PDA

View Full Version : Bearers of the New Word



Gravehound
April 21st, 2012, 09:53 AM
Introduction

My opponent moves like lighting. His sword is but a blur, my eyes have failed me time and time again to predict where it would strike.
It is a curious thing, how the flow of time seems to distort in those most crucial moments in your life.
My heartbeat pounds relentlessly in my head. My mind absorbs all that transpires in frightening detail. My senses overwhelm me. Stench assaults me like a blow to the face; vile and putrescent, like a charnel house, an abattoir … A battlefield.

The blade lands again, finding its way between my armored plates. It draws blood. Someone screams my name.
Fatigue overwhelms me, but I hang on. My mace flies outwards, a desperate blow to hold my opponent at bay. Every muscle and tendon in my body cries for rest. To allow it was to die.
The mace hits nothing but air. I had expected it to…

The sword darts in. I twist. The weapon strikes my gorget and deflects, nearly severing my jugular.
I move in close as I see an opening. My mace comes in from an angle, aiming to crush his skull.
My foe dances easily out of harm’s way. His elegance baffles me, so nimble, so fast! He circles me. I try to follow him, turn my body around. All he shows me is his devilish grin in the periphery of my vision. He is merely playing with me. My mind reels at helplessness of my situation….

Hundreds cheer us on, allies and foes alike. They cry for blood, they crave death, they demand victory.
A battle between champions. None would dare intervene.
I had seen a chance to turn the tide of battle. To rout the enemy and claim victory. I had been a fool to issue the challenge. For all my years of training, my experience from across a dozen wars, a hundred battles. He is beating me, beating me hard. I estimate the duel would end in the next twenty seconds. One way or another…

We trade ten blows in just as many seconds. The snow at our feet has melted through our efforts. I overbalance at the last clash and he kicks out at my legs.
I go down on one knee, my mace lays forgotten on the ground as I seek to steady myself. I look up into my killers face. He is a mere boy compared to me. A full head shorter and barely half my size. Righteous fury consumes his mind, I see it in his eyes. His sword is raised, both in victory and in readiness to take my head. He stretches the moment. Savoring his victory, demonstrating his dominance, reliving his triumph. The sword falls…

The crowd falls silent, sensing the moment of truth to be at hand. The only sound that of the fierce wind howling across the battlefield. It is as honorable an end as one could expect to find in mindless, brutal war such as this. I would however not go down without a fight.
I catch the sword in my gauntleted left hand. Intense pain numbs my arm as I stop its downward momentum. The feeling of a thousand needles puncturing my flesh, It was all I could do to hold on. My opponent sneers at me and tries to pull the weapon free. It is stuck in my fist, hot blood flows freely from between my fingers, tunneling into the frozen ground at our feet. I see the arrogance leave his face as he comprehends the direness of his situation. He becomes more animated trying his best to free his blade. I do not relent, my fist is like a vice. He hits me in the face with his free hand, hoping vainly to dislodge me.
I laugh, hard and loud into the chill mountain air. For all my enemy’s virtues, his formidable speed, light-footedness and elegance, strength is not one of them. I rise to my feet, his weapon still lodged within my mighty paw. He looks at me in unbelieving horror as I tower over him. A giant of a man covered in intricate silver trimmed armor. My bald head is pale, paler still because of the unrelenting cold. My ice encrusted beard lends me the appearance of an ancient blasphemous ice god. My fierce blue eyes seemed to pierce into his soul. My adversary stood transfixed, mouth agape. I was to be the last thing he would ever see…

Our enemies’ champion screams as he dies. It is a vicious, horrible death. My right hand closes across his head gently, almost compassionate. I can hear the skull fracturing as I dig my fingers into his brainpan. His head comes apart in a wet crunching sound. The screaming shuts off abruptly.
Hot blood splatters my face and I welcome the rise in temperature. I let the body fall to the ground, his face an unrecognizable mass of splintered bone and ruptured flesh. Chunks of brain matter cling to my hands still. I throw my head back and howl wildly into the churning sky. A hundred men flinch as another hundred cheer simultaneously. Our heathen enemies start to run, they flee the battlefield quickly after the demise of their champion. My soldiers give chase immediately, no order needed to be given. They would give no quarter to the heathen scum, and they would expect none to be asked. The retreat would quickly turn into a rout and our enemies would be slaughtered. It would be the decisive battle that would win us the war.

