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 Eh, read it if yer bored. Ch 1 of my novel. 
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Post Eh, read it if yer bored. Ch 1 of my novel.

Prelude



It began again as it always did.

It came most nights now, like clockwork, a memory that would never cease. It would never die because he could not let it.

The memory of that night…so long ago, he might've forgotten it by now, or blocked it out, were it not the turning point in his life, were it not the deciding factor for the man he'd been since. The man he'd become. This cold creature, living alone now, sleeping alone steeped in the pain of the years and years of his endless life.

He was, at times, barely aware of himself; he often simply existed.

Alone now, for his secrets and his sins, for himself. Always alone, for fear the pain from his unnatural existence would spread like a plague and infect those around him, consuming them in darkness as it had nearly done him.

But this is not the story of his past no, that is a story for perhaps another time.

This is the story of his reawakening, the opening of his eyes to see the man from the past, the man whom he himself had once been, his true reflection.

This is the story of a journey and, like many before it, it begins with a memory.

It begins with a dream.













































Chapter I: Visitors at Dusk



A sound awoke him in the night, he opened his eyes and sat up quickly, sweat glistening on his pale skin. There were tears on his cheeks. He wiped them away absently and threw the blankets off.

Someone was in his home, he knew it, could sense it--an unwelcome guest. He listened for a moment to be certain there was no one in his chamber before reaching behind his headboard to retrieve the dagger, always within arm’s reach when he slept for occasions just such as these. It had been there for as long as he could remember, though it had been quite some time since it had tasted blood.

Just then a voice recurred to him from his dream, echoing into obsolescence. The voice was a familiar one. He spent a moment trying to figure it out before he shook his head and cleared his mind. Now was not the time for riddles.

Old habits die hard--his father used to tell him that long ago, and instinct…that never died. It only strengthened with time or rested when it wasn't needed waiting for its moment to be of use again. Waiting like a blade in the darkness.

His cabin was off a ways from the town of Canterburrow by no accident. He was precisely far enough from town that nobody bothered him and that's just the way he liked it. It was a quaint home with perhaps a few too many rooms for one man to fill. He rarely kept company, but over the years he'd found one use or another for each room.

He sprang to his feet dressed only in his under linen and crept toward his chamber door. He placed his hand on the knob when he reached it.

The man who was once Alexander Cross proceeded in this manner because it was hammered into him over the course of years of training from the moment of his birth. Centuries since of being put to use time and time again have made these skills and senses sharper than any weapon he wielded. He goes by the name of Duske now; few live in all the world who know his true name and even fewer that would use it.

He wielded death like a sword and set it upon any he deemed deserving of it. Tonight, he somehow knew, he would have to deal it again. Not a feeling precisely but a sense. He closed his eyes as his hands tightened their grips, and then drew in a breath of air before simultaneously opening his eyes and the door as one.

His feet moved across the cold wood never making a sound. He went first to the left, edging along the wall toward his study. His eyes moved into the room ahead of him scanning every shadow for the intruder who had awoken him. It was empty. He moved on to his home's second bedroom, a room that was occupied by naught but crates and various dust-covered relics, valuable and useless alike, that he'd collected over the years from one place or another.

He scoured the room finding nothing and made for the stairs that would lead him to the main floor. Abruptly he heard a sound from behind and turned just in time to see someone leap at him from the shadows. The figure was in mid-air, arms outstretched, hands grasping when Duske thrust the dagger forward and up catching the intruder in the stomach and holding him impaled as such.

The man reached his hands toward Duske's face clawing furiously before Duske withdrew the blade and hurled him to the floor. The man grunted at the impact and lay still. He was slender, with pale white skin and long dark hair; he was dressed far too well to be a common criminal. Duske exhaled and willed his heart to slow its beating; he took a step toward the corpse then stopped when he noticed it stir. A vampyr.

Well this is interesting, he thought to himself as he sheathed his dagger. He placed his heel on the stranger's right hand, pressing down. He applied pressure until he heard bones crack. The being below him grunted in exertion. "Who are you?" he asked.

