For this week’s #SS I thought I’d share another piece of my WIP THE PRINCE OF GRAVES. It’s a fantasy novella that is a prelude to my other fantasy WIP SHADOWS AND BONES. Although the below is a draft, I’d love to hear feedback, good or bad. I hope you enjoy.
THE PRINCE OF GRAVES
Frey was aware of the sound of a roaring wind. Not just the sound, but he felt it upon his skin, which although cold, was far warmer than the inside of his body. He felt frozen, colder than the waste land he had fought in. With a start he opened his eyes.
He lay upon a bare patch of rock that lay in the midst of a great river, the shores of which were so far removed on both sides of him that he could barely make them out as darker borders to the inky, frothing waters. The water was black and powerful, racing by at great speed toward a terrible precipice so wide that the ends could not be seen. The sky above was pitch, as was the sky beyond the falls. Frey could not tell how he was able to even see the landscape around him, as there was no moon or sun or stars.
He was not alone. Quickly he stood, and turning away from the mad, frothing waters he faced a dark cowled form. The robe was brown, but about the waist was a silver belt.
“Is this the land of the dead?”
“My prince, you yet live, though death yonder calls to you.” Frey knew the voice at once.
“Yes my lord,” he answered, although his features still were shadowed by his cowl. “Your wounds should be fatal. The blade of the Xethicor cursed your blood, and your body, nearly lifeless, is now draped over a slain archer’s steed. But Layarax is the mightiest wizard of this age, and he has taught me much. This enchantment has prevented you from crossing over.” Frey turned back toward the falls.
“What lies beyond that? Hell?”
“I do not know,” said Dayhoral. “None do. Although the world is infected with countless strange spirits, there are none who have gone beyond those waters that have ever returned to tell.” Frey closed his eyes, feeling the roar of the water as it cascaded over the unfathomable precipice. The sound shook his frame, and his thoughts became unfocused as they were drawn into the everything that was end of the river. Through the shaking and turmoil, he heard Dayhoral’s voice calling his name. With reluctance he opened his eyes.
“Prince Frey,” said the wizard, his voice floating on the surreal wind the rushed with the waters past him. “Look upon me. I am the only link to the land of the living for you now. You can still perish, and if that happens I fear all hope for Valeot will perish with you.” Frey felt the wizards words held more despair than they should.
“We only need to hold out until Laveris secures the western front. He will then be able to send back enough of his forces to defend Ceremane.”
“Your brothers are slain, my lord. You are the only heir of Valeot now.” Dayhoral’s voice was elemental, his words without emotion or empathy, but they struck him as though well aimed arrows. Once more he turned toward the falls as though he might see through the darkness and see his brothers. Once more the world shaking sound of the waters rose, this time with the promise to sweep away his grief and anger. His skin grew more cold still.
Once again he heard Dayhoral’s voice, not mixed with the sounds of the water and wind, but rising over it in conflict.
“My Lord! Your kingdom needs you! Without you, all will kneel before the Necromancer Kings!” Frey opened his eyes and found his head was but inches above the ground, his posture bent over as though bowing before the Void ahead.
“If my brothers are dead, then what hope is there? There are no commanders strong enough to replace Laveris. I have already been crushed beneath the coming doom!” For a moment Dayhoral did not answer. The omnipresent sound of wind and water was all there was. When the wizard finally spoke, it was as if he had not heard the prince.
“We ride now back to Ceremane. You lie senseless on a steed being driven by Vraim, who although could not stand in the presence of the Death Knight, never fled. I rescued the both of you, and we now flee south to prepare the city for siege.”
“Damn it Day! Defend her with what? We are routed on all sides!”
“No, my lord. There are still forces still able to bear arms in defense of Ceremane. Straggling forces pulled from the south await orders from either the northern or western fronts. And although the battle in the west is dire, my lord Layarax still lives, and a sizable number of Valeot’s sons remain as a bulwark for now. But the moment is critical. If the last son of Atherion can rise and rally the kingdom, there may yet be hope.”
“The last son of Atherion has already failed. I will return to my father, and I will do what I can. But while the Death Knight leads the Dagir Xethu, we but prolong the fall of kingdom.” Again Dayhoral was silent, but his shrouded head turned slightly as though listening to something from behind him in the darkness.
“We are approaching Ceremane. Your wounds are severe still, although I’ve managed to dress them and heal them to a point. You must be strong.” Frey nodded, but the wizard continued more forcefully.
“Prince Frey, in the coming days more than the fate of Ceremane will be determine, more than the fate of Valeot. The August Kingdom is the last of the kingdoms of Maladine. If we fail – if you fail – then the last vestiges of what is good and noble will fall to the Lords of the Dead.” Frey opened his mouth to answer, though with what words he had no clear idea. But the roar of the winds and the waters suddenly ceased, and the quiet was terrifying. He opened his eyes, and before a madness of terror overtook him the sight of Ceremane the Great before him filled his vision.
Frey sat up and grabbed the stirrups from Vraim, whose eyes opened wide with shock at seeing his nearly dead prince rise with vigor. Before he could utter a word Frey held up his hand.
“Dayhoral and I ride to the throne room, and will enter through the Wheat Gate. Faithful Vriam, outside the Pilgrim’s Gate are forces from the south awaiting our command. Go to them, and tell them that they will fight under Prince Frey for the very survival of their kingdom. Go now!” Vraim hesitated only a moment, and then despite his bewilderment a hard smile cracked his lips. His prince was back, and so was hope. With a shout he turned his mount to the right and galloped hard to the western wall and the large Pilgrim’s Gate. Dayhoral spurred his horse up next to Frey.
“Your presence brings encouragement, and the love of your subjects will be a powerful weapon against the coming army,” said the wizard. Frey watched Vraim charge hard across the flat grassland, then looked at the city. The white walls were fortified, and a although a great number of her fighting men were emptied and mostly locked in battle along the River Vendehar Frey could still see soldiers manning the watch towers. Probably infirmed or youths, he thought grimly, but they hold weapons.
“Even if we somehow hold off the Dagir Xethu, and turn them away, the slaughter will be unthinkable. Ceremane will be more a tomb than a city.” Dayhoral looked to the ground. Frey drove his heels into his mount, and sped south towards the Wheat Gate in the northern wall.