View Full Version : First of his Kind (Excerpt of novella in progress, fantasy)

Daniel Loreand
September 14th, 2015, 02:16 PM
Meant to be a short story but is currently spiralling out of control into a novella. Prequel work to my short story The Monster Hunter (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/158822-The-Monster-Hunter-9000-words-Fantasy) and novella A Droll Experience.

Wondered what you guys thought of it, 2000 word excerpt from what currently stands at 10k words - probably end up at about 20k at rate im going but who the hell knows.

A song from Danaleth:
It's said that Danaleth was created as a gift for the goddess it's named after by Peter the trickster. He loved and adored her and wished her to love him back. A world of purity and beauty meant to reflect Danaleth herself; surely never a greater gift has been given. The goddess was entertained for a moment but soon grew bored, so Peter added magic to the world to add to its wonder. While awed for a time the goddess soon lost interest; so Peter added man. While she found the creatures to be fascinating Danaleth grew tired of the petty little things so Peter created Dwarves and Elves. But it was all too late, the goddess of love and beauty lost interest in the world and its creator. In a blind fury Peter took out his anger, humiliation and pain out on the world of his creation by adding monsters and conflict to Danaleth and vowed never to care for anyone or anything apart from himself. But that is a song that has been sung and heard many times. Let me sing you a song not everyone has heard, eh? Let me sing you a song from Danaleth.

A horde of crows squawked and argued as they fought amongst one another to tear apart the recent dead. They gouged out soft eyeballs with quick calculated thrusts of their beaks tearing flesh from bone while eyes as black as chipped obsidian darted about avariciously. Being only half conscious Cedric could only hear them, reinforcements flying in on wings black as midnight to join the bloody and unceremonious feast. Waking in that dead and forsaken place was like being brought back from deaths cold claws itself. Cedric had much expected not to wake again and was beginning to wish he hadn't. A hazy fog in his mind concealed any clarity. He could not open one eye as it was swollen purple and encased in blood. The other fluttered open from time to time and when it did dawns intense rays forced him to return to darkness like a blind man given sight for the first time.

It wasn't long before the scavengers came for him. Cedric could hear wings flapping and their nonstop high pitched chorus. Sharp talons dug into his forehead like little knives accompanied by a sharp and guttural screech. It sounded like the foul thing was inquiring if he was among the living or dead. There was more movement and before long another flew down to land on his exposed chest. It took a moment for Cedric to realise his swollen eye was being slowly pecked at. It must have looked like an over ripe plum to the carrion. He swatted at the crow and the thing flew away but not before giving one last angry squawk.

Plenty of other's here more dead than me, have your fill of them.

Even the motion of lifting his arm was painful. It felt as if someone had clean cracked him in the stomach with a war hammer and shattered every bone in his body. And his head, his damnable head throbbed and pulsated as if war drums were beating against his ears. It took longer than he'd have thought to sit up and get the judge of his surroundings. Cedric hadn't expected a pretty picture but was far from prepared for the sight his eye presented him. Miles of once green fertile land and meadows where the battle had taken place were now a diseased and colourless as if the life had been drained clean from the earth and its surroundings.

A small forest clearing lay near the western side of the battlefield and even that had been effected. The roots of its once proud trees were gnarled, their leaves blackened and the plant life blighted and dead. Cedric had never paid much heed to the world and its beauty, he'd been too busy fighting or running but the devastation before him stirred something he never knew there.

They drain life from the world like a mosquito does blood from a vein he found himself thinking grimly.

The campsite was decimated and what was left of the soldiers was strewn about in the thousands. Bloated husks where men had once been sprawled out their entrails with them. The unlucky ones were dragged screaming to Danaleth only knows where. Torsos arms legs and other pink and wet bits and pieces were here and there. All a feast for the carrion to dine on. The bodies were everywhere, so many they almost seemed part of the lifeless landscape. Gaping chasms that resembled huge mole holes had been torn open all over the land by the monsters. Seeing those holes brought the horror all back. Cedric had seen his fair share of battle but all paled in comparison to the events of the previous night.

Lord Antoyne Trimae and some three thousand men rode up from Coltmear, recruiting the Dry Banner on the way. Cedric had been with the Banner for nearly five years. The mercenary group was famed for being professional, well trained and sober; not a reputation gained quickly or easily. Reputations are good for many things, chiefly an increased charge in services. Some score other mercenary rode under Trimae's command but the Dry Banner were the only ones whose names carried any weight.

Suited up in chain mail and boiled leather they had been on a forced march. Word came from high marshal Craine calling for immediate reinforcements and Trimae had answered the call. After a weekís march the Lord called for camp to be set for the night. The men were exhausted and content as there had been no sightings of Critterick in the Western Wold. The noise must have woken them or drawn them, no one knew how they came across the camp or how they had avoided scouts. Cedric was speaking with his commander when the chaos began. They came out of the ground pulling men to slow and painful deaths. Mounds rose up from the earth to pop and unleash a torrent of merciless, crawling death.

