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Rye's Writings (that aren't The Dungeon King)


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Okay, hear me out, I know I already made one of these, but that was just for one book. I think I made a bit of a mistake there because I've written a lot more than The Dungeon King. So here is another writing thread for the rest of my stuff. Sorry!

This is the prologue from the book I'm writing right now, called The Colonus. It's set in the Byzantine Empire at the start of the Middle Ages.

*warning for violence and mild language

Spoiler

Prologue

Spring, 529 A.D.

Alexandria, Egypt

 The Eastern Roman Empire

 

Pontius lay on the dirt floor, his only comfort being a ripped cloth rag he used as cushioning. Most people used theirs as a blanket, but he had a reason for his deviation. The entire room was filled with slaves just like him, most asleep despite their uncomfortable conditions. The smell was awful, but, of course, Pontius was used to it. Seven years of hard labor, beatings, and poor living conditions, he thought. It was almost hard to believe that he had been a slave for that long.

He carefully sat up, looking towards the one doorway of the slave barracks. There were two guards. One was slumped on the floor, snoring audibly, and the other, while still holding a lit torch, was lounging and yawning. Pontius laid back down, swiping his rag off the ground and transitioning it to a blanket, revealing a barely noticeable, especially in the darkness, patch of fresh dirt. He glanced back at the guards, then began digging with his fingernails. Luckily, it didn’t make much noise, and the one conscious guard didn’t notice as Pontius came up with a small dagger.

He blocked the dagger with his body to make sure it didn’t glitter in the light. He still wasn’t sure how he’d taken it without getting caught. Fortune had favored him on the day when he’d grabbed it off the ground where a soldier had unknowingly dropped it. At any rate, the guards had made a mistake tonight.

Tonight, Pontius was going to escape.

A strong wind blew through the slave barracks, blowing open the flimsy wooden doors and causing some of the slaves to shiver and whimper. The guard who was awake cursed as his torch was blown out, sending the already dim room into complete darkness. Pontius watched his silhouette walk out the doorway to try and relight his torch.

He rose to his feet and carefully stepped over sleeping bodies, cautious not to wake anybody else. Within a minute or two, he had made it to the edge of the sleeping slaves, nearest to the door where the guards were. He flopped down on the ground and feigned sleeping, tucking the knife underneath himself as the second guard returned, torch alight once more. He cocked his head at Pontius, but didn’t seem to think too hard about it. He was tired, and would certainly miss any small oddities. That was another mistake on the guard’s part.

Pontius waited impatiently, heart beating in his ears as loud as a drum, although he knew the guard wouldn’t hear it. Finally, the second guard nodded off, holding the torch in a somewhat precarious situation. Pontius stood up a few minutes later, standing over the two guards. He clutched his stolen knife in one hand, knuckles white in the firelight.

He slit their throats. The bastards deserved it anyways, he thought as he discarded the bloody knife and rifled through their possessions. After pocketing a few coins, he grabbed one’s sword, a short but deadly gladius, then took the torch and stepped out the doorway. He paused for a moment to look at the starry night sky, spotting Ursa Major and Cancer.

Pontius shook his head, then threw the torch up onto the straw roof of the slave barracks. The straw there immediately caught fire, the flames spreading across the roof quickly. He stepped back, nodding. This would provide enough of a distraction for him to escape, he was almost sure of it.

He ran off into the fields that he was forced to work each day as people began to shout from afar, and scream from within. Just as he made it to the edge of the field, looking over his shoulder to see the blazing building behind him, he jumped as another light began moving towards him from a distance. As it got close, it revealed about a dozen soldiers carrying spears and torches, obviously going towards the fire. Pontius ducked down behind a tree. He himself carried no lights, so as long as the guards didn’t go to the other side of the tree…

“Hey! What’s that over there?” a guard yelled. The rest of the soldiers save for him and two others continued moving, but the other three started walking towards Pontius’ hiding place. Pontius thought for a moment, then climbed up to the lowest branch of the tree and waited for the guards to come closer.

“I don’t think anything is here, Basil,” one of the guards said. Pontius stifled a snort at the Greek name. It sounded stupid.

“I could have sworn I saw something, Septimus,” the first soldier replied.

“It was probably a critter of some kind,” the other guard, Septimus, dismissed. Basil nodded, but stared up into the tree, trying to discern if anyone was there. He shook his head, and began jogging away towards the other soldiers.

Pontius hesitated, then jumped out from the tree branch, landing on the ground right behind the guard, gladius drawn. The bough was low enough to the ground that he didn’t break any bones. Basil spun around, crying out as Pontius rushed him, stabbing him under his arm and into his heart.

