Author Topic: [NaNoWriMo] Soulmagic: Thief  (Read 2216 times)


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[NaNoWriMo] Soulmagic: Thief
« on: November 04, 2011, 12:22:48 AM »

Derrick opened his eyes.  He was stuck to something.  Further investigation revealed this thing to be a bar.  Bars meant drinks.  He could use one right now.  Really, really badly.

The dark-haired young man peeled himself off the bar?s alcohol-stained surface and waved a languid arm at the bartender, who ignored him.  Derrick wondered about this for a moment, concluding that it may have had something to do with the fact that the man was facing away from him.  He called ?Bartender?, but it came out more ?Burmurrr?.  Either way, the man turned around.  Interesting that he would respond to ?Burmurrr?, Derrick noted, forgetting what he was going to say as the beefy man glared at him.


The young man had to stop and think about this new query ? everything kept changing on him, this was ridiculous.  He needed a drink.  Right!  ?A drin,?? Derrick slurred.

The bartender eyed him sourly.  ?I think you?ve had quite enough, lad.  And it?s closing time asides.?

?Closin? time??  Derrick tried to wrap his head around this.  ?Bu? no? even-?

?Aye, it is, and more besides.  You?ve been out for maybe a couple hours.?  The bartender shelved the bottles in front of him, closed and locked the heavy wooden cabinets, and turned back around, gesturing to the empty establishment.  ?It?s closing time, lad.  Be off with you.?

Derrick tried to come up with an argument about this when he found himself being gently led to the door.  ?And heaven help you if you puke on my door, lad.?  Said door then closed in his face, as he tried to remember why it was that he needed another drink so badly.  Recollection stirred, sluggishly at first.  It had been a bad day at

Recollection turned out to have a mean right hook.

Work indeed.  Master Thalos had fired him.  He was a dead man walking.  Derrick contemplated breaking down the door to find something to drink, suicide, and just passing out in equal measure.  Master Thalos was one of, if not the single most respected blacksmiths here in Bavandir.  Being apprenticed to him was a fantastic opportunity, one that he and his parents had worked long and hard to earn.  But today, Master Thalos had done his monthly inspection, and had essentially thrown him out.  What was the phrasing?  Oh yes.  ?The shoddiest work to ever enter this workshop.?  Lovely.  Derrick kicked at the wall mulishly.  He wasn?t that bad, just...just not good enough.  Suddenly he felt sick, and the alcohol had nothing to do with it.  Well, almost nothing.

Being cut loose of a guild Master basically meant Derrick was a dead smith who?d never work again in the capital, possibly never anywhere in Bavandir at all.  Ironically, this meant he likely could work a passable trade in another country, like the neighboring Piran, but gone up in flames (and drink) were all his dreams of being a respected master himself.  With the way commerce worked now, even the lowliest journeyman could travel and make a greater name for himself.  He?d never get to present his masterpiece, never be inducted into the guild formally.  Derrick kicked the wall again.  All because some trumped-up old man with rich customers said he wasn?t good enough.  Well, the hell with that!  Tomorrow he?d find someone who would appreciate him, someone who knew good craftsmanship when he saw it and not only when it had the right frills and touches!  ?Yeah!?  Derrick pounded the wall several times, nearly falling over.

It was late, and he needed to get back to his lodgings.  Derrick supposed he was lucky, having his own place to stay rather than housing with the guild apprentices, as he technically no longer was one.  It was smaller, and less comfortable, but having a place of his own was a comfort all of itself.  The apprentice shoved himself away from the building, caught his balance, if barely, and lurched down the cobbled road towards home.  It was late, the bartender was right.  Slivers of moonlight stabbed down between the thatch and slate roofs of the houses around here, casting everything in pale silver or shadow.  Everything like that cart rolling at him.

Wait.  Full stop. 

Derrick turned.  There was indeed a cart coming at him, horses pulling it, heavy stuff, driver nodding off.  The cart was closing alarmingly fast with him.  Derrick knew he should move, the little voice in his head screaming insistently at him even as his feet locked into place and his mouth opened to scream.  Time slowed to a crawl as the cart closed to mere feet away.  He noted all the tiny details ? the blaze of white on the right horse?s head, the way its foot hit the ground (that was a shoddy horseshoe right there) the bump as the cart hit a missing cobblestone, and the simple fact that he was about to be killed by a godsdamned cart of all things.

Something within him snapped.  Even as the cart closed to within inches, he felt a burst of feeling ? rage, fear, determination ? bubble within him, swell to a fountain and blast through his body.  He dove backwards, away from the cart, somersaulting to his feet and running.  The feeling of energy, of pure life, was at odds with the drunkenness, and probably contributed to him running face-first into a wall.

A few moments later, when the stars had stopped dancing around him in a line and singing a rude song about barmaids, Derrick climbed back to his unsteady feet and looked around.  He was in an alley between a couple of small shops, all the way at the back.  Which was odd, because he could have sworn he?d only taken a few steps to the side out of the way of the cart; long steps, and he was tall and with a long stride, but still not enough to be back here.  Maybe he?d been mugged and dumped here while insensible?  Derrick felt for his coin purse frantically, sighing with relief when he found it before freezing with the realization that he no longer had any income, and the rent was due next week.  He shoved that thought to the back of his mind ? there were more important things afoot.

The ex-apprentice gingerly walked towards the front of the alley, where a small shrub lay shredded.  From the looks of it, someone or something had torn through the shrub at a considerable pace, tearing branches and leaves and scattering them within the mouth of the alley.  Derrick looked around surreptitiously before squatting down, feeling the leaves and splintered twigs.

What had just happened?  He shivered, staring at the bush, and realized it was getting cold.  Autumn was just setting in here in Bavandir, and all he?d do starting at a bush would be catching something nasty.  Derrick hustled back to his lodgings, looking over his shoulder at the wrecked shrubbery as he went.  The place was dark and quiet, and he let himself into his room, suddenly overcome with exhaustion.  He had just the presence of mind to lock the door and kick off his boots before he collapsed on his bed and darkness swallowed him.

Derrick awoke to the light of judgment blasting him with holy wrath for his sins.  He shrieked in pain and tried to roll away.  This, while getting his eyes out of the direct sunlight coming in through the window, had the effect of him rolling out of bed, where he smashed his already throbbing head against the floor.  Clearly, today was not worth getting up for.  Derrick lay on the floor, swearing inventively for several minutes, before dragging himself upright by the nightstand.  There was a mug, half-full of water there.  He didn?t know how long it had been there and didn?t care.

Half a mug of stale water later, the world ? or at least his room ? swam into focus.  Miss Collins, the landlady, had strong views about alcohol and drunkenness, and probably wasn?t pleased with him now.  On the other hand, Derrick rarely went overboard with his drinking and handled his alcohol well, so maybe she?d be more tolerant for a first offense.  Plus, if it was early enough, he could just head back out and she?d be none the wiser about last night.

Speaking of early, it was late, wasn?t it...Derrick looked at the sunlight streaming through the dirty windowpanes with a sinking feeling.  Midmorning, by the look of it.  Master Thalos would-

Recollection turned out to have a vicious one-two punch as well.  Derrick groaned aloud.  He was dead.  Doomed.  Hopeless.  A shell of a man, doomed to obscurity.  He?d never make it big.  He?d never make it at all.

Some days, it really didn?t pay to get out of bed.  But his treacherous memory, already having administered a proper beatdown, didn?t seem to be finished with him, kicking his mind in the ribs for attention.  Something else...something not hopeless.  Something that might mean he was more than a failure or a reject.  Derrick?s mind, while not precisely racing, began actively working again as memory filled in the adventure from last night.  The cart, the shrub, the momentary burst of energy and adrenaline in the face of death or at least severe maiming.  Derrick needed to make sense out of all this...and something for his pounding head.  Fortunately, he knew someone who could help with both.

The ex-apprentice smith jammed his feet into his boots ? take that, getting undressed! ? and clomped down the stairs, right past Miss Collins, who sniffed at him.  Miss Collins was a woman of late middle-age, with salt-and-pepper hair pulled up into a severe bun and a humorless expression.  She ran a fairly tight ship with her boarders, though, and for the most part Derrick felt lucky to have his accommodations here, but for now he really wasn?t in the mood to deal with her, so he waved and mumbled ?Morning? to her on his way out the door.

