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The Tale of the Apprentice - Prelude

Author: 
Stratovarius
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
477

Three men sit around a low, stone table, its legs mere stumps of chisled granite, and its top covered with the leftover remains of food and drink. There are no windows to the room, not here, almost thirty feet under the ground, in a house that is unremarkable from those that burrow around it. Even so, the mannerisms of those in the room tell of a late hour, and a conversation that has been both long and thought provoking. Weariness shows on the face of all three, mixed with resolution on the faces of two of the men. They sit with two facing the third. The first of the two is a young, burly man, dressed in plain but strong and well made clothes, thick enough to ward of a coming winter chill and thicker than those of the other two men in the room, enough to reveal that he comes from a warmer climate. His face is dark brown, his natural skin tone, but fading away to paler shades due to long days spent under a weak and wan sun. Set against the earthen wall near him is a short, unremarkable sword, two heavy straps keeping it it snugly in a tight, hard sheath that could allow it to be used as a club in times when deadly combat wasn't required. From the dents on the outside of the sheath, those times had occurred with some frequency.

The man across from the two was older, but not so old that grey was colouring his hair, or that his movements would be slowed by the onset of age. Rather, he was young and vigorous for his age, healthy, but with his face and hands showing no sign of having performed the hard labour of life as a soldier or a miner. His clothes bespoke of wealth, with finer and softer materials showing in a few spots, but the outer layers were the same rough and strong material as those of the sword carrying man. It was his house they were in, but the wealth showed nowhere else in the room, for it was simply bare rock and earthen walls, not even in cushions or rugs to sit on for the three men around the table. He had done most of the talking during this meeting, and was now sitting and sipping at a cup, listening to the other two, and especially the third man, speak.

This third man was the only one who wore different colours on the outer layer of his clothes, for while the other two were in functional brown cloth that blended slightly with the stone around them, he wore garments that were splashed with patches of blue around the neck, chest and shoulders, designs that were both decorative and at the same time a mark of his trade, which was as a safety engineer in the mines. His short blonde beard covered only his chin, and his cropped hair fell just short of his eyes, eyes that were bright sky blue, flecked with hints of a bluish-grey that is the colour of the sky at the time of a storm. The palest of the three men, his occupation has kept him underground for weeks at a time, not seeing the sky that reflects his eyes. He was also almost shaking with anger.

His glare was as strong and enduring as the stone around him, and it was fixed on the finely dressed man across from him, although the nature of the stare said that it was more the news he had brought than the man himself who was the target of it. The man in blue, for man he was, although his age marked him as perhaps not into his third decade of life, was talking, and rapidly, asking question after question, and for none of them did he receive an answer that was satisfactory. During pauses in the conversation, the guard, his sword now resting in his lap, would speak, his inquiries digging at things that bothered him. Soon enough it became clear that the finely dressed man was out of answers, and the other two stood and spoke works of polite parting, turning to walk up the ladder that would take them to the surface and the streets of the city.

In the free air, they both breathed deep, for even the most well built house had air that was stale or musty. Overhead, the stars glittered and shone, reflecting off the ice that was already formed on the buildings, even though winter had not fully arrived. These stars only shown from directly overhead or away to the south, where the sky was not blocked by the two walls of towering monoliths that blacked out much of the night, and that provided the backdrop for every day of life here in Tri-Hauwcerton. Grinning and talking with one another as they walked, the two of them let the stress and strain of that meeting drain away in their shared companionship, moving towards the outskirts of the city where both of them worked and lived. They reached an intersection of two roads, one leading to the guard's work and the other to home, and they parted, each waving at the other as they walked their separate paths. Soon, though, the tales and information received during that meeting crawled back into the forefront of their minds, and their faces fell into quiet, and worried, contemplation of what lay ahead, and what had gone before.



The Tale of the Apprentice -Prelude © Stratovarius

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