The cramped, streetside tavern where Dakar had been cornered, to cash in the prodigious hoard of his winnings, was already packed beyond bursting. Unemployed citizens hungry for warmth rubbed shoulders with whores and plump, aproned washing women, and the rust stained baldrics of offduty garrison men. Though the evening was young, the mixed crowd already let off rambunctious steam. Raucous noise rebounded off the low rafters. Dice games and arm wrestling had stopped, for the nonce, in favor of running the odds on the contest incited by Talvish.
The fat prophet and the backcountry grasslander were hotly engaged in a stand down, to see which could best hold his drink.
The pair stood, toe to toe, surrounded by a tight ring of cleared space, while Talvish, blond and insolent, used his glib commentary and the occasional mailed fist to guard the packet of ration chits. The task he had set for himself was not tame, since the booty had lightened the pockets of the citadel's unwary sentries over weeks of incessant, sharp card games. Some of the laughter around him was forced; not all of the poking thumps that he fielded were friendly. Shouts belted out between slangs and jokes came with threats that held genuine menace. The fact Dakar's wad of winnings was two fingers thick suggested the chance that his partners might have been fleeced.
"He's a slinking Fellowship Sorcerer's spellbinder!" a sore loser carped from the sidelines. "Could have used craft to shuffle the deck! Might've dealt any hand in his favor."
Talvish quipped back, "Ever met Asandir? No?" His insouciant smile turned evil. "Then, believe me, you wouldn't care to be in Dakar's boots, standing upright, if he'd maligned his initiate knowledge for cheating."
"Wouldn't be caught in his boots, standing here," groused another, jabbing a mock feint at Talvish.
The shied blow was warded, forcefully brisk. The playful, fair swordsman allowed for no nonsense: for the length of the wager he was the target, exposed to the discontent of all comers. No bettor who had placed hard earned coin on the outcome would strike at the pair of contestants. Not before he lost hope his changed luck might collect a fair sum in recovery. Talvish doled the next chit to the barmaid. His laid charge was simple: keep the contentious crowd sweet, until Fionn Areth was flat drunk and prostrate. Lay him down long enough to forget the dangerous turmoil of questions and fear, at least until...
(four line censor, by authorial fiat, to prevent a spoiler!!!)
Dakar had agreed to shoulder the role of buffoon to further that ending, also. Whatever his reason for amassing owed beer tabs off half of Duke Bransian's fighting men, he now reeled and rocked on splayed legs, stripped down to breeches and shirtsleeves. His sturdy frame had lost its portly weight. The pouched belly that normally thickened his waist wore sagged linen, gathered by a huge belt, ineptly punched to tighten the buckle.
"Go on, infant," he goaded the goatherd before him. "Your turn to down the next tankard. Show us a thirst that can put men to shame! Six piddling rounds are scarcely enough to whet the spit in my whistle!"
"Sheven," Fionn Areth objected. Black hair in his eyes, he already swayed like a loose post in a gale. Countrybred obstinacy kept him bolt upright, while the barkeeper poured the next ration, trying not to wince at the tilt in the vessel that captured the coveted beer.
Dakar grinned. "You won't last eight, milksop." Blinking, and squat as a float on a line, he licked the foam scud from his mustache and watched the effect as his darting, aimed comment struck home.
Fionn Areth flushed purple. "Go suck on a goat!" Chin outthrust, his napped stockings bunched down to his ankles, he tipped back his draft, and chugged with a vengeance. The posture rocked him back on his heels. He swayed, keeled over too far for recovery, then toppled backward like a felled plank. His own splashed back beer caught him full in the face, filled his nose and his windpipe to coughing.
The bystanders roared, immersed in the spectacle. They banged unsheathed knives on the trestles, while the losers screamed, and the winners bellowed their elated triumph. Whichever their lot, the amusement cut short: Dakar, in mid crow for his easy victory, bent in half, and then dropped to his knees.
"Daelion send a confounding wet dream!" yelled an armorer through pealing mayhem. "Tie score, since the fat one's gone under!"
Dakar, in fact, showed no sign of recovery. Crouched on his braced hands, he appeared overcome by a hammering onslaught of nausea.
