Silver: Stay tuned for the sequel, Dim Equator.
Indra was one of the lowest ranking members of the King's army--a mere watchman in the City Guard. His post was not even at or near the castle,
Silver: It was tucked safely away in the back of his closet.
but a small gate at the outskirts of town. It was the Southern entrance, and also the least used one.
Chester: For Sale: One city gate, size extra-small. Used, but in good condition. Dry-clean only.
He did not understand why he had never been promoted.
Azurite: Maybe if he had bathed more frequently...
Chester: Maybe if he had passed any of the written exams...
Silver: Maybe if he hadn't run naked through the mess hall on that fateful autumn morn...
Others [thoughtfully]: ...
Silver: He might even have gotten away with it if he hadn't tripped on the way out.
Others [skeptically]: ...
Silver: Yeah, he got a big splash of hot porridge right in the--
Others [pointedly]: ...
Silver: --eye. What?
During his year of basic training, he had shown an immediate flair for the manipulation of bladed weapons--particularly the sword. After six months of practice, he was more than a match for any of the other guards-in-training. By the end of the year, his skill was equal to that of the Captain himself.
Silver: Besting the captain in a practice duel might have strengthened his position better if he had not subsequently exclaimed "booyah" and "in your face, Captain Pushover."
Yet, in spite of his obvious talent--deserving, he thought, of at least a position as a castle sentry--
Azurite: His ambition is truly dizzying. Hold me.
he had been assigned to an all but forgotten little doorway in the city wall.
Azurite: Sounds like he's bitter. Wanna bet he cracks and turns into the story's villain?
Silver: I really don't think so.
Chester: He strikes me more as the type to suffer nobly in silence.
Azurite: That's what they said about the others... before they snapped.
All: [thoughtful silence]
'At least,' he brooded one day, 'I'm doing a good job of it.' It was true. Disappointed as he was with his meager role in society, he had never once shirked his duties. In his four long years of gate watching, he'd not wandered off, gotten drunk, or fallen asleep at his post. This, too, had gone unnoticed.
Chester: Poor guy. No one appreciates how much raw talent and mental acuity it takes to stand in one place for a couple hours.
Indra sighed, and pushed a few wayward strands of sun-whitened hair back from his face.
Silver [hair strands]: Stop pushing us around!
Chester [Indra]: Get away from me! You're tickling my nose.
Silver [hair strands]: But... but we don't have anywhere else to go.
The sun was setting, disappearing behind the mountains in the West.
Silver: The sun was setting in the west, eh? Shocking.
Chester [Kirk]: This... strangeWORLD. It... is curiously like... ourOWN.
Azurite: Only less thought-provoking.
Though it signaled an end to his long and tedious afternoon vigil, sunset always left him feeling slightly depressed. It only served to remind him that another day--another twenty-four hours of his life--had slipped by, devoid of any meaning or fulfillment.
Chester [Kirk]: And... theDAYS. They are... twenty... fourHOURS. What do you make of this, Bones?
He watched the last rays of light fade from the tallest peaks, and rose to his feet
Silver: --which were, presumably, hovering in the air at about shoulder height--
as the final one disappeared. That was his sign: time to go home . . . if you could really call it that.
Chester: I'd call it 'George.'
He looked around and, seeing no one, began walking.
Azurite: Then he hit a wall and had to stop again.
Chester: What, is walking illegal in this city? Why does he have to wait 'til no one's around?
Normally, he would have stayed until the next guard arrived for the night shift, but he was not in the mood to deal with Phegadi
Chester: So he's leaving the entire city open to attack from the south, because...?
Silver: He can't handle conflict, I guess.
Chester: Pff. Some dedicated public servant he turned out to be.
Azurite [happily]: See? See? He's going bad already!
The inconsiderate lout wouldn't appreciate it even if Indra did wait for him.
Chester [Indra]: Standing and watching is hard work! I need validation!
As he walked, Indra tried to suppress a yawn.
Silver: But it managed to start an underground news publication, thus making its voice heard despite Indra's tyranny.
