Author Topic: The Storm of Lakenheim  (Read 10010 times)

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Wyndfal

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The Storm of Lakenheim
« on: November 12, 2012, 03:41:32 AM »
I might change the name of the story in the future :) It is going to be a long epic fantasy, told by numerous characters. Any comment is welcome  :vikonsmile:

Prologue

I
The Child of Olayine

Baryon

Shalefin’s years are numbered. I can tell it by smelling the wind, and feeling its aggression. The hills overlooking our town, the lovely hills of Olayine, are drifting in the squalls, soil by soil. I cannot help but grieve that, considering the increasing hostility of the wind, in a couple of decades, Olayine hills will be gone with the wind. Then our town will be no more.

Not surprisingly, more and more of our folks are leaving. At first, I kept asking of their destination; I only heard one thing: “Hayomon knows.” That is our goddess. Hayomon, meaning “Seeker of Moon”, or commonly referred to as simply the Lunar Dame. People around these parts sing fairy-songs and hymns in praise of her beauty. Legend has it that, after the Fog of Gortmile, when the moon was said to have been lost for thirty five nights, it was Hayomon who found the moon floating in the fog and hurled it back to the sky. However, folks of other towns merely know her by name. After all, they have gods of their own: Chex’huar, Moolette, Pykehar, Enamorr…

Out town is located north east of Feresk, the greenest, northernmost land in the island of Mystfulwing. Our closest neighboring town is no less than eighty miles away, the ranching town of Pleck. Their main source of income is cattle, and they have it of any kind: bulking bulls, milking cows, spirited horses, fatty sheep, pigs and goats. Too much for a single town to eat, so their main customers are city merchants. In a way, that explains the nauseous sense of urbanity I kept feeling in my few trips to Pleck. Happens every time civilization creeps into the countryside. Apparently, we are the peasants, and they are the nobles! Ha! Never heard of a sheep-grazing noble before. And the name Pleck does not sound much royal to me.

After Pleck, further and further to the west, the road starts to take a steady height. Something about a hundred and ten miles deep into the west, there on the slopes of the Hawlern Mountains, lies a rough town of highland tribesmen with an ill reputation in hospitality. They call it Sulkron. I’ve been at that town before. It smells of rotting meat. It is not a pleasant town to live in. There’s no beauty, no fields, no song-birds, nothing even slightly welcoming. Its people are not friendly either. They’re essentially hunters. And my lean stature ensures that, in a highland town of fierce tribesmen, there will be no room for me.

They pay tribute to a hunter god of sort, which would be quite typical of such folks. They call him Beroshee, “The Savage Feaster”. Sacrifices are torn asunder before his altar and left there to rot. They are yet to realize that it is actually the maggots who feast on the carcasses, not Beroshee!

Our town Shalefin, along with Pleck and Sulkron, is the only town in all Feresk. Scattered across Feresk are several half-villages and cottages now vacant and broken, ancient memories of an age too remote even for the eldest of us to remember.

Feresk is the northernmost, the greenest and the most beautiful land in all Mystfulwing. I am a farmer boy from Shalefin. My name is Baryon.

« Last Edit: November 14, 2012, 02:58:36 PM by Wyndley »

Miss Nile

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2012, 06:47:07 AM »
I love this first chapter, Wynd. It's really beautiful. It's a wonderful prologue to start with, introducing the reader to the wide world he's about to read about and what a pretty world it is. The names are simple but they suit their places. The words used suit the atmosphere of each part perfectly.

I love how every town has its traits and even a god to worship and to differentiate it from the other towns. It seems to me that every town is quite different from the others-one depends on farming, the other on cattle, the third on hunting-and they seem to differ in the ways of thinking as well. Peasants, 'cattle nobles', unfriendly hunters. I especially liked 'cattle nobles.' It's original. Most nobles we read about have other ways of being wealthy-industry or trading, but definitely not cattle. I loved that idea. :seraismile:

The end is very interesting as well. I can't wait to see how events unfold, especially with the hints of unease all over. It sounds like it's going to be a major trouble for our heroes.

Can't wait to read more! Keep them coming! :)

Wyndfal

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2012, 02:43:48 PM »
II
The Girl with the Flute

Eimon

The pigs are restless. The sheep seem unsteady. The cows have grown fearful. More and more we have to tie our goats to avoid fighting other cattle. Even the horses act strangely. I often notice them staring off at the distance, to the eastern horizons. They seem to be nervous, rather afraid, of something coming from the east. I swear I saw many times that one of them shuddered when an eastern wind blew across the ranch. What is this? Another prank from the peasants of Shalefin?

