City of Chains

Submitted into Contest #186 in response to: Write a story within a story within a story within a ...... view prompt

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Fantasy Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Edin took a few sips of his beer, closed his eyes, and tried to enjoy the moment. He was a bit loaded with work past weeks and would soon have a "business meeting" at that tavern. Anyway, he had some time for himself.

His hobby was strange and seemed more like a reason to start a good fight. He liked observing people. And due to his unique skills, he could do it even with closed eyes. Even then, he knew what people were talking about at the nearest table, their clothes, their attitude, and whether they were glad to see each other. They were, by the way.

It wasn’t just good hearing or attention to detail. It’s more about instinct, a special feeling that the best portal masters have. When people noticed this behavior in Edin, he usually said that it was the nature of his magic. When you open a portal, you must know what is happening on the other side, and that’s why you passively notice things happening near you. He wasn’t lying, even though it wasn’t entirely the truth. If he concentrated, Edin could feel a city guard chasing a burglar in another city.

"I thought you'd be older." Edin opened his eyes and saw a broad-shouldered man in shabby clothes.

"It's somewhere between thirty-five and forty. Peter, I suppose?"

Man nodded. "To be honest, I also thought you'd be cagy."

"I am. Why?"

"You are sitting in the middle of the tavern. I expected you to be somewhere in the corner."

"Doesn't cagily mean to do what is least expected from you?" Edin smiled. "Sit down. We have some topics to talk about."

Peter took a seat in front of Edin. There was a second pint of beer standing in front of him. Edin took another sip and gestured: "Do not hesitate to drink it. It's yours."

"How do you know my taste?" Asked Peter after soaring about one-fourth of the pint.

"It's an unjustified risk to go on a meeting with a person you know nothing about. Even for a magician."

"So… You know?"

"About your memory loss?" Edin put his beer on the table and became more serious, "I'm sorry, Peter. I'm really sorry, but I cannot make you remember what you forgot."

"I didn't hope that it would happen, honestly. I just…" Peter silenced for a moment, trying to form a thought out of all words in his head. He held back tears, which seemed strange for a closet-sized man. "It's just hard to live without knowing what you did in the past and what it will result in. People say I was rather a bad guy. I feared you won't want to deal with someone like me."

"We are here not because of your past, Peter. I strongly believe in second chances," Edin leaned back in the chair and stared at his companion for a while. "Let me tell you a story. It's about my friend, his second chance, and a City of Chains."


"Are you sure you don't want me to cast a portal to Wagow?"

Edin stopped his horse on the road and turned to his companion.

"I don't," he also stopped and turned his face to a magician, "I want to take this road by myself. It was the last thing that happened to me before I woke up in the infirmary, completely wiped out. Maybe it's not rational, but I feel like I need to be here."

"It's okay, Eagle."

They continued their way to Wagow. Fortunately, it was only five to six hours away from their location. Edin could not stop observing Eagle, not just because it was his kind of hobby. He was very curious, and a bit worried about his companion. It's been a couple of years since Eagle lost his memories, and he never asked how this happened or how to make himself remember past life. This was one of the few situations when Edin had little idea what would happen next.


"Quite a strange name choice, should I say."

"You mean Eagle?" Edin sat silent for a few seconds to gather his thoughts, "He had quite a… let's say, complicated past. When I first met him, he was caught shoplifting several times and joined a gang."

"Was it that bad?"

"Worse than you think. He was only twenty-two. His destiny was clear as the sky: robbery, extortion, a couple of murders, and death from a local guard. Such a shame."

"And then you found him and changed the course of his life?"

Edin smiled. "I don't find people," he said, "people find me on their own. You should know, Peter, you are one of those. Anyway, let's continue our story."


A few hours later, Eagle stopped his horse and grabbed his head. "I don't feel too good," he said, "Can we take a little halt?"

Edin nodded and pulled his mount near the stop. "Let me see," Edin looked at his companion's head and used a little bit of magic, trying to see whether there were any problems. "Some inflammation over here. Your brain tries to access memories that are no longer there. You were right; this road affects you. I'll see if I can do anything here."

