Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Winding Road: Circles

by Frank Gori

Dab’s cell was about the size of a closet. His Brute Squad jailors from the Workman's Guild had to wait for him to hunch a little in order for them to shove him in. Hunched he had to remain or his horns would get caught in the ceiling.

Dab licked his lips and tasted the copper of his own blood. They left his hands manacled or he’d straighten his nose. Dab’s shoulders ached from being suspended by the wrists.  His captors alternated between asking questions and using him as a heavybag.

Dab had to breathe through his mouth because his nose was a mess, and he spit blood periodically. His two lower right ribs were broken and he was for the most part as battered and bruised as he’d ever been.

It was all too familiar.

Dab had a ring through his tongue that the brute squad missed that helped speed up healing. Unfortunately, the ring didn’t do anything for pain while he was waiting, nor would it reset broken bones. A few of his tattoos and some of the engraving in his horns also served to protect him which in this case just extended the period of his interrogation.

Having been a pit fighter by trade for the past decade, Dab could handle a beating better than most. The questions he was asked were beyond his ability to answer at the moment anyway. He wasn’t sure why he helped the mage, or why he trusted the man, or why even now he expected that the mage would mount a rescue, he just did.

Dab pulled hard enough to slough off some skin and break some finger bones as he roughly jerked a hand free of the manacles. The pain was so intense he could see stars for a moment.The ring started kicking in and he knew he’d be fine in under an hour.

Dab used his newly freed hand to straighten his nose and a few of his other busted bones best he could. He learned to patch himself up before he even learned to fight. Master Ergan believed in pain as a teacher, and Dab was a slow learner. The beatings by his master were nothing to the beatings he took on the streets. His master made him go out between work and dinner, leaving Dab to the streets and the envy of other boys. Later in life Dab would come to understand what those boys felt, having no future or trade to look forward to.

Master Ergan was a bit too fond of the bottle and made poor decisions which put him in debt. Egan used his craftsman reputation to get a cushy guild job only to embezzle his way out of the debt. Egan got caught before Dab could take the journeymen’s test and his time in apprenticeship was ruled null.

Dab took day labor jobs with the same kind of people that used to treat him like garbage on the streets. Like them he saw the ones with trades get all the benefits while he and his co-workers lived on scraps and he understood the hatred they felt. The Workman's Guild is a corrupt and at times unfair system and those at the bottom are kept down.

The kids that bullied Dab when he was small and his fire was low were just as petty and jealous as his peers. Dab was strong because he so often had only himself to depend on and himself to protect. No one claimed him, and no one stood by his side - with one exception.

For one summer Dab had a friend stand by him. It was a scrawny human kid everyone called Circles because he was also drawing circles everywhere and rattling off numbers no one really understood. One day Dab got surrounded by a group of bigger kids, and he was down getting kicked by about six boys. Dab had cried for help but no one seemed to want to get involved until this scrawny kid came along and started throwing rocks at his attackers. The bullies chased the kid and left Dab there in the alleyway.

For the rest of that summer Dab had a friend and ally. Odds didn’t matter; if Circles needed help Dab charged in and vice versa. After a while the bullies seemed to at least hesitate before starting things. It was too good to last, eventually the same seven boys got Dab and Circles cornered, but this time something happened, Dab found his fire and Circles found his magic.

One of the boys died and Circles was taken away, Dab never saw him again…

It struck Dab like a bolt of lightning. If there was one good thing about pain, it shut out all the other noise in life. For Dab pain was a tether, something about the pain let him think straight and when that happened he realized who the mage was and why he trusted him so much. The beating brought it all back. 

When the door swung open and the mage stepped in, Dab smiled, “What took you so long, Circles?”