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View Full Version : The Blue Phoenix Chronicle: Opening (3,114 words)



Ephemeral_One
April 29th, 2015, 03:05 PM
This is a potential opening for the next book in the series I'm working on. I'm liking it but not in love with it yet. Still, I'm curious about thoughts.

“Loose!” The order came loud enough to rise over the din of battle. Every bow on the opposite hill thrummed for an instant, sending their missiles skyward. Raising both of my gloved hands into the air defensively, I waited with a knot in my stomach. Watching the arrows reach their zenith I reminded myself, “Wait, too soon and some will hit.” Clenching both fists, I thrust them down towards my skirt. My magic worked at that instant and the arrows all fell well short of the melee below.

“Ready!” The archer's Captain ordered for a fresh volley, and every one of his fifty men prepared a fresh shot, “Loose!” Once more I reached up and forced the shots to fall harmlessly into the morning mud.
I recalled the advice the Commander had given me before joining the fighting below, “Focus on your task and trust your comrades to do their jobs. Don't hesitate to remind yourself what you're doing.” My eyes watched for the next round of shots. This time, they staggered their firing so I began dropping one arm and then the other to keep a constant flow of wind to push those shots away.

“Fall, fall, fall, fall!” I began a mad chant to keep up with the archer's resilience. No order nor rhythm followed the shots anymore. They were just putting as many arrows in the air as they could. Sweat stung my eyes and I instinctively wiped it away. An impact sent me tumbling to the ground in that instant.

A fresh, yellow bud fluttered in the morning wind. I crushed it with my palm as I pushed myself back onto my feet. Anger flowed through every vein as I looked to the one who had knocked me over. His soft, effeminate features were highlighted by pale skin. This contrasted starkly with the black scales that covered the tops of his arms and shoulders. I snapped, “What was that, Uk'Shiu?”

With a snarl, his red eyes glared at me for only a second. He motioned down to his own stomach where I noticed a quickly swelling stain on his white robe. As I drew closer Uk'Shiu reached down to the arrow in his stomach. He tried to remove it while keeping his eyes focused on the opposite hill. Rather than falling short, the shaft of every arrow now erupted into flames. I could see him struggle to keep up with the flurry of missiles. With a growl, I smacked his hand away. Despite my blow being far too weak to actually push it aside, he let me get close. Taking hold of the arrow with both hands, I warned him, “Don't stop burning those arrows when I pull this out.”

Uk'shiu was so tall I had trouble wrapping both hands around the shaft. As I began to pull on the arrow, it stubbornly refused to quit its victim. Splinters pierced my gloves but I only dug my heels in deeper. Both my patient and I let out a roar as the embedded missile came free. Tossing the arrow aside, I returned to my task. Uk'Shiu fell backwards to sit down while I returned to knocking arrows away.
A roar came from the valley below that forced a smile on my lips. A furious blue blur rushed up the hill so quickly the archers had no time to react. He was amid them so quickly that it never occurred to them to flee. Arrows bounced off his thickly scaled wings as his sharp claws tore open soft flesh. Their leather armor might as well have been silk. If an enemy was beyond his reach, lances of ice appeared and impaled the target. With the fall of the leading soldier Ru'Sala, our Commander, had reached his objective.

My arms dropped to my side when I saw no more arrows would be coming. Several heavy thuds came before Uk'Shiu launched himself into the air towards the hill. I watched him land amid the archers and join in the frenzy. Checking into the melee below, it was finishing up with no obvious casualties on our side.

With a sigh, I ran my hands over my clothes. Sure enough, Uk'Shiu's blood and the mud encrusted my new shirt and skirt. Though, I could hardly complain too much. I had joined the campaign today while everyone else had been on the war path for a month. As the final soldier was silenced, I could see Ru'Sala grab Uk'Shiu by the back of the head and pulled him into a fierce kiss. Several catcalls and whoops came from the soldiers below.

“Finish up with this and get ready for this afternoon! We've got a King to catch!” Ru'Sala ordered after releasing his mate. I watched as the soldiers below made sure to finish off any survivors and loot the bodies for anything of value. One of our Were-bear soldiers pulled a cart around for any salvageable metals or weapons to bring back.

Though not even children consider me tall, I felt tiny as a soldier crested the hill. Her arms shook from exhaustion so she was using her sword as a brace. Sweat trickled down her sharp features while her light blue eyes locked with mine. I was entranced as the Elven woman drew close until our lips met. Since she was so much larger than me, she had to kneel. I tasted her salty sweat and savored it. My hands clasped at her back to draw her armored body as close as it could be. We held each other close, these months had been our first time apart since I stopped being a Witch's apprentice. Another round of hoots caused Tishrel to tear herself away to roar down the hill, “Shut it, you miserable bastards! You're just jealous!”

“Won't be jealous till tonight!” One of the other soldiers shot back.

