The Lord of the Return of the Revenge of the Something Epic!

The Stick and Bucket Dance

Freedom Hold was a minimum security prison, designed to house unrepentant individuals for short times before transferring them to their final destinations – whether it be a bigger prison, a ‘Working School’ for the younger delinquents, or the gallows.

Sergeant Linus Smith was working under an assumed name. He reasoned that he would never shame his family by working here under his real name. He had assumed that life had bigger things in store for him, and they had. Bigger things tended to overwhelm though and now he was here, mopping the floor in the cells.

“Missed a spot,” said Prisoner #33, helpfully. Recreation being a low priority for the prison designers, it left its inmates with little to do except, in this case, watch Sergeant Smith moisten dirt and move it around on the stone floors.

“Thanks, Thirty-Three,” he replied. “I heard you’re going to be hanged today.”

“Yep,” the man replied. Thirty-Three was a rough looking man, scarred and it looked like he belonged in prison. Then again, handcuffs give a person that sort of air. “It’ll be a nice change of scenery. I hear the Inferno’s warm this time of year.”

“It’s warm every time of year,” said Smith flatly.

“I’ve been cooped up too long,” said Thirty-Three. “About time I got a tan again.”

Smith glanced over at the next cell over where the occupant was staring at the bars. Her hands were clenched in such a way to imply she was either trying to assume Striking Panther Gets Carpal Tunnel Syndrome stance, or she was trying to cast magic despite the constraints.

“It won’t work, missy,” he said, not unkindly. This occupant was young and overly skinny. Still, he had to intervene yesterday to stop a couple of guards from dishonoring the uniform more than it already was. “The cuffs and helmet’s there for a reason,” he said.

“Bugger off, old man,” she said.

He shrugged. The girl also had strange tattoos all over – at least, he assumed she did judging from the visible parts not covered by the simple cotton tops and leggings they allowed prisoners. He assumed she came from some heathen cult in the sticks that humped goats as a method of unraveling the Universe’s Secrets. He had tried to be helpful by giving her a few pamphlets detailing the virtues of Bahumat, but she used the paper to … err. He reddened at the memory.

Each cell was allowed one bucket for hygienic purposes. He had never seen a girl look so indignant and spiteful while squatting, a hand reaching to her rear with the pamphlet.

Smith got back to moving the dirt around, under Thirty-Three’s helpful guidance. There was to be another transferred prisoner in today, but the odd part was that there was no bucket. In fact, he was ordered to move a bed into it, complete with a rock hard pillow and a serviceable blanket.. It wasn’t very good accommodations, but it was infinitely better than the usual stone floor and paper thin, interestingly odorous blankets.

Stranger still, he was informed that this prisoner was to be allowed bathroom breaks. The change to the status quo was staggering for Freedom Hold.

He turned at the sounds of footsteps and armor clanging up the hall.

A woman entered that made him stop mid-mop. Despite the manacles and the ether damping head gear, she carried herself with an odd sort of grace. When she moved, she moved smoothly and lightly. When she stopped, there was absolute stillness. Her skin was a light blue and he knew what she was. A Deva. A divine being.

Supposedly, said his more cynical core.

Piety and religion were now just memories from a forgotten life for Smith. Still, watching the shackled Deva hurt a sense of properness in him. Unconsciously, he had straightened and stood to attention with the mop in hand.

She was followed by four guards. Local guards that he knew. The two men in armor behind them…

Vyne!

There was no mistaking the distinctive figure with his piercing green eyes, pointed ears, and soft, bouncy hair. It was truly magnificent hair, the flowing locks that were fitting for a Paladin. To even gaze upon it was to look at the sun. It’s blinding beauty made it hard to stare at directly for too long.

At least, that was what Vyne would have you believe. Vyne used to serve under Smith’s command during the Crusades. The Eladrin paladin was famously known for not tolerating superficiality and was considered extremely manly and macho – in that he slaughtered foes and lead his men to glorious slaughter without hesitation.

All while with absolutely fabulous hair.

Smith lowered the brim of his helmet slightly and slouched. He had to suppress the urge to panic, but after all, humans aged much, much faster than Eladrins. He probably wouldn’t recognize Smith.

“Thank you kindly, men. I appreciate the assistance you have offered today and will continue to give,” said Vyne. “She is to be well-treated. We would not want to treat our guest with indignity. Tomorrow, I will need to borrow an escort of your guards to assist Lady Idria’s return to our Citadel in New Ankh.”

“Of course, sir,” said one of the men.

“Hey there, Pretty Boy,” heckled Thirty-Three. “You wanna find out what a Lumberjack Slam is?”

Vyne’s fine features twisted for a moment in disgust, his slight nose turning up. Then they resumed their normal neutral expression. He strode over to Thirty-Three’s cell.

“You must beat the boys off with both hands,” said the prisoner.

The paladin’s sheathed sword swiveled out and tipped Thirty-Three’s bucket over, spilling the contents over his feet.

“My offer still stands,” said Thirty-Three with a defiant grin.

Vyne turned and walked out, not willing to entertain such cheekiness. “Sergeant Lorazo, I will need a detachment for tomorrow at …”

The voice faded down the hall, accompanied by the jangling of armor.

Smith raised the brim of his helmet and looked over at Thirty-Three. Wordlessly, he handed him the mop.

“Thanks, Smith.”

What was a big man like Vyne doing in a shit hole like this, thought Smith.

He left the cells to find answers.

Behind him, Thirty-Three tidied up as best as he could.

The tattooed girl, Mara, was still focusing on the bars. A trickle of blood was visible underneath one of her nostrils, but she ignored it, her attention devoted to the task at hand.

In the last cell, Idria, a divine being – infinitely reincarnated to fight the never ending battle between Heaven and Hell, collapsed on the bed to sleep off her hangover. Her mouth opened as sounds of snoring filled the cell.

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