the heft and the edge 9/4/2018
He placed his unlit, unused lantern on the stone floor before him. Blue and green lights flickered on its burnished copper. He concentrated his gaze upon those lights rather than risk seeking out their source.
DID YOU COME HERE MERELY TO QUAKE IN OUR PRESENCE?
The thought was so loud it made him feel sick.
OR WILL YOU SCRABBLE IN THE DIRT, THIEF, FOR PRETTY STONES?
“Not a thief,” he sputtered. “I care nothing for gold--”
STRANGE CREATURE. CARES NOTHING FOR HIS LIFE EITHER.
“I came to parley with you.”
Another speaker. The thought carried a different resonance: less brutal, more sly, and amused.
“Have I the great honour of addressing the imponderable Roaggagroach, and the inestimable Gor Hadradag?”
You do not trust your seeker then? Or do you doubt your control? Yes, we saw him, a flicker of a thing wasn’t he sister friend?
NOT WORTH A BREATH TO BLOW HIM OUT.
And a breath would be all they needed. Actually, his control had been perfect, and his route mapped out so carefully that he’d found his way to this hall completely undetected.
Undetected until you entered at least.
He felt queasy again. He was no stranger to the art of reading thoughts, but the circumstances had to be right, and more often than not, the subject must be weaker of mind than the practitioner. It was uncomfortable for him to realise that in this circumstance he was the weaker subject.
And you will do well to remember that.
He would, no doubt, remember his place, but perhaps it was now time to be a little bolder.
“My question is unanswered,” he said, and then raised his head.
A robust response. Well done. I am Hadradag. Yes over here: the blue eyes! My sister-friend, Roagga-great-voice, favours you with her best green. She is considering that you are quite a mouthful for a human.
She liked that. Her laughter filled his head and shook his inner organs.
SEE HOW HE SHIVERS, BROTHER-FRIEND. ISN’T HE DELICIOUS? I MUST BE MORE GENTLE.
Yes speak soft, my love, or he will surely die – too soon.
They had no need to let him hear their conversation. They were playing with him. It was to be expected.
There was a boulder to his left – he could make it out in the mingled incandescence of their gaze. He decided to sit upon it before his knees began to wobble too much, but as he settled himself he realized they had picked it out for him. Almost a kindness, if it were not merely a measure of their control.
SPEAK – the female again, but much less appallingly this time.
SO KIND. BUT “APPALLING” IS SOMETHING I ASPIRE TO!
He began at once, trying this time to school his thought to reveal only the proposal he carried, to keep close the motive behind it.
“You are both well-known to mankind, unlike most of your... ahm brethren?”
UNCIVIL. YOU COULD TRY FAMILY.
This time they both laughed. The acid in his stomach welled up in response. He struggled to stop himself gagging. But he must continue: there was no point stopping now.
“Hadradag and Roaggagroach feature in the history books of Asteranor. Your um... your venture beyond the Oathlands.”
OUR REBELLION! HOW SWEET IT WAS.
“It is overmuch, I think, to be named criminal for a journey that merely took a wrong turn. To me it would seem you were harshly treated.”
There was silence in his head. Were they considering whether to take offence at his presumption, or were they talking to each other in private? Hadradag’s eyes were on him, so bright now he had to squint.
You may think it harsh, but it was not the act that was named criminal – that would be a pathetic claim. Not the act, but the intention. Not the what but the why.
“Entering Terremark was no accident?”
Do we seem capable to you of random mistakes?
“Well no, most unlikely.”
WE MADE OUR DECISION, HUMAN, AND WHATEVER DAGRAEDA MIGHT SAY, IT WAS A GOOD ONE.
We would do it again. Or think you we should bend the knee and scrape before mankind?
WHAT IS MANKIND TO US? SUCH PETTY CREATURES, AND YET THEY DEMAND SO MUCH.
They may demand as they please - I Hadradag will not be corralled...
HEMMED IN BY WORDS...
limited by the designs of an unworthy wizard. The elders had no right.
DAGRAEDA HAS LOST UNDERSTANDING OF HONOUR, OF MAJESTY.
The thoughts came one after another, each louder in turn, bludgeoning his senses, shaking his bones. And yet, deep inside, whatever the physical terror clear before him, he knew now that he had won. Deep inside he was smiling.
“Peace friends!” he said as though he had a right to speak so. The thoughts fell silent. “I begin to see your frustration, begin to understand the injustice. You were poorly treated then, and you live with the insult still. It must not be allowed to continue. I... I wonder,” and here he paused to regard each pair of eyes in turn, “I wonder if I could make things better for you and right the wrong? If we could cooperate, we could find a way, could we not, to return the situation to what it was before the Oath? To return the situation to what it should be.”
The eyes blinked out and left him in complete darkness. He waited. And waited.
And think you that your ponderings and your offers, human, will for one moment stay us from eating you?
FROM EATING YOU NOW!
The eyes blazed out once more and the heat of their gaze washed over him.