Archive | June 2015

An Interim Story: Valran – Sleep

Valran lay in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. Even at night, it wasn’t truly dark in the Inner Circle. Light shone from other windows, from the streets, from down in the second and Third Circles, making the night a dim twilight haze.

The outer wall was dark at night, except for the few shuttered lanterns the sentries used. Nobody wanted to attract the beasts and critters that lived in the plains, and nobody who didn’t have to left their home or barracks after dark.

Valran tried not to shift. The first night, he’d been twisting and turning, trying to get comfortable, and he’d woken Keldra Dre. She’d been very sympathetic, but her sympathy had burned more than anger would have.

The bed was too comfortable. He hadn’t known such a thing was possible, but the bed was soft and giving in all the right places, firm where it needed to be, with sheets so slick Valran was surprised he didn’t slide right out of bed. His bed at home had been the best his family could get, far better than most people in their neighborhood — and it was a pile of rocks compared to this.

When he was working on the wall, he’d slept on a thin blanket on a plank of wood and been glad he was off the ground. He was pretty sure he still had splinters embedded in his hip and shoulder.

He wiggled as quietly as he could, trying to find a spot that let him sleep. She was so close to him, not touching — the bed was big enough for five; she could have been miles away — but still near enough that he could hear her breathe. And she was naked, and he was naked.

Valran stared blankly at the ceiling and thought of the Outer wall. He counted stones, laying one after another in his mind, until he could smell the dust of the plains, until, fitfully, he slept.

An Interim Story: Taslin and Food

Taslin’s First Day as a Gladiator

“All right,” Ganlenrel had said, “clean yourself up nice and put on your best tunic, then head to the Hall for dinner.”

Taslin had done as she was told — she had three tunics, one of which the other fighters had warned her not to get dirty or mucky, so that one counted as her best for today, she supposed. Now she was following the crowd into the grand vaulted Hall.

The smell of unfamiliar foods hit her nose before she made it through the door; the minute she made it into the hall, another Gladiator grabbed her arm. Sellen, a 9th-Circle girl who’d been in the Pit all of a week longer than Taslin.

“Come on,” she urged. “It’s hard, but if you show how new you are, they’ll just prey on you. We’ve got to get you some trim for your dinner tunic, remind Vinroth when you see him again. And here, we’ll hold down the end of this table with Marrhi and Corby. Don’t stare at the food.”

Sellen was steering as she spoke, so that the last order coincided with pushing Taslin in front of a stool. Taslin sat down, finding herself between Corby and Sellen, and tried not to stare at the food.

It smelled much more intensely this close up – meat and spices, tomato and something that might be wine or vinegar, fresh-baked bread and more vegetable odors than she could place. And it looked so much more overwhelming than it smelled.

“I know,” Sellen whispered, as she dropped a hunk of bread on Taslin’s plate. “There’s so much, right? And so much meat? That’s pork, comes from pigs. They call it pulled pork, and the sauce is tangy-spicy. Then there’s a baked bean dish, there, and then there’s this, it’s cabbage. Dig in. There’s no limits.”

Taslin swallowed. There were wide platters on the table, enough to feed her family for weeks if they could store the food. Her stomach rumbled. Corby punched her in the arm, lightly, more of a punctuation than an assault.

“Eat,” the other woman told her, and Sellen, her mouth already full, grunted in agreement. “You don’t win in the ring if you’re underfed. You don’t send money home to your family if you don’t win in the ring. And they don’t get to find out what pulled pork tastes like if you don’t send them money. So eat.”

Taslin, her hunger urging her to go along with that irrefutable logic, ate.