"I am the messenger," answered the vampyr. Then after a moment he elaborated, "Or...perhaps the bait, depending on one’s point of view. My name is Joachim; my master sent me to find you."

"Your master?"

"Sennaris Kisatka, master of the darkness, great sorcerer and the most powerful being in all of Ethalla," grunted Joachim.

"Is that what he calls himself?" inquired Duske with a smile. "I have met many a powerful being in my lifetimes; many that still live to this day.”

"He possesses great strength, the likes of which most can only dream; the power of eternal darkness. In the east he forged the tower Ansolite using only his own dark magic and the strength of his will. There he has assembled a force so formidable that only a fool would think to challenge it."

Duske's eyes widened at the stranger's words. For years now he had been hearing rumors of the growing evil, festering like a plague to the east. Horrible stories of vampyrs, da'wren, wolfen, and all manner of terrible creatures attacking in large numbers. Organized like armies. Villages sacked, settlements destroyed, and the mounting deaths. Each successive trip to the small hamlet of Canterburrow has brought him another rumor, another story. Things had been going this way for quite some time while a mounting nameless evil had slowly spread like a plague across the lands. Duske wasn't proud of ignoring this fact, but he also felt that he had no obligation to anyone for just such a reason. He was done fighting other people's battles. For some time now he had been finished with people in general. Nature was his only company, and he had been content to ignore the struggles of the world. It appeared, however, that he could ignore them no longer.

"Why did you come here?" he asked Joachim. "What does any of this have to do with me?"

"I am one of Sennaris' most trusted assassins, the first of many you will meet." Joachim grinned wryly. "More will come, stronger each time until you are defeated or until you challenge him face to face. He's waiting for you."

He pressed his heel down forcefully. "Why?"

Joachim clenched his teeth and grunted hard; his face went an even paler shade of ashen white. "His reasons he tells to no one, at least that I'm aware of. Men like Sennaris have no need to explain themselves to anyone. All he said to me was that I was to try and catch you off guard. That proved to be more difficult then I had originally thought."

"For a warrior, overconfidence can be the greatest opponent of all."

"You presume to know so much slayer. I'm no warrior--I'm a killer," answered Joachim. "In any case, I believe you have been chosen because there's something about you that my master fears. It is my opinion that there is something he admires about you as well. I've seen either emotion emitted from him so rarely that I was immediately compelled to see you for myself. I watched you for days while I planned my assault and I couldn't see at all what could make you so important. Yet it only took seconds in your company to see you as my master does."

"And how is that?" asked Duske.

Joachim replied with perfect candor: “As the only man capable of defeating him.”

Duske had never been one prone to arrogance, but he was realistic and he understood that there could be some truth to the stranger's words. In the end, though, his skepticism won out. "Are you flattering me?"

"You know the answer to that question already. What other reason would such a powerful man have to single you out?"

"I do see some truth in your eyes.” Perhaps I saw it from the beginning, only I had deceived myself to see otherwise. “Where is this man? Where does he reside?”

"I've already told you: his tower. He awaits you at Ansolite," said Joachim.

Duske was silent for a moment, contemplating the stranger's words. So long I've spent waiting for the day that someone would challenge this nameless darkness. This terrible force is nameless no longer; it has marked me for death as surely as Belal himself. The journey would be a dangerous one, one that could likely cost me my life. But what other choice do I have? Stay here? Waiting every hour for the next attempt on my life? I could flee but would I be able to live with the knowledge that this man fears me alone? And even if I could, would I ever truly find peace? Surely he would never stop searching for me. No, there are no other paths. I must go. It has been so long...I only pray my skills are still as they were forty years ago. So be it. If it's death this Sennaris wants I can be the one to bring it to him.

"Well? What say you?" asked Joachim, interrupting his thoughts.

He stared down intently at Joachim, fixing his dark brown eyes with the stranger's. "I have reached a decision; your master had best hope he hasn't underestimated me."

