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View Full Version : Red Son Rising: Saints & Sinners Chapter II



Tatham
January 26th, 2014, 07:06 PM
The forum probably makes my formatting look a bit overwhelming. But here it is, the second chapter in my book, newly released on the Amazon Kindle. Red Son Rising: Saints & Sinners. Why the second chapter, I hear you cry? Simply put, the second chapter takes place not too long ago before the first. It tells the story of how the two unlikely protagonists met, as well as how the mysterious omniscient character was lured to them, thus, inspiring him/her to tell their story.

Chapter II
Collision Of Destinies


I

4 Months ago…

Did you ever laid eyes on the city of Demopolis? Its lights? Its splendour? Its death? I did in what seemed like such a long time ago. I may have mentioned it to you already. I can’t recall. Facts seem so vague in this lonely side of the world, making it hard for me to remember that which I’ve already disclosed to you. But let me confess none the less: Demopolis was an awful place to dwell for too long, even for me. Built around a magnificent mountain, surrounded by a great canyon that spanned three-hundred and sixty degrees around the city walls, Demopolis was known to all that knew of it as the city that lay siege to a golden mountain.
My random visit was a very worthwhile one. Detestable at first. But that was until a particular occurrence shifted how I would perceive my odd existence.
I’m here to tell you, in greater length than you may otherwise be privy to, of the eve I met two unlikely people as their paths entwined in the most strangest of circumstances. I know not what pulled me to that dreadful city, nor exactly whether their encounter was the reason I was mysteriously summoned. But for many a day after I became their silent companion, drifting in an invisible guise by their side, not knowing whether or not my presence was sentient or otherwise. I became their unwritten scribe, a witness to their deadly quest. Their companionship eventually gave me a purpose to shine through, yielding an opportunity to make a difference in a world I could not touch nor be seen by. I no longer felt invisible. Such a strange and surreal moment in my mad life, this collision of destinies. It jogged my existence a little, pulling me from a state of being I was slowly being sucked into and gave me a new cause to endure.
Intrigue or nostalgia. I know not what it was that I saw in them in the beginning. All I remember is the connection I felt to their circumstance.
I just need to share it with you. So listen closely.
It all began in a slum of all places, within one of many alleys that zigzag throughout the labyrinthine city. The tight spaces was victim to the beating hot White Star that fed the endless desert of the Ferevere Province with everlasting heat. From afar, and in bragging tales, they said that this particular city was one forged from dreams. It might have been true once, long ago. But during these events I share with you they couldn’t be further than the truth. To go there, to walk among its people and architecture, you’d find it as rotten as a decaying old tooth. That’s not to say there weren’t any diamonds’ in the rough, as you’ll soon discover.
The strix, giant bird-like fiends who eat the flesh of man, hovered above in wait for an easy meal, nit-picking their way through corpse after corpse. They even took prey alive if they were easy game. Sometimes they even warmed to the flesh of children, whose meat is described as a delicacy among most fiends and dark folk alike.
But the strix were mere game to an even worse school of monsters.
Outside the city limits there existed a society of dark folk who called themselves the unsound, people who lived on the very cusp of the Dead Lands. They said that, in many a century ago, common folk sought to settle in the Dead Lands upon learning of vast treasures that lay above and beneath of the bygone civilization. But to live in this no man’s land, to hunt for its secrets would alter their sanity forever. It was renowned to be a cursed land. Rumours of spectres and even daemons from the Pit were said to be their deities, an influence to their mentality as it slipped away like water escaping from an open hand. So the story goes, anyway; only they who dwelled there and their deity’s knew of what happened to transform them into savages.
Demopolis was no stranger to these abysmal folk either, for there had been many times where the unsound tried to attack the city. All attempts failed of course. But naturally, there were flaws in the city’s design they took advantage of to sneak through its defences. Some lived in the sewers, often emerging at night to prey on beggars and drunks, while others actually lived in homes within the city like any commoner, making a living for themselves and their families. But never once did they forget their nature.
They were often mistaken for their human appearance. But actually they were no more than rotten savages who, for too long, suckled on the tit of madness. Their barbarous ways, cannibalizing their victims in the name of survival and ritual, weren’t exactly tolerable.
Obviously, the humans that walked the city were hardly exempt of sin. Bandits and corrupt lawmen practically ran the inside of the walls, paying off politicians and even the throne so they could do as they pleased. Always did the lesser of coin and the weak suffer in this game of dominance. Humans were such selfish creatures at the very core; despite all that I’ve seen and experienced, my opinion hasn’t changed one iota on this matter.
