my second work WIP. more chapters to come. Aug 21, 2015 2:40:30 GMT 11
Post by Bidabi Omathi on Aug 21, 2015 2:40:30 GMT 11
The last rays of the sun shone upon the walls of a city. A city so vast a horse at a gallop took more than half a day to reach the other side. A city whose palaces were considered the greatest and most beautiful in the world, whose walls defied every attempt of attack, and whose people are some of the greatest craftsmen in the kingdom. The great city of Vladremar. People thronged the streets as they completed their daily work and returned to their homes. Today was a day of great sadness for the people and the nobles. For today was the day their good King Lester had passed from this world. For more than forty years King Lester had protected his people, from both enemies and from outlaws. A wise and just king, he had earned the love and loyalty of all his people along with but the most ambitious of his nobles. For two years he had fought pneumonia and would have survived if not for the greed of the neighboring country of Cantral. During that time the armies of King Lester met the invaders in open battle several times. At the closing of the war the armies of Cantral laid siege to Vladremar. The enemy soldiers were soundly defeated and Vladremar would have had no casualties if not for a stray arrow that happened to fall into the room that held King Lester. By chance it struck him in the lung and with that vanquished any hopes of the people that he might survive. He expired two months later with all his family but his eldest son by his bedside.
Prince William of Tranton, though he would inherit the throne, did not act as the heir. Instead of tending affairs of the crown with his father, he spent his time amusing himself with hunting and other entertainments. He was also very fond of the different arts and crafts, spending much of his time mastering them and traveling to the different peoples to learn the secrets of their crafts. It was during one such trip that he heard the news of his father’s illness and finishing with his training, hurried home. He had been gone for more than eight months and his return home was filled with both grief and joy. Grief for his father’s death, but joy in the knowledge that shortly before his journey his wife had become pregnant, and was due within the month.
It was five days after the funeral of the king and the people still showed their grief when a cry of unbelief was heard within the castle. News spread quickly and all the people who were not sick or crippled rushed to the castle. All were shocked to hear Prince (name) claim that the death of the king was not due to an unlucky arrow but was in fact due to poison. He claimed to have evidence implicating a member of the royal family in the plot, but what shocked the people the most was who he claimed had plotted. Prince (name) brought forth 3 men who claimed they had been paid 6 months in advance, to feed a slow acting poison, by none other than Prince William. Proceedings for the court began immediately, and Prince William was imprisoned.
The following day, Price William’s wife began her labor, giving birth to a son 13 hours later. This excited the people because now the throne would fall to Prince William’s son instead of Prince (name), a man known for his cruelty and lust for gold.
The day for Price William’s trial came and went. Being found guilty by the judge he was sentenced to death by hanging, to take place at dawn. But when it came time for the execution it was found that Prince William had escaped in the night, killing the guards and carrying off his son. A pursuit party was formed at once and sent out, but returned being able to find absolutely no trace of the escaped prince and his son. Several days later Prince (name) was crowned King of Vladremar and a time of corruption and rebellion began.
In the weeks following the coronation several members of the royal court rebelled and raised armies. Though they fought for similar goals they never joined together but instead fought each other more than they fought the crown. When they were not fighting they were pillaging, looting entire villages in the name of the Rebellion, turning the entire countryside against them. This in turn gave the crown more power as young men would join the army to purge kingdom of these pillaging rebels. One by one they little armies were extinguished and when all hope was lost to them, a man came forth uniting them under one name and one banner. A man with no history and no name known by his men as only “General”. At first few of the lords commanding the little rebel armies trusted him, but as he outsmarted and defeated the crown constantly, they began to trust him and more and more of the rebels joined. The pillaging stopped, and instead the rebels began helping villages, rebuilding what had been destroyed and feeding the hungry. As the villagers began to trust the rebels once more, they gained more power, challenging the crown in more and larger battles. The rebels were on the verge of total victory when they were double crossed by one of their own commanders and led into an ambush that all but obliterated the rebels. Shortly after the ambush a stranger appeared who claimed he knew the General’s past. The following morning the stranger and the General rode off with a small hunting party, announcing they would be gone for several days, but when a week went by and he had not returned, his soldiers began to suspect something was amiss. Two more days passed and the General’s second announced that the General had retired his command and left. Rumors began to pass through the ranks that the General was in fact Prince William and that he had left fearing because the stranger had known this and had intended to inform the king unless he cooperated.
Shortly after the surrender of command by the General, a decree went out announcing that all members of the rebel army and any who joined thereafter were banished from the realm of King (name) on the pain of death, and any citizen who is caught or suspected of helping a rebel will be sentenced to life in the mines. This decree had a great affect on the rebels, for villages were very strict about following the law, thus making the rebels criminals in their own native village. They therefore took to calling themselves Verbannt Worden, The Banished.
Years went by and Verbannt Worden left the field of battle in favor of guerrilla warfare, raiding convoys bound for imperial outposts and harassing any band of soldiers that left the safety of their fortress to scout or forage. Though guerrilla warfare was considered demeaning, the boys of the villages saw the Worden as heroes and lapped up stories of the skirmishes as if it were honey. There was one small boy in particular living in one of the provinces who wished to join the rebels, but little did he know the part he would play in the events to come.
Chapter 1: Strange Happenings
“I’m telling you,” said Duncan. “There have been strange disappearances in the forest recently.” This was the same argument Valathor had been hearing from his friend since he announced his intention to travel to the neighboring province of Vlandrim.
“James Glathen left to go hunting almost a month ago,” he continued. “And still hasn’t returned, so did Edward. And that was only a week ago.”
“I told before,” Valathor began. “James probably just went to the city to seduce another girl into becoming his wife; you know he’s had more wives in the last 5 years that Old Master Brething has had his entire life! And you know Edward has been gone this long before. Remember last June, he was gone an entire month!”
“But remember the strange sounds he told us he heard the last time he was gone,” he replied. “it could have been a dragon, and you know what that means.”
Valathor laughed, as he did whenever someone mentioned dragons. “You know Edward as well as I do. You know he makes stuff up like that just so the girls will give him more attention when he gets back. Besides, when was the last time you heard a new tale about dragon? And even if it was a dragon that does not mean the Great War is upon us.”
“You might be right, but we still must prepare.”
“Alright, well I need to pack for my trip. Are you sure you don’t want to come?”
“Positive. My father said he would give me a horse for my naming day, and if I’m not here to receive it he might sell it to pay for next year’s seed.”
With that the two friends parted, Duncan going along the northern road that led out to all the farms, and Valathor taking the metal workers lane back to his and his father’s blacksmith shop. Upon entering he quickly prepared a meal, then set about the house packing some clothes and food into a large rucksack. As he packed he thought of all the memories he had of this shop, from how his father had made him a little railing when he was learning how to walk to his first time swinging the hammer in the forge. Fond memories, all of them. As he was thinking over them, a knock at the door interrupted. It was Jason, Duncan’s younger brother.
“Edward,” he said breathlessly. “came in, cut up really bad. Duncan said to get you.”
With that he started in a run beck along the way he had come, with Valathor close behind. In a short time they saw a circle of people looking at something on the ground, but as they neared Valathor realized they weren’t looking at Edward, who Duncan had taken to the healer’s hut, but what he had brought with him. It was the carcass of a small snake, but the fact that Edward had brought it back with him was not the reason they stared in wonder. The snake had wings! Not wings like a bird, but like those of a bat, bony with a thin membrane spread between several small spurs of bone.
The group of people stared at it and when a newcomer asked what it was, they simply replied that they didn’t know. As Valathor was about to leave to see Edward, he noticed a small group of men walk up. One was short and thickly muscled; the other two were similarly muscled but much taller. All wore long swords across their backs and short swords and daggers at their side. As they walked up to the crowd they spotted him and motioned him over. As he walked over they asked him what was going on.
“Edward came in a short time ago with that… thing.” The largest of the three men, called Thor by his companions, nodded to himself then changed the subject and asked, “Will you be training with us tonight? It will be your last training session for several months.”
“I am not decided. I believe I will be training with you though. It all depends on of my father has any work he needs me to do,” replied Valathor.
“It would be good for you to train with us. The road to Vlandrim is full of bandits and bands of rebels who live off the loot of travelers,” Warned Thor.
“I shall speak to my father of the matter and if I will be training I shall join you shortly after noon.” Valathor saluted Thor and his companions in the fashion they had shown him, fist closed over the heart, then with Thor’s replying salute Valathor marched off toward the healer’s hostel. As he neared it he saw Duncan standing at the door with one other boy his age, holding back a crowd of eager young boys who yearned to learn what had happened to Edward. Valathor made his way through the crowd of waist high boys and followed Duncan into the hostel. Upon entering he gasped at the sight of Edward, who was covered with bruises and where there was no bruise there was a bloody cut or gash.
“What happened to him?”
“We don’t know,” replied Duncan. “When he came in he was mumbling something about claws and daggers, but we didn’t understand what exactly he was saying.”
“If he comes too, will one of you let me know? I want to hear his story.”
“If he wakes up he will be downing medicine, not talking,” said Mistress Vela, the healer.
“Well when he wakes up, if he is feeling up to it, I’d like to talk to him. If, that is, it’s alright with you Mistress Vela,” said Valathor.
“Well, I guess it might be alright if you talk to him before you leave…but he still needs rest.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Valathor replied. “I will come tomorrow shortly before I leave, if that pleases you.”
“Yes, that is all right,” she said then turned her attention to the racket outside. “Would someone please tell those boys to go home, and tell them that Edward won’t be able to talk until tomorrow at the earliest!” With that she walked into the back room and began preparing Edward’s medicine. Laughing to himself, Valathor left the hostel and returned home. As he neared his and his father’s smithy, he remembered Thor’s request for him to join them for training. He thought to himself about how good a little more training would be before his journey. Looking at the sun he gathered that he still had a few hours before noon. Upon returning he finished packing, and then checked with his father to see if he needed any help filling the day’s orders.
“Thor stopped by with another order of throwing knives, but other than that there isn’t anything to do,” his father told him. “You go in and finish packing then you can help me finish this order and you’ll be free the rest of the day.”
Valathor finished packing in a very short time, then went out and, after studying one of the knives his father had already made, began working on the knives. The knife was unusual one, it looked much like a silverware knife only it was six inches long and less than an eighth thick. The hilt of the knife was slightly thicker than the blade and only two inches of the total length. The blade was the remaining four inches and double sided. When he walked over to his work area, he found a different iron than he was used to, it was lighter but had the feeling of strength in it. Thinking nothing of it he began to work. With an iron resolve to finish the knives by noon, Valathor worked steadily and as he worked he began to get into a particular rhythm which he increased the speed of until he was outworking even his father, who was known throughout the province for the speed and quality with which he smiths. He continued working steadily till he had created a pile of fifty-three knives. When he looked up from his work, he saw his father leaning against the wall smiling.
“You’ve done more than enough work, son,” he laughed. “I had already almost finished the order when you came in, and working as you did, you over topped it by twenty-eight knives.” His father walked over and picked up one of the knives he had just finished. After studying it for a little while, then abruptly turned and threw the knife into one of the wooden door frames.
“Very good job on these knives. Light enough that throwing is easy, and strong enough that it doesn’t break. Tell you what, since you did such a good job on these knives, I won’t melt down the extras and you can have them. Besides, they might come in handy on your journey.”
Valathor was too stunned to speak. His father had never had always melted the extra of whatever he had worked on because iron was so expensive. After saying a “quick” thank you to his father and packed up the throwing knives. Then after grabbing his sparring gear and headed over to the unofficial village barracks, where the men at arms were training. As he reached the door he heard something behind him, he ducked, spinning as he did so, just in time to hear a sharp thwack as the sparring sword held by Thor strike the door. Without a moment’s hesitation Valathor brought his sword up to wrest the point of the blade on Thor’s neck.
“Very good,” said Thor as Valathor dropped his blade. “You keep on your guard like that and you won’t have to worry about any bandits sneaking up on you.”
“Thank you,” Valathor replied, as Thor’s two companions joined them. “But I doubt bandits will be carrying blunt swords.” Then handing Thor the large roll of knives he asked, “I was wondering if you could teach me how to throw knives.”
“Of course, but the type of throwing depends on your knife. Let me see your knife.” Valathor handed him the small roll, which contained twelve of the knives his father had given him. Thor looked up in surprise as he pulled out a knife, “These are your throwing knives? Why these are the same as mine, the only way you could have gotten them is if you father gave them to you.”
“He gave me a gift of twenty-eight. Why?”
“Has your father told nothing of these knives?”
“No, why, what is so special about them?”
“After our training you must speak to your father about them. You do not realize how noble a gift you have received.” Ghor and Rankor, Thor’s companions, had been standing to the side, but had moved over to look at the knives. After examining the knives each in turn remarked about the craftsmanship with which the knives had been made.
Valathor’s training in throwing knives lasted almost two hours, by the end of which he was quite adept at throwing, as if his body knew how to throw just his mind didn’t. After he finished with the knives, he began his usual training session with the three men at arms. None of the events of the day stuck out in his mind but one. What was so special about those knives for Thor to react that way, he thought to himself. I’ve never seen him so surprised. And what would my father know about them that Thor doesn’t want to tell me without him. Through the course of the training Thor taught him how to use his knives as a second weapon in a sword fight, how to parry, block, and jab. Rankor helped him figure the best places to conceal his knives, but still have them within reach for a quick throw.
Thor included in Valathor’s short sword training how to attack while drawing his sword, along with how to fight an enemy with multiple knives. The three men-at-arms worked Valathor harder than usual, including an all out duel with Rankor. Valathor, who thought he was rather good with a sword, was severely outmatched. The entire duel he was on the defensive trying desperately to block the blows of the much larger man. By the end he was covered with welts and bruises and Rankor was untouched except for one snaking line along his arm. That blow had been very lucky for Valathor to land. Rankor had spun him then proceeded to begin a series of blows that knocked him to the ground then as he was preparing to get up he saw Rankor swinging a final blow that would have killed Valathor had it been a real sword. Instead in glanced off his body and knocked the sword from Rankor’s hands. As he dove for it, Valathor swung up his sword and managed to land it on Rankor’s arm as he flew past. But that was the end of his luck, within a series of 4 more blows, Rankor disarmed him and finished the duel.
At first, Valathor thought the men would make fun of him for losing so badly. But instead they congratulated him for doing so well.
Thor pointed at the welt on Rankor’s arm, “That was quick thinking to attack while he was diving. And with such a neat little blow.”
“It was luck,” replied Valathor. “I just swung out my sword and got a lucky blow on him.”
Someone stepped around the corner of the building and said, “It is such lucky blows as that, boy, that have won countless battles and wars.” The three men along with Valathor turned and let loose an exclamation of surprise. The man who had walked up was dressed richly. He wore the tunic and breeches of one of the king’s servants, but also wore a pointed had with a curious little feather sticking out of it.
“What, Thor? Surprised to see me alive?” The stranger smirked.
Valathor turned to see Thor looking like he had seen a ghost. As he watched, Thor’s face turned deathly pale and turning to see what caused this look of fear in the great man, he saw his father walking around the corner. Valathor saw his father stop when he saw the stranger. Valathor heard Thor growl under his breath, “Get away from here!” The stranger must have heard something or maybe he saw Thor looking over his shoulder, whatever the cause, he looked around behind him only to find an empty yard. Suddenly Valathor felt a hand on his shoulder, startled he looked up his eyes meeting Rankor’s.
“You should get home now,” He said. “It’s getting late and you will need all the sleep you can for your journey.” His voice was surprisingly calm when compared to Thor’s at that moment. As he was preparing to leave he looked over to see Thor still frozen, staring at the stranger. He finished packing his sword and knives along with several leather sheaths, Ghor had helped him make, and headed around the side of the barracks. Just before he reached the street he heard Thor say harshly, “It has been a long time, Demt, but not long enough. Not after what you did.” Valathor continued down the street to his home, wondering who this stranger was who had frightened Thor and what he could have done that would make Thor speak so harshly to him. Arriving home, Valathor was surprised to find the forge still lit with his father nowhere to be found. Stranger still was the fact that the glow from the coals was undulating, as if someone was working the bellows. Running inside he thought of only one explanation for this. He ran through the sitting room, down the hallway, ending at a well crafted steel door. Valathor knocked. Nothing. He knocked again, this time his father opened the door. Valathor’s father, William, was a well built and well muscled man in his late thirties. He had light brown, almost blond hair of a westerner, but the deep green eyes of the people of the southern mountains. Valathor himself was of similar build, though slightly wider in the shoulders, with the same hair but instead of having green eyes, his were blue like the people of the southern lakes.
William leaned out, looking first the way Valathor had come then looking down the hall. Satisfied there was no one there, he stepped back and ushered Valathor in. Having never been in his father’s personal workroom, Valathor was awed at what he found. On the far wall were arrayed several elaborately decorated weapons, including a gold engraved yew longbow and several swords. But what awed Valathor the most was the steel armor he saw sitting on a stand in the corner. It was made of the most perfect steel, being wrought of the same metal Valathor had used to make the knives for Thor. The entire surface of the armor was covered with little designs wrought entirely of gold along with another design exact in every way except size to a coat of arms on the shield. It pictured a sword thrust point down into the ground. A snake curled around the blade with its head biting the pommel of the sword. Valathor spent a short time studying this strange coat of arms not noticing that in each of the three corners was a small silver crown.
He worked his way around the rest of the room ending at what appeared to be a large cooking pot. Upon closer inspection he ascertained that in the pot boiled what appeared to be steel. Looking around he quickly found the mold used to form the bars. This mold was not the average mold used to shape the bars. It was much larger and had far fewer cutouts for bars. Throwing a questioning look at his father, he asked. “Why are these molds so large?”
William sighed to himself, “It is time I passed a few things onto you. You are old enough.” He walked over and picked up a bar of steel from a table, the steel was dark grey, almost black. “This is called heartsteel. It is called so because it is ten time stronger than regular steel, but is much lighter. It requires a complicated process to filter the steel to its purest form, a process that is known only to the smiths of the southern mountains and to their most trusted friends. Do you wish to learn this process?” William asked as he handed the steel to Valathor. As Valathor put his hand onto the bar to take it, William warned, “This gift of knowledge is not taken lightly. If you are to learn this art, you must protect it and not give it away unless you are completely and utterly positive that you are teaching someone you can fully trust.”
“I understand,” Valathor replied, taking the bar. “Teach me.”
Henry nodded. “To filter out the corrupted iron you must use a special concoction. So the first thing you must learn is how to make this concoction. It is made by mixing boiled water with two other ingredients. The first is the roots of the beech tree. And the second and most important ingredient,” He continued picking up something from the table, “is the petals of the obsidian flower.” He said holding up a small gray black speckled flower.
Valathor spent the better part of two hours taking notes and practicing making the concoction. Finally his father released him to go to bed. Without changing out of his clothes he dropped into bed, falling instantly asleep.
…Valathor clambered over the summit of the last hill, and beheld a glorious sight. The city was carved right out of the mountain and glistened with gold. Valathor stood awed at the sight so blinded by its glory that he did not here the gasps of the others. The sound of a trumpet snatched him out of his trance to feel someone tugging at his shoulder. A finger pointed to the great gate. Valathor was shocked to see a group of what appeared to be horsemen fly toward him. As they neared he saw that their mounts were not horses but great winged beasts. The three huge beasts dropped from the sky and shook the earth when they landed. One of the riders, a man who wore a helm with great golden wings, spoke first, “Who are you and what is your business here?” Valathor did not know what to say, perhaps if he told them the truth they would acknowledge him, but what if they were friends of the king? Someone spoke something and Valathor was startled to hear the great beast growl, “Lies!” The beast opened his great mouth and prepared to lunge at Valathor’s party…
Valathor awoke startled at his dream. He climbed out of bed and started for his door. As he reached the door he suddenly had the keen sense of being watched. He turned towards the window and uttered a startled gasp. There outside the window was the palest man he had ever seen. But his face was not what made Valathor gasp, it was the hatred with which he glared. When he saw Valathor turn, he…smiled, then vanished into the night. Valathor shivered. He had only a second to study the man’s face, but in that second he saw the most disturbing thing he had ever seen. When the man smiled, Valathor had seen that the man’s teeth were bright red. Not only that, but the man’s eyes were glazed over as if his body contained no life. Valathor grabbed his shirt and started for the door again, and then something crossed his mind. Doubling back he belted on his sword and 3 knives, then running to the door he grabbed his bow and quiver from the corner. As Valathor ran down the hallway, trying his best to keep the noise low, he saw the door to his father’s workroom opened. Slowing, he crept over to the door. When he looked inside he saw his father taking a sword off the wall, a sword that was noticeably different than the others. The other swords all had guards and pommels in the shape of eagles and other great beasts, this sword had both guard and pommel in the shape of what appeared to be a bat, with emeralds for the eyes. As he watched, his father brought the sword out of its sheath sending the glint of silver light into his eyes. Once Valathor’s eyes had become accustomed to the light of the sword he noticed another odd thing as William turned. Around his neck hung a curious little trinket, a small silver globe held by a three fingered claw was strung on leather thong. The globe had a slight shimmer to it as if rather than reflecting the light from the room it was making its own. Suddenly, the small globe grew brighter. Valathor heard feet pounding outside followed by the clang of metal and a blood curling shriek. William spun around and raced to the door, where he found Valathor staring down the hallway.
“Valathor? What are you doing up this late?”
“I had a strange dream and woke up to a man staring in my window.” Valathor shivered, “And father, he was no ordinary man. His skin was deathly pale and his teeth…they were red. What was it?”
“I don’t have time to explain it, but I will as soon as a can. I might be gone until tomorrow. If I don’t get home by the time you leave, there is a small sack of gold in the cabinet on the top shelf.” William placed his left hand on Valathor’s shoulder, then with his right hand pulled a sealed envelope out of his pocket. “Under no circumstance are you to come looking for me. When you arrive at Nethertown in the Outlands, look for a man called Vlad the Cooper.” Then placing the letter in Valathor’s hands he said, “When you find him, give him this letter. Do not read it, this is for Vlad only, if he chooses to share it with you so be it.” Turning he said, “As soon as I am out, lock the doors and windows, and do not let anyone in till morning.” With that he strapped on his sword and ran out of the house. Valathor returned to his room and sat on his bed, after thinking for a moment, he stood up and bolted his windows.
The next morning Valathor awoke to find the door to his room open and a note on his dresser. He read,
By the time you read this I will be well on my way to the Mountain village of Eagle’s Spire. I have left a gift for you strapped to the underside of the kitchen table and in the front closet. Be careful, these items are very rare and there are some who will do anything to get them. Do not show your gifts to anyone until you have reached Oaktown. I have arranged for some friends to accompany you in your travels. Guard yourself and beware the Devil’s Ant.
Devil’s Ant? What could that possibly be?, Valathor wondered. Pulling on his clothes he grabbed his pack and walked out into the kitchen. Deciding first to check the front closet, after looking for a short time he found a leather wrapped package. Placing it on the table he glanced a flash of metal in one end of it. When he peeled back the leather he gasped, contained in the package was silver embroidered quiver, the norm for most middle class archers, and more than thirty of the most perfectly crafted arrows he had ever seen. He quickly covered the quiver again and anxiously reached under the table, pulling out another leather wrapped package. This package was much longer than the other and much heavier too. Opening it he found a brand new yew longbow measuring five feet in length, looking over its entire length it was the most beautiful bow he had ever seen. Over its entire length were silver engravings of small bats. But it was not the bow that made Valathor stare, it was the item that had been wrapped along with it. It was a sword, not just any sword though, it had a bat for both the pommel and guard. As Valathor looked at it he was remembered his father’s sword he had seen the night before. This sword was in every way exact as the other except instead of emerald eyes these were made from rubies.
As he wrapped up his new weapons, Valathor thought of who his father could have enlisted to accompany Valathor. Absorbed in his thoughts Valathor left the house making sure to lock it up and looked into the forge. Seeing that it was locked up he began his walk to the edge of the gate.
The events of the night and his father’s note had taken such a hold on his mind that he walked through town oblivious to his shadow.
“Mornin’, Valathor!” Duncan called
“Mornin’,” Valathor replied absentmindedly.
“On yo’ way to visit Edward?” Duncan asked.
“Uh…yeah,” Valathor replied, mentally cursing himself for forgetting. “I was just on my way over. You wanna join me?”
As they walked Valathor mulled over the events of the past day, trying to answer the questions he had come up with overnight, but each question he attempted to answer in his head gave rise to two more. He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he failed to hear Duncan’s comment. When the hostel came into view, Valathor tucked is questions away for his journey.
The first thing Valathor saw as he neared the hostel was the crowd of adolescence and adults trying to get inside to interrogate Edward. What kept them back was the unbelievable mass of Master Vela.