My name is Ivan Zelbrecht and I hold the esteemed holy rank of lord flamen Haruspex.
I am a bearer of the New Word.

Orionradar
April 21st, 2012, 12:46 PM
Awesome. I really enjoyed reading this piece. I thought your descriptions were dead on and I could visualize everything that was going on in the scene. Only comments I can make (and trust me I had to work to think of a couple) deal mainly with word choice, and it might just be that I would use different words, not that I think the words you have chosen are wrong in any way.

For instance "fingers into his brainpan" I'm not a big fan of brainpan.

Also, maybe you can clarify this one point. Your character discusses his exhaustion in the beginning, so he "feels," and maybe you can attribute this to adrenaline, and the fact that otherwise he would die, but when he catches his opponents sword with/in his hand, he mentions nothing about pain. Maybe that's one of his characteristics, but it seems as if one-line toward the end of the second to last or last paragraph about...medical attention, or the pain shooting through his hand/arm would be a nice way for the reader to feel that the character is still in some sort of danger and not just an overpowered monster. The reason you "like" or follow that characted through the fight in the beginning is that the reader feels he is in mortal danger and fighting for his life. Same when the sword strikes him at the beginning. He mentions in the next few sentences about his exhaustion, but nothing about the pain of the strike.

I definitely liked what you have set up so far, and you clearly have skill in writing action scenes. I look forward to seeing more if given the chance.

Gravehound
April 21st, 2012, 02:17 PM
Awesome. I really enjoyed reading this piece. I thought your descriptions were dead on and I could visualize everything that was going on in the scene. Only comments I can make (and trust me I had to work to think of a couple) deal mainly with word choice, and it might just be that I would use different words, not that I think the words you have chosen are wrong in any way.

For instance "fingers into his brainpan" I'm not a big fan of brainpan.

Also, maybe you can clarify this one point. Your character discusses his exhaustion in the beginning, so he "feels," and maybe you can attribute this to adrenaline, and the fact that otherwise he would die, but when he catches his opponents sword with/in his hand, he mentions nothing about pain. Maybe that's one of his characteristics, but it seems as if one-line toward the end of the second to last or last paragraph about...medical attention, or the pain shooting through his hand/arm would be a nice way for the reader to feel that the character is still in some sort of danger and not just an overpowered monster. The reason you "like" or follow that characted through the fight in the beginning is that the reader feels he is in mortal danger and fighting for his life. Same when the sword strikes him at the beginning. He mentions in the next few sentences about his exhaustion, but nothing about the pain of the strike.

I definitely liked what you have set up so far, and you clearly have skill in writing action scenes. I look forward to seeing more if given the chance.

Thank you very much for the nice commentary Orion. It really means a lot to me!
I have edited it a little following your nice criticism. I've added a sentence or two about the pain when he catches the sword (didn't really occur to me but thanks for pointing that out.)
About the brainpan stuff. It's not really the kind of word I would usually use but seeing as I used 'skull' already in the sentence and 'head' in one thereafter. ’Brain’ just sounded plain old dull and I thought brainpan might give it that extra touch. It's true I don’t often read a word such as this in other novels and short stories.

Part two coming up soon so be on the lookout.
cheers Ghound

BRSaye
April 21st, 2012, 06:57 PM
The brainpan didn't really bother me, I didn't even notice it until it was brought up. It's definitely a different word, when you think about it, but I think it fits with the rest of the story.

SeaBee1
April 22nd, 2012, 12:27 AM
One of the best pieces I have seen here lately.

'Nuff said.

