View Full Version : Trying to kill this block ...

November 22nd, 2010, 04:07 PM
Okay, so I had a stroke of writing fervor a few months ago and found a crack in a block that has plagued me for quite some time. I wrote this novel over 10 years ago, which was summarily rejected, and I'm trying to revamp, rehash, and re-anything the story to make it more publishable. With that being said, I've only gotten the first chapter on paper. I'm hoping by posting here and possibly getting some feedback, it'll get my keister into gear of actually getting the rest of the story on paper.

This is one of my efforts. It's an epic fantasy (meaning I have a heck of a lot more story to tell, and back-stories will be told as the story progresses) and I'm still outlining the story, so I'm basically putting this out there to see where I need to take the style itself, and if I have something here that might start out with the right tone.

I don't know. I appreciate any feedback that can be given. The tentative title is "Bloodsword Chosen" but I'm more than likely going to change it as it sounds kind of campy to me.

Thanks in advance.

Chapter 1

Daylight was ebbing away into night as Dorian reined in his mount and searched the road ahead for a good place to set up camp. Dust kicked up from the long stretch of road began to settle, only to be caught up in a light gust of wind and carried off to the west. Sef stopped his horse next to him, and his white mare drooped her head, weary from the long day's travel.

Sef put his hand over his eyes, blocking out the setting sun to get a better lay of the land. All around lay the flat prairie land the Fields of Padon; the occasional brush stuck up from the tall grass, but for the most part the land was desolate of potential shelter for miles.

Dorian knew hidden within the tall grass, and perhaps under a shallow layer of dirt were the bones of fallen soldiers and beasts from battles less than three centuries past. Scars in the land were also hidden by the grass; injuries to the earth no man could have made, and that would never fully heal without the aid of power no man or woman of this day had even the slightest ability to hold.

Sef was also very aware of the prairie's history, but he was more interested in the future's sleeping conditions.

"Oy, there do nay be any trees about for to make a good fire, boyo. With the chill settin' in, I do nay wish to be freezin' me arse off this evenin'."

Dorian pulled a worn map from his saddlebag and estimated his position in relation to a long stretch of tree line on the southern horizon.

"It's only an hour's ride more to Streyil's edge. I'd hoped to avoid the forest during the night, but it appears if we wish to stay warm, we have no choice."

Sef nodded. "It be getting dark faster as the winter be growin' older. We'll be findin' wood for the fire by trippin' over it by the time we be findin' a good spot to rest."

Dorian said nothing, keeping his eye on the forest's edge. A gust of wind blew a strand of his shoulder-length, dark brown hair into his face, and he brushed it aside with a swipe of his gloved hand.

Sef's horse shifted slightly as the breeze struck it. "Guessin' the horses will be appreciatin' some warmth, too, aye. Let us be movin' on, Dorian. I do nay wish to be collectin' saddle-sores too much longer today. At least in Ilansbruff we'll be gettin' a decent meal and a cot. I'll even be takin' a spot in a warm hayloft if'n that be all they have."

They rode forward at a decent gait, moving closer and closer to the forest's edge. As they came closer, the horses' ears began to prick, and their eyes darted back and forth. Dorian took note of this, and his own apprehension of the forest began to grow. He'd heard rumors about this particular forest, and had hoped to avoid going near it until he was sure he could travel straight through in a day without stopping.

This forest did not have near the reputation of Stromfier, and he had never been through Streyil before, had not even been this far south in Rhul; but talk along the southern road through Loratania certainly gave him enough reason for concern.

They traveled along, and Sef occasionally reached down to pat his horse on the neck and whispered encouraging words in her ear. Dorian was jealous of Sef's way with animals and hoped his own mount would not suddenly buck him off in a start. Dorian had plenty of experience on horseback, but he simply could not match Sef's mastery of the beast.

Dorian corrected himself. Sef had not mastered the horse, but instead was able to convince the horse to work with him. Of course, Sef had years more experience riding than him.

