The title, however nonsensical it may be, does, in fact, say it all. This is a topic where I post any writing I may do. But for now, specifically, as the title explains, I have one thing: The Drionus Realm, The War of Chaos, a fantasy book I am writing. This is my heart story. I've worked on this universe since I was eight, and recently started legitimately writing on it. I went to a young writer's conference in Minneapolis from Tuesday to Thursday this week, and the Prologue and Chapter One are what I brought in. I will post those now, and the few other chapters I have later. I'd love any critique and/or comments you have. So, without further ado, here it is:
Spoiler'd for size, here is the book concept cover I drew up in PowerPoint:
“Soon, soon, soon, you keep saying ‘soon!’” the King snapped at his brother. “I begin to wonder if you are right at all, as you have been saying ‘soon’ for the past sixty years!”
“I mean what I say, Elader,” the other King, his brother, replied calmly. “When I say ‘soon,’ I mean ‘soon.’”
“Then I fear your concept of time is but a little backwards, Argoth.” Elader sighed and slapped a large hand onto his brother’s shoulders. “It has been sixty years, Argoth. Sixty years since we started all of this. And yet still you say ‘soon.’ Knowing you, that either means it will be another ten years at the least before we are ready, at which point, might I remind you, we will be close to death by old age, or, the other option, the one I hope for but am disinclined to believe in, and that is that . . . soon,” he put an annoyed stress on that word, “you will start saying very soon.” Argoth laughed a little, and turned to face Elader.
“But I am right, brother.” He slapped his own wrinkled hand on Elader’s broad shoulders. “You know that.” Though his hands were ancient, his grip was firm and loving.
“Yes, I know that. And that irks me. How you are right, I do not understand. You are always right, brother, and yet you always speak in riddles when it comes to the how of it. Even with your own brother. Your own kin.” The balding king sighed.
“I am gifted, Elader. That, you also knew.” Argoth turned away once more to stare out upon their city from the palace balcony.
“Yes. ‘Gifted.’ I know it, but once more I do not understand it. Gifted with what, Argoth? Gifted by whom?”
“With foresight, Elader. By the gods.”
“You know the gods have not been with us for a long time, Argoth.” Elader looked angrily into the pink, evening clouds and saw, there, in the hues, his own emotions reflected. In the reds, the pinks.
“Just because the gods have not blatantly shown signs in some physical manifestation of themselves does not mean they have abandoned us, Elader.” Elader began pacing.
“And yet they have not shown the barest hint of their existence, or their involvement in mortal affairs, for centuries, Argoth, not since the Divine Wars!” Elader stepped close to his bearded brother, eager to hear his retort for that, despite having heard it countless times before.
“And yet we have not been discovered.”
“What?” Elader asked, confused as to what his brother meant. That was a sentence he had not anticipated. It dissented from the normality of their conversation; it wandered from the path of their usual discussion.
“This rebellion we have started. These alliances we have been making for these sixty long years. None of it has come to the eye of Sovereign Archen. I take that as a sign of good fortune from the gods.”
“It is not from the gods, Argoth. It is common, earthly fortune. We call that ‘good luck.’” The argument was veering back towards its norm again. “It is commonplace here in Drionus.”
“If that is indeed true, then mighty, tremendous good luck we have had, these past sixty years, eh, Elader?” Argoth pushed on those last words, leaning close to Elader, staring daggers into his eyes with his own, wise, weary eyes of gray. The two kings looked out onto their city.
“I see your point, brother. But luck of such magnitude can happen. It is possible. More possible than it being fortune from the gods, more possible than the idea that the gods still smile down on us from the heavens above. The gods have left us. We are alone in our earthly affairs.”
“A theory I downright refuse to believe, brother, as you well know.”
“Yes, yes, I grow weary of this conversation. It is one we have had too many times before.”
“On that, brother, we are agreed.”
Swirling, bubbling darkness was all he saw. He drifted through the black, spots and blotches of patchy light bleeding through the inky blackness here and there, rays of sunshine leaking in, and then getting snuffed out by the tides of death. And then a voice cried, breaking through the shadows, shattering the façade of night, tearing a hole in the glossy, watery fabric of the black blanket, calling for him, calling by name . . . the words bounced about through the stars, he couldn’t grasp it . . . the voice wasn’t strong enough . . . he wasn’t strong enough . . . the darkness folded around him, the voice was shut out, he saw glimpses, glimpses of things to be, things that could come to pass, things that he should not have seen, and then-
. . . Darren . . . Darren . . . Darren . . .