“Before or after I gut you and take all your money?” snapped my lover. I wrapped my arms around hers and pulled her out of the sight of the others. There would be no end to the bickering with them, it'd been months since sex was even a thought for them, most likely.

Pressing a fresh kiss to her cheek, I asked, “Are you alright?”

“Fine, thanks to you keeping those archers off us. They're Lord Rechard's pride and joy. We've been skirmishing for a week so it's nice to have that decided.” Tishrel beamed as she removed her helmet. Her hair was long enough to reach her neck, she needed it to be cut again. Shaking her head loose, I pulled her to the side so we could lay on the cool grass. Tishrel took a long breath and sighed, “Oh, how did things go in the Capital?”

“Poorly but it's to be expected. Zebar is in the middle of a Civil war so reinforcements aren't coming beyond me and Uk'Shiu.” I admitted bitterly. My mind recalled the condescending Nobles and Lords who laughed behind their hands at us. Though plenty of people were supposedly 'outraged' by Lord Rechard's claim of independence, no one was willing to do anything about it. Many probably harbored the same ambitions and it was only a matter of time till the Republic fell apart. I laughed at myself, “I guess I'm still a bad mercenary, I view starting a war as a bad thing.”

“It is a bad thing but, at least it means we can buy our own tree someday soon,” Tishrel beamed at me. Her brilliant smile made me bite my lip. She'd been focused on us getting our own home together lately. I'd had no intention of moving out of the castle Ru'Sala occupied because I'd read only a portion of the library there. Not to mention, now that he'd employed a house staff, I didn't have to worry about cooking or cleaning.

Before I could summon up the courage to explain why I didn't want to move, orders forced Tishrel back down the hill. Amid the archer's corpses, a flagpole was being erected that forced a pained smile to my lips.
Despite my fatigue, I invoked a spell before walking forward. Once the soil gave way from under my black shoes, I walked on the air that spanned the two hills. I couldn't deny it was me showing off to my brethren.

As I arrived, the flag was unfurled before quickly falling limp. On a plain of yellow was a beast with oversized fangs resting on top of a round shield. This flag wasn't our company standard but our employer's. I raised an eyebrow asking, “Where exactly did you get this flag?”

“You know, it's funny that you ask,” Ru'Sala spoke through an arrogant smirk that let slip a few too many fangs, “There was this big room in the castle this rather surly individual was sitting in front of. When I went there to get our advance payment, he was rather rude to me. So, I figured this would be just compensation for my injured pride.”

I was torn between laughter at our Commander's antics and anguish at what he'd have had blamed on Consul. Instead, I opted for a third option, “Just so you know, no reinforcements are coming.”

“Well, then we'd best make our attempt on Lord Rechard and then leave regardless. Doesn't our contract expire soon?” Ru'Sala gave me a confident smirk running a hand through his long, black hair. He's been affecting a ponytail of late. Ru'Sala is a product of a Goddess' creation so his striking, sharp features are to her taste. Though, it is unsurprising that his reptilian eyes are one of his most notable features. Pale yellow with a black slit down the middle, he seems eternally staring through everyone around him. Motioning for me to draw closer, he lowered his voice saying, “I'm sorry to make you go through that farce but we had to pretend to look for allies or we'd be denied pay.”

“It's fine, Ru'Sala. Let's just not dally too much longer here. Zebar isn't quite as ripe as we were expecting.” I sighed looking up to the banner hanging limp on it's post. With a wave of my hand, the wind around it began to blow and unfurl it fully.

“How so?” Ru'Sala asked as he idly picked up the bow from a corpse. Pulling it lightly, the cord snapped.

Uk'Shiu, who had been looting the archers, looked over to us saying, “Simply put, there's no wealth here. Things had been going poorly. They've had three years worth of bad harvests and this year alone, two mines were closed. I think Zebar was hoping to grab anything of Nightrivers to build their future.”

“That makes sense. Suppose we'll need to let this place rot a bit more before people will open their coffers. Alright, we'll set sail once we either capture the King or not. Pass it around that I'd like to get home with a King's ransom to show for our work.” Ru'Sala announced. I bowed at the waist before turning on my heel. Making sure my magic was dispelled I moved down into the valley below. Most of the bodies had been stripped and were now in the process of being moved into piles. Each pile would be visible for anyone who would come to investigate the flag.

The nearest soldier was a man named Dias. His youthful looks were an utter lie he loved to embrace due to his ability to change his physical body at will. His auburn hair and handsome features did little to cover for his eternal smug smile. As I approached, he widened his arms to hug me. Darting under his wanton embrace I told him, “The big lizard says we're going home with or without the King but he wants a King's ransom to take with him. Pass it along.” Dias grabbed his chest in feigned heartache as sped me a kiss through the air.

