Well hello again Blog, long time no see. And hello again to the few people who may have stumbled here over the last few months. Unfortunately this year life has gotten a little crazy and so it has been quite awhile since my last post. However, I am making a point to do a new update at least every two days for the rest of the month, just to see how that goes and as a little personal challenge. So, with that said, if you like what you have seen before or like what I have to say now, please feel free to come back, there will be more!
So without further ado, here is what I am working on at the moment! For those of you that don’t know, November is Nanowrimo, also known as National Novel Writing Month. basically there is a website set up to allow people to try to write an entire novel (50,000 words) in a month. This was perfect for me as I have been off and on writing a novel myself for the last couple of years, and this was a perfect chance for me to sit down and bang the damn thing out. Unfortunately I did not hit my goal of the 50,000 new words, however I did get somewhere in the realm of 26,000. Roughly I am looking at around 40ish new pages. Definitely not a novel but it’s closer than I was in October so hey, yay for small victories. I figured I would go ahead and post one of the early chapters of said novel here just in case someone sees it one day and thinks it is something they would like to read more of. Take it for what it is please a very VERY first/rough draft of my story “A Litany of Shadows”. If you like what you see please feel free to leave a comment! And again, disclaimer this is one of the first drafts of this part of the story! I have actually already typed another version on my typewriter with a much better tone and with the characters a little more fleshed out. Anyways lets do this thing!
The breeze picked up as Tac crested the hill, and the scene before him was nothing less than breathtaking. The lake at the bottom of the valley was a deep blue, much like the color of the sky shortly after sunset. It was calmly resting in the valley in between one of the most impressive mountain ranges he had ever seen. Tac navigated his way through mountains before, however those were far to the south, and compared to the giants looming in the distance, they seemed like glorified anthills. “Well,” Tac stated, clanking at Navian in the corner of his eye, “I’m quite certain you didn’t lead us all the way here just for the view, as wonderful as it may be, so is now the point where you tell me exactly what our destination is?”
“Has anything changed since the last five times that you have asked that question, or some other variation of it?” She asked, not even slowing her pace, but continuing on down the path towards the lakeshore at the bottom of the hill.
“Well you can’t blame me for being curious,” he mumbled under his breath, quickening his pace to catch up with her. As he pulled up alongside again he noticed that her mask seemed a different color in this afternoon light. No longer did it seem navy blue, now caught in the bright rays of the sun it had taken on a deep indigo hue. The more that he stared, the more unnerved he became, thinking of what it must be like to live your entire life looking out at the world from behind a mask. His thoughts soon began to wander again to what she must look like underneath. Her body was nice enough… who was he kidding, her body was great, and if it weren’t for the fact that she was so damned cold he would have started making moves on her days ago. Well, maybe not. At least not until he had gotten a look at her face. He didn’t want to jump on the body of a goddess only to learn she had the face of a demon.
“You are lucky you are being paid solely on the condition of my surviving this trip, and not on how quickly we get to my destination. If that were the case it would be you owing me gold with how much you have been slowing me down,” She stated in that same haughty tone that seemed standard when referring to the mercenary.
“Are you sure you are a sorceress and not a princess? You might want to look into that, with the way you complain it seems like a perfect fit for you. Maybe it could be your fallback if this whole magic thing doesn’t work out, since magic doesn’t seem like something you like to do. We have been travelling together for days and I haven’t seen anything to show me that you are any more talented than the crazy old witch that used to hand out ‘curative’ potions to people in my old fishing town and then curse young boys whenever they mocked behind her back,” Tac muttered, becomingly increasingly irritated by Navian and her constant criticism.
“Unlike you,” she stated in an exasperated tone, “I don’t need to advertise my strength with a huge sword and an over-inflated ego to compensate for my obvious… shortcomings. My power is not something to throw around without discretion. If the time comes, and I deem it necessary, you will see me speak with a power rivaled only by the gods. Pray that it never comes to that.”
