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Ephemeral_One
November 7th, 2014, 02:42 PM
I'm thinking of doing these small vignettes about the characters in my current series as sort of Filler stuff. Any sort of feedback will be appreciated.

Winter 421

Though none were required to attend, the entire company joined me on the beach tonight. I suppose it's a testament to Telusil's popularity. Not a single word was spoken at first, just a lot of polite coughs and silence. When I hesitated to speak, Kaorin began a eulogy. She is a pale and sickly looking woman but her strength of will never ceases to amaze me. Still, my mind was restless. I could only think of the desperate harpy that brought me the letter the previous morning.


She was tattered after flying hard. Clutched between her talons so tightly that she landed ungracefully in the meeting hall. While Sticks tended to her, I read the note she was so desperate to bring us. It only had two words on it; Bard captured. Running upstairs, I checked the duty roster to find him on a typical merchant escort. I shivered at that moment.

Leaping from the nearest third floor balcony, I plunged into the pond that took up a good portion of the Castle's yard. As loathe as I am to do so, I must thank Zath'reth for the skill to connect two bodies of water. Suddenly, I was countless miles away in a small village. I caused a scene amongst the Elven villagers who had probably heard of me but never expected to see something
like me.


Hearing the commotion, my people hurried to meet me. They were four recruits, two fox-folk, a Drow and a young Oni who hadn't even grown his first horn yet. Children, pretty much. They reported that they'd been ambushed on the road and had been told by their Commander to keep going while he held them off. I told them to remain and gave me a description of where the ambush had been.


I couldn't feel anything but the urge to keep going. Thankfully, no rain had fallen so the scents were still fresh when I arrived. Some scattered arrows and deep gouges in the earth told me all I needed. One archer had gotten lucky and hit my old friend, then the others took advantage. His blood drew me onward like some desperate, winter starved wolf.


Hidden between two hills was a decaying fort. Though, calling it such would be too generous since the vine covered stone walls were mostly gone. Only the gate remained standing tall while the main building obviously in use. Rather than waste time, I hurried to the gate. Archers let out warning calls all too late. Lances of ice impaled their throats as I turned the wooden gate to splinters.


The first bandit wielded a club with iron studs banded around its knotted head. Catching the weapon with my palm, I turned it aside while digging my claws into his forearms to lock them in place. His screams became my announcement as I twisted the weapon further than his wrists would allow. I savored the sounds of muscle tearing and bones popping out of place. As he sobbed pitifully, I released him to slip my talons between his ribs to let him drown in his own blood. That would be the kindest fate I'd bestow upon them.


Splattered with blood and gore, I entered the dungeon below the main hall. The screams of the last bandit to die finally subsided. Pressing on the banded door, the lock snapped from my push allowing me inside the small chamber. In a corner was a figure leaning against the wall. Several cuts ran along his long throat, as if the murderer wanted to be sure. The tips of his long, elven ears had been cut off. He was naked and had been defiled, whether before or after death, I couldn't tell.


I was chanting before I realized it, the old Necromantic invocations were born of my want to see him once more. As the last words left my lips, I watched the ethereal form rise from the corpse. Pristine as when I first met him, Telusil Ashwind stood before me. He was a beautiful brunette elf with, fine features. His voice was melodious at the worst of times and would make Angels blush right now, “Thank you, my friend. I won't stay long.” There was nothing more that needed to be said. I was a necromancer, my job was to send spirits to rest.


Pressing his hand to my cheek, he asked, “Will you let me tell you the story I'll be telling to everyone on the other side?” My vision became blurred then, I could barely see but for the tears but I nodded. Guiding me to sit down, Telusil ran a hand over my eyes to clear them. Walking to the center of the room, he cleared his voice as he always did before telling a story. He was a bard to the deepest part of his soul so he began;