The last rays of the sun were disappearing above the horizon to the west as they approached the northern edge of Streyil. The land was randomly dotted with trees leading up to the wall of the forest where the growth was so dense as to seem impenetrable save for the narrow passage allowing the road to continue through to the other side.

It had been expressed to Dorian and Sef by several grizzled old men and world-weary women in various taverns and inns they had spent time in to stay on the path and not to stray for any reason, lest they wished their own bones to join those of the careless travelers who felt they could ignore the road and let their curiosity lead them.

"Following any trail leading from Streyil's road," said one slightly sober patron from behind the dim light of a rickety tavern's lantern, whose one eye had begun to cloud over with the blinding disease, "is to follow the path of fools."

Dorian was naturally intrigued by this at the same time the apprehension began to set in. Having spent the better part of the past five years on the road with Sef, and both of them usually spending that time ignoring such warnings, wanting instead to answer curiosity's call, he was inclined to take a few steps in either direction leading off of the road once they were well on their way through. The apprehension only helped to heighten his need to explore, something he would never admit to Sef. Sef, who was as much an older brother to him as much as a friend, seemed most times to be completely without fear, and Dorian was not going to fall behind Sef for a notion as silly as fear. The need to prove himself to himself was a far greater master.

For not the first or last time, Dorian cursed his assignment. At the behest of his grandfather, he returned home to Nostra only to be turned back to the road to hurry south to Taralon. The journey was already three weeks old and he had two more hard days' travel to get to his destination.

And for what? To spend at least a month trapped in Castle Adarach, King Lothand's dwelling, suffering through the boredom of peace talks and trade agreements. He supposed the implications of these talks were fairly exciting and the importance could lead to many prosperous years for the land of Rhul as a whole for decades to come. But Dorian had experienced these types of talks before and no more wanted to be a part of them than to have a dagger shoved into his thigh.

The thought appealed to him for a moment. A dagger to the thigh might actually save him from having to attend the first week's worth of talks if he played it right. He did not believe he had it in himself to plunge a blade into his own flesh, though. Perhaps if he put his case before Sef ...

"Oy, boyo, I believes this be the place for us to be settin' camp, aye. Be plenty of wood on the ground."

Dorian came out of his revery to find the tree line was now blocking most of the southern horizon. The land before the forest was now spotted with young oak and fir trees, and with the autumn now a memory, the bare branches stretched and winded in the near extinguished light of the sun. The last rays to the west lay bare a spot for them to tie their horses beneath one particularly large oak with dried branches lying beneath it, inviting them to build a fire and rest for the night.

Dorian and Sef obliged the tree, and Dorian began to unsaddle the horses and brush them down as Sef gathered firewood and set about digging a pit. As Sef struck flint to iron, sending sparks into the dried branches, Dorian removed their bedrolls from the saddlebags and began setting up the camp, kicking branches aside and laying the bedrolls out on the soft grass below.

When camp was set up and the horses had been watered, they sat down to a meal of dried meats procured from the last town they traveled through, along with apples and a couple of carrots they had left over.

When the meal was through, Sef rolled onto his side and watched the fire as it danced amongst the wood.

"Boyo, I be hopin' Taralon be better built from the last time I were there," he said as he used a splinter of wood to pick at a piece of the meat stuck between his teeth. His deep black hair rested in a ponytail which he had slung over his shoulder. His hair was in stark contrast to the fair skin of his face, which featured a sharp nose, high cheeks and crystal-clear blue eyes that had seen more than Dorian could ever hope to see in one lifetime. Even so, Sef never seemed to let anger seep in and ruin his cheerful demeanor.

"If'n memory be servin' me correct, that town were a complete bore and I were quick to finish me business and carry meself out of there."

Dorian did not bother asking Sef what business he might have had in Taralon. More than likely, he did not want to know. In the years Dorian had come to know Sef, his friend's past come to light in spurts, and not very much of it was pleasant in nature. Considering what he had learned of Sef's childhood alone made Dorian wonder how he could keep such a positive outlook after all this time.

