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The Dread Chronicles (1 Viewer)

I'm looking for feedback more on the story and style of writing than anything else.

The story is posted on my site here: The Dread Chronicles, Book 1, Prologue It goes from the Prologue to Chapter's 1 and 2 (I'll be posting Chapter 3 later tonight). So far, the story is at about 4400 words.

I look forward to your feedback. :)

Joshua
 
Anyway, here's the Prologue, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2. Chapter 3 (my best so far IMHO), is posted on my site.


(Work is Copyrighted 2011, dreadchronicles.com, all rights reserved)


Prologue

At midnight, a dark figure with a darker purpose stole through the shadows of an ancient forest. The figure was a man, tall, strongly built, which was not unusual in this part of the land. Most of the people who lived near the forest made their living with their own bare hands, whether it be farming, crystal harvesting, protecting what was theirs against forest creatures and sea monsters, or wandering around in places where they knew they shouldn’t be.
Such was the case with this man. He was a man of the night by trade and by nature; this showed in the way he went about his “business”. The way he walked, the way he used his hands almost as much as his feet to find his way, his wary stance, all these things spoke of a man well practiced in his field of expertise.

And yet despite this man’s experience, he seemed troubled by something. Certainly it was not the darkness that surrounded him, he needed it to remain unseen. It was not the fact that he was in unfamiliar territory, that too, was a part of his job. And it couldn’t have been that he was doing something he knew to be morally wrong, he had long ago discarded his conscience…or had he? No, something about this job was troubling the man, and he had no doubt what it was.

It was murder. Cold blooded, unfeeling, uncaring, the supreme act of indifference towards life. But not just any murder. It was a most foul murder, a murder so black in nature that most people would rather not even think about it, including the man who was charged to carry out this terrible crime. But it could not be ignored. He could not simply gloss over it with the usual excuses he used to justify his crimes. He knew it was the darkest act of evil he was capable of carrying out. And he hoped he would never have to do it again.

Not that he had much choice. He had been promised a lot of money, which is the normal motivation for crime, but his “employer” had also ensured he would not have any second thoughts by threatening to kill him and his family if he failed.

Ironically, the man had sworn off crime even before he got the job offer. But that was the funny thing about leading a life of evil; once you start, it’s hard to stop. Almost as if it were an addiction that had a life of its own.

There was no doubt that the whole affair was highly unusual. In fact, it was so strange that if he had not been so concerned with the pure evil of the act he was about to commit, he would have wondered a great deal about the exact circumstances his employer had laid out.

For instance, it had to be done in the heart of the forest. Never mind the dangers involved with venturing into the forest, just go in there and get the job done, thank you very much. And it had to be done about ten minutes after midnight. At night, sure, that was expected. But why the exact timing? And it had to be him. He had to do it, and he had no idea why; he didn’t even know the person he was supposed to kill.

Now that he thought of it, the advertisement (not in your local newspaper mind, but in the underground bar, where most of the scum liked to hang out), had been quite clear that only applicants living in the village near the forest would be eligible, and no other requirements had to be met, except for having “the stomach to commit crime”. The man spat. The word “crime” did not do this act of black evil justice. Had he known what he was getting into, he wouldn’t have even considered applying for the job. But the pay was good, and he desperately needed the money to pay off debts. It was uncanny, the amount of money offered was exactly what he needed, and he fit the requirements perfectly. Almost as if his employer had known all about him in advance.

The man shuddered. He had never seen his employer before, he was sure of that. He could have never guessed what his employer’s intentions were. To be fair, there was much he didn’t know. This man was just as much a victim as was his soon to be victim, though he did not realize it. He had become a slave to his own choices, having long ago forfeited his free will to the vices that have plagued mankind for eons. It was not too late for this man though. He could still redeem himself, if he only had the courage to face the consequences of his actions. But he had not courage; only weakness and vice.
There would be no salvation for this man tonight; he would only condemn himself even further if he committed the evil act in his heart. And he would, for the powers that decide such things as fate and destiny had long ago foreseen what choice this man would make tonight. Men rarely deviated from habits that established themselves over a lifetime of wickedness.

