(SHORT STORY) 🌘 Initiation
I'll be starting a new short story anthology series set in a new world I'm developing alongside these stories. The emotes Will distinguish which story universe the piece takes place in.
As always, I appreciate all feedback. I"m trying to become a better writer, so any advice would be great. 😌
This one was a quick write-up and I'm very curious how it turned out. I'm personally happy with the outcome, but that means literally nothing. 😅
Shoutout to the !PIZZA
gang 🤙 gang 🤙 gang 🤙
The burly innkeeper wore a stained apron. His balding head read something off a list while his hairy arms polished glasses. Such efficiency! Frederick marveled at the capabilities of this bait. If their bait is this competent, have I underestimated these ruffians? Frederick bit his lip. Was sister right? Again?
“Yea’, kiddo, I see ya. You wan’ a glass of somethin’?” The innkeeper placed his stare on Fredrick.
Remember father’s words. Humility. “Yes, uh, yea, kind s-, uh, man. Pops send me. He said introduce yourself presently.”
“Presently?” The man raised a bushy eyebrow.
“Ye- yea, y-you know how P-Pops talks funny sometimes.” Fredrick plastered a dumb smile. He had to remember to speak on their level.
“He does, does he? Tell me kiddo, he sent you for flour? Mm? Or was it groceries?”
Fredrick remembered the Fence his sister sent him to - Pops they called him - and his sour expression when he said. “Flour, kid. I’m sorry, but, maybe it’ll teach ya something.” As if these lowborn goons could teach him anything. Again, however, they displayed caution with the password. Confidence seizes caution! His father’s mantra echoed in his mind.
“Flour.” He said.
The innkeeper grabbed another glass, returned his gaze on his lists. “Ya see that door? Go on. Out back young’n, a coat hanger carryin’ a red towel.”
“Splendid. Um, later... Bossman.”
As Fredrick approached the backdoor, he heard the innkeeper behind him. “Oh, ‘n kiddo! Leave the towel where it be.”
Fredrick entered a rather large storage room. It had boxes on boxes, bags of barley, beans, potatoes, and grain. Sausages, and cheeses, and bowls filled with broth aromatized the entire room. So much food. In one corner, however, there were two cupboards stacked with clothes – the one up against the wall had the red towel.
I was right. This is no pesky nuisance as father thought. Fredrick pulled on the hanger. These miscreants wish to establish themselves atop our hill. How else justify the arrogance of this operation?
A false back revealed a shaft with a ladder going down. As Fredrick descended he observed the walls for any tripwires or other low cunning traps. His sister’s precautions proved inadequate once again. He smirked at her suggestion that they might lead him astray – Pops was her man, after all, he would never jeopardize such a privilege. Also, the amount of food up top was too high for a scruffy inn outside the city walls. They tipped their hand, and Fredrick puckered in amusement at the careless oversight.
The ladder led to an annoyingly extensive wine cellar. As he entered the cellar proper, a fat purple cat hissed at him and scurried off.
This place smells vile. He assumed their drink would meet the standard of their food but- no, wait. The color, too black for any wine - almost violet. And the smell… This is no wine. What are these amateur alchemists brewing?
A door swung open and Fredrick took a step back. It was the same man as up above. But… how?
“H-how did you –“
“None of your biz, kiddo. Now straight’n ya face ‘n follow me.” He left the cellar through another door.
Is this some kind of trick? Have they duped me? He saw his sister gloating, laughing, pointing. No. This bald shmuck is the other’s brother. Yes. There could be no other explanation. Fredrick had to remember his goal: if he was successful here, he would remove a serious thorn in his father’s side. And prove everyone wrong, once and for all.
Fredrick followed his guide through several short hallways, each seemingly smaller than the last. There were people here: carrying supplies, drinking flasks of violet, sitting around whispering – whispering and laughing… at him.
Do they think I can’t do this? He looked at all of them. So they remembered his face when he returned. Scum. Nothing more. I’ll show them…
They entered a chamber filled with alchemical equipment. The air was repugnant, disgusting. Several colored clouds hung near the vaulted ceiling blurring his vision. It surprised Fredrick to feel a light breeze on his feet. How did they get air circulation all the way down here?
“Got ya’ some fresh blood, Domie.” The man who was not an innkeeper said.
An old man was grinding something with a mortar and pestle. When he saw Fredrick, he scowled. “Must I?” He said in a wheezing voice.
The only other person in the chamber was a girl, roughly Fredrick’s age, reading a book in the corner.
