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The Hero's Brother (34)

by mellifera

When Gideon woke up, he was definitely not in the place he last remembered.

He sat up, stiff, and swung his legs over the side of a rickety cot. The first thing he noticed was the cell bars. Then the uneven, cave-like floor with questionable looking water and patches of moss.

Wakey wakey.” He glanced over to see Finn sitting in the cell to his right. He was watching Gideon idly, before he picked a stone off the ground and threw it half-heartedly away from him. His hat was gone, and Gideon wrinkled his nose at the sight. It was viscerally wrong to see Finn without his hat.

Finn woke up right before you did,” Shiloh said to his left. He glanced over to see her leaning on the bars that separated their conjoined cell. “I’ve been awake the whole time. Whatever magic Aelina used only affected the two of you.” Her mouth was twisted downwards unhappily.

Gideon stood up, bracing himself for the bursts of pain in his lower leg. But he was on his feet and- nothing. There was no pain, not even a stinging or any kind of throbbing. He frowned down at his leg.

Gideon,” Shiloh murmured, “your leg.”

I noticed,” Gideon said. His voice was raspy, and it made him wonder how long they’d been out for. He lifted the bottom of his shirt up to check for the place Adrienne had caught him with her sword. Nothing, not even a scar. He glanced at his hands, narrowing his eyes.

He glanced up at Shiloh to see her chewing on her lips. “She did something to you before she left. She must have healed you then, I suppose.” She was watching him with something unsettled in her expression, and Gideon had to glance away from that look.

It was cold enough in the cell to warrant goose flesh prickling at his arms, and to make him wish for a jacket. He crossed his arms over his chest and approached the door of the cell, that led to a hallway split between another row of cells pressed into the opposite wall.

Posts lining the hallway carried torches that flickered and cast the corridor in flickering orange light. Gideon glanced both directions in an attempt to figure out where they were, but it was no use. They could have been above ground in the middle of Grand Verterre, and Gideon wouldn’t have been able to navigate.

Gideon,” Shiloh said again, her voice quiet and uncertain. He forced himself to glance over at her, only to find her looking mournfully down at her hands. “Did you mean- um, well. I mean, do you really love Carter?”

His throat went dry, and Gideon tightened his grip on the bars he’d reached up toe grab. He set his jaw. It was just Shiloh, it was just one of his best friends. It was just feelings he wasn’t ready to confront, it was just he hadn’t meant to say that even if it was true, it was just that he didn’t know what in God’s name he was doing.

Shiloh glanced up at him and pinned with those now-soft eyes, dark in the low light, Gideon sighed and swallowed hard enough to hurt. “I- I- well, it’s- Carter’s-” he frowned, face growing hot. He finally dropped Shiloh’s gaze, and realised he was trembling. “I don’t know,” he murmured. He hoped he’d said it quiet enough not for Shiloh to hear so he could pretend he hadn’t said it at all. He wasn’t under anyone’s thrall, he couldn’t work around it anymore.

There was a momentary silence, broken only by the sound of Finn’s rocks hitting the ground every time he threw another one. He was blessedly silent, however, leaving them alone to talk about their feelings. Or maybe it was cursedly silent. If Finn spoke, it meant that Gideon could focus on him and not on what Shiloh was trying to wheedle out of him.

I-” Shiloh began. Gideon recoiled his chin back with surprise when he heard the break in her voice. Her head was bent, and she looked- unhappy. Just really unhappy. “I’m sorry. I mean- about everything. Not just about recently, but about all the times I’ve blamed you for things you didn’t have control over. Carter was right and I just- God, we’re supposed to be friends.” She laughed, and it sounded choked. “And I haven’t once tried to take your side or supported you when you were having a hard time or… I was scared, when I found out you and Carter might be-” she made a noncommittal noise. “I’ve always had to take care of him, and I- I don’t know how to give that up. Isha was right, I’m controlling him, I’m trying to put a collar on him and it’s- it’s not fair to either of you. I don’t actually hate that he chose you of all people. I know you, and you take care of people you care about.”

Gideon was left vaguely uncomfortable by the time Shiloh was done, but his chest felt unusually unburdened. Shiloh glanced up at him, and offered him a wobbly smile, and Gideon let out a deep breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding.

He didn’t know what he could say in response to her, but it didn’t matter, because the sound of approaching footsteps halted his mind. Gideon leaned against the front of the cell, and he could see Shiloh stand off the bars, alerted. As he turned to the right, where the distinct tap was coming from, he watched Finn cease to throw rocks and watch down the hallway instead with narrowed eyes.

It was a guard, with a helmet that seemed to jostle on his head and an odd limp to his gait. Gideon supposed he was only watching prisoners, and they probably didn’t except him to do any fighting. Though it was odd that Aelina would not heal the injuries of her own guards but would those of her prisoners.

