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Character Sketch: The Bridge Keeper

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Aug 9th, 2010
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In my novel, Jack of Hearts, all of the main characters eventually meet a creature in the wilderness named Vasti. Everyone refers to Vasti as a “dwarf”, but if you’re thinking about clever craftsmen who tinker beneath the mountains or “hi-ho-ing” shorties who befriend enchanted princesses–think again.

Here’s an excerpt from when Moribrand first runs into the creature. In this part of the story, Moribrand and his giant slave, Minnow, have come to a deep chasm. A rickety draw-bridge offers the only way across the gap. Unfortunately, the bridge is raised when they first arrive:

Moribrand called out, cupping his hands around his mouth. “Hello there!”

A man popped up on the other side, surprising Moribrand. He had been sitting behind a stand of spare barrels. He waved a long arm in response.

Moribrand frowned; he was the ugliest man he had ever seen, far uglier than Minnow. A nose like a worm-eaten potato clogged the middle of his face, the perimeter of which was shrouded by a wild reddish beard that extended down to his shirtless belly.

“You want to cross?” the ugly man asked. He had a rough grating voice that Moribrand found entirely disagreeable.

After some arguing and negotiating, Moribrand persuades the ugly keeper to lower the bridge, but when he crosses to the other side a surprise awaits him:

Moribrand let out an exasperated breath and began to cross, taking careful but quick steps. The bridge had no railing and some of the timbers were slick from the mist of the river below. He decided not to look down as he crossed, holding the hem of his robe up to keep it from getting damp, but he couldn’t resist one peek at the white line of water far below. The glance made his stomach twist and his knees wobble. Before his legs could fail him, he stumbled across the last few yards, catching himself on the giant.

With a great racket the keeper raised the bridge again. Afterward, he came out onto the trail to greet them. At seeing him emerge, Moribrand recoiled and cursed loudly.

The bridge keeper had no legs. Instead he walked on the palms of his hands. He’d been seated on a barrel the entire time, disguising his actual height. His shoulder muscles were over-developed and his arms hung down like long thick ropes, so that he could easily lay his elbows on the ground while resting on the end of his torso. Overall, the way he moved, his wild hair, and the length of his arms gave him the appearance of a legless ape.

Moribrand fought down another shudder. Legless men were ill luck. He thought he remembered something about that, some old story from when he had studied at Argent, but the specifics of the memory escaped him now. What was it? It buzzed in his brain like a fly, irritating him, warning him, but in the end he swatted the thought away. He had no time to dwell on the academics of this youth. The sooner he was gone from this place the better.

The keeper scowled at Moribrand’s outburst. “What’s with you? Never seen a crippled man before?”

As it turns out, Vasti is anything but crippled. He may not be a craftsman, but he’s handy with a saw, and Moribrand’s slave  has the loveliest  legs Vasti has ever laid his rheumy eyes on. That’s all I’ll say for now. Here’s the sketch of Vasti I did recently:


About Me

Ricardo Bare
Austin, Tx

Ricardo Bare is a writer and game designer living near Austin, Texas. Currently he works as a game designer for Arkane Studios, which in 2012 released Dishonored. Ricardo started his career in the games industry working on the Deus Ex series, winner of the BAFTA and numerous other Game of the Year awards.

Ricardo is the author of Jack of Hearts and Fool of Fate, the first two books in a young adult fantasy series.


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