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Malruhn

The Fall of the Aspen Lord

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I've been playing with the idea of writing a fantasy novel for about... thirty years. I am finally taking the first step of letting someone else read the prologue to the novel. Comments are most welcome.
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The raven-haired giant stood atop the rise and surveyed his surroundings. Acrid smoke from various fires somewhat obscured his vision, but that was of no matter as those fires were primarily behind him. Before him the carnage was clear and greatly satisfying. Broken and bloodied bodies lay scattered as far as his eyes could see – and already the carrion birds were gathering. Absently, he noted that the stinging death-flies had discovered the scene as well, waving his left hand before his face to absently brush them away.


The standards of four minor lords were lying on the ground within view, and he knew that at least three others were just over the next rise to his right. There were only a few dozen of his own men left from, what was it, some eleven thousand? It mattered naught to him; their lives were of no concern to the Great Warrior. As the thought quickly passed from his mind, he shrugged, rolling his mighty shoulders to loosen them, as they were beginning to tighten after the long days of swinging his mighty sword. He raised the hilt before him a finger or two, feeling the razor-sharp point leave and reenter the bloodied soil at his feet, and a small smile touched his lips as his gaze fell upon the silvered blade. Some five feet in length and as wide as his palm, the double-edged blade was of extraordinary craftsmanship. His grin broadened into a full smile as he remembered the first use of the blade. The eyes of the master smith grew impossibly large when the blade plunged into the man's belly. The temerity of that man! Demanding that he actually PAY for the blade! The craftsman's cries continued as the giant departed the forge area and mounted his horse. A wound like that would that little man crying for hours or even days before death finally took him.


The bites of the death-flies were growing worse, and he shook his head and leg like a great bloodied animal. At nearly seven feet tall, the Lord of the Dark Aspens was truly a giant amongst men. His powerfully built body was clad only in boots and breeches... boots, breeches and blood. Those within sight could count nearly a dozen wounds across his body, the largest of which was a gash across his right shoulder that had cut deeply. Although he doubted that there would be nerve damage, he knew that the wound would have to be stitched and healed before finding his sleeping furs that night. The soldier that had slashed at him with his halberd had sneaked up and struck him from behind. Were it not for the quick glance past his shoulder made by one of the three soldiers that were facing him at the time, he would have never known of the pending swing, and only his lightning-fast lunge had taken him barely out of range of the killing blow.


His body was covered with blood, but he and the few survivors knew that only a small portion of it was his own. Counting his kills, his eyes clouded with anger as he realized that he had lost the count somewhere after 230 deaths. Once the final battle was entered, he had been a whirlwind of death and destruction, cleaving, skewering and slashing any who got within range of his massive blade. Several times he recognized the tabards of his own soldiers that were being killed by his sword. He snorted with derision and waved the death-flies away with his left hand as he thought that the stupid soldiers should have known better than to get that close to him.


As he surveyed his surroundings again, the unpleasant thought rose again to his mind that it would be difficult to raise another army. This had been the fourth – or was it the fifth? – that had been decimated in his mission to conquer the lands. The loss of so many men didn't enter the giant's mind – it was the inconvenience of having to delay the next battle until he amass another fighting force. This one had been passably acceptable. Their skill with their pikes and halberds had been what attracted him to them to begin with. Wait... halberds? What was it about halberds that seemed to pull at his mind? He became momentarily aware of the burning wound in his shoulder as he turned to look for the dead would-be-assassin. Looking back and forth, he could see the motes of blackness of the damned death-flies before him. A strangely familiar, dull clanking sound made him look down.


At his feet, he saw his sword bouncing one last time as it had fallen from his grasp. Unable to comprehend the meaning of this, he lifted his sword-hand to his face – and saw... nothing. Dully, he looked down to see his right hand hanging limply at his side, with several hundred death-flies buzzing about it. There were more flies than he could remember – and though they were all about, they seemed to be concentrated on his right side. Fighting to focus, he realized that there was something wrong – but more important to him at the moment was the fact that there was something wrong with the death-flies. Something told him that they should not be acting like this, but for the life of him, he couldn't fathom just how they should be acting.


With his left hand, he reached up to pinch one of the biting flies from his right forearm and he realized that his fingers felt thick and unresponsive, as if he was fighting again in the Frozen North and battling frostbite as well as the... what were they called again? Holding the fly in front of his eyes, it took a moment for him to realize that it wasn't really a death-fly. It was a tiny bunch of black threads tied around an equally tiny barbed dart, no more than a fingernail in size. His blurring vision saw the black and red threads that looked like a death-fly's wings, tied in an ingenious manner to help it fly true, and a tiny barbed proboscis that had been embedded in his skin. In addition to a small drop of his own blood on the dart, he could faintly make out a small amount of thick syrup on the upper part of the shaft - the lower part having already delivered the deadly poison into his system. Drunkenly, he looked down again, and saw that there were many dozens of the tiny darts from his right shoulder to just above the top of his boot.


As he looked, three more seemed to magically appear in the middle of his muscular right breast. Whipping his head up to survey the area, he was aghast at feeling his head loll back drunkenly, and he even felt his feet stagger back and forth a couple of steps to keep his newly top-heavy body from falling. Biting his lip to regain his concentration, he tasted the copper of his own blood as he scanned the sea of dead bodies that surrounded him. As his piercing eyes began to lose focus again, a wraith seemed to detached itself from the bodies and floated above where it had lain, some five paces from where he stood. His rapidly clouding thoughts identified his own tabard with the black tree on the red field on the specter's chest. The spectre reached up and grabbed at his torn-out throat – and removed the wound like one would remove a glove. Fake? How? The giant just stared at the miraculously healed visage before him. Blood covered the young man, staining his clothes, seemingly coming from several terrible wounds. The man reached for a waterskin at his side – the giant realized suddenly that he was terribly thirsty – and squeezed. Thick blood spurted from the nozzle, and the doomed Lord of the Dark Aspens realized that the ghost's – no, man's – wounds were imaginary, and the blood was not real.


In his right hand, the specter held up what appeared to be part of a broken bow – could he have been one of his own archers? - and placed the nock of the bow in his lips. Raising the bow-piece outward, the giant heard a small rush of air and felt the now familiar bite of a death-fly on his throat.


Tossing the blow-bow aside like so much rubbish, the giant felt a giddy giggle rise in his throat at the thought of the funny word he had made up – blow gun and bow made up this new word, and as he replayed the word, the giggle rose to a full, drunken laugh as the man pulled his tabard over his head and dropped it at his feet. As he turned to walk away, the young man said, “Never again. You've killed too many, Aspen Lord. May Reece take you.” The giant's brow furrowed as he processed the comment; Reece? Why the Lord of the Underworld? Why would the Dark One want him?


None were there as the giant slowly teetered and fell onto the mass of bodies that surrounded him. By the time he fell, he had been dead for several minutes.


Nearly a mile away, the young assassin washed up in a small creek as he pulled out his fresh traveling clothes. As he stood to continue his journey back to the capital, he thought about the other half of his commission, and how it would be spent.

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Updated 02-08-2010 at 07:32 PM by Malruhn (Lack of poison)

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Comments

  1. Malruhn's Avatar
    I guess I get the first comment. It's funny what you naturally read into your own writing that doesn't exist in reality.

    POISON!! The damned darts are POISONED!! Dammit! I know that it was there, as I could see and smell it - but I didn't add it to the story. (consider it added!)

    Dammit.
  2. Groqx's Avatar
    That was a good story Malruhn!
    I enjoyed it alot.