They walked in silence for awhile, each absorbed in their own thoughts of whether or not this arrangement was the right choice, or if they should just cut their losses and part company here. However Tac was nothing if not stubborn; he had never reneged on a contract in the past, and certainly didn’t want to set that precedent now. After all, for a mercenary, your reputation is your greatest asset. Without it you are just a man with a sword to swing, but nothing to swing it at. He sure as shit wasn’t going back to the military.
Navian’s reasons were just as selfish, if not as noble. Truth be told she could most likely make this journey without Tac’s assistance. She was handy with her dirks, able to hold her own in a straight fight. However if things were really out of hand, she always had the power. If that combination was not enough to defeat whatever was attacking, then Tac and that oversized sword of his would be no help, he would simply be dead alongside her. He did however have his uses. Ever since the incident in Dromsir Downs, the school had been heavily criticized for allowing their students to unleash their deadly songs in situations that didn’t call for it, in this case leading to the death of numerous bystanders. Truth be told, now was simply not a good time to be a magic wielder, and it’s not like she was going to remove her mask and try to move among the public as a normal person. Not when she had spent most of her years training, and poured her blood, sweat, tears, and soul into earning the right to wear her mask, and etch it as her own. No, it was much easier to hire this thug to follow her like an over-talkative shadow, and allow him to step in if she were to engage in a minor scrap.
“Well it’s going to take days to walk all of the way around this lake, but if we can find a boat we can probably make it across by nightfall, and camp on the other side. Maybe there is a ferry or a good Samaritan that will let us use their boat,” Tac said.
“This time at least, I believe you are right,” agreed Navian “let’s head along the shore and see what we can find”.
* * * * * * *
The sun was high in the sky when Tac spotted what looked to be a small cottage in the distance. There was a surprisingly large boat moored to a hand-made dock in front. The boat bobbed up and down as the wind-blown waves lapped against the shore, paying tribute to a time when this lake was well travelled and the need for large numbers of people to get across to the distant shore in a short amount of time required the boat to be in constant transit, sometimes carrying up to twenty people at once. From the look of the algae built up on the hull, those days had long since passed.
“Well, it looks like we have found our way across the lake, although she sure ain’t pretty,” Tac said skeptically as he surveyed the ferry.
“As long as it floats, it will serve our purpose,” the sorceress replied, continuing on towards the cottage. “We simply need to negotiate our price, and be grateful we will not have to spend two days walking around this lake.”
“You say that now, we will see if you are still as steadfast when this deathtrap sinks halfway across the lake and you must start swimming for shore, because I am sure not going to be carrying your prissy ass,” Tac said under his breath, mounting the steps to the house and knocking on the door.
Navian heard his remark and simply clinched her fists and ignored it, making a mental note to keep an eye out for a new and hopefully quieter bodyguard at the next town. “Knock again,” she ordered, impatient to get this over with and be sitting on a boat after a full day of walking. They stood outside for a few minutes, with Tac’s knocks getting increasingly louder. Finally, after much cursing from himself, and much sighing from his counterpart, the mercenary lost his patience and opened the door.
The first thing that struck Tac about the ferryman’s house was how completely empty it looked, followed shortly by the sickly sweet smell of decay. Tac unslung his broadsword and stepped slowly into the room, squinting to see into the darkness. “Stay there Navian, something is wrong,” Tac ordered, making his way along the wall, trying to find a window to allow more light into the room. He suddenly had so squint as the room lit up brightly and then dimmed down. As Tac blinked to clear his eyes from the momentary blindness, and saw that the sorceress had followed him into the room, and was now standing at its center, holding a perfect globe of light in the palm of her hand.
“Why do you pay for a bodyguard if you don’t listen when I try to protect you?” Tac growled, becoming increasingly frustrated with his hard-headed employer. He was also quite irritated with the fact that she had so recklessly blinded him and left him completely exposed to potential attackers. “And what’s with the lights, you could have gotten me killed!”
“Right, because you would have done such a good job of protecting me by bumbling around in the dark. I was trying to help you see!! I admit that I overdid it at first, and for that I am sorry,” she replied, holding out her hand and in it her own personal sun.
