Sunday, October 13, 2013

Chapter 3: The Red Dusk

The townsfolk started to gather at the town square as the bells were rung slowly. Men, women and children of all ages searched for a spot where they could see the platform. Some had lifted their children on their shoulders so they could see, others had climbed to rooftops and building scaffolds. There was nothing of greater interest to see on the platform, but a middle-aged man, hands crossed inside his large sleeves. Short, white hair, brown, very large robe and a wooden necklace decorating his chest: A priest he was. When the knelling stopped, the crowd waited in silence. Everyone was anxious to hear the news. “Today I bring you news of great sorrow...”, started the priest. His voice was loud and clear; perfect for announcements. “For death came to our doorstep this morning. I am very sorry to announce...”, he paused for a moment and looked at the crowd. Not even a whisper was heard from the crowd. “... that Wilfred Ealdred, son of Gregor Ealdred, the counselor who served in the ages of Edmond Warde, Leader of the village and head of council, Richard Warde, Leader of the village and Richard Vaughan, King of the northwest lands and Leader of the village, has sailed to the realm beyond.”

Soon the town square filled with whispers and the bell tolls as the news were told and the priest had left the platform. Some of the people left with their tails on fire to send birds to other lands of the northwest, some went back to their chores, but most of them stayed at the square, tattling and whispering. Rumours began spreading in taverns and soon there were tens of different endings to the old counselor Wilfred’s life. All of them would reach the king’s ears, of course.

The sun was going down and the dusk was settling in. From the window of his high tower, the king could see how the edge of the sky was still red. It had been so since sunrise. He wondered how far it could reach and how many letters they would receive the following day. Letters he should read, all of them. “I’ll just name a new counselor and have him read them.”, he thought to himself. “Now, who’s fitting and loyal...”, his thoughts were interrupt with three loud knocks on the door. A guardsman’s voice heard suppressed through the door, “The woman wishes to speak with you, my king.” The king grabbed his cane and limped across the room to reach for the door. He grabbed the handle and opened the door slightly to take a glance. “You... Come in.” The king opened the door all the way and let the woman walk in. Before closing the door, he told the guard to send someone to get wine. When the king turned back, the woman had already tiptoed her way to the window, leaning seducingly on the deck. “Isn’t it beautiful?”, she sighed looking at last shades of red that made the forest treetops of the forest glow red. The king grunted as a reply and sat on a chair by a small table right next to the door. “Is it done?”

The woman turned to the king, still leaning to the deck with her hands. Her high cut dress revealed just one silky smooth leg, her skin pale white as flour. The green dress had no sleeves, but it covered her shoulders along with her long and curly dark hair, and left her upper chest uncovered. On top of the dress she had a white corset, tied tight with brown leather strings.

“What, my Lord?” She smiled, twisted her body and sat on the deck invitingly, legs crossed.

“King,” Richard didn’t like when he wasn’t addressed properly. He lifted off the chair with the help of his cane. “The summoning.”

“My apologies, Your Highness. Yes, it has been done.”, the woman replied with a smirk.

“Since you’re still here, I assume you want something.”, the king limped slightly closer and looked at the marvel fate had brought sitting on the deck of his towers window, just smiling and sailing across the room with her light brown eyes. “Well...”, she started. “There is one thing.”

“Who are you, darling?”, Richard walked up to the woman and brushed off her hair slightly.

“Even if I told you,” she looked at the king standing much higher than her. “You wouldn’t know.”

The king leaned back slightly and tilted his head. He looked at the young woman’s body like he could lick it with his eyes, “You’re not from around here.”

Sliding off the deck, she answered as she was amused. “No, and neither is that what I want.”

She circled around behind the king, sliding her hand across his chest, down his side carrying on to his lower back.

She reached out to Richard’s ear and whispered, “But what is it that you want?”

Richard turned his head slightly to answer the woman. “Brent Waymar. And his sons.” Their faces were now an inch away. “Or just their heads.”

The woman smiled as she pulled away and turned back to the door. “Your wine is here.”