He'd always had a hard time staying awake much past the late afternoon--one of the reasons he'd been assigned a late shift, he was sure.
Silver: Of course. The captain of the guard has nothing better to do than plot the disruption of his men's sleep schedules.
'Why is everyone always trying to make my life more difficult?'
Chester [Indra]: Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they aren't all out to get me.
Just as he was pondering this latest philosophical question, he was knocked sideways by a large moving object.
Silver: Which was embarrassing, but not so humiliating as all the times he was laid out by small, stationary objects.
Chester [Indra]: I'm pretty sure I'm the boy, but where is--
Silver: Quiet, you.
Indra staggered a bit, recovered his balance, and glared at the brick-shaped figure before him.
Chester: Egad! It's a giant Lego™ man!
Silver: Run, Indra, run!
He knew Indra's name, of course; they had had consecutive shifts for the last eleven months. Most of a year was, in Indra's opinion, plenty of time to learn a person's name.
Azurite: You can tell a man your name, but you can't make him care.
Chester [Kirk]: And the year! Could it... also be... theSAME?
Silver: Easy there, Chester. The direction of sunset, the length of a day, and number of months in the year must be vital, necessary pieces of information. Surely we wouldn't understand the plot without them.
Azurite: Bless you.
will you stop calling me 'boy?'" He strode over to look the offensive man in the eye, and tried to be menacing.
Silver: With much straining and grimacing, he at last managed to loom threateningly over his adversary's knee.
"You are not even three years older than I am!" He knew it was no use; Phegadi
Azurite: It must be allergy season.
Silver: I think you've made your point.
took obvious delight in annoying him.
Azurite [Phegadi]: Why, Indra, you're simply delightful when you're angry! I do wish I could annoy you more often!
Chester [Indra]: Oh, you... [giggle]
He seemed to be especially obnoxious when he was drunk. He was especially obnoxious almost every night.
Silver: We'll take a deductive leap here and assume that he is often inebriated.
His only response to the scolding was to belch in Indra's face.
Chester [Indra]: Hey! I've got a "No Belching" sign right here on my forehead! Can't you read?
Azurite [Phegadi]: No.
The combined scent of ale and mint (Phegadi
Azurite: I've got a box of tissues right here--
Silver: Quit that.
was under the mistaken impression that chewing fresh mint leaves would disguise the alcohol on his breath) sent Indra into a brief fit of sneezing.
Chester [Indra]: Phegadi!
Silver: Not you too!
This seemed to amuse Phegadi,
[Silver elbows both her companions in the ribs.]
Chester: Hey, watch it! Birds have delicate bones, you know.
who started to snicker. "Eheheh! That's pretty funny, boy! Do it again!"
Silver: He certainly is easy to amuse.
Chester: I'll bet he's a Three Stooges fan.
Azurite: Still, the man is asking too much. Sneezing on cue is hard.
So much for being intimidating.
Azurite: Y'know, maybe he does have his sights set too high. If I was him, I'd forget about 'intimidating' and focus on 'maintaining a shred of dignity.'
"Stop that!" Indra snapped.
Azurite: Ha! I told you he'd snap.
Silver: I don't think that's what the author meant.
Chester: No, see, he went like this:
Chester [with triple finger-snap]: Oh no you di'n't!
Chester: Well, he might have.
"Stop laughing at me! And don't call me 'boy.'" He hated it when people talked down to him, especially if they happened to be an uncouth toad
Silver: --as opposed to your standard mannerly and refined toad--
Chester: We'll be good.
Azurite: I'm out of sneeze jokes anyway.
He also disliked being ignored. Phegadi's attention span had apparently just been exceeded, and he was wandering off toward the gate, snickering to himself.
Azurite [Phegadi]: Tee hee hee.
"Hey!" Indra yelled after him. "Don't ignore me!"
Chester [Indra]: Come back here and antagonize me some more!
Phegadi waved dismissively at him. It was amazing how fast he could lose interest in something.
