Attempts At High Fantasy

So, first off, I apologize profusely for my lack of posting in these last three weeks or so. What with one thing or another, I’ve been busy.

Fortunately for you, I return with this offering: HIGH FANTASY LOL. This is the first chapter of a fantasy book I’m working on… of course, what with my incredible lack of dedication to any task, it might just end up being a series of posts on this blog, or it might just die. I promise nothing. Anyway, first chapter, right here. I warn you… this shit is long. I mean long as in LONGCAT IS LOOOOOOOONG long.

Comments are appreciated to the point of me coming after your family if you don’t comment. I fully realize that most of the guys reading this have a massive disdain for High Fantasy, but fuck that. I want to know if the actual writing is good or not… plotline, characters, etcetera.  Suggestions on grammar, phrasing, wording, spelling, and any other mundane muckdyguck are also welcome. This doesn’t have a title yet, so I’ll just kinda start.

 

I

It was a bleak winter. Though it was bitter cold, no snow fell. The naked trees stood, barren and lonely, casting forlorn shadows over the dead, brown grass. The sky was clouded, the sun not deeming this depressing scene worthy of an appearance. Biting winds tore through the forest, making the cold even colder.

Through the trees wound a little-traveled path. Fallen and decaying leaves covered it, in places obscuring it so badly that it was impossible to tell what was path and what was forest.

Along this path trudged a long line of armed and armored men, as bleak and desolate as the forest around them. They marched in silence, grim expressions on their faces. They were cold, hungry, and tired. Their armor was designed for protection from the blades of their enemies, and was useless against the relentless assault of the elements.

At the head of the column rode a solitary figure on horseback. Like the men at his back, he wore a grim expression, but his included a hint of smugness. He was accoutered in armor of purest ebony, shining like the depths of the blackest night. Behind him swirled a deep purple cloak. He seemed to exude a feeling of formality. He rode straight-backed, motionless, staring at the path ahead.

A figure marching slightly behind him and to the left coughed slightly. “Yes, Captain?” said the man on horseback, still staring straight ahead.

“Sir…” started the captain, “I believe we should stop for rest soon. The men are tired.”

“We will continue to march. I want to present our… prize… to Lord Sheth by tomorrow.”

The man on horseback turned around briefly, and let his eyes fall on the figure stumbling along behind the horse. He hands were manacled, and the manacles were attached to the back of the horse by means of a long rope. Outfitted in several layers of cloth and a leather tunic, he was probably warmer than anybody else in the column. His eyes were a piercing blue, and his slightly pointed ears and high cheekbones betrayed the hint of elven blood within his veins. His hair was down past his shoulders, and colored somewhere between brown and blond. A long scar ran down his right cheek.

The mounted man turned back to the path ahead. The captain who had raised the question continued to march in silence. It was not a good idea to argue.

As the column marched on, the sun began to set. Soon, it was obscured entirely by the horizon, plunging the forest into darkness. The wind whipped through the trees, sounding eerily like the breath of some otherworldly creature. The owls hooted and the crickets chirped, seemingly amplifying the silence.

Although this imagery had no effect on the man riding at the head of the column, the men of the column, hungry and tired, grew nervous. The moon had not yet risen; the clouds obscured the stars. In the shadows of deep night, imagination took its course.

A muttering emerged from the column, a frantic buzz of superstition and rumormongering that grew steadily in volume. Raising his left hand, the man at the head of the column shouted “Silence!” The muttering died; the column marched on.

A rustling in the bushes caught the attention of the captain who had earlier been silenced by the leader of the column. “Sir…” he started apprehensively.

“Yes?” said the man on horseback, again not bothering to look back.

“Sir… there are sounds coming from the bushes.”

“An animal, most likely a deer.”

“Sir, his archers could be hiding in there! You know they’d love to get a shot at you, and-” The riding man raised his left hand abruptly, cutting off the captain’s protests. After a moment, the captain began again. “Sir, don’t you think you should at least get down? You’re far too easy a target, up on that horse!”

“Captain Morrison, what kind of message do you think that would send to my men? That I am one to cower in the face of even hypothetical danger? No, I shall remain riding, and you shall be silent.”

Captain Morrison marched on in silence, not daring the wrath of his superior. After a time, his eyes widened. “Sir, get down!” shouted the captain, pulling the cloaked man off his horse forcefully. In the moment immediately after, an arrow pierced the air directly where the man’s neck had been, not a second prior.