But at least trade’s been good as ever in Pleck. We never lose our customers from big cities like Tarronwin or Kalenferd. We have the best cattle everywhere. I bet those Shalefin peasants or stinking mountain savages in the west don’t even know what a city is! Grunnel says we are going to be a city soon. Can you believe that? We’re going to be the first and only city in Feresk. Grunnel also says that, in the far future, Pleck will one day be the biggest city on the entire island. I believe him. Grunnel is always right. He knows many things about cities, castles, princes, even kings. He has travelled to many parts of the island and knows everywhere around. He says he has even stayed in Sulkron for a whole week! I wish he would take me with him to Tarronwin one day. He says it has so many eye-catching sights, so many beautiful dresses for a girl like me. Ah, I just can’t wait…

I first met Grunnel on a cloudy afternoon. Outside of Pleck, in a field of grass stretching far to the west, I was standing in the southern afternoon breeze of an early autumn day. With my flute, I was playing the very first song I had learned since I started practicing. I must have been so carried away since I didn’t notice him approaching. I have a habit of closing my eyes when playing my flute. The melody ended, and I opened my eyes. And there beside me was sitting a young man looking at the same direction I was facing, deep lost in a dreamy state of admiration. Gave me a startle for a second, but then I saw him smiling shut-eyed, so I said nothing. Eventually he opened two hazel brown eyes which radiated with an unshakable faith that captivated me. Those were the eyes of a true man, a mature yet still flourishing young man who surpassed all worldly borders. He had come out of nowhere to dazzle me with his eternity, and I held onto him with my small hands with all my power lest I lose him. And so he stayed. He smiled at me and asked for my name. I told him my name: Eimon. He said it was a pretty name. He said he liked my name. I like it too.


Wyndfal

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2012, 03:30:12 AM »
III
Forsaken Wolves

Jugal

The mountain wind howls in the air. It carries the scent of wolves and crows. They lurk in the shadows of Hawlern Mountains, stalking our men. Usually, they settle for stealing our hunts. Occasionally, they raid Sulkron in a storm of fangs and claws. We are hell’s closest neighbors, and it is about to break loose. Beroshee’s wrath is upon us. We won’t last long without the Savage Feaster’s favor. Chieftain Meregor gathered twenty-five decent hunters to raid Hawlern. Couldn’t afford any more men without leaving the town defenseless. The raiding party was broken to half, and since then, we’ve stopped attacking.

There is something out there, something unholy that leads them. A week ago, under a thousand blinking stars, on the summit of Hawlern, I saw it, the silhouette of a winged beast the shape of a wolf, yet standing erect like a man. He saw me too, I’m sure. Rather, he was looking straight at me. I felt an urge to draw my bow, but I stopped. I returned his gaze with mine. Man to beast. Hunter to hunter. Something wasn’t right; I felt no hostility, no threat. We were like two lost wolves in a forsaken land devoid of borders, beyond all strife, free from this cursed war of man and un-man.

It then occurred to me how futile it all is, how we fight, how we slaughter, how we die bleeding into dust, while there can still be moments when man and beast can exchange harmless stares. Aye, we’re all worn out. We’ve fought for too long, and have forgotten the warmth of a caring smile. Our faces are those of stone, grim sculpted features carved into scarred flesh. We are forgotten.

Where is now the legend of the Wolfrider? Where are the Gukrid shamans who shapeshifted to ravens? Was there ever such folks in the thick fog of time, or is it all one big lie? Aye, Beroshee, I doubt you could hear us anymore. You no longer tame the wolves or lure big games to our land. You’ve left us to the gathering storm, the scourge of crows and the rage of wolves. Are we that despicable now? Have you forgotten those hill-height piles of carcass we used to offer to your altar?

Ah, we will perish soon, down to the last man. And then, who will sing of me, the hunter Jugal, when I lie fleshless on the plains to scorch in the fires of the sun, and glow silver under the light of the moon, before even my bones are scattered in the silent oblivion?

A wolf howled unseen, and Sulkron’s sentry bells clangored twice. One last look at my silent foe, and we split. I did not see him till the next blood moon.


« Last Edit: November 16, 2012, 03:34:35 AM by Wyndley »

Wyndfal

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2013, 05:04:41 PM »
Chapter 1
Dawn of the Shadow

Baryon

It was an all-cloudy day. Miles of dark clouds hovered above Shalefin like the ominous wings of a black wyvern. The winds blew nonstop, ever ferocious, never resting. I rose in a sunless morn and had my lunch in a sunless noon. All day long, I heard the threatening breath of the shadow wind. They call it the Winds of Uben, a cursed name of ancient terror and death. It was named after the dragonlord Uben, a fearsome colossal hulk of deep-black wyvern with wings so enormous they could envelop a whole town. Uben was slain by the combined efforts of three mages and two knights. Three thousand years ago, deep in the highland, desolate plains once called the Wanderer’s Bane, a living hell was aroused when the dragonlord batted its wings to its ultimate doom. Two days full, the plains burned and roasted and shattered and shook, and the dragon was dead. For three more days, a rushing stream of gurgling black blood gushed out of its dark heart to consummate the lasting doom.

Now, that wasteland is called the Pitch Fields. Thick layers of dragon blood have hardened deep into the ground, where plants are now impossible to grow. No man ever treads there, and the sole mention of its name triggers a quiver in our hearts. Now, with the menacing winds at our backs, and the ominous name they have dubbed it, Uben’s dark memory has been revived.

The clouds lingered above Shalefin all afternoon, and even the Winds of Uben could not shake them. I was getting nervous now. They gave me a sense of ill dominance over Shalefin, like we were being watched all the time. It was like an impenetrable ceiling, only without any feeling of security within. A cage, rather, wherein lay dormant an unseen peril about to be awakened ere long. I fear the end…

“There you are again!”

I’ll miss these hills…

“Baryon!”

It… didn’t have to be like this…

“Baryon?”

Fonden’s voice. He must have been looking for me. Again.

“I’ve been yelling your name for minutes now. You could at least call back.”

