Hi everybody, I just found this forum and I find it very informative and interesting. I'd like some opinions on the prologue of a fantasy novel I'm writing. Please don't be afraid to be harsh if you don't like it, I have a thick skin Thanks in advance and I hope you enjoyed the reading. The War Within - Prologue The plaza was silent. The shadow of the huge temple on the east side was slowly retreating as the sun was rising behind it. The trees scattered around in random fashion exploded in warm colors as the rays of light flooded them. As he pushed the huge door, Tubal was blinded by the light of the young day. The low noise of the hinges turning disturbed a few doves nearby. They quickly flew towards the nearest tree, disappearing in the bright sky. He walked out of the temple, exhausted. His body was bruised in more spots that he could remember, but there wasn’t a single cut on his skin. He was wearing only his usual leather shorts and, to a casual observer, he could have been starting his daily chores just a little earlier. Except for the two massive swords dragging behind him. Attached to Tubal’s wrists were two strings, around ten inches long, and to them the two swords, tied where the hilt is attached to the blade. As he walked through the plaza, with his arms too tired to carry his weapons, the tips of the swords were drawing two parallel lines in the dirt, leaving a sign of his passage. The buildings around him were silent, but soon everybody would wake up and get ready for the day of the Shadat. This was a very special day, the most important day of the year but nobody could guess how much more then that today would be. Nobody except Tubal. A sudden wave of panic rose inside him. The entire town would have only him to look at in disbelief and, probably anger, for having interrupted a ritual that lasted for millennia. What was he thinking? How could he even fathom to get away with what he had just done? Hiding… That was the only thing left to do. Find a hole, a place where nobody would come and look for him and then flee as far as he could in the middle of the night. His heart beat suddenly increased. No, it wouldn’t work, the city wasn’t that big, they would find him. Flee now! Run to the desert! Starving to death was better, yes, better then to face all the people, better then to face his mother. He was suddenly calm. Exactly as it had happened hundreds of time before, his heart was beating at a normal pace again and a cold sensation of peace originating from his stomach was spreading in his body, quickly reaching his brain. Tubal kept walking at the same pace, the scratching noise of the swords on the dirt unique sound in the empty streets. Tubal, Tubal, you never learn… I always watch over you, no reason to be scared. You have done well, and the hard part is almost over. It’s time for you to reap the benefits of our agreement. Someone has to show those ignorant fools that they have wasted the last thirty thousand years. Why not you? I can’t think of someone more deserving. You have the power to turn upside down your people rigid set of values and rules. You, the lowest of the lowest, coming from generations of slaves, whose life has no value in the eyes of those you serve. They use the burden put on their shoulders as justification for the way they treat you. Like a direct order of an ancient God it’s reason enough… I won’t be able from here to see their faces in disbelieve. They’ll realize that you are better then all of them, and I’ll feel your joy. I’ll be in your simple mind as always and share your triumph, like I shared your pain and sorrow. So, Tubal, do not fear, for our time, the time of change, is here. The violent thuds on the door awoke Aried istantly. She looked around the room scared. Her eyes stopped for a moment at his son’s bed. The early morning light invaded the room enough for her to see his head on the straw pillow. She sighed with relief. He had to work late the night before and she went to bed before he was back. The thudding was getting more and more violent. ‘Coming!’ She put on a long worn out tunic and rushed to the door, in the other room of the rundown house. ‘May the First damn you!’ she yelled opening wide the door. Before she could see who was on the other side, a hand grabbed her by her hair and threw her on the ground. ‘Watch your mouth, woman.’ Aried’s face went white in terror the moment she saw the man in front of her. ‘You are already in enough troubles.’ Aried kneeled in front of him, a tall imposing figure, dressed in a white long tunic. He had a sword at his belt, still in the scabbard, but his right hand firmly gripped the hilt. ‘Forgive me, Master Sorai, I had no idea…’ her forehead was almost touching the ground, when she realized that Sorai wasn’t alone. There were eight warriors, four Mordasal, fully armed, around her. A few paces behind, another tall man was looking at her. She had never seen him, but judging by the clothes and the attitude, he was probably the one in charge. She barely notice the two parallel tracks in the dirt leading to her door. Master Sorai kicked her on the side and Aried ended up with her back on the ground. ‘Who lives here?’ ‘Just me, and my son Tubal.’ One of the two warriors of the closer Mordasal. ‘I know Tubal, he is one of my servants. He cleans my weapons.’ ‘What’s your name?’ the man in the back, stepping closer. ‘Torak, Divine, I’m the Asal’ he turned to his companion ‘and she is Dera, the Mord’ Both bowed to him. ‘When was the last time you saw this Tubal?’ ‘Last night, Divine, when we were going to our final meditation.’ ‘He was in the armory, as usual, I saw him too’ Dera added. ‘It’s time to talk with this boy’ he turned to Sorai ‘go get him’ ‘Yes, Divine.’ Before Master Sorai could even turn his head, Tubal appeared on the threshold. ‘I’m here.’ He was still wearing his leader shorts, but many of the bruises under his skin were now healed. Sorai lifted his hand to slap the boy, but with a fluid and fast motion Tubal grabbed the sword still attached to his left wrist through the string, raised it and stopped Sorai’s hand with the broad side of the blade. The eight members of the four Mordasal instantly unsheathed their weapons. Sorai took a few steps back and reached for his sword, but the pain in the wrist from Tubal’s parry was still strong. A feeling of terror invaded Aried, still on the ground. Tubal looked at her mother’s face, and saw the terror in her changing into anger towards him. Fear started creeping back in him, but the calming icy sensation was instantly back. He turned his face away and slowly grabbed and raised the other sword from behind him. ‘Everybody calms down now’ the man addressed as the Divine stepped in front of the Mordasals. ‘Where did you find those swords?’ he asked Tubal. ‘In the dumpster.’ ‘It’s illegal for you Shalks to have weapons, the penalty is death’ Sorai said from behind Torak, the closer Asal. The Divine turned to look at Sorai. ‘He knows that, and obviously doesn’t care. Now shut your mouth, will you?’ He turned back to Tubal. ‘They look rather different then the weapon you can find around here, don’t they?’ ‘I have been working on them for quite a while.’ ‘I see. Still, the handles are the same as any Mordasal sword. Unlike the blades.’ he pointed to the weapon held by Torak ‘Much broader especially near the tip. And they look heavier.’ Tubal kept looking at him without saying a word. ‘Do you know how to work metal? Do you have access to the forge?’ ‘I don’t need the forge’ Behind them sounds of a man running. ‘Divine, Divine, something impossible.’ A short and round yelled approaching the group, only to suddenly stop silent once aware of the tension. The Divine turned to face him. ‘Tirge, what is it?’ ‘The Shartachers’ he added still panting heavily from the run ‘they are all dismantled.’ ‘What are you saying? They are not ready?’ ‘No, Divine, they were defeated, piece by piece. Just like the Mordasal do. I left them last night ready for today’s ceremony. The chambers were sealed behind me.’ ‘That cannot be…’ one of the warriors couldn’t help say. All the members of the Mordasals were visibly shocked. ‘And now all eight of them are down?’ ‘Yes, Divine, the seals were broken. Someone entered the chambers in the night.’ ‘Could they just have been taken down while still immobile?’ ‘No, Divine, I personally activated them before leaving the temple. They would have attacked the first moving thing that entered the chamber’ The Divine turned and stared for a few seconds at Tubal. ‘Something tells me I’m looking at that thing.’ Aried stood up under the alert eyes of the Mordasal. ‘What have you done?’ Tubal didn’t say anything. ‘This must be a mistake,’ begging to the people around her ‘We are just Shalks, Tubal has never fight once in his life’ ‘Mother, please go back inside’ ‘Tell them, you have nothing to do with this’ raising her voice. ‘I said go back inside’ the ice sensation again ‘I can handle them but I can’t worry about you while I do.’ The Mordasal tensed their muscles, Tirge and Sorai took a few steps back. ‘Tubal’ the Divine intervened ‘you surely understand how hard would be for us to believe that you defeated the Shartachers.’ Tubal just pushed back his mother inside the door. ‘Tirge?’ ‘Yes, Divine.’ ‘Can you have a Shartacher ready for tonight?’ ‘Of course.’ ‘How about you show me and the council how you did it? We just ask you to defeat one while we watch.’ Tubal looked at him for a few seconds, then nodded. ‘Then it’s decided, come at sunset at the temple door.’ He turned to the Mordasal. ‘You all guard Tubal’s house until then. Nobody gets in or out.’ ‘Yes, Divine’ the Mordasal replied in a single voice. The dream, Tubal, tell him about the dream. ‘No.’ Tubal said, as the Divine was walking away ‘tomorrow morning at dawn’ The Divine turned to look at him and saw a new resolve in Tubal’s eyes. ‘In the plaza. Everybody has to be there to see. The Council, the Mordasal, the Chackra, the Mardel and above all, the Shalks’ ‘Everybody in the plaza? They won’t fit.’ ‘They will, I saw it in my dream.’ The Divine just stared at Tubal without talking. ‘It’s either that, or I’ll come for you and the entire council, tonight.’ Once again the Mordasal moved their muscles almost imperceptibly ready to respond in case of an attack. The Divine looked intensely a Tubal, digesting the menace for a few seconds. ‘Tomorrow at dawn it is. Everybody will be in attendance.’ He resumed his walk. ‘Sorai, spread the word with the Shalks. Tirge, tell all the Chackra, I have to go talk to the council.’ The Divine left with a final nod to the Mordasal who, as Tubal and his mother walked in, positioned themselves around the little house. Very good Tubal, now go back to sleep, I have to finish healing your bruises. You will show everybody, not just these self appointed fools. They won’t be the one following your path, they think they are the chosen ones but they will be left behind. ‘What is this madness?’ The older councilor finally exploded. ‘Why are we even discussing this?’ Everybody stopped talking and stared at the hunched figure, barely able to keep his head upright. ‘This Shalk wants an audience? Let’s give him one. All we need is a pair of gallows in the middle of the plaza. We hung him, his mother and even Sorai, who obviously is not capable to do his job.’ He stopped to recover his breath. ‘That is something I’d like to see, not this nonsensical assembly. We have spent thirty thousand years following the First God will, keeping His legacy alive, why should we change now for a miserable Shalk? Why is this even an issue?’ ‘With all due respect, honorable Vodan, what happened last night had never happened in thirty thousand years’ the Divine replied, standing in the middle of the council room. ‘So what? Do you really think this Tubal defeated eight Shartachers? Obviously he is using some kind of trick. He must have spied the Chackra while they were assembling them and sabotaged them.’ ‘That is rather unlik…’ ‘We are talking Shalks, here!’ Vodan interrupted ‘the descendants of the tr****rs, who the First himself damned for eternity and ordered to be made slave. They exist only because we need them. Serving us is the reason they are born, and when they can’t work anymore, they just dies, forgotten even by their own kind.’ Most of the other councilors started nodding in appreciation. ‘They are not even people to us, just a number. We tell them when they need to reproduce faster or take their offspring away if they are too many. They don’t have an identity, they don’t have hopes, they don’t have someone to look up to… hell they don’t even have dreams! Do we really want to give them all of these? They’ll make this arrogant boy their hero. Don’t you realize how dangerous is that? They haven’t had contact with the First since the end of the first war, when the Tar Larahin were defeated. They don’t learn His teachings like the Mordasal, communicate with Him like the Mardel, or help us test our faith in Him like the Chackra do. You of all of us, Divine, must understand how important is for the Shalks to stay in their place. What would the First think of this direct violation of His commands? Do we really want to find out?’ ‘Again, that doesn’t change what happened last night, honorable.’ Vodan face started betraying certain desperation. ‘If this Tubal is more then a curiosity, why haven’t the Mardel said anything? All their dreams indicate the First is happy with the way we get ready for the return of the Tar Larahin, the way we carry His legacy. We haven’t had a command or direction for more then five hundred years now. The First God would have told us something to forewarn us if this is something we should be worry about.’ Vodan stopped talking and silence filled the room. ‘Divine’ Corda, the councilor next to Vodan, finally said ‘Thanks for the report and your recommendation. We will let you know our decision briefly.’ The Divine left the Council room through the heavy wooden door, without adding another word. Outside Tirge was waiting. ‘So?’ ‘They have to decide now, we just wait’ He started walking down the long hallway. Tirge followed in his step. ‘We finished our examination, the Shartachers were perfectly dismantled, only very few Mordasal in the past had reached such mastery.’ ‘And they call Tubal a curiosity…’ The Divine sighed and pick up the pace of his walking, followed by the Chackra. ‘Tirge!’ an usher yelled from just outside the Council Room ‘the Council wants to see you.’ A shadow of wariness filled Tirge’s face. ‘Why?’ he turned to the Divine ‘Do they think the Shartachers weren’t assembled properly? Didn’t you tell them?’ ‘I did.’ ‘Then, what is it? What they are going to do to me?’ Tirge slowly walked back to the door. Tubal waked up from a dreamless sleep. He touched his legs, all the bruises were gone, and with them the pain. His mother was sitting next to his bed, sewing something. She pulled the big needle up one last time and severed the thread with her teeth. ‘If you have to go to your death, at least don’t drag those swords around like an idiot’ She threw a bundle of leather on his bed. It was a belt with two scabbards. Tubal tied it around his waist and sheathed his swords, still attached to his wrists. The scabbards fit perfectly the two massive weapons. ‘I’m not going to die, and you are coming with me, everybody has to see’ Tubal walked out of the small house without waiting for an answer. The sun had just risen above the horizon, the streets were deserted, with the exception of one Mordasal. ‘Are you ready?’ Torak asked him. ‘Everybody’s waiting’ Dera said looking towards the plaza. Tubal nodded and started walking, his mother following a few steps behind. It started as a murmur, as soon the Shalks closer to the entrance of the plaza spotted Tubal and his escort approaching. ‘Tubal, Tubal, Tubal’ the chant louder and louder as more people saw him. When he finally entered the plaza, the entire south side of the plaza was yelling it. ‘Tubal, Tubal, Tubal’ The Divine, on the opposite side, couldn’t hold a smile. The absurdity of their society was on display. On the south side of the plaza around ten thousand Shalks were piled up with just enough space to be able to breath. Forming a cordon in the middle of the plaza were all the Mordasal, five hundreds, weapon ready. On the other side on the cordon, on the left, the Chackra, not more then a couple of hundreds. On the right the Mardel, around sixty, and in the center himself, Sorai, looking around more nervous then ever, and the twelve councilors. Only a path a few arms wide cut in the human sea that the Shalks formed connected the plaza entrance to the center of it, an empty square with sides a couple of hundred arms long. The councilors gave Tubal what he wanted, but three times as much. Inside the square not one, but three Shartachers waited for someone to enter their range of perception. On the south side of the square just a few arms separated the square and the first Shalks. The fear of the Shartachers was the only thing, along with the low fence, stopping the Shalks from entering the fighting area. Clearly the council had planned for the Shartachers to quickly dispose of Tubal and then turn their attentions to the Shalks. The Mordasal would push them towards the south side, wait for a few thousands casualties and then step in to kill the Shartachers. A cruel but effective way to squash the feeble hope that Tubal represented for the Shalks. Tubal would be remembered as the cause of the massacre and the Mordasal the heroes who came to the rescue. The Divine saw Tubal stopping in his tracks at the edge of the plaza as soon as he saw the three killing machines waiting for him. The council was probably right after all, Tubal would end up being just a curiosity providing a few days of distraction in their static existence. What’s wrong Tubal? I sense in you a stronger fear then usual. It’s just another one of those machines, and