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Shards Snippet

Wreath
Tomorrow I'll be announcing the contest winners, so here's your Christmas snippet a little early. :) Enjoy.

A warder answered. The man was huge, tall and wide and a solid wall of muscle, Seregil judged. He shuddered inwardly at the thought of being at this fellow’s mercy.
The smell inside the madhouse was appalling, reeking of filth and human misery. He and Thero both pulled out handkerchiefs and covered their mouth and nose.
The lower floor was divided into two large, barred cells, one filled with a horrific assortment of men in all stages of decline, some naked, and some clearly starving to death. The other held an equally pitiful collection of women dressed in dingy, shapeless shifts. Most of them were asleep but those awake raised an outcry at Thero and Seregil’s approach and instantly the whole place was in an uproar. The inmates screamed, roared, sobbed. Dirty hands clawed at them through the bars on both sides.

Seregil exchanged a disturbed look with the wizard as the warder hurried them toward a stone stairway at the far end of the gauntlet; they’d been in less disturbing charnel houses. It was an unsettling reminder that Illior, the patron Immortal of wizards and nightrunners, also held sway over these mad wretches.
“Come on, then,” the warder shouted above the wailing and screaming. “The one you want’s upstairs.”
It was marginally better there, more like a prison, and quieter. Heavy black doors with tiny grates lined the long corridor. They were barred, rather than locked.
“How can such a small island produce so many lunatics?” asked Thero, cautiously taking his handkerchief away from his face.
“Most were shipped over from the Plenimaran mainland,” the warder replied. “It’s unlucky, you know, to hear or see the mad.”
“Where does that leave you?” Seregil asked.
The man grunted. It might have been a laugh. “Where you see me, my lord. There’s your man, third cell on the left.” He jerked a grimy thumb in that direction. “I’ll have to shut you in.”
“Is he violent?” asked Seregil.
“Now and then, my lord. I’d be real careful, if I was you.” He took a lamp from a niche in the wall and gave it to Seregil, then heaved the thick bar from the brackets and let them in to a tiny, airless cell that reeked of piss and fear.
A narrow stone shelf served as a bed, and a wild-eyed, unshaven man cowered there, clutching a blanket to his chest as he stared at them in terror. He was of middle years, muscular and bearded, but fear had clearly unmanned him. Seregil found a niche high in the wall next to him and set the lamp there. By its flickering light, he saw that the only other things in the room were a wooden pitcher and a large tin chamber pot.
Thero exchanged a look with Seregil; the wretched man before them didn’t look capable of violence.
“You have nothing to fear, Captain Sedge,” Thero said gently, remaining just inside the door.
Sedge blinked at him. “Captain?”
“Captain Sedge of the Governor’s Guard. That’s you. My name is Thero, a wizard from Skala, and this is my friend Baron Seregil. We’d like to help you, if we can.”
Sedge shrank back as if he wanted the stone wall to swallow him. “A wizard? Why have they sent a wizard? Oh please, no more sorcery!”
Signaling for Thero to remain by the door, Seregil slowly crossed the tiny cell and sat down on the end of the bed shelf, hands folded in his lap. “Did someone use sorcery on you?”
“No one believes me!” The man was trembling so hard Seregil could hear his teeth clicking together. “Lieutenant Phania was pulled—pulled—”
He choked and his eyes rolled up into his head as a sudden spasm took him. He tumbled off the bed and began flailing, back arched, spittle foaming between his lips as he beat the back of his head against the stone floor.
“Your belt, quickly!” Thero cried, springing forward to hold the man down.
Seregil pulled off his belt and pried the man’s jaws open to place the leather end between Sedge’s teeth to keep him from biting off his own tongue. “Is he an epileptic?”
“Who knows? Hold him down!”
Seregil threw himself across the man, and Thero gripped Sedge’s head between his hands to stop him from hurting himself any further. The man continued to buck and thrash, screaming hoarsely through clenched teeth. Thero gripped Sedge by the hair and managed to trace a hasty sigil on the man’s brow with his thumb, murmuring some spell under his breath. The mark writhed like a tiny eel, then disappeared in a little puff of malodorous steam.
“That’s not good, is it?” asked Seregil. “Put him to sleep, will you?”
Thero managed to grip the man’s head again, one hand pressed over his eyes and commanded, “Sleep.”
Sedge screamed and thrashed harder, throwing both the wizard and Seregil off.
Seregil grabbed Thero by the arm and pulled him back toward the door. “I think we’re only making things worse,” he shouted over the stricken man’s screams. “What did the smelly sigil mean?”
“That he’s probably not mad. Some sort of curse has been placed on him. Inside, he’s screaming for help.” Thero extended a hand in the frothing man’s direction and held his other out to Seregil. “Would you like to see what he sees?”
Seregil clasped Thero’s hand and was immediately surrounded by blood. It was smeared across the walls, dripped from the edge of the bed, and covered Sedge’s hands and face. Flies were thick in the room, crawling in the blood and over the man’s eyes and mouth. He and Thero looked hulking and demonic to him, with slitted pupils and blackened lips.
“Illior’s Light!” Seregil pulled his hand away. “That’s what he sees all the time?”
“Yes.” Thero looked down at the tormented man with pity in his pale eyes.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
OoMelyannaoO
Dec. 23rd, 2013 06:38 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Thank you for the nice Christmas present :)
babs_sg1
Dec. 23rd, 2013 10:31 pm (UTC)
What a very nice present. You certainly got my attention with this.
razziecat
Dec. 23rd, 2013 11:52 pm (UTC)
Yay, snippet!!

Very intense...and sad. Can't wait for the book!
robingal1
Dec. 24th, 2013 12:48 am (UTC)
that was brilliant! I can't wait to read the whole of it.
ayashi
Dec. 24th, 2013 01:58 am (UTC)
Hurray, thanks for posting the snippet!
ivysoul
Dec. 24th, 2013 09:28 am (UTC)
And then? And then? What happens? What happens?

Thank you for this, it's a lovely way to start Christmas :)
kheops
Dec. 24th, 2013 10:45 am (UTC)
Thrilled
Wow, thank you so much for this awesome christmas present! Best wishes to you and your family for the holidays and the new year :-)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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