His time running out, the man quickened his pace, and he marveled at how he had not encountered a single soul on his journey through the forest. Night was when the local life was most active, and the fact that he had not seen nor heard any animal was most unusual. He could not have known that this night and the events leading up to it, even the debt he incurred, was the result of his manipulative and subtle employer. He had no idea that he was just a pawn in a much larger game, and that this seemingly simple act of evil would play a crucial role in the events yet to come.

For the employer, everything was going according to plan. For the man, this would be a night that he would never forgive himself for.
He had reached his destination. From underneath his cloak, he produced a small basket. He placed it with shaking hands on the stone that was prepared for this event. He lifted the lid, and regarded the contents therein with fear, disgust, and anguish. He had been told that no one would miss her. She had no family, they had not wanted her. She was born with a deficit that caused her to be ugly in appearance. Yet as she slept, she looked like any other human baby, sweet, gentle, pure.

The man drew another item from his cloak. This time, it was a long, silver dagger. Unlike the baby girl, it was beautiful in appearance, it’s handle and blade glittering in the starlight, the jewels shimmered, and it looked very much like the kind of worldly possession that most people would place a high value on.
Again, the man looked at the baby girl. It was a cruel world indeed that could place so high a value on such a deadly object, but no value at all on such a sweet, gentle baby. He gently stroked her hair with two massive fingers, and in her sleep, she grasped the fingers with a tiny hand, as thought she were holding onto the hand of her mother. The man’s heart broke, and he sobbed. He could not do it. No man could.

Just in that instant of self-doubt, he suddenly thought of his own family. He thought of his wife, caring, loving. He thought of his two sons, healthy and strong. And he thought of his own, sweet baby girl. Perfect, pure, and gentle. He was then harshly reminded that they would all die if he failed.
He had no choice. He had given up his ability to choose a long time ago.

Slowly, still sobbing, still with shaking hands, he lifted the dagger, and with one swift stroke, brought it down. There was no sudden cry in the night. She didn’t feel any pain. But in that last instant before his dagger made contact, still grasping his hand, the babes eyes suddenly opened. She fixed him with her wide, deep blue, innocent eyes. Her hand briefly tightened its grip around his fingers. In that instant, the man suddenly found he loved this child, as though she were his own. But the moment was over the instant the dagger made contact; her hand lost its grip, and her arm fell limply to one side. Her eyes, once filled with life and innocence, stared emptily into the stars, the only witnesses to this horrible act of evil.

The man lifted a trembling hand and gently closed her eyes. He then lifted the basket and cradled it in his arms, and silently sobbed.
Unknown to the man, far off into the darkest part of the forest, a shadow stirred. The man’s employer, who sensed this, grinned evilly. It had been done, and now his plan was in full motion.

Unknown to the man’s employer, however, other forces, far more powerful than he, were also conspiring against all evil things that lurked in the world. They too, had sensed the shadow, and for them, this was well. For they had long ago laid down preparations for this fateful night, and had chosen a young man to rise up and meet this new evil face to face.

His name was Draco. And this is the story of his fight against the most powerful enemy known to mankind; The Dread Mage.
As for the baby girl? It has been said that a special place has been prepared in Heaven for those who die before they can know the difference between good and evil. Perhaps she has found her true family there.

Chapter 1

“You look so tired Drake. Did you have another nightmare?”

“I don’t remember.” Draco replied, massaging his head, running his hand through his semi-long white hair. Storm cloud grey eyes gazed off into empty space as he struggled to remember the previous night. All he could remember was waking up to cruel laughter. A kindly looking woman, the closest thing Draco had to a mother, bent over him looking concerned. “You should rest.” She said firmly.

Draco stood up, clearly agitated by this suggestion. “Father wouldn’t be pleased. It is his birthday after all.”