So now you know why I hated that place. Despite all that I was when I wore flesh I was unable to change the way it worked there. No matter how bad I wanted to. You’ll never understand the definition of powerless until you’ve lived how I have, lost in this purgatory.
I feel that you should know about these things, if not to aid your journey through this land but to expand your understanding of this world. The strix and the unsound and the politics of the city, as intriguing as they might seem, played a very small part; they served a great purpose however in building the scenery to where I lament my tale.
Now I take you back to Demopolis itself. As you may have gathered, it was governed by a single king, whose appetite and greed surpassed most men; there was seldom a king who exercised a selfless lifestyle, you should know. Upon discovery, the flyers that the holiday goer might’ve read hinted to its golden synthetic beaches in the rich recreational spas and luxurious resorts. And they’d be right too, but it failed to mention the poverty and despair elsewhere, to which a boy of destiny enters our tale.
When my eyes laid on him for the first time I remembered my existence after such a long time being without it. I was no longer a soulless spectator, omniscient in corporeal form. Instead I was instantly attracted to the thing that made him tick – his soul; how it burned brightly against the odds, like a small candle that had the potential to go nuclear if given the chance. It was that which probably revitalized my own.
Diving into his mind offered few answers as to why my spirit found him. All I saw were fractured memories, too painful for even me to penetrate. So full of sorrow was he when concerning the past. I couldn’t even retrieve a name.
You might’ve looked at him and seen just a mere boy, suffering in the worst conditions poverty yields with naught but the clothes he wore, dirty and declining. But to look passed this you’d see a fire burning so brightly in his eyes, something even the blind could see if they concentrated. But far too many minds in Demopolis were closed to notice.
Deep in the alleyways, amongst beggars and whores, he sat alone with his arms and legs sprawled carelessly about him. He was weak and in need of sustenance. It had been days, or perhaps even a week since his last meal. So long that he’d even forgotten what anything tasted like. All he knew was that he yearned for it in the most primitive sense, his lips parched for it, cracked and a little bloody.
The beating heat of the White Star didn’t make his hunger any easier to endure. His body was excreting so much sweat it dampened the ground, almost covering the shameful soiling of his clothes below. He didn’t care, though. The end was coming for him and he knew it, even as he held ever so fast to life his body had given up. He had rehearsed this poverty with such intimacy his innocence was almost swallowed whole. Soon there would be nothing left of him.
Further down the alley he could hear the degrading ruckus of some dirty whore as she was defiled by some fat, ugly drunk. Her pale form was timid and fragile, her hair brunette, curled and long. She was beautiful to behold, this whore. But her client drained such from her through this demeaning experience.
He didn’t understand such things to have energy enough to care. He barely had enough energy to worry about himself. But he concluded that she had her reasons, just like he did for being here, a fact that was easily deduced by her sad, weeping eyes. Perhaps she had children to provide for? And what with poverty running as rampant as the plague, perhaps in selling ones body served a means to an end, however grim it was.
A rustling of feet stole the boy from his concentration as a small gang of youths not quite as declined as he approached. They were skinny, rough and bequeathed a menace to their countenance that made the poor child shiver with fear. He knew what was coming next.
“Hey, if it ain’t the pretty boy! What was your name again?” called out one urchin from amongst the gang of hoodlums.
But the blue-eyed lad didn’t even look at him, forcing the other boy to repeat himself quite impatiently with a far fiercer tone. But still he said nothing.
“All alone ain’t he? He’ll be dead before winter. The rats will be using his carcass as a buffet. Not being funny there kid but why don’t you let us put you out of your misery and sell you to the physicians. So they can do their big science thingy, and we can eat. They pay well for a corpse, y’know. Sound fair, no?” Their knuckles cracked and a sound of wheezy snickering erupted like a frightening as a volcano for the poor urchin, when in fact they were but cruel whispers. He knew what would undoubtedly follow.
The boy still refused to acknowledge their threats, ignoring them as though they were never there. He’d all but given in to the sadness that had tormented him since darkness befell his land, from what I could partially gather from his mind – a time in his life that had been locked away in his heart, leaving traces of its existence in the embodiment of despair. His body remembered it well. But his memories were a mess, too mortified and scarred.
But the gang cared not.
It was not long before their tormenting grew into frustration, angered by the boy’s strange ignorance. They began to violently ignite. They punched and scratched at him, bit him and kicked him. But still their victim chose to do nothing but let them with only his weak whimpering standing as the only testament to his waning soul. He wanted to fight and at the very least defend himself. But his body was too tired out to even try.
All he could do was let it happen and pray that death will soon take him on swift wings.

