I am now 4.152% finished with my story. Here’s part 1 if you missed it. In general I think I’m just going to do one post per day, probably sometime in the evenings, but I did two today. Because I felt like it, OK? Gosh!
Chapter 1 – Percival (continued)
Percival was not the only one upset by the late-night arrival of the three prisoners to Castle Whitefall. A few miles away in the small Whitefall township, the villagers were in an uproar:
“Did you hear what happened?” they asked each other excitedly. “Did you see them?”
The men of the town were holding an emergency council meeting to determine what was to be done. “I say we form a committee to go up to the castle and inform the Duke that we will not allow him to keep those murderous criminals here!” one man said. “It’s dangerous to our wives and children! What if they escape?”
Another man responded, “That will never work. The prisoners have been sent here on the direct order of the White King, and the Duke is beholden to him. We can’t force him otherwise.”
A third said, “Why don’t we just go up there and execute them? They don’t deserve to live, after what they did.”
A fourth asked timidly, “Do you even know what they did?”
“No,” the third admitted, “but it must have been serious. I saw them as they came through town last night. Ser Robert himself was taking them to the Castle.”
Meanwhile, the wives of the men gave their children firm instructions that the children were absolutely under no circumstances whatsoever to leave their houses, on pain of death. Then the wives promptly left their houses to gather in the town square and wait for their husbands and exchange gossip. All were talking at once, each eager to share their own juicy tidbit of news:
“I knew something big was happening,” one woman was saying excitedly, “because I was dreaming about a grand ball thrown by the Duke of Whitefall, and you know how much I love going to the Duke’s balls, and how infrequently he throws them, so I just knew that when I was awoken from that dream by the jingle of horses passing that something important must be happening…”
The rest of the women weren’t paying her much attention. A thin, voluptuous woman was saying, “My husband told me that the prisoners were apprehended by Ser Robert!” She paused to let the women around her swoon before continuing. “Have I told you that I met Ser Robert once?” she said, batting her eyes dreamily. “Oh, so handsome! How I wish I could be apprehended by him… I think I might just die!” The other women burst into nervous laughter.
“Ahem,” croaked an old, portly woman in a vibrant purple gown who had just arrived at the gathering. The crowd fell silent. “My husband was on night watch last night,” she said importantly, “and he informed me that it was indeed Ser Robert who brought the criminals to justice—” she paused to let the others titter about again “—and he also told me who the prisoners are!” The other women let out gasps of excitement. She continued, “One of the prisoners is the White King’s own physician, and another is none other than—” here she dropped her voice down to a hoarse whisper, and the other ladies crowded around her straining to hear “—the Eagle himself!”
A collective look of terror passed over the faces of the gossiping shrews. “Gods have mercy!” one woman shrieked. Another fainted. Several made signs of protection over their breasts and glanced nervously about. The portly old woman carried a smug expression on her face, knowing that she had trumped them all.
The other women regained their composure quickly enough and began speculating on the crime that had been committed. “Maybe they killed someone!” a middle-aged woman with spectacles said excitedly.
“No, that can’t be right. Why would they be sent here?” another responded.
Excited other shouts rang out, each more outrageous than the last. “Child molestation! Human sacrifice! Cannibalism!”
“Ahem!” said the old portly woman in purple again, a hint of a smile dancing around her face. “My husband told me that the convicts had been arrested for—” and here she paused for dramatic effect, before crowing triumphantly “—for high treason against the Crown!” With that, she turned on her heel and strode off, leaving the others dumbfounded. It was quite rare for any of them to ever have two pieces of vital unknown information to share.
As the women continued to gossip, the children abandoned their houses in droves, taking advantage of their temporary lack of supervision, and began playing with sticks and stones among the leaves of the Tao fields behind the town. Several of the older children rubbed mud and the deep crimson dye from the Tao plants into their faces to create horrific grimacing masks; then they ran around shouting and screaming at the top of their lungs while the other children ran away, yelling, “The Chimarae are coming, the Chimarae are coming!” This so frightened some of the younger children that they ran back to their houses, crying and shaking with fear.
In Castle Whitefall, however, Percival the Troll was blissfully unaware of the goings-on in the town. This was probably a good thing, because Percival probably would have gotten even angrier had he known that the townspeople were nervously half-joking about storming the Castle. Percival didn’t like change, and he didn’t like extra work, and as he glared angrily at the entrance to the dungeon, the thought occurred to him that he now had three times as many prisoners to care for as he did before, which meant three times as much work as before, which added up to about three times more change than any reasonable troll could handle, Dungeon or otherwise (it might be belaboring the point to note that trolls are not renowned for their abilities to do addition or multiplication).
Percival’s thoughts were interrupted by the same voice as before yelling up from the dungeons again. “Oy! Is anybody up there? Can you hear me?” Percival responded with a half-hearted roar of vexation before deciding that he better get on with his duties as Chief Jailer and inspect the prisoners. He stomped down the stairs into the prison, scowling all the way. He ripped a lit torch out of its wall mount and thrust it in front of him as he descended. Despite being a dungeon, the place always made Percival feel a bit uneasy. It was just too… clean, for one thing. And where were all the rats? Dungeons were supposed to have rats! Percival kept meaning to say something to someone about getting some rats for the dungeon, but he never remembered.
He banged open the thick iron grate leading into the cell blocks, and found himself face-to-face with his three prisoners, each in their own small cell ringed on three sides with hefty iron bars, and on the fourth with a thick wall of hard granite. The prisoners stepped back involuntarily. It was rare for even the bravest of men to be confronted unexpectedly with a scowling, yellow-skinned, angry, twelve-foot tall Dungeon Troll without showing some sign of fear, and Percival was no small troll. He stared at the prisoners sullenly with black beady eyes, exuding the kind of stench that only trolls know how to exude. The prisoner on the left, a short bald man with piercing blue eyes that bugged out from his face, sank to his knees and buried his face in his hands. The prisoner on the right, a tall man with closely-cropped brown hair, a nose that looked like it had been broken a few too many times, and the gold choker signifying his rank as High Physician to the White King, crossed his arms and examined Percival with a critical eye. The prisoner in the center, a large, muscle-bound man with greasy black hair woven through several silver rings, and a large eagle tattoo on his left bicep, snorted with derision and said, “It’s about time. I can’t say I’m too impressed with the accommodations around here. Now what’s a guy gotta do to get some hot breakfast?”