He was tall, thin, and fair skinned. He wore exotic clothing, adorned with crystals of varying shapes and sizes. Old jewelry, from ruby-set rings to archaic necklaces were carefully placed in exact locations on his person. The little bare skin that showed beneath this stunning display was decorated with tattoos set in an ancient runic design. This was not vanity; it was crucial that every single tiny detail was perfect, for he was a Crystal Mage, and the smallest error could spell disaster in his line of work.

The Crystal Mages are magic wielders, dealing with a special brand of magic unique to the Tachoi people, a relatively young race that pioneered Crystal Magic. But what does Crystal Magic do? It could construct and combine almost every known element; it could create any physical or magical object more efficiently than any other means known to the world. The Crystal Mages were the only ones who possessed the skill, patience, and attention to detail required to practice this subtle art. It took decades of training and practice before one could become a proficient Crystal Magi, but Draco was special. He had somehow managed to gain a mastery of Crystal Magic at a very young age.

The town Elders sensed his potential, and had him become the apprentice of the wisest Crystal Sage in all the land, the man whom Draco had called father for as long as he could remember.

The woman, who’s name was Beth, smiled in a kind and knowing way. Draco could be extremely stubborn about so many small things.
“Suit yourself. But Ria won’t be pleased when she sees you in this state.”

Again, Draco placed his head in his hands. Riandra. She probably cared about him more than anyone else, and she was not one to let others have their way. Hardly surprising, she was half dragon after all.

In order to power their magic, the Crystal Mages depended on the crystals found only in the high mountains, hence the name of their brand of magic. But the mountains were even more dangerous than the forest, and the only people who could safely navigate the treacherous alps were those of the Dragon Clan.

The Dragon Clan was part of a larger race; the anthropomorphic people. No one was exactly sure how they came to be. Some believed that long ago, they were once humans, but changed their bodies into part animals so they could better understand nature and help ensure the survival of the human race. Others thought that they had come from a distant land. No one knew for sure.

Riandra was a beautiful Dragoness who, for reasons utterly unknown to him, had taken a great liking to Draco. She took it upon herself to monitor his health and ensure he didn’t do “anything too stupid, at least for a human.” She was even more stubborn than Draco, and she wasn’t afraid to use brute force to get her way. Being even taller than Draco and with an Amazonian build, she could be quite intimidating when she wanted to be.

Rubbing his eyes in a vain effort to fend off fatigue, Draco sat down and finished his breakfast. Beth was right. If Ria found out he skipped breakfast on top of not sleeping well, she’d force feed him in front of the whole town. He shuddered. Some of the other guys still teased him about the last time his “girlfriend” did this.

Draco was not a very social person, and why he had been cursed with such an overattentive woman was beyond him. Perhaps it was God’s idea of a good joke.

He finished his meal and thanked Beth for the third time. Draco was always very polite, and kind hearted by nature. It was a pity he was so anti-social, because he would be very liked by most everyone if he just talked to them. But that wasn’t his style. He’d never been one for small talk anyway.
It was a beautiful Spring morning. The sun was rising, painting the sky with a gentle, yellow light. It bathed the valley with its warmth. Draco stretched out, and as he did so something small and very loud launched itself into his midriff.

“DRAAAAACO!” The small ball of endless energy screeched in her high pitched voice. It was Vanessa, a small girl who regarded Draco as her big brother, although they had no relation.

“Hello!” Draco gasped, trying to catch his breath and hug Vanessa at the same time. “What brings you here so bright and early Vess?” Vanessa insisted on being called by her nickname.

Vanessa smiled brightly as she gazed up at Draco with her bright green eyes. “I got dressed all by myself and I wanted you to see!” It was at this proclamation that Draco realized that Vanessa was dressed so poorly, she looked like she had dove into the laundry mat and decided to wear anything that would stay on by itself. Which was probably not too far off the truth.

Draco struggled to keep a straight face. It was likely Vanessa’s mother was worried sick, wondering where she was, and here she was, trying to prove her independence. Vanessa was looking up with big, expected eyes, obviously waiting for his remarks of approval, so he finally spoke. “Why…you look wonderful! Are you going to wear that to the celebration tonight?”