A long time ago there was a Goddess, she was powerful but she was only one being. This was a problem because a jealous enemy assaulted her many lands from various angles and she couldn't be everywhere at once. This story, however, is not about the Goddess but instead her solution to this problem. You see, she created a weapon to be in places she couldn't be. She created this man who was also a beastly dragon. How do I know all this? This dragon-man is a close, personal friend of mine. Of course, he was just a beast when I met him. How did I meet him? Well, I was busy making myself some roasted beef one night when I heard Pixies dancing on the wind. I went to try and catch them since Pixie dust is good for healing sick children. (An absolute lie, he was taking a leak) when this beast snuck into my camp and began eating my carefully prepared meal! At first I was shocked but then, the beast sat down, gulped down the meal in one bite and asked if he shared his food if I'd use more of my spices. I agreed and he brought me a dozen deer he'd hunted earlier! Well, I was certainly daunted, but I was up for the challenge! So, I pulled up my sleeves and got to work over my cookfire, preparing venison in as many ways as there are stars in the night! (Again, another lie, I had one deer and I butchered it while he cooked. Not to mention we spent the night doing more than eating.) In the morning, after stuffing ourselves full, we both trundled down the road, fattened and happy when bandits descended upon us! Their razor sharp axes gleaming in the morning sun and the skins of wildcats they'd killed with their bare hands made into their clothing....


(The stories continued on with blandishments, exaggerations and all the good makings of a bar room story. I listened intently, his recollections of adventures shared always with the unifying theme of myself as one of the central character.)

....Of course, through all of this, my friend, the beastly man, always walked forward through trial and hardship. He respected people others wouldn't look at and helped those who people would call a lost cause. Yet, what made him most fragile was the fact he was cursed to be immortal by the Goddess who made him. Why was it a curse? Cause, to a true mercenary like him, to live, fight and die beside your brothers and sisters in arms is the greatest thing in life and he'll outlive every one. And that hurts him, but, he keeps walking forward, propelled onward by the insatiable appetites of God and Devil alike. He'll fight under whoever banner suits his needs but those who he is loyal to, know where his heart lays. And I was blessed to be one of them who carried a part of him with me.

I watched his soul ebb away then, tears in his eyes as my own vision blurred. With the weakest of voices I managed to say, “No one will believe a story like that.” When I finally finished sobbing, I gathered up my old friend and brought him home. Giving him to Kaorin, who has been designated our Company undertaker, I secluded myself for a while. Word traveled around and Kaorin fetched me when she was finished.

He was in a small boat, covered in those yellow flowers he loved. There was no sign of anything he'd endured before the end. I was surprised to see the whole Company awaiting me at the shoreline. As Kaorin finished reminding everyone of loyalty, I felt a hand rest on my shoulder. Raqua nodded to me saying, “It's time.”

As I walked to the boat, I saw the four recruits he protected join me. Each one carried a torch and placed it on holders on the boat. The tears stained my cheeks as I placed my own torch in my friend's hands. I pushed the boat out and willed a spell to keep him going to where I couldn't see. He had become a single flame on the sea. A full moon watched me from above, just the same as the night we'd first met in that forest. I let my memories and tears wash over me because when the sun rose tomorrow, I'd still be the man he wanted me to be.

JamesR
November 13th, 2014, 11:56 PM
I like this story. It carries almost a quasi-video gaming/arcade charm that instills new life into a genre that gets very little love. And it does it without coming off as being corny or a novelty. Another impressive element is that you managed to narrate the story in a first-person perspective while still paying attention to keen detail. Normally balancing such a task is difficult as using first-person narrative to describe something in detail can come off as being forced or artificial, this manages to get the detail down while still sounding natural and not forced. It is also reminiscent of Beowulf and the epics of old, paying homage to them which I think is a very nice bonus.

Ephemeral_One
November 25th, 2014, 04:28 AM
Thank you and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I must admit, I never really thought about it but you're right about the Epics of old. I suppose that is why this is my preferred narrative style. Rather than events unfolding, I like to feel as though a story is being told to my reader.

hvysmker
November 29th, 2014, 03:48 AM
Good story and writing, Ephemeral_One. I noticed it wasn't filled with magic and wizards. They're the reason I don't read many of this genre. All too often, when in a difficult situation someone comes up with a spell out of nowhere to save them. I'm, personally, of more of a logical bent and believe in physical limits. This one included unusual creatures but they seemed defined in their powers. Such would be Superman. We all know what he can and cannot do, nothing unexpected.

Charlie

Ephemeral_One
December 2nd, 2014, 02:04 PM
Thanks hvysmker. I'll be honest, the series I'm working on will be full of wizards, magic and various races. I won't deny that. However, I am a huge fan of Glen Cook. Wizards are world shatteringly powerful, inspirational, hard to kill, but only when on their own terms. And life, rarely ever lets us dictate our own terms. Then again, 'magic' doesn't refer to just flinging ice spears and water portals, as you'll find out, Telusil was no slouch with his wits and voice. Of course, that might be clear just from this piece but still, one's skills with the mundane might as well be a magic all it's own, wouldn't you agree?