I cast down my head wearily and suddenly became painfully aware of the nightmarish fact that I would lose him one day too. The dark deepened…

“Well, anyways. Elder Norem sent me. Said something about you not having carried back the crops. Don’t keep him waiting again, Baryon. He’s terrible, especially on a cloudy day, and we’ve been having a whole damn one today! How I hate these clouds!”

His stomping steps back to Shalefin echoed in my ears longer than I desired. I wonder… how many more years…?

A sunflower not far away was hanging low its head, mourning the lasting afternoon shadows. It was missing the sun.
                                                                                               
                                                                                    ***

“You know, son, there are times I begin to wonder why you were assigned with this task in the first place. The crops don’t reap themselves and start marching back to- ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME, BOY?!”

Ever since Elder Norem lost his wife, he’s been… extra talkative, and equally disturbing.

“… who is indeed a proper lad just your age. And he works twice as fast. Go now. Let it be the last time we talk about crops, unless it is about how plentiful our granaries are of them. Go!”

Once, afternoon saunters around Shalefin were as delightful and sweet as the fabled moon-honey, Hayomon’s favored nectar. A light touch of the sun on my skin and the scent of meadow-bloom defined my little heaven. Alas, as rarely as moon-honey has been found these past centuries, so has been the tender caress of the sun of late, and today marked the shadow’s true dawn.

My grandmother’s shack was across the lane. My stays there had been many, and not without reason. For in the whole town, she alone was the true spirit of Shalefin as it was of old. A strong-willed, independent woman over a century old with eyes as deep and ancient as the nocturnal sky, she was the last living soul in Shalefin whose heart bore all the lost memories of Mystfulwing. My love for lore was only one of the many traits I had inherited from her. Legends and fables of old danced gracefully on her tongue as she related the deeds of gods and beasts and men. It was as though she had been there when the First Dawn sang the morning’s melodious hymn, the fiery sphere ascending the heights of the heavens in a triumphant march of golden lights. When the First Forge was hammered into the Kraige Mountains, and the First Smith forged the Golden Scythe, or the day when the First Knight was anointed in the Lake of the Fairies, it seemed oddly difficult to imagine she had not actually been there.

Solitude was another. Old as she was, she still refused to be moved to our house for a more restful life. “So hurried to see me to my grave, are you? Don’t think I can’t see it in your eyes. For it is all death you see in me… and I have yet to die.” Death scared her not. Nor did seclusion. Hence she stayed her place, rooted in her depth, in a lane where only the most prominent of Shalefin dwelt. In a way, it disturbed me to see her live her grey days in the same lane as Norem did. For Norem might be the Elder, but Shareen was the Eldest.

“And I thought the sun would never rise again today, but look who’s here now.”

It was not a mystery that my grandmother was fond of me beyond words. Maybe she was seeing her daughter in my eyes, the daughter she had lost while giving birth to me.

“These are dark clouds, Baryon. No common clouds. I sense danger and death ahead of us.”

I had even long before her, weeks before the shadow wings arrived. Or had I? One was quite a fool to think he could outdo Shareen in the ways of vision, all the more fool to deny her powers outright. And here in Shalefin, there were folks of both kinds.

“Strong winds have no power over these clouds, not even these squalls. I hear they call them the Winds of Uben these days. Such a sad name. I would have chosen them a much better name of a less evil past. What were they thinking?”

Death, my dearest grandmother. Death and despair. And the ones with a slightest drop of hope or wits in their heads are departing. I wonder… what would that make me?

“It goes like this for a while and our fields will be the first to die.”

And what would remain of us? Our only steady income was the crops we sold to the sheep-grazing nobles of Pleck. Even for a farmer boy, it was hard for me to believe how heavily our lives depended on the sun, now that we lay bare under the shadow of its absence. The others would find that soon enough, to their grief.

“Baryon.”

Shareen was famed for many things throughout her long life, both well and ill. About the truth in the ill ones I always had a doubtful heart, knowing all too well the mouths which spread the foul words. Upon the better ones, however, even the foulest of mouths and minds would grudgingly agree. For even the blindest of the blind could scarcely pretend to have known her and have missed her eyes. Ah, her eyes. Those were no eyes. They were like timeless twin gates opening to everything, and nothing, depending on the person who looked at them. Her famed, knowing gaze could touch the dullest stone and leave it a marble yet to sing songs about. Truths and lies alike melted before those gates, and I was no exception. When she called my name, I saw the gates wide open, and saw everything.

“You felt it too, did you not? Not that I’m surprised. You were always special. Now, tell me what you feel. And don’t hold back.”

                                                                                    ***

It was well into the night when I returned home with a dizzy head and a bitter heart. For in the darkest corner of my heart, I always hoped for the shadow to be a lie. But a part of me groped for truth even more, and it tasted nothing sweet. Still, what troubled me was not the concept of an imminent death. It was the time. For I might have felt the chill touch of death still years ahead to stroke the borders of Shalefin, but Shareen… She had seen… She said…

Fonden… your birthday has to be celebrated within this year, or it will have to wait for eternity.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2013, 05:19:15 AM by Wyndfal »

Efram

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2013, 03:56:14 PM »
Ohohoho~! Great master Wynd I have finally read one of your works! I must say it really reminds of the novel "The knights of pern: Dragonflight" if you can take a look at it  :seraismile:

I rather liked the pacing so far it keeps you interested on what's to come next. I wonder how you'll deal with having 3 different narrators though.

My problems with it come from personal preference so nothing to be alarmed. I just have this dislike for folklore and the likes.

