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Day 93: A Paladin is Untouched

Lanternon2 Oct 1st, 2016 (edited) 1,149 Never
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  1. Day 93: A Paladin is Untouched
  2.  
  3. I open my eyes, staring into my own lap.  My pajamas are wrinkled, and it slightly annoys me.  I blink, and I yawn, and I try to stretch my arms.  There's a pressure on my wrists, and a clinking of metal.  I glance to the side, and see my arms chained to metal.  
  4.  
  5. I straighten my back up immediately, eliciting a sharp pain from my spine.  I'd been sleeping slouched over in a chair.  In a dark room, across from an ancient man who is also chained to a chair.
  6.  
  7. The old man smiles at me, revealing a dozen missing teeth.
  8.  
  9.   "So hey there, sport," he calls out jovially, producing a slight whistling sound with every sibilant s.  "Looks like it's just you and me.  And the doggy."  His grey eyes radiate a dozen wrinkles as his smile forces the excess skin to twist around on his face.
  10. I crook my neck, staring blearily at him.  Doggy, I try to ask, but instead only mouth.  The confused stare seems to clue him in to the fact that I'm not sure what's happening.
  11. "The doggy.  She said she knew you."
  12. "I'm not a 'doggy," an angry, feminine voice calls out from outside the light, and I sigh with annoyance as I recognize the owner.
  13.  
  14. Red contrails light up the shadows as I look into them, and the grey-skinned figure strides slowly toward us.  "I'm the owner of the 'sport' over there."
  15. The old man looks at me again, now mirroring my earlier confusion.  "Welp, I thought I knew what was going on for a while.  A welcome diversion from the norm, I'll tell you," he notes, suddenly upbeat again.  
  16.  
  17. "You don't need to understand, old man," the hellhound says as it moves toward and around him.  She leans down and speak into his ear while staring at me "I just need some information from you."  
  18. "Don't answer it.  It won't hurt you," I point out.
  19. It bares its teeth and starts to straighten its back before he answers "Why, that would be rude of me," and it glances down at the man, as confused as we've all been in the past few seconds.  "You should try to help people,  you know."  His expressive features shift around as he adds "Why, if no one ever explained things to me, I don't know where I'd be."  He and his face both stop for a moment.  "Where am I, anyway?"
  20.  
  21. "It doesn't matter," the hellhound booms, before moving back to his ear and speaking more quietly again.  "Do you see that collar around his neck?  Tell me, how do I remove it?"
  22. I respond with a snort.  "You kidnapped some old artificer to tell you that?"  I lean back, suddenly much more relaxed and comfortable.  "Well, best of luck.  I doubt even Rylan himself knows a way."
  23. "I don't," he points out happily.  He turns slightly to the hellhound, "good mind on this boy.  I like him."
  24.  
  25. I'm staring at him again, perhaps as intensely as the hellhound.  "Saint Rylan?"
  26. He raises his brow.  "Hmm?"
  27. My word.
  28. I look back to the hellhound, finally offended by the thing.  "You found - and kidnapped - Saint Rylan?"
  29. It ignores me, spinning his chair around to face her.  "What do you mean you don't know?  You made the things."
  30. "And I made them so that I wouldn't know how to take them off again," he explains simply.  "Only way to make sure that no one else would know."  He blinks, staring at it like he just had to explain the simplest thing in the world.
  31. “I thought he retired to Sho'joor,” I wonder more to myself than to anyone else present.
  32.  
  33. It doesn't move.  After a moment's thought, it finally shifts forward an inch, "Then how does it work?  Just because some human can't figure out a way doesn't mean that I can't."
  34. "Oh, well, that's the brilliant part, there.  See those red grooves along the collar?  They're all filled with a sort of enhanced gel - I don't really remember what it is, just that they make quite the clap when they're set off.  All but one, really.  See, one of them is a case with a bead in it.”  The chains around his wrist clink together as he tries to gesture with his hands, seemingly ignorant of their being bound.  “Some other stuff in there, too.  Scribing along the inside.  Lots of scribing.  In the other ones, too, now that I think about it."
  35. He finishes with that, content.  The hellhound isn't.  "And?  Why does that make them explode?"
  36. "It doesn't!  Rather, it does the opposite.  The magic holds the bead in the center - a sort of particularly unstable apportation spell.  If the bead touches the casing then the whole thing goes off."
  37.  
  38. We're both just staring uncomprehendingly at him at this point.  "And?  Does the spell do anything else?  Does it sense other magic?"
