Friday, September 14, 2007
Chapter 1, Part 4 of 4
Nathan was jolted into wakefulness by the siren’s sweet song. He must have been drifting off. Lately, he only heard the song when we was falling asleep. Nathan was sitting on the ground with his back to a tree, head resting against the trunk. Leaning forward, Nathan rose unsteadily to his feet and walked over to a small pool near the stream. He drank some of the cold, crisp water until his thirst was satisfied. Looking down into the pool, Nathan could just make out his reflection. Haunted gray eyes with dark circles looked back at him, his sunken cheeks peaked out from a scraggly beard. A wild halo of brown hair surrounded his pale face. The face looking back at him was not his own but rather the face of someone who had given up on life and was waiting to die. Nathan looked away, guilty that he had accepted that fate so easily.
Standing up, Nathan walked over to his mount and checked his hooves for any rocks or cuts. While he had given up living his own life, he was not about to hurt an animal. Saddling back up, Nathan pulled himself back into the saddle and urged the horse forward.
The last few days had past by in a haze. He barely remembered any time passing. His chain of memories was of a brown tunnel of branches arching overhead. Sometimes he felt those branches reaching out for him, catching on his clothes, pulling at him to lay down and become a part of the forest. And always the rocking motion of his horse moving forward. In the blink of an eye another day past, more branches reached for him, this time with small green buds. He was coming out of the mountains into the fertile valley lands below. Another eye blink, another day. The buds grew larger and the branches seemed to pull away from him. The trees were living while he was walking along the edge of the realm of the dead. The trees seemed to sense this and wanted nothing to do with him now.
Blink, blink. The trees closed in over him as he continued further down in the fertile valley. The green tunnel enveloped him and held him close. He felt at peace, calm and warm. The siren song was fading and he could barely hear it. The deeper into the valley, the thicker the green blanket, the fainter the song. With the muting of the song, Nathan felt himself awaken from his walking slumber. Rather than let the horse chose the path, Nathan picked up the reins and started guiding the horse. Nathan came to a small clearing with a view of the valley below. While he had traveled far down the side of the mountain, he was still quite far from the richness of the valley floor. Nathan could see that the small valley was isolated from the world on all sides by the high peaks of the Eral mountain range. The valley looked to be untouched.
Nathan moved out of the clearing and started following a small lively brook down the steeper slope of the mountain. The brook laughed and burbled, keeping him company and lifting his spirits. There was something about this valley that seemed to restore his spirit. Time seemed to slow down. Minutes seemed to stretch off into hours. The valley floor seemed to come no closer. An overwhelming desire to get to the valley below started to well up inside him. The desire flowed hot through him, he could feel this heat pushing against his normally patient nature. After traveling for hours, the need to get to the valley built to such a level that he thought he would burst. Pushing this intense feeling aside, Nathan tried to relax and enjoy the green tunnel arching above him. He tried to lose himself in the earthy aroma of the leaf littered forest floor. The sweet smell of the cold mountain stream beside him.
Looking forward through another clearing, the desire to be down in the valley came crashing over him. He could not resist the intense feeling that swam up and rolled over him. He sat still on the horse and let the emotion rock over him. He felt like he was being buffeted by strong winds. He swayed and rocked, he reached up and held his head, afraid that it would burst with the overwhelming strength of the feelings welling up inside of him. He had one powerful thought, the valley floor below. He leaned down, head cradled in his hands, beads of sweat popping out on his forehead. Nathan closed his eyes against the suddenly bright sunlight and a vivid picture of the valley floor below sprang into his head. His head started pounding with the intensity of the desire and emotion. As suddenly as it had begun, the emotional outpouring stopped. With the sudden loss of emotion, and the pounding still beating in his temples, Nathan found himself sagging out of the saddle. With a weak hand he tried to grasp the saddle horn to stop his downward motion. His weak grip couldn’t hold him upright in the saddle and he tumbled down to the forest floor below.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Chapter 1, Part 3 of 4
Gutner turned his horse north following the general direction the trail had been taking. He kept the horse to the middle of the stream to find his own footing, but he kept his eyes trained to the far side of the stream. The brush seemed to make an impenetrable screen, hiding the forest from the stream, hiding any trail signs from his questing eyes. After what seemed like hours, Gutner’s weary eyes snagged on a broken branch near a small break in the brushes. The graying gelding had stopped the instant Gutner noticed the break. Carefully maneuvering the horse closer, Gutner inspected the ground. The muddy ground was churned up with the tracks of several deer, a raccoon, and what may have been a horse. Cursing the rain, Gutner dismounted. The icy stab of the cold water against his legs sent chills up his spine and over his scalp.