Keep up the good work!  :mimihat:

Dry Ice

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2013, 05:10:19 PM »
Wow, this is quite extraordinary! I love the richness of this universe. I'm also interested to see what you'll do with the multiple narrators. I've always liked things with multiple narrators, it's interesting to see how different characters' personalities affect the way they see/tell the story. :)


Wyndfal

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2013, 04:58:36 AM »
@ Efram: Thanks a lot. That was a refreshing review. And how cool that you honor me with comparing this with another novel. I do hope I can keep you interested in this, even though Baryon is a folklore freak! :P

@ Dry Ice: You have my deepest thanks. It's quite heartwarming to know there are people who mind to spend time to read it, and comment favorably. I'm in your debt. I'll do my best to repay you with better quality. :)

Wyndfal

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2013, 05:10:31 AM »
Chapter 2
Lost in the West

Eimon

“Why the western road? I thought we were headed south, to Tarronwin.”

“Not this time.” Grunnel didn’t seem too happy about that either.

“But this road… it leads to…”

“Sulkron, yes.” And here I had dressed my loveliest gown, only to have them all grubby or torn in that wretched excuse of a village half a realm away. Had I known it beforehand, I would have worn my old grazing outfit and still looked quite the noble princess in Sulkron.

“But I don’t understand. We’ve never had any dealings with those savages before.”

“Aye. But according to Mayor Aldor, they’ve been suffering from lack of game of late. This little lot will suffice, provided they can keep them alive longer than a week, that is. Someone has to teach them a thing or two about grazing sheep, instead of just butchering them.”

“I wonder how they’re going to pay for them. Father says they don’t pay with coins.”

“Aldor said they are likely to trade our sheep with bundles of skins. Wolf skins, mainly. Or stag hides, if we are lucky, though I don’t believe they can be found as much as they were five years ago.”

“But what if they don’t have any skins? They have nothing else to trade.”

“Let us hope that is not true, then.” He spurred his horse to a trot.

So… that was it. My magical trip to Tarronwin was reduced to a miserable journey to the stinking, dusty hills of Sulkron, with that horrible mountain and its scary shadows. I always feared Hawlern Mountains, though I have never been there. Yet, I’d heard tales of ravaging wolves and giant crows that attacked Sulkron at nights and slaughtered everyone they saw… or smelled. The thought gave me shivers.

But Grun was with me. That would make it a lot better. I was safe with him. He was wearing his leather jerkin brown as his eyes, his favorite bastard sword strapped to his belt, sheathed in a black scabbard outlined with golden threads. He was carrying no shields for this trip, perhaps to lighten his load. Or maybe he needed none. Though I liked him to bring one with him, even if it meant me carrying it for him. I wanted him to be safe as well; for he was my shield, but who was his?

I rode my horse Perry beside him, keeping my pace with his. He was a bit grim today. Might be he hated Sulkron as much as I did.

“Grun?”

Throughout the weeks we’d been together, I’d learned that his silence meant as much as any word.

“You said once you’d spent a whole week in Sulkron.”

“That was five years back. But, yes.”

“You never told me what you were looking for there.”

His was a look that meant he would rather not. But the road was quiet, and, knowing where we were headed, it was already getting a tad boring, so I pressed the matter.

“Was it for hunting? I heard they’re the best hunters in all Mystfulwing. I’m sure you could beat them all though.”

“And how come you’re so sure of that? You’ve never seen me wielding a bow.” I noted a faint smile on his lips. He was rather amused. Great! This might go on better than I first imagined.

“No, but… I know you could. I believe in you.” My shy smile was his favorite, and I was more than happy to give it to him.

We rode on for a while, and I was beginning to think he had forgotten what I asked when suddenly he started:

“I was an apprentice under Hosmer back then. I don’t believe you’ve seen him much. Indeed, few ever did. He wasn’t fond of mingling with the crowd. I took care of his horses, and in return was allowed to sleep under his roof. He had a team of swift coursers the likes of which I’d never seen. Their skin was pure, shining white with not a spot anywhere, with golden strands of mane which gleamed under the sunlight. You would love them for sure, but he did even more. They needed constant care, and had rather kingly meals for horses, rich and healthy. Still, he never let them grow fat even slightly, so he took one with him every now and then and rode to the wilderness. Mostly, he returned by the end of the week. But as time passed, his trips lasted longer and longer. There was one time he even took a whole month to return. Of what he had seen or heard or done during those trips, he would never say a word.”

We passed through a small, rocky gate which must been part of a long, low stony fence stretched all across our town. They said it marked the end of Pleck’s ancient borders, a time when cattle were kept in the stone safety of a much larger town. But Pleck dwindled in size each year, and the stone fences were left to the uncaring years of rain and snow. Of that long border only scattered crumbs of splintered rocks remained, and a broken gate to nowhere.

“I remember asking him a few times of where he’d been or why he’d taken so long to return. But apprentice as I was, such questions went mostly unanswered, if not with a touch of frustration. For an apprentice never asks his master anything unless in accord with the craft he means to learn, and, however I looked at it, it was not.”

Grun was always skilled in narrating stories. He took this dreamy look in his face and let the tale flow. I could almost feel what he related, like I had been there somewhere too, only unnoticed. I enjoyed it the most.
He caught me staring at him and smiled back. It was all I could do not to blush, and I failed.

