Flash Fiction Challenge: “Ten Random Sentences”

Posted: March 13, 2015 in Fiction, Flash Fiction Challenge
Tags: ,

Alright, folks, so this week’s challenge over at terribleminds was to use one of ten randomly generated sentences in your story. Of the ten, I chose to use “A glittering gem is not enough.” I also chose to revisit a recently paired-up swordsman and thief from “In a Tavern”, combining those two together got me “The Caravan”:

“Why are we doing this again, friend Drayos?”

The Mountain and the thief walked through the night-darkened streets of Tavilon, the hoods of their cloaks pulled up. Gavrin the Mountain walked with one hand on the pommel of the sword sheathed at his side while his other hand idly played with the tip of his long, black beard that hung against his broad and massive chest in a single braid. He gazed sidelong down at his companion, the slightly-built man who stood almost two-heads shorter than the Mountain.

“Because,” Drayos replied, casting a glance up at the giant striding next to him, “you said that you wanted to repay me. For assisting you in that bar brawl.”

Gavrin nodded his head slowly. “This I know. But I am still confused as to why tracking down this caravan is of any aid to you.”

Drayos bit back the sharp, stinging reply that immediately leapt to mind, frustrated to have to explain to his companion for the fifth time what Drayos sought to accomplish. The thief took a deep breath, let it out after a moment, then spoke. “As I’ve already said: a woman travelling with the caravan stole an item from a client of mine. I tried to reclaim it before they left town, but I was rebuffed. Though they may be a few hours ahead of us now, I believe that we can catch up and reclaim the stolen property.”

The Mountain was silent for several long strides, but finally he nodded. “I think that I understand,” he replied. “This is a righteous reclamation! WIth the two of us together, justice will be done!”

“Yes, yes…” Drayos hollowly echoed, his eyes scanning around him, trying to orient where they were. “Righteousness. Justice.”

“And what is this item that was stolen?” Gavrin asked.

Drayos shrugged. “A pendant on a necklace. Very valuable, both in sentiment and coin.” It was a lie, of course, but like all good lies it was based in truth.

It wasn’t hard to convince the giant swordsman that the horses that Drayos “liberated” from a hostler were on loan from his supposed client. Gavrin happily mounted the stout draft horse that Drayos had procured for him, smiling toothily and petting the creature’s mane as they rode toward the eastern gate. “I like him!” the swordsman crowed loudly.

“That’s great, friend,” Drayos replied tightly, suddenly aware of how quiet the streets were at this time of night. “Perhaps you could express your delight a little more…quietly?”

Gavrin arched a dark eyebrow, the movement of a shadow within the shade cast by his hood, all within the pervasive darkness of the cloudy night. “Very true,” he replied in a hushed tone, embarrassment tingeing his deep voice. “I apologize, friend. Sometimes…sometimes I delight at life so much, I forget the circumstances of my surroundings.”

They passed easily through the eastern gate – Drayos had a friend on the city guard who supplemented his income by overlooking the comings and goings of thieves and smugglers – and made their way out onto the grassy plain of Tavilos. On the one hand, Drayos wished it weren’t so cloudy, as the light from Grandfather would have aided their travel. However, it would have also made the plan he had that much more difficult. The darkness beneath the cloud-filled sky would definitely work to their advantage once they reached the caravan.

It took only another hour’s determined and speedy travel to catch up with the caravan. The pair slowed as they saw the campfires up ahead, just to the side of the road, with Drayos frowning at his suddenly clenching stomach. He focused on his breath for a long moment, trying to calm himself before he looked to Gavrin.

“I will go ahead on foot,” he said softly. “Count to…oh, let us say, five hundred, then make your way toward the camp. Be as loud and as attention-grabbing as you possibly can be. Understand?”

The Mountain nodded, removing his cloak and tucking it into his saddle after folding it. “I am to be a diversion. What if I am attacked, though?”

Drayos shrugged. “Defend yourself.”

“Lethally?”

The thief slipped from his steed and tied the reins to a nearby tree. “If you must. I care not. But, think on this: dead men can not try to steal back from us what we have stole– I mean, liberated from them.”

A dark look settled on Gavrin’s face for a moment. “I have known some dead men who could,” he rumbled softly, then shook his head, causing his beard-braid to softly whip to and fro. “Nevermind. I shall take what action I feel prudent.”

“Good man,” Drayos said, checking to make sure his daggers were secure but loose enough in their sheaths for easy and silent retrieval. Satisfied, he made toward the high grasses that lined the roadway. “Remember: count to five hundred.”

Drayos slipped quietly into the outskirts of the caravan’s camp, through the nested circles of wagons toward the one he knew held his prize. He found the living wagon, essentially a house on wheels, just as a clamor went up from the edge of the camp nearest the road. Thank you, you giant, walking distraction, Drayos thought to himself with a wolfish smile. If he was lucky, the robed woman who had earlier tossed him about like a ragdoll with some kind of fiendish sorcery would be asleep and all he would have to do is locate the necklace, get it, and slip out unseen.

One of the wagon’s small windows was open to the chill night air and Drayos thanked every divinity that he could think of that he was small enough to slip inside. Unfortunately, the darkness outside meant even deeper darkness inside, and Drayos quickly found himself paused in mid-crouch as he waited for his sight to adjust. Slowly, as his vision resolved into shapes of black and gray, he saw that there was a low, single bed in one corner of the wagon; a table in another corner near the door, several chests of varying sizes, and a bureau next to the bed.