Then again, Sef was a different breed of man. Dorian had learned on a few occasions Sef's smile could hide a darker intent.

Dorian rubbed at a sore spot on his thigh, "Considering how long it has probably been since you were there last, I would not be surprised if you barely recognize the place."

"Even so, boyo, I'll be glad when this all be over with. Oy, if'n somethin' be comin' of these talks, there may be an entire portion of Rhul open for us to see that I've nay had the chance to see before now."

Dorian nodded. That was something he had often kept in his mind while he was traveling south thinking of the myriad other things he would much rather be doing. His blood notwithstanding, he really wanted nothing to do with lordships and royalty, but because he was who he was, he knew there would be a day when he would be called upon for assignments like this. As much as he did not like it, it was a responsibility he could not turn down, and he would not risk disappointing his grandfather.

"Dargan Thir. We could spend years in that land, assuming they all get the message not to eat us on sight." Something to the south caught his eye, and he watched in that direction to see if he could catch it again. Was it a flicker? Maybe it was a bug.

Sef chuckled, "Aye, the darklands must be a sight to see. I be hearin' the olgin be livin' in houses better built than any human's be, if'n you can be believin' that. I be doubtin' tha trills be livin' any anythin' other than caves, though. They still be a stupid lot, aye."

"Trills, krelligs ... not exactly known to be the most civilized of the darkland races." There it was again. Dorian sat up and peered through Streyil's heavy tree line, looking for the flash of light. Was it a fire? Who would set up camp just inside the tree line?

Sef still watched the fire and had not noticed Dorian's alarm. "But the orics, boyo, are the ones we'll be needin' to stay away from the longest. Methinks they would be lettin' old habits die hard when it be comin' to ..."

Sef sat up and cocked an ear to the south. "Oy, what do that be, eh?"

Dorian pointed to the forest, "There's a light ..."

He stopped when Sef held up a hand. Sef then quickly stood and began kicking dirt onto the fire. "Boyo," he whispered, "be gettin' this flame out. I do nay be knowin' what that be, but I do nay wish it to be seein' us before we be findin' out what be lurkin' 'twixt those trees."

Dorian helped stamp out the fire, then fixed his gaze back on the tree line. The dim light of a half moon outlined the forest's edge and its entrance. To the east of the road, the flicker was now more noticeable, but it looked to be further back in the forest. The flicker would diminish every few moments as though something were blocking the light, only to reappear a moment later. A few moments of silently watching made Dorian aware of a low, constant noise that seemed to come from the direction of the flicker. A sudden breeze from the south increased the volume of the noise, and Dorian could swear he heard the low grumblings of voices in conversation, but he could not place what words were said.

Sef sniffed the air as the breeze passed by. He shook his head, his expression disbelieving.

“They be cook fires, boyo. I be smellin’ the meat of fresh game on the wind, aye.”

Dorian’s nose wrinkled. “Cook fires? In Streyil? That doesn’t make sense. And why would someone camp that far off the road in a forest reputed to be impossible to get out of?”

Sef shrugged. “Who be knowin’? Mayhaps it be a caravan that were wanderin’ from the road and be lost, nay even knowin’ it be this close to forest’s edge. All I be knowin’ be that with the amount of food they be cookin’, it would be a fairly large group of people. They must be roastin’ a few full deer, aye, strong as the smell be.”

Dorian blinked, and his stomach rumbled quietly. The thought of fresh deer right off the spit was definitely more appealing than his bare-bones dinner of cured beef. “I don’t suppose they’d be thrilled enough to have a couple of fellows show them how close they are to forest’s edge to share a bit of their meal. Some fresh venison would be a welcome change to our normal wares.”