“Then he started acting strangely. I found him murmuring in his sleep time and again, his words either senseless or that of a tongue I didn’t know. Sometimes, he would burst up from nightmarish sleep and scream so loud the horses panicked in the stable. It was not long before he yielded to his nightmares and settled down for a good while. Most of his time he spent abed, and I nursed him.”

He was trained to care and nurse, I see. First the horses, then Hosmer himself. No wonder how protective he is toward the ones he loves.

“A good while passed in the same manner, and Hosmer required more care than the horses he cherished. He never forgot them though. He kept asking me about them, if they were being well-fed and brushed and treated. By that time, I had learned my craft well enough to tend to his horses without his supervision, so he could enjoy a more peaceful rest.”

We rode past a rank of trees on the right side of the forgotten road, casting shadows short for their height. Midday so soon. I wonder if we could have our lunch together under the shade of the trees. But I had not the heart to break into his story, all the less when he was so engaged.

“Finally, he rose early before one dawn and asked for one of his horses. He was oddly vigorous that day, yet again wasn’t that what I wanted? He even refused to break his fast. I fetched him his favorite courser, all brushed and saddled for its old master. He stroked its muzzle as gently as a man does his sweetheart, and mounted. The cool breeze was swirling in his grey hair as he turned his face to me over his mount and said as little as ‘Something vile is stirring in the west’ before he broke into a full gallop and vanished as the dawn slowly broke.” He cast down his head and spoke no more.

I see. That must have left a pretty bitter taste in his mouth, to be left like that without so much as a curt gratitude or a hurried farewell at the least. I can only imagine how long he must have waited for his master’s return before he set off to find him. I wonder if I should ask him further in his current mood. I wanted to comfort him, yet what words could ease a scar which still ached after five years? He wasn’t wounded with a word to be healed by one.

I rode closer and laid my hand on his. Heat was flowing fiercely in his hand. I see. He wasn’t only broken in heart or confused about it all. For five whole years, deep, deep inside his fair heart, it was fury that that burned him the most.

“Grun, I… I never knew it was…” His hand clenched mine firmly, and at once I knew he wouldn’t mind.

“Hosmer had left with no clue other than a hint to his direction: the west. The mention of something vile most probably meant it had something to do with Hawlern Mountains, and the shadows beyond them.”

A chill overcame me at the mere name of that cursed mountain. “Do you think he dared venture as far as that mountain?”

“Hosmer was a daring man, and none to turn his back to a horde of ravenous wolves if they stood between him and what he sought.”

“So, if he was indeed headed to Hawlern, he must have crossed Sulkron, and stayed a day or two.”

“Hence my reason for riding to Sulkron.” He let out a melancholic sigh, the young shadows of an early afternoon darkening his brooding face.

“For a whole week, I searched and asked for any sign of him, whether inside the town or outside. Hunters though they were, not a single of them seemed to have spotted him.” He felt silent again, his hand still holding mine.

I never know what got into me, but suddenly I said what I had better not: “Grun, you don’t think he’s…” Even when I left it half finished, I knew the pain wouldn’t be any less.

I felt a crushing squeeze in my hand he was holding, and saw it trembling. On his left cheek, half-hidden in the afternoon shade of the last trees, thin and twinkling as the morning dew, I saw a trickle of tears running down. Had he not been clinging to my hand since half an hour ago, I would have gladly circled my arm around him. But the world was cruel, and fate crueler.

The road began to slope steadily when we finally stopped to have our late lunch, for which neither of us had much of an appetite. The sheep we’d brought with us we left to graze at their leisure. Grunnel sprawled on his back and closed his eyes. Whether he was reminiscing about his lost master, pondering on the road ahead, or simply drowsing, I could not tell.

The cold wind of late afternoon danced the dark green grasses of the wild, open field like an uncaring puppeteer. The surly ambiance of the unknown world ahead disheartened me, and I felt a sudden urge to play my flute. Standing under the shade of the last tree, eyes closed in dismay, I played a song neither me nor Grunnel would hear for a long time: home.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2013, 06:52:16 AM by Wyndfal »

Dry Ice

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2013, 05:22:25 PM »
Ooh, a journey! I hope this means that our heroes' stories are starting to converge. I'm looking forward to the point where they all come together. :D

@ Dry Ice: You have my deepest thanks. It's quite heartwarming to know there are people who mind to spend time to read it, and comment favorably. I'm in your debt. I'll do my best to repay you with better quality. :)

You are most welcome! I know that there's nothing better than getting feedback on your work, so I'm happy to give it to you. :)
« Last Edit: January 11, 2013, 05:26:52 PM by Dry Ice »

Miss Nile

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2013, 04:44:26 AM »
Haha, finally got the chance to read both chapters and comment. :)

I can already sense the theme of adventure and mystery clear in your story, and it has this interesting atmosphere that keeps the reader curious and excited to read more. I especially loved the difference in the ways of writing between the narrators. While Baryon was more concerned about what's around him and the feelings of the people he lived with, and was more interested in telling about the others and the environment with a sense of darkness, Eimon's style was a lot lighter and it reflected her personality beautifully. I especially loved that she had Grunnel as the focus of her story, being a love interest, and I can't wait to see how the journey of these two unfolds, since they look to be a cute couple so far. :D

My only picky might be in Baryon's chapter, where I felt like some of the paragraphs that described the atmosphere and such were a little overdone. Not sure how to exactly say it, but I felt like they could be a little bit boring? Over-mysterious? But it doesn't take off any quality from the chapter; it's still quite well done and heavily darkened. :)

