Monday April 9th, 2018

The exercise:

Write about: the watchdog.


morganna said...

They have finally come to the Singing Stones -- a stone circle, after days of travel. The Singing Stones are just a quiet circle of stones standing in a meadow. They enter the circle and walk to the center of the stones. The tall stone at the center of the circle pivots to the side, revealing stone steps extending into the darkness at the top of the steps. A tall woman, hair sprinkled with gray, stands at the top of the steps, dressed in a long white robe. “Welcome, my children. You have come a long way, seeking. The one you seek does not wish to be found.”

“How do you know whom we seek?” demands Adrianne. “We have not told you.”

Confusion crosses the woman's face, just for a moment. Her face clears. “The stones told me.”

Jaco tugs on Adrianne's sleeve. “She's lying.”

Adrianne whispers back, “Believe it or not, I figured that out on my own.”

The woman speaks again, loudly and firmly. “Visitors are not welcome at the Singing Stones at this time. You are asked to leave. There is a village on the other side of the hill,” she gestures behind her at the crest of the hill, “and you are welcome to stay there overnight, but you are not welcome at the Stones any longer.” She steps back and the stone closes over the hole.

They look at each other in bewilderment. What now?

Jabo was the first to speak. “I ... I ... I ... s ... s ... suggest we take her up on that offer. D ... d ... dogs!”

Sure enough, there were several angry dogs charging at them from around the circle. Oddly, there were none in the indicated direction of the village. They scooped up their packs and ran towards the crest of the hill.

Over the hill, they spotted the village, nestled at the foot of the hill. They sprinted down the hill, watched by the dogs and several human-shaped, robed figures, though they did not look back to see this.


Excerpt from current novel project.

Greg said...

@Morganna: your writing is elegant and sparse -- I think there's hardly a wasted word in the whole piece (one point for when you're editing though: in the first paragraph "revealing stone steps extending into the darkness at the top of the steps" probably doesn't need 'of the steps' at the end). I would enjoy reading a longer excerpt, I think, as you're so controlled with your writing that I feel like I'm missing some important context to really understand what's going on!

The watchdog
Slakoiné accepted the papers from Ostberg and skimmed the top page. "Does this mean you're calling the watchdog off?"
"I never set a watchdog on you," said Ostberg.
"Don't start," said Verbloek. "Things happened and that was the decision made. Right or wrong, we can't change the past."
Slakoiné tensed and the papers in his hand crackled as his fingers squeezed them. "Doctor Ostberg said this was a pardon 'of sorts'. What he means is, that this is no pardon at all, you just want me working again."
Verbloek looked at Ostberg, who was serene in the glow of the Essence of Justice. "I see no cracks," he said when Ostberg refused to speak. "Justice is being done."
"There's no judgement here at all," said Slakoiné. "So of course there are no cracks. I'm not angry with you, Lord-captain, but you can stop pretending that this is any kind of just. This is a summons back to work, breaking yet another promise, and you're just the messenger boy."
Verbloek's arm moved like a striking snake, and Slakoiné took a step backwards, his free hand rising to his face where he'd been struck, open-palmed. Janvar and Marz moved swiftly in opposite directions, drawing weapons and ensuring they had a clear line of sight on Slakoiné.
"Whatever else," said Verbloek, his voice tight with controlled rage, "I am not a messenger boy."
"And I am not a puppet."
The silence that followed was broken at last by a bitter laugh and Verbloek waving a hand at Janvar and Marz to relax. "We're all bloody puppets," he said. "If you can cut the strings...."
Slakoiné's smile was as bitter as Verbloek's laughter. He looked through the papers again, and pulled the last-but-one sheet to the top of the pile. It had a complex geometric figure on it, draw in an ink that glittered slightly in the light from the Essence of Justice, and beneath it were three stamps and a wax-seal.
"May I?"
Ostberg nodded.

For the first time in a year Slakoiné reached inside himself for a tiny, cold connection to elsewhere. It responded like a dog who's been waiting for their master to come home; joyous, frantic, enthusiastic. There was a momentary sense of observation -- the Watchdog that had been set to prevent him doing just this, and then the observing eyes turned away and Slakoiné knew that the pardon was true. He embraced the Thanatic Essence, and it embraced him just as fully.

In the courtroom Janvar and Marz stared, eyes bulging and jaws dropping, fingers loosening around their weapons. Only their training stopped them from dropping them entirely. The hooping calls of the whippoorwill echoed in the room and Slakoiné seemed to fall into shadow, standing next to a silver doorway. The door was slightly ajar, and everyone could feel a gentle tug, a sensation of peace, an invitation to step through and see where it might take you.
"He's got stronger," said Ostberg. "I did warn you."
"And I listened." Verbloek sounded irritated. "Why does everyone talk like this was my choice, or my decision? I carried out the tasks I was given, and I relayed back the warnings. Every single one of them."
"I was only following orders," mimicked Ostberg.

Marc said...

Morganna - thank you for sharing this with us! Like Greg I'd be curious to read more of this tale and would be terribly pleased if you chose to do so :)

Greg - ah, I'm so glad this prompt brought us back to this tale. So deeply intrigued to see where things go next!