Azurite: Considering that Indra seems about as interesting as a cardboard tube, it isn't all that amazing.
Chester: Hey, I like cardboard tubes...
"Yeah, sure, lad. Your shift's over; go home to your mother already."
Chester [Indra]: No way, man. Tonight is brussels sprout night.
Indra stood speechless for a moment, then turned and stomped away. Even after all this time, Phegadi's capacity for cruelty continued to surprise him. He was perfectly aware that Indra's mother had been killed less than a month ago. Reminding him of that was really nasty.
Silver: 'Remind'? So I take it he'd forgotten already?
Azurite: I suspect Ma Indra dropped the boy on his head a few times. It would explain this, and so much more.
'Mother . . .' His eyes began to sting.
Azurite: --like bees.
Angry with himself for getting so readily emotional, he swiped at them with the back of his hand.
Azurite: --as one does with bees.
The stinging intensified, and his vision started to blur. It was not grief, this time; only the large quantity of dust and grit that had, until recently, been on the back of his glove.
Azurite: Okay, maybe even 'maintaining dignity' is too lofty a goal. This kid's gonna be lucky if he doesn't decapitate himself before the end of the page.
"Arrgh," he muttered in disgust, blinking impatiently. Ignoring the inconvenience, he walked on.
Azurite: Walked on what?
Silver: Beats me. If they aren't still hovering around his shoulders, he's probably walking on his feet.
Chester [Indra]: I can't see where I'm going, but I'm sure in a hurry to get there!
Consequently, his foot soon found a small, yet immovable object that his eyes were still too clouded to see. He managed to turn as he was falling, so that he landed hard on his backside, rather than his face.
[All three readers rise and give a standing ovation.]
It was the best thing to happen to him all day, he thought. He leaned against the wheel of a nearby hay cart as he waited for his vision to clear.
Chester [Indra]: Hurry up! I want to see what my foot found!
Silver [eyes]: We're working on it. Geez.
When he could see clearly again, he stood and began searching for the thing he had just tripped over. Whatever it was, his left small toe was feeling a good centimeter shorter for it, and he was determined to give it a good seeing to.
Chester [Indra]: I'ma gonna dig that thing outta the dirt, and then I'ma gonna pound it back into the dirt!
He spied it quickly: a small, dark lump, partially wedged into a crack in the cobbles. He bent over to pick it up and, after a moment's struggle, managed to pry it loose.
Silver: I don't know about you guys, but when I see "a small, dark lump" on the ground, my first impulse is to avoid it.
Azurite: Or trip someone onto it.
Expecting a piece of stone or wood, he was surprised to find that it was, after all, a soft leather pouch.
Chester [Indra]: My posing pouch! I've been looking all over for this.
Its contents felt quite hard, though--
Chester: Aaugh! I take back my last riff. I take it back!
Azurite: Too late.
Silver: That mental image is gonna be with me a while...
tightly-packed metal clinked quietly as he straightened.
Azurite: --his tie, in an attempt to look nonchalant after scrabbling around in the dirt.
Indra's face relaxed into a pleased grin.
Chester: Is that like relaxing into a soothing bubble bath?
Silver: I don't know, but it sounds disturbing.
"Ha!" he whispered. "Something good has come of this after all."
He brushed away a bit of dirt.
"Hmm . . . must have been trodden on a bit before I found it."
With the compressed toe momentarily forgotten,
Silver: Aww! How could he forget his toe after it found a bag of clinky metal (presumably money) for him?
he eagerly untied the cord. As the pouch fell open, the fresh scent of mint wafted up to him.
Silver: Perhaps our young author misunderstood the concept of "minted coins"?
Azurite: Mmmm... Air-freshening money.
His optimism faded away as quickly as it had come. He poked despondently about in the bag until he found what he was looking for.
Silver: True love?
Chester: A fulfilling and lucrative career?
Sure enough: amid the respectable amount of cold metal, lay about a half dozen crumpled green leaves.
Silver: Those poor leaves!