“It was still reckless,” he muttered, staring at her expressionless mask, and then turning to face the unoccupied room. If he thought she was unsettling before, seeing her mask in this light made her look even less like a human and gave her an almost menacing quality. “There could still be someone in one of those back rooms, so will you PLEASE—“
“Tac, look, by the fireplace!” She exclaimed, stepping forward and increasing the size of her orb.
As the pool of light grew, Tac was able to gather two more facts from the scene before him: what had happened to the furniture, and where the awful smell was coming from. As far as he could tell, it seemed that someone had attempted to break down every piece of furniture that was once in the room and turn it into kindling for the fireplace. Not only that, it seemed that halfway through their mission, they had given up and started piling everything, including tables, chairs, and other pieces of furniture in front of the fireplace and attempted to set them all ablaze. And from the looks of the scorch marks covering the surfaces of the wood, they had succeeded; it was a miracle that the whole building hadn’t burned down. But even more disturbing than all of this was the tormented scene next to the attempted inferno, and the source of the awful stench.
Curled up on the floor was the remains of the ferryman and what Tac assumed was his dog. They were on the floor, and quite literally wrapped around one another. It seemed as if the ferryman had sat down on the ground and embraced his companion and they had simply died that way, and not recently either, the remains were at least a few moons old.
“What the hell happened here,” Tac pondered aloud, kneeling down to examine the bodies.
“There doesn’t seem to be any sign of violence,” Navian ventured, “maybe a suicide? He was obviously trying to take everything he owned with him in the blaze, I just can’t fathom how this entire house didn’t burn down.”
“Suicide is I was thinking too, except there is something about it that doesn’t sit well with me,” Tac said, still surveying the scene before them.
“And what is that,” asked Navian, for once not showing any signs of sarcasm, but instead with a clear sound of uneasiness in her voice.
“The dog,” Tac replied, turning towards Navian with a frown, “even if he was going to set this place on fire and burn himself to death, there is no way the dog would have just sat there and burned too. All animals are terrified of fire, even if he were holding on to his pet, it would have been biting, clawing, doing anything he could to get away. That is not the case here; it doesn’t look like there was any struggle at all. It makes no sense.”
“Let’s get out of here, it’s clear he isn’t going to be ferrying us anywhere, and this entire situation is giving me a bad feeling.”
“I must say, you are in luck miss,” Tac said, following her out the door, though not without one last glance behind him. “you remember I told you I was once a soldier, but before that I was a fisherman’s son, and I can sail that boat myself and have us across this lake before nightfall.”
“Are you sure?” Navian asked, looking more than a little skeptical.
“Sure, that boat isn’t much bigger than my father’s fishing skiff,” he replied, already making his way to the dock, “besides, I want to get away from this place, something still feels wrong, and it’s not like the ferryman is going to use it any time soon.”
“I agree, I will feel better when we have put distance between ourselves and the tragedy inside.” Navian said and then paused, “hopefully we fare better with this boat than those poor souls.”
* * * * * *
Tac stood at the stern of the ship, staring out across the water at the distant shore that had long since stopped getting any closer. The wind had slowed to barely a breeze at sundown, and as the moon rose higher in the sky, had ceased blowing completely. “Now I remember why I became a soldier and not a fisherman”, Tac thought glaring at the slack sails above him, “I don’t care what my father said, a profession left up to forces as fickle as the wind is for madmen.” He looked over at Navian, who had fallen asleep shortly after sunset, leaning up against one of the railings, At least he thought she was asleep, however there was no way to know for sure, she was still wearing that mask, and as far as he knew she might have simply been acting asleep and instead been following him with her eyes the entire time. “I don’t know how that girl could sleep in this weather,” he thought, pulling his cloak tighter around himself. As soon as the moon had begun to rise, the temperature had seemed to plummet. This struck Tac as very strange, as it was still spring and the temperature had been quite moderate throughout their journey so far. There wasn’t even a storm on the horizon, the sky was perfectly clear; a beautiful display of stars seemed to surrounding the boat, as the brilliant lights reflected off of the still water around them. “Navian get up,” Ta called, walking over to the sorceress. She immediately stirred, sitting up and wrapping her arms around herself.
“It’s so cold,” she replied through fogged breath.
“Aye, and only getting colder.”
