The Child is Collared
The child has grown, and his owner is beginning to think in terms of getting some useful return on him. He has not yet achieved his full growth, but it is now time to look into his training years.
For starters, we have to introduce him to the fact that there is a much, much bigger world out there than his little cell. That was such a fun scene to write. Trying to balance the sudden introduction of deliberately directed sound, light, and the child’s ability to understand it was an interesting exploration of my own imagination.
“For starters, his master entered directly into his life. Secondly, his eyes were opened to a much wider world. The day the top half of his door was wrenched open, his eyes were forced to endure the painfully bright, greenish flamed, foul smelling torch that was thrust into his cell, revealing to himself and to those present the scrawny, underweight wraith of a child he had become. ”
Now that he knows there is more to explore outside his cell, I figured it was time to start working on who how he worked with others. This was a bit tricky for me, because I really, really wanted to keep him confined to the “not so nice” role, but I didn’t want him to be rebellious – I may like tormenting the character, but I didn’t exactly want to have him scraping through on the edge of his life because of his attitude. The balance was finally struck with this bit here:
“Finally, the first water-blurred form, convinced he was dealing with a witless idiot, decided to try one more tactic before giving up completely. He pulled the torchbearer closer, and turned so the two of them could be seen together facing each other with a small distance separating them. Barking a word, and waving with his hand at the torchbearer, he waited for the actions to follow the command. It was very prompt, and the torchbearer approached. Seeing this, the child immediately grasped that idea of what they were doing. Eagerly, he approached the door, to be closer, and listen to more. The speaker barked another command, and the torchbearer stepped away, and the child mimicked them. This was repeated several times, until the child was stopped by the lower portion of the door, and the speaker finally had to teach him the “stop” command. Though the child had not spoken, he did show that he was capable of hearing, and the speaker finally decided to try to get a word out of him. Pointing to the flame on the torch, he slowly spoke the word “light” in a dialect of Elvin that was uncomfortable to hear. When the child did not speak, he tried several different languages, each one simpler than the last, before the child finally attempted to mimic tentatively the last, and simplest of all. In the harsh, simplistic language of the Trolls, he mouthed the word several times before finally managing to croak out a rough word similar to what had been spoken “L-lg-lgiht” he choked out, almost swallowing some of the sounds. ”
OK, so he can learn quickly. A good thing to have. Especially in the conditions I have created. As he begins to discover more about his surroundings, it is time to show more of how his young mind works. This was easy to accomplish – I thought, and is revealed here:
“Though it was not a complete vocabulary, it was enough for the child to comprehend what was being said around him. Often at night, after the door was shut to the painful and wondrous world outside, the child would stand for many glass with his ear pressed to a spot in the center of the split between the door halves where sound could penetrate, though not well, and listen. Mouthing to himself each word he heard, and when it was silent outside, he would vocalize all of them. Making his voice take on an almost exact mimicry of the speaker as he vocalized the words to himself with their unknown meanings, he heard the odd inflection in his own voice, and began the long process of training it out. “
With the ability to listen and respond, it is now time to take on the rest of the realm he is in. Not to mention, he still has yet to begin any sort of work that may repay the time and resources his master has invested in him. So, now it is time to introduce the next phase of his learning. That is accomplished here:
“”Silence!” the Master turned to look into the cell, “Come, child. Let me see you move.”
Not completely understanding the entire order, because of the way the words were strung together, he did understand “come” and “move” explicitly. With promptness, he stood, head remaining bowed, and approached the Master, then not knowing which way to move, stepped left when he reached the door, until he was clear of even the widest sweep of the bottom half should it open. So as not to receive a short portion for tripping over the remaining bedding in his cell, as he had done twice during his speech training, he carefully picked up his feet, and set them down on the almost completely composted straw of his floor.
The Master smiled when he saw the natural grace with which he moved, and nodded. Turning to the teacher, “He’ll pass. Tonight he is Silk. Withhold lunch.”
With that, he turned away, leaving the torchbearer and teacher behind. The latter turned to him with a look of something he was to understand after much thinking and more experience as amazement.”
The pattern of unexpected, and unusually fast learning for him is carried throughout the rest of his training – first in his gladiatorial work, then latter in what is expected of him as a fighter.
With the character learning about the outside world, there was one aspect that would need to be addressed. This was the matter of time, and how the character grasped the concept. Because he has lived in near total isolation so far, but many of the passing characters referred to this concept, I had to figure out how much he really understood it. Once again, his youth and rearing came to the rescue, as seen in this piece:
Not having any concept of what “tonight” or “lunch” was, he sat on his bed for a time to contemplate the strange series of events he had just undergone. Of particular curiosity were the unknown words, but without more experience, or further context, he could not puzzle them out, and so gave up. Instead, he turned his attention to play, and was soon involved in the mimicry of the scene he had just witnessed and participated in. His voice continuing to lose more of the lilt as he practiced the words over and over in mimicry of Zertzese and the master.
Though word games were often good for many glass of interest to him, the unfamiliar words and sense of expectation soon made the game pall. But he could sit still even less. He took to pacing his cell, pounding more of the excrement loaded compost into dirt as he began walking faster and faster until he was running as fast as his small world would let him.
When he finally tired, and slowed, he returned to the door, and pressed his ear to the spot that had proven best to listen from. For as long as his weary legs would hold him, and his aching back allowed, he listened. But today was unprofitable, as neither voices not foot steps were heard. Not the faint hum of muffled conversation, or the roar of the place above. It was not until his belly began complaining that he gained an inkling of what “withhold lunch” meant. Not knowing what was to happen, because he knew that “food” filled his painful, growling middle called his “tummy”, but this lack of food causing the painful “hunger” – what caused the painful, growling middle – was baffling. Was “lunch” a portion, a number of portions, or forever? And, was this “withhold” another word for the “lack” he was experiencing. ”
Then, when he does get a chance at food, we get to see just exactly how ugly the culture really is. And, we get to find out more about just how resilient the main character is as well.
“As the searing pain began to scream into his head, he eyed the feast warily. His hunger gone, driven from him by the band he had placed around his neck, and the searing pain it engendered. For two glass, he was consumed by it, but as with any child – introduce something young enough and it will become normal quickly. For him, it took only two glass to adapt to the new sensations, and his hunger soon overpowered even his fear and pain. When he gave in, he devoured the meal from the known to the unknown – starting with the bread, ending with the wonderful surprise of the water. ”
Until next time… keep those pages turning!
If I’ve peaked your interest, you can find a copy of Out of the Darkness on