Good job and looking forward to more. ^^

Wyndfal

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2013, 05:13:10 AM »
@ Dry Ice: Haha, you guessed it! The next chapter is all for you then! :)

@ Miss Nile: Thank you for your detailed review, Miss Nile. I'm glad you liked it so far. Eimon's chapter was dialogue-heavy, so there was plenty of interaction between your favorite couple! :P

As for those paragraphs, I understand. Sometimes a writer goes to extremes to darken or lighten the mood, and the result verges on redundancy and repetition. Forgive me for that; I'm only a novice writer  :)

I'll do my best to avoid such paragraphs in Jugal's next chapter.  ;) Ooops, a spoiler!  XD
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 08:22:58 AM by Wyndfal »

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2013, 08:11:31 AM »
Chapter 3
Captive Lambs

Jugal

They say a man’s weapon is closer to him than his closest companion. That his life stands on the point of his blade. They say a man dies with his weapon. I don’t know who said it. I don’t know how a weapon might die. I don’t even know who my closest companion is. I only know… that there will be countless deaths before the moon is over. And for the sake of Sulkron itself, pray my weapon will not betray me.

The sky is scarlet red. The clouds deep puffs of garnet. The stars have vanished. And the moon is bleeding.

It’s all like Halgor said: “The next blood moon will be our last.” Our scouts spotted a massive horde of wolves prowling east of Hawlern Mountains. A cloud of crows circled the summit, an immense dark ring of death around the mountain’s finger. I wonder, are we the hunters… or the hunted?

We have formed the best of our defenses around the western gate of Sulkron, where we must hold against their initial attack. The gates we’ve fortified with iron bars, assuring our safety from land for as long as we can keep them shut. That is before the bigger monsters emerge and ram at the gates with their unholy strength. If the gate crashes open, it will be fang against steel.

The crows are another sad tale. They fall on us from the crimson sky like a blood rain and harass us until the gates are flung open, and the feast is on.

Some fool offered the notion of leaving the town undefended and seeking refuge elsewhere. As a gratitude for his ingenious plan, he was made to stand in the front line of defense. He liked it not the least, but Chieftain Meregor’s answer was quick and final: “You are welcome to flee from the western gate at any time, where wolves will receive you with open maws. The last thing we need is a dumb craven weakening our faith.”

Egven, warrior in every sense and strategist in none, insisted that we should storm Hawlern Mountains in a final confrontation. “To storm the storm’s lair.” If we had a bard among us, a few verses of heroic valor would feed his hunger for glory, before he was fed to the wolves along the rest of us.

If there was any man in Sulkron seasoned in tactics, it was Rhaya, the bleach-haired veteran of the wild with a legendary skill with bows and equal repute in surviving in the most unforgiving of wastelands. Scarcely did even Meregor make decisions in such vital circumstances without his counsel. A week before the march of the wolves, he sent a courier to Pleck, asking for a herd of sheep. If inquired for the reason, the envoy was to bring the lack of game as an excuse, offering to pay them back with bundles of skin. But the real reason behind this odd trade Rhaya would only share with the chief himself. Meregor was initially reluctant, but gave his consent the next day. However, from that day on, he sank in a shadow of despair. Rhaya, what did you plan this time?

At his call, the gates of Shulkron were to be shut and reinforced before the horde started the attack. No one was allowed in or out after that, save for the sheep and the herders. And they should arrive here any time soon.

Braziers were the key to our defense, according to Rhaya. Every foot on the walls was to be equipped with one, with two archers at each. The western wall facing Hawlern was manned with the best sharpshooters of Sulkron, men who could shoot ghost-eagles in flight from half a hundred yards away. Every arrow counted, and we lacked many.

Other hunters were armed with rusty swords and daggers as old and worn-out as themselves. We have always lacked good steel ever since the night we fled the deep caverns of Hawlern Mountains and retreated to the open plains for a safer life, only to find the menacing crows scourging the sky. There in the mining town of Geldmorn underneath Hawlern Mountains, deep in the burning chasms of what we now call hell, we had the best forge Mystfulwing had ever seen: The First Forge. Diamond blades, crystal maces, fire-forged double-axes, exploding bolts and arrows, flame-wielding staffs, burning orbs and everything else crafted with fire was our ancient trade. But fate has never been kind to those who delve into the unknown and the uncontrollable. One dark, dreadful night, the First Forge belched out a fiend born of dark fire, unleashed for one purpose only: burn. The Order of the Eternal Flame shattered before the fury of the demon’s fire, after which every line of defense was broken one by one. And in the course of one infernal night, the entire subterranean dwelling of the ancestors to the smiths burned to cinders by the very flames they had mastered.

Now every sad excuse of a blade crafted in the smallest of forges surpasses ours with shame. And those of us who now wield these rusty blades have seen too many autumns to swing an axe for the kill. Our main hope is on our marksmen’s arrows, and Rhaya’s strategic mind. We are to confront savagery with intellect. Such hunters we are!

“STRANGERS APPROACHING!”

About time. I lurched to my feet and ran up the stairs to the top of the eastern gate. Out from the distance, I counted twenty sheep herded by two shepherds. Much fewer than the number Rhaya had hoped for. I expected nothing less from Pleck’s cattle mongers.

“Yermen, tell Chief Meregor our guests have arrived.”