I moved onto the next soldiers, all of whom were elves and recent recruits. By that point, the others had overheard my message and there was a visible hurry in everyone's step. Ru'Sala was always good at motivating his mercenaries. It didn't take long till we were all hidden in a different valley while a trio of scouts watched for any signs of the King. Without much to do but be quiet, various games started up.
Using spare wagon wheel on top of a water barrel, cards were pulled out from someone's hiding place. It's amusing to see a silent card game because it becomes a trick of learning to read another's face. Dias' smirk changes by barely noticeable margins while Rigol, one of the Elves, has a tendency to reposition his cards when he's losing.

The game itself is simple yet can change based on who you're playing with. Every card has the image of a monster, race or god upon it along with a 'high' or 'low' symbol. Highs always beat lows unless you discard three lows, but last man standing wins. When you draw, you can do so from the deck or any of the last round's cards, but a high can't be picked up if a low is on it. However, you can pick up the low itself. This is what makes a game so interesting based on who is playing cause you can tempt someone with power. Or take the chance to pull what you need from the deck for your play.

It didn't take long before I got drawn into a hand when Tishrel lost two games. Though she forfeited her seat, she stood over my shoulder offering advice by tapping my cards. Sometimes, I'd play something different just to watch her fume at being ignored and not being able to say anything. Even her tanned cheeks reddened somewhat. Watching over us with quick glances, Ru'Sala and Uk'Shiu lay on the hill staring skyward. Being quiet is hard but it's become a game within a game. Anyone who makes noise while playing is forced to play two cards that round.

Time trickled by and even the game lost its lustre. Hard bread and sausages went around as an afternoon's snack. I stole a few sips from Tishrel's water pouch while we ate together. Unfortunately, I'd read every book I'd managed to sneak along on this job so I quickly became bored. It was unusually warm for so early in the Spring thus, I fell into a dreamless sleep.

A violent shake forced me to look up into Tishrel's eyes. Leaning in, she whispered, “The King actually showed up.” A smile widened on both our lips since the ransom would mean a bonus. Climbing to my feet, I joined Ru'Sala, who was just below the top of the hill with everyone else barely constraining themselves from running over the hill.

Our Commander gave quick orders, “Uk'Shiu, take our scouts and get behind them. I don't want word getting back till we're safe in the capital. He's only got a bunch of mounted knights so we'll rush them while they're busy checking....” He stopped when a horse reared up, it's front legs waving in the air. Blatantly embarrassed, Ru'Sala sighed and then announced, “Shit, their horses caught my scent. Rush 'em!” He was the first one over the hill but the rest of us were right after him.

We of the Blue Phoenix Mercenaries are a varied bunch of misfits. Our Commander is a weapon created by a Goddess. Though he stands twice my height, several of our company easily kept pace. Every one of those individuals was known as a Tiyari. Those sorts are like humans at first blush but that is lost upon closer inspection; Were-folk, as they're otherwise known, are the mixture of beast and man. They can shift between not only their animal or human form but a mid-form that is a mixture of both. Some are feline, while others are more like wolves, apes, bears or many other animals that walk along the ground. In that middle ground their strength is immense, letting them keep up with Ru'Sala.

Behind them are the Elves and Drow, the lithe people of the wood and shadow. They're swift and strong but their senses are the strongest point of the race. Tishrel drew her curved blade and held it aloft, letting out a war cry. The other elves joined her while the Drow recruit sneered at them. A deeply entrenched dislike is held on both sides from a history of slavery. Yet, in the company, the desire for coin and fame sets that hatred aside.

Lagging at the back with me are the humans and an Oni. Humans were always just an oddity to me, since they seem to dislike anything other than their own race despite sharing a world with so many others. Still, their skill with a blade and physical prowess have always seen them through. But, a recent addition to our ranks keeps pace with thunderous steps. Easily as large as the Commander, Tokiji's wide frame obviously wasn't meant for running yet once he was close, the heavy spear he carried could rip through just about anything. With only a chestplate as protection, his bright, red skin attracted much attention from enemies.

The King called for an immediate retreat but the panicking horses prevented them from fleeing. I'm unsure why but certain horses are very sensitive to Ru'Sala's scent. Our commander summoned several lances of ice above his head and sped them towards the soldiers. Only a few managed to hit a target but more importantly, this gave us time for the Tiyari to close in. Their strength helps them pull the riders to the ground.

Bodies become confused and it turns into a frantic melee. By the time I arrive, several riders have escaped and a few horses have gone wild. Tokiji cleaves the stallions in two with a single blow. I wince and warn him, “Never do that around the Lieutenant. She hates to see dead horses.” My warning is ignored and I walk amidst the subsiding chaos, looking for injuries. Officially, I came along as the 'unit witch' to tend to injuries yet all I find are wounded prides. Tiyari heal quickly in their human forms and the rest of us didn't get involved till the fighting it over.

Tossing a body over his shoulder, Ru'Sala announces, “It's going to be a long march back to the capital but we got him. Now, let's get out of here before they send reinforcements.” I examine Lord Rechard to see that aside from a few bruises that he seems fine. That is, not including the fact he's been knocked unconscious. It doesn't take long for us to get everything together. Dias is assigned to sit in the cart with our captive and several hours later Ru'Sala remembered that he'd left the flag behind.