Best regards

CB

Gravehound
April 22nd, 2012, 11:19 AM
‘How are you feeling, Lord Zelbrecht?’
I turn slowly from the sight of the setting sun. The bale red eye casts its muddy light across the bustling campsite. I find it strangely soothing.
‘I feel old. So very old my friend.’ My trustworthy acolyte nods at me sagely. I see his concern for me written across his face.
‘You gave us quite a scare Zel.’ My disciple yawns nonchalantly. Valus Kresensz, as usual he fails to provide me with the proper respect to address me by my rank. I let it slip this time. I am much too tired for arguments. My acolyte is not.
‘Show some respect you oaf!’
‘Watch the tone old man, I could be your master one day. Don’t forge-‘
‘Enough!’ I interrupt them before it got out of hand again. I turn back, staring at the sunset.
My mind is in turmoil, I have a big decision to make and would have preferred to make it in quietude and self-reflection. My companions join me to stare at the end of the day. The three of us are silent for several minutes. As the last rays of the sun descend below the horizon I came to a decision.
‘The course of our lives will be changing from now on.’ I let the statement hang in the air.
As usual it was my apprentice that broke the heavy mood first.
‘Will we be leaving tomorrow won’t we? Should we not see the crusade through to the end?’
‘Lord Grunell is competent enough to see this through, we are no longer required.’
‘The men take hearth at seeing you amongst them my lord. You grant them courage.’ My acolyte has ever been a man of wisdom. When I was still an apprentice myself and he was the acolyte of my own master. At times before my faith and resolve was as iron hard as it was now he had been the voice of reason. I love him dearly as both my friend and as a kind of father.
‘My mind is made up Jonathan. ‘
Valus grunts. He has grown to the point that he values his own views as better than mine. I have awaited the day. He has never liked me very much, despised me even. I do not blame him. I have been a ruthless master at times. Valus had shown great potential when I took him under my care, yet somehow despite my diligent lessons he has grown arrogant and disdainful. It seems I am not the great teacher I had always believed. Not like my master was before me. I realize he has become a liability more or less. If only I had realized sooner.
‘Valus.’ I growled. ‘Get back to camp and finish packing our belongings.’
‘Why don’t the serv-‘
‘Now! Stop arguing you rotten sack, for once do what you’re told.’ He bows at me slightly and stomps off angrily, I feel I am losing control over him by the day.
‘He grows restless my lord.’ Once again Jonathan seems to read what’s on my mind.
I sigh and finally tear my eyes from the horizon. I see my acolyte stand before me. A hunched old man. His body shivers despite the thick furs he is wearing. I lay my hand upon his shoulder in a gesture of camaraderie. He smiles at me broadly and it lifts my troubled spirit instantly.
‘You have ever been faithful to me old friend. I fear I have a confession to make.’
‘I have sensed something has been on your mind of late.’ He replied. He takes my hand from his shoulder and gently thumps it against my breast. ‘Trust in your hearth.’
His words give me solace despite it was me who has studied the uplifting scriptures of god. The 'New Word'. I cannot express how much I will miss him.
‘The fighting today has made me realize something. I am not the virile young man I once was. Death had almost found me on the field today. Only the last minute intervention of god has saved me. I have become too old for this kind of work.’
‘This kind of work?’
‘Being a champion at the front. This unending bloodshed and pain. I feel god has another reason for me, I am being drawn to something I cannot explain.’
Jonathan exhales loudly. ‘You will be leaving? Back to the temple cities. Retire?’
I laugh. ‘And spend the rest of my life in the dreary drudgery of citizen life? I thought you knew me better than that. I’ll die of boredom within the week.’
We both laughed. Loud and genuine. It had been a long time since we had a laugh like that.
I turned serious again. ‘I will be going on a pilgrimage.’
‘The northern temples of saint Ulriel?’ he queried.
‘At first, then I will travel the coast. From town to city, across borders to preach the new word. Till the end of civilization and beyond. Wherever my hearth takes me, wherever he chooses to lead me.
‘Quite a distance for such an old man as me.’ He smirks half-heartedly.
‘It is time you retired old friend. God knows you’ve earned it.’
I see him sag in his robes a little. A tear wells up in the corners of his eyes and I am utterly moved by the simple earnest of the emotion. ‘It would be a lie to say that serving the Flamen Haruspex has not been my life. I have often wondered when this day would come.’
‘And when it is finally there, no matter how much you have prepared for it. It still seems so unexpected.’
‘A lesson of life.’ Jonathan agrees. ‘ I fear I’ll feel lost without your guidance Lord.’
‘You will get over it. You must trust me in this.’
A single tear rolls down across his sunken cheek. He wipes his face with a fur covered sleeve and nods absently. ‘Now if you would excuse me my lord, I should be getting out of the cold.’
He turns from me and I watch him limp defeated towards our tents. It breaks my heart but I must be strong. The hardest part was over, now I only had to inform my erstwhile disciple. I suspect it would be a different conversation altogether.