Today?s amble into the sunlight (Derrick cursed as pain flared in his head again; behind him, Miss Collins huffed, affronted) took him to one of the nicer districts of Bavandir.  Known as the Scholars? Way, the area was two concentric circular streets where many of the educated and respected craftsmen of the city held their shops.  Scribes, apothecaries, historians, healers and more called the Scholars? Way home.  The place was well-kept and largely clean; no beggars were allowed on the Way, and several men were hired to sweep the streets clean each morning and evening.  But then, the men who worked here could afford to pay for such menial tasks ? in an age of limited literacy and education, where few could read or write, the scribes were highly respected.  Derrick angled himself towards a particular establishment, whose small, slightly battered sign read ?Corder?s Scrivenings?.  He tried the door, which was locked.  Derrick sighed and pounded on the thick oak door.  ?Open the bloody door, Corder!?  A passerby gave him an odd look ? but then, Derrick was an odd sight here.  His clothes were still soot-stained from his work in the forges yesterday (well, no need to worry about that anymore, hah) and made of coarse linen, a far cry from most of the clientele that frequented the Way, and the sizable lump on his head did nothing to detract from a ruffian appearance.  His dark hair was tangled and unkempt, and probably still had some alcohol gummed into it, his dark brown eyes were bloodshot and sunken, and he smelled like a combination of smoke, metal, drink, and things he?d rather not contemplate.

The hell with it and the hell with you, Derrick growled mentally.  He smashed his heavy fists against the door a few more times.  ?Damn it all, Corder, open up!  I don?t care what kind of insanity you?ve gotten yourself mired in or how much of the shop you?ve set on fire this time-?  He paused to sniff the air, which thankfully remained free of smoke.  ?If I have to break your door off its hinges again, I will, don?t think I won?t-?

The latch cracked slightly, and an eye appeared in the crack.  ?Derrick?!  Aren?t you supposed to be at work??

Derrick responded by shoving the door open as far as it would go, which turned out to be not very far at all, as a chain connected to the doorframe arrested the movement.  The man on the other side of the door laughed.  ?Yeah, I added that after the last time you broke my door down, Derrick.  A little patience goes a long way.  Here, I?ll let you in.?  There was a rattling noise and the chain withdrew.  ?Come on in.?

Derrick came in and promptly punched the occupant, knocking him into an armchair on the side of the store.  ?Huh, turns out you?re right.  A little patience goes a long way towards me punching you, you smug little turnip.?  He grinned.  ?So what are you up to, Owyn??

The man pushed himself out of the chair and shook his head.  ?Next time I?m extracting a promise of nonviolence before I let you in here.?  Owyn Corder was a slender young man, in his early twenties, and the two were the same age and fast friends from childhood.  While dark-haired, dark-eyed Derrick had pursued martial arts and developed a burgeoning interest in making the weapons himself, the fair-haired, blue-eyed Owyn had busied himself with books.  Every book he could get his hands on, he devoured.  Derrick was literate, and considered himself reasonably intelligent, but always felt a little short-changed whenever he spoke with Owyn these days.  Not least because Owyn had moved up in the world, and was now a Journeyman of the Scribes? Guild, while he was ? ironic, the turn of the phrase ? a mere Apprentice smith.  Owyn also had a tendency to explore, analyze, catalogue and create things.  His current project was an extended foray into alchemy, though Owyn always sniffed when people called it that.  ?I am not an alchemist,? he?d insist.  ?I am a chemist.  Alchemy is a mythical art that tries to create things that don?t exist and is based on superstition and nonsense.  I work on breaking things down and building them back up in different ways, that?s all.  Anyone could do it, really.?  Derrick sighed.  That was Owyn in a nutshell.  ?Anyone could do it,? when it was clear and obvious that his friend had a real gift in his analytic, brilliant mind.

At the moment, his analytic, brilliant friend was hooking the chain back up to the frame.  ?Don?t need any interruptions today.  People will just have to come back later, or find another scribe, there?s plenty of them.?  Owyn snapped the latch closed and beckoned to Derrick.  ?Come on, have a look at today?s project!  It?s quite the doozy, if I say so myself!?  He laughed delightedly.  Shaking his head, Derrick followed him into the back room of the shop, where the scribe had several twisted glass monstrosities set up.  ?Watch.?  Owyn picked up a small vial with a clear fluid in it and poured it into a pot with a yellow powder.  Within moments, the pot started to smoke.  Owyn deftly swirled the contents of the pot around, and the smoke thickened.  Derrick coughed uncomfortably.

?Owyn, look-?

?Just a moment more!?  The smoke began to thin, and dissipated moments afterwards, leaving behind an unpleasant smell.  ?Look!?  Owyn brandished the pot, which now contained a small amount of a blue fluid.

?Um.  Great.?

?Isn?t it?!?  Owyn skipped over to a countertop and laid the pot to rest.  ?That?ll be a perfect batch of sulfates.  I?m thinking of a lot of things I can do with those.  Anyway!?  He waved back to the front room, where the two found chairs and Owyn brought out a pitcher of water.  ?So, what?s the story?  You look like hell, Derrick.?

?I feel like it too,? Derrick mumbled.  He took another drink.  It didn?t help much.  ?First off, what do you have for a headache??

?Ah.?  Owyn?s eyes gleamed for a moment.  ?How bad??

?Like my head?s my forge.?

?You?re making a sword out of it??

?No, you idiot, it?s pounding and feels like it?s on fire.  Do you have anything or not??

?Do I have anything??  Owyn pulled himself up, mock offense on his face.  ?I can?t believe you?d even ask me that.  I thought we were friends.?

?We?re about to be mortal enemies if you don?t get it out right bloody now,? Derrick growled.  Owyn laughed again as he rummaged through some bottles, finally finding the one he wanted.  He walked back over to the table, unstoppering the small bottle and grabbing a tiny cup as he did.

?Here,? Owyn said, pouring the tiny cup full of another mysterious liquid, this one green and smelling of mint and fennel.  ?This ought to help.?  Derrick took the cup, nodded thanks, and downed it in one gulp.  He gagged.

? vile, Owyn!  Can?t you do anything about the taste, for gods? sakes?!?  Derrick coughed a few times.

Owyn shrugged.  ?Last time it was the smell, now it?s the taste.  Make up your blasted mind, Talen.?

?Last time it was both!?  Derrick downed his cup of water and poured himself another.  ?Why would you fix the smell and not the taste??

?Smell was easier.  I just added a few leaves to the mix.  Plus I know some people who swear by mint tea for headaches.  It?s never worked for me, but I figured-?

Derrick groaned again.  ?Enough!  Enough!  I?m sorry I asked!?  He held out his hands disarmingly.  ?You?ve made your point!?

?Well, no, I haven?t.  See, mint is actually-?

?Shut up!?  Derrick howled.  ?Maybe if you weren?t so busy with your bloody sulfites you?d-?

?Actually, these were sulfates, see-?

?Gods damn it, Owyn Corder, I don?t care if they?re sulfates, sulfites, sulfides or sultans!  I couldn?t care less if mint is related to the rare bonga-bonga leaf!  I came in with a headache and a question, and now all I?ve gotten out of you is a worse one!?
Owyn grinned.  ?A worse headache, or a worse question??

And then Derrick threw his mug at him.

A few minutes later, when they?d cleaned up the pieces and Owyn had found a compress to hold to the rapidly rising lump on his head and a new mug for Derrick, the two sat back down.  ?Alright, Derrick, what?s your all-important question that?s got you hung over, surly, destructive, and missing work??  Owyn rubbed his head again, wincing.  ?I do hope it?s a good one.?

Derrick hesitated.  Suddenly, in Owyn?s carefully arranged workshop and the bright light of day, what he was about to say sounded absurd at best, verging on deranged.  ?Well...see, last night, on my way home...something happened.?  He ran a hand through his untidy hair restlessly.  ?Something weird.?

?Well, don?t just leave me hanging in suspense,? Owyn said dryly.  ?What, where, when??

Derrick waved his arms vaguely.  ?Well, I was walking back from the Black Stallion late last night.  It was dark, and I of smashed.?

?No kidding,? Owyn snickered.

?Shut it,? Derrick growled, hefting the new mug they?d gotten out.

?You know, I only have so many of those.  They don?t grow on trees or anything.?

?Well then you?d best shut it with the wisecracks, or you?ll be running out right quick,? the smith said, taking another draught of the water.  ?Anyway, where was I??



?What?  That?s what you were up to!  It was dark and you were drunk enough that your brains were dribbling out your ears.  Dare I ask why, by the way??  The scribe gave him a sidelong look, which somehow managed to be penetrating.  Derrick shrugged uncomfortably.

?Not the point right now.  Right.  I was on my way home, and I wasn?t paying a lot of attention to where I was going, and...well, I almost got flattened by a cart.?  The smith awkwardly scratched at the back of his neck.  ? was just about to hit me and then...I just, I don?t know, flew out of the way.  It was crazy, man.?

