Anecdote XXVI. Falient Gets a Bath

September 11th, 2013 • Avigdell

Lask opened the door to the dungeon, the sound of the hinges waking his prisoner. Falient was slumped against the wall, and looked up with sullen eyes as he entered.

“Since you’re going to be here a while,” Lask told him, “I thought you might like some better accommodations.”

Falient sized him up with wary brown eyes. The Luminor approached and knelt beside him.

“I’m going to unchain you,” Lask told him. “Be advised, it is broad daylight aboveground, so now is not the time to attempt an escape. Furthermore, if you should attack me, I might incinerate you, and that would be unfortunate.”

Falient said nothing, and held still for him to unlock the shackles. Lask seemed calm, but under his fine embroidered coat, he was tensed and ready to spring. Falient remained still, until Lask stood and said, “Follow me.”

Falient rose and fell into step alongside him, following him up the spiral staircase to the next door, which Lask unlocked and held open for him. The hunter passed inside, taking stock of the room. It was a much more hospitable place, with a bed, small table, and plain porcelain bathtub. The tub was full of steaming water, and a clean set of clothes lay folded on the table. Falient glanced to his captor.

“I thought you might like to clean up a bit,” Lask told him, and sank into the chair in the corner.

“Wot? Now?”

Lask motioned him on. Falient looked at the tub, brow furrowed.

“I’ve never had a bath,” he confessed.

“That doesn’t surprise me.”

“I have washed!” Falient snapped. “Though I guess to your kind I must seem like a stinkin’ urchin.”

“I was not commenting on your hygiene, only remarking on the lack of such luxuries on the Dark side,” Lask replied with a slight smile. He nodded at the tub. “I think you’ll like it.”

“You’re just gonna sit there?”

“I’m willing to make you more comfortable. That doesn’t mean I’m willing to leave you unattended just yet, particularly since I don’t know what kind of magic you have.”

“I’m Water secondary, but don’ worry, I won’ try t’kill you with m’bath.” Falient shed his long leather coat and tossed it on the bed.

“And your primary?” Lask inquired.

“Shadow.”

“Naturally.”

Lask watched him unlace his tattered linen shirt. Falient glanced at him, then pulled it off. Lask was stunned at the scars hidden under it. Almost every inch of Falient’s skin was covered in ridges, pale lines, or other discolorations. Dominating his right shoulder was a wicked dark-colored scar, sprawling across his chest, back, and under his arm. Lask’s eyes followed its jagged lines, but he said nothing.

Falient felt his eyes upon him, and said, “Got m’arm ripped off when I was a kid. It healed back on alright. Didn’ lose any function in it.”

Lask made no comment on it. Falient pulled off his boots, and unbuttoned his pants, shucking them off. His legs, too, were covered in marks. As he pulled off his thin linen underpants, Lask could see marks even across his hips. His eyes were drawn to a red X-shape, still peeling and raised. Falient glanced down to it.

“That’s wot they did after they killed m’daughter,” he said. “Means I’m unfit for future breedin’.” He faced his captor, spreading his arms. “Happy? I got nothin’ t’hide from you. If this ugly hide is wot you wanna see, then look.”

“You are not ugly,” Lask replied.

“I thought Light things weren’ supposed t’lie?” Falient sneered, and headed for the tub. He stepped over into it, and settled into the water, unable to keep the sigh from escaping as the hot water enveloped him.

“I lie when it suits me,” said Lask, “But I have not lied to you.” He smiled a bit as Falient relished the water.

“I suppose you’re this nice t’all your prisoners?” Falient could only manage a bit of scorn; he was too preoccupied in the warmth of the bath.

“To the contrary, most of them don’t live this long.”

Falient glanced at him, and Lask smiled. The hunter reached down for the washcloth and soap beside the tub, and set about scrubbing the grime of himself. Lask crossed his legs and leaned back, watching the water turn dull brown as Falient washed.

“It must have been difficult being a child on the Dark side,” Lask remarked as he studied the myriad marks on Falient’s skin.

“Well it ain’t no carnival,” growled the hunter.

“Tell me about your parents.”

“Why?”

“Curiosity.”

Falient wrung the cloth, then poured on a bit more soap. “Never knew m’mother,” he said. “She and Mortherik realized I wasn’ anythin’ special, and shipped me off with m’father. M’father had gotten tired of their nonsense, so he took t’wanderin’ as Viatrians are wont t’do. Did some freelancin’ t’keep us fed.”

“Freelancing?” Lask echoed.

“Aye. Huntin’, trappin’, helpin’ plan things, ya know.” He shrugged.

“So that’s how you started.”

“Not by choice, really. M’father was killed when I was thirteen. One of your buddies blew a hole in his chest.”

Lask tilted his head.

“Big guy, big guns,” said Falient, “Goes by Garth. Thought about huntin’ ‘im down for revenge, but thought better of it, or maybe decided I didn’ care that much.” He submerged himself for a moment, rinsing his hair. “There was no love between me and m’father,” he continued when he surfaced, “Tha’s Light business. T’be honest, I don’ know why he bothered keepin’ me alive at all. Maybe it was a remnant of his Light days. When he was killed, I had t’do somethin’ or starve. Freelancin’ was all I knew how t’do, and I wasn’t feelin’ being under some Demon’s boot, so I grew up, made a name for m’self, kept m’self alive.”

He stood, and Lask met him as he stepped out, wrapping a towel around his shoulders. Falient pulled it tighter around himself, and for a moment, Lask imagined him as a boy, pulling a blanket around himself. Lask drained the tub with a wave of his hand. The hunter dried himself, then pulled on the clean clothes awaiting him. As he did so, Lask asked,

“Is there anything you’d like me to bring you?”

“Why are you bein’ so nice t’me?” Falient countered.

“I can’t trust you yet, but you came to me on your own will,” the Luminor replied. “That makes you my guest in some way. Besides, you asked for my help.”

“You said yet.” Falient turned to him, holding his eyes a moment. “Does that mean you might trust me one day?”

“That’s entirely up to you.”

 

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