Saturday, 12 September 2015

Short Story: The Warning Part 1

This has been something i have been working on for a while. I have always loved fantasy as a genre and this goes for all areas of entertainment be it video games, movies, podcasts, books or wargames.  Recently i stared to do narrative battle reports and the feedback to them has been positive, so on my drives to work each day i started thinking about writing my own fantasy. Once i decided to do this i started working on the basic concepts for a setting and as of Friday (11/09/2015) i finished those concept notes and began to write the very first short story set in the universe. Below is part one of that story, i divided it into 2 parts because posting it in one go would have made for a huge post and i haven't finished writing part 2 yet. Hopefully you will enjoy it and feedback is more than welcome espacilly for this post.

The Warning

Chopping wood, Theo decided, was the worst job he could have got. It was a hot summer’s day which only made the physically demanding job of hitting a solid bit of wood with a equally solid axe that much harder. He paused to wipe sweet from his brow and looked around, the logging camp belonged to the village of Tall Hay one of the many human villages that dotted the plains. Tall Hay lay near one of the many forests and as such made a good living off the lumber it collected with villagers usually only gathering dead wood and trees that were felled during a storm, but recently envoys from a far off place called Caldaria had shown up with the aim of teaching the villagers a new language called Common. While in Tall Hay the envoys had asked the village Elder if they could gather more wood and send it towards the far off settlement in exchange for better tools and more supplies. The Elder had quickly agreed and immediately set up a logging camp on the forest edge which had also had the addition benefit of providing work for idle teenagers, such as Theo. As he paused to take a sip of warm water from his canteen Theo recalled the town meeting where the Elder had announced the new camp, most of the village's fifty inhabitants had been in favour except for one old man, the oldest man in the village in fact. He had warned the Eldar and the others against the camp saying the forest was guarded and protected by strange fey creatures. The rest of the village had laughed at him and the Elder had rubbished the claim saying that in all his thirty five years they had never once been troubled by these “Fey Creatures”. The old man was out of his mind Theo thought, the camp has been running for a week now and we have had no trouble with any “Fey Creatures”. His thirst quenched he carried the wood he had been chopping over to the wagons, greeting a few of his friends as they passed by and chucked it down to on the to load pile, as he did so Oscar the camp boss came over.

“Good Job Theo, nicely split” he said to the young man in a gruff tone.

“Thank ye sir” Theo replied as he met the eyes of the older man, though in truth Oscar was only twenty four a mere 5 years older than Theo himself. Oscar began to order to the loaders to get the wood onto one of the waiting wagons as Theo went back to his spot and began to chop more wood. Only a few more hours left he thought as his arm muscles began to burn again.

The sun was just starting to set as Theo made his way to camp’s entrance. The village Elder had provided the workers with wagons to and from the camp each day and he was making his way to the last one. Most of the camps other sixteen workers had already left and it was just him, Oscar, and 2 others left to go. As he approached the wagon he could see that one was missing, a 16 year old girl by the name of Rachel.

“Has anyone see Rachel” Oscar asked as Theo came to join the small group. As they all shook their heads he sighed, “Alright lets go find her, we can’t leave her here so come on”.

The three of them set off, Theo, Oscar and the remaining worker a fifteen year old boy called Smith. They didn’t have to search for long as they soon came upon Rachel who was crouched down near the roots of some trees near the wood’s edge, she was staring at something intensely as they came up.

“Rachel” Oscar asked curtly “Didn’t you hear the call to end work?”

“I did” she replied without looking up “but as I was heading towards the wagon I found this”

As she said “This” she picked up what she was looking at and held It up for them all to see. It was a dark red rose, the stem cleanly cut by something very sharp.

“How by Fareth did that get here” exclaimed Oscar, scratching his head in puzzlement.

“Dunno” replied Rachel “But that why I stopped to look at it, they don’t grow round here so when I saw it I had to stop and look”.

“Pass it ‘ere” Oscar said taking the rose from the Rachael. “It would be a shame to let it go to waste, it will make a good gift for my wife. Come on now the day is ending and we must be away”.

As the group trudged back to the wagon Theo felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle and he turned back towards the darkening wood. He peered hard at the Treeline in the gathering gloom and, Wait! Was that? No it wasn’t. For a second Theo thought he saw movement but as Oscar called for him to hurry he shook his head and joined the others at the wagon. Minutes later the wagon departed and soon the logging camp was dark. Not long after the moon came up and the whole site was bathed in the sliver moonlight, and in the nook between the roots of a tree there lay a dark read rose with stem cleanly cut by something very sharp in exactly the same place as the first.

Theo woke to the sounds of his family staring their morning routine and he lay there for a few minutes listening not only to the sound of his family but the whole of Tall Hay the village woke up. The sounds and smells of bakers putting the wares out for sale, of watchmen greeting villagers who were up and of his mother greeting his sister as she made porridge. He rolled out of bed and started to pull on his clothes, a rough wool spun shirt and breaches the same garb of most of Tall Hay, and made his way down stairs where his father, mother and sister were waiting. After chatting and eating breakfast he bid them all a good day and set off towards gate where he would be picked up with the others. He hummed as he walked down the dirt road to the gate, waving and greeting people as he passed them by. As he passed the statue to Fareth, god of the harvest at the centre of the village, Rachel came up alongside him.

“Morning Theo”

“Morning Rachel, how are things”

“Good and you?”


They walked in silence for a bit but as the neared the gate he spoke again.

“Rachel, that Rose where do you think it came from?”

Her face grimaced in thought for a few seconds before she spoke

“Don’t tell anyone this but before I found it I felt the hair on the back of my neck prickle, that’s why I turned and saw it. If that hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have found it. I can’t be sure but I could swear I saw something further back in the wood. I think someone or something put the rose there”

Theo nodded slowly before relying.

“I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t know for certain but I felt the same prickly feeling just as we went back to the wagon. I didn’t mention it before because I thought I was just tired but now…..”

They stopped as he trailed off and looked at each other, Rachel broke the silence first.

“We should go tell Oscar, just in case”

“Just in case” he echoed and they hurried to the gate where Oscar was just waving off the first wagon full of workers and was busy loading the second when they approached.

“Morning Rachel, Theo. What is the matter?”

“We have something to tell you” said Rachel. Oscar nodded and gestured them over to the side where they told him about the “Prickly feeling” and the sense that there was something watching them from the woods. Oscar looked thoughtful as he heard their tale, when it ended he spoke.

“It’s good you told me about this. Fret not, get on the wagon and I will sort this out”

They both thanked him and took seats aboard the wagon. As the driver whipped the horses into motion Theo shot Rachel a reassuring smile which she returned with a wink. The edge of the forest loomed not far from the village gates and as the wagon approached the logging camp Theo leaned back with his arms behind his head, maybe he would find a way to work next to Rachel today.

The bell rang for the midday break and Theo straightened up with a groan and wiped sweet from his eyes. Next to him Rachel clicked her back and smiled at him, they had found a way to work next to one and other and had been chatting away while working the whole morning. They did so now as the headed back towards to the camp entrance to get their lunch and were so engaged in their conversation that they almost walked into the watchman going the other way.

“Watch it” He growled at them as he sidestepped them and continued on back the way they came.

“What’s he doing here?” Rachel asked.

“No idea” Theo responded and they resumed their conversation. When they reached the entrance they saw three more Watchmen and the Village’s Watch Sargent , Eric Yount. The Sargent had just finished giving orders to his three remaining men who promptly saluted and walked off towards the forest. As usual Oscar was with helping with the giving out lunch and as they reached him Theo ask him:

“What are they doing here?”

“They are here in case your prickly feelings turn out to be more than just feelings” Oscar replied

“The Elder must be taking this seriously, that’s half the watch” Rachel observed.

“Well it’s not like those louts have much else to do, besides gives them a nice change of scenery to watch over” replied Oscar as he handed them their meals. They thanked him and wandered off to sit up against a fallen tree to eat, chat and enjoy the break.

The sun bathed the camp in an amber glow as it began to sink towards the horizon. Theo and Rachel were walking back to the wagon with their tools when one of the watchmen came up alongside them.

“Excuse me Miss” he said to Rachel “But can you take a look at this”

He pulled something out from his breast pocket, it was a dark red rose, albeit crumpled a bit, with a cleanly cut stem. Frowning she took it from the man.

“Where did you find this?”

