Chapter One in a New Book I'm Working On

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    DuDZiK

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    Chapter One in a New Book I'm Working On

    Post by DuDZiK on Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:04 pm

    I've been working on an idea for a story that started simple and has ballooned into something extremely large, and only recently have I finally gotten around to making an attempt at writing it in book form (rather than just jotting down ideas and writing general backstories, etc). I want to set the right tone for it, with the first chapter, and I'd like for it to grab people's attentions. So on that note, I'm looking for feedback on this.

    Note: there are terms and concepts I haven't finalized yet. The magical order, of which the POV character in this chapter is a member, are called Druids and Druidesses as of right now but that isn't going to be what I actually go with. I don't know what I'm going to call them yet, but I wanted to have something so I went with druidess in her case.

    ______________________________________________________________________________

    Chapter One:
    A group of six unusual looking figures stood at the gate to a very usual looking farmhouse. Five had the telltale appearance of soldiers: shields, swords and chainmail glinting under the morning sun, with black and silver cloaks and shirts that were uniform for the realm's elite guard. That the Silver Shields of Mynteyr were set to standing outside of a small, quiet farm deep in the countryside was odd enough, but it was the final figure that looked most out of place.

    The young woman stood uncaring as the fierce autumn wind mussed and tangled her sandy-brown hair. Where the others held their well worn and plain colored cloaks wrapped tightly around their bodies against the cold gusts that beset them, she let her vibrantly blood-red cloak flare out behind her. Although Lady Brinne Ashbyrn's expression was one of boredom, inwardly she was chuckling at the absurdly dramatic pose she held in such a mundane setting.

    When she saw Captain Clayne marching down the path from the farmhouse, Brinne even put her fists on her hips and stuck her chin upwards heroically. Clayne did not show any signs of amusement. In fact, his face did not deviate from the same somber expression he had been wearing since Brinne met him weeks before.

    "The farmer is home, and has agreed to speak with you," Clayne said gravely. It always struck Brinne as oddly amusing how serious the Mynteyri took their laws of hospitality. This farmer had the right to deny entry to his own king, even if he stood bleeding and naked in the middle of winter and would die without admittance.

    "I am honoured," Brinne answered, her face as serious as she could make it. Clayne nodded and turned to lead her back to the farmhouse. She frowned in annoyance that the Captain failed to notice or acknowledge her mockery, but she followed after him.

    As they approached the small hut it became apparent that they would not all be able to fit inside, so the Captain gave quick orders to the three Silver Shields to stand guard and see they were not interrupted. Brinne did not wait for him to indicate that she was allowed to enter, and not just because he had already indicated that the farmer had already granted permission.

    Sitting at the only table in the middle of the room, a leathery old man sat eating a piece of bread. Behind him stood his much younger wife. Both looked at Brinne as if she were a poisonous snake, but one that was about to sing and dance for their entertainment. It was a mixed expression of wariness and excited curiousity that she was used to seeing from those who had never seen a Druidess in person before.

    "Greetings, sir and madam. I thank you for admitting me into your lovely home, and for agreeing to answer my questions." Brinne said with a warm smile as she took a seat in the chair in front of them. She stole a glance behind her to see Clayne frown ever so slightly in disapproval at seating herself without asking permission from the host. Despite herself the corners of her mouth twitched into a grin at the small victory.

    "Now, farmer Hesmyn is it?" Brinne asked. When the old man grunted and nodded, she continued. "I've been told by your neighbours and countrymen that you were one of the first people to come across the mysterious young man over yonder." She waved vaguely off to the southeast.

    "Harr," the old man barked a joyless laugh. "That's one way of saying it. I was the first to come across the lad because I heard what happened to him and his parents, Gods preserve them."

    At this Brinne felt her act of mirth and mischief fade. "Oh? This was the first I've been told that there was a witness." She turned slightly to Clayne's direction, since it was said not just to the old farmer.

    "It's the first I've heard of it too, your Ladyship." Clayne said gravely and narrowed his eyes in Hesmyn's direction.

    The old man's face blanched slightly and he held his hands up defensively. "I said nothing of being witness to anything, milady. I was up on the hill that overlooks the fields in all directions, keeping an eye on my flock. I saw them riding their cart of bristle oats down the road to the town's market, but then they entered the woods at the end of my property and went out of sight. It was a minute or two after that I heard the screams."