  39. "Oh, no, let me stop you right there.  It's actually a terrible bit of magic.  There're only half the runes you really want to have, and the linework is awful.  It'd fail you first-year scrollcraft in any magical college."
  40. Once again, he stops, content with the explanation that he's given.  "And why does demonic energy set it off," the hellhound half-asks, half-reminds him.
  41. "Because almost anything would, really.  Any major loss or addition of magic would probably make the spell falter enough for the bead to drop, and if both happened?  Kaboom!"  He tries to lift his hands to demonstrate, but only serves to make the chains clink against the chair.
  42. “Neat.”
  43. He turns to beam at me again.  “Isn't it?”
  44.  
  45. The hellhound lifts itself up, and begins to walk away.  It walks back again a few seconds later.  "So if some lich teleports the bead away-"
  46. "Then you could take the thing right off," he finishes.  I raise my brow.  For a second, the hellhound begins to smile as it turns to me.
  47. "Of course, finding the segment that holds the bead is impossible.  You'd just have to pick one segment and hope for the best.  One in thirteen chance with every paladin you fight.  The other twelve- kaboom," he calls out happily again, and again makes the chains clink.
  48. I let out a held breath.
  49.  
  50. "What if you needed to take one off?  To save a man?"
  51. He smiles pleasantly at the question.  "Then we lose the man.  That's just how they work."
  52. It stops its pacing as it turns on him.  "But they were meant to protect men," it snaps.
  53. "Oh no, good heavens, no," the man half-laughs.  "They were never meant to save anyone.  They're weapons - nothing more, nothing less.  Swords, used to kill monsters."
  54. "But their name," I offer weakly.
  55. Rylan simply shrugs to that.  "I didn't name them.  I just came up with the idea."
  56.  
  57. It spins him around on his chair, producing a horrid metallic screech as it scrapes against the stone floor.  “I want to fuck, dammit!”
  58. His eyebrows raise so far on his head that they almost disappear into his hairline.  “Oh.  Well,” he starts as a stupid grin starts to spread across his face.  “I'm flattered, but miss doggy, this here heart's so rickety that I don't think I'd survive-”
  59. The thing growls angrily as it turns on its feet.  “Why do you all have to make everything so difficult.”  It paces back into the darkness again immediately after, leaving just myself and the artificer-saint of the church underneath the only working lamp.
  60.  
  61. After a moment's silence he starts talking again.  “I think we're in a factory,” he offers helpfully.
  62. “What makes you say that?”
  63. “Metal shavings.”  I look down again and, sure enough, there are a handful of tiny metallic slivers on the ground.  He leans in shortly after and loudly whispers “I bet there's a saw we could use to cut these chains.”  
  64. I briefly see him nod sagely before my head slumps forward.  “One, the thing can hear you, and two, that won't be necessary.”
  65. His face collapses, like watching a battered hillside give way into a mudslide.  “Oh.  I thought we were going to have a daring escape.”
  66. “That's really not necessary.”
  67.  
  68. “Hey, puppy,” I call out in the direction of where the hellhound left.
  69. A throaty growl from much closer than I'd expected answers “Don't call me that.”
  70. “Yeah, sure.  Let us go already.”
  71. It steps into the light and right next to my chair with two paces, ending with its face inches away from mine.  “And what makes you think I'll do that?”
  72. I tip my head to Rylan.  “He's useless to you.”
  73. “He could be lying,” it retorts.  My shoulders slump as I stare at it.  It takes a deep breath.  “Fine, so he isn't.  But what makes you think I'm letting you go?”
  74. I smile as the mental picture fills my mind.  “Because otherwise you'll be keeping me locked up in here.  Feeding me din-dins.  Wiping my ass.”  I smile further as I stare at its increasingly infuriated eyes.  “What a sweet little kikimora you'll be.”
  75.  
  76. Its hands move faster than I can see, freezing only when they're on both sides of my face, claws barely touching my cheeks.  Its teeth are bared as widely as its face will allow, and slightly parted.  Smoke is starting to stream upward from its lips.
  77. “Aw.  Are you gonna give master a lovebite?”
  78. For a moment there's a feeling of weightlessness as the light disappears from view.  Then I feel the impact as the chair, and my body with it, both crash into something and I fall sideways to the ground.  I test my neck slightly, looking around.  It smarts, but I'm fine.  “Feel better,” I ask the darkness.  
  79. I see lines of red in the shadows as the thing approaches me.  “You.  Why are you trying to infuriate me?”
  80. I exhale a puff of air from my nose.  “Because it's easy.  Because it's fun.”  I feel breath on my neck.  “Yes, yes, sure.  You're scary.  Except you're not – you aren't willing to hurt anyone.  You're a monster.  As long as I'm wearing this, you might as well not exist.”