Bending over the muddy embankment, Gutner tried to pick clues out of the muddy mess. His eyes were not as good as they used to be. He shifted his body over a little and sunlight lit up the mud in stark relief. Two deer had passed by recently, a doe and fawn. Earlier a raccoon had sat on the embankment and caught a fish, which it ate before leaving. Before the raccoon, Gutner could barely make out the tread of a shod horse. Moving up the trail he caught another partially obscured horse print. Following the trail, Gutner worked his way closer to his quarry.
The cave was just out of sight of the stream. Nathan must have stopped here for several hours and had cobbled his horse. Horse tracks filled the small clearing and most of the tender spring shots had been cropped down to the ground. A small fire had been built just under the cave ledge. Squatting in the cave, Gutner looked out past his gelding, lost in thought.
Nathan had spent most of the summer trying to get away from life at the castle. Gutner couldn’t help but feel a little sad for the extremely shy kid. His older brother was very friendly and outgoing, liked by everyone. Nathan was lost in the shadow of his brother’s personality. People never noticed him with Rael around, not even his own father. Gutner had spent most of the summer tracking the kid down from one hiding place after another. Each time Nathan got further away from the castle but always he would make some error that would lead Gutner to him. Each time, Gutner would sit Nathan down, build a fire and together they would talk about nothing and everything. Gutner would tell Nathan some of the lore surrounding the wizards and what might have happened to them. Gutner suspected that Nathan could go much further but the kid grew to like Gutner’s company. No one ever knew about their talks. Nathan would go back to the castle in a better mood only to have his spirits dashed when no one seemed to notice his return.
Looking into the cave, Gutner noticed a scrap of paper sticking out from under a rock. Lifting the rock gingerly, Gutner retrieved a sealed letter with his name on it. Opening the letter, Gutner stood up and walked out into the mottled light of the small clearing.
Dear Gutner, I am sure you had hoped to have caught up to me by now. Unfortunately for you I learned from the best on how to avoid being found. Please leave me alone to my own despair. Our little campfire talks will not be of help this time. I must learn to live with what I did and the consequences of my actions. I cannot live with what I have done while everyone looks at me with fear or loathing in their eyes. I do not want their pity or yours. I am unfit to live let alone rule a kingdom. No one has missed me in the past, they will not miss me now. Go back to your warm bed and leave me alone. Nathan
After scouring the area for more signs of the trail, Gutner went back to the stream. Gutner spent the next few hours searching both sides of the bank north of the little cave. Finding nothing, he turned back and started searching the banks south of the original entry point. After an hour the stream branched. Gutner stopped in the middle of the stream looking first down one path then down the other. His shoulders drooped in weariness and frustration. He had never failed before, this time would be no different, he told himself. Squaring his shoulders, Gutner decided to take a break. Urging the horse onto the bank of the land between the divided stream, Gutner almost missed the clue right in front of his face.
Caught in the branches he was about to duck under was a small wisp of hair. Auburn hair that seemed to catch and shine in the light. Looking down at the ground, Gutner could see that Nathan had tried to obscure the trail. Gutner could make out the sweeping tracks left in the rain sodden river bank. If it wasn’t for the scrap of hair, Gutner might have missed it altogether. Gutner felt his weariness fade as the thrill of the chase caught up with him again. Urging his horse onwards, Gutner’s eyes began scanning the ground as he followed the meager clues.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Chapter 1, Part 2 of 4
“His room is empty and his horse is gone, no one has seen him since the funeral yesterday, milord.” The thin whisper was barely heard over the king’s steady pounding on the thrones arm. The wood creaked with each blow of his meaty fist.
“Who saddled his horse? How could no one see him? People don’t just up and vanish!” The king noticed the pageboy cringing after each bellowed question, in a much calmer voice he said, “Send for Gutner, then go find the vizier and tell him what has happened.” Sagging into a relieved bow, the pageboy quickly scurried out of the room.
Still pounding on the thick arm of the throne chair, the king tugged at his beard with the other hand remembering back several years ago when Nathan had spent much of the summer escaping from the palace guards just to see how far he could get. He never could shake old Gutner from his trail. Gutner always found him by the end of the day. He would have to meet with the Taldagan delegation and explain somehow that Nathan had vanished during the night. He could picture the Emir’s reaction and cringed despite himself. This was not going to be easy.
