Story Time

Hello everyone, I hope you are feeling amazing today.  The weather here in WS is absolutely gorgeous and my spirits soar.  So i have decided to share with you a little something special.  As you may or may not know, I am an aspiring author.  I am working on a fantasy novel that will (hopefully) propel the fantasy genre towards being more inclusive and representative.  I will share with you lovely people the prologue.  The novel is currently titled, “The Teller of Tales: The Tale of Durilfuin.  I do hope you enjoy it and let me know in the comments what you think.

Prologue

The lightning flashed and flashed again.  Thunder boomed a second later, rattling the tired old structure.  The icy rain drip, drip, dripped through every hole and crack as the wind shrieked and raved and whirled in an obscene and wicked dance.  The scent of illness and death completely overpowered the musty smell of old straw, mildewed oats, and rotting wood.  The barn groaned as that evil wind slammed into it again and again, howling like a lunatic.  The lightning flashed and flashed again.  It was cold, so very cold.  The tiny fire fought valiantly against these overwhelming odds, but soon succumbed to the same wretched cold.  Worse than the cold rain and screaming wind, worse than the lightning that blinded and the thunder that deafened, worse even than the hunger that clawed at empty bellies was the heartbreak.

The Saeahsahn people lay in the ramshackle barn around the useless braziers. Women and children shivered and whimpered; huddled on piles of straw, furs, or the stone floor, trying not to think about the hardships ahead of them. Parents held their children, whispering softly into their ears, giving them comfort the parents themselves did not have. Those parents that had lost children held those children whose parents had been killed. Some talked quietly amongst themselves, others smoked clay pipes, some sobbed quietly at the memories of their murdered families and friends and some lay down to fitful nightmares. Bloodlines and family ties did not matter anymore. Everyone gave all they had left to the group.

An old man knelt beside the makeshift fire pit.  He leaned down and blew gently on the last embers of the fire.  His patient breath brought forth a tiny tongue of red flame.  He fed the fire, which grew in strength until it lived on its own.  He rose to his feet slowly, his old bones creaking as he did.  He surveyed those around him; a look of sorrow contorted his handsome features.  His thoughts tumbled through his head like dry leaves trapped by a brisk autumn wind and proved just as elusive.  The lightning flashed and flashed again.  Visions appeared before his eyes like the lightning, there and gone in the space of a heartbeat.  He shook his head and held his hands to the fire.  He rubbed warmth back into them.  The brittle light of the fire fractured shadows across his care-worn face.

Outside, the storm raged like a thousand demons of lore. The old man, a wizened baron named Gothrra Prentercaw; resumed his seat by the fire, pulling his orphaned niece into his lap, watching his people.  Gothrra scrubbed his calloused hand back and forth across his battle-scarred face and looked sadly at the people riding out the storm around him.   He shook his head to banish the thoughts in his mind.  Those kinds of thoughts would do them no good now.  If they were to survive, he must focus on the present and the future.  To think of the past was a luxury none of them could really afford. The young girl in his lap yawned, her eyes fluttering open for a moment.  Gothrra smiled down at her, attempting, for her sake, to be cheerful.  She smiled back and dropped back off to sleep.

The conqueror, Yowsiuv, a fire Djinn , had taken all they had, their families, their homes and livelihoods.  Soon he would claim their lives.  His magic burned everything, including the sky, a dark orange.  He had fallen to earth determined to reshape it in his image.  They had been given a choice: slavery or death.  The people of this proud land railed against the invader. After all the fighting, all the bloodshed, the invader won. Many had taken Yowsiuv’s offer and swore to him. Only three hundred lords and knights did not. These three hundred, with their families were to be executed. This was to be their last night in their homeland, on this earth. On the morn, Yowsiuv would attack, and burn them to ash.

Gothrra turned his face to the fire.  His bloodshot green-blue eyes stared unseeing through his shaggy iron-gray hair into the orange embers of the fire. He reached out with his dagger and half-heartedly poked at the embers, stirring the flames.  Absentmindedly, he rubbed at an old jagged scar on his chest, just below the breast bone. It always acted up in bad weather, and had been throbbing sharply for three days.  Gothrra’s lips moved in silent consultation with himself, a trait his wife had often teased him about.  He nodded, having made up his mind.  He stood, shifting to support the child sleeping in his arms.

“My people, hear me.” He said softly.  Finally, the words he had delayed all evening threatened to climb up his throat.  A few heads turned to look at him but most remained motionless.  He took a deep breath, knowing that they were listening.