?Flew??  Owyn arched an eyebrow at him.  ?What do you mean, flew??

?I...?  Derrick shifted in the chair.  ?There was this moment where everything sort of froze on me, and then I...I just felt this explosion of energy inside me.  You know, kind of like your lab, last week.?

?Was that really called for?? Owyn sighed.

?Yes,? Derrick said, smiling.  ?Anyway, there was this rush, this burst of life, and then I just dashed out of the way.?

?Alright.? Owyn looked at him questioningly.  ?And??

?And this is where it gets bloody weird,? Derrick said.  ?The next thing I know, I?m smashing into the wall of the alley.  The back wall.?

?I don?t quite see how-? Owyn began

?It was around 40 feet from where I was standing to the back wall there, but I hit it full force,? Derrick continued, determined to get the whole story ? now sounding more and more implausible ? into the open.  ?I only ran about four or five steps.  That should have gotten me to the mouth of the alley, maybe.  Not smashing my face into the back wall.?  He rubbed a hand over said face, wincing at the sizeable lump on his forehead.

?Um...? Owyn began.  ?I don?t know how to put this, it possible you know, imagined some of this?  I mean...?  Owyn waved his arms vaguely.  ?You were drunk as all hell, you admit it.  Couldn?t you have just, I don?t know, blanked out on the running??

?I suppose,? Derrick admitted grudgingly, ?but I?m pretty damned sure I didn?t.  Plus, there was also that surge of energy.?

Owyn waved a hand dismissively.  ?That?s a well-documented phenomenon.  When people are in danger, they often experience momentary surges of energy and strength.  It?s called, oh...right, adrenaline.?  Owyn sighed.  ?You had me going for a moment there.?

?No, look,? Derrick said, exasperated.  ?I know I was...out of it, but I?m telling you I know what happened.  I tore off so fast I ripped this shrub to pieces and rammed into the wall!?

?Wait, what shrub?  You never mentioned any shrub,? Owyn frowned.  ?Proof would help.  Where was this??

Derrick hesitated.  ?You the way back from the Black Stallion.?

Owyn?s mouth quirked into a wry smile.  ?You have no idea, in other words.?

?I was a little preoccupied at the time!?  The smith rose from his seat and started pacing along the walls of the shop.  ?Almost getting killed tends to do that to you!?

?Yes.  It does,? Owyn murmured.  ?Thus, my point.?

?Alright then, how about we go have a look?  If you see this bush, will that convince you??  Derrick started pacing faster, an agitated note entering his words.  Owyn raised his hands placatingly.

?All right, all right!  We?ll go take a look.  Okay??  When Derrick nodded abruptly, the scribe sighed.  ?This isn?t like you, Derrick.  What?s going on??

?Nothing,? Derrick replied, but he didn?t meet his friend?s eyes.  ?Come on, let?s go.  Get this bloody contraption open, Corder.?

Shaking his head and hiding a smile, Owyn complied, unhooking the chain from the brace on the door.  ?Shame it?s only good from the inside.  I need a better way to stop people from coming in once I?ve left the shop,? he remarked, opening the door.  Derrick pushed past him roughly, waving for him to hurry up.  ?Of course, days like these, I find I?d rather stay in,? he muttered.  What the bloody hell was Derrick playing at?

?What the bloody hell are you playing at??  Owyn glared at his friend.  ?This is getting ridiculous.?  An hour had come and gone.  The sun was out in full force, and Owyn?s shirt was sticking to his back.  They?d roamed from street to street with no frame of reference other than the shrub, which they so far had failed to find, and Owyn was losing patience.  Investigating a drunk?s misremembered ramblings was not how he had planned on spending the day.

Derrick, in contrast, was growing more and more irritated, tetchy, and ? did he dare say it ? desperate?  This didn?t make sense to Owyn.  But then, there was obviously more going on than Derrick was letting on ? he didn?t have the time to be traipsing about aimlessly either.  His master was probably fuming at this point.  Derrick should have been back in the smithy, getting prepared for the trials to advance to Journeyman status ? he?d been in the guild long enough, if only just, and was more than decent at his craft.  So what was he doing out here?

The pair turned another corner, showing yet another shrubless street.  Owyn sank back against the whitewashed wall.  ?That?s it.  We?re wasting our time out here, Talen.?

Derrick spun around, a wide-eyed, agonized, pleading look on his face.  ?No ? look ? I?m sure it?s around here, it?s really close by.  Come on,? he pressed.  ?Just...just five more minutes, alright??

?You said that twenty minutes ago, Derrick.  Let it go,? Owyn said.  He hesitated for a moment, then continued.  ?Let?s at least stop and get something to eat, alright?  My treat.?

The smith ran his hands through his hair again, a nervous habit of his, and finally nodded.  ?Very well...?  The dejected look was almost comical ? like someone had kicked a small puppy ? and utterly out of place on Derrick?s face.

Owyn led the way around another corner to a haunt of theirs, the Hearty Haunch.  Many a time had the sign, which depicted the hindquarters of a boar, been defaced, and these days unless you already knew that name of the place you?d never figure it out.  Owyn opened the door to the eatery, holding it for his friend, who had stopped, and was staring at...

?Oh.  Well then,? Owyn said, nonplussed.

?There!  That?s it!?  Derrick was practically shouting with relief.  ?I told you it was around here, I told you!?  The smith skipped across the street towards a small bush, which had been wrecked by something tearing through it.  ?This is the one.  I just ripped through it last night and went right into that alley there.?  He indicated the alley between the two buildings.  ?See how far it is??

?Yes, Derrick, I see.  Hold on.?  Owyn made his way over to his friend, kneeling down by the bush.  Something had definitely torn through it, but...Owyn frowned and stood, heading to the back of the alley.  There were footsteps leading back to the wall, and a scuffed portion of the mud must have been where Derrick had fallen, insensible.  ?Alright, Derrick, I can see that you went in here, but...?

?But?  You still don?t believe me??  There was aching hurt in his friend?s voice.

?Look, I?d love nothing more than to believe you, but you haven?t shown me anything that couldn?t just have been you being drunk and getting lucky.?  Owyn winced as he said this, watching Derrick?s expression.  There was probably a better way of phrasing that, now that he thought about it.

?No, look.  I?m certain of what happened last night.  I mean...? Derrick raised his arms and then dropped them, frustrated.  ?I know I was drunk, but the feeling, and the speed, I?m telling you, Owyn, they were real!?

?Are you trying to convince me, or yourself??  Owyn winced again, harder.  Derrick opened his mouth, but nothing came out.  Owyn shook his head ruefully.  ?Look, how about this?  We?ll go back to the Haunch, get something inside us, and then head back to my shop and keep talking?  We?ve seen what we came to see, and it?s pretty clear neither of us is going to get any work done today.?

For some reason, this only seemed to wind Derrick up further, but he nodded.  ?Alright, food, and then we?re going to get to the bottom of this.  And you?re paying.?

?If I hadn?t already said I would...?  Owyn laughed and shook his head.  ?Honestly, Talen, what the hell am I to do with you??

Some food and drink later, Owyn was much more charitably inclined towards his friend as they entered his shop again.  There was a note on the floor addressed to him, which he laid on the side ? probably another job ? along with the extra food he?d grabbed while they were at the Haunch.  Derrick walked in after him and closed the door.  ?Don?t bother with the chain, there?s hardly a point now,? Owyn said.  ?Have a seat ? again ? and let?s talk.?

The two took chairs, and Derrick rubbed his hands together.  ?Alright, Owyn, what do you want to know??

?Well, first off ? you?re absolutely certain about what happened last night??  Owyn rolled his sleeves up and got a piece of parchment and a pen.

?Well...pretty much, yes.?  Derrick squirmed slightly in his chair.

?Pretty much doesn?t cut it,? Owyn shot back.  ?If you?ve imagined this, then there?s little point in wasting any more time on it.?

?All right, all right!?  Derrick snapped, nettled.  ?Yes, I?m sure!?

?Okay then.  Describe it, again, in detail.?  As the smith did so, Owyn took down a careful account of his friend?s story, marking a few details as important.  When he?d finished, Owyn laid down the pen and studied his friend, who looked back at him, his expression unreadable.

?Well?  What do you think??  Derrick asked.

What did he think?  The simplest answer was that Derrick was bloody mad.  The second was that he was drunk last night and mad today.  He liked those answers.  They made sense in the world and the world continued to make sense with them.  The alternatives were decidedly more...hazy.  Owyn disliked hazy.  He was happy when things were clear, defined, and predictable.  That was why he enjoyed chemistry.  ?Well...? he began.  He shook himself mentally.  This was no time to mess around.  ?The simplest explanation is that you were drunk and carried a few sensations too far.  But-? he continued hurriedly, as Derrick opened his mouth to protest, ?if you?re certain of what happened last night, that changes things.  You could be onto something...incredible,? he finished, uncertainly.

