The Sun Door Part 1
by Joe Solmo
Another boring night of guard duty, great. Dead Eye and I have been stuck watching this local mythical door for months. Not sure what we did to deserve it, at least recently. We have been on a behaving streak, it’s been almost a week since we have been yelled at. It might even be a record for us, I would have to check the records. Everyone gets in trouble from time to time with their superiors, but you have to add a little spice to life, right? Rules, regulations, traditions, doctrines are too black and white for me. That’s probably why I didn’t fit in anywhere else, not in the local Militia, or in the advanced warrior priest’s academy and definitely not the Kings’ Army.
I can be pretty handy with a weapon though and eventually someone was bound to notice, but it wasn’t an army that found me, it was three men, only one of which is still alive, that really connected with me. Slowly we ran into other small bands like our own and it grew and grew, until we were absorbed into a larger deal as well, but that’s skipping ahead a bit, I guess. I’m not much of a storyteller but I will try my best. You know for posterity and such.
My soldiering career had started out more like working for organized crime then a military outfit. One person was wronged by another and would hire us to take care of business, usually we found out later there was no wrong doing, just someone that wanted something from someone else, but the person wasn’t going to give. Man wants anything he can’t have or doesn’t have. Women, livestock, some women that look like livestock, land. We killed a man over three prize winning hogs once… Of course that wasn’t the story we were told. It all paid the same so we didn’t really ask too many questions anyway.
Occasionally we have people who refuse to pay, or didn’t like the way we did things and tried to double cross us. I say they tried, because we always got paid. It’s out driving force. Honor, morals, ha! Those things can be bought and sold daily. They are too black and white for me as well. Mankind lives in the gray, halfway between the light and the darkness.
I have no qualms about murder, extortion, bribes or anything like that. The only thing I don’t like is rape. My mother was raped by a soldier of the Borshek army in front of my eyes, then her throat got slit. I watched the life leave her eyes, I guess in a way life left me at the same time. I turned cold on the inside. The Borshek was all but destroyed in the battle of Bairn before I ever picked up a sword, my dreams of revenge crushed before I was of age to do anything about it. I use that hatred sometimes here. It can get me through some sticky situations, and sticky situations is what brought us here, into the large group of misfits, murderers, and all around fun guys I call my brothers.
Dead Eye and I spend the last three months stuck in this outskirt town on the border of the Kingdom of Galaria, a small country on the southern tip of the continent. We fled Ralin, one of the kingdoms to the north, past the Runestooth Mountains because they double crossed us, one of our guys managed to pour a strong poison that gets absorbed through the skin on the king’s sheets just about bedtime before leaving, another one of our guys was arrested and put on trial. Some of us didn’t make it out of there. I lost a good friend in that struggle to escape.
We arrived here in the village of Rulne and soon took over the local government from the Jombi, the native peoples in this part of Galaria. They didn’t seem to have any organized military and most fled as we entered the town. These primitives had some kind of hokey religion and even tried to convert us after the dust settled, but not a one of us was interested. We moved into the largest building in the area, the temple, and now we are using this place for a base of operations, to rest up, gear up, and maybe recruit a few locals if they show some promise, before we move on to another location.
We don’t like to sit in one town or area too long, and we usually don’t get a chance to, which is partially based on the romantic ideals of traveling around and seeing the world, but more or less it boils down to is the reality of avoiding most local authorities for the other things we do while in town. A lot of us have secondary means of income that we keep to the back alleys, and dark corners of society.
Dead Eye and I have been partners for a little over a year, but I have known him for a lot longer. He always says he is being punished by being stuck with me, but everyone, including me seems to think it’s the other way around. Most of the time I don’t see why everyone looks down on him, he’s been here longer than most of them and has survived some scary stuff. I trust the drunk with my life. Dead Eye was nicknamed so because of his uncanny lack of aim with his crossbow, his weapon of choice. I dubbed myself Lucky, for being paired with the boozer, but my name to everyone else is Marsh.
The locals’ religion, called Kef Latil, is almost a complete mystery to us because they refuse to teach us their language since we don’t want to convert and none of them seem to be learning ours. I for one don’t give a damn about their gods, but some of us do study the other cultures we run into from time to time.
One thing that we do know is that what we are guarding is of a lot of religious value to these people. Our Magi examined it and found it a kind of magic battery. Just being around it makes them more powerful. Since we arrived here someone had to guard it from the locals until the Magi could figure out a way to steal the power involved.
It is basically a giant door on an interior wall of the basement of the temple, made of gold and decorated ornately. No one has been down here to see it in a few weeks, guards with less trouble on their plates then we have been keeping everyone from entering the temple. I’m beginning to think the Magi are ready to give up on this source of power. Or maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part. This duty bores me, the only good part being that Dead Eye and I haven’t had this much time to lounge around since we joined up years ago.
I rolled the dice onto the table; I was down a lot of gold to Dead Eye. That drunk was the luckiest man I knew. He won at cards, dice, bets on racing, you name it, well almost anything. I haven’t seen him win an archery contest. As far as we can tell he never cheats. Maybe one of the Kef Latil’s Gods takes pity on the drunk fool. “Damn,” I said as I counted my dice and realized I lost again.