The being on the floor grinned, showing pointed fangs. "He hasn't."

"So be it. Now the question becomes: what do I do about you?"

"Whatever you wish," answered Joachim "I expect no mercy."

Duske removed his heel from the stranger's hand. "Yet I would feel ill were I to kill you, especially like this. You have given me valuable knowledge, much of which was voluntary, and you pose no threat to me, at least not anymore. Would you haunt my trail if I were to let you live?"

Joachim stood rubbing his hand as it healed itself under the flesh "I could tell you 'no,' but why would you trust me?"

"That would be my choice; I do see some honor in your eyes. I could accept your word--I only require something to bind you to it. Would you swear on your allegiance to this Sennaris?"

Joachim seemed to contemplate Duske's offer for a moment before speaking. "You have my word. I will swear. But in doing so, I have betrayed him. So now exile appears to be my only path--a bleak one, but more favorable then death."

Duske noticed the wound he had inflicted had shrunk to half of its original size. "I see your wound is beginning to heal itself already; you would do best to leave before I change my mind."

"Oh, believe me, I intend to," Joachim retorted. "Allow me to leave some information for you as a parting gift. Another of his assassins comes this very night. Her name is Elsa. She is called the Talon of the East and is widely known for her skill and speed. If my estimation is correct, she will arrive shortly."

"I see. I will not take your warning for granted."

Joachim grinned, bearing his fangs once more. "You'd best not; she can be rather ferocious."

Duske smiled back. "So can I."

The vampyr touched the bloody stain on his tunic then licked his fingers. "So I see. Perhaps our paths will cross again in the future."

"What is meant to be shall come to pass."

Joachim nodded. "You speak true." Then added, "Alexander."

Duske's eyes widened with shock. “What did you call me?"

"Sennaris told me that was your true name. He knows much--you might also do well not to underestimate him."

"I won't make that mistake."

"Well, in all the ways I'd thought this night might play out since I first began to watch you, I never imagined that this would be the turn of things." Joachim stalked toward the window at the end of the hallway, opening it as he reached it. "It is good to know life can still hold surprises after all these years. Farewell, hunter of the night." Then he was gone.

Surprises indeed, thought Duske.



Joachim had spoken truthfully. As Duske stood in the dew-covered grass, concealed amongst the trees that surrounded his home he saw a lone figure begin to emerge from the gray fog. Good evening, Elsa.

Now dressed and properly armed, he readied himself for the right moment to strike. He was garbed all in black. His boots were leather with hard rubber bottoms. He wore thin cotton breeches that were slim and loose enough not to hinder his movement in any way, but made from a material which withheld body heat. His dagger was hidden beneath them on a sheath attached to his right boot. They were held up by a strong leather belt with the sigil of the order he once served, a sword silhouetted by a rising sun, as a buckle. He wore a thin chain mail made of a rare ore called sterling, the same material his belt buckle was made from, over his well-toned upper body; this was overlapped with a thin tunic woven in the same manner as his breeches. On his hands he wore skin-tight leather gloves that ended at the halfway point on each finger. On his back was a sheath that held his trusted broadsword Penance; it had seen more battles than he himself and while it had been his to possess had yet to fail him. Something between a cape and a cloak completed the outfit. It was tailored so its hood and sleeves would fold behind him for freedom of movement when unneeded. His pack for the journey ahead sat leaning against a nearby oak.

The creature called Elsa moved steadily closer, cutting through the mist as she padded lightly over the damp grass. She had short blonde hair and was outfitted with long metal claws that seemed to be attached to her hands; the nasty weapon matched the steel in her eyes--she knew what she was here to do. She was slender of build with long graceful legs. I might've found her attractive were she not here with the sole intent of killing me, he thought with a small, cynical smile.

He wrapped his hand around the hilt of his sword and waited until she was three steps closer before he made his move. He jumped, and then kicked off of the elm behind him with his left foot, launching himself toward her. She registered him just in time to raise one of her claws; the force of the attack knocked her into a sprawl, but she quickly recovered with a backward somersault and stood to face him.

