Chapter Two: The Blame Game
Being a small town, Bellkeep didn’t have much of a jail, with only one singular cell to house its criminals. It would usually see the members of a drunken fight thrown in every now then, and even on those odd occasions, there would only be around two. So the moderately sized cell with a singular bench toward the back wall was definitely above its average capacity, with four inmates, three of which were squeezed closely on the bench. The one stood up was June, who pressed herself against the bars, trying her best to explain to the nearby guard how she didn’t deserve to be locked up, much to the annoyance of the other three, as well as the guard she was trying to convince.
“You see sir, this is a big misunderstanding, I was merely trying to-“
“I got it the last hundred times you told me, Miss, now please shut it! I’ve got some beauty sleep to catch up on,” snapped the guard, putting an end to Junes pleading, much to the relief of the other three. She moved back from the bars and leaned against the wall, avoiding looking over at the others.
“I’ve been locked up before. Went to Ashwald and it turned out they have differing laws on magic there, so my tricks weren’t looked too kindly on,” Otis said out of the blue. Despite June’s constant whining beforehand, he realised that it helped distract him. Jamal and V seemed to appreciate it too, thinking it was at least better than listening to the guards muffled snoring forever. June kept her back to the others, mainly so they couldn’t see her praying. “They locked me away for like a week before they let me go. I thought that would be the worst reaction to my tricks. And then today happened.” It took a second for Jamal to realise that Otis was talking about him. Clearly he was still sore about the sword situation.
“I did say I was sorry, I thought you were in cahoots with the thief,” Jamal replied, trying his best to defend his rash actions. “Plus, I was drunk.”
“Do you tend to start swinging your sword round when you’re drunk then?” Asked Otis in a serious tone that didn’t quite suit him.
V let out a chuckle, though it wasn’t because of Otis’ vague attempt toward being angry. Both Jamal and Otis were confused by her reaction, they couldn’t see what had suddenly made her join in the conversation, especially when she’d been mostly quiet since they got locked up.
“What?” Otis asked, the confusion evident in his voice. V went to answer before her laugh made an unexpected return. Once she’d gained enough composure to speak, she went to answer Otis’s question.
“Well, just thought, he’s not entirely sober yet. So don’t worry, I’m sure there’s still a chance he’ll swing his sword round,” she said, all whilst stifling a laugh to try to stay intelligible.
Otis didn’t get what she meant, for a while anyway. When he did, he started chuckling too, all whilst Jamal was left out of the loop.
“What? I don’t get it, how could I swing my sword around now, they took it remember,” he said in a matter-of-fact kind of way that just made it all the funnier to Otis and V, who were having to hold on to each other for support whilst they laughed, more so at Jamal’s bewilderment than the childish joke at this point.
This continued for a large stretch of time; too long if you ask me, and it seemed June held the same sentiment.
“Are you both children? Stop laughing, you’re distracting me,” June said, not sounding angry, but sounding disappointed. An effective deterrent, it seemed, as Otis and V ceased their chuckles.
“So why are you here exactly? I thought clerics stayed at the monastery up north,” Jamal asked, assuming he was free to speak as June had included him when telling off the other two. She turned to look at him. She supposed if she answered his question, he’d just leave her be.
“I was on my way to the monastery, I haven’t been fully converted yet,” she said.
Jamal was taken by surprise slightly. His first guess would have been that she was on a mission to exorcise a demon or something like that.
“Wow, for someone who’s still in training, you’re not too bad with that divine magic business,” he said, genuinely quite impressed.
Otis had seen no compliments regarding magic go his way. I mean, he was aware he’d blown a hole in the bar, but that was still pretty impressive. He let out a cough to drive Jamal’s attention toward him, hoping it would lead to some kind of praise.
“Hey, you got a sore throat from laughing?” asked V, not quite being the person Otis had been trying to gain the attention of. He sighed, gesturing at her to get Jamal’s attention. She just looked at him and rolled her eyes.
“Dude, he’s not going to compliment your magic. Especially when you’re still wearing parts of the rabbit you tried to resurrect,” she said, pointing toward the splotches of red that ran down the front of his robe.
“You saw that?” he said, ducking his head a little in embarrassment.
“It was hard to miss, even for me, and I was pretty preoccupied,” V said, the memory of the drunken crowd carrying her away somehow more vivid than it had been before.
“Buuuut, I did make a roof explode. I mean, come on, you’ve got to admit that’s pretty awesome,” Otis said, trying his damndest not to mention the people who almost got clobbered by the ensuing rubble.