He screamed and fell, and the other two guards turned on Pontius. He smiled grimly again, then blocked one’s attack. The other one shouted for reinforcement, but cut off as his legs were sheared out from underneath, and he shouted in pain, falling to the ground. Pontius stabbed him through the neck, then raised his bloodied sword towards the remaining soldier, Septimus.

Spear met sword, and Pontius was locked into a parry. He used his free hand to punch the guard in the face. He wheezed, then cried out, then silenced as his head dropped to the ground, body following a few moments later.

Now, where is the river, Pontius thought, squinting his eyes as he tried to discern through the darkness. He heard voices from behind him, and so he ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction of them. “FIRE IN THE SLAVE BARRACKS! ESCAPED SLAVE!” someone yelled. Pontius glanced over his shoulder and saw at least three dozen soldiers rapidly approaching, weapons raised. They still didn’t know his exact location, luckily.

He continued running, then cursed as the ground gave out from under him and he rolled down a sandy hillside. He shot up, not caring to brush himself off, then noticed that his sandaled feet were wet. He squinted again, and realized that he was right on the river bank. He looked at the night sky again, then began running northwards.

After a few minutes, and after having hid from the soldiers a few times, he stumbled across a reed boat that he had crafted for himself the other day. He pushed it into the water, jumped in, grabbed the oar he had left, and began rowing down the Nile. He would be back, of course, to kill his former masters, but for now, escaping was his primary goal.

And in that, he had succeeded.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Chapter 1 for The Colonus!

Spoiler

Chapter I

Mid-Summer, 530 A.D.

Bathonea, near Constantinople The Eastern Roman Empire

 

Galen Bardanes grunted as he harvested another sheath of wheat with his sickle. The hot sun beat down on the back of his neck and his plain, short sleeved tunic. Bathonea was, like most places around the Mediterranean, always warm and sunny.

He tossed the grain into his wooden cart, then, seeing as it was full, he hauled it to one of his brick silos, where he dumped it through a hatch in the side.

Galen was a colonus, not quite a slave, but not quite a freeman. He himself worked for Demetrius Angelus, a noble on the wealthier side who owned several estates on the outskirts of the town of Bathonea. Angelus had been trying to catch the eye of Emperor Justinian for the past three years since his coronation, but Galen had a feeling that producing the most grain on the west side of Rhegium Bay wouldn’t help much in achieving that goal. Galen, having finished dumping his grain into the silo, pushed his wheelbarrow back into the fields to continue working, legs feeling like lead weights and hands feeling like rocks.

Eventually, every load was a boulder, and the distances he had to walk weren’t acres but miles. Sometimes he’d make it to the edge of another field, where he’d wave at another colonus before they both wiped the sweat from their brows and continued working. The labor was intense, but Galen needed to do it to survive, after what had happened to his father. He scowled as he thought of that, and tried to push it out of his mind. Thinking poorly of the emperor could lead to treason, which meant certain death.

If anything, Galen felt he should be grateful. Some coloni weren’t allowed to leave their master’s lands. Or worse, he could have ended up as a slave with no freedom at all. At least he had his own house and field, and he got to keep a percentage of the food he grew.

 

When the sun was high in the sky and beads of sweat covered Galen’s body, he decided to stop for lunch, walking for some time down the gravelly paths separating Angelus’ fields to an open area where several other coloni were laughing and chatting together. Oddly, there was one that he didn’t recognize, a man with a build thinner than any other colonus he had seen. His beard was neatly trimmed, and he glanced at Galen before resuming his conversation.

Galen’s friend Paul handed him a loaf of flatbread, which he gratefully accepted, saying a quick prayer before eating. The middle-aged man had callused and worn hands, with a square jaw and faintly blond, almost white in color, hair. 

“Who’s that?” Galen asked, pointing to the newcomer.

“John? He’s new here,” explained Paul, “Won’t say much about himself, and seems a little awkward with the rest of us, but I’m sure he’ll warm up eventually.” Galen nodded, and didn’t speak any more on the subject.

They spoke with the others for a few minutes, before stepping back and looking out towards the horizon, where golden hills rose in the distance.

“You know,” Paul began, “I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors lately.”

“Rumors, you say,” Galen replied flatly. “Is the Empress being unfaithful again?”

