1. - Top - End - #42
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Sep 2008

    Default Re: Playground Writers Workshop (Read 1st Post)

    I'm currently working on several ideas for a fantasy novel. This is a story set in the past of one of those novel ideas, and I'll do my best to explain what's necessary. And yes, I know I posted twice, but I don't like having both writing and critique in the same post.

    So, without further ado, The Last Trade.

    Baren stood very, very still, hands held out in a gesture of peace, the reins for his horse held loosely in his left hand. He gave the four Surac a nervous grin, one that he hoped conveyed the message 'Please don't shoot me.' He grasped at the bits and pieces of their language that he knew. "Uh... hrrash kahl s'Baren?" There was a long, tense moment before the foremost Surac lowered his bow and let loose a sharp yowl. Two of them loped off into the high brush on either side of the trail, quickly lost to sight in the early morning mist. The one that Baren guessed was their leader gestured for him and rattled off a quick command for him to follow. He tugged the small pack horse carrying his goods forward, and followed the Surac down the trail. As he passed the sentry still there, she looked down at him with what he hoped was a grin, her lips pulled back from long fangs. Up close, he noticed the green and red warpaint contrasting with her tawny fur, running down one side of her body like a river of grass and blood.

    He'd traveled down this road many times before, every year or two. The Hathar Tribe usually been overjoyed to see ol' Baren, with his sturdy clay pots and bowls, and cunningly-made copper tools, and pretty bits of amber. Gray-furred kits would clamber on top of him and filch small trinkets as a game, while those too old to hunt and harvest would trade some of the game, some of the surplus crops for Baren's goods - food that sold well up north, for those brave pioneers still pushing northwest. But they'd never greeted him with drawn bows and ready spears. Something was wrong here, he knew it. The village, nestled in a tiny depression in the earth that looked from above like the site of a god's hammer blow, was half-deserted. Small fires smoldered in the rude grass-woven huts, and all he saw of the usually ubiquitous cubs were small frightened eyes glancing out quickly from the doors.

    His escort placed a heavy paw on his shoulder and pressed down, telling him without words to stop and wait. The Surac moved forward to the chieftain's hut, kneeling and bowing in respect on the threshold before moving aside the flap and poking his head in, speaking to the chieftain within in a subdued tone. Baren fiddled with the pack-straps, ready to make a trade if he wasn't chased out - and from the looks of things, that was a distinct possibility. Sometimes you heard stories about traders offending the Surac - or worse, breaking a sacred taboo - and never being seen again. Baren hadn't believed the tales, but there was something about the oppressive mist and stillness that made him shiver.

    The Surac stepped back quickly as the flap was pushed aside and a familiar friend stepped out. "Baren?" Baren laughed in relief as Speaker For Stars, the shaman of the Hathar, stepped forward, before he noticed the look of concern on the feline's face. "Not good for you here, Baren. Human not welcome here now."

    "What's happened, Speaker?" Baren gestured around the morose village. "I'll head on out, but can you tell me what's wrong?" Speaker hesitated, and for a moment Baren thought he'd be chased out after all, but finally Speaker sighed and turned away, heading towards his hut. "Follow, friend of Hathar, and trade stories as is right." Baren handed out the reins to the one who had escorted him, and he accepted the reins gingerly.

    As he ducked inside the tall hut, Speaker was already lighting a small fire in the small pit at the hut's center. Baren wasn't struck by differences in size anymore, though he had when he was younger. Now, he simply accepted the fact that Speaker loomed over him even while sitting. The lanky feline shook out several leaves from a leather bag, placing them in a clay bowl that he'd bought from Baren years back and filling the bowl with water from a hide-bound waterskin. He placed it over the fire gingerly, then sat back as the water began to boil the leaves. "Words come to us from over river east, where Isalki dwelled in shaped earth. They did not keep peace with humans, but they only stole from humans." He sighed, a long drawn-out exhalation. Baren knew enough about the Surac to know that his old friend was upset deeply. "But humans have new chieftain... Duke Herson." Speaker was ill at ease with the words, slowly sounding them out.
    "I've heard of Duke Herson. Claims that he'll unite the kingdoms under his banner, just like every other fool with a dream of grandeur."
    "Herson commands Isalki to leave his land. His!" Speaker spat out several curses in his language, baring his fangs. "We danced on grass before humans came from mountains, Baren. Land of Isalki, not land of Duke Herson. They tell him this." He leaned down and sniffed the bowl of leaves, before sighing morosely again. "This Duke Herson, he raid them in night. When hunters are out on plains, running quick to catch deer, he catch eld and cub. Some escape, a hunter who escaped net or a cub who hid... but few. Very few. Two, they come and tell us, ask for food and bow. They move south, down where grass meets rock and sand."

    There was silence in the tent for a time, Baren's face downcast and Speaker's eyes watching the fire. It was Speaker who broke the silence again, his rough voice seeming to ring in Baren's ears. "So we fear humans, because we know they come. Isalki are not only Surac dead: who remembers wild Anar-kath by sea-sand? Some whisper that Anar-kath made war, and were driven into sea. No. Dengarth and Hilal, their land lies empty as they run southwards, run from Human." He picked the bowl up and sipped from it, purring in pleasure at the taste of the water. "Hathar will not run, when Human comes."

    Baren shook his head. "Maybe they won't. You're a peaceful tribe, you've lived in peace with the settlements to the north for years. Maybe... they'll leave you alone?"
    "No. This Duke Harson, he is land-loving. He will come. If not him, then his cub, or another who cares not for us. They will take land from us, and we will not run into barren desert. Maybe Human will chase us still, and drive us to end of earth, where birds of metal live in forests of fire. Or so say shamans dead now. But we will fight for our land, and Torchbearer will take our souls and scatter them in sky. Maybe our land will remember us when humans are only remembered by shamans."
    "You're going to fight." Baren looked up into Speaker's pale eyes, inhuman and yet all too human. "Well... I brought some bronze-headed arrows for you to hunt with. Are..." His voice broke slightly, but he continued. "Are you going to need them?"

    Speaker solemnly nodded as Baren rose, making the slightest hint of a purr. "Yes. We will hunt well with strong arrows." As Baren turned to pull back the flap and exit the tent, Speaker spoke again. "Why, human Baren?" Baren stopped, but didn't turn to face his friend. "...Because you don't deserve this. And because I'm not going to be Herson." And he pushed back the flap and walked out to where the Surac waited patiently with his horse, head held high.
    Last edited by Raz_Fox; 2009-09-18 at 11:35 AM.
    freedom in the flame

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