“We drew lots.” Fredrick’s guide said.
“You!” The alchemist pointed a gnarled hand. “You drew lots. Not me. I told you last time, I want no part in this.”
The Not-An-Innkeeper shrugged. “The ‘prentice then. I don’t care. You’re ‘ready a part of it, old man, gainin’ a conscience now will only ruin ya’.” He left.
The old geezer stared at Fredrick with glossy eyes filled with intent. Same eyes as grandfather. This man has seen some fumes. Time and again these people surprised him. I have to remember this laboratory perfectly for my report.
“What’s your name, boy?” he asked.
“Actually, no. Don’t tell me.” He whistled and the girl strode to stand next to Fredrick. “Paula. They've sent this young man for flour. Can you assist him?”
“Laying your burdens on me again, old man?” The girl said with a smile.
The alchemist got back to his work, head bowed, Fredrick barely heard him. “Yes. Yes, I am.”
“Alrighty, then.” She pinched his shoulder. “Come on fresh blood, follow.”
The girl led him further into the chamber; it was larger than he first realized. They approached a dingy bookshelf, behind which was a dusty, spider web-ridden alcove. The girl grabbed a nearby broom and attacked the filth. She wore dirty, white robes - the mark of an apprentice.
However, Fredrick was more curious about the state of the alcove.
“No new members recently?” He asked, thinking that made no sense for a place as notorious as this.
“Plenty, actually.” She threw the broom away after a few whacks, she had barely cleared a couple of webs. “No pure-bloods though, you came just in time.”
Fredrick’s heart skipped a beat. “H-how did you-“
The girl smiled. “Don’t be flustered, city boy. Your speech, your manner, your clothes.” She chuckled. “It all screams Hilly.” She waved him on. “Come on.”
A sudden thought, unbidden, and dangerous, leaped out of him to say. “Would you accept me?” His voice cracked. "Even if I was?” He wasn’t sure what he was. Or why. But he felt a certain kinship with the girl.
She didn’t smile; nor move; eventually, she turned and sighed. “Come on. Follow.”
They went up a rot-infested ladder not that different from the one Fredrick just used. His head was spinning. Spinning so much he almost fell down halfway up the shaft. “Steady there, pure-blood.” was all the girl said as they continued to ascend.
They don’t respect me yet, but- Unsought, disapproving stares shook their heads. Always…. Always disapproving… I’ll show them… I’ll show them all!
A trap door led in fresh air as Paula pushed it open. They were suddenly outside, in a broken-down shed. Fredrick noticed there was no way inside but for the ladder. He followed Paula as she sat against a beam and took out a vial filled with the same dark violet liquid as before.
Fredrick gulped at the sight. “Why do thieves need…. That?”
“Yeah, that’s all you Hillies think about.” She proffered the vial. “This is a Guild, pure-blood. Not a gang.” She was shaking the vial now. “Come on, you want us to accept you or not?”
He grabbed the stuff then, popped the cork and – the smell… it was… cherry? No. It wasn’t, but it smelled leagues better than the fake wine below. The actual recruits drink the good stuff, eh? His sister’s precautions could not be silenced, however.
“W-why must I? Will this… liquid, enhance my capabilities?”
“What capabilities?” Paula hadn’t stopped smiling since they arrived. “You want to join us? Drink. Don’t worry, it’s not the same as the stuff from the cellar. Oh no – you don’t want that stuff.”
He saw them all then. The whole lot, not just his family, but all of them. Laughing at him. He was not in his right mind, and he knew it. Why was he even here? Was he mad? Be bold son. In whatever you do, be bold.
Confidence seizes caution!
The taste was much worse than the smell, but Fredrick gulped it all down anyway. “Now wha-“
He collapsed to the floor. No longer able to feel his limbs.
“Now?” The girl’s smile was all he could see. “Now, we get to test your capabilities, pure-blood.”
She stood over him, knife in hand. Where did she get that? And why? Were they being attacked? Huh. Fredrick's shirt got wet. He looked down to see it getting redder… and redder. Weird that. He was so tired… The girl was so intent he wanted to help her. But he couldn’t move.
Huh. Shouldn’t he feel… anything?
“It’ll be over soon…”
The last thing Fredrick of County Penrose saw was his sister snickering at him.
I’ll… show… her…
If you've made it this far thanks for reading! 😗
Any and all feedback is appreciated - we're all trying to become better writers here.
Have a good one. 🙌
The image was acquired for free from pixabay.com. You can find its source here.