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Ephemeral_One
October 24th, 2014, 02:23 AM
A new work alongside my previous one, How Dragons Play. Just curious how it sounds as a start. It's a rough first draft so I've got a lot of work to do.

Spring 368


My name is name is Tenni Lanquist Ishzark, fourth daughter of King Peor Ishzark, and as I open this journal I begin my banishment from my homeland. These stacks of blank, bound paper were given to me by the Captain of my father's guard. Arsil, that homely old man hid my love of books from my father and I'd like to believe he'll take that secret to his grave. I can still fondly recall that twirled mustache he'd play with. Though blasphemous to say, he'd been more of a parent to me than almost any of my bloodline.


I suppose the best way to begin this is to speak of my crime, such as it is. To any who might find this, know that the Djinni are a race of liars who push forth falsehoods. Most famously, my people are known to be beings that can alter the world to suit their whims. While it is true there are some who can shape the world to one degree or another, most cannot wield anything more spectacular than a sharpened steel. Even then, we are too few to be much of a true threat.


So, when our neighbors threatened war with each other and both sides demanded my father's assistance, he was more than a little distressed. I will never forget that day and night, as I went about my life in the palace. He would wander from one room to the other, stand for a few minutes standing like some incredibly lifelike carving. My younger siblings made a game of trying to make him laugh or get mad. They only managed to upset their caretakers.


Our home is an oasis created by an ancestor blessed with true power. The palace itself has aqueducts through almost every hall. Having so much water in the middle of a desert has made us not only influential but wealthy. Armies gathered on both sides with no evident advantage. Though, that place is no longer my home, is it? During my father's meanderings, he noticed me teasing my youngest brother by causing his piled up sand to move.


Struck by a desperate inspiration, he began to hail me as his savior. Where I had merely been a child of no note, he raised up to be his favored. With a promise of money and prominence to my mother, the deal was struck. I would cause a sandstorm until both armies would be forced to go home for harvest. Hailed as a 'true Djinni', I was showered with cheers as I was marched out into the desert with Arsil at the head of my escort.


Hour after scorching hour the horse beneath me trudged diligently till we reached a location I couldn't tell from the rest of the desert. Somehow Arsil recognized it and ordered the soldiers to set up a tent for me. Then, he ordered me to stir up the desert sands in as large an area as I could. That old soldier then patted me on the head like I was still a child.


Striding forth, I recalled the words that had been inscribed in a forgotten room of the Palace. My forgotten ancestor had left many old tomes on how to use her power. Reciting her invocation, I felt the sand begin to stir at the tips of my fingers. It was a sense far different from moving the occasional pile of sand or dust. It felt as though a mountain rose into the air and I needed to hold it up with just my own strength. I'd practiced the spell a thousand times but application was a whole different sort. When I opened my eyes, a sandstorm raged before me.


Satisfied that I was doing my job, Arsil had my food and water kept inside the tent. I was so focused on the sight I'd cojured, I didn't notice the soldiers were leaving till they were in the distance. So, alone, I watched the sand dance but that quickly lost its charm. At first I was afraid to move away from the storm for fear of dispelling it. Testing how far I could move away, first, one step, then another. The spell seemed only to require me to remember it existed to remain. So, I retired to my small tent for relief from the sun.


So began my martyrdom, keeping our allies from killing one another. In the long hours I would frequently remind myself of this fact but that offered little relief from the boredom. I would look forward to Asril's weekly visits since he would bring me books from our home. He claimed he'd 'forget' them and my tent became a haven of stories. Some on scrolls while others were on sheets of lambskin bound by rope. Months passed.


It was during these long periods of inactivity I noticed something in my sandstorm. At first it was a chill that pierced even the midday sun. The sensation only grew in strength as the ominous chill made it impossible to read. As I stood outside, I shivered. A single figure appeared through my sandstorm. It was then I noticed not a single grain of sand touched the stranger, as if he was protected from it by some strange force.