?And if I am??  Derrick pressed the point.

He wanted to howl ?I don?t know!?  He wanted to pin Derrick bloody Talen to a wall and beat this foolishness out of him.  Owyn sighed.  ?If you are...then we need to start testing it out.?  What was he getting himself into?  ?But the first test, and always the most important, is reproducibility.  If you can?t do this again, the whole point is moot, buddy.?  He steepled his fingers in front of him, thinking.  ?Of course, the easiest way to do this is to recreate the circumstances.?

?You mean get me drunk and chuck me in front of a cart again??

?Actually, yes,? Owyn said, smiling.  ?Though if this were some kind of latent power rising to the surface, I?d highly doubt it would have anything to do with being drunk.  More likely, it responded to you being placed in danger-?

?Suddenly I don?t like this plan very much at all.?  Derrick folded his arms.  ?I don?t know what kind of methodology you?re using, but I draw the line when it involves me getting killed if you?re wrong, Owyn.?

The scribed shrugged.  ?Well, do you have any better ideas?  Can you do this at will, or was it just a fluke?  Or maybe, just maybe, you were drunk and imagined it.?

Derrick?s face flushed.  ?I?m telling you, Owyn, it was real!?

Owyn spread his arms.  ?As much as I?d love to believe you, we don?t have any proof.  The simplest explanation, and the one that all the facts but an indistinct feeling of yours point to, is a bit of tricky memory and alcohol and adrenaline all combining to give us an unbelievable scenario.  Look,? he continued, as Derrick?s expression turned mutinous, ?if we can prove it, I?m behind you, one hundred percent.  But until we can, well...what do you want me to do??

The smith put his face in his hands, rubbing at his eyes.  Gods, he was tired.  ?I don?t know.  Prove it, I suppose.?

?Then, again, reproducing it is the first step,? Owyn said.  ?Do you have any idea how you did...what you did??

?Not really.  It just sort of...happened.?

?Well, do you think you could make it just sort of happen again??

?Damn it, Owyn, I don?t know!?  Derrick snarled.

?How about trying, then??  Owyn shot back, annoyed.  ?Just sitting here snapping at me isn?t going to do it!?

Derrick threw his arms in the air helplessly.  ?Well, what do you want me to try??

Owyn sat down heavily.  ?I don?t...all right, let me think.?  He rubbed his temples gently with his forefingers.  He had such a headache brewing and he hadn?t gotten any proper work done today and Derrick wanted answers to questions without boundaries or definition.  If he had no clue what he was being asked, how was he supposed to give a clear or correct reply?

Well.  Start from square one and work our way up.  Maybe we?ll find out things along the way.  ?Okay, Derrick.  Try to concentrate on the feeling you had yesterday.  You say you remember it clearly, right??  When his friend nodded, Owyn continued.  ?I want you to focus on that feeling.  See if you can bring it to bear again.  Concentrate on it, itemize it, catalogue it, break it down and see what it?s made of.?

?Sounds like what you?ve been up to,? Derrick mumbled, his eyes closed.

?More or less,? Owyn replied offhandedly.  ?But there?s a reason I do things this way.  I find out more about it than I would running about haphazardly, or stumbling around drunk and disorderly at late hours-?

?Yes, yes, you?ve made your point.?  Derrick subsided into silence, eyes still shut, working at his memory, attempting to reconstruct the scene and the sensations from last night.  A few moments later he exhaled in frustration and opened his eyes again.  ?Nope.  Nothing.?

?I think you?d better try a little harder and longer than that,? Owyn said wryly.  The smith arched an eyebrow at him, but did as he was told, closing his eyes and calming himself again.  Owyn got up.  ?I?ll be right back.?

He headed back to his workshop and busied himself with a few mundane tasks, including properly storing the batch of sulfates in tiny vials.  His mind still whirling with possibilities, Owyn nevertheless felt a touch of unease at his friend?s behavior.  Derrick was out of control today ? rash, reckless, impatient, and verging on desperate to have his story corroborated, to have Owyn tell him he believed him.  Owyn was a practical and thoughtful man, and an honest one ? he wouldn?t lie just to make his friend feel better.  All the same, there was clearly something Derrick wasn?t telling him.

Well, they?d work on this first, and once Derrick got it out of his system, they?d talk about whatever was driving him off the walls.  Owyn opened the door, opened his mouth, and stopped at the sight of Derrick, nodded off in his armchair.  Smiling gently, shaking his head, Owyn let him sleep.

[09:46] <theshim|work> there is nothing like working for a real estate company to make one contemplate arson


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Re: [NaNoWriMo] Soulmagic: Thief
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2011, 04:04:41 AM »
Derrick sat on his bed, staring glumly at his coin purse, now nearly empty.  In the two days since he?d barged into his friend?s workshop, the two had set aside several hours daily, attempting different methods of triggering this strange occurrence again.  All had met with failure.  He rubbed the back of his head, where yet another lump was rising, courtesy of Owyn throwing mug at him.  Not out of frustration, but as yet another test.  Derrick had long ago given up trying to puzzle out how his friend?s mind worked.  Owyn had said something about his conscious self asserting the known realistic setting, and how surprise might have been a necessary component to trigger another incidence.  Derrick had thrown the mug back at him.  They were really running through those at a frightening rate.  Still, he supposed it was a good thing Owyn stocked sensible earthenware mugs rather than glass or crystal.  Much cheaper, easier to replace, all that.

The smith sighed.  He knew he was just trying to distract himself from the very real problems he was currently faced with.  For one, he had no idea what he was going to eat that night, much less the next day or anything after that.  He still hadn?t had the courage to admit what had happened to Owyn, or to show his face at the smithy since that fateful day.  He also had studiously neglected to inform his parents in the monthly letter he?d just written.  He couldn?t face disappointing them, not this badly.  Though only a minor lord, his father still held sufficient prestige that Derrick, as his son, was able to pursue a field of study of his choice.  His parents were encouraging of his martial studies, appreciative of his smithing, and thrilled with his apprenticeship to Master Thalos, who was well-known even out in the country where they lived.  His father still had his sword from his younger days, a blade crafted by Thalos when he was newly appointed as a Master, and the graying lord took pride in the blade.  He?d held it up as an example to Derrick, and told him to continue working until he too could produce a blade of similar quality.

Just thinking about it made Derrick?s eyes start to prick.  He closed his eyes and shook his head angrily.  Sitting here moping about it wouldn?t help, wouldn?t change anything.  It wouldn?t turn back time to three days ago, when he was still hopeful, self-assured...unchanged.

He wasn?t honestly certain about that last one anymore, either.  In the last two days, they?d spent a good deal of time trying to figure out what had happened, but as time went on he became less and less sure of what had happened that night.  Owyn had refrained from stating his hypothesis again, but it was weighing on him.

He?d thought, perhaps, that this meant that he wasn?t worthless.  That just because his master had rejected him, that didn?t mean he was an utter failure.  Perhaps these new abilities were his true calling, perhaps the timing was intentional.  Perhaps, now that he had been freed of the shackles of his former life, he was to be gifted with abilities to forge a new one.  But as time went on and success remained elusive, the ex-apprentice sank back into depression, his mood dropping as low as his funds.

His stomach rumbled, as if to reinforce the point.  He was hungry, it was already past nightfall, and he didn?t have the money to get anything to eat.  Perhaps he could ask Miss Collins?

No.  He throttled that thought instantly.  He?d die before he begged that...that harpy for anything.  Besides, if he asked her for food, she?d deduce that he was insolvent and probably throw him out.  No, that course of action was out.  Maybe he could get something at closing time from the Haunch?  Derrick shrugged, aimlessly, and donned his coat.  It was better than sitting here doing nothing.

He walked outside, where the autumn night was crisp without being chilly.  The stars were brilliant tonight, while the moon was a half-circle of silver in the sky.  The streets were mostly empty, at this point, and he met no one as he wended through the narrow streets, ending up across the road from the eatery.  He stared at the door to it, a sick feeling shooting through his stomach.  How could it have come to this?

He looked away, frustrated, and his gaze fell upon the mangled shrub on the side of the road.  All of a sudden, he was angry.  Angry that his dreams had been crushed.  Angry that he?d been handed what had basically amounted to a fool?s fancy and a false hope.  Angry that his life, which had seemed so open and full of promise, was now suddenly hemming him in from all around, reducing him to the meanest of existences.  He kicked the shrub, fuming, tearing another branch away from the trunk, a howl of pent-up-fury pressing against his chest, threatening to shred his ribs.  He turned away, panting, furious, and crushed.