“Reckless, reckless is what it is. You could have injured people, or worse, killed them,” June scolded, wiping Otis’s smile off his face; apparently other than the robes, divine magic and enlightenment, being a cleric came with the side effect of being a major buzzkill.
“I’m sorry, okay. My aim was off,” Otis replied quietly, faltering under June’s stern glare.
“Maybe next time don’t use a spell that’s obviously above your skill level. You’re lucky I was there to clean up your mess.”
With that, the room had gone from hints of forced friendliness (the kind you’d adopt when forced to spend with relatives you haven’t seen in years) to a coldness that bit hard.
“Listen, guys, let’s just drop it. If we’re gonna end up spending a week here, like you ended up doing in Ashwald or whatever it was called. Then we’re gonna have to at least pretend to get on or we’re gonna tire ourselves out with all this arguing,” V said, trying her very best to be diplomatic in the situation. Despite her best intentions, however, V would only win over June’s attention, who quite clearly wasn’t willing to give up whilst she was on a roll.
“Oh, and here’s the voice of reason,” she said, sarcastically applauding. V already regretted speaking up. This girl was crazy. “May I remind you that you. You are the reason this whole thing started.”
V went to defend herself but was cut short, when loud screaming erupted from somewhere outside, grabbing even the sleeping guard’s attention.
All four of them were stood by the bars now, gawking out at the archway the guard had just walked through. They all wondered what could be going on outside, and more importantly, if being in the cell would be an asset or just seal their fates. All they had to go off was a scream, one that could’ve meant anything.
“Maybe it’s a happy scream?” Jamal said, not reciprocating a response from the other three. All four of them could only imagine what was going on outside.
You, on the other hand, have the pleasure of having me as your narrator, and I can go wherever the hell I like and let me tell you. It wasn’t a happy scream like Jamal had hoped. The darkness had arrived, just on schedule too. Outside of the jail, the streets of Bellkeep were in absolute havoc and the citizens ran to and fro down the muddy streets, though this time they had something chasing after them.
The shades. Towering figures made entirely of an acidic dark matter, whose flesh burned whatever they came into contact with, their touch toxic to the very world around them. These beasts were familiar tourists, cloaked in darkness, tearing their way through the town as well as the citizens themselves. Slowly but surely, the screams grew in frequency and it became very clear to the four that they were in danger as long as they were in that cell. All four of them began violently shaking the bars, though they didn’t shift. They all panicked, darting around the cell, narrowly avoiding running into each other as they desperately searched for another way out.
A bright light shone from behind the rusted bars, cutting through the space in between them, shining so brightly it almost blinded the four when they went to look at it. V, Otis and Jamal all backed up toward the wall, not wanting to get near it in case it was the source of the panic they’d heard outside.
June walked closer to the bars, however, kneeling before the bright light.
“Bless the gods, for you have heard my prayer. It is me, and I require your help,” she said, bowing her head toward the light. There was a repeated tapping coming from the light, and soon it dimmed with each one till it became bearable to look at.
“Hello? Is this thing on?” said the orb, with a voice that wasn’t its own.
June raised her head to look at the orb. Her expression held both feelings of awe and hesitancy. This wasn’t the way she’d expected the gods to sound.
“Who are you?” asked Otis, daring to move a little closer to the bars.
“Who I am doesn’t matter at the moment. Bellkeep is under attack and it needs all the help it can get. Those weapons on the table, they’re yours, yes?” said the orb.
The four nodded.
“Well, I’ll unlock your cell. On one condition. That you will promise to help defend this town from the shades.”
“Yes!” exclaimed the four in unison, happy at the prospect of being set free, with the promise to defend the town taking a backseat in their heads. Though Jamal wondered how a little bit of shade could cause so much of a ruckus.
The orb shone brightly again, attacking the eyes of the four before it was there no more. Just as promised, the cell door swung open, finally allowing them to leave.
All four of them were eager to leave and therefore, when they all rushed to the now open gate, ended up getting themselves wedged together. Once they’d figured this would not work, they took it one at a time and went over to the table where their stuff had been lazily thrown.
Jamal grabbed his sword, which had grown slightly blunt from where the guards had plucked it out of the wall of the bar.
V swiped up her daggers, sliding the blades against each other to make sure they were as sharp as they could be.
Otis picked up his misshapen wand and gave it a quick swish. V looked over letting out a snort, prompting Otis to reply with a concerned “What?”.
June lifted her staff up delicately, fondling the little glass ball that stood on the end.
“I will not let you down,” she whispered, before turning to the other three, slamming the foot of the staff on the floor to get their attention. “Let’s get going, we have a promise to keep”.