The half hidden sliver of moon was just becoming visible through the thick fast moving clouds, casting silver fingers of light down through the bare branches of the trees overhead. Letting the crescent moon light guide the horse, Nathan pointed the lantern into the dark mass of trees to his right. After several long minutes, he noticed a much darker gap in the wall of trees. Guiding the horse to the gap, Nathan could barely make out the small trail. Nathan lead the horse down the trail then went back and swept the tracks from the mud. He knew the rain would take care of his trail, but the horse left deeper tracks.
On either side of the small winding track, the trees pressed in, looming over the narrow track. The silvery light of the moon could not penetrate the thick overhead mat of branches and the thinning clouds. The rain was letting up as the clouds were swept across the sky. The track crossed over several small rills of water before turning and following a larger stream. Nathan crossed the stream and hung the lantern on a tree branch. He then wandered the horse around for several minutes and churned up the area. Taking up the lantern, Nathan moved the horse back into the stream and followed the trail from the streambed.
Several times over the night, Nathan crossed streams or followed them. The moon was no longer visible through the trees and Nathan had lost the track long ago. With the trees pressing in on him, he let the horse pick his own path while he lost himself in his memories.
It had been the first warm day of the year. The sun was dazzling to the eyes after a long winter spent inside. There was a crisp bite to the air, but the warmth of the sun warded off most of the chill. The women had decided to plan a lavish lunch on the park green while the men took the hounds out for the first run of the year. Nathan could remember hearing the baying of the hounds echoing in his ears, mixed with the laughter of the women and the giggles of the children. He had led the men out of the woods onto the park green near the top of the hill. He stopped to look down at the friendly gathering and his heart swelled with warmth. He could just make out his brother talking to his wife. The brief exchange caused his wife to toss her head back and laugh. Nathan could hear her husky laughter from the hilltop. He could feel a small pang of jealousy clench at his heart. He urged his horse forward to join the party. The desire to turn the horse around and gallop off into the woods was very strong, Nathan knew he didn’t have half the charm of his brother and hated social events. He was hoping this event would be different as there were only a few close friends. Deep inside him he could hear his doubts rising, the black despair of being ignored by everyone.
Unconsciously, Nathan had signaled the horse to halt. He could see everyone having fun yet no one waved him over. The black despair started to eat at his heart. He hated them, hated the way they treated him. Why couldn’t he be more like his brother. The mesmerizing song swelled louder in his head. Finally, just when he thought he couldn’t take it anymore, he closed his eyes and silently screamed. He could hear the laughter change to cries of pain then screams of horror. Before he could open his eyes to investigate, he felt himself flying through the air. The next thing he knew, he was on his back on the ground. The sun was shining in his eyes. He could hear horses galloping towards him but he couldn’t move. His chest hurt and his face and hands felt hot. He had wanted them dead and now they were.
Nathan was shaken from his memories when the horse lurched down a small incline. He almost pitched over the horse’s head at the sudden change of pace. The sun was just beginning to tint the sky on the eastern horizon when Nathan urged the tired horse further down the incline and into another rocky stream. Nathan’s head sagged as much as the horse’s head. They had been riding northwards all night. This was the fifth stream they had encountered and the third stream they had followed. Splashing onward, Nathan let the horse set his own pace over the rocky streambed. Glancing to his right, Nathan watched the sky slowly develop a rosy tint.
It had stopped raining, but the branches still rained large drops down on their heads. With cold stiff fingers, Nathan guided the horse up the eastern bank of the stream. Looking at the sunrise, Nathan noticed a small cave. The shelter of the cave would be most welcome for a few hours rest. Nathan knew he couldn’t rest for long. He had to get as far away from everyone as possible.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Chapter 1, Part 1 of 4
His questing hand searched along the wall for the stone water pipe. After several more steps, his fingers knocked painfully into the pipe. The pipe jutted out from the smooth expanse of wall like an ugly tumor. Grasping the pipe firmly in one hand, Nathan carefully reached around and grasped the pipe with both hands. Moving his weight to his hands, he swung around until his feet were planted on either side of the pipe. Reaching hand under hand, he started to walk down the wall while firmly grasping the pipe.