“No! Well, yes, but that’s not it,” Paul explained. “See, from what I’ve heard, His Majesty Justinian will be riding through town in a parade of some sort within a few weeks.” Galen tried not to let his expression dampen too much at the mention of the emperor’s name. “Anyways, I was thinking, how amazing would it be if we saw the emperor! I’ve never.”

“I have,” Galen said with some discomfort. I’ve even spoken to him. He didn’t say that last part. “But it’s really not that special of an occurrence. He did one a couple years back, just after his coronation, too. Weren’t you there?”

“No,” Paul grumbled, “I was working double time because I slept in that day. Lord knows how upset I was when I got to the street right after he had left.”

“Huh.”

“Anyways, that’s all I really have to say on the matter,” Paul said. “I’ll make sure this time that I don’t miss it. I’ll tell my wife to remind me.”

“Well, is that all you have to say?” Galen asked hesitantly. Paul usually had at least two stories to say; one simply wasn’t enough for him. As Galen guessed, Paul perked up at that.

“No, not at all! I have something very interesting to share. See, this strange man from Egypt arrived by ship the other day.”

“That doesn’t seem so special…” Galen said.

“Well, the thing is, they say he’s an escaped slave. Did you hear what happened in Alexandria a year ago? An entire estate, razed to the ground, from what I’ve heard.”

“Obvious exaggerations,” Galen dismissed, “Although I do wonder how he was on that ship without being caught. Probably a castaway.”

Paul shrugged, seeming not to have anything else to share, so Galen, having finished eating his meal, began walking back to his field.

 

As the sun set, Galen decided to head into town instead of going to his house immediately. Some coloni couldn’t leave their master’s property at all, and of course Galen couldn’t travel too far for too long, but they were allowed to enter Bathonea if they returned by dawn.

Bathonea was called a “small city” by some, but really it was just a large town, an appendage of Constantinople. Brick houses lined cobblestone streets, urchins sat in dark alleyways, begging for food, and plenty of artisans and merchants had shops set up, although many were closed for the night. 

Most of the other coloni came here to drink and seek entertainment, but Galen preferred the peaceful nature of the docks at night. During the day it was filled with ships, traders coming from across the Mediterranean to show their wares. Indeed, there were still several of them floating in the waters, although not as many as during the height of the day.

Galen slid out of his sandals and sat on the wooden dock, letting his feet dip into the cold waters of Rhegium Bay. He breathed in the salty air of the sea, and let the fog envelope him. Far away, beyond the fire of the lighthouse which guided the ships to port and barely visible in the mist, the walls of Constantinople rose.

He sat there for a few minutes, bowing his head and reciting a prayer.

“I’ve been looking for you.”

Galen tried to spin around, but fell straight into the freezing waters of the bay. He gasped and swam to the surface, teeth clattering as he waded in the water. He clambered onto the dock, shivering. What was that? He looked around, and saw a silhouette standing a few meters away, nearly invisible in the fog.

“Who are you?” he asked, putting his arms around himself in an attempt to warm up. The figure stepped closer. Galen shuffled backwards, careful not to fall into the water again.

He expected to see Paul or Paul’s wife, Zena. Maybe even Demetrius Angelus himself, although he didn’t know why his master would come looking for him personally. Instead, he was surprised to see a man in fine robes standing with his arms behind his back. It was difficult to make out his features exactly in the darkness, but he looked vaguely familiar.

“Who are you?” Galen repeated.

“I am John Palamas,” the man said. “And you are, if I am correct, Galen Bardanes, the colonus?”

“How do you know my name?” Galen asked hesitantly. His hand went to his side, but there was nothing there. There hadn’t been anything there for four years.

“I’ve done some research,” John Palamas replied. “Follow me, if you will. My employer would like to meet you.”

Research? Galen thought, on a random serf? It didn’t make sense. He was tempted to leave and go back to his house, but something was intriguing about this man. What did he want from him?

“Well, are you coming?” Palamas asked. Galen hesitated, then nodded, and followed the strange man into the fog.

 

He was led to a somewhat small building near the docks, with brick walls and tiny, boarded up windows. Standing in front of the wooden door was a single guard wearing an iron helmet, gleaming in the light of the small oil lamp he carried on one hand. In the other, he bore a wooden buckler with the paint seemingly scratched off. His spear was leaning against the wall beside him.

“Is this him?” the guard asked.

“I believe so,” Palamas replied, “But we’ll see.”

The guard pushed open the door and beckoned the two inside. Galen cautiously stepped into the building, realizing what he was doing. No one would care if a lowly colonus was suddenly murdered. He turned to look behind him, where John Palamas stood, not making any move to attack. Galen exhaled slowly, then looked around the room.