We reach the village of Tirun before nightfall and get in before they close the gates. This route doesn't see travel so we discover there's no inn. Thus, our band crowds into the nearest stable. I check on our captive once more to find Dias has stuffed some cloth in his mouth. His eternal smirk stretches wider as he offers me a hand up into the cart. Part of me winces at needing his help but I still take his hand. The Lord brings up a leg to kick at me as I draw closer. Dias begins to shout but I silence him with a raised hand.

“Lord Rechard, I'm Ashrel, the healer and witch of this unit,” I begin while holding my hands up so he can see them. It would be a simple task to have the others restrain him but my early years of being taught to honor royalty won't let me. To this day, if I close my eyes, I can still feel the desert heat of my homeland. I attempt to soothe him explaining, “I'm just here to ensure your health and well being. Nod your head if you understand me.” A single bob of his head came as his eyes flicked between me and Dias. He obviously wouldn't let me get any closer, probably due to my green skin. It was a horrible joke that many would think I was a goblin. It makes me cringe every time because we Djinni are so much more respectable than them.

Taking a breath, I asked, “Are you in any major pain, my Lord?” A shake of his head. Good. With a smile, I explained, “We'll be eating shortly. I want you to understand, if you try to make a spectacle, you will be denied food and what little comfort we can offer. If you oblige us, this trip can be no more harmful than a rough carriage ride. Do you understand?” Another nod of his head.

“That's right, we're all interested in your well being. They don't pay as much for injured and dead nobles,” Dias snarked. I spun around and glared at the man who simply turned his head away. Letting out a sigh I moved to the back of the wagon. The sound of my slap across Dias' cheek echoed through the barn for a moment.

Taking a breath to calm myself after that, I said loud enough so everyone could hear, “If you so much as pull a hair, I'll make sure Ru'Sala has a private word with you, got it?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Dias waved his hand dismissively towards me. Dropping down into the main barn, I noticed there was a stall that only had a bale of hay in it. I noticed Ru'Sala was next to the main door, quietly keeping guard. Knowing this, I flopped down on the bale, wishing for a bed. An evening trickle began to thump against the wooden roof.

“Hey sweetpea,” The raspy words sent shivers throughout my body. Tishrel beamed down at me through sleepy eyes. Kneeling down, she aligned her face with mine. Our fingers entwined as our lips joined together. More than hungry, I was exhausted and fell into darkness once more.

I groaned and swatted away a rough feeling against my face. A deep voice was kept low as I was ordered, “Get up Ashrel, I need your help.” Even in my fog filled mind, I had grown to recognize the deep rumble of Ru'Sala. The big lizard's eyes looked down into mine. While I was asleep, Tishrel had pulled me into her lap. As I stirred and stretched, my lover slowly awoke as well.

“Listen, some riders just arrived and it won't take long till they're here. I'm going to need your bells in case they come in here while I go deal with them, understand?” Ru'Sala explained hurriedly, his head twitched this way and that.

Letting out a yawn, I knuckled the sleep from my eyes, “Got it, Ru'Sala. Have Tishrel put an arrow in anyone trying to get the recruits or King. Should we prepare to leave town?”

“No, if they've come this far out of their way this late, they've been riding all night. Nobody will notice they're gone till tomorrow at the earliest. Just keep an eye out for any surprises while I clean this up,” Ru'Sala smiled to me. I quickly wove magic between my fingers. A hundred pinpricks of light turned the barn into a night sky. My 'bells' are a spell that marks the movements of intruders but, only if you know the spell to hear them. By the time I'd finished, Ru'Sala had slipped outside into the rain.

“Shall we go watch?” Tishrel whispered into my ear before kissing it. We both hurried to the main door, Tishrel a half step behind after ensuring her bow was ready if it was needed. We carefully opened the door just enough so we could see out. I altered both our vision with a tap of my fingers so that we could see clearly in the gloom. Seven soaked riders had just arrived in the square. The rain must have covered Ru'Sala's scent because their horses didn't make any sound till he was in plain sight.

The soldiers quickly surrounded him before the leader asked, “Can I take your presence in this pissing rain as an admission that you have my King? If you hand him over quietly, we'll give you a head start on running for your lives.” Without a word, Ru'Sala raised one of his hands. Having altered our vision, I could see lines of magic rising above Ru'Sala. His power surged upwards before he then motioned towards the ground. All at once, lances of ice descended from above, impaling rider and mount.

Only the leader managed to move out of the way by abandoning his horse. Landing on the muddy road, the rider withdrew a straight sword. Charging Ru'Sala, the rider brought his weapon down in a two handed arc. Ru'Sala went to block the weapon with his arm, its thick dragon scales would serve him better than any shield. Yet, the weapon passed through his arm as if it wasn't real. Ru'Sala staggered backwards to his knees as he threw up blood. Violent convulsions forced him to eject more and more blood.

