This is a long section of my creative writing, so you can see how lengthy posts read and how good/bad they are on your eyes. This is an excerpt from some Guid Wars fan-fic. It is NOT public domain, I own the copyrights and blah blah blah. You MAY NOT excerpt this or post it anywhere else. Just… NO. ::shrug:: As if anyone would want to.
Please see the first post on this blog for how to set up Quintus more like Quentin of old.
Rane sat splay-legged in the dust, his battered leather boots and pants faded to almost the same grey-brown shade as the parched ground. His lower ribs made visible ridges in his skin as he bent over his task. The pink scars on his wrists stood out in relief against his dusty, tanned skin. His long, dark hair swept forward over his shoulders, hiding his face like a pair of stage curtains. Using a rock, he pounded at the packed earth with a mindless, metronomic intensity. The rhythm barely hesitated as Linu approached him. He didn’t look up.
“Hello, Rane,” she said softly. This time, she saw a gleam of his eye as he glanced at her through tangled strands of hair.
“Hello,” he mumbled, trailing off as if he meant to continue, but not finding the words. Thump thump thump; the wedge-shaped rock in his hand chewed at the ground.
“It’s Linu,” the monk said. “Do you remember meeting me the other day?”
Rane nodded. Thump thump thump. Then he said, “You work here.”
“That’s right!” Linu said, smiling. Then she mentally kicked herself. After Munne’s admonishion not to treat the inmates like idiots, here she was praising him as if he were a three-year-old. Well, that showed who the biggest idiot was. Still, she carried on. “Do you mind if i sit with you a bit?”
Thump thump thump. One rounded shoulder shrugged.
Not one to waste the slightest opening, Linu sat herself cross-legged by his side. She watched him for a while, noting the flex and stretch of his biceps as he worked. The flash of skin and blink of shade alternated hypnotically with the steady, monotonous rhythm. Thump thump thump. After a minute or several, Linu blinked and shook herself. “What are you doing?”
The thump thump thumping continued without break. “Digging.”
“Oh, that’s very industrious of you.” There, that didn’t sound too stupid. After all, it was true. There was precious little to do around the sanitarium, and this kept Rane occupied doing some physical work. Chalk up another point, for she refrained from asking what he was digging, certain he would dryly reply, “a hole.” Instead she asked, “May I ask why?”
She caught a glance, a long, weighing glance, from behind the dark curtain. But, the young man remained silent on that point. Thump thump –. Rane stopped and bent closer to the ground. With a gentle touch, he brushed flaked dirt from the small depression he’d managed to dig. Curious, Linu also bent closer until she could smell the dust and sweat on Rane’s skin.
Then a shadow fell over them, and Linu sat up sharply, squinting at the silhouetted figure. Horace moved to stand beside her, slightly in front of Rane. The big man jittered in agitation, wiping his hands on his vest. He seemed unable to articulate any thoughts; only a slight whimper came from his throat. Before Linu could ask if he were all right, Horace pointed down at Rane’s hands, and Rane wordlessly handed him the rock.
At once Horace became preternaturally still as he examined the rock, turning it over in his hands, peering at the surface as if trying to read a faint inscription thereon. Finally he shook his head and handed it back to Rane. He grunted again and pointed at a pile of smaller rocks next to Rane. Again, Rane handed him one without comment for his inspection. Horace dropped the pebble and pointed once more. Rane handed him another, but this one he dropped without even looking at it. His finger jabbed more urgently towards the pile, and Rane handed him more little rocks, one at a time. Some, Horace peered at, examining their minutest feature or flaw. Others he barely glanced at. All of them, he dropped, and they bounced once on the dry ground, scattering. One clipped Linu’s knee.
“Horace,” she said mildly, but firmly, “these are Rane’s rocks. Why don’t you go find some of your own?”
“Rocks, rocks!” Horace moaned. He twitched in agitation, almost jumping out of his own shoes.