II

A week passed and still he held fast to life. He was none the stronger however. Plenty weaker. He had become further accustomed to the pain he’d suffered a week passed, the wounds that ebbed his delicate form numb like his broken heart. All he had, and all ever had were dreams. But even they would inevitably soon be lost in the passing of time.
I could do naught but watch as this potential blew away like the dust settling after the fallout. No amount of crying out to the sky above seemed to prevent that, as desperate as I was in my endeavour to save him. My words of comfort were lost to him, too, as were my tears. It seemed all I could do was wait for him to pass over. Not that even the spirits of the dead can see me or anything; I wished only for the final mercy on his behalf.
It all seemed ill-fated. But as luck would have it, it seemed as though someone above had heard my pleading. This was the night where it all changed for him, where two unlikely soldiers of this world, both of contrasting skill and taste, collided. For this alone, it was certainly worth the wait.
A stranger walked by during the eve of Thursday, one the boy had not ever seen before. Having a way with faces was quite the commodity in the lifestyle of an urchin – having to cut another’s purse now and then and all; you remember not to hit the same purse twice. But those times came far earlier in his time in Demopolis and he was never very good at it. He was a far more brutal child, hard and heavier a hitter than some, and not soft on his feet and nimble of finger like those made for the dishonest life.
An average sized fellow this stranger was, hiding under a purple patched hood; a long blue, sleeveless coat with a black and white striped long-sleeved top underneath; a silver gauntlet, fit for knighthood, mayhap, that encompassed his entire lower left arm to the length of his fingernails – a suspicious red orb fitted to the bare silver in-between; boiled leather greaves, complete with fine steel shielding for the knees; unremarkable sable leather boots with a strange caricature of an unknown daemon for the buckles; a sheathed greatsword of strange design strapped to his back. There was no shadow of doubt in his mind that there was something odd about him, particularly in the eyes, which immediately caught his own. They illuminated a bloodthirsty red, a glow that may’ve sought to turn the eye of any other individual. Not the lad however. Well, not quite. He did glance, once out of habit and then a second out of curiosity.
The stranger didn’t even register him. His business took him elsewhere, toward two thugs waiting for him at the end of the alley, just near enough for the urchin boy to eavesdrop. They were probably in cahoots with each other, he deduced; or, even better, the stranger had been enlisted by them to take a bounty on some poor guy’s life for whatever reason. An assassin! Or maybe he was collecting the bounty now? Of course, neither guess did any justice, for the revelation would soon astound.
“You have what I require?” the stranger asked, his tone hollow as though he were calling down an empty hall.
“Maybe we do,” replied thug one, a hint of sport in his voice.
“Maybe we don’t,” said another, thug two, baring a rather toothy grin.
Two careful fingers brushed against his greatsword as the stranger prepared for anything unexpected. “I shall ask once more, and if you persist in wasting my time your guts shall decorate the wall behind you.” Such called forth a sense of pleasure in the stranger’s voice, as though a part of him would rise up to that turn of event.
But the two thugs only laughed at such, which only sought to strengthen the stranger’s resolve. His ears attuned, he could then hear more laughing coming from other directions. Eight more thugs emerged from the shadow, all with cruelty in their eyes as deadly as the daggers in their hands. They were burly men, some muscular while other fat, with scars to further prove how deadly they were. You could read all this by their eyes alone – their venomous eyes.
“You see,” began the first thug, “we’re not inclined to deal with filth as honestly as you may have thought, yer bigot. Our client would pay handsomely if we were to put you down under, here and now. Plus, me thinks, we’ll get a little bonus from the town guardsmen if we would allow your head spiked and displayed outside the city walls. So if yer want what we got or don’t got you’ll have to kill us for it. What say you, vampyre?”
“Oh you have what I desire.” The vampyre inhaled, almost quivering as though influenced by ecstasy. “I can smell it.”
Oddly, the vampyre was unnerved by their threats, even when knowing that battle was inevitable. He noted several things before he could claim first blood, such as the blades having been coated with a holy augmentation and that two of the thugs carried water pistols – a childish notion but effective all the same in scolding his flesh if the water made contact.
“Care to tell me the name of your client?” he asked.
“Oh I dunno, boy!” bellowed the first thug, humoured by the request. “The vampyre wants to know the name of our client. Should we tell ‘im? Will it matter any to the dead?”
“Then I beseech you,” the vampyre drew his greatsword and posed for battle, his style reminiscent of the warriors who were fabled to dwell in the eastern islands, “I don’t really want to harm any of you worms. But if it can’t be helped then I promise you all now: none of you shall lay a single scratch on me. Turn away and take your lives with you. And tell your employer I’m coming for him next. I shan’t ask again.”
An unbelievable statement, one that all the thugs laughed to; thug one perked his ear to the sound bellowing from them all. “Yer ‘ere that, vampyre? That’s the sound of us not giving a fuck!” A vampyre slaying ten well-armed men was a very absurd threat, if not rare at least. You see, vampyres in this day and age have a life expectancy of at least one to two hundred years at best; if the treacherous land and weather don’t kill it then a well-trained band of huntsmen surely will. At least that’s what the word of the land wants you to believe, anyway.