The wind rose to a shriek, whistling harshly through cracks in the building and cutting him off.  Lightning flashed and flashed again, and the sound of relentless rain on the roof accented the rolling drum of the thunder. A huge hailstone crashed through a weak section of roof, showering wet, rotten wood on everyone in the area. A woman screamed as the hailstone crushed her foot.  Pandemonium broke out as people rushed to help her.  The roof was missing in other places too and the rain poured in. People had tried to stretch hides over the openings, to keep the rain out, and that worked to some extent, but in places it still leaked. Buckets had been placed to collect the excess rain water. The lightning flashed and flashed again, revealing the silhouette of a man standing with his back braced against the doors.

At first, no one realized he was there. The stranger looked around, nodded and murmuring quietly to himself, as if taking stock of the situation. Suddenly, Gothrra realized that the shadow wasn’t a fatigue-induced figment of his imagination. Gothrra’s sharp eyes picked out the intruder’s shadow, darker than all the others. There was someone there. He turned sharply, placing his body between the intruder and his ward, and shouting for the guards. The men responded quickly in spite of their fatigue.  The intruder was now facing the points of three hundred swords. The stranger was well over six feet tall and barrel-chested. His short graying hair was plastered to his head and raindrops dripped from his long, neat beard. He wore all black; woolen pants, leather boots, woolen shirt, leather tunic, leather jacket, leather gloves, cloak fur-lined to keep out the chill. Around his neck he wore a curious amulet. It was of copper and etched deep into its surface was a single symbol. This symbol looked like two arrows, cut in half long ways; one pointed up, one pointed down. A single horizontal line connected the barbs of each arrow.

His wet clothes were plain, simple, and well-worn but not threadbare. The man wrung out his cloak and shook his head. He ran his hand down the length of his beard, wringing the water from it as well. The new arrival looked up, his brown eyes twinkling as he looked over the swords, at the knights holding them. He was unafraid. He stood straight and tall with the ease that accompanies a long and accomplished life. His mouth broke into a wide, toothy grin, saying, “What an evil night,”

“Who are you, Stranger?” Gothrra demanded brusquely, placing his ward in the arms of his cousin Eri, and weaving his way quickly through the maze of sharp swords, to stand before the grinning stranger.

“Fear me not,” he said, “I am, but a lost bard. I saw your lights and wished for shelter from the storm. I mean you no harm. Please, I will tell you a tale if you allow me to stay.”

The men looked to their leader, who nodded after a moment of thought. The swordsmen lowered their blades and parted to allow the new arrival to walk between them. His wet boots squeaked slightly at each step.

“You would be wiser to find your shelter elsewhere stranger.  Those that sleep here are doomed,” a woman’s voice cut through the air heavily.

Murmurs of agreement followed this outburst. Gothrra held up his hand for silence.  When it reigned again, he spoke.

“They are not wrong stranger.  We here are condemned to death by Yowsiev.  We will die as the sun rises.”

“I have no where else to go,” spoke the stranger, a piteous tone creeping into his voice.

“Come then stranger, and be welcome. We do not have much as you can see, but we offer you such hospitality as we can. What are you called?” said Gothrra, finally.

“I am Thaddeus, The Bard. Draw near, everyone, I will tell you a tale,” The bearded man said, motioning with his large calloused hands.

The stranger walked to the center of the barn. His footsteps echoed strangely throughout the barn, like the footsteps of a soul lost in limbo. Everyone followed him, grouping themselves tightly around his booted feet. When he spoke, his deep, hearty voice resonated loudly. All eyes turned to him. He drew the people’s attention and held it. Even when the wind blew the doors open and rain drenched those near the entrance; no one took their eyes off the Storyteller. A shutter fastener had come loose and the steady banging lent a hypnotic rhythm to the story telling.

“In a place very much like this, people very much like you, were enslaved, forced to abandon all they have. A power-hungry woman hatched a scheme. A scheme that successfully overthrew a government, toppled a monarchy, and enslaved the people. This woman, known only by her title, The Dark Lady, murdered thousands of people. For many years, this Dark Lady squashed any attempt at insurrection with ruthless, calculating precision. If they resisted the laws of their new empress, they would disappear. Stories ran rampant through the native communities; stories of midnight raids, secret executions, massive pyres burning constantly the bodies of the slain. Stories of brutal torture, of unceasing slavery, of people forced to betray their own. The few survivors waited for Death to ply his trade. They waited, but with each year that passed, their conqueror did not age at all, and her Power grew ever greater. It seemed as if all hope of freedom was lost. Then, in all that murky darkness, a light, a single spark, was kindled, as it always is when the darkest hour is upon them.”

There it is.  I hope you liked it.

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