She spoke suddenly. "You were awaiting my arrival, who told you of my coming?"

Duske smiled. "A raven flew into my home and whispered into my ear."

She wasn't amused. "Keep your secrets then; I can guess who warned you. I knew that coward didn't have what it took."

"Then why did you ask?"

"Enough of this small talk. I am Elsa, Talon of the East, and my lord Sennaris has marked you for death."

“Then make your move.” He met her cold stare with his own, then added, "If you can"

A snarl escaped her throat as she dashed toward him, swiping with both claws. He blocked one furious barrage of strikes after another as he searched for an opening in her offense that would allow him the opportunity to dispatch her. Each time he was about to thrust he had to stop and block another of her swipes. It was useless, he realized--she was simply too quick. Her claws were the perfect weapon for someone with such speed; she could swing them as quickly as she could maneuver her arms.

She can keep this up all night; as long as she's standing she'll just keep swinging. That's when he was struck by an inspiration: If I'm to land a blow I'll have to throw her off balance.

In the seconds following Duske quickly planned out his maneuvers before putting them into play. He waited for just the quick break between her swipes he needed before leaping a few feet back. As her next swipe struck dead air he seized his moment and slid under her, kicking her legs out. Her gasp of surprise pierced the night for only a split second before she landed on him and his blade slid through her windpipe, exiting out the back of her neck.

Her jaw opened and closed soundlessly as blood streamed down his blade torrentially. He stood, lifting her with him then withdrew Penance and brought it around in wide arc, separating her head from her body.

It landed a few feet away as the rest of her crumpled before him, blood pooling from the fresh wound where her head had been. There was only the silver moon in the night sky to bear witness as he stepped forward, shutting his eyes. He then raised his left hand, palm forward to show the mark as he was first trained to do over five centuries ago. Small bluish flecks of light rose from her, shimmering in the night as they collected before him.

"Arcanus!" he commanded. His body strained with exertion as the particles streamed into his palm, flowing into his body to join with his life force. He exhaled, breathing heavily, as his essence altered inside of him, reforming itself around the power he'd drawn from her. She was strong, Duske thought to himself as he sheathed his sword. He turned and closed the distance to that same old elm where he'd stashed his pack before picking it up. Drawing his arms through the loops he felt its weight against his back with a sigh. I've carried heavier, he reminded himself.

He gave his home one last look before proceeding down through the woods towards town. Once there he'd wait for morning to obtain the supplies he needed before beginning his long journey.

It was a short hike but he was forced to a stop as his eyes wandered to The Lonely Peak. Not in any way its official name, if it even had one, but what he'd taken to calling it regardless over the years he'd spent here. It was a small hill that rose out of the forest, above the trees, ending in a cliff that overlooked the surrounding area. It was a place he came often. It occurred to him that there were once others like it around the forest he resided in, but now only it remained. The last of its kind, just as he himself was. Whether to read, write, and watch the stars, or simply to think, this was a special place to him. It was with a heavy heart that he prepared himself to say goodbye to it. His feet carried him off his path and before he realized it he was standing at her peak as he'd done a thousand times before. He sat then, his eyes wandering to the stars shining down on him from their unchanging posts in the blue infinity above.

Soon night faded away and the first remnants of light pitched their way across the sky. As the sun rose in front of him he stood to go. He bent to pick up his pack, refastened it, and then turned to proceed down The Lonely Peak, leaving his life as he knew it behind.

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Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:24 pm
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Post Re: Eh, read it if yer bored. Ch 1 of my novel.

Pretty good stuff. Engaging prose, if a little clunky at times. I am anxious to read the next chapter. I want to know what Duske did with the girl's body, something about soaking up her life force?

Oh, and I think you switched between third and first person perspective a few times. Not sure because you don't make it clear when he is thinking to himself. I use italics in my writing for that, but I know others don't like to do that.