With bare feet pressed firmly against the tiny rock fragments in the gravel soil, she stood in the outskirts of the village, in the dry fields before the forest. She looked up to the sky, waiting for the moonrise, with a dead corpse and a lonely head inside a circle of blood trail. It was a warm night, with a soft breeze of wind every now and then. Crickets went wild in the dried grass of the fields, but the edge of the forest was lifeless: not a single soul to rustle the leaves or break the fallen branches on the ground. The last candles in the distant farms went out and the darkness embraced the sky. With the darkness came cold and silent and it took away the wind. The dark did not last long though, as the moon rose behind the forest to shine light across the fields, the village and the hills behind it. The woman kept waiting and the moon kept rising slowly, lighting up the sky and the lands even further. The river glistened in the moonlight and reflected the color of the sky, blue as the morning glory. When the moon climbed high enough, the light lit up the woman's face and the gravel patch she was standing at. The circle of blood suddenly burst up in flames and threw the white dust in the air. The flames went out as quickly as they came, but left a small dance of shadows on the blood trails. As the dust slowly fell down like snow flakes, it covered the decapitated head inside the circle. Sliding down it's head, it seemed to fill in the missing shards and pieces of vertebra in it's neck. The woman bent down and grabbed the headless body next to her by it's robes and dragged it near the head. She stepped over the body and picked up a package wrapped in leather from the ground. Her thin and fair fingers carefully unwrapped the leather as she kneeled down next to the body to place the package on it's back. The moonlight shined through the eye of a needle, as she held it in her hand and carefully passed a thread through it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chapter 2: The Summoning Flames

A woman and three men, two with spears and armor, and one in dark, worn out robes, somewhere in the outskirts of the village. A little boy who was playing in the fields in the first gleams of sunrise wondered where they were going. The village gates were rarely opened to guests if not for trade and even more seldom someone came through those gates to leave the village. The king liked to keep his people inside the gates, for “safety and comfort”, they said. The farmers outside had to leave their meat and grain outside the gates in a small outpost, from where they were later taken to the village. The fields were large and plain, a desert of dried grass and weed with a few big rocks here and there. There wasn’t any wildlife either. The boy stopped hacking the grass and weed with his wooden toy sword and quickly ran behind a large rock near him. It was no bigger than a horse, but still big enough for an eight-year-old to crouch behind.

 The three men and the woman approached a small opening in the field, right next to a forest that spread across the horizon there. On the other side you could see the village walls, the hills behind the village and the only river within the village boundaries. A long time ago, where the village stood now, was once a large forest of willows and birch, before it was cut and burnt down for farming. They stopped in the middle of the opening, on a gravel patch where nothing grew. The woman was facing the man wrapped in his dark robes, resting between the guards who had dragged him out there by his hands. She grabbed his hood and threw it back with one swift move. The sun had risen above the clouds and it soared light on the old man’s face. His mouth was dry with blood that he couldn’t spit out, bruises colouring wrinkles and marks on his face as he lifted his head slowly to meet his maker. He could barely stand so the guards had to hold him by the armpits, while his feet laid freely on the ground. The little boy could take a look behind the corner of the rock and see the woman holding a curved dagger, the guards putting the unknown man to his knees, but not his face. He watched as the woman stepped closer and toyed with the poor old man’s face, sliding the blade softly up and down, hidden behind the other guard. He was too far away to hear if they would say anything and there wasn’t anywhere to hide nearer, except for the forest, but the boy was too nervous to make a run for it. Somehow he knew that something bad was going to happen. But why this old man, he thought. What could’ve he done, to meet his maker at dawn? The thought of running back to the farm and getting help did cross his mind, but it was too late already.

 The sound of steel slicing first through flesh and then bone filled the air. A small breeze of wind carried the smell of blood straight to the young lad’s tiny nostrils. The boy watched terrified, as if the image of blood squirting straight up from the man’s neck like a fountain would burn on his corneas. So much as he scared, he tried to look away and duck back behind the rock. He could only hold his hands tighter against the cold, shady side of the stone and reach his head out just enough to see the horror. The lifeless, limp body of the old man dropped dead on the gravel as the guards let go of his hands, still squirting blood on the ground. Soon the blood formed a puddle, that began spreading until it branched off two narrow streams. The streams ran down small paths on the gravel, spreading further apart until at last coming to a full circle.

The woman said something and waved her hand at the guards. One of them stuck his spear next to him on the ground. It made a stinging, high pitch sound as the blade sunk in the tiny rock fragments in the gravel. The gravel was not dense enough to hold the spear straight, so it moved slightly towards the ground, until the guard shoved it deeper inside. It stood at slight angle, right next to the body, that moments ago breathed and now exhaled blood. The blood on the guards, on the woman and on the ground was more than the boy could have milk in a month and his parents wine in a year. It surely wasn’t a pretty sight for such innocent sky blue eyes. 