Orionradar
April 22nd, 2012, 01:21 PM
Again, I definitely think you've done well setting the scene. I did not see the decision the main character made coming (Not as if I have any idea where the story is heading, but this was not what I expected, well done). Only a few comments I can relay on this section. Again, all very much discretionary.

One thing I would like to know and maybe you will include it later, but where exactly does a Lord Flamen Haruspex fit into the organization that the characters belong? Are there multiple men holding this same position on different fronts (such as generals) or is this a position with even greater significance? Also something about the rank is somewhat..."off" you mention the main character is "I hold the esteemed holy rank of lord flamen Haruspex" during the introduction. Then, during the second piece here, you note that he has spent his life "serving the Flamen Haruspex." If that were true it seems as if he has been serving himself. Or maybe I am reading it wrong...

I might change this line: Valus Kresensz, as usual he fails to provide me with the proper respect to address me by my rank.
To: Valus Kresensz, as usual, fails to show proper respect and address me by (my) rank. I let it slip this time. My being optional

Right before that line actually, I might swap the two sentences: ‘You gave us quite a scare Zel.’ My disciple yawns nonchalantly. It would sync Valus addressing the main character without rank and the main character's thought about it instead of separating the two.

Question, why is Jonathan not leading the forces and instead an advisor to the main character? "When I was still an apprentice myself and he was the acolyte of my own master"...He has clearly been around for a very long time. Does he not have ambitions of that nature, or is this a nobility sort of right that he cannot hope to achieve? Just curious.

I like the set up of the master/apprentice relationship going south. Pretty standard one in stories, but a good one to draw off of if you do it right, because it combines so many elements that make great stories.

I hope that helps...the only few things I could find that made me raise an eyebrow. Again, good job.

Gravehound
April 22nd, 2012, 02:27 PM
Again, I definitely think you've done well setting the scene. I did not see the decision the main character made coming (Not as if I have any idea where the story is heading, but this was not what I expected, well done). Only a few comments I can relay on this section. Again, all very much discretionary.

One thing I would like to know and maybe you will include it later, but where exactly does a Lord Flamen Haruspex fit into the organization that the characters belong? Are there multiple men holding this same position on different fronts (such as generals) or is this a position with even greater significance? Also something about the rank is somewhat..."off" you mention the main character is "I hold the esteemed holy rank of lord flamen Haruspex" during the introduction. Then, during the second piece here, you note that he has spent his life "serving the Flamen Haruspex." If that were true it seems as if he has been serving himself. Or maybe I am reading it wrong...

I might change this line: Valus Kresensz, as usual he fails to provide me with the proper respect to address me by my rank.
To: Valus Kresensz, as usual, fails to show proper respect and address me by (my) rank. I let it slip this time. My being optional

Right before that line actually, I might swap the two sentences: ‘You gave us quite a scare Zel.’ My disciple yawns nonchalantly. It would sync Valus addressing the main character without rank and the main character's thought about it instead of separating the two.

Question, why is Jonathan not leading the forces and instead an advisor to the main character? "When I was still an apprentice myself and he was the acolyte of my own master"...He has clearly been around for a very long time. Does he not have ambitions of that nature, or is this a nobility sort of right that he cannot hope to achieve? Just curious.

I like the set up of the master/apprentice relationship going south. Pretty standard one in stories, but a good one to draw off of if you do it right, because it combines so many elements that make great stories.

I hope that helps...the only few things I could find that made me raise an eyebrow. Again, good job.