Fri Apr 02, 2010 6:12 pm
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Post Re: Eh, read it if yer bored. Ch 1 of my novel.

strykes wrote:
Pretty good stuff. Engaging prose, if a little clunky at times. I am anxious to read the next chapter. I want to know what Duske did with the girl's body, something about soaking up her life force?

Oh, and I think you switched between third and first person perspective a few times. Not sure because you don't make it clear when he is thinking to himself. I use italics in my writing for that, but I know others don't like to do that.


Yeah, it just didn't translate from Microsoft Word with all the correct formatting. Appreciate the comments, and I agree that the first chapter has some "clunk" to it. It gets stronger as it goes.

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Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:43 am
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Post Re: Eh, read it if yer bored. Ch 1 of my novel.

Clunky could be a matter of grammar...for instance:

She spoke suddenly. "You were awaiting my arrival, who told you of my coming?"

Duske smiled. "A raven flew into my home and whispered into my ear."


There's nothing wrong with dialogue having commas:

She spoke suddenly, "You were awaiting my arrival, who told you of my coming?"

Duske smiled, "A raven flew into my home and whispered into my ear."


In fact, it works better...reads more smoothly, too. No need to stop the reader's eye.
And use exclamation points at every opportunity!!!!
No, I'm kidding.

Edit: I meant to include this:

But this is not the story of his past no, that is a story for perhaps another time.
It needs fixing:
But this is not the story of his past. No, that is a story for perhaps another time.

It's all a bit formal in style. Something more pedestrian might make it more engaging.

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Sat Apr 03, 2010 5:27 am
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Post Re: Eh, read it if yer bored. Ch 1 of my novel.

Sammael wrote:

Yeah, it just didn't translate from Microsoft Word with all the correct formatting. Appreciate the comments, and I agree that the first chapter has some "clunk" to it. It gets stronger as it goes.


Yeah, the beginning of a story is usually the most difficult to read and write, so I can imagine that it gets better as the book goes along.

And I got ya on the lack of formatting translation. I was wondering if it was that.


Sat Apr 03, 2010 6:09 am
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Post Re: Eh, read it if yer bored. Ch 1 of my novel.

William wrote:

It's all a bit formal in style. Something more pedestrian might make it more engaging.


This too. It's best not to get too formal in style. Mostly because very formal language can get so clunky.

But I also understand that you are having them talk like that to create a certain atmosphere and world.


Sat Apr 03, 2010 6:11 am
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Post Re: Eh, read it if yer bored. Ch 1 of my novel.

strykes wrote:

This too. It's best not to get too formal in style. Mostly because very formal language can get so clunky.

But I also understand that you are having them talk like that to create a certain atmosphere and world.


Yeah, it's a medieval-esque setting so I figure they should talk like it. I do impart some more lingo and what not as it goes along though.

The real kicker in terms of grammar is that I paid to have it "professionally" edited.

You might guess at some cynicism in those quotation marks.

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Sat Apr 03, 2010 8:22 am
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Post Re: Eh, read it if yer bored. Ch 1 of my novel.

Sammael wrote:

Yeah, it's a medieval-esque setting so I figure they should talk like it. I do impart some more lingo and what not as it goes along though.

The real kicker in terms of grammar is that I paid to have it "professionally" edited.

You might guess at some cynicism in those quotation marks.


The grammar isn't bad by any means, but I think it could be better if you paid to have it looked over.


Sat Apr 03, 2010 10:29 am
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Post Re: Eh, read it if yer bored. Ch 1 of my novel.

strykes wrote:

This too. It's best not to get too formal in style. Mostly because very formal language can get so clunky.

But I also understand that you are having them talk like that to create a certain atmosphere and world.

Yeah, I saw where he was going with the more or less formal dialogue, and that's fine. Let them talk that way; just don't write the narrative that way, as well. Rewrites are always the really amazing part of the creative process, in my opinion. They ultimately lead to revisions you never would've contemplated and smooth out so many initial transgressions that all writing is susceptible to.

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Sat Apr 03, 2010 9:17 pm
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