Monday, February 2, 2009

Zarko Alone

Zarko floats on a queasy raft, plunging and rocking on a drab gray sea. Time seems stuck. Every time he opens his eyes the same cold white sun blinds him, frozen overhead. Even his whiskers ache.

At first, he floats near his friends, Creature, Buck, and Quazarn. But after a while he sleeps, and one by one the others are rescued. Quazarn departs in a blaze of light...surrounded by robed men...stars painted on their pointy heads...a pirate crew recruits Buck...manacles on his wrists...some sort of hazing...Creature is helped into a crisp white khakis and a polo shirt...purple crown on the breast....

Zarko wakes up, his throat dryer than the taps of Temperance Gulch on Far Tatooine. Two faces hover overhead, dark against the rectangular white sun. Firm but not ungentle hands tilt back Zarko's head and raise a bottle to his lips, and he drinks. It's sweet, herbal, cool yet warming, spreading a flush of heat across his body. He feels like a game of 52 pick-up in reverse, shuffled back together with all his trumps in order.

"Hey! Ztharko! How are you feeling, Ztharko?" says a familiar voice.


Will Douglas said...

"I think I'll live," Zarko says (literally) drily.

"But I'm not sure how I feel about that just yet."

He blinks and focuses in on the face of the speaker.


Max said...

"Here's a glass of water. Give the healing potion a minute to take effect, then drink slowly."

The faces overhead resolve themselves into a goblin medic and, sure enough, Darryl.

"You guyth were great! I wasth rooting for you all the way!"

The sea of pain recedes, and Zarko comes to ground on a cot in a bare grey room lit by inset glowcubes. You feel better and better.

[Indeed, you are back at full HP]

Will Douglas said...

After finishing the potion and the water, Zarko swings his feet to the floor and stands up.

Then he sits back down, his head spinning (as far as Darryl knows...)

"Boy, that was something else!" he says with a weak grin. "So, how are they treating you, kid?"

Max said...

"Fine, I gueth. Wish I sould brawled with you guysth for longer," he sighs. "But I've been hanging out with the medicsth, helping patch up fighterth!"

Will Douglas said...

"Can you watch from here at all? I wanna know how Creature and Buck are doing." Zarko "tries" to get up again, but falls back.

Max said...

"Boy, that bull really rocked you, Tharko! Do you even remember? Buck and Creature went down before you!"

The goblin medic helps Zarko back onto the bed, and tells him to stay there, then leaves the room.

"I'm not sure where Buck and Quatharn are," continues Darryl. "Creech isth on the way to the Tower to sthee my mom about thomething. I'm not sure what. I can wheel you out to the main room and we can watch the resth of the Brawl though, If you want. It'sth down to the Three-Toed Choad, Sleazy Pete's Sister, and Ramses Luther Smuckles..."

Darryl drones on, rattling off highlights, fighter names, statistics and history. As always he talks a lispy green streak when he gets going. " it wasth a good thing he knew the Pop-and-Lock or the Body Rock would have stopped histh clock. Hey! Sthpeaking of...what time isth it? I wasth suppothed to tell you to call my mom!"

Will Douglas said...

Zarko sighs and closes his eye for a moment.

Then he opens them again, and says, "Okay, where's a phone?"

Max said...

"Oh she won't useth the phone. She hates thientific sthuff. Here, useth my amulet."

Darryl passes Zarko an egg sized glass globe on a silver chain, whispering something as he does. A purple cloud darkens the clear glass, and then darkens to indigo and black.

"Zarko." The voice of Inez Regina Consilio rumbles in his head, "My son lives, and therefore so do you. That is boon enough for any wise person. But as I have said, I am generous with those who please me. You will learn that soon enough."

Will Douglas said...

"It is most kind of you to say so, and I was pleased to be of service."

Max said...

"You express no curiosity about your companions?"

The blackness in the glass reveals itself to be the eye of Inez Regina, inky, cold, fathomless. The eye recedes and the full bulk of the Queen's massive head hoves into view. One wouldn't think a draconic T-rex could smirk, but one would be horribly wrong.

Will Douglas said...

"I didn't think you were an information kiosk," Zarko says. "Seems a bit beneath you, really.

"Sorry; they gave me something for the pain. I'm not really sure what I'm saying..."

Max said...

"How frail and fleeting you mammals are," says the Queen matter-of-factly, settling back on her haunches. She picks up an embroidery needle and a length of black fabric. The needle jabs smoothly through the fabric and a stitch is set, and the needle jabs again.

"Since you have not asked, I will not answer. Let us say that your companions are seen to, each in his way. Leaving only you, Zarko, as a loose thread."

Max said...

"You are either cunning enough to keep your own counsel, Zarko, or too much a fool to seek the counsel I might have given. In any case I consider your obligation to me fulfilled."

Regina's image winks out and the globe fades back to purple glass. Darryl shrugs, holding out his hand to take back his pendant. "Mom isthn't much for goodbyeth."

The last of Zarko's grogginess has faded. He starts to wonder -- what next?

[Feel free to join up with the other guys in this thread. Chalk up any temporal disjunction to the funny things head wounds and healing potions do to a fellow.]