Hadn’t meant to go completely dark.
Hey hey everybody. I had not meant to go completely dark, but the NanoNovel has gone very well. I ticked over 28,000 words this afternoon, which has boosted my average to 1478 words per day. I actually have 1400 in the bag so far this afternoon, so a concerted effort this evening might blow me past my 1 day record of around 2450. My finish date stands at December 3, but I think it’s well within reach for me to plow through and get past the finish line of 50,000 sometime this week. Interested parties can keep up with my progress here
I promised my Facebook friends an excerpt, so here’s the opening chapter, where we are introduced to the Keep itself and the mysterious Lila, enjoy.
The sun rises on a crisp morning, a wind picks up, a warm wind that already threatens to erase last the last nights frost. The wind brushes the last bits of snow from an ancient road marker, left by a long forgotten Empire. A weathered stelae, the size of a small man or largish boy, squat and rounded by centuries of such winds, the marker has been used by many as the ages crept past. A patient scholar of language could most likely learn much about what this land was once called, yet even the dullest herdsman could make out the fresh chiselings at the top. the common runes for the Winds, blusteryg North, balmy South, gentle East and wicked West.
The road that lays beneath this marker is also old. Once paved, it carried the soldiers of mighty empires forth to conquer. Now it is mostly gravel. It runs with the rising and setting sun, from the East; where it grows fat on the populous and prosperous nations of Men and Elves, to the West where it dwindles into a nameless starving track through the Wild. Beneath the Winds,in the Common tongue of Men the marker conveys a simple message accompanied by an arrow pointing west.
“To the Borderlands”
The Wind swirls here, kicking up dust and awakening a thrush from the thorny bush that hugs the granite stelae’s feet. The wind swirls for a moment as if unsure what wind it will be today. For a moment all seasons are possible. For a moment any traveller, from king to knave, monster or maid might emerge from the hills to the west or crest the horizon onto the plains of the east. As it swirls,the last of the winters dry leaves begin to dance in its embrace. Higher and higher they climb, alive for one more too brief instant. The thrush, unimpressed by this display, bursts forth from her home and sets off in search of the mornings meal, leaving her mate to watch the clutch of eggs just beginning to quiver with new life. And at that interruption the spell breaks. The dancing leaves quickly forget their new life and settle back to be trod into soil. The Wind, realizing perhaps that there was never a choice in the matter, settles down and heads sheepishly west, to announce to all there the coming of Spring, and the beginning or many things both Great and Small.
If we follow the wind we can see the road west dwindle. Even this far the wind still blows past a few scattered farms. An apple orchard or a sheepherds cottage might bustle with morning activity. For a time the road follows a lazy river and on its banks you can find the huts of fishermen, some with smoke rising from owners who had braved the winter to fish through holes in the ice. In the deep of winter the road past this point is almost impassable, only now a
To the north a great forest arisees and in the distance behind that a great mountain range marks the border to the truly Wild lands of the West, where Giants dwell and Dragons lair and only the heartiest or most foolish of adventurers or the craftiest of merchants dare to travel. By the time the river turns away, to lose itself in bogs and marshes, even these last vestiges of civilization fall away, leaving the lonely road to turn northwest and dwindle away perhaps? When suddenly a second path forks from the road, a newer path heads off to the left. A maintained path, spread with gravel quarried nearby perhaps. And not long after splitting from the road, this new path leads to a small plateau and atop that bluff rises a Keep, a fortress in the style of Men. Not a grand castle, but certainly formidable, with a commanding view of the road and the river valley. Nestled behind it is a small trading and farming village, for indeed some hardy souls do venture this far, hunters of the strange beasts of the forest, the occasional merchant braving the dangerous road over the mountains to trade with the exotic nations of the west, explorers hoping to uncover the treasures of the ancients from some tomb in the ruins of a long forgotten city hidden deep in the wild.
So our wind, on this first day of spring, finally brings us to our destination. It sweeps up the path leading to the front gate, a heavy portcullis flanked by two watchtowers. There it blows through the hair of a girl. A young woman actually, one who would be regarded as quite pretty if you found it in yourself to overlook her torn dress, the stray leaves in her raven hair, the missing shoe and the swollen foot that it should have protected. Where was the shawl or coat one might need if one were out in the chilly air on this first spring morn. You might notice the blood at her temple.
There’s a bell with a cord, meant to be rung when unexpected travelers arrive after hours. With an unsteady hand she pulls it once, then stares as if the bells ring was the first sound she had ever heard.
The gate warden awoke with a start.
“Who the bloody hell…” he quickly tossed on a robe, struck a match to light his lamp and hurried down the stairs, pausing to pound on the door of his two subordinates in the room below him, one of whome should have been on watch. He would have to drill that winter laziness out of them before the flow of spring trade began.
He hurried to the small window just by the cord, flung it open and scowled at the intruder who had rudely awoken him. The villagers would come to the small gate in the rear of the keep. And it was too early in the season for traders.
“Now who do you think you are, waking good folks form their well earned slumber.” He leared, his ruddy features and stringy red hair combining with the scar across his brow earned on a long ago battlefield could give Clawburg quite a frightening appearance if he chose.
The girl just stared at him, her mouth forming soundless words, her eyes seeming to look past him.
“Oh my goodness dearie… What’s happened to you?” His demeanor immediately softened, changing from hardened soldier to kindly uncle in a moment
She looked at him for another moment, then soundlessly dropped to the ground, like a marionette whose strings had been snipped.
“Uh, oh… Boys…” he bellowed, “Get yer lazy arses up and get me this portcullis opened. We’ve an unexpected visitor who’ll be needing our help this fine first day of Spring.”
A minute or two later he bent down and lifted her from the ground. The girl did not respond.
“You’ve had yourself quite a bad time of it now haven’t you lass. Not a proper welcome at all… Even here at the End of the World.”