you are now fully healed. What are you doing? No, stop! Don’t give up! Why this overwhelming fear now? What’s going on out there? Don’t force me, Tubal. If I have to come out, we will both suffer. Tubal was frozen in terror, his eyes moving from one Shartacher to the other. He took one step back, then fell on the ground shaking, his hands covering his head. His mother a few step away was just watching, too horrified to move a muscle. Oddly enough the crowd was still chanting ‘Tubal, Tubal’, now increasing the rhythm. The Divine felt bad for the boy just looking at the scene. He felt some kind of sympathy for him, but he couldn’t understand why. He was the direct descendent of the First God, the living representation of the rightness of His ways. He should loath Tubal and everything that would promote change in their society, designed by his Ancestor thirty thousand years before. He was supposed to uphold that design, instead he was feeling happy that someone was challenging it. Boredom was a very powerful feeling, he had to conclude, even stronger then a God’s legacy. It looks like I have no choice, Tubal. I hope you are enjoying your last few instants of self-awareness, it’s about to get crowded inside that head of yours. Goodbye Tubal, a new us is about to be created… With a motion that seemed faster then the human eye could follow, Tubal was back on his feet. The crowd was suddenly silent. Tubal unsheathed his swords and strode towards the square. Torak and Dera saw in his eyes a new fire, the panic that had just filled him completely gone. Everything in his body and face expressed resolve, certainty and in some odd way, mercilessness. Aried’s face expressed a different sensation. She wasn’t recognizing Tubal anymore. She was his mother, the closest person to him since he was born. She knew everything about him, every detail of his body, the way he moved, they way he looked at things. Suddenly she wasn’t recognizing any of that. A frightening certainty invaded her and her eyes became sad. She had no idea how it did happen, but she was sure. She had just lost her son forever. The new Tubal entered the fenced square and the Shartachers perception range. The three deadly machines bolted towards him and the fight began. Dera took another five steps on the sand and then turned once again. The forest was still there, a couple of dozen arms away, the desert abruptly and unnaturally becoming the underbrush under the massive trees. She raised her head to look at her world one last time. A wide hill rose from the forest, completely covered by buildings. On the very top, the plaza with the highest point, the massive temple dome. ‘Still there?’ Torak asked her, just a few steps closer to the forest border. ‘Yes’ she took a few more steps walking backwards then stopped. The only thing in front of her now was the desert, stretching to the horizon behind Torak shoulders. The forest, the hill, the town, everything had disappeared. ‘Here we go, gone.’ ‘Even after thousands of years, the First’s sorcery still works.’ Dera nodded and tightened the straps of her backpack. Torak did the same and covered the distance that separated them. He didn’t bother turning back to look at his home one last time. After the disappearing of the Tar Larahin following their biggest defeat by the human army thirty thousand years before, the First decided that something had to be done to make sure the lessons learned in that war wouldn’t be forgotten should the Tar Larahin reappear. Just before he ascended, becoming the First God, he created their society. He taught the best engineers, the Chackra, how to build the Shartachers, simulacra of the Sharta, the most powerful warriors of the Tar Larahin, necessary to test the new generations of Mordasal, the designated pairs of warriors who were able to defeat the Sharta during the war. He invested the Mardel with the duty of being His voice, talking to him through their dreams, and gave His son, the first Divine, the highest responsibility. He would make sure His legacy would be carried on over the millennia through his descendants. Given the young age of his only son, He created the Council to ratify his descendants’ decisions. The only thing left were the slaves. He ordered the few hundreds whose treason almost ended up in defeat against the Tar Larahin to become the Shalks. He created a town in the middle of the biggest forest of the continent, and then cast the Cloud, the spell Dera and Torak just saw in action. Over the