“He wanted to me to tell yer this, though.” Thug one stepped forward, almost close enough to touch the vampyre’s blade. “He said, ‘You may hide behind skirts of maidens and pretty others pockets with gold in exchange for silence. But the saintly red flag knows no limit. We know you’re here. And we’re always watching.’ Or something like that.”
“T-those words?” the vampyre’s stance quavered. He’d heard those words before.
“Like that? I been practicing that all morning just for that reaction. Hope I got it right.” With the gesture of his arm, he instructed the attention of his fellows’ to the vampyre. His smile was dark and experienced. He’d been involved in these cruel shenanigans before, likely for profit. “Now, kill him!”
The sixth thug made the first move. First to try – and with a quick swish of the vampyre’s blade he was cut in half down the centre – and the first to die; he squirmed and twitched briefly before death took him, the two halves of his body falling either side of where he stood. And yet the vampyre remained cool and collected, his expression unreadable to his foes under his shadowy hood. “He was keen, no?” he taunted with a cheeky grin.
A whizz of water burst forth from one of the water guns and the vampyre spritely evaded its deadly spray as though in dance. Again and again it fired, but with grace the vampyre span toward the thug, dodging every splash with beautiful finesse. From some distance he cut the assailant’s throat with the very tip of his blade. The third thug was down!
“Don’t say I didn’t give you morons a chance,” he said.
The remaining eight were a little on edge now, but still seemed confident, perhaps too confident to expect any retreat just yet.
“C’mon yer fools! It’s just a flippin’ vampyre. We’re well armed men! He ain’t but a scrawny twig, no more a threat than that boy over there!” spat the first thug, desperately clinging to strands of moral that was found wanting. Despite his bravado, however, he was just as antagonized as the rest of his troupe. And so he should be.
And as his words left his lips the vampyre appeared instantly behind him as though he were born from the breeze. He whispered into his ear, “You know, there’s an old saying: cut off the head of a snake and the rest of its followers shall fall. This works in two instances, one would be your body actually falling and the second would be your merry band of men. You’d better pray that you’re in relation to the hydra, for even severed it may continue to wriggle and thrive for a time so it may yet hunt for its vengeance.” The thug was too astounded to even counter, disarmed by the vampyre’s abnormal speed, and not to mention the gleam from his blade cleverly distracting the corner of his eye. “You don’t smell like one though. Pity. I enjoy a challenge.”
Justifying his words, the vampyre cleaved and the first thug’s head rolled away and down into an open manhole. From the open wound came a fountain of blood, spraying upon the vampyre’s face; being so inclined, he licked it from his dry blue lips as sumptuously as though it were sticky toffee to a glutton child.
Seven remained. One escaped cowardly down the alley, while the remaining six launched themselves foolishly toward their opponent. With their leader dead and coordination lost their attacks were clumsy and easily parried. The vampyre was making sport of them.
Their cries and guts filled the alley, splattering against the walls with such artistry one might’ve mistaken the clumps of innards for graffiti.
As for the runaway: he made his hasty retreat toward the bustling streets a few blocks away, screaming to foolishly announce his presence. However, he spied the weakened urchin of destiny sitting carelessly before him, seemingly unaware or uninterested in his plight. Instantly his cruel finite mind conjured a malicious plan.
The vampyre couldn’t be too far behind him, he deduced, for the screams had ceased. He had to act fast if he was to ensnare him.
Not one notion of doubt vexed him; the innocent blood of the lad would indeed tempt his adversary, thus allowing for his easy escape. Or so he’d liked to have thought.
Grabbing the lad by the collar the thug and bought him close to meet his gaze. He was rough and without care to his wellbeing. Yet the lad did not resist. He hadn’t the strength or determination to do so. Instead he just appeared… vacant.
The dirty yellow eyes of the thug winced before the urchin, travelling over his features, his breath stagnant and ripe with food remnants stuck in his teeth for who knows how long. Strangely, the lad couldn’t help but notice that in the very least.
His lips parted.
“What was that, eh? Speak up?” the thug bellowed furiously, shaking the child with a jolt of impatience.
“You…” he began. “Need a mint?”
“Why you damn dirty little…”
A dagger was drawn on the lad with intent to kill. But before blood could be shed he could feel the vampyre’s presence, the shade of his countenance caught in the corner of his eye. “Peek-a-boo, I see you,” said the immortal youth gamely.
With the dagger close to the boy’s neck he spun to face his opponent. He panicked and breathed jaggedly, but he held the vampyre’s eye none the less. He had hold of his hostage as tightly as he could, almost strangling the poor youth with his giant hand. “Tempting, no? It’s all yours, if yer want it. My life for this boy? What’s it gonna be?”
“What do I care for a child?” laughed the vampyre, shaking his head, his hand waving such trivial things aside.
With his dagger the thug cuts slightly, though not fatally, on the right of the child’s neck. The poor boy lets out a small squeak as a thin yet thick treacle of blood drooled down his neck and seeped into his tunic. “How about now? Yummy, ain’t it?”
“How indeed,” the youth of many years replied, cryptically with a knitted brow. Clearly the notion of innocent blood was lost to him. “You take me for a newbie, eh? Oh you poor thing. I’ve been playing this game for far too long to succumb to cheap little snares like these. If anything, your desperation is the thing making me thirsty.”
