Genre: Fantasy — Subject: an uprising — Character: a stonecutter
TITLE – The Stonecutter’s Rebellion
Deep in a mountainous fortress, The Stonecutter cuts the stones that will protect the fortress forever. The uprising outside is gaining strength and The Stonecutter may decide the fate of all.
THE STONECUTTER’S REBELLION
The Stonecutter tossed another stone into a large pile behind him and searched for another in the shrinking pile in front of him.
“Ah, that looks promising!”
He picked up a large, black stone, held it to his ear, tapping it with the small hammer in his other hand.
“Hah! That will do!” He walked to the workbench at the other end of the dark, musty room and set the stone with several others. As he made his way back to the piles, he ran his fingers along rows of hash marks on the wall, stopping where the bottom row of marks ended. Kneeling on the dirt floor, he pulled a chisel from the pouch at his waist and made another mark.
“Five years in this Godforsaken room! Five years, four months and twenty days cutting and shaping stones for these bastards! 1,968 days since I have seen the light of day, felt the embrace of a friend, or tasted food from a warm hearth.” Tears of rage and sorrow flowed freely as he looked at his hands. Powerful and scarred, they appeared ancient compared to the young face that looked upon them.
“It won’t be long now. One more stone to finish the work. One more stone to make the kingdom safe.” He rose to his feet and went to the pile, searching for another stone. King Nathair had spared nothing to find them. They went by different names – fire stone, black iron, heaven stones – but they were all the same. Meteorites. Hardened by fire and force, he was fitting them into a shield for the fortress. Nothing would be able to get through. Nothing.
“For God’s sake, why must you shout? I haven’t left this prison in five years.”
A diminutive figure appeared at the barred opening to his room near the workbench. He idly tapped one of his rings on the bars. The Stonecutter ignored him.
“No need to whine. Just having a bit of fun. King Nathair wants to know about your progress. He seems to think you are holding things up on purpose. I told him you were too dimwitted to think that far ahead. Who do you suppose is right?”
The Stonecutter hated Sliamador. King Nathair’s right hand man was the worst of his breed. A pestilence and a pest. His voice was sharp with a slight lisp that hinted at his true form.
“Dimwitted indeed, my lord. I am looking for the final stone and will have the last seven cut and ready in two days.” The Stonecutter knew he could get it done sooner, but his other work still needed attention.
“Two days you say. That’s fine. That’s fine indeed. We can finally deal with this uprising. Defending this fortress is delaying us from crushing this pitiful rebellion. The last of the troops should be arriving today. A little population control is in order.” Sliamador looked expectantly at his prisoner, but The Stonecutter was not taking the bait.
“Yes, my lord. An end to these troubles would be a welcome thing.” He turned back to the pile of stones and began searching again.
“Well then, I leave you to your work. Two days, Stonecutter. I’ll hold you to that.”
Without looking up from his work, The Stonecutter replied, “Yes, my lord. Two days. It will be done.”
The Stonecutter waited for the sound of Sliamador’s footsteps to fade until he put another stone to his ear.
“One day. One day until this kingdom sees the full power of stone and magic. One day to see an end to these troubles.” The Stonecutter took the stone to the workbench and began the tedious, exacting work of shaping rock. Each stone transformed with ease as his fingers moved over the surface. They were like soft clay molding to his will. Now seven stones each with seven sides lay finished on the workbench as The Stonecutter prepared for his other work.
Sliamador walked quickly along the corridors leading to King Nathair’s chambers. His mind was ill at ease. The Stonecutter was usually far easier to tease into a rage. He didn’t even throw one of his precious stones. The dents and scratches on the bars holding him prisoner were clear evidence of past incidents.
He remembered the day The Stonecutter was captured. He had built a small fortress in a city not far from this mountain fortress. King Nathair saw it as a challenge to his power and ordered him captured. The King was also impressed with how many soldiers died trying to destroy the small fortress. King Nathair told The Stonecutter that he would raze the city to the ground if he did not surrender.
Sliamador had provided detailed plans of the mountain fortress and The Stonecutter had given instructions in turn. The Stonecutter had raged and cursed every day. Until today. Sliamador was almost to the king’s chambers, and he was not sure what to report. King Nathair was neither forgiving nor patient.
“That settles it. The Stonecutter said he would be done in two days and that is what I shall tell His Majesty.” Sliamador nodded to himself, raised his chin, and cleared his throat before he entered the chambers to deliver the good news.
The steady hands of The Stonecutter were working hard to make Sliamador a liar. There was an opening on the wall by the piles of stone that had not been there for Sliamador to see. The Stonecutter crawled out of the tunnel and swung a stone door to cover it from sight. 1,866 days had finally brought the tunnel to an outer wall of the fortress. In ten days, he had rigged a similar door at the outside end of the tunnel. He had remained a prisoner by choice for the last three months.
