So I’m 18 days into NaBloPoMo and I’m already running out of stuff to post about. I’ve got a stack of half-finished posts in my Drafts folder, all utterly devoid of any entertainment value whatsoever. As in, “Look, I’ve changed the decor in my computer room! Here are pictures!” And, “Dude. I cannot BELIEVE that I let myself run out of dishsoap.”
Gripping stuff, folks.
Steve’s horse Sam caught his leg on something out in the pasture a couple days ago and ripped the hell out of it, but…that’s a one-sentence story, and you do not want to see pictures.
A month or two ago our rooster was killed by a stray dog (that subsequently got the everloving crap beat out of it by Gericault), and this morning I think I heard one of our hens attempting to crow. That was just…odd. But also not something I can fill a whole blog post with.
So much for reality. How about some fiction instead?
Shortly after Elizabeth was born I discovered play-by-email role-playing games. For the non-geeks in the audience, basically you play by first creating a fictional character, and then inserting your character into an ongoing story that is populated by other players’ characters, and guided by a gamemaster. All game moves are executed via email. For me it’s a creative writing exercise and a creative thinking exercise, and it kept my brain oxygenated at a time when my “real” world had shrunk down to changing diapers, breastfeeding and housework.
I’ve played in a bunch of pbem’s over the past ten years, but as my kids got older and my real life got fuller, I let go of all the games but one. Austin After Dark is a World Of Darkness game, run by the incomparably evil Aron Head. It’s populated with vampires and werewolves and Fae, and yes I do realize how nerdy I sound right now.
It’s the writing that appeals to me, and the challenge of dealing with all the bizarre situations that arise in the game. And once, a couple of years ago, my character got into a situation that was so intense, so difficult to play, so freaking SCARY, that it stretched my playing skills to the limit just to stay in the game and keep sending back moves.
You have to understand, in this particular scene I didn’t know any more than my character knew. This wasn’t a situation where I knew everything was going to be okay in the end…this game is HARSH, and characters actually DIE in it, like, ALL THE TIME, and I LOVED my character and did not want her to die.
It was a very long scene, so I’m just going to post the first little bit of it. And then a little bit more every day that I can’t think of anything else to write about.
Okay, so here we go. My character is Casey, a 22-year-old human psionic. She has been captured by Mardmor, the Goblin King, who wants some information from her and has temporarily shut down her powers. Aron directed the scene and played all the other characters that were present here.
One last note: The game is written in present-tense, but I’ve changed it to past-tense here for better flow. I think it reads better that way.
She was seated in a hard wooden chair, her wrists locked to the armrests.
Her telepathic senses remained dulled. She could not sense beyond herself.
Looking about, she saw that she was in a dimly lit room draped in shadow.
Off to her left was a hard wood table. Dark stains colored the wood. Ranching experience told her that those were blood stains. A roll-away cart was positioned a few feet from her right. On it, an assorted number of sharp surgical objects were arranged.
Her stomach lurched at the sight of those gleaming blades.
If her telekinesis were working, she could utilize those as a fine arsenal for attack… but instead, she found herself staring at them…
She had no idea how much pain she was capable of enduring.
But oh, she didn’t want to find out.
Terror washed through her in cold waves, until she had to clench her teeth shut to keep from sobbing aloud.
“You’re awake,” Mardmor greeted her with a smile, stepping out of the darkness. The shadows moved about him like curtains. “I suppose we should get down to business. Don’t you agree?”
He drew a scalpel from the cart.
Shakes wracked her slender body. She searched desperately for the anger and defiance that had bolstered her courage earlier, but the sight of that razor-edged blade in Mardmor’s hand drove everything from her mind but the overwhelming fear.
“Please,” she whispered unsteadily. “I don’t know anything.”
“Casey,” he said earnestly, “I need you to believe two things. Just two. But I *need* you to believe them wholeheartedly.”
He drew close, his face filling her field of vision.
“First, do you believe that it is in within my power to hurt you? To make you suffer such torment as you have never imagined? To make you weep until you have no tears left to offer? To make you beg me for the sweet release of eternal death? Do you?”
She tried to draw enough breath to answer, but her chest seemed paralyzed with terror. Maybe she’d get lucky and just die from heart failure right then, before the torture began.
Finally she managed to jerk a bit of air into her lungs. “Yes,” she breathed hoarsely. “I believe that.”
“Good,” he almost whispered, sounding relieved. “Second – and, Casey, this is very important – do you believe that I do not want to hurt you? Because I don’t. You are a profoundly powerful and intriguing woman. I would much rather share a meal with you than cause you harm. There is much you can teach me, and I dare say, much I can teach you. Why then would I ever desire to inflict upon you pain? So, my dear, do you believe that I do not wish to hurt you?”
His words loosened the crushing grip of terror on her chest just a little, just enough to let her breathe. “Maybe you don’t,” she whispered low. “But I believe that you’ll do it anyway. Because I have nothing useful to tell you.”
“I…” He shook his head, “I am sorry to hear you say that.”
In a flash, he slashed down with the scalpel with tremendous force!
Casey jumped, startled by the sudden action.
The blade is plunged deep into the arm of the chair, mere millimeters from her own flesh.
She pulled reflexively away from the blow, but her arm was held tightly in place. A short whimper escaped her throat before she could choke it back.
“It would take nothing but the will to do so, Casey. Pain and torment. They can be provided with little effort. Do you believe me? Do you believe that I do not want to hurt you?!?!”
She huddled motionless in the chair, head bowed, heart pounding thunderously against her ribs.
And then a window of clarity opened in her mind. She was still terrified, but her capacity for rational thought slipped back in through the haze of fear, offering her a wider perspective beyond Mardmor’s blades and the threat of unimaginable pain.
The Goblin King…the master puppeteer pulling the strings of the Talons, the Vampire Prince, presumably even Kilarothes himself…was offering to sit down with her for a little friendly conversation.
It was conceivable that she may yet escape this dungeon. What if she were to bring with her information that could change the course of this war?
What if this, right now, was her opportunity to find a chink in the enemy’s armor?
Slowly, slowly, her hands unclenched on the chair’s arms. She drew a deep breath into her lungs, tried to calm the trembling.
She didn’t quite look at him. “What do you want to know?”