Edin's skill of mental magic was quite essential, and it wasn't his field of professional interest. Anyway, treating, in this case, was not a case of spells. He already knew the cause and needed to find the correct poison.

"Can I help ya in any way, good men?" Some stranger was passing by and saw Eagle sitting under a tree with a painful appearance.

"Nothing to worry about, sir," Edin stopped digging in a bag and raised his head towards the stranger, "My friend just got a slight headache."

"Okay then. Good luck to you."

He turned away to continue his way but stopped looking at Eagle for a second. But that was enough to see all his sadness and grief towards the man lying under a tree. Entirely too much for a random guy with a headache.

"Found it!" Edin shouted, took a flask with some transparent liquid in it, and came to his friend, "That should help you."

"Who was that?" Asked Eagle suddenly.

"No idea. Why?"

"He looked like he knew me. And all that grief he felt towards me. That's just… weird. Do you know what that was?"

"I'm afraid it's because of your past," Edin seemed much sadder than before, "Do you want to learn more?"

"I was running from it for too long. It's time to learn what I need to learn," Eagle took a flask, took a couple of sips, and choked with it, "Seriously? It's vodka!"


Wagow, a famous City of Chains. Now when Eagle arrived, he understood why it was called like that. Most buildings had decorative chains like they were tied to the ground. Wagow was famous for its prisons. Some guy in old Eagle's gang even claimed he was held in one of them. No one believed him anyway. It is thought that these prisons are empty now. However, there is still gossip that some "old evil" called the Convict was held in the last active prison, deep down under the ground. And if he ever breaks free, the end of the world is inevitable.

Anyway, criminal legends are in the past now. Eagle was ready to start his life from the draft. He finally found the correct house. Anything could be besides that door. Eagle was full of hope and determination about his future. He opened the door and…

"Eagle! Help me!"

Edin was lying on the floor, wounded. His face was soiled in blood, and his arm seemed broken. Just behind him was a fume coming out of nowhere – a clear sign that a portal was just closed there.

Eagle ran to his tutor and helped him sit on the chair. Shocked, he asked what had happened. And Edin told him everything.

The Convict was never a legend. He was the only prisoner held in the City of Chains. And Edin was his warden. He always knew that one mistake would lead to terrible consequences. And this day happened.

"We still have some time," Edin grabbed Eagle's hand, and the young man saw some writings in his mind. That was a spell, "Cast it. I'll help with my power."

Eagle did this without thinking that it was his first time casting a spell and that he had no idea what it did. "Holy gods! That is happening!" Suddenly, people started to shout on the streets. Eagle turned his head and saw that chains began to glow.

"Defense mechanism. Last echelon. When it is activated, no one will be let in or out. The Convict will be isolated if we don't destroy him," Edin's eyes glowed, and a portal appeared at the corner of the house, "It's not your fight, boy. You still have some time to run. No one will blame you."

Edin was still shocked and didn't even know what to think. The oldest evil of all times was set free and was about to destroy the city. Run. Running is the only way to survive this massacre. He stepped toward the portal and immediately stopped. No, it was not an option. These people needed protection. He promised to start a new life where he would finally be a "good guy." It's not an option to run now.

"Lord Edin!" Some man appeared at the door and saluted the old magician, "City guard is forming a militia. We wait for your instructions."

"Captain," Eagle turned away, and the portal closed behind his back, "I want to join the militia."


Edin and Eagle finally reached Wagow. It was the same as Edin described in the story, the same buildings, the old chains. Even though the Convict Crisis was resolved, locals did not remove them. Maybe, they just wanted to keep them as a memory of the ones who gave their lives, stopping the oldest evil. Or perhaps they were afraid that this was not the end.

The magician and his companion parked their horses and walked to Edin's old house. On their way, almost everyone spotted Eagle and gave him the same look of sadness and grief the stranger on the road gave. Fortunately, now Eagle understood the reason. At least partially. He helped to hold back the Convict and save their lives. A former criminal who risked his life for the city he was in the first day and lost his memory after that is quite a sad story anyway.

They reached the house and opened the door.

"It doesn't look damaged," Eagle noted.