The ceiling was low, and the interior of the building was mostly dark save for a long wooden table in the middle, dimly lit by a few wax candles. There were a couple of empty glasses on it. Sitting at the end of the table was a man wearing a deep purple, mantle-like cloak with a hood that obscured his face. That must have cost a fortune, thought Galen. Violet dye was considered a luxury by most, only worn by the emperor and the wealthy.

“Ah,” the hooded man said, “It is a pleasure to meet you, Galen.” He threw off his hood, revealing a tanned, handsome face with a dark, short beard and keen green eyes. “You may call me… Pontius.”

 

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Because I haven't finished Chapter 2 of The Colonus, here are the first three chapters of another book of mine, A Tale of Tragedy Inn!

Spoiler

Chapter 1

 

I grabbed onto the mast as the ship rocked. Behind me, the quartermaster, Gregory Arnfeller, shouted, “Get below deck, Dan!”

I took a step forward, but slipped on the deck, which was wet from the heavy rain. I landed on my stomach, the impact making me wince. Arnfeller was a few feet in front of me, standing in front of the door leading below deck. The middle-aged quartermaster waved me over. In the distance, lightning struck.

“Quick, there’s not much time left!” he yelled. I began to crawl towards him, rain pounding against my back. I ignored the splinters puncturing my loose shirt, the loss of one of my boots. Finally, I made it to Arnfeller, who helped me to my feet. He nodded, and we rushed below deck.

Down there sat the rest of the crew, and at their head was Captain William Heimer. His cold eyes turned to us. “A shame you weren’t lost to the storm, Daniel.” His words made me cringe, but I maintained my posture. Finally, the cook, Morris Barnon, stood and asked, “Would you like some soup?”

I nodded, and took a seat near him, Arnfeller following. Barnon handed me a bowl of cold broth with bits of fish bobbing about within, and I brought it up to my mouth to eat. Another violent shake of the ship brought the soup splashing onto my face, and I coughed. Barnon and many of the other sailors laughed, and Heimer glared at me. Arnfeller cleared his throat.

“If I may ask,” he said, rubbing a hand through his greying hair, “Who will man the ship in this storm?” Captain Heimer glanced at the helmsman, John East. East was a very old man, older than Arnfeller, and the tip of his long white beard was dipped in his soup, although he didn’t seem to notice. East looked up, studying Heimer.

“If my captain wishes,” he said in his hoarse voice, “I will steer the ship.” The cabin boy, Lawrence, started. He was only a few years younger than myself, at the age of 15.

“Mr. East is old and frail!” Lawrence protested, “He will surely fall ill from exposure to the rains!” Heimer put a hand up to silence the boy, saying, “So it will be. But we must find a place to land, and soon.” It was then that it came to me that I did not know where we were.

The Callahan had left port nine days prior, heading for London to export some cargo. I had never been on the high seas before and had eagerly joined the crew. However, the captain had taken a dislike to me immediately, perhaps because of my inherent uselessness.

I assumed that we were somewhere near the coast, whether it was that of mainland Europe or the British Isles. But I really did not know.

East stood up and set his bowl of soup down on his chair. He walked over towards the stairs, and Lawrence jumped up, saying, “No, Mr. East! You’ll die out there!” The old man turned, and smiled, then disappeared up on deck.

 

Chapter 2

 

It was a dreadfully long time of the ship rocking back and forth, water leaking through the ceiling and dripping onto our heads. I didn’t know whether East was alright or not, but the ship felt like it was moving, so I assumed that he was doing his job.

I finished the rest of my soup, and stood up to go to my cabin, when suddenly I heard a shout from above deck. A few of the sailors, including Barnon, Lawrence, and Arnfeller, leaped to their feet and ran to the stairs. Heimer simply shook his head, and stayed where he was. I decided to join my friends and see what was going on.

Just as I ran up onto the deck, a great wave crashed onto the ship and knocked me back. I fell and rolled over to the other side of the ship, grabbing the railing to steady myself. I looked around. There, at the wheel, East had fallen, and he was bleeding in the head. The other sailors rushed over to help the old helmsman, and I began moving to him as well, trying not to slip again.

Arnfeller lifted his senior companion up, and said, “Lawrence was right. We should have let him stay below deck.” Barnon nodded.

“Unfortunately,” the cook stated, “Our captain is an utter-” he was cut off as the ship rocked again, waves splashing on deck. I looked behind the crew, and noticed a large shape in the distance. Land!

