Mind Breaker – Greed
Did something different for today’s post. I took a break from writing about Dominick and went on to write about his companion, the knight Rulf Cromwood.
Want to venture out into his past and so I wrote the story below.
Read and enjoy 🙂
The knight handed the money to the gaoler. Twenty pieces of silver coins, just like always. The gaoler smiled and thanked the knight with a small bow. He led the knight down a spiraling, stone staircase lit by torches hanging on the walls. The knight watched the gaoler in front of him. The gaoler was a small man, four feet in height, who walked with a limp. He had a pinched face and hair the color of mud. A ring of keys was attached to his belt. They rang with each limping step he took.
The staircase ended at an iron door. The gaoler removed the ring of keys from his belt and eyed them by torch light. “Ahh,” said the gaoler after he found the right one. He inserted the key, twisted it, and pushed the door open.
The stench from inside drifted towards the knight, almost choking him. No matter how many times he had visited the dungeon, he never got used to the stink. It smelled of piss and excrement and sweat. It smelled of the gaoler except ten times more potent. The knight saw nothing but darkness, but he knew the dungeon was filled with people. One thing the kingdom of Crowswood didn’t lack was criminals. The knight could hear faint sounds from the inside—scurrying of rats, cries of hopeless men, laughter from deranged lips.
“This is the third time this week,” the gaoler said, “you don’t think it’s dangerous, sir?”
Dangerous, aye, but the slavers are hungry for slaves and my pockets yearn for coins. “No one knows about what we’re doing save for us, if we get caught I know whose tongue I’ll be cutting out,” the knight said.
The gaoler laughed nervously. “I—I wouldn’t sir, I—I wouldn’t tell.”
“Are Obadi’s men here?” The knight asked.
“Yes, down at the sewers like always, Sir Cromwood,” replied the gaoler.
Rulf Cromwood took one of the torches lining the wall and stepped inside the dungeon with the gaoler following behind. The sound of his boots hitting the wet floor added to the eerie cacophony within the dark dungeon. Rulf flashed the light left, then right, surveying the place for potential slaves.
He had always found it queer that Crowswood considered selling prisoners to slavers as unlawful. Three of the five kingdoms had embraced it and the money it brings, why not Crowswood? There’s no honor in that, he’d hear the king say. Rulf Cromwood was a man who loved gold and he knew honor can’t be sold for gold.
He found what he was looking for on the tenth cell on the right. He stopped a good foot away from the bars. He extended his hand forward, the hand with the torch. Inside was a man, at most thirty in age, standing and staring at him.
The man had fury in his eyes, Rulf saw. He was wearing soiled clothes and in his left hand was a body of a dead rat, blood dripped down from it. The man seemed to be strong and was untouched by any disease. This one will be a fine slave.
“This one, sir?” the gaoler asked.
“Yes, he’ll do,” replied Rulf.
The gaoler stepped towards the cell with his keyring. The man inside moved not a muscle. He just kept on staring. Rulf did not like those eyes. Those were the eyes of a man who’d kill without blinking. Rulf placed a hand on the pommel of his sword. The gaoler opened the prison door.
“Drop the rat and step out here, dog,” the gaoler said. “Step out here, I say!”
The man took one step, followed by another. The chains that bound his ankles had limited his steps to small ones. Chains bound his wrists as well. The dead rat was left inside. Rulf Cromwood took a step back once the man had stepped out.
“Move towards the door, move it,” the gaoler closed the cell door and started to hammer the prisoner’s back with his small fist. The man made no sound, no cry of pain.
The walk back was slower, mainly due to the prisoner’s small steps. The gaoler kept on hitting him and cursing at him. Upon reaching the door, the man suddenly stopped.
“What is it, dog?” asked the gaoler.
A bad feeling stirred in Rulf’s guts. His hand closed around the hilt of his sword.
“Keep on walking!” the gaoler shouted.
The man walked outside, then stepped aside. The gaoler gasped. Anger and surprise flashed on Rulf Cromwood’s face. Standing on the stairs and outside the door were three knights and the captain of Crowswood knights himself, Sir Merek Pope.
Merek’s face was filled with frustration, or was that disappointment? He said no word. He just raised an armored hand. The knights behind him moved. The gaoler ran back inside the dungeon, deep into the darkness. Rulf Cromwood made no attempt to fight. He was confident he’d be able to cut down the three knights easily. His swordsmanship was among the best. His problem was Merek Pope. The knight captain was old, but still deadly with a sword in hand.
One knight grabbed the torch in Rulf’s hand, one took his sword away from him, the last knight was the one who bound him in chains. Everything happened swiftly and without bloodshed.
“Two of you, come with me. We’ll present this criminal to the king for judgement,” Merek said, then his eyes moved to the prisoner Rulf was supposed to sell, “one of you get this prisoner back to his cell and get that gaoler in chains as well.”
Rulf felt a hand shove him hard. “Start walking, Cromwood,” the knight who took Rulf’s sword said. Rulf gritted his teeth and started on walking.