Prelude to book

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by The Wizard Gethwin, Jan 16, 2011.

  1. The Wizard Gethwin

    The Wizard Gethwin New Member

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    Hi all!

    Thought I'd share the prelude to a book I've been working on. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. BRUTAL and HONEST is good :)

    PROLOGUE-The Bull
    Desert travellers gathered in groups in the tent, a cool refuge beside the Oasis of Jan Dakrit, drinking and sharing tales of their travels. Light filtered into the gloomy interior from a smoke-hole high above the rickety trestle tables and a rough, scarred bar. From long clay pipes and glass hookahs the acrid scent of tobacco, hashish and opium mingled in the dry air with the odours of unwashed bodies and strong ale. Outside, their camels and pack lizards lounged in the meagre shade of the palm trees beside the deep water, resting before resuming their night-time journeys through the desert to Calishwa.

    A blinding beam of light pierced the gloom as the entrance to the tavern was drawn aside, revealing the backlit silhouette of a tall woman. She entered the dark interior and drew the curtain behind her amid sudden silence. A woman travelling this deep into the desert alone was unheard of, and many craned their necks in curiosity. Like the others in the tavern she wore the thick black robes of desert travellers which streamed away from her as she crossed the tent, revealing a chest piece of moulded leather armour covering a shirt of glittering mail. Plated greaves protected her legs. She wore a variety of weapons, but above all the eyes of the men were drawn to the hilt of a long sword that rose above her shoulder. The woman made her way through the crowd to the bar and ordered ale from a serving boy, un-strapping the sword from her back as she waited for her order.

    While she leaned against the counter, the woman, whose name was Lydia, gazed around at the men who still watched her through the haze. A few had bold eyes, challenging and proud, and seemed to think they could be a match for her, that they could take from her what they wanted and pay nothing in return.

    ‘Not likely, boys!’ she said to herself, smiling grimly as she raised the leather mug of warm, bitter ale to her lips.

    Others admired her with eyes that shifted away like grains of sand blown before a storm when she turned to them. Weak men, still longing for a look, but cowed by her reputation, by the black leather scabbard leaning against the counter at her side. They all knew one story or another of that legendary sword, and while many were but myths, the men knew there could well be a seed of truth in any tall tale.

    Lydia knew the men’s eyes went from her to the sword at her side. ‘Reputation can be good for something!’ she said to herself.
    As if in response to her thoughts one of the men near her leaned to his mate and whispered, “It’s the Kingbreaker!” It was the ancient name of Lydia’s sword, but she too had come to be known by the same title.

    Across the tent was a cluster of camel-drovers also dressed in flowing black linen robes. They had arrived at the oasis in the early morning after driving their stubborn charges throughout a long and dangerous night. Relieved to be safe from the ghouls and other evil spirits of the open desert the men had been celebrating, drinking and singing crude songs. Among them was the one she had been looking for: the man that was always there. It was the same in every town, every village tavern. There was always someone hoping to build their reputation with her defeat. He would be looking to put a notch on his scabbard with her body or her blood. There was a price to reputation, as well as a benefit. He was watching her; not with arrogant, over-confident eyes or with cowed glances flitting from her legs to the infamous blade resting against the bar at her side and back. His face spoke of haughtiness and cruelty as he sized her up and then spat in her direction. Deliberately, he stared at her bosom, squinting evilly and pursing his lips in lust. His eyes were those of a rutting bull: dumb, strong and dangerous. Defeating such a man had once held great joy for her; now it would only give her a mild sense of satisfaction, if that. Violence had long since lost any novelty for Lydia. After so many, the death of yet another fool threatened to become as meaningless to her as it was to the rest of the world.

    Lydia didn’t mind the other men staring at her. ‘Why shouldn’t they look?’ she thought to herself. Sure, it had been many years since she had been a girl, playing amongst the masts and spars of her father’s danithian ship, the Julia, shooting practice arrows at gulls and swinging upon the rigging of the caravel like an ape. Almost forty years had gone by, and the slender body of that long-forgotten waif was older now, harder, well-muscled and criss-crossed with the fine scars of uncounted battles. Her hands were not soft like those of a city woman nor calloused like a working woman’s, hardened from slaving life away in a scullery or laundry. They were strong, almost claw-like, and battered. Her long legs, once slim and boyish were now sculpted by ropey muscles, flexible yet always tense. The coal-black hair of her childhood was fading now and bound in a tight bun. Lydia felt no need to hide the grey, to cover her age. She was proud of the marks of time: they were memorials to her survival.

    Only Lydia’s eyes remained unchanged over the years. They were dark, almost as black as her hair had once been. Her father had told her that her eyes shone with an inner fire even as she struggled with her first breaths, even as her mother passed from life upon her birthing hammock. He had named her Lydia, for the Goddess of the Evening Star, for that was the star rising above the horizon as she came into life, and her mother departed.

    Across the tent one of the camel drovers shoved the big man from behind, and his gaping stare turned cold, full of hate. The half-dozen men around him hooted raucously at a crude joke, and the man’s cheeks coloured.
    ‘Soon,’ thought Lydia as her soft boot brushed the scabbard leaning on the bar at her side, ensuring it was still there. A new taunt sparked fresh laughter across the tent, and the men sitting on either side of Lydia drifted quietly away, knowing a fight was coming.

    Lydia took a last drink, watching the man over the brim of her mug. She shook her head as she thought to herself: ‘They’ll goad you like the dumb ox that you are and send you to your death; but they’ll not help. They are as cowardly as you are stupid.’

    The howls of laughter attracted the barkeeper, a grizzled veteran dressed in the uniform of a soldier of the Federation Wars. He had been seated behind the counter, watching over the crowd with a stern eye as he nursed a cup of ale and pulled meditatively on his beard. Sensing the coming storm, he lowered his beer and made his way around to the group of drovers, reaching across the bar with a hairy, muscular arm and seizing the big man’s shoulder in a vice-like grip. The ox-man didn’t even flinch as the barkeeper tried to dig his fingers into the man’s hard flesh. Without taking his eyes from Lydia’s the drover grabbed the barkeeper’s wrist and crushed it. The old man shrivelled in pain and when the big drover twisted his wrist he fell to the floor, flopping like a fish pulled onto dry land.

    When the ox-man released him the barkeeper scrambled backwards and drew a long, curved dagger from his belt. The bright blade shone though the dark haze and wafting smoke, but before he could plunge it into the back of the drover the man’s companions swarmed over him, pinning his arms to his side and forcing the weapon from his clenched fist. The barkeeper bellowed with pain and rage when a fist crashed into his kidney.

    ‘He’s a big one’ thought Lydia, sizing up the drover, who was grinning evilly now and running his tongue over thin, cruel lips. With a flourish, he flung the black desert robes back from his shoulders, revealing muscles bulging out of a hardened leather chest piece studded with bronze suns. His leather-clad legs were as thick as young trees.

    ‘A sun-worshipper’, Lydia thought to herself, and a small smile swept over her lips. Killing a sun-worshipper was always a welcome diversion for her.

    “Hey, you! Witch! Come over here and dance for us, and I’ll give you a coin!” he called out, his loutish voice heavy with ale and hashish.

    Lydia merely smiled in return, and her eyes seemed to glow with little dancing lights.
    The man grinned back and drew a long scimitar from his belt. The blade was battered and notched but with a razor edge. He raised the crescent moon-shape over his head, planted his feet in the sand and bellowed. His mouth was full of black, jagged teeth.

    “Too good for us, are you?” he blared out. “I’m going to make you dance for me. You are going to learn why little girls shouldn’t travel in the desert alone!” With both hands he swung the scimitar over his head in a whistling, shimmering arc and lunged across the room at Lydia, his sword plunging down like an axe towards her head. His blade chopped into the bar where she had been leaning not an instant before, burying itself deep in the and slicing her leather mug in half. Bitter red ale ran down the notched blade, over his hands and dripped onto the sandy floor between his feet. He paused for the briefest moment in wonder at the woman’s speed, and then his heart suddenly felt something it had not known for many years: fear. The witch seemed to have vanished into the sandy floor, and he hadn’t even seen her move. Growling in anger, heart beating with fear and excitement and still driven by lust, he pulled the scimitar from the bar with screech of steel on wood. He turned back to his company, sure that the woman had vanished and was fleeing across the sands to a safe place that wasn’t there. He’d have another beer, wait for it to cool off outside, and then chase her down for a bit of fun before they continued on their way.

    But she was there, standing between him and the other drovers, her feet planted in readiness in the sandy floor. The ox-like man growled deeply; the witch had returned to taunt him with her black eyes, slender hips, and the swell of her bosom under her oiled leather cuirass. She was just standing there, really no bigger than a girl, with her sword still in it’s scabbard, held loosely at her side, and those dark eyes just watching him, waiting expectantly, not five paces away.
    “No one stands before me without fear, bitch!” he growled in his most fierce voice. The faint hint of a smile on her full lips grew wider.

    From out of the silence of a hundred fascinated men emerged a scattering of muffled sniggers.

    To be mocked by the witch, that was too much! He again raised his scimitar, as if to cut the woman in half, and rushed her, bellowing like a battle-maddened bull. Still she stood there as if waiting for, even welcoming his notched blade. But as the scimitar started to descend he twisted to the side, swung the blade low, and with the all the force of his huge frame and the heavy scimitar swung the blade towards Lydia’s sword arm. It would be severed cleanly with the blow and he and his crew could have her body while her blood gushed from the stump. He’d have his fun before she died, ensuring that she suffered the ultimate indignity before passing, and leave the remains for the rest.

    As smoothly as sea grass bending before the tide Lydia fell before the blade, her body giving way as she leaned backwards, below its swing, the razor edge singing only a hand’s breadth above her head. Then with cat-like fluidity she rose and struck under the arm of the still-lunging man with her sheathed sword. The scabbard struck him across the side of his chest where his oiled leather armour was bound with hide thongs. She felt a rib, or maybe two, cave under her blow. Coupled with the momentum of his own attack, the impact of her blow spun him about and flung him into the crowd of watchers. He slumped in the arms of a group of merchants as he tried to regain his breath, but quickly recovered his feet and returned to the fight, shaking his head like a stunned dog until the stars passed from before his eyes.

    Sensing blood, and not caring from whom it came, the camel drovers and other travellers started calling out, “Slice her, Bull!”, “Cut her!”, “She's laughing at you! Make the witch dance!” Others pounded their fists on the bar or stamped their feet in the sand, until the entire tent seemed to reverberate as if it were the interior of the drover’s heart.

    Spurred on by the action, one of the drovers plunged his fist into the barkeeper’s kidneys. The man sagged in the drover’s arms and groaned in defeated pain, but he still watched the fight closely; his fascination with the woman’s feline grace and lightning speed overcoming his suffering. He knew the large man would be dead within moments. The woman could have taken him at any time she chose, and was merely toying with him like a bored cat with a wounded mouse.

    Bull shook his head one last time and returned again to where Lydia stood calmly watching him, her sword still in its scabbard, held loosely at her side. He raised the scimitar until the point was level with her eyes and waved it slowly back and forth, trying to draw her attention with the gleaming tip. But her eyes did not leave his and her smile did not fade. Having failed to cut her before with his powerful attacks, the man approached slowly now, cautiously. His chest heaved with pain and excitement, fear drove his heart, but still over all was the lust of battle, the fullness of his loins.

    Her eyes never left his: fearless, cold, detached.

    The man grinned at her; “I’m going to cut you open, girl, and every man here is going to have his turn with you before I feed you to the jackals.”

    Still no response; nothing but that strange light that danced like little stars in her eyes, and the faint smile on her lips.

    He lunged, driving his scimitar straight for her belly, where the curved blade would punch up through the thick leather and mesh of her armour and into her chest, leaving her dangling like a speared fish. Again she dodged his blade, spinning to the side as the man extended, then over-extended his thrust. With a flick of her wrist the scabbard fell from her blade and the long sword glimmered in her hand, bathed in a strange, soft blue fire. Lydia swung the weapon in a downward arc and cut through the muscles of his outstretched forearms to the bone as he plunged past. His scimitar fell to the sand and the man collapsed to his knees, sending up a shower of grit and bellowing in pain. With the speed of a desert viper Lydia recovered her balance and her blade slashed across his face, destroying his eyes and slicing deeply into the bridge of his nose but stopping before sinking too deeply into the bone of the man’s skull, where the weapon could become stuck.

    This man wasn’t worth killing; he’d live, though he’d never assault another woman.

    Her voice low and menacing, Lydia growled, “The only time you’ll see me dance is in Hell!”

    Lydia put her boot on the man’s chest and pried the sword loose from his forehead. His blood-soaked hands went to his ruined eyes and he began blubbering in a deep, whining voice. Lydia reached over and tore his robe from his shoulders and wiped the blood from her blade. When the sword was clean she threw the robe back at the man and returned the glowing weapon to its sheath.

    The drovers who still held the barkeeper gaped at her in stunned amazement as Lydia drew a knife from behind her back and with a lightning-fast flick of her wrist sent it spinning in a glittering arc across the room, where it sunk deep into the eye of the man who had struck the barkeeper during the fight. The barkeeper gaped in stunned silence at Lydia as the man fell and the other camel drovers fled, leaving Bull kneeling on the floor, clutching his bloody face and bellowing in anguish. Without a word Lydia crossed the room and pulled the knife from the dead man’s eye. The blade came free with a sucking sound. As she stood up the stunned barkeeper backed away from her.

    “Bring me a rag to clean this shit off my knife, and another beer!” she growled.

    Across the room, someone muttered under his breath, “I’d hate to be the man that held the end of her chain!”

    She turned her head and growled over her shoulder: “No man owns me!”
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2011
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