As he came into focus, I couldn't help but blush. The man wore nothing. I could see his body was covered in mud brown skin with blue scales in some places. His long black hair swayed wildly in the wind but fell still when he cleared my storm. He was a physically impressive man, standing easily twice if not three times my height. Each of his fingers ended in a cruelly curved claw. Four leathery wings stuck out from his back.


Seeing me, the stranger gave me a menacing smile, his mouth was filled with fangs! I recoiled in horror and fled back to my tent. Taking up a spare stake, I held it ready to brutalize the creature. I expected him to rip my tent apart. Instead, I heard a voice ask, “Are you the great sorceress responsible for that sandstorm?”


A small part of me savored that. It was true, I was a great sorceress. I was the only one in my household who could have created that storm. But, I couldn't admit that to something so terrifying. So I cleverly declared, “I'm the protector of her. Who wants to know?”


“Just a mercenary hired to stop the storm,” The creature rumbled like distant thunder. I bit my lip and slowly crawled closer to the flap. The man explained, “If you could speak to the sorceress on my behalf, let her know if she can drop the storm for one day, I'm willing to give her the gold I'm being paid.”


I laughed, bolder than I felt, “Why would a mercenary give up the gold?”


“Cause there's also a magical sword as payment and I'm more interested in that,” The man said happily. Using my stake, I parted the flap to look out. The man was crouched before the tent's entrance giving me an unfortunate view of his manhood. I retreated back and the man let out a laugh apologizing, “Sorry about that. It's so hot out here I forgot I even stripped down.”


A shuffling preceded the man inviting himself inside. Now a white skirt clung to his waist and covered his lower half. I held my weapon ready as the man said, “Could you consider my offer?”
“H-how much gold?” I stammered looking into his yellow eyes.


With a chuckle the mercenary turned over his hand saying, “As much as I can hold in one hand. So, probably sixty gold coins is what I'll get.” I bit my lip thinking how upset my father had been when he'd been short changed silver coins. So, I imagined him being overjoyed at me bringing in so many coins.


“Can you give me some proof that what you say is true and that I can trust you?” I asked, skeptic of the large man's intentions. With a smile and a flick of his wrist, the man produced a sheet of paper. I recognized the enchanted contract's signature as being the King of Teper's, one of our neighbors. The spells on the parchment rendered it almost indestructible and legally binding. Taking hold of the paper, I read it: it confirmed that if someone could end the sandstorm, they'd be given a handful of gold.


“So, can you speak to the great sorceress on my behalf?” The man requested offering me a hand. I reached out to return the paper and he took my hand in his much larger one. Giving me a shake that left my arm numb he said, “I just need you to drop it for one day so I can get paid. After that, she can put the storm back up cause I'll be gone.” His contract vanished as suddenly as it appeared after he departed from my tent. Looking outside, I saw him walking back with his wings held up as protection from the sunlight. Then, I realized the storm had subsided! I bit my lip and decided to keep my word. The gold would cover for one day's negligence if I was discovered.


As the moon sat above me, I enjoyed the peace and quiet I'd never gotten when the storm had raged on and on. Sooner than I expected, the mercenary returned. His white skirt still completely pristine despite traveling in the desert. Our eyes met as he approached and he held up a sack triumphantly. Standing a few feet away, the large man knelt down with the pouch held up to me. Pulling on the string that kept it closed, I opened the container to a sea of gold. Glinting in the moonlight the coins made wondrous noises as I took my reward.


“Give the great sorceress my regards and be sure to take some for yourself, protector,” The mercenary said through a sly grin. I remembered my lie and bowed my head.


“It was good doing business with you,” The man nodded and stood over me. Even in the dark of the night, his yellow eyes were ever present. I shivered under his gaze before he turned on his heel and left. I watched, holding my coins with both hands, as the large man disappeared beyond the dunes. Part of me was giddy as I hid my collection among several scrolls in my tent.
In the morning I restored the sandstorm, eagerly awaiting Asril's visit. I wondered if I should show him my gains for his advice on how to spend them. I didn't suspect anything until Asril arrived late in the afternoon in full regalia and with a large escort. As I stepped out to greet him, Asril only told me, “Princess, please remove your magic. I'm sorry but you must return to the palace now.”


