On a Scale of 1 to 3 How Fucked is Jasper
(1) A Little Screwed
6.34% 6.34% of votes
(2) Moderately Fucked
41.3% 41.3% of votes
(3) Absolutely Shafted
52.36% 52.36% of votes
Total: 1167 vote(s)
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A note from NoDragons

I would like to thank MLeavell and Draecath for their kind reviews, Leavell's made me laugh.

I'd also like to remind everyone to rate; it really helps the story stay on Rising Stars, and I might even make it to #1!

Finally, I am duty-bound to plug my Discord, which I share with other stories such as Great Core's Paradox, Modern Patriarch, Wizard's Tower, Doing God's Work, and least and least, Mark of the Fool, the second best Fool story on RR!

The Great God Aquoth Blesses You

Skill ‘Marathon' is now Level 3.

The body is a gift; to never know its full potential, to die weak and soft, is a waste.

 

The Great God Aquoth Blesses You

Skill ‘Creative Footwork' is now Level 2.

Battle is won by the length of a sword; each step brings you closer to death or victory.



Jasper walked towards the caravaneer's station with a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach.

He already knew.

He already knew this wouldn’t work. The trap had already closed its jaws, and there were no easy answers left. He should have left yesterday. Yes, he didn’t have the skills or the Skills to navigate the wilderness alone. Yes, he would’ve tipped the priests off and been followed within the day.

He still should have left.

It was no surprise to see a mix of white-robed priests and guards in leather mail and turban-wrapped helmets waiting at the gates. They were checking over the wagons with a fine eye for detail, asking the master of the caravan pointed questions. Jasper sank into the shadows for a moment, but there was no point in lingering long. Even if the guards weren’t examining every passenger, forcing them to hold a strange crystal that flashed white in their palms–

The caravan-master would turn him over without a second thought, just to save trouble.

Jasper sank back into the shadows and turned away. His next plan was to check at the docks, see if he could catch a boat taking the river down, or buy one of his own. If he followed the river far enough he’d find another city…

Or the ocean.

One of the two, and if it was the ocean, he could start down along the coast searching for civilization there.

Any bad option was better now than hesitating.

But as he headed towards the river, a flood of guardsmen rolled past, pushing their way through the streets in force. If they’d been good-tempered and talkative when Jasper had arrived, the presence of the angel had changed that. They were like hornets whose nest had been kicked– anything and everything nearby got the sting.

Jasper watched as they marched towards the heart of the city.

And as he continued, moving out of their path, he saw another group coming from a different direction, headed the same way.

The forces of the city were converging.

By the time he made it to the shallow steps leading down from the river’s banks to the wharfs, there were no guards left behind to check the boats. A gondolier in blue facepaint leaned against his pole, lifting his chin in a half-nod greeting to Jasper. “Funny night, eh?”

“Funny…” Jasper grimace-grinned, a lopsided expression hanging on his face. “I don’t know what funny is anymore. Nobody’s laughing with me, and I’m not sure I understand the jokes.”

“Aye.” The man said, with a kind tone. “That’s what it does to your heart, living in conquered country. Don’t you worry boy. The gods ain’t forgotten us yet.”

“Is that what this is all about? The blue faces, the rioting? Gods?”

“Oh aye. Gods and men.” The man took out a pouch of dried, leathery leaves, not quite tobacco but close– curled blue flowers dotted the mixture. “Bell’s sent us a messenger and a champion, this very day. Trust me, those Ardish are shaking in their boots now.”

He loaded a wad into his back teeth and offered the pouch to Jasper. Looking at it dubiously for a moment, Jasper shrugged, and took a pinch, wedging it against his molars and biting down. It tasted vile, bitter and acidic. But the taste and the chewing helped wake him up. “A messenger and a champion…”

“You’ll see.” The man said, with merry good humor. “Bell always had his tricks.”

“Can I get some of that blue paint?” Jasper asked, suddenly. “And do you think I could get a boat going out of town, today?”

“Oh, you won’t want to miss this. We’re gonna have a grand old time tonight, before they get to hanging all the poor bastards they’ve rounded up…” There was something cruel and hungry in his smile.

But Jasper insisted, “I need to get the news out, then, don’t I? I was already leaving– I’ll carry the good word along.”

The man gave him a sideways look, but took out a tin of blue dye and tossed it over. “You can get a ferry down to Drymouth, if you want. Ol’ Biddry is off that way in an hour or so.”

And that was when the guards passed by on the bridge that hung over the river, above where Jasper stood. Their shadows marched over the water and Jasper looked up as Thorn looked down. She was hanging between the arms of two guardsmen as they carried her across the bridge, her wrists shackled together, her face bloodied and bruised.

Of course– she wasn’t human either. She must have– must have triggered whatever spell or trick or trap they’d laid for him.

She met his eyes, one of her own swollen shut beneath a massive bruise that split her skin and sent trails of red spilling down her face. For a moment their gazes locked. Then she rolled her eyes, and sneered, and was pulled away by the guard.

Goddamnit.

Goddamnit.

Goddamnit.

“Goddamnit.” Spilled out of his mouth.

“You knew her, son?” The man asked– Jasper didn’t like the tense. “Poor girl. It’s a bad turn, son. But when the Ardish look for blood, well, they have a way of finding it.”

“Yeah, yeah it is. Worse than you know.”

Jasper took a last look at the river. It was an open road running serpentine towards the horizon. It went to somewhere far away, somewhere that called his name. Right now, he had a clear shot onto the horizon. But the thing was…

The thing was Thorn could have called him out, then and there. Turned him over. She hadn’t done that. Maybe only because she thought they would hang her anyway, and it would be two for the gallows. Maybe.