“It’s all right,” Rane said softly. It wasn’t clear whether he spoke to Linu or to Horace, but both of them waited patiently for Rane to give the man another rock. Linu set about gathering up those he had dropped and setting them in another pile. She wasn’t sure if she was helping or interfering, but she wanted to do something besides sit there and view their world as if through a window. She wanted to enter into that world, to understand it. Perhaps she couldn’t unless she went insane herself, but that didn’t daunt her.
Horace stopped peering at his latest rock and silently handed it down to her. “Thank you,” she said, and placed it on the new pile. Rane gave him another. This time, Linu accepted it back from Horace without a word, only a small smile of gratitude. The big man ducked his head nervously, but a little smile crept hesitantly to his lips. In this manner, they continued through the inspection of a few more rocks, until Horace found one that excited him.
“Rock! The right rock!” he scampered off, cradling it in his hands.
Linu watched him go, then turned back to Rane. Rane’s hair had fallen back as he’d lifted his head to look at Horace, so the smooth lines of his face were unveiled. His dark eyes met hers directly, briefly. “You’re very kind,” Linu told him. His eyes darkened as a shadow crossed his face. He hung his head, letting his hair fall forward once more, a curtain cutting off the light. “You have great patience in the way you deal with others.”
Rane picked up his digging rock and attacked the small hole he was trying to carve in the ground. Thump thump thump. “Unlike you?” he asked, barely audible above the impact of stone and earth.
Linu was taken aback. She chewed over his words. Then she said, “Perhaps I can learn better from you.”
The young man gave no indication that he heard, or if he cared. Thump thump thump. And Linu sat and watched him. Slowly, the hazy sun trod its way through Ascalon’s ashen sky.
“You’re not like the others,” Rane said, pausing once more to clear the dust from the progressing hole.
“No? Why is that?”
The young man shrugged one shoulder. He rubbed his forehead with the back of one wrist, turning his head slightly to glance behind Linu. Linu turned to follow his gaze and noted Mistress Blackblood, pacing the grounds like a prison guard.
“I’m a healer,” she said.
“We don’t trust you.”
She looked at him, truly baffled. “But why–?”
“Like the other healers who were here,” Rane said. Thump thump thump; he dug with the rock.
Linu nibbled her lip. She had tried working with Cherynne, but even the optimistic young monk had to concede it was hopeless. There just wasn’t enough left of her body to put back together properly. “They left,” she ventured thoughtfully, “because they couldn’t help you.”
Thump thump thump. Linu leaned forward so she could peer around the dark curtain of hair and see Rane’s face. It was set hard as the rock in his hand. “You don’t think they abandoned you?” she asked. Thump thump thump. “Rane, i won’t abandon you. I do want to help you, if not with my divine healing, then in other ways.”
“Like Vassar.” Thump thump thump.
Did Vassar want to help these people, or just study them? Linu wasn’t sure, and she didn’t like thinking about it. Vassar was kindly and charming; she liked him. But he was a mesmer, and mesmers dealt in illusion all the time. She propped her elbows on her knees, sinking her chin into her hands, deep in thought.
Thump thump thump.
Before the monk could sort out her thoughts, Rane spoke again, deflecting them. “I’m planting a garden.”
“Are you? That’s wonderful.” She smiled encouragingly.
“You don’t think it will grow,” he said, halfway between an ironic question and an accusing statement.
She opened her mouth, but wasn’t sure how to address that. She didn’t want to lie, exactly. “Well, I don’t know,” she said, finally. “Sometimes people believe things are impossible, but they never really know, because this belief keeps them from even trying.” Then she asked him, “Do you believe it will grow?”
Instead of answering, he picked up a small stone from the pile and placed it in the shallow hole. Tenderly, he covered it with the excavated dust, cupping his hands around it with reverence. Linu was surprised to see a drop of moisture appear, a tiny dark splash that was quickly soaked up by the powder-dry earth. Her gaze shifted to his face. “Rane, what’s wrong?” instinctively, she reached out to comfort him.