Standing abruptly, the dismounted man pointed forcefully to an area of bushes to the left of the path, still looking straight ahead. Several of the braver men in the column immediately leaped off the path, into the dark of the forest.

Turning to the manacled man standing behind the now stationary horse, the cloaked man smiled and began to speak.

“Another attempt of yours foiled. How you’ve managed to cause this much trouble to Lord Sheth with such a meager and untalented group of followers, I really don’t know.”

When the prisoner said nothing, the man continued. “They really would love to have you back, wouldn’t they? Without you, their whole operation falls apart. Cut off the head, and the body dies. It’s why Lord Sheth has such an extensive bodyguard. Most would think you would have anticipated an attempt at your capture on our part. Apparently not. Who knows what goes through the minds of such deluded rabble-rousers as yourself?” The prisoner continued his stoic silence.

Grunting, the cloaked man turned away, walking toward the captain, who saluted stiffly. “Captain…” began the man, “you appear to have been right this time. However, excepting you saving my life, never lay hands upon me again.” This said, the man remounted his horse.

The men who had entered the forest returned, throwing an object at the feet of the mounted man. It rolled, coming to a stop in front of the prisoner. The man looked down, staring. He beheld clouded eyes and bloodied hair, adorning a recently decapitated head.

Muttering under his breath, the prisoner glared with hatred at the man on horseback.

The column marched on.

 

The men marched into the city. There were no cheering crowds to be seen. It was far too cold to be outside, and in any case, their coming had not been announced beforehand.

The city was filthy, covered in dirt and grime. Most of the houses the men passed as they marched were in bad states of disrepair, their roofs falling in and their windows broken. Those citizens that were outside shuffled along, looking at naught but their feet, intent on their destination and nothing else.

The only part of the city that looked cared for was a massive fortress, near the very back of the city. The fortress was situated at the edge of a sheer cliff. Beyond it, there was a seven-hundred foot drop into churning, rocky waters. Had one bothered to find a way down, they would have undoubtedly found the battered skeletons of many an ill-fated, ill-footed man.

The column of men paid no attention to the squalor surrounding them, marching instead directly toward the fortress. Upon arriving, the man at the head of the column motioned for his men to halt.

“Captain…” he began, “follow me. Bring the prisoner.” With this, he entered the fortress. The captain untied the prisoner from the horse, and followed the cloaked man, dragging the manacled man along unmercifully.

Inside was a large entry hall. Toward the back was a massive, closed, double door. In front of this door stood two guards wielding sizable halberds.

“Wait here,” murmured the man as he walked past the guards. Captain Morrison, prisoner in tow, stopped and stood at attention.

Throwing open the double doors, the man walked in, kneeling before a man sitting upon a throne. It was a rather plain throne, with no ornamentation whatsoever, made purely of stone.

The man upon it seemed to suit its cold silence. His face was angled, his nose resembling the beak of a hawk. His face was scarred. He had long black hair, black eyes, and armor to match. On his back he wore a cloak of equal hue.

The man on the throne looked up.

“Ah, Sir Hugo. Back from your manhunt, I see. It does not escape me that you arrive a month late.” said the man on the throne.

“I apologize, sire. He was… elusive,” replied Sir Hugo.

“Have you at least succeeded? Tardiness I can tolerate, but failure is entirely unacceptable, Commander.”

At this, the commander stood, and, his eyes remaining on the throned man, called “Bring him in.”

Captain Morrison entered, dragging the prisoner along behind him. On the throne, the man began to chuckle, a guttural, unpleasant sound. Reaching the area where Sir Hugo was standing, Captain Morrison threw the prisoner brutally to the floor.

“Wonderful… even late, this is quite a prize…” said the throned man greedily.

“Yes, sire,” began Sir Hugo, “I believe his capture will lead to the end of the rebellion, and a restoration of the peace.”

“Rebellion?” spoke the throned man sharply. “What rebellion? There is no rebellion, and to term it as such validates their pitiful cause.”

“Lord Sheth, I did not mean to offend!” said Sir Hugo quickly.

“Be that as it may, you need this lesson ground into you!” Lord Sheth rose angrily from his throne, and continued to speak, his words pointed, almost painful. “This meager resistance is no rebellion. It is simply the scurrying of ants, attempting to prevent themselves from being devoured by a mighty wolf!”