It didn't take long for the soldiers to bundle up my life and stow it away. As I was bid, I silenced the storm while they did so. I noticed the soldiers didn't speak much. Their nervous air infected me and I contemplated running for a moment. What use would that be against mounted men? It wasn't a long trip back home since Asril kept us at a quicker pace than we'd come out there with. Once inside the walls, no fanfare awaited me. In fact, the roads were desolate.


Upon reaching the Palace, I was immediately taken to my father's throne. He'd grown more gaunt and thin since I'd seen him. Never a large man, the King often wore thickly soled shoes when he was on business. Only my father and Asril were present and the doors were shut behind us. The King told me, “King Teper's son died in battle yesterday. He was shot with an arrow on a patrol when the sandstorm disappeared.”


My heart sank and my knees vanished beneath me. Now, the King towered over me as he took me by the jaw. His brown eyes were ruthless stone as he spoke coldly, “Your mother has been put to death and you shall be expelled from this land. You are no child of mine.”


“F-father, please,” I stammered trying to process his words. My vision grew hazy and water got in my way.


“I just told you,” The king's ringed hand came across my cheek as he roared, “You are no child of mine! I would have you executed alongside the whore if our laws allowed it. Begone or I'll find some mercenary scum to do it.” Any remaining strength I had left me. Lifting my limp body like I was a doll, Asril dragged me to the Palace gate.


A single horse had been loaded with everything that had populated my tent except the tent itself. The old man whispered into my ear, “Go south to the free port of Tesral and go across the sea. That will stall your father's killers.” I numbly climbed into the saddle and Asril sent my horse off with a slap on its flank. Instinct not to fall more than anything else took over and I rode out of my home. It was night deep into the next morning before I dared to stop.

Xan
October 24th, 2014, 07:42 PM
The ideas presented are good. I'm interested in the character and what becomes of her. I would like some description of her, however- what does a djinn in this world look like? How old is she? The other descriptions could use some fleshing out as well (how the spell is cast, how it feels to keep it going, some inconsistencies with the mercenary's description, etc).

The magic system seems interesting. Traditionally, such a large and long-lasting sandstorm would be a difficult feat, but you present it as not terribly difficult, provided the person casting the spell is as talented as this girl. I'm curious about what other amazing things she could do, and how this is balanced within the story (or how it is unbalanced, which could be fun too).

The political undercurrents are not clear from this sample, and I'm left confused about why events unfolded as they did. Why is it a big deal that Teper's son died? Why is Ishzark so quick to kill his wife and exile his daughter, one of the few (or only) djinn with potent magical talent? Why was someone as important as Tenni left alone in the tent?

Again, I think this is a decent start. It has interesting features and world elements that got me curious to read more. Just needs some refinement, as all first drafts do.

Ephemeral_One
October 25th, 2014, 02:49 PM
Thank you for reading. I'm definitely going to keep what you've said in mind. As far as the politics in this case, they won't be resolved till later but essentially he's a small man in too high of a position. He essentially scapegoats his wife and daughter. Thus, Tenni is thrown to the wolves so her father can save face cause he's been lying that he had nothing to do with the storm. I tried to get across that Tenni is a more than a little naive due to be raised in the Palace so she'd not understand how politics work. She's got plenty to learn...hehehe.

Xan
October 25th, 2014, 04:21 PM
Tenni's naivety comes across well. The political questions shouldn't necessarily be answered by this point, I just wanted to point them out since they should be answered eventually, particularly why the king is so quick to throw out a potentially very powerful tool/weapon/ally

T. R. Slone
February 22nd, 2015, 07:07 PM
I really enjoyed this story but I agree that it could use more description of the characters. Other than that I truly enjoyed this piece and would love to read more. :smug:

Noth
February 26th, 2015, 05:47 AM
I nothuman99, newbie to the forums, declare your story worthy of my comment. It is not perfect like the shimmering coat of a dragon, nor chaotic like its fire. But I truly believe this is a first draft worthy to become a real book.