A minute later, he crossed the street.

He headed to the back entrance of the restaurant, which abutted the trash heap in the alley.  The smith raised a hand to knock at the door, when he noticed it was slightly ajar.  Suddenly shaking, ever so slightly, Derrick slowly opened the door.
The door turned out to lead into the kitchen, which was empty at the moment.  A pan of biscuits lay cooling on racks across from the brick oven, which had been freshly damped down for the night.  Light shone in from the hall, which must lead to the main dining room of the Haunch, and low murmurs could be heard from there.

Derrick?s gaze tracked the room, the biscuits, the entrances.  For a moment, he froze, completely motionless.  Could he do this?  Could he really take a step down this dark path?

Could he afford not to?

A few minutes later, a shadowy figure sidled out of the shadows of the alley, carrying what looked like a coat wrapped around something, being used as a package.  Derrick  nervously glanced over his shoulder, then ? his expression tortured ? he vanished into the night.

Three days later, another night, another dark street.  The same feeling of dread, but now accompanied by a certain excitement, and a sense of grim satisfaction, pervaded Derrick?s mind as he stood in the shadows with sweaty palms and irregular breathing, staring at the building across the street.  It was a fairly large and impressive edifice, in a similar style to and an area not all that different from the Scholars? Way.  This, however, was the Artisans? Way, the hub of the finest craftsmen the capital had to offer.  Many a noble or rich merchant could be seen along the Artisans? Way during the daylight hours.  By nightfall, however, the wide cobbled road was empty, the shopfronts dark and deserted.  This suited Derrick perfectly.

The ex-apprentice smith rubbed his hands together nervously.  Over the past three days he?d stolen a couple more items of food, quietly and with a minimum of fuss making off with a fresh loaf of bread from the bakery around the corner from Owyn?s shop, or an apple or two from a greengrocer?s cart.  He?d been evasive about his situation with Owyn, unable to face his friend?s disappointment.  He?d hoped to avoid mentioning his disgrace to his family in his next letter, but it seemed that decision had been taken out of his hands.  Derrick gritted his teeth and clenched his fists in silent memory.

A letter had arrived from home today.  Apparently Master Thalos had either not cared or simply not trusted him to tell them (which, Derrick was somewhat shamefacedly obligated to point out was not totally off the mark) and had taken matters into his own hands, sending home a terse letter to the effect that Derrick was a disappointment and was being released from his apprenticeship.  Derrick had nearly thrown up reading the letter his parents had immediately sent.  While replete with assurances that they still loved him, Derrick was able to read between the lines to the horrible, sick feeling of disappointment they must have felt.  The letter was laced with a certain bitterness, a deep-seated disheartening loss of faith, and just thinking about it made Derrick?s stomach churn with guilt and vicious depression.  He snarled, shaking his head.  Sitting here spiraling back into self-deprecation wouldn?t accomplish anything.  Right now, he needed two things ? money, and satisfaction.  Hopefully, and with a little luck, he?d get both tonight.

Tonight?s activity was another theft, but different in three important ways.  First, he knew what he was going in for.  This was his first planned theft; the others had been successful, but they had been targets of opportunity, a chance that had suddenly presented himself that he?d taken out of desperation.  This time, he had a specific target, in a known place.  That was the second difference: he knew where he was going.  He knew the layout, where people would and would not be, where his target was, how to get in and how to get out.  After all, hadn?t he worked there for years?

The third difference was the best one, to his mind.  This theft was personal.  Master Thalos hadn?t seen fit to fire him, ending his dreams of success and glory, but he?d also had to humiliate him in the eyes of his loved ones?  That was fine.  He could play that game.  The master smith would pay the price for his treachery.  Literally.

Derrick narrowed his eyes and grinned, fiercely.  It was just about time.  ?Let?s dance,? he whispered, and he stalked out of the shadows, across the street, and into the darkness between Thalos?s workshop (he?d have to break himself of the habit of referring to the old fool as ?Master?, he sneered inwardly) and snuck up to the back alley door.  As expected, it was shut tightly.  Derrick ignored it and moved to the window next to it down the wall, which led to one of the back storage rooms.  The latch on the window was twisted out of shape, and a properly placed blow on the wall would knock the window slightly ajar.  Derrick, along with the other apprentices, had used this alternate entrance to return when they had been out late ? Master Thalos had imposed a curfew and locked down the workshop after a certain hour, and damned be he who was stuck outside.  The hidebound old fool had rule after rule that he imposed on his apprentices, but it certainly seemed that he hadn?t bothered with respect for them.  Derrick shook his head again.  He was letting his pent-up emotions distract him.  He had to concentrate.

He thumped the wall, carefully.  The window popped open a crack, and he eased it open the rest of the way from the outside.  Checking the mouth of the alley and as much of the inside as he could see, he nodded, satisfied that no one could see him, and levered himself up on his arms into the open window.  The smith dropped to the ground quietly on the other side ? good thing he?d had practice at this ? and slid the pane back down into place.  He padded over to the door, cracked it open and listened for a moment.  Nothing.  Good.

Derrick opened the door and slid through the opening, checking the hall.  Over to the right the hall led to more storage rooms at the back of the building.  Not what he was here for.  On the left it led back to the workshops, the apprentices? quarters, and the actual shop area, which was ? for the most part ? open to the public, or at least those of the public who had the money to frequent such an institution.  That was the more dangerous path, but it was where he was headed.  Walking as quietly as possible, shaking slightly and sweating profusely, Derrick crept down the hall towards the light.

He?d have to cross in front of the entrance to the apprentices? quarters.  If any of them spotted him, he figured he could talk his way out of it ? he was just coming back to clear out his things ? but that would ruin his plans, and he wasn?t in the mood to leave without a little payback.  He held still, scarcely breathing, listening at the corner for any sounds coming from the dorms.  By the sound of it, Bergman and Kelson were arguing again.  Idiots.  He?d be well rid of them.

Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, he heard a door slam.  One of them had probably stalked out in a huff.  Their arguments usually ended that way, or with them expressing themselves physically.  Derrick had tried to have as little to do with Bergman and Kelson while he was working here, and saw no reason to change his policy now.  However, once they?d finished fighting, it meant both that they?d probably be distracted and out of his way, and that the other apprentices would likely have cleared out of the common area by now.  Praying his luck would hold, he slid along the wall to the corner, took a deep breath, and dashed across the wide opening to their quarters.

Silence reigned.  Derrick exhaled in relief.  The workshop, especially the public section of it, would undoubtedly be deserted at this point, making his job a lot easier from this point.  Still, all it would take was one careless mistake to bring everyone in the building ? and half of the City Guard ? down on his head.  Still moving quietly, still keeping to the shadows as much as possible, Derrick entered the main exhibition hall.

As much as he wanted to sneer at the place, to dismiss it as gaudy and overwrought, arrogant and tasteless, the fact simply was that the room was impressive.  Master Thalos might be an insensitive, egotistical old man, but for all that he was still a skilled smith, and the room was carefully aligned to display his wares to the finest.  Everything from gilded, ornamental parade armor to simple but effective blades were set up on various stands.  Derrick had considered making off with some of the metalwork from the shop originally, but had rejected it for two reasons: firstly, that it would be extremely difficult to carry off enough of the heavy arms and armor to be worth it, and secondly in that it wasn?t worth much to take the items from here.  Much of their value was tied up in the fact that they were Thalos masterpieces, and trying to fence them for anything approaching their true value without announcing that fact and drawing considerable suspicion was basically impossible.

Instead, he headed for the cordoned-off section at the back of the hall.  He went past the ropes and around the chest-high divider that led to the back portion of the room, and grinned again, rubbing his hands together.  There it was.

He walked over to the heavy black lockbox and ran his hands over it.  Made of banded steel and heavy oak, the box was meant to withstand any attempts at smashing it open.  The ex-apprentice nodded and reached into his pocket, producing a small iron key.  He?d been on closing duty the last night, before the debacle, and Master Thalos hadn?t been as careful as he might have been about getting it back from him.  Derrick?s mouth twisted into a crooked smile.  His loss!

Carefully, he slid the key in and turned it.  His breath turning ragged, he lifted the box open.  Inside were a few small pouches, likely the day?s funds.  Or so any two-bit thief would think.  He smirked.

With precise care, he slid the key into a groove in the box.  He lined his fingers up with the inside edges of the lockbox, and twisted.  With a snapping sound, the bottom of the lockbox twisted off, revealing a hidden compartment.  This was what he was here for.  Fingers trembling, he reached in and lifted out of the space a smaller lockbox.  He retrieved the key from the groove in the larger box, stuck into the smaller one?s keyhole, and twisted.