“How much longer until we reach the other side,” she asked, standing up and looking at the distant shower.
“That has yet to be determined,” Tac replied, “the wind completely died down about a bell ago, so as of right now, we are at the mercy of the gods. That is—“
“I know what you are about to say,” Navian said, rolling her eyes “and the answer is no!”
“Why not?!” Tac exclaimed, finally allowing himself to show some of the frustration that had been building up all afternoon. “You didn’t have any problem using magic back at the cabin!”
“Please keep yourself from talking about things that you know nothing about. What happened back at the cabin was little more than a glorified trick; even the youngest trainees back at the university can manage an orb of light. What you are suggesting is completely different. To produce enough wind to move us all the way across this lake would call for immense power and would be a blatant misuse of my gift,” she replied, in a voice full of disdain.
“Fine,” he said in disgust, throwing up his hands, “we can sit in the middle of this lake and freeze our asses off all night long.”
“I still don’t understand how it is so cold with no wind,” Navian ventured, drawing a line with her finger in the frost building up on the railing, “And how the temperature has dropped so fast. It makes no…” her voice drifted off as she stared over Tac’s shoulder over the other side of the boat.
“What are you looking at?” he asked, turning. He scanned the water in the direction she was looking, barely able to make out the other shore in the darkness. After spending time staring at seemingly nothing, he finally noticed what had caught Navian’s eye: what seemed like three bluish-white lights moving back and forth across the shore. “What the hell is that?” he asked, looking back at the sorceress.
“Ancient spirits of the frost, common people call the wights,” she responded, in a voice that the mercenary had never heard from her. “They worship the moon, and on nights like this they like to celebrate by dancing in its light. Judging by the freakishly cold temperatures, I would guess that these were Frost Wights: souls born in the heart of winter, imbued with the power of cold itself.”
“Well, then we don’t have anything to worry about, right?” Tac asked, feeling his initial fear at the unexplained lights begin to subside.
“Ha,” Navian laughed, in a voice completely devoid of mirth, “quite the opposite actually, worship is best achieved in the form of a sacrifice, which now explains the ferryman.”
“The suicidal ferryman?”
“Put the pieces together Tac,” she answered, still staring at the lights dancing across the lake, “he wasn’t trying to burn his house down. He was trying to keep the cold at bay…”
* * * * * * *
“so we are just supposed to sit here and wait to be attacked?” Tac exclaimed, regretting more and more that he hadn’t simply kept to his drink that night at the bar and let this woman deal with her own problems.
“It’s all we can do,” Navian responded, “there is no wind as you so astutely pointed out earlier”
“Fine then,” Tac growled, sliding his sword out of its scabbard.
“Put that thing away,” Navian snapped, waiving a hand at him. “You would be better off finding a way to keep us from sinking due to all of the ice building up on the boat.”
Tac realized she was right, the deck, mast, and railing were beginning to glint from a thin sheet of ice, and sitting deeper in the water. He cursed and made his way belowdecks to attempt something that he could use to break it off. As Tac made his way down the stairs, Navian continued to watch the approaching lights, which had been growing larger with each passing minute as they danced their way across the water. Hopefully she could keep Tac occupied clearing the ice from the boat, and he would stay out of her way while she dealt with the wights. The last thing she needed was some over-amped macho man swinging his sword around while she was trying to concentrate on her spells. “Hurry!” she called, “the closer they get, the faster the ice will build!”
He returned to the deck moments later, carrying a wooden mallet that the ferryman had kept onboard in case the boat were to ever need spur of the moment repairs. He placed his sword next to the mast and began hammering away with the mallet, breaking off chunks of ice and sending them cascading into the water. “How am I going to protect you if I am busy hammering this ice?” he yelled between swings.
“Just keep us from going under, I will do the rest,” she replied, momentarily taking pity on him. As brutish as he was, he did in fact have her safety as his first priority. “Now stop talking to me, they are here!”