Darren awoke with a start. He couldn’t remember what he dreamt for the life of him, but he just knew. It was this . . . feeling, deep in his gut, that something terrible had been happening and that he had just escaped it by returning to reality. By waking up.
That feeling plagued him after every nightmare. It was that nauseous pit in his stomach, his intestines churning about worriedly and his insides, his gut freezing over, stuck with an icy lance of pure, cold despair.
That, coupled with the layers and layers of sweat, some of it long dried, some of it still wet, that had caked itself onto him and his bed, and was stinking up the room like a stable. Without the smell of manure, of course, that was obvious, but take away the smell of manure in a stable and you would get a smell rather like that which Darren was now grimacing at. His father always told him that he would get used to the way he smelled, eventually. That someday, when he was older, he would no longer smell himself. Somehow, he doubted that.
Because every morning at nine o’clock, bang on the dot – Darren awoke with a start as his father opened his smithy with the toll of a bell and an abhorrently loud and obnoxious “we’re open,” being yelled from his father’s mouth and into the streets, and somehow carrying into Darren’s bedroom, despite there being first and foremost a window that was always closed and secondly the fact that Darren’s father was always turned facing the street, and not the house – Darren would awake to the horrid stench of boy.
The people of the village said that his father had a blacksmith’s voice: impossibly loud, sickeningly gravelly, and forever selling daggers for half off.
Of course he’s got a blacksmith’s voice, Darren grumbled to himself in his thoughts, the way only a person who hates mornings could grumble to himself in his thoughts, he’s a blacksmith, and then he laid his face back down in the pillow and shut his eyes tight.
Of course he didn’t actually fall back to sleep. He never could. Once he woke up, he couldn’t for the life of him get back to sleep again until nightfall.
But trying to go back to sleep somehow, despite its impossibility, felt worth it. It was a way of resting and procrastinating doing any actual work before his father clomped up the stairs to come and get him.
And of course, his father did come to get him.
But, today, Darren was one step ahead of him. Because today – or rather, during the night prior – Darren had had such a wretched nightmare that he had sweated so profusely even he could not bear his own stench. So, several minutes before his father came to get him, Darren had groggily stood up, stripped his clothes, deposited the golden medallion around his neck – an heirloom given to him by his father – gently onto his nightstand, poured himself a bath, and began bathing the stink off of himself after opening the window to let some more of it out, which, gods knowing, had to be done.
The door blew open and a massive, brown-haired, hunching man stomped in on his tiptoes – that was a thing only his father was adept at, stomping on his tiptoes. The man took several hearty steps into the room, an eager smile on his face, a wicked shine in his eyes, and a strange jar in his hand. But then the man spotted Darren, frowned, straightened up, and sighed.
“This better not become a new habit, Darren,” his father said, almost sadly.
“What, bathing?” Darren joked.
“No, getting up before I can . . . well, get you up, if you know what I mean,” his father laughed loudly.
“What was the plan this time, Father?” Darren asked, a little halfheartedly. He was amused, yes, but he was preoccupied with scrubbing some less than clean parts of his naked body – which was to say, all of it. His father raised the arm holding the strange clay jar.
“Spiders,” he explained, a mischievous joy in his voice. Darren gasped. He hated spiders. He really hated spiders. He was deathly afraid of spiders. “Bought them from Ms. Fig. Shoulda seen the look on her face when, after I bought it, I told her it was for dumping on my son’s head!” Darren’s father reared his head back and roared with laughter, then bent over and put his hands on his knees, seemingly unable to recover from the hilarity of it all.
“I think spiders . . .” Darren gulped, scooting his way to the edge of his tub furthest from his father, “. . . were um . . . just a bit t-too f-far, Father,” he said through gritted teeth. He took a few short breaths, eyeing the jar suspiciously.
“Well, you know, you have to get over your fear sometime, right? I thought . . . well, now might’ve been a good time, but oh well. Well, you better- oh by Krainein, it reeks in here!” Darren’s father nearly doubled over. The stink must’ve just reached his nostrils. “What, did you kill something in here?” he continued to groan, and he plugged his nose. Darren sighed.
“Actually, if I know my nightmares, something probably killed me in here.” His father didn’t laugh. “You know,” Darren continued, “in m-my . . . my nightmare. Something probably killed me in my nightmare,” his ramblings came to a stuttering end. His father still wasn’t laughing. Pfft. I thought it was funny.
“Well, son, you should get dressed and head out to the shop. You’re late, as usual.”
