So, I realize I lied when I said epic battles and female action-heroes are coming soon. The following piece lacks both.
However, I think this scene is a good sample of the serious side of my writing style. Check back later for a sample of the humorous side of my writing style (though, you get much of that in my general blog posts.)
The piece below is approximately the thirtieth attempted beginning of an epic fantasy story I’ve been working on for years. There is a completed version that weighs in at 350,000 words. However, I believe it needs another draft or two before being truly publishable. I do not want to subject the world to flat characters and meandering plotlines.
I chose this piece because 1. I think it’s pretty good and 2. It can stand on it’s own.
So, without further ado:
An Opening And An Escape
The water blended with the blood on his shirt, slowly drying into a dark pink stain. He rocked, holding his knees as he counted the slats of wood in the floor. This time he got to thirty-four before his mind was filled with the flash of a blade, his son’s screaming cry, a slam to the gut, the thunk of a stab, and last, the silence of death.
His breath went short. He gasped, focusing only on keeping air in his lungs.
It took Erik a moment to realize he had been spoken to. The speaker, a broad shouldered man, pulled forward a chair. He ran a hand through his thick white hair, with a few spare streaks of orangish-red harkening back to his youth. He could not mask the tired lines around his eyes.
“Beoven.” Erik said it to remind himself the man’s name. “How’s my son?”
“He was barely scratched,” Beoven said as he set his pipe in his mouth. He puffed a moment as his warm brown eyes looked over Erik.
Beoven’s lips tightened, but he hid it behind another puff of gray smoke. He pulled out the pipe, tiredness betraying itself in his face.
“How’s Magdalia?” Erik said.
“She’s taking care of your boy,” Beoven said, tapping his pipe on the table. “She told me she gave the final blow.”
Erik sat up, his shoulders pulling back. He shook his head. “It was me… I killed Tomrin.”
Beoven raised an eyebrow. “She said you’d cover for her.”
“It was my knife.”
“I know. I gave it to you.”
Erik met Beoven’s eyes. “What’s the council say?”
“Tomrin’s mother’s calling for blood.”
“He attacked my family.”
“And who’ll speak up for a Drosidian?”
Erik sat silently, the words hitting hard. “I went through the trials. I went through the ceremony. I married your daughter…”
“I spoke. They didn’t listen because I’m Mags’ father.” Beoven puffed a moment longer. “Besides, you’re in a tough spot. Tomrin’s a war hero come home to bury his brother who died in battle against Drosidians. What does he find? The woman he always longed for is married to a Drosidian. He was already mad with grief, and made it worse with drink. I’m sure he wasn’t in his right mind when he attacked you, and I think whichever of you put the knife in him had the right.”
“But the council doesn’t see it that way.”
“No. However, there’s a few of us who do.”
“But, not enough to change things.”
Erik rubbed his hands over his dark brunette beard. Mags had just told him he needed to trim it. That wouldn’t matter now.
Looking at his father-in-law and friend, he said, “What happens to me now?”
Beoven took a long, slow puff on the pipe. The tendons in his neck stretched, but he kept his face calm.
“You’ve got a few options still, but the first few are much the same.” He scratched absently at some crust on the table. “You or Magdalia can confess to the murder, and be condemned. Doesn’t change anything whoever does it. By Corithon law, if a woman’s with child and condemned, her husband can be executed in her place. We both know you’ll volunteer to die.”
“Mags isn’t with child.”
Beoven gave him a sad, knowing smile. “Do you love your wife?”
“Then there’s a good likelihood she is.”
Erik felt his cheeks burn. It was worse to think of an unborn child added to this mess. Nathrick was barely a year old. Erik didn’t want to think of a new child.
“What will happen to Mags and Nathrick after…” Erik’s throat blocked the rest of the words.
“They’re my kin. I’ll make sure their provided for.” Beoven let a trail of smoke blow out of the pipe as he thought. “My trouble is you’re my son-in-law, and I owe you a life debt.”
“You’ve already repaid me.”
“I reckon I still owe you.” He set down his pipe and stood. “Though, I wonder what’d happen if I left my keys to the dragon yard just sitting here with my sword.” He tossed a large, heavy key and a broadsword on the table. “And, it’d be wrong and a shock if you broke a chair over me, like this.” He picked up his chair and slammed it over the table with full force. Erik jumped, too stunned to think. Beoven slammed the chair a few more times, until he ripped off a leg. “What’d the council say if you took this leg and bashed my head before making your escape?”
Erik stared at the offered chair leg, his hands digging into his thighs. “What are you doing?”
“It’d be far worse if you stole this map and some supplies to go to Kargor’s camp where he’s got some Drosidian general prisoner. Strange how the map has some ideas for getting him out.”
Erik stood. “Beoven, I… we can’t…. I must keep my honor and accept punishment for what has been done.”
Beoven slammed the table with the chair leg. “Then my daughter married a fool, and he deserves to die.” He shoved Erik’s chest with the chair leg. “You’re going to have a future, Lieutanent Erik Montebank of Drosaid. We’re all going to have a future, because you’re going to get that Drosidian general free, and we’re going to find some way of making peace between Drosaid and Coritho. When that’s all done, then you come back and get your wife and child. You understand, boy?”
Beoven placed the chair leg in Erik’s hand. “Wuf and Rorg are at the door, waiting to help you get off. Give me a hard enough blow to bruise.” He tapped to his bad leg. “I’m a crippled man already.”
Erik’s hand sweated as he took the wood club. “What about Mags and Nathrick?”
“As I said, they’re kin. You just stay faithful to my daughter. If I find out you even think of betraying her, I’ll hunt you down with a worse vengeance than Tomrin’s mother.”
Erik slowly raised the club. Shutting his eyes, he prepared to swing, but he stopped. He began lowering it, when Beoven growled, “Be a man already!”
With a breath, Erik laid a careful blow across Beoven’s jaw. Beoven jerked back, his cheek red. “I know you can hit harder.”
Erik brought it down on Beoven’s shoulder, his hands and arms shaking.
Beoven smiled at him as a gash broke on his shoulder. “I’ve got the rest,” he said just before pretending to fall and sprawl across the ground. Erik shoved over his chair, grabbed the map, sword, and keys, and then upturned the table. He picked up a corner and placed it over Beoven’s leg. Kneeling beside his father-in-law, he said, “Will that hurt you?”
“Go!” Beoven grunted.
Erik pressed a hand to Beoven’s shoulder, wanting to say something. However, he could think of nothing. Instead, he rose and hurried to the door. As promised, Wuf and Rorg stood waiting. They signaled with a wave of their arms, and across the burrow, shouts broke out followed by punches. In moments, he was once more astride a dragon. He’d forgotten the stench of their sulphuric breath and the coldness of their hard scales. His boyhood of training came back to him as he rose up in the air and jerked the stubborn dragon’s head in the direction of the Drosidian general.