That would mean two more warriors on our side. We will need every arm capable of wielding a sword. That young man on the left seems strong, and the other is…

“A girl?!”

Boster heard me, and stepped closer to have a look. “What is THAT?!”

I had never heard of a girl to travel such a desolate road to the isolated town that is Sulkron. Is she out of her senses? “At least, you’ll have something prettier to look at, Boster. Look at the way she’s dressed!”

Boster chuckled. “Is it a royal court she’s headed to? Because if she is, we should soon go find a king!”

We laughed a good deal over it. Aye, such a thing as amusement was as rare to find these days as good steel.

They were at the gates now. The young man looked up and called:

“We ride from Pleck. Open your gates!”

The guards at the gates removed the iron bars and pushed the doors outward. I descended the stairs to meet my future brother-in-arms, along with his princess in blue.

“We’ve been expecting you for days. I thought you were-”

“-butchered by the wolves?” The young man was half aggressive, half exhausted. “Then perhaps you shouldn’t have sent for us in the first place. We could surely use some of your hunters’ company along the way, at the very least for the safety of the very sheep you asked for.”

“We lack men on the walls. There’s war coming.” I saw the girl shiver.

“Then this is supposed to be the last supper, huh? Had I known, I wouldn’t have even bothered to-”

“Grunnel, please. We’ve only just arrived. Let us get inside and rest. We’ve been riding for a whole day.”

The man named Grunnel said nothing, and passed through the gates frowning, followed by the girl and the promised sheep. The gates behind them were shut, never again to open before the ultimate outcome of the coming war.

By then, Chieftain Meregor himself had appeared with Yermen to greet his guests. He was wearing his black bearskin cloak, giving him the look of a true chief.

“Welcome to Sulkron, dear merchants of Pleck. We have been expecting your arrival. I do hope you met no dangers on the road.”

The Grunnel man returned him with equal courtesy. “Nothing we couldn’t handle, Chieftain. We’ve brought you the herd you required. Twenty heads, with six ewes to mate with the rest. We couldn’t afford to risk any more heads, lest the herd went out of hand. And with the anticipation of any menace from the wolves, this was the largest herd any wise shepherd could bring safely so far to the west.”

Meregor seemed unmoved by the apparent lack of heads. Yermen must have informed him beforehand. The chief then invited them to his own lodging. Doubtless, he was planning to tell them the hard truth. War is coming, and there would be no way out until the war is won… or lost.

I can only imagine their faces when they realize too late that they have made the biggest mistake in their lives.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2013, 04:00:14 PM by Wyndfal »

Miss Nile

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2013, 09:29:03 AM »
Ahh I love the cliffhanger at the end of this one. It leaves me eagerly waiting for the next part of Eimon's especially, for I am curious about their reactions as soon as they find out the trouble they are in. :)

I must say that I liked the second part of this chapter the most, when Grunnel and Eimon made it at Sulkron. The interactions and dialogue were the most interesting, and as I already said, the cliffhanger was exciting. I especially liked the hunters' reaction at seeing a girl. It was a funny, light moment in the middle of the dark atmosphere, which was refreshing. ^^

As for the first part, I must say, the sentence that the Chieftain said to the man who wanted to leave was pretty memorable. I felt it was very effective and I personally loved it. Every word of it had a very strong meaning.

Overall, great work. I like the tough atmosphere of this one but it wasn't too tough to be boring. You did it just right. Great work and I am looking forward to more. ^^

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Re: The Storm of Lakenheim
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2013, 01:32:04 PM »
Chapter 4
Tears of the Blood Moon

Eimon

I hate Sulkron. Every inch of it reeks of death, every shack a miserable sight, with savages lurking everywhere. And I am trapped right inside, with no hope of escape. Were it not for Grunnel, I would have sworn it was hell itself.

Still, for all the hate I always bore in me for Sulkron, Grun outstripped me tenfold. Composure was something he had lost the moment we set foot in that town.

“This is not what your envoy told us, Chief. You promised to pay us back.”

At least Chieftain Meregor had the decency to look embarrassed. “And I never broke my promise either. Here are you skins.” He pointed to a heap of black wolf skins, neatly piled in the corner of his room.

It was one thing to spit in someone’s face for sheer disgust, but this was pure jape. The old man was trying to fool us with his generosity. Was he really thinking to hush us with some hideous pelts before we died?

It was enough to spark Grun’s wrath. “”Do you take me for a fool?! What on earth are those skins worth if we are to end up in a wolf’s belly?! You make us ride from a hundred miles away, in storm and rain, then expect us to take arms and fight a horde of wolves and crows and whatever else might be out there? Shall I remind you this is not our war?”

“I am deeply sorry for your misgivings, dear sir, but I assure you that I would never have ventured that far were I not in the utmost need. My hunters will never let them harm you, or your friend.”

Grun’s answer was icy cold with disbelief. “How can they protect her when they lie bleeding to death?” Without another word, he left the hovel. I was left with no other choice but to follow him out.

The air outside was thick with meat and dirt and smoke. The town was bustling with men bellowing commands and young boys running around carrying weapons and braziers and wooden planks to the walls. I noticed a group of girls fletching arrows, giggling to themselves whenever a young hunter passed by. Were they oblivious to what was going on? Might be they were, or else they didn’t care.