The rain started to drum down out of the angry sky beating at his head and hands. He tried to quicken his pace but the rain slicked walls caused him to slip dangerously loosing his balance. As he slide down the pipe, the sweet seductive tune of death reared its ugly head. Calling him, urging him, singing to him to come join the other side. He slid painfully down the water pipe and crashed hard into the unforgiving stone of the courtyard. The jarring collision with the unyielding stone brought him painfully back to reality and broke the songs seductive call. With throbbing hands and a sore backside, he pulled himself painfully to his feet and scurried along the courtyard’s edge keeping to the deep shadows. The rain making him even more invisible.
Soaked and chilled, he peered into a side window into the stables. In the dim glow of the two flickering lanterns, he could not see anyone moving around. Gingerly opening the side door, he ducked into the stables, the warm moist air enveloped him as he hurried past the stalls of sleeping horses. Glancing around and seeing no one, he quickly scaled the ladder into the hayloft. Moving carefully over the piles of baled hay, he scrabbled over to the far dark corner. The lantern light barely penetrated into the dark reaches of the hayloft. Pushing his arm down between the wall and the hay bale, he grasped the loop of rope hanging from a nail. Pulling the rope up rewarded him with two bulging saddlebags, a heavy black oil cloth sack and a pair of tall black riding boots. Pulling off his soaked clothes, he spread open the oil cloth bag, transforming it into a large cloak with a small shuttered lantern, a smaller oil cloth bag and a pile of traveling clothes sitting in the middle. With brisk efficiency, he dressed himself. He pulled on the riding boots with a little difficulty given the tight space afforded by the hay loft then pulled the cloak on. He stuffed his wet clothes into the smaller oil cloth bag then grabbed both saddle bags and clothes bag.
Peering back down into the stable, he made his way back down and entered the tackle room. From one of the glowing lanterns, he lit a sliver of wood then opened the shutter of his lantern. Lighting the small lantern, he quickly adjusted the flame to burn low and dim then closed the shutter. Reaching for his tackle, he paused then grabbed some plain utility tackle from the side room. He entered the stall of a large black horse and quickly saddled him up then secured the saddlebags and oil clothe sack. He then hooked the still shuttered lantern on to the horn of the saddle. Bending down, he put leather shoes over the horse’s hooves. The horse sleepily nibbled on his cloak looking for the hidden sugar cubes. Easing the stall door open, he quietly urged the lethargic horse out of the stall and out of the stables. The horse snorted his displeasure at the cold penetrating rain. Mounting the horse, he spread his cloak over as much of the horse as it would cover.
The horse moved forward with muffled steps barely heard over the rain. Once out of the courtyard, they made for the small gate located behind the kitchens. Dismounting before the gate, he unlatched the gate and with bunched muscles he jerked it open as fast as he could. The loud screech shattered the dull hiss of the rain but lasted only a second. Bending down, he pulled the horse through then jerked the gate closed behind him. Mounting the now fully awake horse, he urged the cranky horse into a gentle gallop to the woods edge. There he removed the leather shoes from the horse, then remounted. Opening the shutter on the lantern, the small flame, magnified but several polished metal pieces cast a faint ray of light onto the glistening mane of the horse. Holding the horse down to a maintainable pace, he followed the well-packed road south.
With only one path to follow, the man was left alone with his downward swirling dark thoughts. The dark song started to rear its maddeningly seductive head but before it could build to full force, it was pushed out by the vivid recollection of the nightmare deaths of everyone including his wife, unborn child and older brother. His wife and unborn child were dead because of him. His brother was dead because of him. On and on he spiraled, the screams growing louder. He sought solace in the nightmare as it keep the siren song at bay. It was his penance for living while they died.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
My hope is that by the time I finish editing the first 50,000 words, November will be upon me and I can write another 50,000 to finish the story. While I did complete the word challenge, I am in no way finished the story. So as I edit the story I have decided to post each section for anyone to read and comment on. I will likely break each chapter into 3-4 parts. Each chapter averages about 4000 words and I have 14 chapters. I will try to post each section on a consistent schedule. I hope this will keep me on track. I have no title so each section will bear the NaNoWriMo heading with what chapter and section it is from. I hope someone out there will enjoy reading a work in progress.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Saturday, August 05, 2006
The air of silence surrounding the plug was total and complete. While visitors were few and far between, they never had a chance to ask. Any inquisitive glances were smoothly distracted to something else. Curiosity was easily transfered to some other novel sight or activity. That all changed the night James was born.
The omens surrounding James' birth were confusing and conflicting.