Looking about himself, searching for words, the remaining thug questioned the vampyre’s strange response. He had everything a vampyre should be tempted by; creatures of the night tend to go crazy over blood, and crazier yet over a body full of the stuff. But before he dare made sense of it the truth hit him. Actually, when I say hit, I mean slice. Quicker than any man can perceive the vampyre had scalped the top of the assailant’s very head, revealing his pulsating brain. The bowl of bone and flesh spun into the air before hitting the ground with a hollow clump.
An expression grew, a queer one, which soon became vacant as the damage hit home. His body descended into a pathetic twitching mess. And that was the end of the murderous and deceiving ways of ten idiot thugs. But as they say, where there were ten, twenty would take their place, for Demopolis was home to opportunists seeking to profit from the weaknesses and appetites of the dark folk.
Almost crushed by the thug, the lad pushed the body off him but the corpse’s weight forces him onto his butt in the process. He let out a crestfallen, the thud making his bottom hum briefly with bruising pain.
The skilled vampyre, meanwhile, picked up the scalp of the final thug and examined it. His eyes were an image of lust, of hunger and yearning. Within the bowl toiled the red substance, his only source of food. He wanted to drink it. He really did. “Bah!” With a toss he flung it and its contents from sight, where the thought of it could bother him no longer.
Finally, the vampyre’s deep red eyes fell upon the scrawny child. And the child looked back, caught by his eye. His chubby youthful hand desperately nursed the wound on his bare neck. He didn’t want to look at the blood. Strangely, even as he knew what manner of dark folk stood before him, he managed to hold his stare, completely in awe of him. Clearly he’d never seen one such as him before.
The vampyre, however, had seen far too many urchin’s in his life to surrender any more time to one. What was one more when faced with a city filled with them? Disinterested, he was already spinning on his heel and making his way out of the alley as though he had all the time in the world to do it.
“W-wait!”
The dark youth stopped. “Now that’s interesting,” he announced, stopping immediately in his tracks as though the child’s words had him hostage. “Out of all the unfortunate souls I’ve seen scurrying around this cesspool, you’re the first little street rat that ever puckered enough courage to talk to me. Curious. Now tell me: why should I wait?”
“Uh… Because…”
The child’s voice was weak, hardly a cut above any other wondering the streets. To the youth of many years, the lad was short, scrawny and covered with trophies of defeat and weakness. He was quickly losing interest. “I can smell death lingering over you like a vile odour. You’ll not last any more than a couple of days. Tops! It won’t be the hunger that kills you either. There are plenty of fiends knocking around who’ll be glad to put you out of your misery. But sadly, I am not one of them. So, in the same breath, I take my leave. Adieu.”
“No! No… I… No don’t you turn your back to me! I will not die here. Not here! Please. Please, help me. There’s so much I…” Such a burst of fury, but it soon lost its wings mid-flight. So much sorrow laced in the lad. But even so, it merited another second or two of the vampyre’s attention.
“You want to live, do you, boy?”
“Well… not here, obviously.”
“Hmm… Then…” The vampyre turned. And before you knew it he was already on his knees and diving into a small side-pouch for a first aid kit. The lad seemed to merely blink and he was before him.
“W-what are you doing?” the lad asked gingerly.
“I’m going to tend your wound. Got a problem with that?”
He said nothing at first. He merely observed the small trinkets the vampyre pushed through to find what he needed. Duckets, the coin of the realm, and odd tools and jewels of unknown worth. But all probably of worth none the less. It was not hard to see his urge to steal from him, being so desperately inclined. But before the notion could take hold, he was reminded of the nature of the beast; he spotted a sharp pair of fangs protruding from where the dark fellow’s canine teeth should’ve been. He wisely thought again. “Why would a vampyre help me?”
“Oh? You rather I walk away and leave you here to rot?” the vampyre replied sarcastically, smiling with an impish grin. “I suppose you fear that I’m about to pounce on that open wound of yours. Can’t be healthy having all that propaganda drummed into that head of yours. Everywhere I go it’s always the same. Look! Vampyre! Run for the hills! Reach for your pitchforks! Pfft! I’m the one helping you so don’t be so quick to judge me.”
Clearly he was burdened by some chip on his shoulder, the boy mused. He decided to soften on that note and accept the vampyre’s care and see where this strange turn of events would take him. He tilted his head back slightly so as not to arouse the pain, allowing for the vampyre to patch the wound.
The dark youth dabbed it first with an unusual ointment unknown to the lad before wrapping it into a bandage –concluding by playfully roughing the boy’s hair a little. “You’re a strong kid. You’ll heal in no time,” as was his diagnosis, spoken bluntly as any doctor may deduce of their patient.
The remaining bandages were shoved back into the pouch carelessly, squashed between all the other stuff he had tucked in there. Before he could close it however, the lad pointed out something quite interesting, something to which the vampyre apparently had no idea. “Hey, you’re bleeding too – down your arm!”
He couldn’t believe it. But as the words left the lad’s mouth he could feel the sharp sting of pain emanating from the said spot, just above his elbow. It’d heal in minutes, small as the cut was; but that was not the point! The vampyre vowed that no such thing would occur, just before he began the slaughter. And yet there the injury was.
Interesting, he pondered.