And then, as the guard turned his head just so slightly towards them, Gideon could swear he saw something red between the slots in the glinting steel of his helmet. He frowned, keeping close to the front of the cell.

As the guard drifted closer, Gideon tried not to visibly clench his fists. The corridor, if walked in the centre, was too far out of range for him to do anything. But the guard was walking closer to their cells and craning his neck forward, as if having trouble seeing them.

The guard was about halfway past Gideon’s cell, right in front of him, when Gideon reached out to grab at his neck.

But the guard seemed to either have known Gideon’s intentions or saw him coming, because he began to stagger away. Instead of getting an arm around the guard’s neck, Gideon only grabbed it with his hand. The guard jerked away and-

And his neck ripped off in Gideon’s hand.

Gideon shouted and staggered backwards so quickly he nearly tripped over his own feet. The guard was snarling at him but made no audible noises of pain or distress or said anything. Gideon, the world spinning around him and the only thing he could focus on being the squishy, wet- thing in his hand, dropped it. Whatever “it” was.

The guard muttered something and either it was a collection of mumbles without words or it was in a foreign language. He bared his teeth at all thing of them, and there was no glint in the firelight. Just the faint stench of rot and the ivory of his teeth turned yellow.

And then he turned, and limped away, and Gideon didn’t know when, but he’d sat down on his cot and was breathing too hard to be normal.

He saw movement to his right and distantly registered that Finn had stood up and was staring into his cell. Gideon ignored him in favour of looking down at his hand. It was covered in blood and a thin, almost membrane-like white liquid. His stomach turned and he glanced up across at the other cells instead, trying to calm himself.

Did you just… rip a chunk of that guy’s neck of?” Finn asked. He sounded more discomforted than Gideon had ever heard him.

How was Gideon supposed to answer that? He wasn’t even sure what had just happened. Except that there was a chunk of something that resembled bloodied, sickly flesh to a horrifying degree. For everything Gideon had seen, had done, in his life, he probably shouldn’t have been so unsettled. But he’d never ripped someone’s skin clean off.

That’s really gross,” Shiloh said. “And definitely not physically possible.” She sounded calmer about the situation than Finn or Gideon did. He glanced up at her and found her looking down at the flesh-thing with a downward twist to her mouth. She met his gaze then, and her expression softened. “Gideon?”

He pursed his lips, and swallowed the bile rising in his throat. He’d seen so much worse; he wasn’t going to be made sick by a little chunk of flesh. He wasn’t.

When he was sure it was safe to talk, he winced. “I- I don’t know. I went to grab him, but-” Gideon swallowed again, hard. “It came right off. No resistance. It just…” He clenched his hands into fists and instantly regretted it at the squelching noise of his right hand. Without anything better to handle the situation with, he wiped his hand on his pants and pointedly did not look down to see the stains.

There was a long stretch of silence. Gideon looked back down at the flesh-thing. It sat on the floor of his cell, perfectly innocuous except for the fact Gideon had just ripped it from some guy’s neck. That should definitely not be a thing.

You notice his eyes glowed?” Finn finally asked, when nobody else said anything. Gideon nodded, a little numb, and didn’t bother to see if Shiloh confirmed it as well. “Right,” Finn said after a pause. “Well, nothing let getting thrown in jail for no apparent charges and having guards with skin like dough that you can rip off, right?”

This happen to you often?” Shiloh asked dryly. Gideon stood up and kicked the chunk of flesh under his cot so he wouldn’t have to look at it anymore. The smell of decay still filled the air, however, and Gideon approached the far corner of his cell and settled against the bars instead.

Gideon heard the rustle of Finn’s clothing as he sunk back down to the floor. “Can’t say I remember ever being arrested in the first place. I’m discreet.”

Shiloh sighed, and followed both their leads. “Carter’s going to freak out,” she said mournfully. Gideon’s chest grew tighter, and he nodded solemnly, before taking to staring up at the ceiling and trying to think of anything but their current situation.

word count: 1,832

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1197 Reviews

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Sun Sep 08, 2019 7:30 pm
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JabberHut wrote a review...


I find it absolutely hilarious in a horrific kind of way that this is how they find out about the zombies. Just picturing Gideon with a handful of rotting human neck is sickeningly funny to imagine, and then Finn's snark is just icing on the cake.

I really like that they're given this chance for a heart-to-heart about the feelings Gideon awkwardly expressed in front of everyone, and it's very good for Gideon that Shiloh is so bored and defeated right now after sitting in jail for so long that she's actually uninterested in the mere idea of arguing.

