Friday, November 28, 2014

NaNoWriMo 1K-A-Day: Day 28

“Once upon a time,” I announced loudly, setting both the tone and the pacing for my story. My friends and I had all agreed that I would need to be loud enough for them to at least hear my voice so they could know whether I was still telling it or not.
“In a faraway kingdom, over the desert sands of the Far East,” I continued, more focused on continuing to talk than paying attention to what I actually said, “there lived a gang of very strong and very powerful thieves. There were five of them, and they constantly raided the merchant caravans that passed their way, and so amassed a vast hoard of treasures. They hid the treasure deep in a cave with many small caverns attached to it. Each of these caverns they had filled full-to-bursting with gold and jewels: in one cavern, they piled the precious stones in mountains of so much color one could not look in that room for very long. In another, they stored gold dishes and goblets of such quantity and size that they could set a table to please an army of dragons. In yet another, they heaped a veritable sea of gold coins. In yet another cavern deep within this cave they had—“

“STOP!” Tark finally screamed. “If I hear about another blasted cavern, I’ll slit your throat and take your friends to market in the morning!”

Just then, I realized that I had seen Japheth going to close the wagon door—but he had never closed it, and he had disappeared. Our plan was working! The other young bandit—I could only assume the two were brothers—was now making his way curiously toward the open wagon. No one had yet thought to call Tark’s attention away from me. I concealed my terror at the slaver’s threat by playing innocent. “Oh, I’m sorry!” I said, “I thought you would have wanted to hear about the treasures these thieves had.”
Tark’s big hand was already clenched around the hilt of his big knife. “Just get on with it,” he seethed.
I did, giving the story everything I had.

“One day, this group of rich and powerful thieves had gone as far out as the nearest town, and they were looting the city coffers, when a little old woman caught them in the act of carrying all that gold out of there. She warned them that some of what they stole was enchanted gold, and if they kept it for themselves too long, it would cause all of the treasure they had to disappear. The thieves did not believe her, and took the gold back to their cave in spite of the warning she had given.”

The brother had not reappeared around the wagon. I nearly let myself wonder what the others were doing to these thugs—but then I saw Tark noticing my expression, and his head was almost turning to follow my gaze!

But!” I shouted a little too loudly, and his eyes immediately returned to my face. I had him once again, and I relaxed and smiled. “But, what these men did not know was that the old woman was really a powerful enchantress in disguise, and the enchanted gold had been placed there from her own personal store. Thus it was quite easy for her to follow them, and when she appeared at the entrance of their cave in her true form—that of a young woman whose beauty defied the most perfect human any of the men had ever seen—they did not recognize her, and they succumbed to her charms as she pretended to be lost and positively dying of thirst and hunger, weeping and wailing piteously into her flawless white hands.”

There! I had succeeded in losing the interest of the woman. She rolled her eyes at my flowery description (which Tark, as it turned out, did not mind in the least!) and noticed the open door of the wagon. She began making her way over to it, as I continued my story.

“The band of thieves welcomed her into the cave, and bid her sit and eat and drink with them. The instant the enchantress set foot in the cave, however, she clapped her hands and all of the treasures disappeared—down to the very last coin.”

Tark blinked, and his expression twisted into confusion very much like the expression of the thieves in my story when they saw their riches vanish. When he saw how serious I was (he could not know that in that very moment, I was watching the burly, bald thug head for the open wagon—but not nearly fast enough, I thought!) he threw back his head and laughed loudly over the fate of the thieves.
“Those goobers had it coming!” he crowed, “That’s what you get for leaving the witch alive! They should have slit her throat there in town!”
I almost commented on his exultation, but I bit back the remark; it would have only made him angry with me, and besides, I had a story to tell.

But!” I said again, and to my credit, Tark quieted instantly and resumed listening to my story.
“But… That was not all that happened. Once the thieves realized their treasures were gone and that the woman they welcomed into their midst was a powerful sorceress, they were very afraid and they begged her to return their riches. The enchantress told them that she had devised a series of tests for them to complete, and then the riches would return as they once were.”

Tark shifted to interrupt me again, but I raised my hand, and he sat back. Progress around the wagon was evidently just as successful as we needed it to be; I now saw a yellow hair ribbon tied around the latch of the swinging door. Larryn’s ribbon, which meant all the thugs were incapacitated, and she would be in the process of making Tark’s treasures disappear. I needed to give her enough time to get them far enough away that he would not find them.

“There were five tests in all,” I told Tark in a quiet voice, so quiet he had to lean in close to listen. “The first was a test of truth: the Enchantress told the thieves to tell her something true—for she had the ability to detect a falsehood. The thieves at once confessed to her that many of the caravans they robbed had been carrying stolen goods themselves, and so they were helping other thieves conceal their riches in this secluded cave in the middle of the desert, while inspiring fear with the help of these other thieves masquerading as robbed merchants.”
Tark snorted. “Amateurs,” he muttered.

I kept right on speaking as if I had not heard. “The second test was a test of generosity. The Enchantress said she would be willing to give them back their treasures if they would give something out of what they have to a person in need, and without any chance to regain it ever again. She showed them an old man with no coat who would freeze in the cold desert air, and bid one of the thieves give the man his coat. The thief did so, and the second test was complete.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see three shadows making their way toward us. It was time to make an end to my story.

“The third test was one of diligence. The Enchantress told them to use the stones from around the cave to build a wall over the entrance of the cave—and if they did not, they failed the test, and they could not receive their riches again. The thieves had little choice in the matter, so they did as the Enchantress instructed. Very soon, they stood at the outside of the cave, and a wall of stones blocked the whole mouth, so that they could not get back in again without removing the wall.”
My friends could move freely through the camp as long as Tark kept his back turned. I saw Belak watching me from behind the tent just twenty paces from where Tark and I sat. The burly slaver still hung on my every word.

“The final test,” I concluded slowly, “was the hardest of them all: the Enchantress desired to test their virtue, to see if they in fact possessed the capacity and the skills to earn an honest wage, so that they could vow to her never to resort to thievery ever again. But even in that, the thieves proved so willing to do whatever she asked to regain their riches that they completed the task to her satisfaction.” I sat back and pronounced the two words that we had agreed would be our signal for the last strike: