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View Full Version : Prologue/1st Chapter Excerpt, "The Immortal Joiner",2K Words, Do you like Druids?



dmr400
May 24th, 2014, 08:18 AM
Hello,

This is my first attempt at writing in a very long time, and is a story I've been outlining in my head for over a year. I'm worried that the opening relies too much on details that I've thought up and written in the outline and character summaries, but haven't actually made it into the story yet. Does this beginning draw you in, or confuse you? Thanks in advance!

Prologue

As his grove of trees was immolated by fire Allund hung silent while his mind screamed with sympathetic agony. He could hear the screams of his lover Aldis as she burned within the grove, the feral cries for help too much for his mind to process. Pinned to a Tree by an iron spike through his throat, he watched helplessly as everything he held dear slowly became ashes in the valley below his home. As he felt his lifewater trickling down his chest and back from the wound in his neck he thought of the ancient chords he could sing to draw healing strength from the tree he was suspended from, but with the spike piercing his voice box he could make no sound. Eventually, it was too much and he lost consciousness for the first time in nearly 18 centuries.

The Sitka Spruce that Allund was pinned to was a representative example of its species, four feet in diameter and stretching over one hundred feet in the air. The scaly bark and sharp needles were nothing out of the ordinary for the area. What a modern man might find unbelievable is that the Tree was worried. Not in the modern sense of humans thinking about being late for work, or concerned for the welfare of a loved one driving home on icy roads. It was more of a feeling of wrongness, as if something was out of place on a cosmic scale. It wasn’t able to determine that the violence in the valley below was a particularly malicious sort, or that the black hooded figures racing through the smoke were looking for its grisly ornament in order to end his life. But the Tree could sense in it’s slow and methodical perception of the world that things were changing, and not for the better.

The Caregiver, or Virsaltus in the language of the ancients, suspended from the Spruce’s trunk was limp and not helping himself. The Tree remembered the bleak, lonely life that existed for all the trees in this forest before the arrival of the Virsaltus and its mate, and did not wish to return to it. Normally the Caregiver would sing to the Tree when it required anything, or just to begin a sharing of harmony and peace. No chords were to be heard, and that was deeply disturbing to the Tree. It felt the lifewater of the Caregiver dripping down its trunk, and knew this was not the correct order of things.

But the Tree could not reason a solution to this feeling of dread, and turned its attention to more immediate matters. The iron spike that had been driven through the Caregiver’s neck was lodged deep into the Spruce, through the bark and nourishing cambium layer and into its sapwood. Without knowing the reason for the gash, the Spruce began directing its healing sap to cover the wound and prevent infection while it closed off around the intruding nail. What the Tree couldn’t anticipate was that the sap was flowing down the nail, and into Allund the Caregiver’s wound, and had he been able to sing the sap was exactly what he would have asked for.

As the sap began to clog and dry over the wound the dangerous flow of Allund’s precious lifewater slowed to a trickle and eventually stopped. And with a stable supply of lifewater to work with the miraculous healing power of a Virsaltus was a force that could not be conquered by a simple iron spike.

dmr400
May 24th, 2014, 08:19 AM
CHAPTER ONE

I really don’t miss Maces. Not the kind that comes in a little black aerosol can to spray into a muggers face or into the eyes of the guy getting a little too touchy feely in the parking lot after last call. The weapon kind with an iron ball swinging towards your skull faster than a major league fastball. Speaking of which, should you find yourself in that situation, duck faster than I did. Ignore that advice at the risk of one helluva headache and a few days spent immobile while mending yourself on a really really itchy straw pallet, which is where I found myself presently.

Or at least where I thought I was presently. The scene around me seemed familiar, but hazy as if it were a half remembered dream that you try and piece together after you get out of bed and before the shower gets warm enough to actually get in and stand under. Groggily I finally realized I was staring up at the thatched roof of my praeceptor’s humble wattle-and-daub home in roman era scotland. But why was I here, and did why it felt like somebody was banging a bodhran drum between my ears? Either I had come out on the losing side (again) of one of the praeceptor’s vicious training fights, or I’d drunk a fifth of Jack Daniel’s the night before. Since Jack Daniels wasn’t invented until long after the thatched roof above me went out of style, which chose that time to drop a spider on my chest (nasty downside to dark age roofing materials), I went with the first assumption.

As you might guess, 17 centuries and change worth of memories makes for some very confusing dreams. But it isn’t a terrible problem to have, the alternative being well, death. Nasty idea, death, so I’ll happily take a little post arousal confusion.

I can see that I’ve given you a good reason to question my sanity with that 17 centuries bit. I won’t hold it against you, as it’s pretty common these days. I’ll take some time away from the mace story in the penalty box to explain, so you can keep up. Nobody remembers what it was like when most people lived for two to three thousand years. Not many remember the Virsaltus, which is what I am, and I wish the ones that do remember us would forget. If that were the case I wouldn’t have a headache or straw splinters in places better off without them and these painful lessons in combat wouldn’t be necessary.

I am one of less than a hundred Virsaltus left in the whole wide internet interconnected world. Allund of Caledonia, at your service. Allen the scottish dude if you are more comfortable with modern english. Some historians, mostly crackpots and neo-celtic druid wannabes, think that the Virsaltus were a mythical species like elves, leprechauns, or the little people. Actually, we are humans who remembered and took advantage of our elemental leanings. By elemental leanings I don’t mean third graders propping a shoulder on the wall, but element as in earth, air, fire, and water for the medieval alchemist types. All the people that think only those four elements matter are dead now, and it’s a good thing since they forgot the most important one. My training taught them as Wood, Ore, Water, and Wind, so that’s what I’ll stick with.

I happen to be a Man of Wood, as opposed to a Man of Ore, a Woman of Water, or a Woman of Wind. You see, within each of our natures is a propensity or predisposition to identify with a certain element far more than any of the others. I am bound to nature, and if I go too long without feeling wood fibers or the brush of leaves under my fingers I get irritable, restless, and basically turn into Mr. McGrumpy pants. Women of Water have an almost uncontrollable compulsion to swim as often as possible, which was a genuine blessing to all red blooded men up until Queen Victoria decided it was time to start keeping secrets. And the other two elementals, Ore and Air, have some perverted connections with their boring elements. If you hadn’t guessed, nigh immortals have cliques too...Ore and Air aren’t part of mine. Once you hear my story, I’m sure you’ll side with me.

There are some real benefits to be had by being in touch with your elemental nature, even if you don't count living 30 times longer than most humans do these days because of the ability to draw vitality from your element. Like the stories a Sequoia Redwood tree can tell, one that was mature when Columbus supposedly “discovered” America. I can hear them, if it chooses to tell me. I can sing to trees, and they’ll form whatever shape I ask of them if I do it nicely. It’s not all fountain of youth and tree balloon animals of course. For most of history our elements have depended on us just as much as we have them. My clan, the Virsaltus, or “Man of the Forest” in latin, has been killing blights, putting out fires, and funding the Orkin man’s war on termites since there was a wild wood to sing to. We can actually see the forest for the trees. There are many misconceptions about the elements and the humans that share their consciousness with them, but there are many more amazing truths, rules, and kinships between them. You’ll pick them up as we go along, and I’ll try and explain them to you. But for now, back to the story about the mace, and why I foolishly allowed it to smack me upside the head.

As with any skill or religion, you just don’t learn it from the back of the box of crackerjacks or in my case the back of a sack of grain (snacks have seriously evolved since the third century, let me tell you). Thus I found myself in the Cultus Castrae, training or worship camp. It was kind of like boot camp for hopeful elementals. The Cultus was overseen by experienced elementals who made a career of training young elementals, somewhat like Drill Sergeants of today. They were called Praeceptors, Latin for master or instructor. Latin was big in those days, the roman empire being all the rage at the time. As you can imagine, Praeceptors were not exactly the most gentle of human beings, and were more likely to beat a lesson into you with an oaken staff than hold your hand while slowly working through a syllabus, so it was confusing to me to awaken under my cranky mentors roof, apparently a guest there.

I started to sit up but the room started to spin and a sharp pain lanced through the rear left quadrant of my skull so i quickly lay back down. Reaching up with a trembling hand, I touched the region that the pain emanated from, and found a thick bandage wrapped around my skull, with a carved wooden plate protecting the area behind my left ear. “Christ on the cross,” I thought, “I broke me fecking head!”. At least I only meant to think it, but from the startled oath from across the room I must have shouted it in surprise.

“Good god Allund! Lie still, and don’t be wasting all me hard work singin’ your empty melon back together after that poxy pile of nightsoil metalhead busted it open!”

I froze out of instinct at the gravelly voice of my praeceptor, as usually that tone was accompanied by a hard rap of some sort, as Hamish believed that important points were best remembered if punctuated by pain. When it became obvious no thump was inbound, I slowly turned my head to look at my fiery mentor. Small of stature, but his booming voice belied his unimposing height and build. It appeared that I’d woken him, as the mop of red hair on his head was ruffled rather than slicked back from his over large forehead as was usual, and he was blinking sleep from his eyes. He started rubbing away his drowsiness as I asked him, “What happened to me?”

He gave me an incredulous look with his reply, “Ye don’t remember that snake Malmsmed crushing your skull in with that ruddy mace after ye bested him in the graduation bout? Seems like that’d make an impression, he he.”

And with that simple statement the events of the last few days came flooding back to me.

WriterJohnB
May 25th, 2014, 02:14 PM
dmr,

It's a bit confusing. The prologue begins with 3 compound sentences, all using while or as, and the long sentence habit continues throughout. The chapter is also confusing, switching between modern era and ancient Scotland, especially the Jack Daniels bit. And, again, lots of run-on sentences. I managed to piece it all together, but it was a lot of folksy "tell" to get through. To tell you the truth, I'd probably not get past this big info-dump which takes us from the mace, back to the mace. I'd try to work most of this info into the story later on. It looks like it will be an interesting story, however, and your MC is interesting.

JohnB

J Anfinson
May 25th, 2014, 02:35 PM
I honestly think that the prologue isn't needed and would be information better delivered throughout the course of the story. Furthermore, the same could be done with a lot of the backstory in the opening. It may be just my own preference, but I like urban fantasies that don't slow down the forward momentum to tell me something that I could find out through dialogue or a flashback later.

Your opening hook is pretty good. It's exactly what you want-- something with a lot of action or a humorous situation to snag the reader. If you can keep that going without pausing to talk about the past, you'll have a great story. Hope that helps.