“Don’t touch me!” he hissed. She jerked her hand back, startled by his sudden vehemence. Rane lowered his head. A silent sob shook his body, and another tear fell to the dust. Linu wrang her hands and chewed agitatedly at her lip. It hurt her to see him in such pain, yet it was beyond her healing touch. She was helpless, useless again.
Rane took a breath and lifted his face to the sky. The wan light glistened on his wet cheeks. “Nothing will ever grow here again,” he said, his voice as cold and dry as the lifeless earth. “The gods have abandoned Ascalon.”
“No, Rane; that’s not true,” Linu protested quietly.
“It never rains. The gods shed no tears for us.”
“It will. In time.”
“You believe this.”
She nodded firmly. “Yes.”
“You don’t know.” Accusation tinged his voice.
Linu thought about all the things she didn’t know — the future, the terrible mental prison of the inmates of the sanitarium, the will of the gods. “You’re right, I don’t. But I have faith. Perhaps that is something you could learn from me.” She put her hand over his. “It takes time to heal, Rane. Give it time.”
He yanked his hand back and turned away from her. “That is funny,” he growled, “coming from a monk.”
“‘It takes time to heal.’ I thought it was, ‘It takes a monk to heal.'”
“We can’t do everything, as I’m sure you’ve noticed,” she shot back. Bitterness crept into her voice. She folded her hands in her lap and focussed on regaining her emotional balance. Life used to be so simple. If there was a hurt, you healed it. The gods lent you power to make the wrong things right. But these people here in the sanitarium had a hurt that could not be healed. The gods seemed to have forgotten them. So had most of their fellow man.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a commotion across the yard.
“Rocks. Rocks!” Horace scuried past the corner of the abbey and pounced on a rock lying on the ground.
Faddon moved to him, his spindly limbs moving like a poorly-constructed marionette. “The eggs! They watch, they wait, they will hatch and kill us all!” His gesticulating hands knocked the rock from Horace’s grasp. “Destroy them!” He stomped on the rock, grinding it into the dust.
“Nooo!” moaned Horace, who tried to rescue it from under Faddon’s boot. The other man tried to keep his balance and step on Horace at the same time.
Linu turned and half rose to go and sort them out before someone got hurt, but it turned out that wasn’t needed. Kasha stalked down from her post like a lioness on the hunt. Her voice cracked like a whip. “What is going on, here?”
The two men ceased their struggle and began babbling about rocks, eggs, and impending doom, their voices rising in strident conflict to be heard.
“Do not make me raise my voice,” the necromancer hissed, the words sharp enough to cut through the pandemonium, which ceased instantly.
Linu settled back to the ground. She didn’t quite approve of Mistress Blackblood’s methods, but there was no doubt the woman could handle this situation. She turned back to Rane, searching for some words that might comfort him.
“Do you have a knife?” he asked suddenly.
“No,” she replied cautiously.
“Will you get me one?” he turned his storm-dark eyes to her. “Please?”
“Rane, you know you’re not allowed to have knives.”
His eyes didn’t waver, didn’t blink. “Please.” That’s all he said: “Please,” in a voice laden with pain.
Linu ached for him, her instincts pushing her to help him assuage that pain. “Why?”
He lowered his eyes, his head. “I don’t deserve to live.”
“Of course you do.” she shivered; his voice was so cold, so… dead. “Everyone deserves to live, everyone is given the gift of life by the gods.”
“They all died.”
“Rane, a lot of people died in the Searing. Do you think everyone that survived should die now?” He shook his head, not looking up. “The gods want us to live. They want you to live. They may have something important planned for you to do.”
Slowly, he looked up. “Here?” he rasped. Here, in this dead end in the middle of a forsaken wasteland. It could daunt the most stalwart courage.
Linu gathered hers, anyway. “I believe–”
“I don’t share your beliefs, monk!” Rane got to his feet in one swift motion. He turned and walked into the sanitarium.
Linu puffed out a held breath. Another disaster; she should be used to them. She turned her gaze down to the small mound of dust. A stone planted in barren ground. could she *really* believe it would grow?
Linu put her face in her hands.