More noise, peppered through by the first screams of protest, over which of the pair had succumbed to the alcohol first. Fists swung now, in earnest. Two victims were bloodied, as Talvish's yells to serve order were overwhelmed. He threw down the beer chits. Snatched the diversion and leaped over the scramble, as the ravening patrons plunged in to snatch. Which lightning move hurled him into the circle, just as the seething taproom unraveled to bedlam. No man's intervention could withstand the fight. Boredom sought outlet, and the strangling, long weeks of pent back desperation ran tempers to wrathful explosion.
Iron handed, the field captain hooked Dakar's arm. He bore the man's weight, then shot out his unburdened grip and snapped a hold on Fionn Areth's limp wrist. Talvish hauled by main strength. He towed the witlessly fallen away, while Dakar, arms gripped to his roiling stomach, broke sweat in a white knuckled effort to bear his own weight.
"This is an onslaught of prescient vision?" Talvish shouted, hell bent, as he wrestled a path through the brawlers to reach the rear doorway.
Dakar clipped off a nod. "The beer's a frank pittance. This is a light drunk. Duck leftwards. That man's got nail studs in his bludgeon."
"Dharkaron's red glory!" Talvish swore, angry. He maneuvered, fast, obliged to kicked down another a bullnecked brawn with a cudgel. "You've done this before?"
A groan answered: not Dakar, but Fionn Areth, objecting. The bumping drag across the brick floor had aroused him out of cold stupor. Talvish paused, distraught, too overburdened to manage the crowd, and still safeguard the struggling grasslander.
"Get yourself up!" the field captain snapped. "Haul your weight, and fight your way out of here."
"The yokel's done for," Dakar gasped between chattering teeth. He lunged free. Caught the edge of a trestle and shoved Talvish off, adding, "Listen to me! I enspelled the lad's beer. He's not going to rise! Find him a haven and leave him to sleep. He can't cause anyone trouble, tonight."
Warned to chills by that note of stark desperation, made aware of a worse, pending crisis, Talvish assessed the lad's rolled back eyes. Then he moved in strategic action. He dragged up a stout bench, and rolled the near inert form underneath, on the hopeful chance the young double might somehow escape being savaged or stepped on. Next, he seized Dakar's sick and floundering weight, and bashed a ruthless course through to the kitchen.
They burst, stumbling, into the stifling, close heat of the clay bake ovens, and a haven of relative quiet. Cooks and scullions were absent, pans and chopping blocks summarily abandoned in favor of mounting a defensive charge on the taproom. The refuge provided a respite, until the over ripe smell of bread and stewed onions ripped Dakar to redoubled nausea. Talvish laced forceful fingers in his damp shirtfront and hauled the Mad Prophet erect by main force.
"Speak!" he commanded. "I can't help if I don't know what's happening!"
Note: this draft preview is copyright material by the author. Please show respect by not copying or posting on any other site. Thank you.
Oh, come on! I want to know the spoiler!
Excellent exciting excerpt, by the way. :grin:
This sounds like it's occurring in Alestron. Does this happen toward the beginning or end of the book, I wonder?
And why is Fionn Areth STILL causing trouble? I suppose he was annoyed that Arithon didn't keep his promise...
It also looks like Dakar is getting better control of his sight as he wasn't completely incapacitated by the vision.
Jolly good, I just got back in time to catch this tasty little morsel. Definitely Alestron, but why are all these fellows bored. Obviously at this stage they are not besieged yet. How can we hold on until the end of the year for this book?
After all these years of waiting for the next book from Janny one should think I have learned patience. No way!!!
This is sooooooo gooooood. Anticipation is torture.
And wolfhunter slinks back into his den....
I agree, Alestron, but I think they are already besieged.
There are unemployed people, and also Dakar has lost a lot of flab/weight. Beer is rationed.
If 'the daisy' hasn't turned up yet to try and slag the joint to glass, something else is keeping them all occupied where they can't do what they would normally do.
Oh, what a marvelous treat to wake up to!
I'm with Wendy. Things seem a bit more bleak than what we've seen of Alestron thus far. Mid-siege seems plausible to me.
This is just great thank you Janny, you have wetted my appetite.
If its after the battle thats good news as at least there are some men still standing. I think it is before the fight though. Men knowing its coming and are just waiting around for it to happen possibly. I thought if it was after then Fionn might have gone and got him self flame grilled or something - his birth prophecy. Maybe that isn't going to happen. Good thing Dakar has lost weight. I keep picturing him as Gimli the dwarf from LOTR, despite Dakar being ginger I think. So looking forward to this book, hope I don't have to wait till xmas but I know it will be worth it.