They poured out of the forest some the size of a small men flying on thin wasp like wings spitting acid that charred men's faces and caused their skin to melt slowly off their bodies in thick excruciating chunks. Others so large they shuck the ground with their coming, charging through the camp tents and tearing plated knights clean in half. Their shells thicker than any armour, hopeless volleys pinging pathetically off them. Some of the men formed up and tried to hold a line but out of the darkness a horde the size of small dogs washed over their futile defensive line like a wave crashing upon a shack, mandibles and jaws so fearsome they chomped straight through mail to eat men alive and screaming while more poured forth.

There were thousands and thousands, beyond counting or comprehension. And each one different to the last, unique as they were grotesque and deadly. Cedric found himself toe to toe with one that stood on hind legs, gangly and deadly looming over him a good seven foot. It looked as ludicrous as it did distributing. Bulbous eyes seemed to size him up for weaknesses and in place of arms extended two curved and deadly scythe looking things. Cedric had never been more terrified, he had fought the things before but it had been different, they had been different. It began to excrete some sort of liquid all over its thick shell exterior, the moonlight shun off its glistening body as it hunched towards him. It slashed and struck and charged hissing and spitting. Cedric managed to narrowly save his head from being parted from his shoulders by ducking under one of the swift strikes to bring his steel soaring upwards to slice one of the blade like arms off, sending it flying over the battlefield.

The second his blade touched the freakish monster the steel began to hiss and bubble violently from where he had struck it. The blade grew deadly hot and began to fall apart before his very eyes. He let it drop to the ground and went for the dagger in his shoe but before he could unsheathe it the creature was on top of him. He struggled and winced but found himself severely overpowered. The returning memory sent shivers down his spine, as if the creature was still on him. Its touch was writhing and it stunk worse than a Casalack privy. Its small feelers on the under of its shell reached out to grip onto him. The last thing Cedric remembered was the creature enclosing him in a hideous embrace, then there was nothing but the fading sound of slaughter and the horn of retreat.

Looking at those holes now Cedric could still hear the chittering, the clattering and clambering of thousands, the noise of approaching doom echoing from their endless depths. He wandered about the desolation until he remembered that his men had fought near the forest. Shambling like a lost ghost he slowly made his way there. He almost tripped over a body on the way and there was a growing ache in the pit of his stomach but it was hard to discern from all the other pains.

Nearing the forest edge an intense pain shot through Cedric's stomach like he'd been suddenly struck by an arrow, sending him reeling to his knees. He felt as if he was going to pass out. Carrion circled above and he knew to succumb to rest would be death. His head spun and everything became a blur, before long he was hurling up over the battlefield, bile splattering a half-eaten head and sinking into the blackened earth. He was breathing heavily, eye wide open and blood red.

Surrounded by the dead with naught but my own bile to keep me company.

Almost a half hour passed, sat bent double trying to regain his composure. When the worst of it passed Cedric found himself with a throbbing headache to contend with, an acceptable trade-off he thought. Hobbling closer to the forests edge he found what remained of his men at arms. Boryle had a hole the size of a wheel ripped out of his stomach. His broken ribs poked out and his innards were cast half eaten around him. Stenrick had been carved apart from shoulder to balls, a look of panic and disbelief on his face. When it came to identifying Gallon, Cedric recognised him only by the tattoo on his arm, since his face had been carved to ribbons exposing bone and brain beneath.

The honour and prestige of it all.

The rest of the Dry Banner were nearby, none lucky enough to be left in one piece. Cedric could not bury all the dead but he could bury his brothers in arms. No way for a man to be left, eaten by rats on wings. There were some tools that remained undamaged at the wrecked camp site. There Cedric found a shovel and hobbled slowly back to the Dry Banners final resting place. The hours dripped away and the bodies didn't seem to end. The sun began to fall by the time Cedric put the final man into his grave. He was panting, drenched from head to heel in a thin layer of glistening sweat. Where the strength came from he could not say, but he felt dead on his feet.

Cedric found the standard near commander Richards. Looking down on him dead in the dirt felt strange to him. The old man had been such a presence. Now he was nothing. His once mighty beard was coated in thick blood and half his face was missing. Despite his fatigue Cedric buried him same as the rest, bowing his head and whispering a prayer for Danaleth to see him safe by her side. When all was said and done he planted the standard next to the Richards grave. It was only then, standing there among the buried dead did Cedric begin to wonder. Wonder why he was still alive. Should be grateful I suppose.

His wondering was interrupted by a high pitch howl of a laugh echoing through the forest clearing accompanied by muffled and incomprehensible babble. Cedric's first thought was to grab for a weapon and the second was how exhausted he was. Couldn't fight even if I had a blade at hand.