Temptation to abandon his prison and return to his people was overwhelming, but each time he thought of Sliamador and that beast Nathair destroying the world he loved, he pressed on. Bars could not cage his noble heart nor delay The Stonecutter’s rebellion.
Sliamador woke to a rumbling from somewhere beneath him. He jumped out of bed only to be knocked off his feet by the shaking. When it stopped, he grabbed his boots and made for the door. Sliamador flung open the door and pulled on his boots as he leaned against the doorframe. He heard someone running down the corridor and looked to see an overwhelmed and confused soldier.
“What happened?” Sliamador demanded.
The soldier replied, “King Nathair’s chambers have collapsed!”
“The king’s chambers have collapsed. They are gone and the king with them.”
Sliamador’s face turned white, and his arms fell to his side, flaccid with fear, but realization was slowly turning his fear to rage. He turned, gripped the soldier by the shoulders and demanded, “Where is The Stonecutter?”
Well before the rising sun, The Stonecutter had gathered all he needed in a large sack and slung it snugly to his back with a rope. He went through his room and strung small ropes through stone pins in the walls where they met the ceiling. Each pin had a hole he had painstakingly shaped with his hands. Then he tied the small ropes to a large rope and carried it to the entrance of his tunnel.
He uncoiled the large rope as he slowly crawled through the tunnel to the stone door at the other end. He opened the door to a starry sky and a cool breeze, throwing the rest of the large rope to the ground below. He scrambled down the rugged rock wall, being careful not to put any weight on the rope. He sat quietly on a patch of grass, taking in the beautiful pre-dawn sky. Behind him was the fortress. The long dead volcano had been taken over by the kingdom ages ago. A great mountain of stone with one entrance. A lava tube led to an immense cavern at the heart of the mountain while dozens of corridors led to other caverns and rooms. It would soon be their prison.
The Stonecutter stood at the first light of dawn, picked up the rope, and walked away from the mountain to a boulder. He placed a foot on the boulder and took up the slack on the rope until it was tight. Then, with all the strength he could muster, The Stonecutter pulled. Every muscle in his body strained in the effort until he felt a slight “Pop” through the rope. Then another and more in succession as each of the pins were pulled from their positions. Finally, the rope gave completely and lay slack. A rumbling shook the ground beneath his feet and dust began to pour out of the tunnel as he steadied himself against the boulder.
When the tremors stopped, The Stonecutter climbed to the tunnel door, cut the rope with a sharp stone, and closed the stone door to hide the tunnel. Then he made his way to the fortress entrance as quickly as his legs could carry him.
Sliamador was frantically trying to bring order to the chaos. King Nathair was presumed dead, the fortress was in disarray, and no one had been able to get anywhere near The Stonecutter’s room through the rubble. He knew The Stonecutter was behind this devastation.
“Cursed wretch!” Sliamador turned to a soldier and said, “Gather as many soldiers as you can and meet me at the entrance to the fortress.”
Sliamador turned and ran to the lava tube that served as the grand hallway from the interior of the fortress to the entrance. Cursing with every step he contrived several tortures he would inflict on The Stonecutter. Once in the tube, he could see the entrance and a single figure standing at the center.
As Sliamador came closer he could see The Stonecutter laying something on the ground.
“Playing with stones, are we?” Sliamador yelled as he began to change. His limbs lengthened and became covered in scales. His hands and feet transformed into claws and his face elongated into a reptilian snout. Wings burst from his back and a tail slithered behind him as he continued his walk, now on all fours.
“You will not like the game I am playing with them, dragon!” The Stonecutter shouted back. He had finished placing six of the stones around the opening of the lava tube and was holding the seventh in his hand. Sliamador was nearly flying toward him when The Stonecutter pushed the stone into the ground of the entrance. Immediately the stone of the mountain responded. It flowed like molten metal, sending strands of liquid stone from all sides of the opening toward the center. When Sliamador reached the opening, he lunged at The Stonecutter only to recoil with a howl of pain.
“What have you done?”
The Stonecutter could see the dragon’s eye in the shrinking opening. He stepped closer and said, “I have ended the rule of dragons, Sliamador. This will be your tomb forever.” The opening was nearly gone now, but the shrieking of Sliamador could still be heard. The Stonecutter stood back and watched as the thousands of stones the dragons had placed began the same process all over the mountain. A web of liquid stone was connecting each of them, following in the crevices and cracks of the mountainside until the liquid stone settled and hardened. An air of stillness emanated from the mountain and Sliamador’s shrieking was silenced.
The Stonecutter was watching his handiwork with grim satisfaction when he heard footsteps behind him. Turning, he saw a group from the city approaching. He recognized the man in front and waved.
“Ho Uthyr!” The Stonecutter shouted.
“Ho Emrys!” Uthyr shouted back. “Did you kill the bastards?”
“No, just buried them alive. I told you my plan would work.”
Uthyr laughed. “What shall we call you now, wizard?”
“Merlin will do. It means ‘The Stonecutter’ in the dragon’s tongue.”