Not wasting any time, the rider raised his weapon to behead our Commander. With a snarl, Ru'Sala rose back up, grabbing the man by the hand. Ru'Sala ordered, “Tishrel, fire!” A single thump was followed by an intense pressure passing by my ear. All at once, the man fell limp and his sword fell into the mud. Tishrel had placed the arrow right through his neck. On shaky legs, Ru'Sala returned to the barn only to collapse into the nearest stall.

“What kind was it?” I demanded, seeing no external cuts on Ru'Sala.

“One of those fucking ghost blades,” He said weakly before turning to Tishrel, “Sorry, get the recruits to clean that up before the villagers find them.” I heard Tishrel start to wake the others up while I traced where I saw the arc pass through him. A ghost blade was enchanted to cut at the insides of a person without harming the skin. It was an expensive sort of weapon but had a tendency to break and leave bits of itself inside victims.

Ru'Sala's natural healing was as strong as the Tiyari, if not stronger but that meant one needed to get debris out of him as quickly as possible. Feeling his chest and stomach, I found no signs of anything left behind. Even his arm was fine. When I sat back, Uk'Shiu asked, “When will you stop playing around, Ru'Sala?”

“Sorry to disturb your sleep, my mate.” Ru'Sala managed to cough up before passing out. I've heard that the pain of regeneration can make one wish for death. It didn't take long for the bodies to be cleaned up and hidden so they'd be found long after we were gone. Despite being cut in two, Ru'Sala got us up and moving at the crack of dawn. Our path brought us to a ferry we rode most of the way to the capital. During the entire trip, Lord Rechard was silent, even after we removed the gag. Despite my expectation when we passed through a town, he made no effort to make himself known.

I mentioned this to Ru'Sala once we reached the outskirts of Zebar's capital. While we sat at a small Inn and he devoured stew by the bowl full, I explained the depression that had gripped our captive. Worried he'd attempt to take his own life, I took over for Dias. Even now, he sat at a different table with hands and feet bound but made no motion towards his food. Ru'Sala's curiosity piqued, he had the Lord delivered to his table. Ru'Sala asked bluntly, “What do you fear, Lord Rechard?”

Both men stared at one another in silence. Only the chatter of our companions could be heard. Lord Rechard lowered his gaze to stare down at the table. Pulling himself upright, the Lord said as bravely as he could manage, “I fear tomorrow. I fear what lives within the walls of the castle proper. I fear what future that man will bring for my child. Do you have children, mercenary?” The final word was spit, more than spoken.

“You see them all around you. These fools who stand beside me are little more than oversized children,” Ru'Sala snarked letting his grin go wide, “What is so terrifying about my employer? He seemed little more than a small weasel of a man in too high a position.”

“Then, your eyes serve you well,” Lord Rechard sucked in a deep breath, “I hadn't expected a mercenary to be so quick witted or I'd have voiced my concerns earlier. That man, is little else but as you described him. Worse yet, he plans to change us from a Republic to a single Kingdom under him.”

“So, you rebelled in hopes of pulling together some way to stop him to protect your lands and rights,” Ru'Sala surmised with complete indifference, “Which, would be why Ashrel, who has been so attentive to you, spent weeks being ignored and insulted. So, do you have any allies in the Capital who would pay for your release?” Lord Rechard was obviously taken aback by how quickly Ru'Sala grasped the situation. The Lord's spent several moments muttering to himself, seeking internal council before his eyes lit up.

Lord Rechard explained, “My brother on my wife's side could cover my ransom if you go to him! He lives near the Ports on Rocktoss avenue!”

“I see,” Ru'Sala nodded to himself before falling silent. His eyes closed and he became so still one could fear he'd stopped breathing. After a moment, he said simply, “I'll go confirm your story. If I believe you, you'll go to your brother. Otherwise, I'll just walk you up to the executioner's axe myself.”

Our plans to stay in for the night were quickly scrapped. The recruits were all sent to the port where our ship was awaiting our departure. Dias was sent to confirm the brother and in no time, he returned with positive news. Thus, Ru'Sala quickly departed the inn, taking me along. Favoring a dark blue cloak, he blended into the shadows as much as his large frame would allow.

We circled the main castle wall till we found an area deep in shadow. The only drawbridge had gone up at sunset. Beneath a crescent moon, Ru'Sala made steps of water rise from the protective moat. We easily ascended to the outer wall before stepping down into the courtyard. Few soldiers patrolled the walls and even fewer were inside. Ru'Sala had to keep hunched over in the narrow halls. The only truly occupied post were a pair of guards standing outside the Consul's own bedroom. Ru'Sala trapped both in ice so they couldn't scream for help.