Sef nodded. “Aye. Probably be havin’ some decent wine about them, too.” He walked back to where the saddlebags lay and pulled a belt from one of the larger bags, strapping it at his waist. From the straps he disengaged a sword and sheath, placed there for the ride to keep the blade at an easy reach for the rider without him having to wear the sword all day. Sef attached the sword to his belt and drew his cloak around him, making him all but invisible in the pale moonlight.

“Let’s be checkin’ it out, boyo,” he said as he rummaged through Dorian’s pack for his friend’s belt.

Dorian, at first eager, grabbed for his own sword, but paused. “Sef, I don’t know if you remember, but there was a lot of talk in the past couple of towns about the amount of doom we bring upon ourselves by not staying on the road. Some of them were quite convincing. Remember the man with the eye? He even had a quote about it.”

“Boyo, be believin’ me, there do nay be anythin’ this day and age to be worryin’ about. They be spittin’ warnin’s that be probably handed down through dozens of generations. At best we be findin’ folks what were gettin’ themselves lost and be havin’ a decent meal waitin’ for us. Worst, we be findin’ a band of thieves that be causin’ all the trouble in the forest in the first place.”

“And if it’s the thieves?”

Sef grinned, something he managed to make look both inviting and deadly at the same time, and loosened the sword in his scabbard. “Then we just be takin’ the meal, boyo.”

Dorian shrugged. Either plan sounded good to him. He took the belt offered to him and strapped his sword to his side.

They struck out across the prairie land, eating up ground until they arrived at the forest’s edge. Here the trees grew thickly together, the trunks forming an almost impassible wall, closed to any kind of cart, or even to anyone on horseback. The ground within the forest was littered with stumps and jutting tree roots, making traveling in large companies all but impossible.

This did nothing to raise Dorian’s spirits about what they were going to find. It would most definitely not be a caravan. No wagon or cart would have made it even a short distance off of the road. He loosened his own sword in its scabbard and followed Sef past the tree line.

As they entered the trees, Dorian could not help but think about all the warnings to stay on the road. But all they had to do was head north to get back to their camp, and even if he got turned around among the trees, Sef was able to find north in his sleep.

The light from the fires was more prominent now, and though still distant, the smell of cooking meat was strong. There were definitely figures moving back and forth in front of the flames, and he could not tell if the distance was playing a trick on his eyes, but they appeared to be larger than a man.

He was definitely starting to have misgivings about his original notion they were an innocent missing caravan in need of guidance a few hundred yards from a forest's edge. He picked his way carefully and quietly through the trees and brush, inching closer and closer to the light. As he did so, he began questioning how he ever even came up with such a stupid idea.

He started to tell Sef they should just turn back and do their best to avoid the camp, but Sef had slipped out of sight. Dorian sighed. Knowing his friend, Sef was probably already somewhere nearby the fires, eyeing the camp's inhabitants. Dorian reached a point just outside of the main glow of the fires and knelt down behind a tree, awaiting Sef's report.

As he sat, he watched the fires and the silhouettes passing in front of them. His eyes were not playing tricks on him, the figures standing before the fires were larger than the average man, their clothes appeared bulky, as though they were wearing armor.

Two figures passed each other in front of the fires and exchanged words. Dorian did not recognize the language, nor did he recognize the guttural tone saying them.

He had never seen anyone from Dargan Thir before, but he had heard enough stories from people who had travelled the borderlands to name the figures before him.

“Darklanders,” he breathed, and as he did so, he heard a shuffling a few yards to his left, and a twig snapped as someone or something moved through the trees. Dorian’s first thought was Sef, but then realized Sef would never make that much noise even moving on a bed of twigs.

He held his breath and pressed closer to the tree. The shuffling stopped, and a low, rhythmic buzzing noise began. It took Dorian a moment to recognize the noise as snoring.

He finally let out his breath and stepped away from the tree, heading back in the direction from which he had come. He had not taken two more steps before the loud snap of a twig shot from beneath his foot, causing him to wince.