III

Under waning starlight they both spent the remaining hours of the night talking, getting to know one another, establishing a rather uncanny bond with each moment spent together. It was strange but not only did the vampyre want to converse with the child but also felt compelled, as though something, or somebody were encouraging him; while the lad, on the other hand, just didn’t want to be alone. Nobody wants to be alone, not in Demopolis; not even a vampyre. And it had not been a wasted endeavour either, for the more time the vampyre spent with the lost youth the more intrigue he exhibited. Such a strange yet intelligent boy, something that’s extremely unbecoming of this region of the world; hardly a son of some wealthy marquise and yet here he was, brimming with intellect.
“I am no stranger to these parts child,” the vampyre sighed, vexed by his familiar surroundings. It clearly hadn’t changed much since the last he walked those cramped streets. “I’ve seen countless lives wasted in alleys, slums and workhouses, the likes of which I couldn’t fathom until I saw it. But you, you don’t seem to belong here. No, I’d say you were born elsewhere into a kind, if not noble family. What did they do? Leave you in a forest because food was tight?”
“You know nothing of my family!” hissed the boy suddenly as sharp as steel. “You’re not some scumbag lord who’s gonna throw me in some factory are you? I’m not meant for prison walls, I’ll have you know! I’ll break out!” He bared his fists, perhaps exacerbating the fact that he’d go as far as to punch his way out, even if it meant smashing the walls with bloodied knuckles.
“My, my. So fierce. Red with fury. I’ll have to note never to cage a monster such as yourself. But I know more about you than you would care to accept.” To his eyes the vampyre gestured, two fingers playing so close to them you’d think he was about to take them. “I see it all those peepers of yours; your eyes weave a time you cling to in spite of the despair that cripples you. I can read a lot from eyes alone.”
“Because you’re a vampyre?” Red responded gingerly.
“No,” the vampyre replied with a cheeky smile. Something profound was clearly about to pass his lips. “Because I am the vampyre Dantiego, is why!” But only silence followed as the urchin threw the vampyre a vacant and somewhat clueless glance. Surprised, the vampyre was on his feet, throwing his arms around in protest to this dubious child. “Know you not Dantiego, the vampyre of legend? How he has survived longer than is due and how he quests and adventures across the globe in search of treasure and, well, a maiden’s kiss; how he whisks the virgin maids into his arms for that one special eve of passion!” Still nothing. “Oh but you must’ve heard the tale the bard tells by campfire of how I slew the legendary Leviathan with naught but my sword in the open ocean. Bear in mind a vampyre’s weakness is water, mind you. Understand also that the Leviathan, whose size and strength can create a tsunami with the crash of its tail alone, was thrice the size of the largest surviving whale.” Prancing around like a fool, he practically re-enacted the feat before the boy. I needn’t tell you how wierded out he was. “Despite that, I drew my sword to protect the travellers I lodged with (and win the heart of the girl mind you); and how I did plunge my sword again and again into the fell thing until I did pluck out every eye it had, blinding it. Oh how it raged then; and even though blind it still could cause enough damage to destroy even a well-fortified beach town. So it was with haste that I cut my way into its flesh and destroyed it from within – a messy task I’ll have you know. And when the creature fell, and my travelling companions meanwhile thought me lost, I re-emerged from the waves (which could’ve scolded me something awful, may I add) and returned to the boat. Oh how they cheered and how we partied that eve, and the most important fact of all, how I did plunder the female riches that voyage bequeathed.
“Ah, but that was perhaps one of my finest hours, even if I did feel a little cocky at the time. So what say you now, boy? Does the name Dantiego not ring any bells?”
But the least the lad could do was be polite. How could one be rude after such a tale. He just smiled bewilderedly, knitting his brow in the process in his ignorance. Luckily, Dantiego wasn’t exactly offended. Just disappointed.
An awkward silence dawned on the fated pair for some time, while they pondered on more to say that may yet appease one another. Dantiego eventually plucked the courage to ask of something he seldom had ever asked of anyone in such a long time.
With his uncanny gift he saw it all in the child’s eyes. Oh how the lad’s blue eyes struck him with an image of his own – of an adventurer longing for the road. But something else, deep within his gut, warned him that this thought he flirted with might be foolish and could perhaps result ill for the boy and he.
But how could he leave such potential unattended? It would be like not seizing immunity against elemental water, a fond wish that vexes every vampyre.
“Tell me, squirt – have you ever dreamed of being something more than what you are?” He could already see a reaction stirring within the boy, his dreams surfacing like boiling water as his blue became an ocean of lightning. “Have you ever dreamed of greatness? Perhaps you can already imagine holding an all powerful sword between your small, innocent hands, how it feels so natural to swing it so; how you can evade the dragons breath with such mastery until you are forced, by chance, to finally go for that killing blow; and how the labyrinth filled with all powerful minotaur’s and tricky, life endangering puzzles is but another test for you to conquer on the road toward progress.
“For the love of the stars boy, tell me you dream so?!”
“With my whole heart, yes!” An explosion erupted from within as the lad responded abruptly, standing sharply to look Dantiego in the eye, tears swelling, building during all the while he had remained silent – hanging on Dantiego’s magical words, believing they were cut from the cloth of his very own dreams.
“Then, if it be not too much of you, I give you the chance, perhaps your only chance, to fulfil those dreams. I will train you personally, with skill only I may bequeath, so that you may one day write such tales with your own actions.
“Will you accept?” He held out his hand, gesturing for the boy to join him, his entire form suddenly becoming the very image of the dreams he had so colourfully laid out.
Hungrily, the responded with an eager nod, his eyes fire now, bubbling with dreams and possibilities that might likely be just around the bend.
“Well then, so shall it be,” said Dantiego with a kindly smile. “Now, before we go any further, I don’t think I’m privy to your name. You know mine after all. Are you not schooled in introductions?”
“My name?” asked the child, almost dumbfounded.
“Yes. Name. Spit it out!”
“I… I can’t remember. I think I lost that too,” he replied cryptically. As well as having such a distorted past, it seemed his name, too, had been lost to him.
“I see. Not to worry. Seeing as though you’re my apprentice now, I shall conduct an ancient rite we vampyres perform when we create one of our own.” The lad was about to go into a fit of objection, but Dantiego quickly eased his mind, interrupting him before he could utter a word. “Now, now, don’t worry. I don’t plan on turning you. You don’t strike me as somebody who’d appreciate that. But instead, not only do you get a fresh start, but also you get dubbed with a new identity. Like the sound of that?”
“Um, do I get to choose a name? I don’t want anything rubbish,” said the lad with unprecedented honesty.
“Rubbish? What do you take me for? You’re lucky I don’t give you a pet name, like Lucky or Fido. But you don’t strike me as the cuddly, playful type. No, you’ve got more of a bite to you. Your eyes share the hues of the ocean, but even they, too, can rage. Your mouth is quick, sharp and potentially silver tongued, something I will help you master. How about the name… Jaquelbeam?”
“Whoa! I bet your offspring loved you, giving them crap names like Jaquelbream. Thanks, and screw you and everything, but I think I’ll pass on that one.”
“That’s Jaquelb-e-a-m! And for your information, I don’t make a habit of increasing the vampyre population. But when I do they never did make so much fuss. They always seemed grateful. It is quite an overwhelming gift after all.”
“Alright, jeez! They probably didn’t want to be rude or something. Might have had a good laugh about it later though. I know I would with a name like Jacksbum. Can’t you think of anything else? Something with a little more colour to it?”
Dantiego was beginning to lose his patience. The trouble the lad had remembering the name confounded him to no end. But really, anybody could see that he was just winding him up. Clearly the child would often make sport of this weakness. “Fine. Colour, eh? Hmm… It does simplify things a little, but I guess I should hurry this along. The White Star isn’t too far away now. Hmm… Let’s see… Angry. Spirited. Clever. Fancies himself a cowboy. Ah! Your fortune lies in the colour red. Red! Yes, your name shall be Red.”
“Red, huh? I guess it’ll do. Kinda cool. Simple. But cool. Don’t think I’ll keep it though, once I remember my real name. It’s bound to be better than Red,” he lied. He really did like the name. Just didn’t want to give Dantiego the satisfaction.
“Great. Now we’ve got that business out of the way there’s something you must do for me,” the smile broke, and Dantiego was all business now. Red hated the cold tone of business talk. “You must do something for me – a sort of test if you will. But more on that later. Come. We travel on the next eve with whatever provisions I can muster. We venture through the Dead Lands and into the impenetrable (and inescapable, for some) Lotricia Province, where your… test shall commence. I’ll spare you the details for now, but if the gifts I offer are worth anything to you, you’ll do well to follow my every instruction.”
To an inn whose name I recall to be the Howlers’ Den for no particular reason they went, a place illegally compassionate toward most dark folk. There, for the first time in a long time, Red found himself sleeping in a proper bed. Oh how he smiled and snuggled as the warmth and softness of the fantastic combination of pillow and mattress and quilt comforted him. It almost felt alien, but at the same time unleashed playful butterflies in his tummy.
But even so, faint memories of the time he last spent in a proper bed tried to surface. Although they didn’t attack him directly, the past managed to bleed into his dreams. It wasn’t entirely a pleasant evening after all, but it was hardly the worst either. Plenty of tossing and turning. And what seemed to be a big black beast parading around in the darkness, just where Red could only just see it in the corner of his eye. Certainly, this wouldn’t be the last time it made itself known.
Otherwise he fancied his new companion and all he offered to be the best thing he’d ever accepted. To have someone like Dantiego, a vampyre of apparent high esteem, take you under his wing was something even Red still found inconceivable. And yet even now he could feel the dark yet adventurous future begin to unravel before him. He felt as though he could simply reach out and grasp it. It was that real to him. Long had he hoped a hand would drag him from the dark place he was left in. And now, that dream had become reality. Finally, he felt he could achieve anything.
Dantiego, in the meantime, plotted his course while his new protégé slept, with both map and compass, making a note of all the provisions he’d need to stock up on. He had an extra mouth to feed after and blood absolutely would not suffice in this instance. Nor his other particular taste, the mysterious substance he frequently toggled with in his pocket with the fidelity and obsessiveness of an addict. He wouldn’t let me see what it was. But I knew it was not good.
“A growing lad needs vegetables – yes, plenty of those indeed, and tinned tomato soup for sure. And those rags that wear him just won’t do – not only do they look unfashionable but the heat will eat him up out there without protection. Yes, something hooded, yet thin as silk with a little leather to make him look intimidating. Marvellous! Of course he’ll have to don the rags again if he is to be drawn in...” he muttered madly to himself as he mingled in the tap room of the inn, slightly excited at the prospect of a new travel companion. It had been such a long time after all.
Several of the punters took heed of the eccentric vampyre but were too involved in their own business to care enough to comment. It was not really a spectacle to behold, not in some schmuck back alley inn in Demopolis. But it was unusual though, to see a vampyre such as Dantiego so involved with adventure while others of his brood enjoyed only blood and all that it entailed.
So it is that our tale finally has its origin, and not too soon either. Just in time for the big events to follow. I hope you’ll join me, dear reader, for our Dantiego and Red need all the companionship they can get if they were to persevere.
Dawn began to break. Golden white beams of light climbed over the tall, yellow buildings and reflected on the windows with a blinding sheen. The mountain city came to life under the eye of the White Star, revealing its rotten majesty for the blazing Dead Lands before it to see. It looked beautiful in the distance, its buildings defined with white lines of light like a beacon reaching into the sky. Oh how it hid its terrors so covertly. Pray we never have to return there.