The manacled man coughed slightly. All present turned to him.

“Sire…” he began, speaking for the first time, “I feel inclined to point out that wolves do not actually eat ants.”

“Silence!” shouted Lord Sheth, his face now contorted with rage. “You have the insolence to stand there, manacled and in the keep of your enemies, and mock me? I should have you executed this very moment!”

“Sire, that is not a good idea,” interjected Sir Hugo quickly. “He should be interrogated. Thoroughly. He knows of many things. We may have here the key to the end of the… resistance. Simply executing him would be foolish if he knows what we think he knows.” Sir Hugo finished speaking quickly, as if to stave off any attempts to interrupt him.

Lord Sheth stared appraisingly at the commander for a moment, and then sat down again on his throne. All present waited for him to speak.

“You are, as ever, the voice of reason, Commander,” said Lord Sheth when he finally spoke. There was a barely audible release of held breath from the commander.

“What shall we do with him for now, sire?” said the obviously relieved Sir Hugo.

“Throw him in the dungeons. I will question him when I wish. Deprive him of food and water until then. Oh, and Commander… I wish to speak to you alone,” said Lord Sheth.

Turning to the captain, Sir Hugo nodded to the a door to the left of the throne. Captain Morrison exited through it, dragging the prisoner along behind him.

After he had left, Lord Sheth turned to the shadows behind his throne. With a barely perceptible gesture, he dismissed two guards stationed in the shadows. Had one not known where to look, they would have been entirely invisible, as their black leather armor and cloaks blended with the gloom. The guards exited silently, following Captain Morrison to the dungeons.

“Your bodyguard is as frightening as ever, I see,” said Sir Hugo, a slight smile touching his lips. He spoke with a more relaxed tone, one that hinted of familiarity.

“That’s just for show, as you well know, Hugo,” replied Lord Sheth, sharing Sir Hugo’s friendly tone. “If anyone in this pitiful city did not fear me, I would be dead before tomorrow. Thus, I hire only the most highly skilled fighters – the two you just saw are trained assassins, imported from eastern Erneth. I also have among my guard berserkers from the sands of the far south, fencers of the former aristocracy, and one dwarf so crazy that he believes anyone speaking to him is a herring.”

“If all these guards are so highly trained, why must you continue your… gruff facade among them?” asked Sir Hugo.

Lord Sheth grunted. “Highly trained they may be, but that doesn’t mean they can hold their tongues. I learned that after the rebellion nearly assassinated me… the third time, I think. They had chased down a half-elven swordsman – the most skilled guard among my retinue, I might add – and bought him ales until he couldn’t stand, much less withhold secrets. That night, there was a rebel under my bed…” Lord Sheth trailed off disjointedly. “Come to think of it, I’m still not sure which secret the half-elf gave away… how did that bastard get in, anyway?” The throned man stared off into the distance, deep in thought. A cough from Sir Hugo brought him back to reality.

“Enough of idle chitchat, Hugo. How did you fare in your… other… mission?” asked Lord Sheth.

In response, the commander withdrew a small object from a pouch around his waist. It was a book, roughly an inch thick and bound in black leather. On its front and back covers swirled silvery patterns that enthralled and confused the eye, not seeming to have any discernible beginning or end. The book had no title. It seemed incredibly old.

Lord Sheth inhaled sharply. “Bring it here!” he commanded roughly. Sir Hugo climbed the stone steps ascending toward the throne, and handed the book to the throned man. Lord Sheth grimaced slightly as he took the book, but he quickly concealed his reaction. Pocketing the book, he stood abruptly.

“I will need to study this. Take your men and report to the army garrison just outside of town. Wait there until I have further need of you,” spoke Lord Sheth decisively.

“Sire, if I may ask…” started Sir Hugo quickly, “What secret does the book contain? Why is it of such value to you?”

Lord Sheth, already hurrying toward a door in the shadowed back of the room, looked back at the commander and smiled grimly. “That is what I intend to discover. From what I know, the book is supposed to be the key to power unending. As to what that means…” Lord Sheth chuckled briefly, and departed to his personal chambers.

Sir Hugo stood silently. After several minutes, the captain returned from the dungeons, followed by the two silent guards. The commander jerked his head toward the door, indicating that they should leave. Sir Hugo left the room quickly, Captain Morrison jogging slightly to catch up.

