Scenes-Of-The-Month: “The Wolf”/”Dragon Stones”

The results are in and we have another tie between The Wolf and Dragon Stones. And because we give the people what we want, here’s an excerpt from each!

First up we have a scene from Dragon Stones, in which one of the main characters, Adaran the Thief, has just finished being tortured by the villainous princes of Dunshandrin, both because they want information and, well, just because they like doing that sort of thing.

By the time the torturer put away the switch, the various pointed implements, and the barbed hooks he’d been using in an attempt to extract information, Adaran felt like he’d been rolling around in a barrel full of stinging nettles, nails, and broken glass. He’d tried not to scream, but eventually he had, his voice going hoarse from the cries ripped from his throat.

“He’s telling the truth,” the torturer told his masters, as he finished cleaning and packing up his tools. The princes sat on royally carved chairs that they’d had brought into the cell so they could observe in comfort as their man did his work. Adaran wasn’t sure, but through the haze of pain, he thought he had seen them eating a meal at one point. “He really can’t remember. If he did, he would have told us.”

“Unfortunate,” Tomari said.

“Someone has meddled with the fool’s memory,” Torrant said. “We’ll need something to restore it. Once he remembers, I’m sure he’ll be happy to tell us what we want to know. Won’t you, footpad?”

Adaran said nothing.

“Oh, yes,” the torturer said. “He’ll tell us.”

“Qalor will be able to brew something,” Torrant said. “A restorative potion to put his head back on straight and force him to speak the truth.”

Why hadn’t they thought of that before they’d tortured him? They probably had, Adaran thought, but torture was more enjoyable to watch.

“Where is Qalor?” Tomari said.

“Probably at that tavern he bought,” Torrant said.

Tomari snorted. “Qalor, a tavern-keeper. Can you imagine? Who would drink his wine? Who would eat his food? I would be afraid he had mixed a potion into the ale that would make me grow ten feet tall or turn my skin purple.”

“If Qalor wants to squander his pennies, let him.” Torrant turned to the torturer. “Tell the stable-master to send a rider into the village to fetch Qalor and bring him here at once. We must get at the truth before the wizard returns.”

“As my lords command,” the torturer said, bowing and backing out the door.

When the man had gone, the twins got up and stood side by side, regarding Adaran as if he were an unusual sort of small animal that they had run down with their carriage and were now attempting to identify. At length, Torrant asked: “Have you nothing to say, footpad?”

Adaran coughed. His throat felt dry and cracked like old leather. “Water,” he croaked.

“I think we’ll let you stay thirsty until Qalor comes with a potion,” Torrant said. “You’ll be more inclined to drink it.”

“Why don’t you torture the wizard instead of me?”

Tomari stepped toward him, fist raised. He had delivered a few punches himself during the interrogation, apparently just for the joy of it. “You will not question your betters, oaf—”

Torrant put a hand on his brother’s shoulder, forestalling him. “A perfectly reasonable question,” he said, pulling Tomari back. “Orioke is not here. He is in the field, ostensibly serving our purposes. Unlike you, he is of use to us. And, also unlike you, he is dangerous.”

“Yes,” Tomari said. “Dangerous. I should not like to be the one to try to chain him to a wall and extract information.”

“I’m dangerous too,” Adaran whispered.

Tomari laughed; Torrant cocked his head and gave Adaran a look of condescension mixed with a modicum of pity. “Of course you are,” he said, the way one might speak to a small child who was spouting nonsense. “You are very dangerous, and we are both quite afraid of you.”

Tomari guffawed and clapped Adaran on the shoulder, as if they were old acquaintances who had run across each other in some distant port; in Adaran’s present condition, this hearty show of fellowship was quite painful. “Yes, we are terrified!” Tomari cried. “We beg you not to harm us!”

Torrant pressed his lips together, the corners turning up slightly in a mirthless smile. “There is little danger of that,” he said. Then he turned to his brother and said: “I grow weary of the dungeon. Let us return when Qalor arrives and there is something to learn from being here.”

“Very well.” Tomari looked at Adaran, then slapped him hard across the cheek. Laughing, the prince exited, followed by Torrant, who pulled the door shut behind him. Their footsteps echoed up the corridor outside and were gone.

Adaran coughed blood onto the floor. Tomari’s parting blow had knocked one of his teeth loose; he held it in his mouth, rolling it on his tongue.

Perhaps he could spit it at them when they came back, and put out one of their eyes.

At least they didn’t waterboard him. Next up, we have the next scene from The Wolf, in which the titular lycanthrope makes its long-awaited return:

The wolf is drawn out of the woods, drawn by an odor that lingers in a place where such an odor shouldn’t be. This is a hard place, paved and gravelly, and it stinks of oil and gasoline and the noxious exhaust of vehicles.

But it also smells, strongly, of wolves.

The smell is strongest here, in this particular spot, which also smells of metal and fuel and sweat and plastic. The plastic odor comes from a series of cones, grey in the light of the full moon, that line the edge of the road where it drops away into the deep valley. Fragments of glass glitter among the small stones. The wolf ignores the glass but is careful to avoid the bits of metal that lie scattered around the gravel. Glass may cut, but the metal burns.

A scent trail lingers in the air, the scent of the wolves, leading down the road toward the bottom of the valley. The wolf lopes along the deserted street, following the faint odor that clings to the pavement. It passes under the high bridge, howling once at the underside of the highway. Sleeping birds, disturbed by the echoing cry, take flight. The darkness confuses them and they have difficulty finding their way back to their nests.

The wolf hears their frantic fluttering; its mouth waters slightly, thinking of its teeth crunching their hollow bones, but it is already gone from beneath the bridge and does not go back.

It has reached a cross street, where it turns left, following the scent.

I mentioned before that The Wolf is unfinished. It currently stands at about 125 pages, and we’re currently on about page 40. So don’t worry, we have plenty of pages to go before I run out of scenes in the undisputed Scene-Of-The-Month champion. Just don’t expect a tidy ending when the pages run out.

The results have been reset and voting is now open for the next scene of the month! At least, as long as I remember to put the poll into my posts …

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