“But I’m bathing, Father! And I’m tired; I only just woke up! Oh, and I need something to eat, too, first,” Darren complained, but seeing his father’s annoyance, the same look he received every morning when he gave the same exact list of excuses- excuse me, Darren stopped himself – reasons why he couldn’t come into the shop just this instant, when he got that look, he stopped. “. . . If that’s quite alright with you?” His father sighed and walked over slowly, turning the jar in his hand around.
“You know . . . ‘tis a shame I bought this whole jar of spiders and never got to use it . . .” He clucked his tongue sadly, shaking his head with feigned resentment, and then, to Darren’s dismay, he twisted the jar open and emptied the contents of it – a dozen black, creepy-crawly spiders – onto Darren’s head. And all in the span of a nanosecond, a half of an instant, Darren realized how stupid he was, how he knew that was going to happen and how he had made a huge mistake, possibly the largest mistake of his life, by staying there and how he should’ve jumped up the moment his father walked over, and Darren’s senses registered the feelings of one hundred tiny, hairy arachnid legs crawling all over his shaggy hair and down his neck frantically, and finally, last but certainly not least, Darren let out an ear-piercing, glass-shattering, girlish shriek and jumped out of his bath, shook wildly and vigorously like someone who was having a seizure, flapping his arms about like a court jester, and then he landed on his feet, shaking, quivering, whimpering, in the middle of the room, stark naked, freezing cold, dripping wet, scared to death.
Goosebumps broke out like wildfires all along Darren’s body and he still felt phantom imprints of the spiders all over him, causing him to have the overwhelming desire to itch – a desire which he fulfilled gratefully, scratching and clawing himself all over – and making him feel all the more cold and exposed.
His father, of course, laughed.
“Father!” Darren screamed through barred teeth.
“Awake now, son? I think that takes care of your list. You’re done bathing, you’re clearly not tired anymore,” Darren shivered violently, “cause, kid, you’re shaking like the skirt of an Emisaran tavern dancer,” he laughed, “and finally, if I remember correctly, which I do, you once said even seeing spiders makes you lose your appetite. And I reckon that being covered in about a dozen, all of them actually touching you,” Darren scratched himself again, just to be sure, “well, you’re probably not gonna eat for the day.” His father chuckled heartily. “Get dressed, son, and then get to the shop.”
Darren twitched uncontrollably. Thanks, Father. Thanks to you, now, I’m gonna be looking for and finding spiders in this room for the next week!
The door slammed shut as Darren’s father left the room, his deep, contagious laughter still echoing through the house and ringing in Darren’s ears.
Darren gulped. There were still spiders about. A dozen. Maybe more. Those creepy-crawly nightmares seemed invulnerable to all things of the mortal world. They were impossibly fast and evil as a dragon, with talons like . . . well, like . . . do spiders have talons?
Darren shook his head furiously. What do I care? The less he knew about spiders, the better, he figured, as even the thought of them made him shiver with fright. Darren was not a cowardly boy; no, he never shied from a task and consistently braved the dangers of being late to his father’s shop. Nor was he a squeamish boy: Of the wounds he had seen in his lifetime, none had made him turn away his gaze, and for a boy of 18 living in a small town on the outskirts of a petty kingdom independent of the Sovereignty’s rule, he had seen a surprising number of wounds. His father, when he used to hunt with the town guards, always seemed to return with unexplained wounds, which always worried his mother greatly. Darren’s older brother, Drake, would sometimes accompany their father on these hunts, and sometimes he had returned with wounds, himself.
Never liked hunting. He had always thought it rather dull. But what his brother and father used to venture out into the woods for, armed to the teeth, was most assuredly not hunting. At least, not any common hunting involving game. Darren wasn’t blind to this – he was no idiot. But he had never gotten an answer as to what it was. He would ask, his father would reply with “hunting.” Hunting. Hunting deer in a forest doesn’t send you home with stab wounds.
He took a look around his room as he reached for the towel atop the trunk at the foot of his bed. The gaze around his room wasn’t idle, nor was it even to check for spiders. Instead, it was to check for more practical jokes. Sometimes, his father would mess with his room somehow – move things to different places just to make Darren’s morning all the more miserable. But it all seemed to be right. There was his mirror, set atop a small table, his bed in the corner, his trunk at the foot of that, a nightstand on one side of the small bed, a window on the far wall, his bath set in the middle of the room, and the door.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
He sighed, relieved, and opened his trunk, pulling from it an off-white pillow tunic, and a pair of brown sack-cloth pants. He dressed himself, picked up the shoes next to the trunk, put them on, and stepped towards the door, but stopped mid-step – an awkward maneuver that nearly caused him to double over – and turned his head to his nightstand. The medallion. Making sure to keep a watchful eye for spiders, he carefully moved towards his nightstand. Once he reached it, he snatched the medallion – a bronze-gold pendant with an ornate chain, silver engravings and a polished, shining ruby in the center – and then he rushed to his door, slipped out, slammed it behind him, and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes, his hand idly caressing the medallion around his neck.