The snoring stopped and the shuffling began again. The darklander stood, a large dark shape far too close to Dorian than he liked and began sweeping its massive head from side to side, looking for any sign of what might have made the noise.

Dorian did his best to remain still, but the figure started walking directly toward him. Thoughts poured into his head about what he should do. His initial reaction was to draw his sword and prepare to get the first strike in before the other got the chance. But he remembered his whole purpose for traveling this far south was on a diplomatic mission to the peace talks being held with the representatives of Dargan Thir. How would it look if he attacked and killed an escort of the emissaries? He was the intruder here, sneaking up on their camp, and this guard was simply performing his duties.

Then he thought of their positioning. Taralon was three day’s travel southward from where they were. Dargan Thir was two week’s travel east. Why would they travel to a remote forest so far off the path to Taralon? Were they lost? Dorian couldn’t imagine they would be traveling through human lands without an escort from Taralon guiding them directly where to go. Which led him back to wondering why the darklanders would be in this part of Loratania.

These thoughts shot through his mind as the darklander strode ever closer. Just as quickly, Dorian came to the decision these particular darklanders could not be up to any good and quietly drew his sword.

The lumbering figure came within sight of him and grasping a large, dented cudgel, lumbered toward him in a gait Dorian found surprising for something its size. Its eyes reminded him of a frog, large and bulging, and its head appeared directly connected to its massive shoulders without benefit of a neck. Its body seemed all shoulders and torso and its legs were short compared to its size, but apparently long enough to carry him to Dorian in just a few strides. It wore a broad, dark-blue tunic, sleeveless to show his heavily muscled arms and belted at its waist with a length of rope. The tunic flowed down to the knees of its baggy, brown britches, and its large feet were bare and were the same gray-green tone as the rest of its bare skin was, though the skin was calloused to the thickness of shoe leather.

The darklander growled and spat something in its native tongue that Dorian could not begin to understand. Dorian had his sword out and squared off to the beast as it lifted its cudgel, a thick length of wood with several metal shards jutting out the thicker end. The cudgel looked as though it had been used many times before, and the darklander swung the stick with a practiced ease, aiming for the spot where Dorian’s neck met his shoulders. Dorian leapt back out of the way, but one of the cudgel’s spikes caught his cloak, snagging it.

The darklander used this opportunity to yank the cudgel back, dragging Dorian along with it. Dorian lost his footing and fell to one knee. He was too close now to effectively use his sword, and the darklander grabbed him by the hair and snarled as it lifted the cudgel again, ready to connect with a killing blow.

Because of the darklander’s grasp on his hair, Dorian could not lift his head to see what was happening, but he figured he had only a moment before the cudgel crushed his head in. He reached behind his back and unsheathed a large hunting knife, single-bladed with a sharply pointed tip, and grasping the hilt in both hands, swung his arms upward, thrusting the blade into the creature’s groin.

The darklander grunted, and the cudgel stopped in mid-swing, falling from its hand. Dorian pulled back his blade and leapt rolling to the side. The darklander fell forward and landed hard on its stomach, causing a slight tremor in the ground.

Dorian stood and watched the darklander as it began gasping for air, breathing in shallow hiccups as it held its groin with both hands and rolled its eyes in pain. The darklander then dragged one long breath of air into its lungs, and before Dorian could move, bellowed a warning to the other darklanders in the camp.

Dorian lifted his sword and brought the tip of the blade down on the creature’s throat, silencing its scream, and its eyes began to lose their light as its life flowed out.

Dorian did not bother looking behind him. He knew the other darklanders at the camp heard the commotion and were more than likely on their way to investigate. He hoped Sef was safely hidden away and started out toward the edge of the forest.

He stopped short after a few strides in one direction and checked his surroundings. Nothing looked familiar. In the fight he lost his sense of direction and there was nothing to show him which way the edge of the forest lay. The sounds of pursuing darklanders grew louder as he tried to find anything to tell him which direction was north, but there wasn’t so much as moss on a tree to give a hint.