Relieving a guard of the key, I opened the doors to our employer's bedchamber. It was dominated by a massive four poster bed. Transparent curtains kept insects out. A smoldering fire filled the fireplace. Several wardrobes lined the walls with several large paintings above each. Ru'Sala closed in on the bed first, a low growl emanating from him. Reaching onto the bed, he tossed the thick, red covers away. Beneath the sheets was the Consul with a pair of women laying upon him.

My eyes looked over what was presented to me. The Consul was a middle aged human male, his belly protruding unappealingly. An old wound on his right side had been poorly stitched up and left a scar. Both women were young, their skin was smooth and unblemished. They were mostly like Noblewomen looking for favor or position with their bodies. As I looked over their naked forms, I noticed a deep purple around their throats. My eyes widened in shock as I noticed their tongues hung out in the open air unnaturally. To defy my initial assumption, I reached out and pressed a finger to the nearest one's throat. No pulse came.
I muttered sadly, “They're dead.” The cool wind finally wakened the fat man. His cheeks were rounded and bobbed with every word he spoke.

“W-what are you doing here?” The Consul demanded, reaching for a sheet to cover himself. Finding no protection, he crossed his legs after sliding to the edge of the bed.

Ru'Sala sneered at the man, “I'm here to ask you questions. First, do you plan to make yourself King of Zebar?”

“Not that it's your business, but, yes. This land need order, not squabbling nobles,” The Consul spoke disdainfully.

“Good, second question: What was the real point behind the task you gave us?” Ru'Sala's voiced deepened to almost becoming incomprehensible. I noticed his hands shook as he pressed the tips of his claws into the Consul's neck fat.

Through trembling lips, he answered, “To clear out the traitors and dross from Rechard's army. If he managed to keep only the loyal ones, we could split this land in half between us.”

“You wouldn't know this,” Ru'Sala said without removing his hand, “But the reason we had to wait for you is cause in every skirmish, Rechard's forces would fire on the melee. It didn't matter to them that their own people were down there.”

A knot formed in my stomach at that revelation. That he would send the weak and old to die at our hands seemed inconceivable. Ru'Sala interrogated further, “My final question is this; Did you know that your bedmates are dead?”

“What does that matter?” The Consul scoffed, “They were little better than whores, trying to be with my child to secure a position for their family. Are you satisfied, scourge of the Zebarian crusade?”

“Yes.” Ru'Sala spoke flatly as he relaxed his hand so his claws fell away. Rather than back, Ru'Sala moved his arm forward so he could lift the fat man off of his bed. Taking hold of the Consul by his crotch with his free hand, Ru'Sala walked calmly to the nearest window. With a heave, he tossed the would be King out. I rushed to his side in time to see the fat man land on a spike that adorned the main gate.

Amid the alarms and horns, we departed the same way we came. Not a single word passed between us. Rather than the Inn, we hurried to our waiting vessel. Ru'Sala had Dias, Uk'Shiu and the recruits secure our money. Lord Rechard gave us his thanks before departing, to which, Ru'Sala only said, “When you have need of us, send a messenger.” A short time later, our people hurried up the pier. Uk'Shiu brought up the rear and set the dock aflame to prevent any followers. Soldiers were only a few moments behind so we set out immediately.

A blazing star crashed into the water next to our twin masted ship. It was followed by another catapult shot. I didn't wait for Ru'Sala's orders and began summoning as much wind as I could. Sails were dropped and we left port in record time. On the open seas, we easily outpaced Zebar's ships. Dawn broke before we lost sight of our pursuers.

Ru'Sala collapsed next to me on deck. He said, “I'm sorry for relying on you so much.”

“Don't be, I agreed to this. Besides, I can't disagree with your choice. That man would have made a horrible King. He was too much like my father,” I responded with a weary laugh. Without a word, Tishrel sat next to me and draped a blanket over us. This time, I fell into a dream of a big bed like the Consul's. It sat at the heart of a tree with countless bookshelves around it. Tishrel lazed about with a cat on her chest while I read some new tome. We simply idled away eternity like that, together. Our hands would find one another from time to time.

When I awoke, I found I'd been moved to the lower deck where a hammock had been strung up between two posts. Curled around me protectively was Tishrel. Pressing a kiss to her sleeping lips, I whispered, “I look forward to sharing a home with you.”

NathanBrazil
May 2nd, 2015, 05:35 AM
Overall, I did enjoy this, but I think there are a couple of major issues.

I like the opening. Some don’t like opening in the middle of a battle, with little or no setup, but it worked for me. I like the build of tension as the archers altered the tempo and then fired at will.

When they are trying to remove the arrow, I want arrows to continue to fly around them. Maybe an arrow pins her robe to the ground. Maybe they have to seek cover, so that they can remove the arrow.

You had me in these first paragraphs in your grip.

But then a big blue blur barreled up the hill, and the fight was over.

I’d really like you to ratchet up the tension, before the battle scene is resolved. I would like a lot more back and forth action, where the outcome is uncertain.

The pace drags for me after the battle scene. A big part of that is due to the battle scene letdown.