She beamed and nodded. “Uh-huh. I’m gonna be the prettiest princess in town!” At this, Draco couldn’t help but grin; her energy was too contagious. But suddenly he looked around fervently, looking worried. Vanessa tilted her head to one side and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Draco kneeled down and placed a hand on her tiny shoulder. In a serious tone he said, “I just don’t know Vess. Do you really want to go around showing your pretty dress off to everyone?” He leaned in closer and said in a stage whisper “It would ruin the surprise you know.”

Vanessa clasped her hands to her mouth, gasping in shock. Clearly, this horrible idea had never occurred to her. For a moment she looked like she might cry, so Draco quickly said, “Oh, I don’t think anyone’s seen you yet, it’s too early. But what say we get you home and changed, so we can save the surprise for everyone at the party?”

Looking relieved, she fixed him with her emerald green eyes and said “You promise you won’t tell anyone what I’m wearing?”

Draco solemnly placed a hand on his chest and soberly stated, “I won’t tell a soul. Quick, let’s get you back home.” Vanessa nodded fervently and looking around to make sure no one had seen her, beckoned to Draco to follow her, and together they quickly and quietly made their way back to Vanessa’s home.
When they got back, Vanessa’s mother was standing outside their house, looking worried. She was relieved to see Vanessa with Draco. Rushing up to greet them, she spoke in the tone of someone who had been waiting for three hours, wondering where their poor child may be. “Oh Drake! You found her! Where was she? And what on earth are you wearing Vanessa?”

Vanessa, who had been dancing like a little princess, stopped, faced her mother and placed both hands on her hips. She looked like her mother in miniature, except not as well dressed. Fixing her mother with a crusty glare, she said angrily “My name is not V-uh-ness-ah. It’s Vess.”
Draco turned away so Vanessa couldn’t see him silently laughing.

Dramatically brushing her hair out of her eyes, she proclaimed regally, “And I’m wearing my dress for the party tonight. I’m gonna be the prettiest princess in all the land! But mommy,” She said, looking suddenly concerned, “I don’t want anyone to see me yet. I wanna make my dress a surprise! Will you help me change into my normal things?”

Draco noted the increase in her ambition and smiled again. Vanessa’s mother smiled also, looking relieved that her daughter was safe. “Of course dear. Now you come inside so we can get you changed.”

As Vanessa happily skipped inside the house, her mother looked at Draco and smiled gratefully. “Thanks for looking after her Drake.” Draco said “Anytime.” in response. As the door closed, he noted with a twinge of regret that Vanessa was one of perhaps five friends he had. He silently resolved to try to talk to a few people at the celebration later that night.

Feeling tired again, he set off to spend the rest of the morning meditating. There was a long day ahead, and many preparations needed to be made before the celebration.

High up in the air, a certain Dragoness watched his progress through the town alleyways. She had seen how well he got along with children, and this pleased her for selfish reasons. A smile spread across her muzzle. As Ria watched him, she decided to return home. She too, had a long day ahead of her. Catching a passing wind, she turned North and flew off into the horizon.

None of them would ever forget the events that would occur in the night to come.

Chapter 2

The day had gone very well, all things considering. Given the enormity of the celebration, there had been a dozen small disasters so far; people kept crashing into each other and things kept breaking as a result. It was Draco’s job to try to keep the peace and find quick solutions to ensure that traffic could keep going at a steady pace. Usually those solutions were simple, such as replacing a broken wheel, but some required the mending of ancient pottery and other valuable breakables. Fortunately, repairing broken items was one of the most fundamental lessons learned by Crystal Mages; it was easier than making things from scratch, and taught them valuable lessons needed to be able to create items from pure energy.

It was busy all day long. People were shouting, children were crying, and for all intents and purposes, Tai’den, the town which Draco lived in, had become a large metropolis on a regular day. People of every race from nearby towns and villages had come to see ‘The Enlightenment’, a ceremony where Draco’s father, a revered Crystal Sage (one who devoted their time to the study rather than practice of Crystal Magic), would become an Elder, the leaders of the Tachoi people.