Nothing happened.

Derrick started to panic.  This wasn?t supposed to happen!  There wasn?t supposed to be another key!  Stupid, stupid, wretched old man!  Sweat now rolling off his face, he shook the small box.  A muffled thump from inside, and the weight of it, led him to believe this was what he?d come for, the lockbox which Thalos kept the money the workshop had made over several days, but with no way to open it, he couldn?t be sure.  Cursing under his breath, he removed the key from the small box, jammed the large one shut, and locked it.  It was time to get out of here.

Panic was making him sloppy.  He vaulted over the corner of the divider and ran across the workshop, only barely catching himself from tripping into a stand holding a silvered round shield.  The ex-apprentice stopped and took a few deep breaths, calming himself.  Maybe this would give him practice with locks.  Look on the bright side, right?

His breathing slowed to almost normal, Derrick crept up to the edge of the open hallway back to the quarters.  He tried to listen over the pounding of his heart for any noise.  Eventually, satisfied that no one was around, he cut across the opening again.  No cries of recognition or alarm rose up behind him.  He smiled shakily.  He was almost in the clear!

A few more minutes, and he was letting himself back into the storage room.  It was the easiest way in and out, for those who knew about it.  He gently closed the door of the room, turned, and almost screamed in terror.

Someone was just slipping in through the window.

There was no time to hide.

There was no time for anything.

The figure turned towards him, opened its mouth-

and the feeling, the fire, the pure energy, the overflowing essence of life leapt to his fingertips, suffused him with the heat of a thousand suns and the strength of a million men, covered him in a gentle blanket and a warm song and steel and stone
but it was different this time
there was a thread, a glowing line, that he followed, and he found himself staring at the wall, but the wall was longer than his mind could encompass and stronger than anything he could imagine
and yet the wall yielded to him, let him sink himself into it and through it and into the unimaginable realm beyond, where such petty thoughts as space and time and a lockbox were laid by the wayside, and nothing but pure life, the lifeblood of all, was there, calling to him
the call turned to him, and thrust him back, and left him outside the wall, but he had been there, he had been inside, he knew how to come back now, he knew where he was coming and what he came for, and he bowed his head in silent thanks before the majesty of the wall

-and blinked, and shook its head.  ?Must?ve had more?n I thought,? it mumbled.  Derrick suddenly realized, over the singing fire in his blood, that it was another of the apprentices returning from a late-night excursion.  The apprentice stumbled past him, fumbled with the door, got it open, and lurched into the hallway.

Derrick looked at himself and saw a wall in front of him, a wall that certainly had not been there a moment ago!  Trembling, he ran a hand along it, and watched with an almost dreamlike detachment as his fingers slid right through the image of the wall in front of him.  As his fingers pierced the illusory wall, it faded out, and with it the raging of his blood finally began to subside, taking with it almost all of his energy.  The ex-apprentice leaned back against the wall of the room, looking down and panting.  Something caught his eye ? a dent in the wall, one he?d noticed on the illusion that had popped up, in the same place.  He shook his head and slid back out of the window, shaking from head to toe, barely able to stand or hold onto the lockbox which he noticed he had in a deathlike grip.  Shivering, trembling, he wobbled his way back down the dark streets to his rooms, dragged himself up the stairs, closed the door, and collapsed on the floor.

[09:46] <theshim|work> there is nothing like working for a real estate company to make one contemplate arson


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Re: [NaNoWriMo] Soulmagic: Thief
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2011, 04:41:01 AM »
Derrick awoke to weak red sunlight painting the walls around him, a pounding headache, and a vicious thirst like someone had drawn a knife across the inside of his throat.  Sunrise meant he?d been out solidly for the rest of the night, sprawled on the floor.  His ribs also registered a massive amount of pain.  Groaning, he rolled to the side, and realized he?d been lying on top of the lockbox.  On the plus side, this meant that he still had the lockbox, which was the whole point.

Except that, suddenly, the lockbox, the heist, the whole sneaking rigmarole seemed irrelevant from the other side of whatever had happened last night.  In that shop, he had been reborn, but not as a master smith or even as a master thief.  Something had happened, some fundamental twisting of his very self; it had burned away the old Derrick Talen and had marked him for greater things.

Derrick smiled at this thought.  Another thought stretched the smile as far as it would go: Wait until Owyn heard!  The scribe would probably end up throwing a fit, or maybe even that miracle of miracles, stop talking for a minute!

He levered himself up on his elbows, and was surprised at the amount of trembling effort that took.  The ex-apprentice pulled his knees up, curling into a kneeling ball on the floor.  He was utterly ravenous, now that he thought about it.  Hungry, thirsty, and weak as a newborn kitten.

Derrick dragged himself over to his nightstand, where he found half a biscuit, now rock-hard.  He began gnawing at it as he looked around for water.  It seemed he didn?t have any left in here.  He growled some invectives and finally hauled himself to his feet.
He needed something to eat, some time to think, and someone to talk to.  Owyn would be able to help with at least two of the three.  Derrick went to open the door, and stopped, looking down at the lockbox on the floor.  He couldn?t leave it here, but he couldn?t take it with him now ? in this case, this was very nearly a literal statement of physical capacity.  Torn, he started at the box, eventually electing to stuff it under his bed and to cover it with his blankets.

He let himself out of his room, closed and locked the door behind him, and palmed the key.  Carefully, he walked down the stairs, trying not to slip ? this was ridiculous, he was so weak he could barely walk down a flight of stairs.  He nearly breathed a sigh of relief as he made it to the bottom, only to notice that this placed him squarely in front of Miss Collins.

?Well, if it isn?t Master Talen.  I suppose the daylight hours are far too good for you now, are they??  The landlady sniffed haughtily.

?Ah ? Miss Collins ? I?ve had a rough few nights-? Wait.  The daylight hours?  Derrick?s mind started piecing clues together ? the angle of the light on his walls, the number of people on the streets.  ?Wait ? you mean I slept all day?!?

?Indeed you have, Master Talen,? Miss Collins snapped.  ?I will warn you this once, I?ll not have this degree of laziness or inappropriate behavior in my rooms.  You will correct the behavior of the past few days, or I shall ask you to find other accommodations.  Perhaps you?ll sleep in the workshop, like a proper apprentice.?  With that, her piece spoken, Miss Collins walked back inside and slammed the door.

Derrick stared at the door, bemused.  Half a night and a whole day?  Whatever this mysterious power was, it was more draining than a solid week in the smithy.  It was also far more interesting and important than the old hag nattering on about her rules.  Perhaps he could find somewhere else, a certainty if he could crack the lockbox.

Well, one thing at a time.  He headed through the darkening streets to the Scholars? Way, which was lit by torches against the dusk.  The Way was emptying now, with people returning to their homes.  Owyn?s shop was still occupied, though; the scribe was finishing up some business with a noble?s liveried servant.  Derrick pushed past the man in the doorway as he entered the shop, prompting a disgusted glare which he pointedly ignored.  Owyn looked up as he came in, a worried look coming over his face.  ?Derrick, you look like the hells warmed over.  Are you all right??

Derrick felt like his face was going to split in half from his grin.  ?Actually, Owyn, never better.  Literally.?

A few minutes later, Owyn had, at Derrick?s insistence, closed, locked, and chained the door, scrounged up something to eat, and extracted a promise not to throw any mugs for the evening before getting him a drink as well.  Derrick tore into the food (a heel of bread and some hard cheese) with a furor that surprised the scribe, but he kept his mouth shut, watched, and waited.  Eventually the food was reduced to crumbs and Derrick leaned back in his seat, sighing.  ?Thanks, Owyn.  You?ve no idea how badly I needed that.?

?I can surmise,? he replied dryly.  ?Now, if you?re done holding me in suspense??

The ex-apprentice nodded and rose from his chair, rubbing his hands together.  ?Easier if I just show you.  Watch.?

Derrick closed his eyes, and reached out-

and there it was, the burning thread, the blazing trail of life he followed back
the sinuous curve winding through the sparks all around it
the great wall once more yielding to him, granting him a drop of its fathomless well of glory and light
and he carried it back with him, and cast it forth

-and a wall sprang up and bisected the room.  Owyn choked.  ?What in the ? Derrick!  What is this?!?

Derrick laughed, and with another moment of focus, another glance at the thread, he withdrew himself and let the essence return.  There was a moment of giddiness before he realized that he was covered in sweat and he tumbled to the ground.

Light.  Sound.  Sensation.  Awareness started to return to Derrick in a blurry, vague haze.  Someone was saying something.  It wasn?t him.  Was it?