"That's because of the sacrifice you and your comrades gave to protect this city."

Eagle walked into the house, sat on the chair Edin used several years ago when he was wounded in the Convict Crisis, and looked at his tutor. "Tell me the last part. How did I lose my memory?"


The streets of Wagow were filled with strange dark-glowing figures. Chains prevented them from fully materializing, but too many still existed.

Eagle was in one squad with the city guard captain. After several hours of a street fight, only two of them remained on the team. At first, the captain was skeptical about some random guy joining the militia. Still, with Edin's recommendation Eagle was added to the main squad. And the captain never had any regrets about that.

"Behind you!" Captain turned back and killed the figure that tried to attack him from behind. Eagle was a few steps to the left, fighting off the enemies. "There are too many of them. For every one killed, we have two more comings."

When the captain finished the sentence, the battle brothers heard a rumble on the nearest street. They raised their heads and saw him. He was a giant dark figure with the same glowing as the others since he also was not fully materialized. His eyes were red, and two enormous wings were on his back. It was him. The Convict.

"Shit! Shit! Shit!" Captain shouted in disbelief and horror. However, he quickly pulled himself together. "After me! I've got a plan!"

Eagle and captain ran into one of the houses and quickly climbed on its roof. The Convict was just near them. "There is one chance. Just one chance, but this is all we need. Its eyes. If I can hit it, this would be over."

"Wait, do you plan to…"

"You are a good soldier, Eagle. Remember this when you start your new life."

Captain took his dagger in his right hand and shouted loudly. The Convict turned his head toward the battle brothers. As soon as he did this, the captain jumped on him and hit one of his eyes. The Convict screamed and started to wrack until the light flash covered everything around.


"And then we found you on the roof. When we woke you up, you were completely wiped out."

Eagle was silent. He didn't know what to say. Finally, he learned about his past but still felt a hole in his soul.

"He sacrificed himself. And I just was there watching." Eagle stared at his tutor. "He must have been here instead of me."

"Without you, he would never make it to save the city, my friend. You saved his life even though you did not mean to be there." Edin put a hand on Eagle's shoulder. "You wanted to start a new life and achieve it. That was your sacrifice and your reward. You did what you had to, and now your future is in your hands." Edin showed a little gem in his hand. "We found what we came for. Can you open us a portal back?"


"Did he really believe that? That everyone in the city knows the face of some stranger who joined the militia several years ago?"

"That's how the Convict magic works." Edin finished his pint and continued. "You will believe anything except the truth."

"So, was it…"

"It was him. He rose above his past and rose about his pain. My friend became the savior of the old City of Chains."

They sat for a minute without knowing what to say. Finally, Edin continued his thought. "He wanted to start his life from the draft and got a chance to. I don't know who you were, and I don't need to know, Peter. You are here. It means the future is in your hands. So, what do you think?"

Peter smiled. "When do we start?"


"You are finally awake!"

Eagle woke up with a terrible headache in a small room on a bed. It looked like some medical facility priests used to heal badly wounded soldiers. An old man in his sixties sat on a chair near the door. "Who are you?" Asked Eagle.

"That's when the story becomes hard." The man stood up and walked to Eagle's bed. His arm was fixed on his chest. It seemed like he broke it several days ago. "My name is Edin. I'm a portal master and a magic tutor. You came to me because you wanted to start a new life. From the draft."

He winced in pain, took a flask out of his belt, and drank it.

"I promise, I have nothing to do with your condition and memory loss. However, it's the chance you got. We will start training when you recover. For now, you need to rest."

February 23, 2023 17:31

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1 comment

C.B. Chribby
03:02 Feb 28, 2023

Okay, this story was way too fun. I apologize if I ramble here, but it seems to me that we enjoy the same type of fantasy fiction. First of all, I LOVE the worldbuilding. A city that used to be all about imprisonment and celebrates that culture with hanging chains... amazing. The fact that those same people are haunted by a magical demonic being, aptly named 'The Convict' is just SO cool! I'll admit, this story would be really fun to read as a spread-out novel, but I understand the crazy commitment involved with that and the daunting tas...


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