Thanks once again for the interest Orion.
Perhaps to clarify a few items:

- Flamen Haruspex is a rank within the church. There are warrior priest who fight in the wars of enlightenment (crusades basically)
A Flamen Haruspex is one of the highest ranking individuals of the priesthood. Strong, smart and faithful. They join the armies. They do not lead the armies but serve more as an inspiration to the soldiers and are more or less champions. They hold no real command but also cannot be commanded by others. There exist several different Haruspexes at the same time.
-The line about serving the haruspex was actually said by Jonathan, not Zelbrecht
-Jonathan is basically just a servant. he cannot fight for he is just an old man but he is very smart. He just serves as a personal assistant. Jonathan has served Zelbrecht's master before him and the one before. hence serving the Flamen Haruspex has been his life.

Hope this has helped
Cheers GHound

Orionradar
April 22nd, 2012, 03:18 PM
I must have misread that part about serving. My bad. That's what happens when I get into reading something and I have to take a break to do my actual job and come back a while later and try to finish the critique. Sorry about that. Keep it up.

Gravehound
April 23rd, 2012, 08:15 AM
I enter Valus his tent with three of Lord Grunell’s elite soldiers at my side. They are to be part of the escort provided to me by the good commander. The mountains are after all still a dangerous place to cross alone. The candles in the tent flicker wildly as I open the entrance flap. Stepping inside was like stepping into a furnace. Thick Bearskin rugs cover the floor as wolf pelts were stitched across the walls in an effort to keep the cold at bay. A fire pit was gently blazing at the centre. The herbs being burned filled the low ceilinged pavilion with thick, eye-watering smoke. Still carrying my plate armor I felt as if being suffocated.
I find my disciple lounging on a set of cushions in a corner. His armor dumped unceremoniously in another. A servant wrench was feeding him grapes, giggling softly as she combed back his thick brown locks. One of the soldiers starts to cough, unable to resist the invading smoke any longer.
Valus looks up sharply. He had been unaware of us entering his tent. By the coloration of his cheeks and the lack of focus in his eyes I quite cleverly deduce he is drunk out of his mind. Discarded liquor bottles lay scattered across his tent, broken shards lay fizzing at the hearth of the fire.
‘Victory celebrations?’ I asked mockingly. Looking at the serving girl I flicked my head at the exit. She got the gist and quickly scrambled together her belongings and left the tent quietly.
‘Awww… Don’t be that way Zell. We were just having some fun.’ His words are utterly slurred and I struggle to comprehend the meaning of them.
‘Do I need to remind you that you are a man of the church. You have a position to uphold. What would happen you recon if, God forbid, the soldiers saw you drunk off your arse in your heated little tent whilst they nearly freeze to death outside?’
He rights himself slowly and rolls his shoulders. His body is quite formidable as befits a warrior of the priesthood. Tall and broad, heavy slabs of muscle twitch as he tenses them. He looks me square in the eye. His eyes are chestnutty brown and used to be filled with eagerness and understanding. Now I only see anger there. He is a fool if he thought to intimidate me. I am broader and taller still.
‘You listen to me now, master.’ Such vehemence in his voice at that last word!
‘I have spent the better part of ten hours today, following you across a battlefield in the God damned biting cold. Slaughtering, maiming and butchering. I’m not going argue with you, nor complain ‘bout that. But damn me if I want to relax a little afterwards as I get this cursed chill out of my bones and the blood out of my tabard. And there is no Goddamned son of a bitch on this whole mountaintop who is going stop me.’ He pokes his index finger into my chest for emphasis.
‘Don’t you dare use the lords name in vain you little shit bastard!’ My voice trembles. Never had I been so disrespected. Men have died before for not honoring me with the respect I have earned. I try my best to reign in my anger. My body screams to smash his nose through the back of his head.
‘You have failed me Valus. I see that clearly now.’ He looks at me uncomprehending. ‘I have been blinded by the potential you once possessed. No one can deny your passion for the Lord and your mighty skills in battle. This last year in particular has shown you for what you really are. A smug, dispassionate, self-aggrandizing , arrogant little child.’ I knew that what I would say now would have had him wishing I had died on the field today. ‘I had thought to hand you over to another Haruspex. To redeem yourself so you might still make a deserving bearer of the New Word one day.’