Uk'Shiu, who had been looting the archers, looked over to us saying, “Simply put, there's no wealth here. Things had been going poorly in the first place due to three year's worth of bad harvests. Even two mines had been shut down this year alone. I think Zebar was hoping to grab anything of Nightrivers to build their future.”
This is the thread I believe that can tie all the scenes together. If I really get the sense that this band of characters is struggling, by their actions, clothing and gear, it can help build a sense of urgency.


We of the Blue Phoenix Mercenaries are a varied bunch of misfits. Our Commander is a weapon created by a Goddess. . .
One of my favorite paragraphs. I like the concept of a ragtag team of mages, assassins, and beasties as mercenaries.



“Don't stop burning those arrows when I pull this out.”
I’m not clear what’s happening here. Has he been taking over the job of the MC, while she was removing the arrow?



My eyes watched for the next round of shots.
Describing what a part of your body is doing as opposed to what you are doing is awkward. Also this is filtering, which puts distance between the reader and the character. Rather than using words like watching, you can say something like, I waited for the next round of shots.


His red eyes glared at me
The red eyes glaring, instead of the character glaring, comes across as a bit awkward.


Despite my blow being far to weak to actually push him aside.
Nit – should be too weak.

I questioned the way the arrow was removed. There’s a good chance that the shaft will separate from the arrowhead.


A roar came from the valley below that forced a smile on my lips.
The roar forcing the smile is awkward.


This definitely has a lot of potential but some work needs to be done in order to keep the tension from scene to scene.

Olly Buckle
May 2nd, 2015, 01:34 PM
Bother, most of the way through and it suddenly jumped pages and lost it all, for no reason. I am starting again in ‘word’, which means you won’t get all the nice formatting with ‘quote’ boxes, but at least it won’t vanish :)

“The archer's Captain ordered for a fresh volley as every one of his fifty men prepared a fresh shot”
‘ volley, and every one...’

“I began dropping one arm and then the other to keep a constant flow of wind to push that shots away”.
wind to push those shots away” plural

“They were just putting as many bows in the air as they could.”
They were just putting as many arrows in the air as they could

“Despite my blow being far to weak to actually push him aside,”
‘It aside’; it is only his hand

“power to burn the shaft of every arrows in place of my magic.”
‘Every arrow’, or ‘all the arrows’

”A furious blue blur rushed up the hill so quickly the archers had no time to react. He was amid them so quickly that it never occurred to them to flee.”
‘So quickly twice together does not work, try combining them,
‘A furious blue blur rushed up the hill, the archers had no time to react and he was amid them so quickly it never occurred to them to flee’
‘That’ is often superfluous.

“My arms dropped to my side seeing no more arrows would be coming.”
‘Valley speak’; ...as no more arrows would be coming, unless you meant ‘when I saw no more arrows ...’

“shirt and skirt. Though, I could hardly complain too much, I had just joined the campaign today while everyone else had been on the war path for a month”
I am not great on punctuation, but I think this should be;
‘shirt and skirt, though, I couldn’t complain much. I had only joined the campaign today while everyone else had been on the war path for a month’
I also lost the ‘qualifying’ words’ which strengthens things a bit, and ‘just’, which has too many meanings.

“ I felt tiny as a soldier crested the hill, using their sword as a brace.”
Singular possessive ‘using her sword...’

“Fine, thanks to you keeping those archers off of us.
Simply ‘off’, not ‘off of’


“ Not to mention, now that a house staff was in place, I didn't have to worry about cooking or cleaning.”
Not part of the present scene, so keep it as brief as possible
“ Not to mention a house staff meant I didn't have to cook or clean.”

‘As I arrived, the flag was unfurled. On a plain of yellow was a beast with oversized fangs resting on top of a round shield’
Heraldic talk; it’s a ‘field of yellow’ and ‘surmounting a round shield.’

“There was this big room in the castle where this rather surly individual was sitting in front of.”
It is dialogue, so he can talk your way, but I don’t like it, indefinite article
“There was a big room in the castle where a surly (lose the qualifier). ‘Where he was sitting in front of ... something’, or ‘Which he was sitting in front of’ if he was in front of the doorway.

“a Goddess' creation so his striking, sharp features are to her taste. Though, it is unsurprising that his eyes are one of his most notable features.”
Why ‘though’?

Things had been going poorly in the first place due to three year's worth of bad harvests. Even two mines had been shut down this year alone.
Even? Look:-
Things have been going poorly, three year's worth of bad harvests, and two mines shut down this year alone

“Most of the bodies had been stripped and were now in the process of being moved into piles. Each pile would be visible for anyone who would come to investigate the flag”
Try and keep these bits that are unimportant to the plot nice and brief, look:-
‘Most of the bodies had been stripped and were being moved into piles visible to anyone who came to investigate the flag’.