And the damned thing could be anywhere, he thought sourly.

“My…you are a persistent little gnat, aren’t you?”

The voice was smooth and feminine, and came from behind him, in the shadows near the door. Immediately, Drayos felt his back straighten at the sudden surprise of the voice breaking the nocturnal silence, but the sensation of his heart dropping into his stomach followed soon after.

“Shit,” he swore under his breath, casting a wary glance over his shoulder as his right hand, under the cover of his cloak, slipped toward one of his daggers.

“I assume that is what your brains are made of, yes,” the woman’s voice came again, before the silhouette of the robed woman began to resolve within Drayos’ vision. He paused for a moment. Aside from a hemp choker around her throat and a gem secured to her left wrist by a chain, she was nude. Even in the low-light of the wagon’s interior, it took him a second to process the sight and get his thinking back on track.

The woman sighed. “Just like all the others. Always distracted by the obvious,” she muttered disdainfully and raised her right hand in a strange gesture. Immediately, Drayos felt pressure around his throat like an invisible hand gripping him. The force choked off his air as it lifted him up into the air, several inches off the floor of the wagon.

Clucking her tongue in a scornful manner, the woman approached him silently, her bare feet padding softly across the wood. “Really, I expected Yellin to send a better quality of thief to steal the Medallion of Ashes. You, little man, really are just so, so disappointing.”

Drayos tried to speak, but his words came out as only a gurgling incoherence. “I’m sorry, what was that?” the woman asked, her tone mocking as she stepped closer. “You’ll have to speak up. Elocution is so dreadfully important. But, I fear one as disadvantaged as you never received a proper education, of course.” She stopped less than a foot away from where Drayos hung, the pressure on his throat and the loss of breath causing his head to feel like it was throbbing powerfully in time to his heart beat. The woman cocked her head to direct her left ear closer to his lips as she leaned in slightly. “Please, try it again for me. One. More. Ti–”

With what strength remained in him, Drayos unsheathed the dagger from his belt and sank it into her chest in one fluid motion. The woman let out a choked gasp and for the briefest of seconds the thief felt the pressure on his throat amplify immensely, to the point where he feared his windpipe would be irrevocably crushed, but a moment later he was stumbling backward on the floor of the wagon, air flooding back into his burning lungs. He took only a split second to enjoy the return of breathing, his vision – which had been tinged with red at the edges – taking in the sight of the sorceress weakly clutching at the handle of the dagger stuck hilt-deep into her naked breast.

Drayos took two steps forward, his left hand drawing his other dagger as he did so, not wanting to give the woman even the slightest chance of surviving and using more of her magics against him. He rushed her and slammed the tip of the dagger up under her chin, sinking the full length of the blade up into her skull.

Even in the utter darkness of the unlit wagon, he could see the light die in her eyes.

He gently guided her body to the ground, more out of a desire to make as little noise as possible than out of respect for her. He retrieved both of his blades, wiping off the blood and viscera from them on her bare skin before returning them to their sheaths. Quickly, he searched through the chests and the bureau, but found nothing resembling the description that Yellin had given him. Finally, though, he found a bare chain with some ornate decorations on it that looked like what Yellin had described, but lacking the gemstone that the man had stated would be on it. He paused and looked down at the dead woman, noting her left wrist. She had removed the gem from the necklace – was the stone itself the important piece? Drayos shook his head and grabbed a leather pouch from the bureau, scooping the necklace up and depositing it within. He didn’t have time to worry about such details, nor did he have time to waste trying to undo the chain on the woman’s wrist that held the gem, which was quickly showing itself to be vexing to a high degree.

He swore slightly under his breath and took a moment to clear his thoughts as stared down at her left wrist in the darkness. “A glittering gem is not enough,” he mused softly. With a shrug, he unsheathed one of his daggers and went to work liberating the gem.

With the now heavy pouch secured on his belt, Drayos wiped off the blade of his dagger on a scrap of cloth he’d found on the sorceress’ table as he stepped out through the wagon’s door into the strangely quiet camp. He paused for a moment, cocking his ears this way and that. Where was the sound of fighting? The sound of worried merchants and other travelers?

“Friend Drayos!”

Gavrin’s voice was deep, booming, and joyous as the silhouette of the Mountain came around the end of one of the caravan’s other wagons. His sword was unsheathed and the flat of the blade lay on his shoulder as the giant held the handle in his right hand. In the weak light from nearby campfires, Drayos could see that Mountain’s worn traveling clothes, along with his face and hands, were stained dark with blood.

“By the gods above and below, by Grandfather Himself!” Drayos exclaimed in a hissed whisper, crossing quickly over to his companion. “What happened?”

The giant frowned, true sadness working over his rough features, and he shrugged. “They fought heartily, but would not listen to reason,” he said, his voice sad. “I did what I must.”

Drayos blinked several times as he processed Gavrin’s words. “You mean to say…I mean, you…” the thief stammered and gestured futilely with his dagger at the rest of the camp. “I…” His mouth worked several more times before he shook his head and sheathed his blade. “I don’t want to know.”

Gavrin shrugged again, but said nothing.

    “Come,” Drayos said as he walked past the Mountain, pulling his cloak tighter about him. “We have a delivery to make.”

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