Occasionally I find it refreshing to put my creativity to the test with some improv story writing. I set a theme and some basic rules then aim to write a minimum of 1000 words. This can also be an interesting group exercise to carry out with fellow writers as it’s intriguing to see how differently everybody writes based on the rules set out for the exercise.  These exercises are performed with no intention to develop the story you write but sometimes, you can unwittingly produce something that exceeds your expectations. It was through one these exercises that I came up with the idea for ” The Dream Lab.”

So I decided I’d start sharing the results of these exercises with you all. If you like the results, let me know and feel free to join in or share your own work.

The theme is “Eavesdropper.” The rules are simple: Write from the perspective of a character that does NOT play a major role in the events you are writing about. They can be involved or in close proximity but nothing they do should be able to change the events taking place. 

The Servant

The kitchen has prepared a fine meal this evening. Master will be pleased.

I take the large metal tray and balance it upon my forearm graciously before proceeding to the dining room. I open the door and am met with the sight of a long dining table seating thirteen individuals. At the head of the table is my Master.

“…how the hell do you expect us to do that? The place is a fortress!” bellows a gray-haired man on the centre right. The oaf is shouting at Master, his host! Has he no manners?

Rather than answering, Master raises his hands when he sees me, gesturing in delight.

“Aha! Dinner is served ladies and gentlemen!” he exclaims, clapping with enthusiasm.

I know that it is an act. He is simply being a splendid host. Nonetheless, we must all play our part. I enter with my small retinue of staff. They have been personally trained by myself and move with the silent grace I have instilled into them. Some would feel pride for their staff carrying their job out so well, but I recognize that this is simply what they are paid for. To achieve less is to disgrace not only themselves but their Chief of Staff and most importantly, our Master.

We place the trays upon the table almost in perfect unison and step back, awaiting our orders silently. At this stage, my staff will take care of everything. As the Chief, I will either stand to oversee things or we shall all be dismissed.

Master does not dismiss us and we are forbidden to speak so we stand attentively, ready to heed any call that beckons us from the table. We are but lowly servants but in my heart I am a faithful sentinel watching over my Master as he converses with this nest of vipers.

These are all men and women of immense power and influence. My Master is equal in that power but in cunning and intellect he is the greatest of them all. He is Barakas, The Merchant King of Qual and his Empire influences the country far more than our foolish royalty. Many know this but none dare speak it aloud. Both my Master and The Emperor would race to strike down whoever dared, albeit for different reasons.

“It is possible,” my Master finally responds. The confidence in his voice is both terrifying and inspiring. “that we will not need to do it ourselves.”

Heads turn from their plates to look at him.

“If that is the case then why in the Three Fires have you bothered to invite us all here!” retorts the gray haired buffoon, spitting food as he barks. Blasphemy and rudeness! A wave of anger washes over me and in that moment I wish for nothing more than to strike him down.

“Be at peace, Orr.” says a younger man. His voice is quieter yet still enforces the authority deserved of him. “Tell us please. What do you mean, Barakas?”

He is Tio, Lord of the Merchant Navy. While the navy remains a force separate of my Master’s Empire they remain a respectful and loyal ally. My Master grins. He has great respect for this man, as do I.

“The walls of the Unaga Stronghold in which His Majesty’s children reside is indeed a mighty obstacle to overcome…from the outside. However, were there a means to bypass the walls then a small force would be all that we need.”

Looking around, I see many confused expressions but Lord Tio and a select few others are already putting the pieces together.

“You already have a way inside the walls?” Asks Tio. “How many can feasibly access it without detection?”

“No more than a couple dozen.” My Master says before taking a bite of a large breast of chicken. He ignores the rising voices around the table. “Impossible!” “Ridiculous!” All their voices shout ridicule but my Master remains unfazed.

Lord Tio raises a hand to silence those around him. He stares at my Master, his eyes glittering with interest.

“Dear friend,” he begins. “Unaga Stronghold houses over three thousand troops. Once the alarm sounds, they will rain death down upon your men from the walls. Not to mention a further five thousand elite guards that will begin marching from all over the city to ensure the safety of the royal children!”

Master Barakas dabs his mouth with a napkin and raises his hand to dismiss over half of my retinue. Only the veterans such as myself now remain, men who have earned Master’s trust implicitly.

“They will not rain death, for they will be out dealing with the rebellion throughout the city.”

All voices at the table fall silent. Master stands and straightens up to his full height. His overwhelming presence seems to consume the air around him.

“The time is now. The people are against this false Emperor. Rise up and the people will follow, giving us the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the Stronghold.”

Tio is the first to respond.

“Even if the people rise, the military will not. They are the Emperor’s men, through and through. We will not defeat them, especially if they seek vengeance for the death of the Emperor’s children.”

Voices of agreement begin to murmur but are quickly dispelled by a bellowing laugh. Even I open my mouth in shock as I realize it is not my Master, but Orr the oaf.

“It’s about time I got ahead of you all on something.” He grins wildly, his fists clenched and shaking in excitement. “You’re not talking about killing them are you Barakas!”

The guests lean back as understanding flickers on their faces.

“The Emperor loves his children more than anything…even his Empire. If you rise up now and prevent the enemy from returning to Unaga Stronghold then my twenty men will most certainly secure them as hostages and secure this Kingdom for us all.”

The faces around the table stare in awe. There is no arguing this plan and they know it, it is their only chance to destroy the monarchy… No…It is their best chance! The disbelief they had previously exhibited slowly turns to delight on their faces.

I stand stoically, my expression neutral, as does Lord Tio. We share a quick glance and I understand that he knows as I do. There is only one lie in what my Great Master has said; When all is said and done, only one man will truly secure the Kingdom of Qual for themselves.

I trace a finger over the blade hidden in my tunic but now is not the time. Worthy rivals such as Tio are most worthy of my Master’s respect…

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