The Hand That Wields (A Chuck Wendig Challenge in Four Parts)

Posted: February 10, 2015 in Fantasy, Fiction
Tags: , , , ,

So this week is a bit different. The idea is to write just the first part of a story, and three different people will continue it in the following weeks. Here’s my offering, which I do so dearly hope someone picks up and carries on. It is a a bit shy of the 1,000 word recommended limit, but I think it still works well as an opening. I’ll be sure to keep this post updated if someone else decides to keep it going.

The Hand That Wields

“Wake up Otto! Visitor here to see you.”

Otto rolled over on his pallet, cracking one reddened eye open. “Why would anyone come see me?” he mumbled, his tongue heavy from sleep. Sitting up, he opened his other eye and scratched at his tangled beard.

The guard shrugged. “They don’t tell me these things. All I know is the magistrate said to let them see you. So I’m letting them.”

Otto grinned through the iron bars of his cell, revealing teeth filed to points. “Some days I’m surprised to find anyone even remembers I’m down here.”

“Yes, well.” The guard shifted from one foot to the other, his hand dropping to the cudgel slipped through his belt. Someone that Otto couldn’t see cleared their throat. “Ah, right. This is the prisoner you wanted to see.”

Otto didn’t recognize the people once they came into the torch light, but from their fine, rich clothes and the way they held bits of cloth up to their nose to block out the stench, he figured they must be important somehow.

“This is the prisoner, then?” The speaker was older, and Otto could tell he used to be large and muscular, but too many soft years had turned muscle to flab. His eyes though were cold and blue as an iceberg. His companion was younger, his daughter maybe, and her hair was red-gold in the torchlight. Otto felt a familiar stir under his ratty pants. It had been a long time since he’d seen a woman.

Otto looked around dramatically. “Who me? No, I’m the King of Rats. Welcome to my kingdom!” He chuckled. “Yes, I’m the prisoner. Excuse me if I don’t rise to my feet.”

“Do you know who I am?” the man asked.

Otto shook his head. “Someone important. More important than the magistrate at any rate.” He cocked his head to one side. “You want something done, but you can’t be seen doing it, isn’t that right?” He scratched at his head, and finding a louse, squeezed it between his finger and thumb. “I’m not sure how much I can help you down here.” Otto sprang up, and grasped the bars in his hands, straining against them until the veins in arms popped, his eyes wide. “As you can see, they’ve made sure I’m not going anywhere.” As he sat down, he made sure to rattle the chain attached to his ankle.

“What if I told you that I could have you released?”

“You’d have to be the Jarl himself to make that happen.” Otto sighed and lay back down on his pallet, rolling so his back was to his visitors. “Now if there isn’t anything else, you’re interrupting my morning nap.”

“Not the Jarl.”

Otto cracked his eyes back open. The girl had spoken, her voice soft as velvet. “Who then?”

“His daughter.”

Otto grunted. “There’d be trouble for her if the Jarl found out she was the one that let me go.”

The girl sniffed. “If my father cared, I wouldn’t have to be down here in the first place.”

“Carolina, this man is no more than a beast, we should-”

“Who do you want killed?” Otto sat up, hands on his knees. His eyes were bright and alert, and a predatory grin split his mouth like a cut from an axe.

The chaperone stepped forward. “That is none of your concern-”

“My betrothed,” Carolina replied. “No, that’s not right. The man who was to be my husband. He broke off the betrayal, shaming me and my family. Only his family is too important, and has too many allies, so my father refuses to go to war on my behalf. And if my father was to be found to have anything to do with his death…”

“You’d be stomped back into the mud,” Otto finished for her. “So you came all the way down here to look for me? I’m flattered. What’s to say though that I don’t disappear as soon as I’m out of this cell? Are you sure you can trust me?” Otto’s grin grew wider.

“No,” Carolina replied. “You’d disappear into the woodwork like the rat you are. That’s why he has accompanied me.”

Otto narrowed his eyes and looked closer at Carolina’s chaperone. Despite his finery, he looked harder than most of the nobility Otto had dealt with. Deep creases lined his face, and Otto would bet good coin there were the callouses of a fighter on his hands. “He’s to accompany me?”

Carolina nodded once, a short sharp gesture that reminded Otto of a bird. “That’s right. Bjorn will make sure you don’t stray from your path.”

Otto leaned back, the grin vanishing all together. “Assuming I agree, there are a few things I’ll be needing.”

“We already have your belongings gathered,” Bjorn said. “A well-worn axe, a suit of mended mail, three daggers, a silver chain, and a satchel filled with various herbs. Do you require anything else?”

Otto shook his head, his eyes bright. “So what’s the name of the soon to be deceased?”

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Comments
  1. john freeter says:

    I suspect someone’s been playing The Witcher…

    • Hey John,

      I have played The Witcher (ad the sequel) and will admit to borrowing some ideas from there. The concept of the prisoner being used to do some dirty work isn’t exactly unique to that though (and I never said what the herbs were for- could be recreational use).

      -Matt

  2. […] This flash fiction piece was written in response to a four-part challenge placed by Chuck Wendig. Matthew Gomez wrote part 1 and you can find it here https://mxgomez.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/the-hand-that-wields-a-chuck-wendig-challenge-in-four-parts… […]

  3. […] writing challenge thing. I’m actually part 3, as someone else wrote a part 2.) You can read part 1 and part 2. Actually, I’ll just copy-paste the whole thing so far. Story below the […]

  4. […] chose to finish to the short story The Hand That Wields started by Matthew X. Gomez and extended by lisoeta1 and then Cameron Mount. If you click on the aforementioned author’s […]

  5. poorerdick says:

    The Hand That Wields (The Final Cut)
    by
    Matthew X. Gomez (Part 1)
    lisoeta1 (Part 2)
    Cameron Mount (Part 3)
    Richard, aka Poor Dick, aka poorerdick (Part 4)

    https://poordicks.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/flash-fiction-challenge-the-hand-that-wields-the-final-cut/

    Otto was in a sticky situation, and I got him out the only way I knew how. Find out how, with the Final Cut.

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