Up until this point Tac had made a picture in his mind of how hideous and disgusting these evil spirits must look, however he soon learned they looked nothing like he had originally expected. In fact, he found that they were actually quite beautiful. Their naked bodies shimmered with a soft blue light, and they had what seemed like a shining mist floating about them at all times. They had each taken the form of women, with long hair trailing behind them, as if they were seeing them from underwater. Every movement that they made was permeated with grace, and for a moment all Tac could do was stare in awe. Then the cold hid. The air itself seemed to freeze, making it hurt to simply breathe. He had never experienced anything like this in all of his years of campaigning, and he hoped that he would live the rest of his days without ever encountering it again. He dropped the mallet, and picked up his broadsword as the first of the three wights slowly floated over the railing directly in front of him, completely exposed and leaving the other two in the water behind it. The boat groaned under the weight of the ice that was rebuilding at a much faster rate now that the ice-spirits were in such close proximity.
“Don’t!” Navian shouted, as Tac put every ounce of strength he had into his first swing, intending it to be a death blow, and to sever the beautiful body in front of him completely in two. As his blade touched the body, Tac’s arms were immediately struck numb, as if he had just struck a large rock. A loud crack ripped the air, and Tac stared in shock at what was left of the sword in his hands. The blade was snapped off about three inched from the hilt, and the entire surface was coated in frost. The rest of the blade had broken clean through and went skittering across the deck, sliding to a stop next to the railing, inches from being lost into the waters of the lake.
“My sword!” Tac exclaimed in a voice of anguish at the loss of his most precious possession. He dove to the deck in order to recover the broken piece before it could fall overboard, wincing as his skin adhered to the frozen metal. As he tried to stand, he turned to see the Wight hovering just inches from his body. Just as he closed his eyes in order to prepare for the pain of death that was sure to come from contact with the creature, he was thrown from his feet against the rail by a concussion that rattled his teeth and set his ears to ringing. As he opened his eyes, the Wight was nowhere to be seen. It had instead been replaced by one of the most breathtaking and awe inspiring visions he had ever laid eyes on. Navian was hovering, ten feet over the boat, with her arms outstretched, the lines and glyphs on her mask glowing with a light that could rival the sun. The power emanating from her could only be described as terrible, and his jaw dropped at the sounds and words being uttered with a force completely out of this world from behind her mask. To attempt to describe the sounds would be impossible, but the closest thing that one could compare it to is a symphony of pure power. Tac was transfixed, staring at his companion who had suddenly become an agent of destruction.
The boat groaned again as the ice began to stress the wood, almost to the point of shattering. Tac realized that if he didn’t do something about it immediately, they would be going under, seeing it was already sitting feet lower in the water, as opposed to inched before. He ran to the stairs and tossed down the pieces of his broken sword, cursing as the metal left his hand, taking the entire top layer of skin that had melded to the blade with it. He picked up the mallet with his bloody hands and began pounding away at the ice once again, feeling as well as seeing the battle play out around him.
As soon as their counterpart was destroyed, literally ripped to shreds by the power called down by the sorceress, the other two wights attacked. They stood, side by side, and thrust their arms out in front of their bodies, shooting brilliant beams of azure light at the boat, intending to simply turn it into a giant block of ice and send it straight to the bottom of the lake. However, a few feet in front of the boat, the beam exploded out in all directions, as if it had struck an invisible wall. Navian’s mask then shown even brighter as she countered their attack with one of her own, drawing a glyph in the sky and sending a series of geometric lights arcing out from the body and into the wights. Tac heard the spirits send out an otherworldly shriek as the shapes ripped through their bodies. One seemed to simply fall apart into mist as its companion attempted to flee. It tried to race back towards the opposite shore, but the sorceress was not one to show mercy once her power was unleashed. She drew another glyph in the air and dropped her with an air of finality. Tac was again thrown to the ground as a shockwave jumped out from her body, shaking lose most of the ice, and racing after the Wight. The panicked creature let out a final shriek as what was left of its body was utterly destroyed, torn apart down to the last atom by Navian’s power. Tac couldn’t bring himself to move as he watched the sorceress slowly settle back down to the deck. He had never before encountered such an awesome power, and what he had seen had shaken him to his core. As he lay there, trying to figure out what to make of it all, a warm breeze began to blow.