Using spare wagon wheel on top of a water barrel, cards were pulled out from someone's hiding place. It is amusing to see a silent card game because it becomes a trick of learning to read another's face. Dias' smirk changes by barely noticeable margins while Rigol, one of the Elves, has a tendency to reposition his cards when he's losing.


“The game itself is simple yet can change based on who you're playing with. Every card has the image of a monster, race or god upon it along with a 'high' or 'low' symbol. Highs always beat lows unless you discard three lows but last man standing wins. When you draw, you can do so from the deck or any of the last round's cards but a high can't be picked up if a low is on it but you can pick up the low itself. This is what makes a game so interesting based on who is playing cause you can tempt someone with power but be known or take the chance to pull what you need from the deck for your play.”
The conjunction ‘but’ should have a comma before it, several in here.

“ Being quiet is hard but it's become a game within a game. Anyone who makes noise while playing is forced to play two cards that round.”
Slipped from past to present tense.
‘Being quiet is hard, but it's became a game within a game. Anyone who made noise while playing was forced to play two cards that round.” Comma, but.

Behind them are the Elves and Drow, the lithe people of the wood and shadow.
Present again, it is when you use present continuous to describe something general and stay in it when you should shift back for the particular.

“They're quite swift and strong but their senses are usually the strongest point of the race.”
Qualifying weakens; look:-
‘They're swift and strong but their senses are the strongest point of the race’

“ I examine Lord Rechard to see aside from a few bruises that he seems fine aside from being knocked unconscious. “
It is badly structured, aside from ‘aside’ and ‘aside’
‘I examined Lord Rechard, apart from a few bruises and being knocked unconscious he seemed fine.’ Your tense slipped again.

There is more, but it is even more minor, and if you apply what I said you will probably catch most of it. Your pacing is good, you don’t get carried away in irrelevancies, and I like the way you unexpectedly mix the sexes, it certainly has some promise.
All the best, Olly.

Ephemeral_One
May 5th, 2015, 01:07 PM
Thanks for the feedback, this has been immensely useful in deciding how I wanted to proceed with this.

Nathan, sorry but this isn't a major battle scene, just a skirmish so things end easily.

Olly, I redid it and if you'd like, take a read above. I've come to like this introduction cause the next bit will be where we get into the meat of the story.

NathanBrazil
May 5th, 2015, 04:53 PM
Even though this is a skirmish, I still feel cheated, but I respect your choice.

You have employed many of Olly's excellent suggestions, and this has definitely improved the flow of the opening scene. The clarification of Uk'Shiu's actions helps keep the tension in the scene, but I'd like some sense of how burning the shafts prevents the arrows from meeting their mark. Maybe they explode. Maybe the flame on the shafts causes them to alter their course mid-flight.

If I'm understanding the tactics in this opening skirmish correctly, the MC and others are keeping the arrows off their approaching army, while it attempts to reach the proper striking distance. Then Ru'Sala can be launched, as it were, at the archers before they have time to react. If that's correct, some additional descriptions, in regards to their approach, would help me better visualize, this scene.

I'm not sure why this would have taken a week of skirmishing to accomplish.

Silence
May 13th, 2015, 04:17 AM
I enjoyed the story, though I'm confuse to the gender of the main character. I'm personal not fond of magic cause it removes much of the suspense in conflicts. Also in the six paragraph of the story you wrote "Tossing the arrow aside, I returned to my task. Uk'Shiu fell backwards to sit down while I returned to knocking arrows away." Stating that the main character return to his/her task back to back. Which is to me is a redundant statement.

bilz346
May 13th, 2015, 03:49 PM
I enjoyed the story. It was intriguing, and kept my attention throughout. I see you took into account the suggestions that came before mine, but I still found a few things you may want to address.

"Uk'shiu was so tall I had trouble wrapping"
Everywhere else you spelled it Uk'Shiu, with the S capitalized.

"I sighed looking up to the banner hanging limp on it's post."
It's is a contraction for it is. The possessive form is its. You should remove the apostrophe.

"They've had three years worth of bad harvests"
Should be years' worth, as it's the possessive form.

"based on who is playing cause you can tempt someone with power."
I feel like 'cause' in this sentence should be 'because' instead. Sounds better to me.

"Time trickled by and even the game lost its lustre."
Should be spelled luster, I think. Unless your English?

"They can shift between not only their animal or human form but a mid-form that is a mixture of both."
It should be and instead of or, and I think it might flow better if you switch it around. Like this:
'Not only can they shift between their animal and human forms, they have a mid-form that is a mixture of both.'

"With only a chestplate as protection"
Chest plate should be two words, I think. Or you could use breastplate, which is one word.

"Bodies become confused and it turns into a frantic melee."
This entire paragraph is present tense. Did you do this on purpose?

You also used well being a couple times. I think these should be hyphenated. well-being

"With a heave, he tossed the would be King out"
This reads oddly to me. I think it would work better hyphenated, as 'he tossed the would-be-King out.'

That's about it. Good story.
Brian.