 Just as the young lad reached for his wooden sword thinking he would’ve seen it all, he heard something burst into flames behind the rock. Too curious as he was, he left the sword and again glanced behind the corner of the rock. The blood on the ground was on fire and the woman was holding the old man’s half-bald head high above hers, her back facing the little boy. The first light at the horizon had turned red as leaves in the fall and beams of it shined through between the woman’s hands and above the head she was holding. The flames weren’t high enough to reach the woman’s height, but when she let go of the head and it fell down inside the circle, the flames went up, dancing fiercely in the red dawn.

Circling around the fire, the woman scattered something in the flames. It wasn’t ash, neither sand though it looked like it, but it was too white. Sand so white could only be found far, far away in the south. Such seas of sand only existed in the little boys dreams, songs and tales they were told when they were younger. At his age, the boy had no time for tales, as he had duties back in the farm. The only time he had for himself was right in the morning, before his drunken father crawled up from one of the hay bales where he would often fuck the boys sisters or the neighboring farmers daughters and then pass out. The young boys mother was long gone, sold to passing soldiers for bread and ale. He’d take care of his old man, by taking care of the small barley field, from which most of were brewed for the old man to drink again. Before the woman and the guards left, the woman placed the dagger on the ground, next to the spear, along with a small package wrapped in leather. As nothing was happening, the boy realized they were leaving. Quickly he ducked back behind the rock, trying to catch his breath he was holding the whole time. The sun had risen high enough, that soon they could see his shadow behind the rock if they looked back on their way to the village. The boy shut his eyes tight and took a deep breath, before he ran straight to the forest, as fast as he could. The guards weren’t too far away, and so they heard the leaves rustle as he ran past them. Luckily, the boy had spent countless mornings playing in the forest and the fields, so he knew where to hide. A couple of hops away from the edge of the dense forest, there was a ridge he slid down at and hid behind a wide tree that had fallen down years ago. It was ripped from the ground with roots and all, which were now squirming with beetles, centipedes, worms and all kinds of invertebrates. Back in the fields, one of the guards was now almost by the large rock, as he went to investigate the source of the sound. He scouted the terrain with his eyes, turning his head from one side to other. Then down on the ground. That’s when he spotted something on his left side, right behind the rock. He kneeled behind the rock to get a closer look. He looked for places near the rock where someone could still be. The edge of the forest was clear and they had better things to do than look for someone, so he stood up and started walking back. ”What is it?”, asked the woman. 

-”A wooden sword...”

[Discussion] Chapter 1

My first chapter. Wrote it almost a week ago, last Thursday. Halfway through the chapter, I got the idea for the ending and something that would happen several chapters laters. I didn't know how many pages and chapters it'll take, but rest assured, it will be there. I think of this chapter like the first time I played a videogame; it was hard at first, but quickly I became better at it just by playing. The following chapters are much more descriptive and, in my opinion, better.

Since this was such a short chapter, I don't have much to talk about it. Two of my friends have read this chapter and the other didn't get the ending. Both of them had trouble understanding the sitting order at the table, which makes it harder to imagine the scene. That is entirely my fault though, since I never described the setting. I did it on purpose though; I assumed everyone knows that the king usually sits on the head of the table, which is just one of those things the reader has to know or guess to get a better image of scene. I know, I know, I can't assume everybody knows that, but that's one of the reasons I wanted to create these discussion posts. 

I intend to use these discussion posts as a tool of clearing things up without revealing too much.
The following chapters will have more and more details and some are very easy to forget. I'm not forcing the details in there, I just happen to write something and then sort of pick it up and go along. For example, this was the sentence that decided the ending for this chapter:
"Even though he found the new king stupid and arrogant, a risk to the safety of their people, he knew that the king could have his head on display the next morning for the joy of crows, just by pointing his finger."
Shortly after I wrote it, many events in the following chapters took form. This is how the story has progressed so far and I intend to keep it that way.

That's about all of the relevant things I wanted to discuss for chapter one, so I'll go ahead and publish the next chapter.