Azurite: They've been horribly crushed!
Chester: Oh, the humanity!
Indra sighed. There was only one person he knew of who always carried fresh mint around to chew on. He gazed longingly at the coins.
Chester [Indra]: Has anyone ever told you what pretty embossing you have?
Silver [coins]: Fresh!
The golden light from the street torches gave them an enticing glitter.
Chester [Indra, enticed]: I am yours, minted temptresses.
He had been forced to stay at an inn since his mother's death, when the King had graciously given her house to one of his barons. The first time Indra had heard about it was when one of the baron's servants woke him in the middle of the night, and told him that he was to leave immediately.
Chester: Whoa, whoa... the exposition dump is three blocks down. We don't take that stuff here.
Silver: How I wish that was true.
He really did need the money; his meager sentry's wages only barely paid for his room and board.
Chester: Why is he renting a board?
Silver: Maybe he can't afford to buy it outright.
Azurite: Or maybe he doesn't want to commit to a boardgage.
But for those blasted mint leaves . . .
Silver: Hey, hey. Don't speak ill of the dead.
now that he knew to whom it belonged, he couldn't keep it for himself.
Azurite: What twisted alien logic is this?
Reluctantly, he closed the pouch, slipped it into his coat, and trudged back toward the gate. A small, selfish part of him insisted that he could not be absolutely sure that Phegadi was the one who had dropped it.
Azurite: That's more like it.
'But who else has such a strange obsession with mint leaves? It must be his.'
'Who else has such a wealthy family that he wouldn't miss it if I did keep it?'
Chester [Indra]: More importantly, who am I talking to?
Silver [single quotes]: Me. I'm your conscience.
Azurite [single quotes and italics]: And me. I'm your evil conscience.
Chester [Indra]: Oh, okay. Carry on.
Indra paused reflectively,
Silver: He must be wearing mirrored armor.
shook his head, and continued on. 'No,' he thought. 'If I keep this, I'll feel like I'm stealing. I can't do that.'
Azurite: Oh, but you can! Just give it a try, it gets easier every time.
'He could,' came the inner reply. 'If I dropped something valuable right in front of him, he wouldn't even wait 'til my back was turned. He'd probably laugh at me as he stuffed it in his dirty pocket.'
Chester [Indra]: Actually, come to think of it, that's already happened.
Chester [Indra]: Like, four times.
Chester [Indra]: This week.
It was true, he knew. 'But I don't want to be like him . . . '
Azurite: Wealthy? Confident? Slightly less prone to falling over?
Chester [Indra]: The horror!
'Yes, like him. Like that blockheaded, condescending, drunkard who refuses to acknowledge me as his equal--no, his superior--or even call me by name.'
Azurite: Wait... Was that an argument for or against keeping the minty coins?
Silver: Er... For. I think.
He halted again, recalling the months of insults, patronizing, and mockery. He was almost back at the gate; Phegadi was just around the corner.
Silver: --from your local convenience mart, making him easy to access 24 hours a day.
'He owes me something much more valuable than money.
Azurite: ...I'm at a loss. What on Earth would that be?
And since I know that I'll never get it from him . . . '
He made up his mind at last, and turned to go back to the inn.
Azurite: That boy's turned around so many times, I'm getting dizzy. Does this mean he's keeping the money, or not?
Silver: Yes, he's decided to keep it.
Azurite: Yes! Score one for Team Evil!
Before he had gone a dozen steps, he was stopped
Azurite: No! Take the money and run! Run, I say!
by a sharp yell of outrage.
Silver: Synaesthesia can be rough.
Azurite: Or, in this case, sharp.
It was a female voice, coming from the direction of the gate.
Chester [Indra]: Phegadi? You sound... different.
Moral quandary forgotten, he turned and raced toward the source of the noise.
Silver: --and came in third place.
Azurite: He lost to his two inner monologues.
|Home | About | Art | Commission | Writing | Games | Forum | Sparks | Shop | Links | Contact|
Site design and content copyright Aja 2000-2013.