Episode 2: Reunions
Episode 3: Nigh Watch
Episode 4: Big Dogs
Episode 5: Judgment
Episode 6: On Display
Episode 7: The Uninvited
Episode 8: Departures
This week's episode: On Display
After his trial, a priest of Law and four guards marched Jack to a public square atop the community's largest hill.
The colony's central keep formed one side of the square facing the entrance to Founder's Park. Government buildings in various states of decay and refurbishment completed the box. A large fountain spewed at the park's entrance. Rainbows danced in the water's mist. Gaily-colored song birds flew into the square accepting crumbs from young and old. Important-looking men hurried from building to building carrying satchels with the seal of Sun Mountain embossed on fine leather.
In the center of the square sat the same large, wheeled cage Jack saw the night he and Cornelius visited the Colony's gate to Old Town. Ballar rested against one wall of the cage with his hunter's cap covering his face. His huge wolf, Fenris, lay at his side. The canine thumped its tail twice upon seeing Jack again. Tared Norbringer stood on the other side of the cage regaling a group of children and young adults of his exploits the previous night in Old Town. Jordon Garthlow munched an apple interrupting Tared from time to time to correct some small detail.
Tared completed his story just as Jack was unceremoniously picked up and dumped into the cage. The priest said a few words over the cage then left with the guards.
"Come back tomorrow, everyone. See if our newest warrior survives the night in Old Town," said Tared pointing to Jack Large. "He may be small but he's got the spirit of a lion!"
"Get bent," said Jack.
Tared just smiled.
Parents shushed their children away leaving the prisoners to themselves. A few guards stood at the entrance to central keep nodding to citizens as they entered. Jack wondered how fast they could react if there were an escape. He eyed the cage door lock. Even without his tools, it would take him a matter of seconds to pick it with a small piece of metal or strong wood.
"Well, its been a pleasure, mates, but I'm leaving. Feel free to join me if you like," said Jack looking around for something to use as a pick.
"I wouldn't if I were you," said Baller lifting the cap from his face. "Even if you did escape there's no place to run other than the ruins. There seems little point in making the attempt since we're going there anyway."
Tared laughed, "A little point is all he can make, I mean, considering his size and all."
Jordon slapped Tared on the back of the head. "Stop that. He's a comrade in arms, now."
"You're right," sighed Tared. "Besides, he looks to have a short temper."
Try as he might, Jordon couldn't keep from laughing.
"You and you," Jack said pointing to Tared and Jordon, "I'll deal with another day."
Tared mocked fear.
Jack spied a bent nail sticking out from one of the cage's wheels. He removed his belt and used the buckle to pry the nail loose. Terad and Jordor shared a look and backed to the other side of the cage as Jack approached the lock.
"I really wouldn't do that if I were you," said Ballar. "They've got..."
Jack jammed the nail into the lock. A burst of lightening threw him to the other side of the cage. He bounced off the bars landing next to Fenris the wolf. The dog licked him on the face until Jack could move again. Jack's arms and legs tingled from the blast. He had a hard time breathing.
"As I was trying to tell you, they've got wards on the bars and lock to prevent anyone from escaping," said Ballar.
Jack pushed Fenris's head away.
Tared started laughing. "I love what you've done with your hair. It'll be all the rage next season."
Jack felt his hair. It was singed and stood on end. Soot covered head head and upper torso.
Jack tried to stand but fell back to the ground. The huntsman lay a large hand Jack's back and began chanting. The effects of the blast subsided. Jack felt his hair lay back down into place as the healing spell took hold.
"A priest with healing magic," said Terad approvingly. "That'll help tonight."
Jack stood mustering as much dignity as his soot covered face allowed. "My name is Jack Large. I may be half the size but I'm twice the man of either you hyenas. If you make sport of my size one more time you'll discover the truth of that."
Jordon bowed, "My apologies, master halfling. I'm Jordon Garthlow and this is my personal tormentor Tared Norbringer. We've been condemned to die in Old town and it seems my fellow condemnee has snapped under the pressure. Forgive what you can and try to ignore the rest."
"I heard your sentence last night," said Jack. "You have only a few nights left before you're free."
"On the current charge, yes," said Tared. "We'll be re-arrested and re-tried on another charge if we return from the ruins after the fourth night."
"That's insane," said Jack. "Why don't you just leave?"
"Because we were falsely convicted," explained Jordon. "We unwisely began a career as independent agents after Shiva left. The other guildmasters frowned upon that and one particularly nasty guilder framed us as tax evaders. We can clear ourselves if we find a nasty goblin named Nexrarl in the ruins. He saw it, or at least claims to have seen it. We have only to find our witness and bring him back into the mists of truth to be free."
"And send that big nosed bugger to the ruins in our place," said Terad. "So, Master Halfling, what did you do to spend some enviable time with us? Apple?"
Jack accepted the apple and told the story in full. They all laughed at the end of Jack’s account.
“So you were almost let go, opened your mouth, and stuck your large, hairy foot in,” said the Tared.
“Yeah,” said Jack. “They sentenced me to one night in Old Town.”
Tared actually fell to the ground laughing.
Jack dropped his head and let out a sigh. "How could things go so bad so quickly? On top of that, I'm now sentenced to Conelius Diamondeye's service for a year."
Terad stopped laughing and became deadly serious. "You watch yourself around that gnome. He's evil through and through. Oh, he puts on the air of community pillar but he has a heart as black as coal."
Conrelius Diamondeye appeared at the side of the cage. One instant is we not there, the next instant he was. "Mind your words, human. There are worse fates than the ruins."
Tared's face flushed with anger. "I should kill you where you stand, gnome."
"A pity these bars are in the way," said Cornelius. "I would be greatly amused by the attempt."
Tared threw an apple hitting Cornelius square in the face. Jordon threw a metal plate through the bars which barely missed Cornelius's head.
The gnome angrily spoke eldritch words. The bars of the cage warped and bent turning into tentacles constricting around Tared and Jordon. The two warriors faces turned red as blood attempted to be anywhere but in their bodies.
"Stop!" yelled Jack picking up another apple and forming his belt into a sling. He let fly hitting Cornelius square in the face. The old gnome sputtered spitting out apple bits."
"Very well," said the gnome. If you wish to cast your lot with them, you can learn the same lesson."
A bar wrapped around Jack lifting him into the air. "Right, I'll do you for that" came out as a series of croaks followed by blood as his ribs cracked stabbing into his lungs.
The last thing he heard before darkness took him was Ballar chanting another spell.
(to be continued)