Monday, November 8, 2010

The Grand Duke of Malko: A Plague of Shadows tale

Alvaro let out a deep sigh, more from boredom then from any true sense of disappointment or feelings of betrayal.

The assembled court before him shifted from one foot to the other, murmuring with hands close to mouths. The dimly lit chamber-not a large space to begin with-felt even more cramped and congested with the addition of the councilmen and other noted ‘men of reputation.’ The stone room had become a study in muted cacophony, with soft snorts, coughs and the men-at-arms readjustments lending their weight to the noise.

“Mi’lord, something has to be done…” the noble to the left of the chained man standing before the throne began.

Alvaro shifted an elbow forward on the long wooden arm of his decorated high seat. Hitching an eyebrow inquisitively, he stared at the speaker, his left hand paring his fingernails as his right hand pressed down on the ornate arm.

The noble’s eyes dropped uneasily. Another man to the right of the chained figure shot a look of fear between the first speaker and Alvaro. The man between them, chained and swaying with ragged cloths seemed to have finally figured out his location, attempting with great effort to both keep his eyes open and his stomach from emptying.

“wuh…wuh…what I-I was meaning, of course, mi’ord… that is to say…I and my muh-most honored fellow…”

The speaker gestured to the second man, who then went to great pains to make a show of looking away with heightened disinterest.

“Wuh…we were hoping that your dignified lordship would pass the judgment upon this wretch who has been harassing both our townships and engaging in highwaymen activities for the better part of three years!”

The confidence gained by the speaker by the end of his exposition evaporated quickly as he realized his step may have exceeded his bounds in tone. The swaying ragged man in chains looked pained with his duel efforts, looking slowly from left to right with a motion both lolling and jerky. His gaze finally came to rest on the seated figure elevated upon the dias before him. The chained man’s right eye closed, and then when it appeared as though his left would follow suit, the effort of keeping the one open further compressed the right into a squint.

Alvaro snorted, half in derision and half amusement. He had been to Sartosa and sailed with pirates, and thought that the man’s expression before him very much resembled one of those poor souls. The poor man...

“You, then: Roland the Highwayman!” Alvaro boomed in the closeted chamber.

Roland frowned with concentration.

Alvaro snapped his fingers a number of times towards Roland.

“You! Do you realize that your life hangs in the balance here? That these two…nobles…have brought you to me for judgment? That you are accused of wantonly desolating their already impoverished townships…”

The original speaker seemed to shift a bit, trying to hide the heavy golden chain around his shoulders and the rings on his fingers.

“…for years….those towns who pay tribute to me…”

Alvaro rose, taking slow steps down towards the man in chains.

“…so that I can continue to pay mercenaries, my own guards and assorted dogs of war to keep this whole land from being blackened by those FOUL GREENSKINS!” Alvaro gestured widely to the northeast in a sweeping arch.

Alvaro stood directly before the prisoner now, who seemed-even in his present condition-to comprehend that death loomed close. Alvaro spat, his gaze quickly returning to the chained man before him. The two men on either side had by increments been sidling away from the captive between them.

“Suh…sur…” began Roland, his face pained and tongue heavy. “Sur… I’s sorry, but… oh, Myrmidia! I’s too drunk…sur, I jus’ can’ make a case for mi’self…!”

With that Roland the Highwayman lost the battle with his stomach, as well as his balance, and with inexorable slowness leaned forward to rest his filthy head squarely upon the chest of Alvaro’s now vomit-stained coat.