“Sir, what did his lordship want?” inquired the captain.

“The gods only know…” muttered Sir Hugo. Captain Morrison stopped, perplexed.

“Sir… what does that mean?”

Sir Hugo did not reply.

 

And that’s that.  Don’t be too cruel with your comments – I want to maintain  some vestiges of self-esteem.

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8 Comments

  1. Esty said,

    April 7, 2007 at 11:16 am

    First thought: use forms of “to be” less. It will increase the “interesting writing” factor.
    E.g, instead of “The sky was clouded, the sun not deeming this depressing scene worthy of an appearance,” try something like this: “Clouds covered the sky; the sun lurked behind them, deeming the depressing scene unworthy of its presence.”
    Or: replace “Fallen and decaying leaves covered it, in places obscuring it so badly that it was impossible to tell what was path and what was forest” with something like “Fallen and decaying leaves carpeted it, in places so thick they made path and forest indistinguishable.”
    Of course, the more ‘interesting’ the language gets, the more dangerously close to purple prose you may get.

    Second thought: “Their armor was designed for protection from the blades of their enemies, and was useless against the relentless assault of the elements” would be better served if you replaced “and” with “but”; the two clauses are contrasting rather than similar.

    “accoutered”… What. Seriously. What. It… it works very well in terms of definition, but in context with the rest of your writing it feels really out of place.

    “He hands were manacled, and the manacles were attached to the back of the horse by means of a long rope.” First, typo. Second, it might read better like so: “His manacled hands were secured to the saddle [or saddle bags, or harness, or other piece of tack that one could tie a rope to] by means of a long rope.” That way you aren’t repeating “manacle”, and not implying that it’s practical to somehow magically attach a rope to a horse.

    “dismounted man” He’s the boss, right? To save myself the trouble of trying to come up with a less-awkward adjective than “dismounted” (:P), I suggest you call him “the commander” or somesuch, until he gets a name.

    *note that I didn’t actually read all of it* Nevertheless, “It is simply the scurrying of ants, attempting to prevent themselves from being devoured by a mighty wolf” would probably read better as something like “It is simply the scurrying of ants, attempting to avoid the hungry jaws of a mighty wolf.” This’s because in many cases, passive verbs (which “being devoured by” is) simply sound bad.

    Um. Beta brain tired now. I hope I was actually helpful. ^^;

  2. tuskedchimp said,

    April 7, 2007 at 11:58 am

    That was very helpful, actually. I’ll probably take most of those suggestions…

    Hmm. Why does “accoutered” feel out of place? I really like that word… plus, it sounds FANCY. Oh well, you’re probably right.

    If you could finish reading it, I’d love suggestions on the rest of it, too.

  3. Esty said,

    April 7, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    It’s out of place because a lot of the tone is fairly amateurish – which is fine since you are an amateur. Mostly you’re using simple or common words or constructions, so while it’s a nice word it seems like you’re just putting it there for the sake of FANCY.

  4. tuskedchimp said,

    April 7, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    I like my fancy… but yeah, you’re right.

  5. Pieboy said,

    April 10, 2007 at 12:18 am

    Good things:

    It’s described very well – I got a really clear picture of the whole area and what it looks like. Dialog is good, and you do an excellent job of high fantasy “tantalizing exposition” stuff, because now I’m actually interested in seeing where it goes. Which is another good thing.

    Bad shit:

    There are a few instances of passive voice. You can clear that up in Word. Also, the story sounds kind of… mechanical, I guess? You describe details that aren’t really that important kind of meticulously, and prepositions are a little overused.

    Overall, though, I like it a lot. Keep writing.

  6. tuskedchimp said,

    April 10, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    Hmm. Can you give me an example of unimportant details described meticulously? I’m bad and finding stuff like that in my own writing…

  7. Pieboy said,

    April 19, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    Like Esty said, describing the prisoner’s shackles so exactly seems a little mathematical. It’s things like that.

  8. Angel said,

    April 16, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    I like it. It’s better than my story. It’s smooth reading, and intriguing. I don’t see anything wrong with the grammar, just a minor spelling typo that was already caught. Keep writing (I’m a hypocrite now, haha). Also, if you google the words: Sir get down, your page is number three, I think. Congratulations.


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