    Brinne frowned. "And you did nothing to help them?"

    Hesmyn visibly bristled. "I'm an old man with nothing but a pitchfork against who knew what, with my family and livelihood to protect. I had my wife run to the neighbours where she'd be safer, told her to send one of their boys to town and fetch the Watch. After that I snuck back to the woods where I heard the commotion, but by then whatever had happened was already over."

    Brinne's eyes narrowed skeptically. "How much time was there between when you heard the screams and when you first saw the scene?"

    The farmer sat back, his brow furrowed as he thought on his answer. "Not quite an hour, but close to it I'd say. I'm not quick as I used to be, and it's about a twenty minute walk for me from here to the scene when I'm not trying to be stealthy."

    Brinne managed to prevent herself from snorting at the idea of the old man before her trying to sneak through a forest. She pressed on to the most important part.
    "Describe the scene exactly, and in as much detail, as you can remember when you first saw it. I'm not interested in what you think happened, I want only to know what it was you saw."

    The farmer's frown deepened, clearly not pleased at being spoken to in such a manner, and as the silence lingered Brinne wasn't sure if he was thinking about his answer or simply refusing to give one. But eventually, he spoke.

    "I approached from the southeast, rather than taking the road as it headed west. They were all on a rise within around two dozen paces of the road, easily in sight of any passersby. The bodies of the outlaws were fairly close together. I counted seven of them. They were... killed rather barbarically. Deep, large wounds, more blood than I've ever seen, limbs severed, guts strewn everywhere on the ground and the trees. The boy was sitting on the ground few paces from the bodies staring at the bodies of his parents. Both had their throats cut, and his mother looked... abused."

    Hesmyn broke off uncomfortably at the last part. Brinne felt her blood go cold, but waited for him to continue.

    "The lad was covered in as much blood as the outlaws. I could see a few cuts and gashes on him so I asked him if he was alright. He didn't answer me—he didn't even look as if he heard me. I tried to look closer at some of his wounds, but..."

    Brinne waited while Hesmyn's mouth opened and closed repeatedly, clearly having difficulty trying to express himself. She had heard all variations of tall tales about what happened in Little Wood, as the locals called the forest. The man seemed to have a clear, sharp memory and spoke without too much obvious embellishment. Brinne knew the farmer could be the best source for learning the truth of what happened. Even the boy might not be able to give a more clear account, should he ever actually speak to give it.

    She waited a few minutes before prompting him.

    "But...?" she asked, leaning towards him.

    "It was the damndest thing, milady, something I've never experienced myself or even heard someone else say they heard of someone else experiencing. As soon as I touched the lad to inspect his wounds I felt like I had been struck by a bolt of lightning... it was a sharp pain throughout my entire body. I withdrew my hand almost as soon as I touched him, but it left me in more agony and lifelessness than I've ever been in my life. I could barely breathe, and I lay on the ground until the Town Watch finally arrived. I spent almost a week in bed, and only regained enough strength to return to my chores a week after that."

    Brinne must have betrayed her disbelief at his account, because the captain spoke up in the farmer's defense.

    "I can vouch for his condition, at least, Ladyship. The sheriff of the Watch told me how frail farmer Hesmyn looked when they found him, despite no physical wounds. They had doctors inspect him and they could offer no explanation. I myself saw him just after he was able to move about, out of his bed, and even then only with the help of a walking stick. His legs and arms wobbled and buckled, and he would be covered in sweat and breathe heavily after only a few minutes of trying to stand upright. I had one of my regiment's surgeons examine the boy and he suffered the same affliction, though he recovered at a quicker pace."

    Brinne looked directly at the captain for a long moment, and then did the same with the farmer, before nodding her acceptance. She was troubled by the fact that others, aside from the farmer and the captain's surgeon, claimed that they experienced nearly the exact same sensation of extreme pain and frailty as a direct result of touching the young man.
    "How many times have you gone to see him, since the first time?" Brinne asked.

    "A few more, once I was strong enough to make it over," Hesmyn answered. "And I swear he hasn't moved the whole time. He's wearing the same clothes, sitting in the same spot, in the same position, his shoulders slumped the same way, with the same wild expression that stared into nothingness."

    Brinne nodded, having heard others make the same claim, including Captain Crayne.