“Son of a bitch, Dead Eye. How do you do it?” I asked him as I reached for my ale. His answer was a crooked smile with teeth that could use a cleaning. All they ever got was an alcohol bath.
“Clean living,” he replied as he scooped up half of my last week’s pay.
“What do you know about being clean? When was the last time you shaved that scruffy shriveled raisin face of yours anyway?” I chided.
“I shave every time you win a game. Maybe if you put more effort into our game I wouldn’t have to beat off the women with my rugged handsomeness. The locals love a man with a beard,” he said leaning back in his chair and running his fingers through the salt and pepper beard he had grown over the last month.
“These primitives think that hairy face of yours is one of their horses, and they get a little carried away. If you tied that ponytail over your face, it would look exactly like a horse’s ass,” I retorted and placed my bet for the next game. Once Dead Eye was passed out drunk I would just take some of my coins back for tomorrow’s game. I started doing that a few weeks ago and so far he hadn’t noticed. He rolled his dice and came up with three skulls. I had a decent chance to win this round, with a smile I grabbed the dice and shook them in my hand quick before tossing them. Two skulls, one cup, I lose again, that bastard.
“Well that’s it for me, I am broke now,” I said counting the pitiful pile of wages I had left for the week.
“Don’t be a sore loser, Marsh,” he said.
Dead Eye looked up over my shoulder and his eyes grew huge. At first I thought he was trying to fool me into turning my back while he grabbed for the few coins I had left on the table. After a few seconds I realized he wasn’t bluffing and turned my ass around. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
It was opening. The Sun Door was actually opening. We could see a large silhouette contrasting the brilliant light from inside the door, but none of the light seems to spill from the doorway into the chamber. No one knew exactly what the Sun Door was; the locals were tightlipped about it, we barely got the name out of them. Some supernatural spook magic none of us would understand. Our Magi looked it over and were baffled. They could sense nothing but power from it. Interrogation of the locals proved useless except for one piece of information. Somewhere in this land was the partner door, the Moon Door, which held no particular interest for me. Give me a sharp blade over some prayers and potions any day. I wouldn’t trust my life in the hands of something I couldn’t see.
The silhouette turned out to be a man carrying another man over his shoulder. The man stumbled through the opening and landed on the hard stone floor. Dead Eye and I stared at each other in disbelief. The man we saw was enormous. Almost seven feet tall, and the body that was over the shoulder of the silhouette was covered in burns. His hair was long and black, but surprisingly not burned. In the few spots of flesh that wasn’t covered with scarring tissue, it seemed pale, almost white. With a thud the men collapsed onto the stone floor.
“Hey mister, you okay?” Dead Eye said to the strangers in his drunken slurred accent, and took a step towards the fallen men. I grabbed a bolt for my crossbow anticipating danger. The man’s face turned up towards ours with a look of pain usually reserved for the battleground. His eyes asked for help, but he didn’t say a word, he probably couldn’t. Dead Eye and I exchanged puzzled glances with each other. This seemed like it was going to be more hassle then we wanted to get involved in. I knew our easy streak just came to an end.
“Go find a medic, and a Magi,” I said, being the higher in rank of us both even though Dead Eye was here longer... Dead Eye took off in a drunken shuffle out the chamber door, like an off balance penguin. I watched as the Sun Door closed behind the men and I heard the larger one sigh in relief.
“Can you hear me?” I asked, looking over the man’s physique, enormous! The man nodded slowly and clenched his teeth, which had a jagged look to them, almost like an animals. I heard of faraway tribes that file down their teeth to intimidate their enemies, maybe that was where this door led. I could smell burnt flesh and see smoke still rising from his friend's body. “You can understand me?” I asked. Again he nodded, but didn’t make a sound. That was a shock; none of the locals could speak a lick of our language. “Can you speak?” I asked. A horrible gasping sound came from the large man’s throat, as he tried.
“Never mind, just relax, help is coming… probably” I said thinking of the state Dead Eye was in and patted the back of the man’s head. It felt hot. Impossibly hot. Like sticking my hand in a fire, I yelped and let go, a piece of his flesh came off in my hand. I shook it off in horror. He didn’t let on that he felt me. I bent closer to check if he was still breathing.
I could hear Dead Eye returning with help and I stood, placing the crossbow I was still clenching on the table where we were throwing dice a few minutes earlier. I let out a sigh as I saw Dead Eye stroll in with Brakken, our Magi Captain, and Hall the medic, both men ignored me and went straight to our strange visitors. I stepped back and let them go at it. Dead Eye looked at me and we both shrugged and sat down at the table not knowing what else to do. With a satisfied job well done nod to each other, we grabbed up our dice and began to place bets.
Brakken turned the man over onto his back and began to speak in another tongue, and Hall began to open his little bag of wonders, where he held the worst tasting cures for what ails you. They tinkered with the man for several minutes while we watched. A bunch of peons came in with a pair of makeshift stretchers made from bamboo and a tent flap. They loaded the strangers on them and hoisted the men up. The peons struggled with the weight of the two enormous men, their faces turning red. I thought they were going to drop them as they exited the chamber.