He started.  Blinking rapidly, he finally managed to focus enough to see his friend?s worried face looking down at him.  ?Derrick, are you all right, can you hear me?!?

?Owyn??  Derrick mumbled blearily.  He was really getting tired of passing out and waking up confused and befuddled.

The scribe exhaled in relief.  ?Damn it, Talen, don?t do that to me!  First you scare ten years off my life with that...that...whatever the hells that was, and then you collapse with that stupid grin on your face and you-?  Owyn stopped, and wiped his forehead with his sleeve.  ?Don?t scare me like that!?

?I-?  Derrick stopped and ran his tongue around his mouth.  ?I collapsed?  Again??  Damn.

?Again?!  What do you mean, again?  Derrick bloody Talen, what the hells have you been doing to yourself?!?  Owyn exploded.

The ex-smith gestured feebly.  ?Um...that??

He closed his eyes as Owyn carried on for a good chunk of time, lecturing him about caution and proper care interspersed with fits of swearing.  Derrick let it wash over him ? he was used to his friend?s ranting ? and just for a moment he extended himself, just enough to touch the very tip of the thread, and smiled again.  Owyn stopped midsentence.  ?You?re smiling.  That can?t be a good thing.  What are you smiling about?  Stop smiling!?

?Sorry.?  Derrick tried to quash his smile as he opened his eyes, but the look on Owyn?s face launched him into a fit of giggling.  Owyn drew himself up, offended, but this only provoked a full-scale burst of laughter from the ex-smith.  It was partly the exhaustion and the disconnect from everything around him that was sparking it, but it felt good, and he let himself laugh, with Owyn joining in, his lighter chuckles in counterpoint to Derrick?s rumbling laugh.

Eventually, the two calmed down.  Derrick shakily wiped tears from the corner of his eyes and sat up, only then realizing that he was lying on Owyn?s bed.  ?Ah ? thanks for dragging me in here.  I spent most of today passed out on the floor.?  He smiled, crookedly, and added, ?Bed was a welcome change.?

Owyn folded his arms.  ?I see we?ve got quite a bit to talk about.  Let?s start with last night, shall we??

[09:46] <theshim|work> there is nothing like working for a real estate company to make one contemplate arson

Hanzo K.

  • White Tiger Shikigami
  • Whoa, this YF-29's awesome!
Re: [NaNoWriMo] Soulmagic: Thief
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2011, 09:15:48 PM »
Is there nothing you can't make awesome?
I mean, first there was the drunk runthrough of IN Extra a while back, then this.

Dude, this is like, awesome.
...I'm probably the only person who reads this, but I like it. You should definitely make this a full story. If you don't already plan to that is.
Essence RO
Eiji Komatsu L1xx/6x CritsinX | Ryoshima Nanbu L7x/4x Crafting Blacksmith

Arbitrary Gaming~!
Youkai Quest: Unknown Adventure


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Re: [NaNoWriMo] Soulmagic: Thief
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2011, 04:54:56 AM »
I've developed a tendency to stop writing mid-scene, which is why these posts don't flow terribly well.  DON'T CARE LA LA LA LA

Hesitantly, Derrick began.  ?Last night, I, I was out.  I...actually, I went back to the workshop.?

?For the first time in five days, no less,? Owyn murmured.  He waved a hand dismissively as Derrick stopped and gave him a look.  ?Never mind.  Continue.?

Derrick gave him a sidelong look before doing so.  ?I was just stopping to pick something up, and I was on my way out, and I ran into someone.  And I couldn?t let them see me there that late, you know?  So...?  He ran a hand through his hair.  ?There was another moment ? just like the other night ? I couldn?t move, couldn?t think, and then suddenly I felt it, Owyn, felt it like my blood was on fire, or like my body was going to fly apart into a thousand pieces-?  He stopped, lost for words.  ?It was incredible,? he finished quietly.

Owyn said nothing for a moment, then raised an eyebrow.  ?And then??

The ex-smith started, lost in memory.  ?And then, I ? well, I did what I did here.?

?Made a wall, you mean??

Derrick shrugged.  ?Copied one, really.?

?What do you mean, copied??

?Well, it was just an image of the wall.  A picture of it, basically, tacked in front of me,? Derrick explained, waving his hands vaguely as he tried to translate what he?d seen and felt into understandable words.  ?You can put your hand through it ? I tried.  It?s not really there.  I just simply copied the wall behind me and draped it over me, like a blanket.?  He shook his head.  ?No, that?s not right either.  It?s more like-?

?Like a painting,? Owyn finished, frowning.  ?Like taking a painting of the wall and holding it up in front of you.?

Derrick nodded.  ?Pretty much.?

?Of course, this would have all the problems of holding a painting in front of you, too,? the scribe continued.

?What do you mean??  Derrick tilted his head, confused.

?Well, for one thing, it?s flat, right?  Looks good from the front, but take a few steps to the side and you can see it?s just a picture stuck in front of you.?  Owyn walked to the side, as if to demonstrate.  ?And you have to be able to hold it up, of course.  Especially if it were a large painting.  Even someone as strong as you wouldn?t be able to hold it up indefinitely.?  He paused, frowning again, and began stroking his chin.  ?The question is, just how heavy, so to speak, was this painting?  Can you make it lighter?  Get stronger??

?I?m not sure it works that way, Owyn,? Derrick said.

?Neither am I,? Owyn replied, and waved a hand dismissively.  ?Got to start somewhere.  Assumptions are dangerous, yes, but we?ve got to frame this in a way we can comprehend what we?re learning.  Break it down.  Make sense of it all.?  The scribe began to pace feverishly, his speech coming quicker.  ?Anyway.  Holding up a painting is interesting, but limited.  I wonder, though...could you do something about those limits?  Make it, I don?t know, defined, rather than just a flat image??

The ex-smith shook his head.  ?I can honestly say that I have no idea, Owyn.  I?ve only done this twice.  Three times, actually, counting the cart.?

?The cart!?  Owyn hissed.  Derrick jumped in his seat.  ?Of course!?  The smaller man dashed over to the counter and began digging furiously through the various notes and bits of paper strewn about, coming up triumphantly with the notes he?d taken when Derrick had first come in, after that first evening.  ?All right, let?s see what we?ve got here.?

?I?ve been wondering about that myself, actually,? Derrick volunteered.  ?I mean, first it was speed, now it was this...wall-copying thing-?

?Illusion.  ?Wall-copying thing??  Please tell me you can do better than that.?  Owyn didn?t even look up.

?How about ?mug to the head??  I like that one.?

?I really do not have enough of those for you to keep tossing them around, Talen.  I had to go pick up another four the other day already thanks to you.?  Owyn turned a page.

?Then I?m doing good work,? Derrick chuckled.  ?Fine.  First it was a burst of speed, then an illusion.  I?m just wondering, you know, if there?s a connection between them??

?Besides being unnatural and physically impossible by all known universal laws?  I can think of several.  Too many, in fact.  Not enough data to theorize yet.?  Owyn put the notes back down on the counter top and looked up at Derrick.  ?I?d say we need to narrow it down.  Are you up for it??

Derrick shrugged.  ?I?m getting really sick of passing out, I can tell you that.?

?Well, actually, from what you?ve told me, that shouldn?t be as much of a problem,? Owyn pointed out.

?Why ever not, dare I ask??

?You haven?t noticed?  The periods of unconsciousness aren?t uniform.  The first time you were out for several hours, but that might be explained by the fact that you were manifesting a different ability, by it being your first time, by the fact that you were simply enhancing a natural ability rather than creating something new.  Again.  Too much data.?  Owyn was lapsing into what Derrick referred to as a ?learning frenzy? again: he?d become unable to sit or stand still (unless taking notes), his speech became stilted and fast-paced, and he?d become wholly focused on one thing to the exclusion of all else.  ?Leave that aside.  Focus on extrapolatable data.  Two circumstances, similar if not quite identical execution.  First time, last night.  Unconscious for remained of the night, almost entire day today as well.  Second time, right here, just a little while ago.  Unconscious for less than an hour.?  Owyn smiled, satisfied.  ?Seems to be something of a learning curve.  Will need to spend more time testing it, of course, but at this rate basic illusion should stop inducing unconsciousness in a few more attempts.?

Derrick groaned.  ?So, jargon and babble aside, you?re telling me to knock myself out again.?

?Think of it as exercise, Derrick.  The more time you spend at it, the less it will tire you and the more you?ll be able to do.?

?You really think it?ll work that way??  Derrick asked, skeptical.

Owyn shrugged.  ?Initial data seems to indicate this is the case.  Not enough to be certain.  Best way to confirm is to test.?  He gave Derrick a pointed look.