Standing around was not going to help him at all and the voices of the darklanders were growing ever closer, so he chose a direction and set out as fast as he could, hoping he was not leaving too clear a trail behind him for the darklanders to be able to follow in the dark. He would just have to sort out where he was later when he was safe.

Guttural cries from where he left the darklander’s body erupted behind him, pushing him to quicken his pace. He could only imagine they were setting about the site of the battle for any sign he left behind. He had no idea how well they might see in the dark, or if they were good trackers, but he was not about to leave chance to fate.

His progress was constantly hampered by fallen trees and twisted undergrowth threatening to trip him up. He ran as quickly and quietly as he could, but the constant obstacles were slowing his pace a great deal and dead twigs and leaves beneath his feet might as well have been shouting his position to the darklanders. Thankfully, there was enough space in the forest canopy to allow some of the moon’s light in, giving him the ability to at least make out the shapes of obstacles in his path.

A sound behind him made his heart leap into his throat. A dog, or something like a dog, yelped loudly, a sound he had heard foxhounds make when they caught scent of their prey. He may have been able to outrun the darklanders if they were tracking him through the dark forest, but the dogs, or whatever they were, would be able to track him by smell. And more than likely, they could run a lot faster than him.

Though the air was cold, all the recent activity was making Dorian sweat, and he started cursing how easy he was making the chase for the dogs. And the thought in the back of his mind kept nagging him that he did not know where he was going and was now probably trapped in this gods-forsaken forest.

And where in the Chasm was Sef?

His mind snapped back to the matter at hand as the sound of the dogs’ strides came closer, and he could hear their breathing. He imagined their tongues lolling out the side of their mouths, the rictus of their sneers growing wider as they could sense their prey getting closer.

Dorian picked his pace up to a dead sprint, hoping beyond hope he could keep his footing long enough to put better distance between himself and the dogs. Branches tore at his clothing and batted his face as he ran blindly through the forest.

The thick trunk of a fallen tree lay in his path, and he felt his way along it for any kind of foothold to help him climb over. He came to a section of the trunk with outcropping branches and lifted himself up, grabbing blindly for anything to help his ascent.

As he reached the top of the trunk, he heard the dogs reach the tree and a snapping at his heel as one of the hounds leapt after him told him just how close he was to being attacked. He looked down from his perch and saw the hounds for the first time. He wished he had not done that. There were nine of them; enormous, with thick coats of fur and long, lanky legs to carry them at speed he could not hope to outrun. Large, black eyes stared at him hungrily and long tongues hung from their mouths, occasionally licking their chops in anticipation of the catch.

There was nowhere for him to go now. He could slide to the other side of the trunk, but that would only buy him a few more moments before the hounds found their way around the trunk and back to his trail, and there would be no outrunning them for long after that. The only other option was to stand and fight, but he doubted he could last long with nine of them surrounding him. It also would not be long before the darklanders caught up to them, and who knew how many of them he would have to face along with the hounds.

He drew his sword. If anything, he was not going down without a fight.

One of the hounds leapt up at him and he jabbed at it, catching the creature in the snout. The hound yelped and fell back to the ground, but remained on all fours and glared back up at him.

There was a brief pause as the hounds seemed to consider another plan of attack, then one after the other started leaping toward Dorian, jumping higher and higher, some catching hold on the outcropping branches of the trunk and trying to clamber further up the tree.

While Dorian was distracted by the leaping hounds, he did not notice as two of the hounds slinked away down the trunk, to find a spot on the trunk closer to the ground.

Dorian continued to slash at the encroaching hounds as their leaps brought them closer and closer to him. More often than not his sword struck hide, but the cuts he dealt only seemed to make the hounds hungrier for his flesh.

As he took a wild swing at one of the leaping hounds, he caught sight of a figure approaching along the trunk and turned just in time to catch the hound just as it leapt at him with its long, sharp teeth gnashing and a full-throated growl.