Caragula
January 28th, 2014, 01:59 PM
The idea of this odd couple of dispossessed boy and dandy vampire is a good one. Unusual partnerships always gives a book an interesting tension, character growth, humour and friendship which work well when creating the conflict for them.

I think the opening exposition adds nothing that can't be introduced as asides or otherwise worked in to the more localised description that supports the plot. I forgot all that exposition as I followed the scene in the alley. It also slowed things down, I skimmed it so I could get to the story. Of course the non corporeal narrator needs to be introduced, but that too could be done in the flow of things.

It jarred a little too the switch from the boy desparate to die to him showing an interest in the vampire and wanting something more in his life, it didn't work for me, as I thought he was just some lost urchin in a strange city, just another faceless casualty in the background that for once the camera focuses in on and changes his fortunes around. The latter works, insofar as there might have been more admonishment from Dantiago that this boy was throwing his life away without even giving it a fight, perhaps even turning his fortune around against his will until the boy begins to believe in himself again, this could be achieved more overtly and perhaps not detract from the overall story.

Tatham
January 29th, 2014, 10:43 AM
Thanks for reading, Caragula. I'm glad you liked the unlikely pair. I have a weakness for the setup, adding to it and expanding it so the reader has a good idea what sort of world he or she is diving into. I have such fun talking about the sorts if creatures and fiends that the world is at the mercy to, so some might find I go on a bit. But when it comes to character growth, such as why Red is why he is, there's a lot of that explained in the next few chapters of the book. Not to say that I haven't taken note of what you've said about his 'change of heart'. I worked an extra conversation in between he and Dantiego to give the epiphany a layer that the reader might better understand and feel for.

“So tell me,” the vampyre started, changing from their previous subject. “You would have gladly died in that alley. And make no mistake, if it weren’t for yours truly you most certainly would have. Why so eagerly throw your life away?”
Nothing at first. A sigh and then the child spoke, forlorn into memory. “It’s kinda obvious. Living here, I can’t cope with it. Nobody cares about an urchin. Just thieves looking for a quick meal so we can rinse and repeat, rob some other unsuspecting tit. The cycle continues. We’re all scum at the end of the day. And what’s worse, I’m rubbish at it. Always have been, since…”
“You weren’t always living outside in the muck, were you squirt?”
Nothing again. Just a picture of more pain the vampyre could vaguely see into.

Does this sound a little better? I didn't want to go into too much depth here mind you, but I found it helped when I reread it. I also noticed a little plot hole in my read through concerning sub-chapter 2, where Red is still alive a week after I said he was sure to perish soon. Added a part where he kills a cat and cooks it over a neglected torch.

Gavrushka
February 3rd, 2014, 12:18 AM
That's a huge chunk of text! I'll have a look through tomorrow, but I've one eye on a recent submission, so I may be a little distracted. I'm tired, but isn't there mixed tenses in the opening line?

Did you ever lay eyes...

or

Have you ever laid eyes...

I'll be back some time tomorrow to read more.

Gavrushka
February 3rd, 2014, 02:31 PM
There are two observations I can make:

1) You tell a good story.

2) You need to take time out to study grammar.

You've the raw imagination to write a great story, but the grammar has pummelled me into submission in a couple of paragraphs. - You CAN make this story work, but you must pull it from Amazon without delay, and either buy a couple of grammar books or enrol on a course. - It's frustrating for me as I can see both your intelligence and story-telling ability, but they are eroded by the technical side... - Anyone can learn technique, but few can tell a story, so you are well ahead of most people already.

Here are the issues from the first two paragraphs (and I assume many of the other paragraphs will be similar):

(First line mentioned in earlier post)


I did in what seemed like such a long time ago.

Perhaps it would be better with now added : I did in what now seemed like such a long time ago.


none the less

nonetheless


Demopolis was an awful place to dwell for too long, even for me

I'd lose the too, as I think you're forming a truism if you leave it!


Built around a magnificent mountain, surrounded by a great canyon that spanned three-hundred and sixty degrees around the city walls, Demopolis was known to all that knew of it as the city that lay siege to a golden mountain.

I think there is redundancy here - 'surrounded by a great canyon' implies that it spans the entirety of the city walls already.


in the most strangest of circumstances.

I think 'most strange' or 'strangest' would work better here.

===

It needs emphasising that your ability is there to be seen, but it cannot be displayed in a benign fashion without a better grasp of grammar. I'd not consider an editor for the moment, but would concentrate on the basics for a few months. - I can empathise as I'm still on the journey I fear you must walk, and you will need to be tenacious to complete it. - My first story, of over 170,000 words, was similar to this and I've rewritten it from scratch once already, and will need to do so again if I ever wish to consider publishing it.

Maybe you should enter this month's literary competition (650 words max, based on the prompt 'Ten Minutes'). The judges for this month are awesome, and they'd tell you much of where you need to concentrate your efforts to improve your grammar. (After four years, I've a long way still to travel too!)

Tatham
February 3rd, 2014, 07:09 PM
Thanks for taking the time to look at it. I'm really happy you found something worth your while beneath my bad grammar. It's really helped me by getting it out there, netting some interest in friends that hadn't taken much notice to begin with. I don't think many of them have realized how seriously I take this. But I'm going with your advice. I'll invest in some grammar lessons, either books or a course. I've pulled it from Amazon for the time being until I'm absolutely certain it's been given the thumbs up by not only me but an editor, too, eventually. I'll keep you all posted and look forward to getting to know everybody a bit better and learn what I can.