Chapter 1: Headhunter

“Among others, this would be a man of mystery. Even the raven spies know next to nothing about him. However, he is commonly referred to as -” -“Cut the bullshit!”, the king disrupted the old counselor. He took hold of his cane and put his weight on it to get up. Slowly, he limped along the side of the large table they were sitting at and stopped on the opposite side of the counselor's seat. Hate and disgust reeked in the air, mixed with the smell of decaying wounds on the king's right side and leg. The setting was very uncomfortable, silent and threatening. The king grabbed the chair in front of him and pulled it aside. Leaning across the table with both hands, the other still holding the cane in a closed fist and the left decorated with glistening gold and silver rings. -“I want to know if he’s any good.”
The old counselor swallowed and took his time to answer. Even though he found the new king stupid and arrogant, a risk to the safety of their people, he knew that the king could have his head on display the next morning for the joy of crows, just by pointing his finger. The king himself had made this a sign that every village guard knew and the people also. Since then, pointing someone became an insult like spitting on ones face. -”Well...”, the counselor began. “The songs say he never came back without a head.” The wooden table squeaked as the king leaned further. - ”And how do you get a hold of him?”, he queried. The counselor looked at the king straight in his eyes. The tension between them was unexplainable. Neither of them liked each other, still the counselor stayed true to his devotion to the king, even one so unjust. -”I’ve only heard tales...” Again, someone broke the moments silence, “And the tales are true.” A young woman came forth from the shadows behind the hall pillars. “He needs to be summoned. But it costs.”, She continued as she walked closer to the table, down the four-step stairs and stopped where the guards wouldn’t let her pass. The leather garments of the king creaked as he turned to the woman. -”How much?” The king was now off the table and leaning on his cane with both hands. The woman grabbed the crossed spears of the guards and pulled them wider so she could fit her head through them. Her voice was almost like a whisper, but still loud as any other. She answered, “One head” and pulled the spears tight against her neck. The king looked at her for a moment, then looked back at the counselor with questioning eyes. The old counselor shook his head and lifted his shoulders, like he wouldn’t know. The king lifted off his cane and straightened his back, “Bring him to me woman...”. He began limping away from the table. Before he took the first step on the stairs, he stated that the meeting was over. Finally when he climbed the four steps and before vanishing to the shadows, he turned slightly, and without looking, pointed his finger back.

It's been almost a week now

since I started writing this story. It doesn't even have a name yet, so for now it's called "Headhunter", the title of the first chapter. I don't have much to tell about myself and blogging about my boring life of drinking and "medicating" myself isn't that much of a tempting subject, but still I've thought of blogging for a long time. Just didn't have anything to blog about, before last thursday.

I was out smoking in our backyard, when suddenly I came up with an idea for a character. It didn't really belong to any other story project (I've had two earlier, never did more than a few pages), but I could have implemented it to one. I decided to just start writing something about it before I'd forget it. This is when it lifted off; it had no direction, no plot, not even a general idea of how things would progress. At first, I didn't know how long the first chapter would be nor what would happen in it. A few sentences later, I wrote something that inspired the ending of the one-page chapter. The story developed as it went on and it still does. So far, each chapter has an ending I had not planned in advance. I think this is exactly what makes the difference between two years ago and now; I hadn't thought about it, stressed about it. Sure, there's always a scene or two floating around in my head and I'd love to dive in and see what I could come up with, but seeing how far I've gone now (though six and a half pages isn't much, but it's the most I've ever wrote) and how good I've done in my opinion, I really don't want to risk it.

It is now four, short chapters in length and the fifth might be alot longer. There is a reason why some chapters are shorter than others, but I won't tell why. It's kind of like an easter egg. You should pick it up quickly. I like easter eggs, and other "hidden" stuff, so there's going to be alot of things the reader needs to realize. It's very easy to forget a little detail that could reveal something that's about to happen in the future, or not, since the story doesn't ride on tracks.

There's still so much more I'd like to say in this first post, but I'll try to keep it short. On top of publishing a chapter once in a while (when I'm done editing and fixing grammar and derps*), I'd also like to discuss about the chapter and how it developed. Discussion posts might contain spoilers of the chapter in question, or hints of the events in the following chapters. Even so, the story might take a 180 degree turn at any point.

Alright, so that's about it for the story intro. There's a one thing I'd like to mention to fellow writers: PyRoom. It's a writing software that really doesn't get in your way. It's just text, on a full screen background, so you can write without any annoyance. It's written in Python, so it's also very lightweight. Unfortunately, it hasn't been released to Windows yet, but they're working on it. On linux, you can install it via the terminal with "sudo apt-get install pyroom" or by downloading the tarball from their site.

I'd appreciate any feedback or critique, for I hope it will push me further in my endeavors. However, if you're going to say something, please state your honest opinion. I don't need it with vanilla frosting and cherries on top, I'm a big boy already and I can take it. I don't believe in negative feedback, though insulting is another thing, because it will steer me to a better direction. Since this is my first time writing fantasy (earlier I've only done scripts and background info, which is a lot less descriptive and less playing with words), I would really like to know how I can improve my writing style, so it's easier to understand.