It wasn't really explained how long Shiloh and Finn were awake, but I feel like judging from how simply bored they both looked, they've been awake for a while. Have they made any attempts to escape or even theorize an escape route? The image of them as Gideon woke up was one of defeat. They just looked like they were finished, they seemed hopeless. And it was Gideon who finally made a move to do something at the hint of a guard. Did either of them jostle the door, inspect the lock maybe? Isha knew how to pick locks, does maybe Shiloh know since she's been trained in a coterie or perhaps Finn since he's full of surprises?

Now I'm just sad Gideon didn't wake up to Finn obnoxiously singing pirate shanties in an effort to attract guards (only to discover that the guards don't react to his singing because they're freaking ZOMBIES).

So I was happy that Gideon was quick to react when a guard did approach. It was instinctive to just reach out and try to strangle the guy. And gosh, did I just love this moment where everyone's reeling over the rotten flesh in his hand. Actually, I like that we finally see Shiloh in her down-to-business perspective. Now's all about getting out and back to Carter, there's no time for arguing or anything. So we see her with an iron stomach when it comes to this rotten flesh, and I'm simply intrigued and excited to see her in action in their near future. I really hope she proves to be useful in their escape, especially considering her magic. Actually, this just occurred to me, but she became a healer in the coterie, but we haven't seen her use any healing abilities/skills I don't think (though I can be mistaken as I tend to forget things as my mind babbles like this).

And also the Shiloh/Finn snark at the end was perfect and I IMMEDIATELY got excited about their potential partnership here (with Gideon of course). These two might get along better than I think, especially considering Shiloh's new attitude now. It's less hostile, also less depressed, and more just... let's just patch things up and get out of here because I miss my brother and want to patch things up with him now.

mellifera says...

omg Finn singing pirate shanties to wake up Gideon WELL THAT HAS TO BE A THING NOW

me? not even THINKING about finn picking locks? it's more likely than you think :')

thank you for much for your reviews you're the best ahh <333

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303 Reviews

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Mon Sep 02, 2019 8:21 pm
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fraey wrote a review...

Hi again queen bee, figured I'd stop by again especially because I at least know where both parties are currently.

My thoughts currently: Ahh Gideon my sweet dude, please don't get yourself in more danger, you've gotta stay alright for my poor boi Carter. Also yess to Shiloh finally recognizing that Gideon's for sure in love with her brother and he cares sooo much I'm crying he's finally got recognized. But oh, no, jail ?!? At least they're healed up to hopefully spark a break outta jail in the next chapter :{

I'm with Vent below, the parellel timeline between the two groups with the {eww} deadly but already dead as well zombies everywhere as a new part of the bad guy crew. Plus this novel doesn't hold back from icky or eerie scenes and so the neck tearing was unexpected but definitely ups the *scary, unnerving* feelings that I think most of the characters feel in some way, let alone the readers themselves.

Let's see - the feelings at the beginning of this chapter made me *sooo* happy because I've been low key {high key} shipping Gideon and Carter from that first chapter I read of this when they first met lol. So yess! Perfection, mellie, perfection I tell you. I'm happy to see how far Shiloh has come to realize that her brother is taking care of himself {even though going down into a crypt isn't helping matters} and ahh I can't be too mad that they're trapped in jail when at least the bois have the right away to get together XD

Carter really is going to freak, though. Stay safe you peeps lol. Nice chapter this one. ^^

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Thu Aug 08, 2019 5:54 am
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Ventomology wrote a review...

I am gasping. Also nice turnaround! It's cool to have a skeleton guard introduced in like, a place where you could, conceivably, find some necromancy, and then have the same icky magic pop up with the rest of the party. I really... love the implications there. (Okay I do love them from a narrative stand-point but like. Poor kiddos!)

1. Ugh, the ripping-flesh thing was nasty. I'm glad you didn't spend too much time describing that. "Squishy" was more than enough, and honestly the perfect word to use. Eugh.

2. I think last time I saw the stutters in dialogue I endorsed them, but I'm realizing now that you use them a lot. The brokenness of your characters' speech loses its power if you overuse those hyphens. You can just say they stuttered or needed to take a breath!

3. The descriptions of the cells were actually pretty great. I just have a logistical question. How would Finn be able to watch Gideon if they're in cells right next to each other? Are they angled? Do they all have their heads sticking out of the bars? Is it like a U-shape? You get across the feeling pretty well (the icky necromancy guard helps), but I just. Couldn't wrap my head around this little thing. It doesn't even really matter? But I was confused.

Honestly though, that's such a small thing. This was a fantastic chapter! I would have liked to see a little more of Gideon's reaction to Shiloh accepting his love for her brother, but this is a stressful circumstance for all of them. It makes sense to not dwell too long, and her speech was honest, mature, and appropriate.

Again, awesome work. I'll be back tomorrow!

“All stories are true," Skarpi said. "But this one really happened, if that's what you mean.”
— Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind