[Terra Patria Project] House of Kings sample - Prologue

Discussion in 'Original Works' started by gumboot, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. gumboot

    gumboot lorcutus.tolere

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    PROLOGUE- THE FOUNDATIONS OF DESTINY

    Over the land the future beckoning,
    With a thunderclap came the reckoning.

    -The Synilvanyss

    The sun rose.
    The morning light bathed a tiny white flower clinging to a frail stem. Giant trees loomed over it, poplar and ash with leaves that whispered in the breeze. A gust of wind battered the tiny plant and its stem gave way. The flower fell into a rivulet of water. It was carried through long grass before plunging into a brook. The breeze ruffled the white flower as it floated on the surface, tumbling down a shallow valley. At the mouth of the valley the brook joined a broad slow moving river as it spilled across the coast. Beyond the mouth of the river a sea spread to the horizon, its waters flashing with sparkles of silver in the sun. The flower was carried towards this vast ocean with the inevitability of time itself. And then its path was broken, violently, by a tanned and creased hand. It plunged into the current, catching the tiny plant, and raising it into the sky.
    Garos gazed at the flower a moment with troubled silver eyes before looking out to the sea. Either side of the delta the coast stretched outwards into a shallow sweeping bay. Its shores were wide beaches of white sand between stony headlands.
    It was a tranquil bay, a place unspoiled by the tread of man. Garos thought it would make a good home. As he stood on the beach, near the edge of the delta, he nodded slowly to himself. Yes, home. It would have been a good place to live.
    It was as good a place as any to die.
    With one last gaze across the aching blue sea he turned back to the man beside him. Ephrus was his most trusted friend. He was Præfect of the Ardveii Tribe; the most fierce warriors of his people. They would play a great part in this day of death and slaughter. Garos glanced again at the tiny flower. He brushed it with his finger, and a single perfect white petal fell away. ‘Life is so fragile,’ he whispered softly.
    Ephrus nodded. He was a giant of a man, his body thick with muscle from long years of wearing the heavy bronze armour of war. His helmet hung from his sword belt, the long nose guard thrust through a leather loop designed just for that purpose. It banged against his thighs as he moved, pushing at the leather strips of his kilt, but he ignored it. He pushed a finger under the edge of his bronze breastplate to scratch at his stomach. The Præfect did not speak much; he preferred to listen and think, though when he did give counsel he was ever blunt and to the point. Garos respected his opinions above all others.
    ‘This is a day of honour,’ Ephrus remarked. ‘It is a good day to die.’ He nodded towards the sky. ‘See, they gather to bear witness.’
    Garos didn’t need to look at what his friend referred to. Solas, mighty lord of the sky, rode low on the eastern horizon where he had risen an hour ago. Higher in the sky, wheeling across the endless vault of heaven, the three moons had journeyed from their realm of darkness. Old grievances were lost as the white moon, Lunettei, Queen of Night, allowed her daughters to play in the domain of her brother the sun. Tiny red Aphrate and green Yastophany wheeled about their mother, not understanding what was happening below.
    ‘See,’ Ephrus pressed. ‘Lunettei teaches her children of the way of mortals.’
    But Garos’ mind was not on the doings of the almighty. His gaze turned west, across the coast and the long sprawling camp of his people. An uneasy quiet hung over the clustered tents and smouldering campfires. Tiny figures moved in the morning light, but no sound reached the two friends from this distance. They had fled for endless months across lands unknown to them, always looking behind in fear, always haunted by what had been lost. And now they were at the end of their journey. They could go no further, for this great stretching expanse of water was alien to them, and they feared to reach across it. Here their story would finally come to a close, and with it the story of their people. A bitterness entered Garos’ mouth. How had it come to this? So long ago, seemed the time before the great darkness had swept in to drive them from their homes, tearing down the walls of their precious city. His father’s city, raised from rock itself. They had learned the skills of field and plough from those that already dwelled in cities of their own.
    The hëil.
    Their empire stretched across Terra Patria before Garos’ people stepped foot on this land. They had cities with towers that rose to the very heavens, high walls, bright banners, flashing armour of silver like the stars themselves. And where were the hëil now? The Black Death had claimed them all. If the mighty hëil could not stand against this tide, what hope could Garos have for his people?
    All that was left now lay before him. Garos was their high chief. He was their leader. Their fate rested on his shoulders. ‘I have failed,’ he whispered.
    Ephrus, next to him, lifted his head. ‘Horse****,’ he said abruptly. ‘We’re alive because of you Garos son of Serylos.’
    Garos was heartened by mention of his father, as if his spectre still lingered in the mortal world to comfort him. He raised his head and nodded curtly to his friend. ‘Blunt as always. You’re right. The Rhunicæ lives yet.’
    He reached down to where his broad round shield rested against his legs. Hefting it onto his arm, he gripped his short spear in the same hand and pulled his helmet from where it hung off his belt. He perched it on his brow, tilted back. ‘Let’s take a look at the devil-whelped mongrels,’ he said. Ephrus grinned, retrieving his own shield. It was painted blue and bore the white Rhune of strength which was the totem of the Ardveii tribe. He shrugged his arm into the leather straps and hurried after Garos.
    As they neared the camp sounds of activity reached them, swelling to a cacophony. The slap of tents in the breeze, the crackle of slowly dying fires. The gentle murmur of farewell as wives strapped on their husbands’ armour for the last time. A baby’s wail cut through the air until his mother hushed him, whispering that he must be brave for his people. As Garos and Ephrus passed, the sounds of whetstones ceased. Last terse farewells were whispered and tears dried. The warriors of the Rhunicæ embraced their loved ones for the last time. One by one, the army of the Rhunicæ assembled; a line of men encased in bronze or leather, bronze swords sheathed at waists, spears gripped in hands held tight to stop them shaking. Today they would face the darkness one last time. Today they would die.

    They formed their shield wall along a ridge above the beach. Behind them women and children of the eight tribes huddled about fires, their eyes enormous, glistening with tears they refused to shed, as they gazed at the long line of warriors etched against the sky. Their husbands, their fathers, brothers, sons, uncles. Gone to die before them. At the centre the eight banners of the tribes rose proud and defiant into the blue sky, appealing for their Gods to aid them.
    Garos’ eyes looked down into the valley beyond the ridge, and he felt cold. The enemy host stretched beyond his vision. He had faced them once standing atop the walls of his city, and then later wading through her blood-drenched streets. He quailed to face them again. He turned slightly to Ephrus, in rankman position on his right. ‘You think they’ll parley?’
    Ephrus gave a snort of disgust. ‘**** ‘em. We’ll die fighting.’ Garos smiled gravely at his friend. To his left and right his men stood silently awaiting orders. He could feel their fear. He strode out from the line, so all could see him, and turned his back on the foe.
    ‘Brothers!’ He shouted. And his voice reached the ears of all his people. ‘Look to the sky! Look to the waters of the ocean and the trees of the valley. See the grass at your feet and feel the wind in your faces! The Gods are watching. They are here, among us, all about us. Mighty Theos, from his throne, gazes even now from the heights of Caelum to witness what we do this day. Do not disappoint them! Your ancestors cheer you! They await you on the far bank of the Ilene. Perform such deeds this day, that the Ferryman will carry you across its black waters free of charge.’ He sensed strength enter him, filling him with certainty of purpose, and it made his heart soar. Yes. They would have victory. Not in life, but in death. ‘Forsake your lives,’ he shouted to his men. ‘Welcome death! Embrace it! Tonight we shall all feast at the Tables of Valour!’
    He turned to face his enemy now, arrayed before him, their ranks already marching up the gentle slope, war drums sounding the advance. It was an appalling noise of approaching death, but Garos no longer heard it. He raised his spear, hammering the shaft on his shield with a hollow thuk, then drew it back, struck again. Behind him the Rhunic soldiers took up the beat. Soon they made their own calamitous sound, their spears hammering shields in a thunderous boom-boom-boom. Garos raised his spear in his right hand. ‘The Gods and Destiny!’ He cried. Behind him two thousand voices echoed his call. He reached up, drawing his helmet down into position, sealing his face behind the bronze mask of battle. Garos raised his spear once more, and behind him a great cry broke from thousands of mouths. ‘Mortre!’ They roared. ‘MORTRE!’
    Garos let his own voice join the throng, his silver eyes wide. He led his people down the hill and into oblivion. Into history. Into legend.

    ***

    Into myth. Centuries passed. Age and time stretched aching across the land and peoples rose and fell like wheat. Cities sparked briefly on the land before collapsing into dust and ruin. Entire nations came and went. To the south a line of mountains rent the land. Two embracing spurs of stone swept out from the range to form a sheltered vale. It was the frontier of Terrador, the southern reaches of a nation which had its capital far to the north in warmer more civilized lands. Here, though, in The Vale, the people of Guldoke County and Estansi Duchy lived older, rougher, more fearful lives. Beyond the mountains The Wilds stretched to the edges of the world. Men said beyond the peaks creatures of legend still walked. Unlike their civilized countrymen to the north, the Valemen walked with one foot firmly planted in myth.

    It was the middle of the day. Ilafen, Angel of Light, allowed the sun to caress the world with warmth. Guldoke Wood was silent. A carpet of fire covered the forest floor. Everywhere the eye looked, trees were decked with leaves of orange, red, and yellow. Ancient bent willow trees lined Dara River from the wood to Cauldron Lake.
    Parth lay north of the river. It was nestled between the lake edge and a shallow hill that swept up to the wood. The village was busy and those not harvesting the spring grain were working in the orchards or gathering in straw. At the southern end of the settlement, pressed into the corner of the commons, the smithy of Gren Atraxus lay silent. No hammer rang on the anvil today. The fires were dead, the steel cold and dark.
    A newborn baby cried. On a bed lay a mother, sweat-drenched. Drena Atraxus was twenty-three, in the full bloom of beauty, with blonde hair and deep blue eyes. An eager husband stood beside the bed watching the midwife wrap the babe in swaddling cloth. Gren Atraxus was twenty-nine and his own features matched his wife though his hair was darker. He came to the midwife’s side and peered at a face covered with blood from the birth. The eyes were closed.
    ‘What is it?’ Gren asked.
    ‘A son,’ the midwife said, gently wiping the child’s face. ‘He’s early.’
    ‘Any live child is a blessing from ALL,’ the weak mother answered softly.
    Gren chuckled gently to himself. A son! ‘The forge will soon build him up.’
    ‘Gren,’ Drena said softly from across the room, ‘Dane will learn the forge from you. Perhaps this child will choose his own path.’
    Gren turned back to his son. He gazed at the soft face for long moments. ‘No man may choose his own destiny,’ he murmured. Then the child opened its eyes. Gren stared in horror. Drena stirred from the bed, a frown on her face. ‘Gren?’ She asked. She held her hands out to the midwife, silently asking for her child. The midwife moved towards the bed. Gren pushed her back firmly. He couldn’t tear his gaze from the face before him. His mouth moved silently, recalling stories from his childhood. He shook his head. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t true.
    Drena sat up in alarm. ‘What is it? Why won’t you let me hold him?’
    Gren could not answer. Memories assaulted him of a childhood soaked in lies and deception. He shook his head again. ‘No,’ he whispered.
    ‘My baby!’ Drena nearly screamed. ‘What is it?’
    ‘Silver eyes!’ Gren snarled. ‘What child have you seen with silver eyes?’
    Drena went pale and sunk visibly into the bed. She lifted a trembling hand to her mouth. ‘Silver eyes?’ she whispered in horror.
    The midwife shrieked in fear. ‘The Fallen!’ She cried. ‘Eval claims him!’
    Drena’s heart felt wrenched. ‘No!’ she said pitifully.
    Gren glanced back at the child which the midwife now held as if a poisonous snake. It was true; the child had bright silver eyes. Two circles of steel watched Gren with chilling steadiness. The eyes mirrored the stories of his youth, mocking him even as his heart trembled. Yes, they whispered. It’s true. It’s all true. Gren blinked and shook his head. He knew what he must do. He swept the child into his powerful arms.
    ‘What are you doing?’ Drena gasped.
    ‘I must take the child. Father Able must see him!’ Gren made for the door. He circled himself. His hand marked a path crossing his forehead, shoulders, and lower stomach, making a ring in front of him. The sign of ALL’s protection. He fled from the room, the child clutched protectively in his powerful forge-scarred arms.
    He ran for the shelter of the church. The large stone structure lay at the opposite corner of the village green, its spire topped with a holy ring of ALL. The sky darkened. Black clouds condensed out of the clear blue heavens. Gren glanced up and saw the clouds. They seemed to be reaching for him. He strained to move faster. The shadow reached out. But then Gren was inside the church.

    Gren burst into the silent church and found Parth’s priest, lighting candles in the sanctuary. ‘Father!’ He cried. ‘Father, you must help me!’
    Father Able looked up, his old face smiling softly. The smile faded as he saw Gren’s terrified face. ‘Gren,’ he said gently, ‘what is it?’ Then he remembered Drena, heavy with child. ‘Drena—’ he began. ‘The child—’
    ‘Silver eyes,’ Gren gasped ‘He has silver eyes.’
    Father Able’s eyes widened and he crossed to Gren, peering at the bundle in the blacksmith’s arms. ‘Show me,’ he commanded. Gren pulled the swaddling cloth back. Father Able looked up in shock. ‘Silver eyes.’
    ‘You know what this means.’
    ‘In my own lifetime,’ the priest whispered. ‘I would never have thought—’ Before Father Able could finish, the shadow crossed the church. The candles flared a moment, then snuffed out.
    Father Able looked about in shock. ‘What is this?’
    ‘You know what!’ Gren responded. ‘They come for him. They know what he is!’
    The priest closed his eyes in prayer, took the child, and moved to the church altar. ‘Close the shutters and bolt the door!’ He ordered as he moved.
    ‘What are you doing?’ Gren asked hesitantly.
    ‘Do it!’ Father Able exploded. ‘Our very lives may be in peril!’
    Gren could not argue against the commanding tone. He slammed the shutters closed as fast as he could. Above the church a thunderstorm raged where moments before there had been a clear blue sky. Rain hammered against the stone walls. Lightning lit the sky.

    Gren heaved a massive bolt across the oak doors of the church. The howling wind clawed at the shutters on the windows. Gren watched in horrid fascination as the doors strained under the onslaught.
    The Priest stood over the child, muttering in an unknown language. He placed his hand in the vial of holy water that stood by the altar. He made a mark in water on the boy’s forehead – not the ring of ALL but a star of eight points. Throughout, the child remained calm, gazing peacefully at the priest.
    There was a sharp crack. Gren watched as a splinter appeared in the iron bolt, spreading slowly along its length. ‘Hurry!’ He screamed to the priest. Gren was a blacksmith. He knew steel. The bolt before him was nearly three inches thick. Nothing, nothing, could split that bar. Behind him Father Able stopped suddenly. ‘A name!’ He barked.
    Gren did not even turn. ‘What?’
    ‘A name! I must have a name!’
    The roaring wind made it nearly impossible to hear anything. Gren was forced to turn away from the door. He cupped his hand to his mouth and shouted back at the expectant priest. ‘We were to call him–’
    ‘No time!’ Father Able roared. ‘We must give him a name! The name will bind him to his fate. We must protect him!’ Father Able moved his lips wordlessly for a moment, a distant look in his eyes. Outside the storm threatened to tear the roof off the building.
    ‘Calanoire atracteo,’ he whispered. Then; ‘Calan,’ he said in a louder voice.
    ‘Calan?’ Gren said mystified.
    ‘Calan means those that are protected!’
    Gren nodded in understanding. He nervously looked back to the door where the seams were breaking apart. The steel bindings shrieked in protest as a relentless force tore at them. With an ear-splitting crack the oak doors shattered. The bindings, wood, and bolt alike were thrown into the church. The wind, howling in glee, swept inside. Gren was flattened by flying steel and wood. The wind picked up the debris and hurled it around him as he stood.
    Outside there was only darkness. A blinding flash of lighting erupted, accompanied by a resounding crack of thunder. In the doorway stood a tall man, silhouetted against the outside. He wore a great black robe and a hood hid his face completely. From within the empty maw of the hood, two glittering points of cold, white light stabbed into Gren’s soul. He stumbled backwards in absolute terror, his face aghast. ‘Give me the child,’ the spectre whispered in a voice thick with malice.
    Father Able stepped forward, his eyes stern, shielding the child who lay silent and unafraid on the altar. ‘Be gone from here,’ he screamed. ‘You are a shadow! A mere phantom! You cannot harm us!’ The priest reached under his robes and drew out a small pendant depicting an eight-pointed star, each of its rays coloured half white and half black. ‘The dead watch over me,’ he said in a firmer voice, ‘and shall protect me! Flee weak illusion, or feel their wrath!’ Father Able ripped the pendant from his neck and held it up before; prepared to cast it. ‘In the name of the Rhunicæ I order you to depart!’ He roared. ‘Be gone!’ He threw the pendant at the figure in the doorway. A horrifying scream erupted from within its hood. The darkness fled as the pendant exploded into white-hot light. Suddenly the day was still; no trace of the storm remained save for the carnage that littered the village.
    Gren sank down on his knees and prayed fervently to ALL for sparing the village. He lifted his face and turned slowly to the priest. Father Able watched him with a slight smile on his lips. ‘ALL did not save us this day,’ he said quietly. He retrieved the pendant that now lay on the cold stone.
    Gren’s gaze turned to his son, still lying silently on the altar. ‘Is he—’ he hesitated.
    Father Able nodded. ‘Your child is safe. Now go, a mother yearns for her child.’
    Gren picked up the child. The boy’s eyes had not changed colour, but their inhuman shine had faded. Gren gathered the child named Calan to him, and returned home. Behind him, unseen, a raven watched from a nearby tree. Gren ran inside and in moments was back in the bedroom. ‘My child!’ Drena cried on her husband’s return.
    Gren held out the child to his wife but Drena hesitated, her arms halfway to the baby. ‘He is safe,’ Gren assured her.
    Thankfully Drena cradled the child in her arms, crooning softly to him.
    ‘The devil cannot take him now,’ Gren said gently, ‘he is Calan.’
    ‘Calan?’
    ‘It means the protected,’ Gren explained, ‘we needed a name to save him.’
    Satisfied, Drena turned back to the child. ‘My little Calan,’ she whispered softly. ‘You will be special, for ALL has taken you under his protection.’ Gren turned aside to hide his frown at her words. Whatever had protected his son, it was not God.
    Calan ignored his mother. His eyes lingered on the window, and the village beyond. He watched as a raven landed at the window frame in a flurry of wings. It looked at him, its beady eyes meeting the steady gaze of the silver-eyed child.

    *
     
  2. Weston

    Weston New Member

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    Really enjoyed the beginning bit with Garos. By the end of that section I was very keen as to know what was going on - who was he fighting/running from? What is he protecting and why is it so great that he still has it?... Got me interested.

    However, the massive change of ages within the prologue itself threw me. Not that it's such a bad thing; I just haven't seen it done before. Perhaps you can extend Garos' bit a little, increase his characterization so we emphasize with him more at marching to his death. Then start the next bit instantly at Chapter One - I'm assuming that's where the story itself begins with the child.
    Or, you could turn it around - have the birthing at the prologue, then, somewhere in the first few chapters, have a mentor or someone tell of a time long ago with Garos and the legends he fulfilled.
    Just some ideas if you choose to keep the prologue to the same time period - obviously it's not a necessity though, just a suggestion.

    Otherwise a solid read. Maybe describe the shadow thing that comes through the door a bit more - he seemed to just stand there and wait for his bane to be thrown at him!

    Very good start though, keen to read some more works from you later :)
     
  3. gumboot

    gumboot lorcutus.tolere

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    Wow... I forgot I even put this here.

    Um... thanks for the comments! And for taking the time to read it.
     
  4. Fearofmagnets

    Fearofmagnets New Member

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    Beautiful imagery to begin with. It allows the reader to capture the lay of the land clearly in their minds - all from the viewpoint of a flower.
    I also liked the priest's fixation on naming the child, and the description of the gods close to the beginning. It gives a great impression of the civilization's religious viewpoint/piety.

    Have you finished the novel, by now?
     
  5. gumboot

    gumboot lorcutus.tolere

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    I'm in the process of editing a final writer's draft before I ship it off to an editor to butcher, breaking my heart. :p