This shows that FA really IS a bit of a dummy. Trying to outdrink the Mad Prophet? Dakar's drinking is LEGENDARY. I bet Dakar would be a great spokesman for some rotgut or other in the "REAL" world. I'd certainly rather see him than those losers in the Bacardi and Cola ads, that much is certain!
Now THERE'S a painting challenge for Don Maitz... Dakar as a henchman for Captain Morgan, with the good Captain making him walk the plank for drinking his private stock of rum dry, instead of following "Captain's Orders" to drink responsibly.
Hmmmmm... what could those four lines be?
How about this?
Lay him down long enough to forget the dangerous turmoil of questions and fear, at least until...
Luhaine could return from his wedding to intervene. According to Sethvir, he would be occupied for at least another week in Kewar with Morriel while Davien taught them to reincorporate themselves. Only then could they be truly wed, giving Luhaine authority over Koriani affairs.
Hahah... yeah right... :grin:
But the crazy idea came upon me the other day, and I thought it was kind of funny.
Thats great Blue, I like the idea of Dakar doing a Captain Morgan Rum advertisement on TV. And I also agree with the Gimli/Dakar resemblence, his beer drinking and burping exhibiting in LOTR was was extremely charming - Yes, i can definitely see the resemblance in Dakar.
Maybe he has lost some weight, not because beers is rationed, but because it took him a long time to get to Alestron and there was no beer to be had on the way. ....Or he was set upon by Koriani enchantresses disguised as Jenn Craig weight loss promoters?
Another sneak peek. Could this mean the book is close to finished? Thanks for the missing 4 lines, guess I know what I'll be doing as soon as I buy it! Definately an interesting piece. So many questions but would not dare disturb you from your work.
Sounds like Alestron, beseiged but the daisy faced one has yet to decide whether to try and slag - or has tried and failed.
To be in a position where Fionn Areth would challenge Dakar to a drinking game must mean Fionn Areth has gained some level of maturity throughout SF to the point of sneak peek. In TK, Fionn Areth changed his opinions rather regularly. Perhaps something has occurred in SF to crystallize his opinions and perhaps finally revoke his pledge to the light to bury a sword in Arithon's back? Something other than five months in Alestron's dungeons?
Like Lysaer showing up at Alestron determined to blast it to smithereenies and Fionn Areth, rather like Talith in a different context, has gotten to see "the other side" without the benefit of the Light's "truth" of what the clans and Arithon are really about.
Ever notice how much WoLaS action happens in noisy taverns with lots of drinking ocurring at some point or other?
Using great will power, I have restricted myself to just the first couple of lines just to wet my anticipation. I can wait to sit at the table for the complete meal; but I do get some amusement from many of the e-mails. My grandson has red hair and though I've yet to hear him called Red I don't think it would cause offence. 'Ginge' is another matter! that could provoke a violent response. Similarly I would be offended if 'Daisy' was used as any type of description.
Ever notice how much WoLaS action happens in noisy taverns with lots of drinking occurring at some point or other?
Motley, that MIGHT be because it is difficult to drag Dakar OUT of such establishments.
dakar drinks for good reason
Neil, I agree. But he's still rather hard to budge from a good tavern, especially if the booze is plentiful, or he stands to make more booze money on bets like the one above with Fionn Areth.
Thank you for your teaser, which I finally and jubilantly made time to catch up with tonight. Thoroughly enjoyable and gnawingly intriguing.
It must be so very satisfying for you, knowing that you're really close to finishing this arc now. I'm saying that with no idea of the events you're living and creating. Hope the last pages of Stormed Fortress fly from you with ease and pleasure.
I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank Trys, as I have before, for the hard work and diligence he puts into maintaining this website. I'd dearly like to think that something I gave such commitment and dedication to would turn into half the success this website is.
Tremendous work, great people. Thank yous.
Thank you, HJ, for the kind words.
HJ - Thank you! What makes this site fun for us all is the visitors.
Gnawingly intriguing...now there's an interesting phrase.
Odd fact of the day: did you now that sailing ships unable to get clear of waterspouts sometimes fired CANNON shot at them? Apparently this sometimes broke up the vortex....this, of course, was the last ditch effort - if you couldn't sail clear of them, or were caught aback...