It was evening before things finally started to quiet down as final preparations were made. Draco leaned against a wall, and wiped the sweat from his face. Drinking water from a hip flask, he spoke to his friend, Daniel, who had helped him with maintaining traffic throughout the city.
“I can see why the Elder’s want to wait until night, since it takes so long to prepare for the celebration. I can’t believe how many fireworks they’ve imported. They’ve got enough to blow up the whole town.”

Daniel, who was a Night Fox, winced. He was a little shorter than Draco, but powerfully built. He had long black hair that hung to his shoulders. He also had long fur that was dyed a deep purple/blue color. It almost looked like a midnight sky, which is how Daniel’s kind got their name. He had vivid electric orange eyes that seemed to glow if you were to look directly in them. He had long, pointy ears, a short snout, and a long, fluffy tail with a white tuft that gave away his vulpine heritage.

“Uh…Could ya’ not talk about blowing up the town, Drake? My nerves are already shot as it is.” Draco chuckled. “Sorry about that Danny, I keep forgetting how jumpy you are.” Daniel’s ears flattened. “I am not jumpy. I’m…I dunno, I guess I’m kinda stressed, that’s all.”

Draco and Daniel often made fun of one another; it was a mark of their friendship. Draco teased Daniel about being sensitive to loud noises, and Daniel in turn would make fun of someone as socially inept as Draco for having a “girlfriend”.

Suddenly, Daniel chuckled. “So…where’s your girlfriend, Drake?” He added emphasis to the word “girlfriend”. ”I thought she’d be accompanying you to the ceremony.” He added, with a sly smile.

This time, it was Draco’s turn to get defensive. “She’s not my girlfriend. And the only reason she’s going with me is because-”
“-Is because you just can’t get enough of her.” Finished Daniel, nodding. “It’s a pity she likes you so much, she deserves a good looking guy like me.”
What Draco was going to say was “because father told me to”, but he realized how lame this sounded so he let Daniel finish the sentence for him. He was not, however, in a good mood, having been reminded of this fact, so he snappily responded “Yeah, I’m sure she’d love to go out with a short guy like you.”
Again, Danny’s ears flattened. “I am NOT short!”

Just then, Beth came in looking exhausted. “Boys, we’re short a few hands, could you help us with peeling potatoes?”

Still muttering under their breath, both young men followed Beth into the kitchen to help finish the preparations for the feast. As they peeled the potatoes, both Daniel and Draco were lost in their own thoughts. Daniel was still muttering under his breath; Draco caught the words “not” and “short”. Evidently he took exception to Beth saying the word “short” when she asked for their help.

Draco, however, was thinking about Ria. It wasn’t that he didn’t like her. He just wished she wasn’t so attached to him. He didn’t like the thought of being in a romantic relationship with anyone; he already had enough headaches in his life. But what was bothering him was that he remembered he would be meeting with Ria much sooner than when it was time for the celebration to begin; the Elder’s had asked him to find a crystal from the mountains that would be suitable for the occasion, and Ria, of course, had volunteered to take him there.

Scowling at the potato, he wondered whether his father had played a role in that little arrangement as well. Both he and Beth kept going on about how it was high time for him to have a woman in his life, and how he needed more friends anyway.

Truth be told, Draco actually kind of liked the idea of spending some time with Ria, although he would never, ever, admit it to anyone, not even himself. But least of all his friend Daniel, who teased him mercilessly about having a girlfriend.

He didn’t have to. As he skinned potatoes, a small smile spread across his otherwise vacant face. Daniel noticed this and smirked, but said nothing.
It was strange, the way love worked. One could never predict where, how, or when it would strike, or what adventures would be had as a result.
Draco, for his part, never once suspected that he could actually fall in love with someone, least of all someone as obnoxious as Ria. He found the whole idea of love to be ludicrous. He had his work, which was more than enough for him. He didn’t need or want love in his life, and he would never, ever, fall in love with anyone.

It’s amazing just how wrong a person can be.
 
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