The start of a beautiful friendship?
| Chapter 1.
He gasped in a deep lungful of air. This was unfortunate, lying, as he was; face down at the bottom of a shallow depression of rock and dust. It coated his nose and throat and sent him into convulsive fits of coughing. Frantically he scrambled up from his prone position, with his arms and legs flailing in panic and eyes streaming with tears. The ground tore at his hands and arms as he righted himself. After a few moments, he gained a rather uncomfortable sitting position. His weary head hung down, with elbows on each knee and hands limp. He spat and wheezed loudly. Eventually, his blurry vision cleared.
Sensations started to make themselves known to him, now that he wasn't about to completely asphyxiate. The warmth of a hidden sun was hitting his back, although generally he didn't feel very warm. A slight breeze came tumbling across his face, carrying with it more grit to sting his cheek and make him squint. The smell of dust, however, was unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Wiping at still tear-filled eyes, some sense of where he was started to appear. Greyness seemed to be everywhere, focusing more and squinting against the directionless light he saw that he seemed to be in a shallow dish of fine, ashy dust and small, sharp rocks that was roughly 50ft across. Looking at his hands, the crimson grazes he saw across his palms and knuckles were the only flash of colour under a steely sky. The rest of him was as grey as the stones. It was then he heard the soft, polite cough from behind him.
His heart leapt into his throat which helped to stifle a rather wheezy scream. A moment later, when he had gathered his wits again, he turned towards the sound. This, unfortunately sent him sprawling again on the shifting surface, collapsing onto his back and sending a cascade of rocks into the bottom of the hollow before the cloud of dust made his coughing begin again in earnest.
"Sorry about dat sir, I didn't mean to startle yous", spoke a curiously short, squat, little man a few feet away, casually sitting with an amused twinkle about his eyes.
He had a pair of brass, half rimmed glasses, atop a dark, tanned forehead that seemed to go on forever. Little white wisps of hair hung over small, mostly pink ears. A short, neatly trimmed white goatee exaggerated his pointed chin and seemed to make his hollow cheeks even deeper. The sharp, dark, green eyes that shot an intense look at him, were shadowed under a cloud-like pair of eyebrows. They waggled almost suggestively as the flat, wide, nose wrinkled a little and his mouth twitched upwards, as if he was trying to stop himself giggling. The little man leant forward and after pulling him from the ground, smacked the wheezing fellow on his back with a large, meaty, calloused hand. Finally dislodging the last of the dust stuck in his throat.
"Ave some o this, it should put you back on yur feet", this seemed to make the little man's eyes twinkle even more. He detached a round, battered, gunmetal coloured container from a wide, black, leather belt and twisted a knurled protrusion until it came off. He then passed the flask to the grey man who looked at him dumbly.
The little fellow sighed heavily and mimed a drinking motion before the mystified man seemed to understand, put the rim to his lips and took a large sip. He realised that it wasn't water about half a second later when his mouth filled with a warm, sweet taste that soothed the dry, papery sensations in his mouth and wonderfully coated his throat.
"Ahhhh." the grey man exuded in a satisfied sigh. He was about to take a longer pull of the slightly sticky liquid when the squat little man snatched it out his hands almost in a panic and quickly sealed it. "Enuff O dat for now I tink!" he snapped, going a little pink, before tying it back to his belt.
The grey man croaked a soft, "Thank you" as he inclined his head towards his benefactor. He seemed surprised at his own voice. He wasn't sure it was meant to sound like that. Then the little man stood up, brushing off his dusty, purple pin striped trousers, his heavily and elaborately embroidered red and yellow waistcoat and shaking out his long, coarse, brown coat before extending his hand. The grey man looked at it with bewilderment before the little fellow grabbed the other's hand and pumped it up and down. "Trimble sah, Dats me! Anytink I can doos to 'elp yous, I'd be 'appy as a Stort up to its ears in muck!"
Trimble grinned widely as he continued to shake the grey man's hand, showing almost blindingly white teeth that seemed to have a slightly pointed look to them. "Wort do dey calls yous den?" He exclaimed encouragingly.
It was then the grey man slipped his hand from Trimble's, bent his head to the side slightly and looked even more confused than he did before.
"I...I don't know!", He spat out in a bewildered voice. "Wha..what happened? I don't remember anything!" The grey man's eyes darted about, and he tensed his whole body, like he was about to flee, wanting to be anywhere but here.
"Now, now sah." Trimble soothed, "Don' fret so. I'm sure yous jus' hit yous 'ead. Give it a mo, and I's sure yous'll be alright. In da meantome", Trimble patted the grey man on his shoulder, "I's takes yous back to me little spot and get ya cleaned up." He beamed at him, "Untils yous gets right in yous 'ead, I'll needs to call yous sumfink. An seeing as yous iz all covered in dis grey dust, 'ow about Greyson? That do yous for a bit?" He tilted his head to one side, squinting one eye at the newcomer.
The grey man, looked up at Trimble and absent mindedly shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe.?" He said timorously.
Trimble nodded sharply and started to fuss and shove at Greyson, "Best be gettin' on now then, or it be dark afore we gets there! An yous don' wanna be out 'ere at night!"
Greyson stood slowly, wobbling slightly. He suddenly realised that he was wearing some kind of robe, grey as the rest of him. He plucked at it, feeling its smooth surface slide through his fingers, and then looked further down. His feet were enclosed within scuffed, calf length black boots, fairly simple in design, but appeared to be well fitted. Before he could check out his garb further, Trimble reached up and grabbed his hand again and started to pull him up the slight incline with surprising strength.
Greyson stumbled along after him, awkwardly bent over, pushing back at the slippery slope of stones as more tumbled back down behind them. Trimble, for his part, was making light work with his own rather wide feet, covered in soft, supple, tan leather boots.
After a couple of minutes of scrambling up the slope, they crested the top and Greyson got his first proper look at the landscape.
Looking around him lay an undulating grey vista that faded to a soft blue in the distance. He realised that as far as he could see, the scene was mostly made up of more of these small rocks. Far off in the sky, he spotted a dark shadow, a circle dimming the unbroken clouds. Trimble puffed and paused for a second, before softly murmuring, "Damn Elongases, dey gettin closer everyday.". Greyson pulled his eyes from the darkness, panting a little, and asked, "Elongases?"
Trimble small beard bristled, "Ne'er yous mind dat right nows. Maybes yous ne'er needs to know about them" He snorted and then yanked Greyson onwards down to the valley below.