  81.  
  82. It's silent for a moment.  I can use that.  “That's why you're going to let me go.  Because all you can do right now is serve me, and eventually the two rusty gears in there are going to turn and you'll realize you don't want that, puppy.”
  83. “I have a name.”
  84. “And I don't know it.”
  85. The floor shakes as something strikes it.  “I told you my name,” it says, for the first time sounding more like a woman than a dog.
  86. “And I suppose it says something about how little I care that I don't remember it.”  There's silence for a moment, before I add “Though now I suppose I do owe you some gratitude.”
  87. “What.”  It's more a reflexive exhalation than a question.
  88. “I got to meet saint Rylan, after all.  That's quite an honor.”
  89.  
  90. The silence lasts a lot longer than I was expecting.  I'm about to ask if it's still there before I hear a metallic jingling on the floor next to me.  “Ylva,” it says again, voice feminine instead of the petty attempt at growling menace.  “My name is Ylva.  And I'm going to have you.  Soon.”
  91. “It's good to have dreams, Ylva.”
  92. It exhales loudly.  A second later there's a crash of breaking glass.
  93. “I think the doggy's gone,” I hear Rylan call out.
  94. “I think you're right.”  
  95.  
  96. It takes me what feels like ten minutes of stretching and pulling against my chains to find the thing that it dropped.  The metal shape of keys in my hand is a welcome relief.
  97. It takes me another twenty to find the lock, though.
  98.  
  99. “Oh good, you're up,” he says as I walk over to him.  He leans forward slightly as I start to unlock his chains and whispers “I could really do with a bathroom break.  Bladder the size of a thimble, see.”
  100. I cough politely.  “Well sir, I'm sure there's one around.  Then we can see about getting you home.”
  101. “Oh good.”  He smiles amicably toward me, and then turns to smile elsewhere, as though there might be something else he needs to flash his smile at.  He turns to face me again and asks “Where might that be?”
  102.  
  103. The branch hall should know.
  104.  
  105. ---
  106.  
  107. My bedroom is a mess.  There's a circle of glass cut out of the window, my things have all been rifled through and scattered across the floor, and the bed itself is in complete disarray.  The only thing that's still where it should be is my sword.  It rests next to the bed, along with the mace that's become my backup weapon for when it decides that it doesn't feel like cutting monsters.
  108.  
  109. Stepping over my own scattered clothes, I resolve myself to never sleep again.
  110.  
  111. I'm halfway done with restoring hospital corners to my room when I hear the doorbell ring.  Nothing good ever comes from that.
  112. Sure enough, my kikimora neighbor is standing outside.  It smiles upward at me and notes “I didn't think you'd be back so soon, ma-ister paladin.”
  113. I frown at it.  Usually just because it exists, but this time because it said something stupid.  “I've been back for two weeks now.”
  114. “I meant from being with your lady friend,” it chirps helpfully.
  115. Oh.  “You saw that?”
  116. “Her carrying you off?  Yes – I was just going to go do some morning chores at the time.  You make a really cute couple.”
  117.  
  118. Of course.  It saw an abduction happen, but why report it?  After all, it's a good thing when that happens, right?  Who cares about the laws, let alone the innocent men who're being taken away against their will.  They don't know what they want; they're stupid humans, useful only for generating a resource.  Wells to be tapped.  Food, to be consumed.
  119.  
  120. “I figured you might be hungry.  Maybe I could make you something,” it offers hopefully.
  121. “Wait here for a moment, won't you?”
  122. “Of course!”
  123. I close the door.
  124. I walk to my room.
  125. I pick up my sword.
  126.  
  127. I try to pick up my sword again.  For a moment, it's as though it were stuck to the floor.  That's not it, though.  The weight is so ungainly that it slipped out of my grip the first couple times.  I look at the thing, and for a second I could swear that it was looking back at me.
  128. “Why,” I ask it.  “It's a monster.  It would have left me to my fate and done nothing.  Worse, smiled.  It's happy thinking that I was violated.”
  129.  
  130. It doesn't respond.  How could it?  It's a hunk of iron.  A bit of magic doesn't change that.
  131.  
  132. “I could go make some tea,” I hear from outside.
  133.  
  134. “These things should die.  Someone needs to do it.”  I look at the mace, and then I look back.  Somehow, I just really need this sword to not fight me on this.  I need it to be a weapon right now.
  135. It isn't, though.  Not right now.  It doesn't feel like a sword.
  136.  
  137. What is this feeling?
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