Brakken turned his attention to us, and I began to get a sinking feeling. It was never good to be the attention of Magi, let alone the Captain of them all! I mentally took a note to beat Dead Eye for bringing him down here, but then thought he wouldn’t do so on purpose. Brakken hasn’t liked Dead Eye since he stole some of his hocus pocus jars to sell back in Greensburg to pay a gambling debt he acquired while supposedly laying low from a job he botched at the duke’s castle a mile down the road.
“Tell me what happened in here with the door, Marsh. I want every detail. Any noises you heard, things you saw beyond the opening, smells, anything,” Brakken said as he stood over us with his arms folded. Great, we were into for a long night, a long sober night too, the worst kind. So I told him what I saw.
“Fools!” Brakken said after we finished. “Your commander will hear about this. Two fools not paying attention to their duties, humph!” he said angered. We just shrugged our shoulders at him, not really caring anymore. We already had to do work, our night couldn’t get any worse.
“Well there was the light,” I reminded him with a sheepish grin. He scoffed and left the chamber. “Where were we?” I asked Dead Eye picking up the dice. “It was my roll, right.”
“No you rolled and lost as the Door opened,” Dead Eye said trying to yank the dice from my hand. “You always cheat!” he complained.
“I don’t cheat, I was just confused. Bah! Let’s just forget the game,” I said.
“As soon as you pay up, asshole,” he said.
I paid you what I owed when you went to get help,” I said.
About an hour later we heard footsteps coming down the hall leading to the chamber we inhabited. That’s never good news. A minute later we were graced by our illustrious commander, Poole. Capt. Stool as we dubbed him. It is still unknown to me how this weasel of a man got any rank at all, missing combat all the time because he’s too busy polishing his armor and brown nosing our leader, Chase.
Stool cleared his throat and grabbed a chair. He sat opposite us and waited a few seconds before he began to speak. I rubbed my nose and looked at Dead Eye. A smirk began to grow.
“There’s something brown on your hand,” Dead Eye said and I pretended to rub my hand on Stool’s shirt.
“Enough! I am sick of your mischief. I’m sick of being told by the others of your exploits, and being the laughing stock of the officers. I am sick of the shit!” he said.
“The correct term is Stool,” I corrected him, “And I don’t think you can thank us for your reputation, but the thought is appreciated.” Dead Eye couldn’t hold back much longer, his face was turning colors trying to keep the laughter inside.
“Listen guys, I’m not a bad commander. I think of myself as fair. All I want is a little cooperation on your part. That and maybe a little sobriety,” he said as he picked up our wineskins in disgust. I was disgusted too, they were empty.
“What do you want Capt. Stoo...Poole?” I asked correcting myself.
“What’s the deal with the Sun Door? What happened here? Did the men say anything to you?
“I don’t know, long story, nope.” I said in response to his questions.
“A little cooperation, guys?” Stool pleaded.
“Ask Brakken, he would know more than us, we just found them, Brakken and Hall played with them.” Dead Eye replied.
“I did ask Brakken, but I need to know what you know,” Stool said.
“Why the interest, Brakken knows everything we know, isn’t that enough for you?” I asked.
“It’s enough for me, but Chase wants more. He asked me to come down here and see if there was anything Brakken missed,” Stool replied and wiped some sweat from his face.
“Why is Chase so interested in a crispy critter? Didn't his friend say anything before they died?” Dead Eye asked.
“Because he isn’t a crispy critter anymore, and no, he doesn't speak our language” Stool replied. “A quarter hour after they brought him into the infirmary, he started to get better.
“Time heals all wounds, captain,” I replied. “Or so the wise one’s say,” I finished with a flourish of sarcasm. So our friend who could understand me pretended to not understand anyone else, interesting.
“I heard that somewhere,” Dead Eye added, making me smirk this time.
“You don’t understand, Dead Eye, his burns only cover a third of his body now. His skin shows no scar tissue. There isn’t enough time to heal burns that bad without some kind of scarring. There’s something strange about your new friends,” Stool finished.
“He was fully covered, I saw it!” I said. “He was so burnt he couldn’t speak, just grunt and gurgle, like Dead Eye at the end of the night.”
“He was in rough shape,” Dead Eye added.
“Aye, I know he was, Brakken can’t explain it, and that guy has seen it all. That’s what scares me about this,” Poole said.
“Has he said anything yet?” Dead Eye asked.
“He asked for you, saying Marsh,” Poole said pointing to me. "I think he is insane. Which explains why he asked for you,” Poole finished.
“Humor in a superior officer, something I’m gonna miss when I leave this place. How did he know my name?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I want you to go see them, hell maybe they will talk to you, they ignore everyone else. Find out what you can about them. Where did they come from? What do they want here? Those sorts of things,” Poole said.
“Well who’s gonna keep Dead Eye company then? He gets pretty lonely at night,” I asked.
“I will,” Poole said and I burst out as Dead Eye feigned fainting. Poole gave him a look that lacked enthusiasm.
“When do I have to do this thing?” I asked.
"Go! Now!" Stool said and I rose from my chair and began my pouting stomps down the hall.
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