There were men on the walls all around Sulkron, placing braziers in a neat line. By the time they were finished, the whole town would be a dancing banquet of scarlet flames and grey men. The blazes tangled too well with the bleeding sky above, like burning men who pleaded their god in the sky to take their hands and save them from their little hell. I didn’t like the look of the moon, a crimson ball in a crimson field standing there lonely and sad, almost crying, and dreadfully alive. Of the stars there was no sign at all.

As soon as we had entered the town, they had taken our sheep and herded them to a small pen scarcely fit to keep them all in. And yet they nagged all the time about the small number of sheep we had brought. Huh! A dozen more sheep and those primitives would have had to sleep on the cold, dusty ground to make room for the herd. Poor creatures! At least they let me tend to them myself, which kept me busy enough to forget about all the ugly things.

And ugly things there are indeed. From the buildings, to the landscape, to the sky above, and to the people themselves, wherever I looked, I felt my stomach churning in disgust. Crude huts and tents scattered everywhere, all filthy and half-broken. Men and women were crammed into them in groups of ten or more, coming in and out wildly, each carrying something, their grubby rags floating in the dusty air. Their faces were like rocks, unpolished and rough, scratched here and there by the dust of passing years and decades. When I looked at their faces, they threw back quick glances and minded their own affairs. I’m not sure whether all of them bore love in those eyes.

Just as I thought, my choice of dress was terribly wrong and out of place. The moment they let us in the town, I began to sense their heavy eyes on me, like I was some jester in blue and yellow. Some just stared out of pure wonder, some out of envy, others with eyes that spoke nothing innocent.

For the most part, I enjoyed the luxury of being left to myself, except for occasional calls from one of them nearby who mostly needed this to be carried there. So much for their hospitality or gratitude. But no one ever dared send Grun running errands. He was sitting there near the pen, grimmer than ever, honing his favorite bastard sword with a stone he’d found. For one brief, terrifying moment, his eyes scared me more than the wolves and giant crows and Hawlern Mountains and all that lay beyond it.

I finished feeding the last sheep, shut the pen’s gate and walked to him. He was sliding the stone against his sword with such force that sparks jumped out where they touched. Deep frowns spoiled his handsome face. His teeth were grinding with crushing power that I feared they would shatter any moment with a deafening crash. My heart sank in despair, but I needed to look strong. I sat beside him and hugged my legs, cocking my head and staring at him. He went on with his work for a while, before he finally decided that his blade was sharp enough to cut through half of Hawlern Mountains, or that he felt my eyes on him.

He threw his sword to the ground and snorted. “Cheap bastards! They will pay for this, I promise!”

Be brave. Be strong. “It’s alright, Grun. We’ll be safe behind these walls. The Chief promised us safety-”

“The Chief promised us death the moment he shut those damned gates behind us. We’re in for a bloody war, Eimon. And seriously outnumbered.”

This might be harder than I first imagined. “But they are all great hunters, Grun. Look at all those braziers on the walls. Those wolves will all burn before they even reach the gate.”

He shook his head with sadly. “It is not only the wolves that have been bothering me. Look at that summit over there.”

I followed his finger with my eyes to where he was pointing. Up there, against the deep red, threatening sky, I saw the horrible peak of Hawlern Mountains, like an evil tower rising out of the demon rocks, looming over Sulkron like a frozen shadow. Around the point of the summit, I noticed a black ring of cloud circling with unholy speed. It took me a minute to realize what it really was: a swarm of giant crows. I couldn’t help shaking in my spine.

My silence was all he needed to prove me wrong. “See? Unless they build an enormous ceiling all over Sulkron, we will be pierced like sieves by thousands of hungry beaks.”

I had nothing to say to that. He had the truth of it. It’s not good. I can’t do this when we both know the bitter end all too well. My eyes felt a little tingly. No. Not now. Not when I have to act strong.

“Eimy?”

That nickname. Every time he called me by that, a smile brushed my face. Yet why is it a trickle of tears I feel running on my cheeks? Was I not supposed to be the one soothing him?

I felt his arms all around me, covering my shuddering shoulders as I fought my best not to break into tears which I’d been holding since so long ago. I lost the fight, and shod tears for blood.
He pushed my head gently to his shoulder and rested his head on mine. Suddenly, he was my old Grun again, young and strong and unshakable, and I was Eimon the whiny girl, a weeping maiden shielded by her knight.

“I’m sorry, Eimy. I shouldn’t have taken you with me. If I’d told you we weren’t headed to Tarronwin, you would have been safe in Pleck.”

It’s you I want, not some stupid, gaudy dress. Don’t you really know I would have come with you anyway? “Grun… I…” I’d won my Grun back with tears, but the way these tears flowed, I might lose him just as quick.

He lifted his head from mine. That’s it, I’ve lost him again. Now, we’re like two lost children in a…

Softly, he turned my face up to his own as his hands gently cupped my face. My tears he brushed tenderly with his thumbs, his head moving closer and closer. No, I’ve not lost him. I’ve finally found him, not the one he always was, but the one I always wanted him to be. My tears stopped and gave way to a shy smile, the one he always loved. Time lost us as we finally found each other in the forsaken borders of a grey wasteland. And there in the edge of the world, amidst dust and smoke, beneath a moon that bled for a looming death, we shared our first kiss, maiden and knight.

Night arrived, all starless and hazy, red as a wounded heart, black as the eyes of a deer, and sweet as the magical song of a flute.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2013, 08:01:34 AM by Wyndfal »