The man didn’t respond, instead he toppled over face first onto the ground. Theo started at him in utter confusion for a second until he saw the black fletched shaft quivering from the back of his neck. Just as he was about to react when an eerie high pitched scream split the air, it came from the edge of the forest a few meters from where Theo and Rachel where standing and they both spun around, the shock at seeing a dead body momentarily forgotten. Staggering from the edge of the wood, waving two bloodied stumps where his hands should have been was Eric Yount. As the rest of the camp started at him in disbelief he once again made that eerie high pitched scream but this time it was abruptly cut off as two arrows struck him behind each knee and he collapsed. Before the rest of the camp had any time to react the treeline exploded with activity, short slender figures armed with short bows appeared at the treeline both on the ground and in the branches raining arrows down on the camp while even more of the figures charged from the treeline wielding hiltless swords, quaterstaves topped with blades and throwing weapons. Before the public execution of Yount and his Guardsman the people in the camp numbered twenty one, by the time the figures attacked it numbered nineteen. In the first five seconds of the attack eight more of the workers lay dead. As death danced and flickered around the darkening camp Theo took Rachel’s hand and ran for the cover of a nearby fallen tree and as they reached the log they dived for it as three arrows thudded into it. They peered carefully over the edge of the log and saw chaos. Amid the gathering gloom of evening the workers of the logging camp were being slaughtered and they could only stare helplessly. The watchmen had died quickly in the first seconds of the attack and now the attackers were picking off the rest of the workers. Oscar was simultaneously pounced on by two of the attackers and smashed into ground, he died moments later as both attackers hacked his head into ruin with hatchets. Rachel gave a small gasp as one attacked with a bladed quatersatff lunged and planted it into the back of another worker only to use the momentum it had gathered to vault off downed man onto another. As they watched their friends die they heard the sound of feet behind them and turned to see three figures. The one in the centre was wearing only a loin cloth, his head was angular and thin with two long pointed and slender ears, his eyes were a deep green and his body was well muscled but lean speaking of a agile strength use to a life of climbing and archery. Beside him the other two figures stood  each with short bows with arrows nocked aimed at Rachel and Theo, both wore cloaks of matted leaves and plants with mouth covers as well as loin cloths and both of them were female and their long hair, intertwined with leaves and vines spilled over their breasts, which were bound with a wrap of brown cloth. All three had dark skin far darker than Theo and Rachel had ever seen. As they stared at each other the one in the middle spoke.

“You bare the warning” he said in halting common, pointing at the red rose in Rachel’s hand and as he spoke, despite all that was happening, Theo thought he heard something odd in his voice when he spoke, almost like a deeper and somehow older echo.

“Yeess” replied Rachel in a voice filled with fear. The figure nodded and spoke again.

“Go and tell your people that they have been warned, they are to never again harm the forest for if they do our revenge be shall tenfold what you see here, now go”

Without another word Theo and Rachel got up and sprinted for Tall Hay, not stopping to look behind them, trying to block out the moans of the dying and the screams of the soon to be dying or dead. They ran the distance from the camp to the town in twenty minutes where it would have normally taken forty to walk and thirty to run.When they reached the gate they collapsed together and started to speaking quickly and at once, the watchmen on duty, clearly seeing that something was up from both this and the fact that the wagons had not returned took them quickly to the village Eldar.

They sat before him in chairs that had been quickly brought to the village hall, wrapped in blankets and shaking with shock. They had just recounted the event of the evening to Jeb Quail, the village Elder, who now sat looking at the pair with a expression of worried concern, he eventually spoke.

“Thomas, get your horse saddled and ready to go quickly. You are to ride for Caldaria tonight and tell them of whats happened here. Repeat to their Elder or mayor or whatever she calls herself exactly what you have heard here tonight”.

Thomas bowed and hurried off to make ready for the journey, Caldaria was two days ride from Tall Hay and he would need provisions. Jeb turned back to pair and addressed the hall in general which was now full of everyone who could fit in which was most of the villagers aside from the very old or young.

“Caldaria asked us to log the forest, we pay no attention to the rumours of fey creatures but its clear some bandits want to claim the forest. Well if Caldaria wants us to log the wood the they can bloody well protect us”

This was greeted by a wave of hearty cheers from the assembled villagers and Rachel felt Theo give her hand a reassuring squeeze, she was glad he had survived. As conversation broke out in the hall they were lead away to rest and recover from their experience. As she drifted off to sleep that night she felt some comfort from Elder Jeb’s words, they were bandits nothing more and soon Caldaria would deal with them. But just as she fell asleep she couldn’t help but remember the strange tone that seemed to echo the bandit leaders words, before sleep claimed her she shuddered, no human she knew could do that with their voice. 

The end of Part 1

So there you have it, part one of the first story set in the Young World, please let me know what you thought of it, any and all feedback is welcome and if you liked it feel free to spread it around the internet, more exposure and feedback is always good. Until next time.

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