Cedric stood there waiting. He looked up when he heard them coming out of the forest clearing. The three of them were skulking in black and brown overcoats. Intricate belts holding vials and potions hung strapped around their waists. Their talk and laughter died when their eyes rested upon him.

Must look like I belong in the ground.

"Ho there friend. Grim day is it not?" The one in the black coat said. He removed a round leather hat to reveal a scruff of raven hair and a lofty grin. Cedric didn't care much for lofty grins, he'd seen too many of them in his time and knew what they entailed. The man in black looked innocent as a lamb while the two who shadowed him did not. To his right stood a cruel faced man with a sharp nose and a shaggy auburn beard who let his hands hover above the hilt of his blade. To his left was a young man with an impish smile and long blonde hair held back with a leather circlet. The blonde man was tapping impatiently on a loaded automatic crossbow casually held in his hands.

"Aye. Grim it is." Cedric replied.

"We'd heard there'd been a battle here, with the Critterick," the lofty smile grew and the man took a couple of paces forward and turned to overlook Cedric's work. "Their families have you to thank for this sir?"

"They didn't bury themselves."

"You've saved us quite the job actually." The raven haired man said.

Crooked as they come this one. Cedric had a sense about these things that came from experience, call it gut feeling or intuition, he trusted it all the same. Though with his stomach playing havoc he questioned the wisdom in trusting his gut right now.

"Is that so? What brings three monster hunters to the Western wold?" Cedric asked wearily. He knew what they were the second he'd laid eyes on them.

"Am I to assume you've had dealings with the guild?" the black haired one said, an eager expression appearing beneath his hat.

The monster hunterís guild had been steadily increasing in fame and notoriety over the past years, too fast to hear some say it. They charged extortionate prices for their services, which was not always exclusive to killing monsters. Their wealth was vast and they worked closely with the Rosewood Academy of higher learning, experimenting and cooking up all sorts of weapons formulas and magical contraptions.

"Not exactly." Cedric replied. Those automatic crossbows aren't carried by just anyone.

"I'd wager the uniforms give us away, silly but practical. Well. . As you have no doubt guessed we are not here by chance. Aghasts are drawn to fresh cadavers like fly's to shit, practically live for the stuff. We'd come to burn the bodies."

Cedric had heard the work of Credonebris, undead monstrosities that stalk places where the dead are so many they are simply left to bloat and rot. Hunched and covered by the dark of dusk they'd flock to rip and rend and consume the flesh of the dead, a common nuisance.

"Most monsters won't go near land blighted by the Critterick for some reason but with so many bodies, who knows."

"Shame you didn't arrive earlier, could have used your help." Cedric said.

"We were passing through Coltmear when a traveller arrived screaming and babbling about a battle with the Critterick he'd seen on the way."

A slaughter.

"We arrived soon as possible, but I doubt we would have been of much assistance. However I can't deny curiosity didnít have a hand in our presence. We know as much as any of the horde but even that isnít much, we thought we could learn something."

A lance of pain shuck through Cedric like he'd just been struck by a lightning bolt. It was a struggle to stay upright. He grunted and could feel the bile at the back of his throat. He felt weak and pale. After coughing and hacking up into his hand Cedric found it to be coated in thick fresh blood. The black haired man cocked his head looking him over like a farmer would a sick cow.

"I don't think I got around to asking how you survived the battle, sir."

It was an effort for Cedric to summon the words and when he finally did it was through gritted teeth. "I'm beginning to think I didn't." When the words were finally out in the open the last of Cedrics strength abandoned him. He fought desperately to keep his eyes open but everything was becoming a numb black swirl and before he knew it the ground was upon him.

"Martyne, Harro get him up." Cedric heard the quickly fading complaints of the two monsters hunters as his eyelid fluttered to a close.

Harper J. Cole
September 19th, 2015, 03:33 PM
It's a nice intro to the character. One thing I will say is that there's something of a shift in tone, going from the whimsical opening paragraph to the aftermath of a brutal battle. Perhaps going straight into Cedric's story and then filling in the history of Danaleth later on would flow better.

They poured out of the forest some the size of a small men flying on thin wasp like wings spitting acid that charred men's faces and caused their skin to melt slowly off their bodies in thick excruciating chunks.

In terms of punctuation, I felt there were a few sentences like the one above that needed breaking up with commas or periods.

All in all though, an atmospheric intro; thanks for posting!


Daniel Loreand
September 19th, 2015, 04:02 PM
Thanks for the reply Cole. The intro is constant in all stories that fall under the 'Danaleth' universe. It's less a story or intergral part of the writing and more just an intro that ties all the stories togeather. The whimsical and fairy tale nature of it is purposefully there to juxtapoz the genrally grim setting of the stories. Punctuation has never been my strong suit and I think the only thing that will help me there would be to get an editor haha.

Thanks for the reply though and reading the excerpt, hope you enjoyed it.