“Land ho!” I shouted, pointing to where I could now make out rocky cliffs, “Land ho!” Arnfeller put a hand over his eyes and surveyed the area. He nodded, and took the wheel. The rest of the sailors led East down below deck.

It was then that another wave, even more massive than the others, crashed onto the deck, knocking Arnfeller and I down. The ship began to tip to the side, and I yelped as I slid to the railing once more. The ship was capsizing!

Arnfeller got up and shouted some words that were lost in the storm. Heimer climbed up onto the deck, followed by the rest of the crew. The captain yelled, “Abandon ship!” A few sailors lifted rowboats and tossed them into the water, then scaled the ship’s hull to get into them.

Heimer began to move towards the deck, but a wave slammed into him, and he fell into the water. A few sailors jumped down to save him. Arnfeller leaped into a boat, and I climbed up, looking over the railing, which was growing closer and closer to the water. Arnfeller and Barnon, sitting in one of the boats, waved for me to jump. I made a leap of faith… and landed in the boat. It rocked slightly, and Arnfeller grabbed the oars, beginning to row to shore.

A couple of the sailors who had jumped into the water to save Heimer clambered into our rowboat. “Is the captain okay?” I asked. They shook their heads. “Drowned,” they replied. I shivered, although the cold, heavy rain may have influenced it as well.

Our rowboat crashed against the shores of whatever landmass we had landed on, and we jumped off onto the sands. Nearby were the tall rock cliffs I had seen earlier. The other three rowboats landed a moment later. Most of the sailors had survived, even East, although he was unconscious, and breathing heavily.

The only casualty had been our captain, Heimer. Lost to the sea. I examined our surroundings, and saw the shape of a building up near the cliffs. “Over there!” I shouted. Barnon replied, “It looks like an inn! Perhaps we can stay there!” 

We began trekking up the hill. Barnon was right, it was an inn. The building was sturdy, and a wooden sign hanging by the door, creaking back and forth in the wind, read:

The Tragedy Inn

The name was an odd one, and Barnon muttered, “Well, that’s ominous.” Arnfeller pushed open the door, and we shuffled inside.

 

Chapter 3

 

The Tragedy Inn was surprisingly very comfortable. There was a brick fireplace in the back of the room, although the fire was sputtering and slowly dying. There were a few wooden tables about, and a bar was on one end of the room. I jumped as I realized that someone was standing at the bar!

She was a woman around Arnfeller’s age, with long grey hair, streaked with brown. Her eyes were silver, and they stared right into my soul. She spoke up. 

“My name is Morrigan Circe. Welcome to the Tragedy Inn. Would you like anything?”

Barnon sat down at one of the chairs. “Got anything to warm us up?” he asked. Morrigan nodded. 

“Simon, Ana, fetch these guests some food.” Two children, a boy and a girl, poked their heads out from the bar. They whispered something that I couldn’t hear, then went into a room behind the bar. I sat down at the tables, as did the other sailors. We laid the unconscious East down by the fireplace.

In a few minutes, we were viciously chowing down on warm fried fish and soft, fluffy loaves of bread. Lawrence stayed at East’s side, glancing at him worriedly. The innkeeper, Circe, walked over and examined the old man.

“Does he need any assistance?” she asked. Lawrence nodded quickly.

“Get him some tea, or something, please!” he exclaimed.

“Very well then,” she said, and sent the young children to fetch some tea as well. She walked back to the bar, but as she did, her eyes fell on each of us, one by one. I cringed, but she didn’t seem to pay attention to me for too long. When she looked at Arnfeller, however, a strange light came across her eyes, and she seemed to grow taller and darker.

It passed immediately, and Circe stepped behind the bar once more and began flipping through a book. I glanced at Arnfeller.

“What do you think that was about?” I asked. The grizzled quartermaster looked around.

“I don’t know, Dan, but something seems off about that woman. I feel like… I recognize her…”

“Her last name’s Circe!” Barnon chimed in, “Like the witch from mythology! And don’t forget the fact that the inn is called Tragedy!”

“Lower your voice,” Arnfeller replied. The cook shrugged. Another sailor, Graham Lombardel, spoke up in his place, changing the subject.

“What do you reckon we do?” he asked. “Heimer’s dead, our ship’s at the bottom of the sea, and this innkeeper is acting very strange. Why is there even an inn here?”
“I have no idea,” the quartermaster answered. “This isle is on no map of mine. I’ve even sailed this route before, when I was younger… my memory fails me.”

I nodded carefully. Perhaps after he was comfortable in a soft bed would his memory return.

 

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