centuries the forest receded and transformed itself in a desert, except the core, that became invisible to anybody farther then a few hundred arms. A perfect isolation system that would guarantee His legacy would remain untainted. The Cloud worked perfectly, nobody from the outside world ever made it to the core. What the First hadn’t considered were changes from the inside. The fact that the revolution had came from the descendant of the tr****rs in the first war should have been reason enough to squash it, Torak was thinking, but evidently the Divine hadn’t seen it that way. The last three months had indeed turned inside out their society. Tubal had easily defeated the three Shartachers, showing an incredible fighting prowess. His three opponents couldn’t even scratch him. As Mordasal they felt humiliated. The way he used his swords at the same time as offensive and defensive weapon, the absolute control of every muscle of his body, the unnatural speed of his strokes, nothing could have prepared them for such a superior display of combat ability. It would have taken a Mordasal, both the Mord and the Asal, several minutes to dismantled one Shartacher, and at least one of them would probably have been injured, if not dead. Against three? They would have been killed in seconds. Tubal’s brutal efficiency had silenced everybody in the plaza. The Divine had finally walked inside the square and kneeled in front of the boy. That had been the final endorsement Tubal needed. The Shalks had erupted in loud cheers that had lasted until Tubal asked for silence to speak. He announced that he would teach his way of fighting to everyone who wanted to learn. Everybody in the new society would have same rights, including the Shalks, and would be able to follow their vocation instead of being assigned their place in society by birth. Sorai wisely disappeared, nobody reported seeing him after the plaza was emptied. He proclaimed the Council obsolete, a relic of the past, and ordered its disbanding. The councilors would retire, and live the rest of their lives as honored members of the community, but nothing more. The fact that within a week Vodan and other few hard liners were found dead of “natural causes” didn’t surprise anyone. The night after Tubal’s speech, the Mardel, obviously afraid to be left behind by the new order, declared in overwhelming number to have been visited by the First in their dreams, for the first time in hundreds of years. The First was very pleased with the new direction, and elected Tubal as his champion, alongside with his descendant, the Divine, to lead humanity in the fight against the Tar Larahin, that incidentally, He announced, were about to return. The First would continue communicating with them in the next months, of course, to elaborate further on when and how the Tar Larahin would be back. Not only the Mardel had found a way to secure their place in the new society, but they had given Tubal and the Divine an easy way to dispose of what had instantly become a liability, the five hundred Mordasal: a thousand warriors whose way of fighting was not only embarrassingly less efficient than Tubal’s, but who were too dependant on fighting as a couple to be able to learn the new technique. The Divine and Tubal understood immediately what the Mardel were proposing: keep us on board, and we will be the voice of the First, a voice that will say whatever you want. They accepted the deal and decided that since the return of the Tar Larahin was imminent, it was time to go and look for signs. The first few Tar Larahin would slip into our world and start killing humans, just like they had done at the time of the first war. They would make look like others humans had done the slaughtering, creating divisions in their enemies. It was up to the Mordasal to scatter all over the worlds and find those first Tar Larahin, kill them and show them to the people to have them reawaken to the threat, then come back home to alert the new warriors, Tubal’s disciples. Torak shrugged, a convenient way to cut off the dead branches for what he was concern. As per the Chackra, they would need to build and maintain a lot more Shartachers, now that the fighters would be more numerous. They were already recruiting from the Shalks, Tirge’s power was growing every day, and he was just a puppet in the Divine’s hand. Torak and Dera picked up the pace, striding towards the open desert. In their heart they knew that they would never see their homeland again.