of man, to infiltrate his cities, and feast on the blood of the unwary, sowing discord and chaos. Perhaps Loqis had developed too much of a taste for the material life, but Munin had no doubt his core hungers, the same ones he had been talking about, were still present.
“No…you can’t be…” Munin stammered as he felt warmth spreading through his breeches. He tried to stand, to run, to scream, but all he could do was stare at those glowing blue eyes as he felt himself sinking into them, and then darkness.

***

“Hello? Lord Loqis?” The scribe Gunnar poked his head into the dark study, and sighed with relief as he saw someone sitting at the central table. The only light came from a candelabrum on the table, which cast deep shadows upon the person seated at the table.
“Ahh, welcome! Are you here to record my biography?” Loqis said with a cheerfulness at odds with the darkness. Gunnar merely nodded, and Loqis continued. “Excellent! I was starting to wonder if anyone would ever actually show up. Please, have a seat. If you don’t mind, I’m having trouble remembering my earlier years right now, so I’d like to begin by telling you about my first trip to Korneth.”

  

2 comments:

  1. I am reminded that your greatest gift is writing. When's first novel coming out?

    ReplyDelete