But it didn’t really matter why.

“Thanks.” Jasper said vaguely, already working things over in his mind. “Thanks but I’ve got somewhere to be.”

“Be safe, and in the light, then.” The old man answered.

“Y’know, old timer? I hope your gods are as good as you say. That’s my prayer. That you get the gods you deserve.”

 

— — —

 

The inn was in ruins. The windows were shuttered tight, but the door was off its hinges, unfolded across the floor in splintered ruins. Inside the furniture was upturned or broken, shattered glass glittering in the sticky remains of liquor bottles. Fire had clawed across the ceiling.

Amun sat at a chair with no table, pulling from an intact bottle of cheap wine. He carried a split lip and a long gash that bit down to the bone of his arm, and Teysa was working on the wound, applying bitter herbs to the red-black depths of the cut.

“Why’s your face blue?” He asked.

“Long story.” Jasper said.

“They came. And they took Thorn.” Amun grunted, and leaned forward to let blood and spit drip to the ground. Then he looked up, and Jasper saw that ogrish red brow furrow up with something past anger, something truly hateful. “Where were you?

Jasper paused–

And then just shrugged. “There isn’t a good answer. I did what I did. Teysa, can you fix him up before the execution?”

She glanced at him. There was maybe a hint of pity there, but she was resigned. Of course she was. Let Amun and him get emotional, keep her own head clear and above the fray– that was how Teysa did things. “It’s what I do.”

“Great. I can strangle Jasper here with both hands.”

Jasper rolled his eyes. “Or, we can save Thorn.”

“From a towns worth of guards, who, by the way, are no longer listening to me or the town elders? Oh, no, in case you haven’t heard, they’ve got a higher authority now.” Amun said. His tone was burning with helpless anger, sinking down into bitterness by the second. “And you’ve gallivanted in with the grand idea, oh, we’ll just save her! So easy! Why didn’t I think of that!”

Jasper took it on the chin. He took the insult and the bitterness and he just pinched his lips together into the smallest, tightest smile. “Amun, I swear to god, you will someday encounter a problem you can solve just by hating enough. It will be glorious. The situation will require nothing but sheer, dumb rage, you will not even be asked to use your brain, and you will fit it like a key into a lock.”

He grabbed the bottle out of Amun’s hand and flung it against the floor, while the spearman flinched back in shock.

It wasn’t anger, exactly, that animated Jasper. It was the knowledge that he had to be the loudest in the room. That he needed to be heard. Amun respected volume above anything else.

“But today is not that fucking day, so if you want Thorn alive, shut your petty mouth and start being a leader for ten fucking seconds.”

Amun snorted. And then, reluctantly, silently, he lifted his good hand and gestured for Jasper to go on.

“There’s going to be a riot. It’s going to be bad. It’s been brewing since last night.” Jasper explained, pacing around the room with the crunch of broken glass beneath his boots. “If we get ourselves in the right position– we can get Thorn and get out in the chaos.”

“And the angel?” Teysa asked. “Sorry. Amun, Jasper, I get it. I do. But there’s an angel in our way. Know what that means? The gods themselves are in our path. That’s some shit I don’t fancy touching.” The herbal paste she was applying singed as it touched Amun’s wounds, cauterizing them shut.

“I’ll handle the angel, you can keep clear of it. I’ve got a plan.”

Which wasn’t true at all, but he needed them to trust him for long enough that he could think of one.

Amun and Teysa looked between each other.

And Amun said, “Fine. Fine. I’ll go, I’ll see what’s happening on the streets. Jasper, get that stupid paint off your face. Teysa, can you make some of those smoke bombs we used for the wolf-spiders?”

She hesitated for a moment, then nodded.

And Amun strode out the door– but not before knuckling Jasper in the shoulder, with a short, wordless grunt of appreciation. Yeah, that’s probably the deepest talk we’ll ever have. Thank god for that.

That left him and Teysa alone.

Jasper coughed, awkwardly, as she rolled up her healer’s kit into a bundle of oiled leather. Teysa looked up, and then down again. “Yes?”

“Just wondering if you’ll be with us?”

"I've walked away before, Jasper. From situations that didn't involve the wrath of the gods. I like to think of myself as practical, not cold, but– sometimes they can come out the same."

"I get it." Jasper walked around the table where she worked, trailing his hand on the surface. "I do. But I also know that, once upon a time, I lived in a way that made perfect sense to me. Didn't get involved. Didn't stick my neck out and – somehow I just ended up nowhere. Like life was a game and I'd chosen not to play."

"I'll be alright, trust me. There's lots of games out there I know when to leave the table, that's all."

“I’ll miss you.” He had come all the way around and was beside her now.

“You will.” She nodded, smiling, looking away from him as if she didn’t know what he was about.

"Do you want to leave?"

"Jasper, sometimes its easy to forget that, on top of knowing nothing, you don't know anything either." She leaned up and kissed him softly on the lips. "You're very sweet. I'm very sorry."

And then she paused, screwing up her face in a grimace and sticking out her tongue.

"Ugh, this stuff tastes terrible." Blue paint clung to her lips. "It's all over me..."

"I could make it worse." Jasper offered, and leaned in, kissing along her cheek, down from the base of her ear across her neck, his hands on her, her hands pulling at his clothes...

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About the author

NoDragons

Bio: Author bios are for the mangy dogs who think they write literature. I write trash, and I am the king of the trash.

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