He ran his thumb gently over the ruby in the center, felt its expertly carved shape, the perfect, round edges, the smooth, polished surface of the gem. He clenched it tightly, wrapping his whole fist around it, and took another deep breath. It was a comfort to him, a security item. It made him feel safe. His father had given it to him on his eighteenth birthday, said it had been a gift from the king of their land for loyalty to the kingdom. His father had served as a knight, once upon a time, but that had been long ago. No matter how much Darren insisted on it, his father would never tell any tales from his days as a soldier. Darren suddenly scoffed. That thought had brought another into his head. When his father gifted him the necklace, the chain attached to the pendant was not the only string attached: He had also forbidden him from wearing the medallion at night, while sleeping. When Darren questioned this, his reason was that “you could choke yourself.” Darren had thought that a rubbish reason, and so, in the wake of his horrible nightmares, as a source of comfort, and in part as an act of teenage rebellion, Darren chose to, secretly, always wear the medallion, every night.
No problem so far.
Darren leaned against the wall outside his room and clutched the medallion tighter. He still felt anxious. He shut his eyes tightly.
. . . Darren . . .
Darren’s eyes shot open, barely saving him from slipping into another nightmare. He shook his head vigorously. He had nearly fallen asleep. That same blackness from before had almost engulfed him again. How little sleep did I get last night?
“Darren!” came a voice. It was his mother, downstairs. “Your father’s giving me ‘the signal!’” Darren sighed. Ah, yes. The signal. “The signal” was what his mother called the look Darren’s father gave her when Darren took too long to come into the shop. His place of work was set just outside of their house, and so, if Darren was still late, his father would look up from the forge, gaze through their open window, catch his wife’s eyes, and lift his arms up questioningly, which provoked her to call Darren to come down, if he hadn’t already. Darren set one shaky foot onto the top step. He felt nauseous, lightheaded. Must be getting too little sleep. It’s the nightmares.
“Coming, mother!” Darren called down. He let go of the pendant and clasped the railing tightly with his now-free hand. He took another step, this one steadier. His nausea began to lift, and his head felt its proper weight again. He took another step, and another, and then was able to descend the stairs normally, albeit with the wall the stairs were directly against as a steadying device. Once he reached the ground floor, he turned to the right, the only direction available. His house was small: a two story building with three tiny rooms on the top floor, a living room to the right of the steps, a small kitchen past that with a dining table set in the center of it, and a door going outside. The house had sturdy stone foundations and was furnished cozily with cushioned chairs and some finely woven rugs. Three windows, shutters fully open, let light into the house, the beams illuminating pillars of dust drifting from the ceiling.
Darren stepped into the kitchen and grabbed his canteen, which sat on the table. He filled it at the water keg, hugged his mother good morning, nearly getting a mouthful of curly red hair in the process, and then stepped outside into the cool, Sky’s Lament air. It was the fourth month of the year AA 261136, and it was the rainiest, and dreariest. But today was, in fact, a fairly bright day, with a cool breeze, a somewhat cloudy sky, and not a drop of water in the air or a rumble of thunder in the sky. Darren breathed in the smell of the town. All the good and the bad, the fresh fruits and baked goods, the cooked meats and the good-smelling herbs of Ms. Fig, and the manure and the bad-smelling herbs, the smoke from the forge. Darren stood in front of the smithy, and the heat from the forge blasted into him, tearing away the pleasant chill and replacing it with an unpleasant warmth.
“About time, Dar,” his father said.
“What’re we forging today, Father?” Darren asked, though he dreaded the answer.
“Swords,” he answered. Darren sighed. There it is. The answer he dreaded.
“Again?” Darren asked, annoyance clear in his voice. “Swords again?” In response to this, his father gave him a look as hard as Elven steel.
“Sorry, Father.” Darren lowered his head. His father sighed and turned back to the forge again, picking up the tongs.
“Put on your gloves. We’ve work to do.”
That's it. Please forgive formatting errors, this forum has never liked Word. So again, comments and critique welcome, and that's all! Seeya later!