Derrick gave up.  ?What do you want me to do??

The scribe considered this for a moment before nodding.  ?Seems that best idea is to work with known effects.  Easiest way to tabulate some form of data and begin finding correlations is to keep trying one thing, at least for now.?

?So...the wall illusion again??  Derrick translated.

?Did I stutter??

Derrick picked up his mug.

?Yes!  Yes!  The wall illusion again!?  Owyn yelled frantically.

The ex-smith nodded and put the mug back down.  He closed his eyes again, seeking-

and this time the thread was nearer still, and burned brighter yet, and he followed it with swift surety to the wall, and laughed as he drew the blazing fire of life out

-and he gestured at the wall behind him, and as he swept his hand forward, an illusory copy of it burst into sight in from of him, walling him off from Owyn.  ?Perfect, Derrick!  Hold it for a moment!?  The scribe shouted, scribbling at his notes in a frenzy.  He continued for about ten seconds, as sweat began to bead on Derrick?s forehead, and suddenly he was sweating from everywhere and barely able to stand, and just as he thought he would collapse Owyn shouted again ?All right, let it go!?  With a moment of thought he sliced through the thread with a mental blade and fell to the floor, panting as if he?d just run for miles, or worked a full day in his forge.  His vision blurred and black spots danced before his eyes, he could hear Owyn saying something, but it all seemed so far away.  Gritting his teeth, he blinked away the spots, painfully holding on to consciousness as his friend kept talking, a buzz of sound that he held onto, even if he couldn?t understand it-

And then Owyn splashed a mug full of cold water into his face.  Dripping, sputtering, he roared incoherently and shook his head back and forth, scattering droplets everywhere.  Owyn stepped back, out of range.  ?Can you hear me now, Derrick??

Still heaving, he nodded.  ?What was that for?!?

?You were completely out of it.  I wanted to bring you around.  This is amazing, Derrick!  Totally incredible!?  Owyn clapped his hands together in glee.

Derrick opened his mouth weakly.  ?Is it??

?Don?t you see?  You did it again, held it for longer, and you managed to hold onto consciousness this time!  Real progress!  Just imagine ? what if you could do this without tiring yourself any more than picking up your hammer, or something like that??  Owyn was nearly bouncing with excitement.

The ex-smith pushed himself up, supporting his weight on his elbows.  ?Do you really think that?s possible??

?At this point, who knows??  Owyn laughed expansively.  ?So far, the answer would seem to be yes, maybe, one day.?  With that, the scribe quieted, and went back to his notes.  Derrick carefully came to his feet.  He still felt weak and shivered, but his friend was right ? he?d stayed conscious this time, and the drain on him didn?t feel as pervasive.  He picked up his own mug from the table and downed it, then looked back at the scribe, who was writing in a state of intense concentration.

?Owyn,? he said, and coughed.  His friend didn?t seem to hear him.  ?Owyn!?

The scribe jumped.  ?What!  Yes!?

?Do you...have anything to eat??

Owyn looked up this time, a disconcertingly shrewd look on his face.  ?Sure.  And then, we need to talk.?

?Like we?re doing anything else,? Derrick mumbled, but he followed his friend into the pantry.

?Alright, Derrick.  What?s really going on??  Owyn folded his hands and rested his chin on top of them, staring at Derrick, who had just finished cleaning out most of his stock of food.  The ex-smith gave him a confused look.

?You?re going to have to be more specific than that.?

?Very well.?  Owyn licked his lips, uncomfortably.  ?What have you been doing the past five days??

?Oh.?  Derrick seemed to shrink in his chair.

?I mean, I know what you?ve been doing for most of them.  You?ve been here, after all.  But now you?re telling me about sneaking into and out of your master?s shop, and you haven?t been there in days otherwise.  What happened, Derrick?  What aren?t you telling me??

Derrick stared at the table.  He didn?t want to tell Owyn this.  Didn?t want to lose the respect of the one last person who still had any for him, the one person he respected the most himself and the one whose respect counted for more than anyone else?s.
But he owed him this.  He owed Owyn the truth, for all he?d done for him, and all they?d been to each other.  They?d been closer to brothers than friends, closer than Derrick had been with his own true brothers.  He couldn?t lie to Owyn, not now, not right in front of him.

?Master Thalos...dismissed me.?

Owyn looked stricken.  ?He didn?t!?

Grimly, feeling sick, Derrick nodded.  ?He did.  He said I was a disgrace, the worst smith he?d ever seen, and he ordered me out.?

?The bastard!?  Owyn shouted, pounding the table.  Derrick jumped.  ?The short-sighted old fool!  You?re near the match of any other master in the city!  What the bloody hell is he playing at??

?You know that?s not true,? Derrick said, his face flooding red.  Poor Owyn had such faith in him, such belief.  It would make what came next so much harder.

?Perhaps not,? Owyn admitted grudgingly.  ?But you?re still a damned fine smith, the equal of any of his apprentices, for certain.  Why would he do that??

?It gets better,? Derrick pressed on, smiling mirthlessly.  ?He sent a letter home.  Went right over my head.?

?He didn?t!?  Owyn began swearing.  ?That idiotic, cantankerous, short-sighted, blighted, unskilled, o?erweening fool!?

Despite himself, Derrick did a double take.  ?O?erweening??

?I picked that one up from a Gorbosan colleague of mine,? Owyn muttered.  ?Not the point!?

?Yes, well,? Derrick rode over Owyn?s sputtering.  ?Either way, what?s done is done.  There?s no going back there.?

?Damn it, Talen!  Don?t just roll over and take this!?

?It?s a little late for that!?  Derrick snapped, harshly.  ?Besides, there isn?t really a process of appeal when it comes to this, and you know it!?

Taken aback, Owyn quieted for a moment.  ?I...I?m sorry, you?re right.  This not fair, or right.?

?It is what it is,? he replied darkly.  Watched, as the cogs in his friend?s head continued to turn and the next question formed.

Hesitantly, Owyn continued.  ?All right then, that aside...what have you been doing the past five days then?  Besides your time in here, of course, and you sparking off whatever madness this is??

Derrick glared at the tabletop.  ?Wandering.  Sleeping.  Stealing to eat.?

?Stealing?!?  The scribe was genuinely shocked at this.  ?You?ve been stealing food??

?Yes.  I have.  Everything I?ve eaten in the past five days, besides what I got you to buy for me, I stole.?  Derrick felt the words slice his chest open as they left it, slit his throat on the way out.  A horrible leaden gloom settled over him as he continued.  ?Turns out I?m fairly decent at it.?

?Derrick, that?s...I mean, this is...I never would have thought-?

?Well, I never would have thought that Thalos would just kick me out like that!? Derrick shouted, his temper flaring.  ?Turns out this is just quite the week for shattered expectations!?

Owyn held his hands up disarmingly.  ?Look, Derrick, I?m sorry, all right?  I know you must have been desperate.?  He looked away for a moment.  ?Why didn?t you tell me??

?Would you have?? Derrick shot back, bleakly.

Owyn?s mouth twisted.  ?A fair point,? he admitted.  After another tense moment of thought, he opened his mouth, shut it, and opened again.  He needed to ask this question, but he didn?t want to hear the answer.  ?In that case...what were you doing at the shop last night??

Derrick began laughing.  It was a harsh, grating laugh, with nothing of mirth or happiness in it.  ?What do you think I was doing?  Just getting in a little...payback.?

Oh, no.  ?Derrick...what did you do??

The ex-smith stared out the window for a moment at the street, where twilight had begun to fall in earnest, and took a shuddering breath.  ?Can you keep a secret??

Owyn didn?t even dignify this with a response, instead giving Derrick a piercing, wry look.  Derrick actually smiled at that.  ?Okay, I deserved that.?  He ran both hands through his hair, which had become increasingly messy and tangled over the past five days.  ?When he threw me out, Master Thalos forgot that I had a little something of his.?

?Which was??  Owyn knew his friend was stalling at this point, but pushing him along too strongly would probably only get him to snap again.

?Just the key to the lockbox,? Derrick said.  Against all rationality, he could feel a grin creeping across his face as he produced the key.  ?Nothing too important, really.?

Owyn had gone pale.  ?Derrick...tell me you didn?t.?

?Oh, I?m afraid I very much did,? he said, the treacherous grin still stuck on his face.  ?Even knew about the fake one and got the real one out.  Trick is, the key doesn?t work on that one.  I can?t get it open.  Still, the fact that I?ve got it probably means Thalos had a very interesting day today.?  And that felt good.

[09:46] <theshim|work> there is nothing like working for a real estate company to make one contemplate arson