    "I have only one more thing to ask you, farmer Hesmyn, and we will leave you in peace about this matter. Do you think the boy is possessed by some spirit of the Gods, or demon of the Underworld, as many of your countrymen seem to believe?"

    "I've known that boy since he was a babe. He was your normal farm brat when it came to innocent mischief, but one of the kindest lads I've known. Dutiful to his parents, quiet and respectful to strangers and friends alike. I couldn't say a bad word about him."

    "While that's a glowing report of his character," Brinne commented dryly, "that didn't answer my question."

    "I may have thought about it either way up until now," Hesmyn said very carefully, "but the involvement of a Druidess in this affair offers a better explanation to me than that of any God or Demon."

    He's a sharp one, I'll give him that, thought Brinne. She thanked the old farmer for his time and hospitality despite not being offered any food or drink or to stay the night, she noted with an amusement. She waited while Captain Clayne conferred with his men, giving new orders to round up the others behind and around the farmhouse.

    "Well?" Brinne asked him as he approached.

    "The only thing I can say to correct farmer Hesmyn, as far as I know for sure, is that there were in fact eight outlaws among the bodies, not seven. There was some... mixing of body parts that he didn't account for. I fully support what he claimed about the lad not moving so much as an inch.

    Brinne nodded in acknowledgement, and carefully considered what the farmer had to say against everything else she had heard from other sources. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the captain begin to fidget uncomfortably as he waited against her silence. So she let the silence linger for a while, until he finally broke it.

    "Is there anything else you need to check, Lady Ashbyrn?" he asked her.

    "I've spoken to everyone else that matters, captain," Brinne replied. "It's time to see this miracle boy."

    *      *      *     *      *      * *      *      *     *      *      *


    The walk to the site took only around ten minutes, but half of the distance required them to wade through the throng of people that had camped out around the site of their miracle child. Captain Clayne and his men made sure they passed quickly and without incident through the crowd, while Brinne looked around at the number of people in amazement. There were at least two hundred that she could see, and the Captain told her that there were just as many on the other side of the woods.

    "They've come from all over the kingdom, to see the young man they think is blessed by the Gods, some even think he's one of the Gods in human flesh. All of them think it is their sacred duty to wait by his side. Some bring him food and water, or even blankets to protect him from the rain or the cold. By all reports no one has seen him take any of the offerings, which has only served to confirm their belief in his godliness. They say they will protect his life with their own if need be."

    "Protect him? From what?" Brinne frowned.

    "From the equal or greater amount of people who think he's possessed by a Demon, or a Demon in human flesh, and should be killed. There have been a few clashes between the two groups, with four deaths and numerous injuries as a result. It would be of great benefit to the well being of his kingdom if you could find a way to diffuse these tensions, before it festers into a civil war."

    "It's all good and fun until someone starts a civil war, is that it?" Brinne joked. The captain stared vacantly at her for a long moment, then concentrated very hard on what was directly ahead of him.

    Humourless sod, Brinne grumbled inwardly.

    Finally, they passed by a line of Silver Shields who kept the ordinary folk away from the site. Captain Clayne, it seemed, was taking every measure to prevent further clashes from taking place among the people. Clayne left strict orders that no one else short of the King himself from passing through, and then led Brinne up the short rise to the strangest site she had ever seen.

    The young man, Bernach, was seated on the ground precisely as farmer Hesmyn and others had described him. His posture was hunched forward lazily, his arms hanging limply at his side with his hands crossed and his knuckles resting on the ground between his legs. He had the patchy facial hair of a boy that only recently became a man. His hair, face, skin and clothes were matted with blood that had long since dried and crusted. His skin bore numerous cuts and gashes that healed badly, but did not appear to be infected despite him not having received any treatment, since everyone was afraid to so much as touch him.

    In all, he certainly looked like he fought a battle and then didn't move at all for several months, as many people claimed was the case. But with the bodies of the outlaws, and his parents, having been moved and the rest of the scene cleaned up long ago, the sight of him was eerie and out of place. There were a few details that no one noticed or failed to mention that intrigued and disturbed her.

    First was the circle that seemed to have formed, only about twelve paces in diameter, with the young man in the exact center. Outside of the circle grass, shrubs, trees and other plant life grew like it would in any forest. Within the circle, however, was barren dirt, shriveled leaves, and dried twigs and branches. Brinne carefully walked around and outside of the circle. She paused and put her hands on the trunk of a tree that grew just outside the circle.

    By Bethamnas... what happened here? Brinne thought with dread. She felt the roots cascading underneath the tree that were dead and rotting. She examined other trees and bushes that grew close to the edge of this circle of death, and found the same held true for each and every one. All plant life in a certain radius around the young man had been utterly killed off. Or, more worryingly, drained.

    She walked around and stood at the edge of the circle, directly facing the young man. He didn't show any signs or reactions to her presence and scrutiny, but remained utterly still. Drawing a deep breath, she strode into the circle. She felt nothing—no pain, no weariness, nothing different at all. So she continued until she was right in front of the young man and crouched down so her head was level with his.

    His face was titled down slightly, like he was staring at the bodies of his slain parents as if they were still in front of him. She gazed into his eyes, and saw a tempest of madness and despair. His pupils did not get bigger or larger, he didn't blink or shift his gaze in recognition of her crouching down so close to him. She might as well have not been there at all. Being so close to him, he truly did look like he appeared from a hellish nightmare. The stench of stale blood and having gone unwashed for so long made her swallow back the bile growing in the base of her throat.

    Subtly, so no one could see, she reached into the collar of her shirt and pulled out the necklace that held her Bethra stone. She gripped it firmly in her palm, as her other hand tentatively moved to lift his chin so his eyes would look directly into hers.

    The tips of her three middle fingers touched his skin, and...

    *      *      *     *      *      * *      *      *     *      *      *


    Bernach watched his father die first. He was always the first to have his throat cut open, to have his life's blood pour from the gaping wound like a burst dam. He watched his father's body drop to the ground, thrashing in desperation and agony as his hands futilely trying to cover the wound.

    He watched from his own eyes in stunned disbelief.

    He watched from his mother's eyes in fear and despair, as hands pinned her to the ground.

    He watched from the eyes of the man who cut his father's throat in gleeful bloodlust.

    He watched from the eyes of the three others who felt the same, to varying degrees.

    He watched from the perspective of two more, whose thoughts were filled with a different lust as they held down his woman.

    He watched from the final two, whose faces mimicked their companions but whose hearts and souls betrayed the guilt of their part in this murder, piling onto their increasingly burdened consciences.

    Bernach watched his mother die next. It happened as he lay curled into a protective ball, in case any of the outlaws sought to relieve their boredom on him with their boots and knives. He had stopped crying, begging them to let him and his mother go. They wouldn't tell anyone, they'd let them have everything they owned. It had only caused great laughter, and brought their dark desires for sport upon him. He felt the shame of cowardice burn with the growing pain throughout his body.

    He watched from the eyes of the three men who raped his mother. He watched from her eyes as she was raped by them. He felt their pleasure as strongly as he felt her pain. He watched from the third man's eyes as he cut her throat after he had finished, felt his glee at the prank he pulled on the five others yet to have their turn. He felt the amusement from the two who had gone before him, and the outraged anger at the five who were denied their chance. He laughed, as the murderer of his mother, as he went over to the belongings they had stolen to claim his share. He felt the murderous suspicion of the others, who had already been cheated by him once today and went to make sure he didn't cheat them again.

    Bernach watched, through his mother's eyes, her son crawl over to her as her life faded into oblivion. He looked into her fading eyes with unspeakable sorrow. He felt her conflicting hopes, that her son would somehow survive the monsters who killed her to live a full, long life just as she had, and that if they were to kill him they would do it quickly and painlessly so he could join her in the afterlife.

    He watched, through his own eyes, as they all forgot him and left him and his dying mother alone for a brief moment. He tried covering the wound with his hands like his father had tried to do with his own, knowing it was stupid to try something that wouldn't work but desperate for it to succeed against all hope. Instead, her life faded at an ever quicker rate, until it too passed beyond the world of the living.

    And as his mother's life left her body, he felt an overwhelming inferno of rage and madness burning through him. He felt himself scream until his throat bled.

    He saw, through the eyes of all eight of the outlaws, turn to behold the mad wailing of the forgotten boy. He felt the slight fear of the unknown in some, the mild amusement in others, and the dead apathy of the rest.

    He saw through the eyes of one outlaw, annoyed at the noise the brat was making, as he approached with a knife in his hand. He saw through their eyes and his, as the knife descended down towards the his neck.

    Bernach felt his hand shoot up, faster than thought, and grab the outlaw's wrist like it was as light as a feather. He felt himself squeeze, hard, and felt the bones in his grasp snap and break like twigs. He felt, as the outlaw, the shock of the boy's grab followed by the blinding agony in his wrist that caused him to drop the knife. Then he felt the knife run across his throat, and the horrifyingly strong grip over the wound as it squeezed the breath and blood from him. He felt the fires of the madness that gripped him increase, and the demand for vengeance rise with it.

    He watched, through the eyes of the remaining seven outlaws, the unexpected block, the sickening crunch of their companion's wrist shattering, and then the terrifying speed and savagery with which the boy killed him. He watched the remaining six bandits, through their eyes, as the demonic boy came for them, one by one, and slaughter them all without mercy. Some tried to fight, some merely tried to defend themselves, and some made last moment attempts to flee without making three successful steps before death took them.

    Bernach watched through his own eyes as he slashed limbs, crushed skulls, broke bones, and ended the lives of his parents' murderers, one by one. He felt the flames burn ever hotter as he killed, and killed again. He felt it reach its peak as the final outlaw was dispatched with a severed head. He felt the madness turn inward, then, lacking any one further to burn.

    Bernach's own eyes took in the bodies of his parents, and as the agony of his madness turned to anguish he laid them side by side. He felt himself collapse to his knees, and then onto his backside as he stared listlessly at his mother and father. And as he stared at them, the sights and feelings of his own began to blend with those of his mother, and of the outlaws. The memories mixed in a swirling, confused tempest. The storm of madness within him raged on, unceasing, until he felt the shock of something new shoot through him.


    *      *      *     *      *      * *      *      *     *      *      *


    The instant that Brinne's fingers touched the boy's chin, she felt a flash of force that for the rest of her life she would never be able to describe. She felt no pain, as everyone else who touched him said they experienced, but it was startling enough that she quickly snatched her hand back.

    She then noticed two things that greatly alarmed her. First was that the power she had stored up in her Bethra stone was completely depleted, despite her not having attempted to use any of it. The second was that the young man had blinked, and was now staring directly at her with a look of sudden recognition.

    "Willow..." he whispered, so silently she could barely hear him, before his eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he collapsed backward in a faint.

    Brinne nearly did the same.
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    rainshadow
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    Re: Chapter One in a New Book I'm Working On

    Post by rainshadow on Sat Oct 12, 2013 1:11 pm

    Shocked 

    That was pretty much the most awesome thing I've read in a long while. Maybe the most creative opening for a novel I've read in awhile too. The obvious fantasy setting nonetheless feels very real and I love the undertones of horror sprinkled throughout. I think that's the tone you need... fantasy splashed with horror. I wouldn't change much in terms of the tone, at least at present.

    Brinne seems an intriguing character, as if she looks upon this as an outsider. She has a playful and sardonic nature, unbecoming of a lady of her seemingly lofty status. You'd think she'd behave a bit more seriously, as she called upon to quell the fears of a town that just might be the starting point for something that could explode into out-right civil war. She's rude, mostly dismissive of the native customs by which the people live, and takes pride in finding ways to annoy Clayne. What a brat. I liked her immediately.

    Obviously the threat of civil war does not seem the worst of it. What dark mysteries linger in that boy's soul? What bizarre happenings bestowed upon him a sense of omnipotence toward the scene of his parents' murder and the terrible vengeance he extracted in the aftermath?

    I have to read more.

    One thing distracted me as I was reading though:

    His pupils did not get bigger or larger, ...
    So they didn't get bigger? At the same time they didn't get larger either. Well that's good. I was so hoping if one didn't happen, the other wouldn't either. :p


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    DuDZiK

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    Re: Chapter One in a New Book I'm Working On

    Post by DuDZiK on Sat Oct 12, 2013 3:00 pm

    Wtf yeah that was a typo on my part. I'll have to remember to fix it when I get home.

    Thanks for the comments, I'm glad you liked it and I seemed to have hit right on the tone I wanted. Brinne will be a major character, and there is a reason she is the way she is. As you'll find out when I try and flesh out her and the magical order she belongs to.

    I just need to decide how I'll keep going from here. The rest should go quickly after that as long as I keep at it. Smile

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    Re: Chapter One in a New Book I'm Working On

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