‘Another Haruspex?’
I ignore his question as I turn from him. ‘You use religion as you wield your hammer. All must bow before you because you serve the church. This is not the way it is and I thought you would have realized it by now. We are to be compassionate to our servants, we fight for the masses, we keep their souls safe from trepidation and damnation. We do not see them as slaves. We fight to better their lives, they do not exist to serve ours!’ My voice rises as I speak these last words. He does not face me anymore, he regards the floor in shame, his arms hang limply beside his body. He realizes perhaps at last he has pushed me to the limits of my short patience. It is far too late, I am way over the edge.
‘I am going on the pilgrimage Valus. And you, you will neither join me nor take over my mantle.’ He opens his mouth to protest but I would not let him. ‘I find you unworthy to be a bearer of the New Word!’ The words I yell stagger him like a physical blow. ‘You are hereby declared hereticus and will face trial under the eyes of the Haruspex high lords.’
He falls to his knees, defeated. ‘No.’ He utters weakly.
‘Jonathan will accompany you to the grand templum Aegis and will speak at the trial on my behalf. It is the last thing I will ever order him to do for me. Pray he shows you compassion and pleads the high lords to allow you into the templum guard, or rot away in their dungeons till the end of your miserable life. With the Lord as my witness I have spoken.’
Something snaps in Valus his mind. He roars as if possessed. The cry of an apex predator trapped and cornered. He charges me. Too fast for any of the guards to intervene. I have trained him well. His mighty hammer lays discarded by his armor. I am lucky, for unarmed as I am I would have surely fallen to him in his blind rage.
He comes at me low and at an angle. Despite his drunkenness he is still dangerous. What a waste to lose a warrior such as him, the good he could have done. He throws a heavy right punch at my face. I deflect it with my forearms. The momentum knocks me a step back and I feel some of my wounds reopening. He follows up with a left hook. I can feel the displacement of air above my head as I duck under. I am still tired from today and my sustained wounds slow me down considerately. My apprentice has not suffered any such wounds and is much better rested, much younger too. At this time the guards have cornered him, swords drawn. I wave a gesture and they back off. I would take him down myself. That much he deserves at least.
He jabs and I move in under the strike. It was a feint and he kicks out at my gut, aiming to unbalance me. I let his shin hit my hauberk and remain unmoved. If he felt any pain in hitting full steel he does not show it. He wheels back and comes in with a roundhouse kick. Had it connected it would have pulped my face. I step backwards out of range and throw a vicious left hook at his head as he moves in again. He tries to block my fist with his forearm as I taught him. He had not however, expected the strength behind the blow. I punch straight through his guard and clip him on the right ear. He staggers, wrong-footed and he almost fell. Instinct took over as he steadies himself. He knows I would move in to take advantage and curls up into a defensive position: Fists covering the head and elbows guard the body.
I wheel around his body and deliver a devastating punch to his kidney. He yelps in pain and turn his body to face me again. His constitution is considerate. A punch such as this would have dropped a normal man to the floor, not to rise anytime soon. My adversary hangs on. His willpower is admirable but he is outclassed. I move in as he throws a last vain blow to my face, hoping to catch me unguarded. I let his fist glide beside my head and wait as his own momentum takes him towards me. I throw my entire weight behind an uppercut and grin as it connects with his gut. He drops instantly to the ground on hands and knees. Vomit escapes his stomach through his mouth in a torrent, followed closely by a welter of blood. He passes out and I gesture for the guards to take him.
‘Throw him in a wagon and tie him up. I want him guarded by two men at all times.’
They salute sharply and went about their orders as I turn to leave the tent. I stop at the entrance and turn to face them a last time. ‘Let me know when he wakes up, I still need to have a little talk to him.’
I greedily inhale the chill mountain air as I exit the tent. The heavy smoke had gone to my head and I felt dizzy. I knew I had better tell Jonathan what had transpired. I needed a drink first.

DarkMoonlight
April 24th, 2012, 08:37 AM
Not had time to read the rest but the intorduction is amazing, really really loved reading it. I'll look forward to reading the rest!!!

AustinReis
May 1st, 2012, 04:14 AM
Oh no! Not the vikings! Just Kiddin'. Great start to a story