Untitled Fantasy Teaser

Posted: September 26, 2014 in Fiction
Tags: , , ,

Prologue

If ever there were a day for hiding the sun, this is it, thought Vikare, sourly. The big burning orb shone at it’s highest point. Vikare’s skin tingled under a sheen of sweat he wanted to believe was due to the heat. His robes stuck to his body, his cowl bouncing against his back as he ran. Disgraceful behavior, running. Especially for one of my station.
Vikare sprinted across the long Euphrat River bridge and pushed himself through the barrier of open ground. The shadow of the single, immense tower met his feet, cooling the air a few degrees. He hauled on the door with a spell, breathing heavily. Shoving through underlings and Acolytes, he made his way to the fourth floor. Rounding the passageways, all made of iron-woven stone this low to the ground, he brought himself up short of the improvised counsel chamber. He panted, the side of his face against the cool rock wall, his hands on his knees. After a too brief moment, Vikare straightened and strolled slowly into the room.
The improvised counsel chamber was the biggest room on the fourth floor, not least because three adjoining walls had been demolished. The fourth floor itself took up six normal floors, and most wizards avoided it. This floor was the aviary portion of the Refuge’s bestiary. Every one of the Gathered’s flying creatures had been crammed indelicately into the 32nd floor. Most of the room’s outer wall was missing. The Unspoken River lay motionless in the distance, a blueish ribbon too wide to cross.
Mercian strutted up to him ahead of the waiting retinue. She stood tall, her nocturnal wings drawn in out of courtesy. Even so, Vikare could see the fathomless darkness and the occasional star close enough to shine in the sky on her back. He gazed at her eyes to avoid the turning in his stomach her wings evented in him during the day. Thankfully, her eyes. Green eyes, thankfully.
“The Big Men will be here in moments,” She announced.
“Thank you, Mercian. I hadn’t felt the ground shaking on my way here.” he muttered sarcastically.
“You should not have left. No business is more important right now, especially the formulaic ‘secret’ business of wizards. Your man Aias has kept your secrets, the foul pest.”
Aias stepped up in time to hear her words. He stood shoulder to shoulder with Mercian, his armor nearly as much of a distinction among the Gathered as Mercian’s wings.
“Sire, they were sighted on this side of the Skye Burn,” Aias stated.
“They pick the narrowest river to cross,” Vikare’s grin was out of place among the worry on the faces around him. “Perhaps they do have a sense of humor.”
The retinue fanned out around him, awaiting orders.
“Such gloominess on so nice a summer day?” Vikare sighed, wiping sweat from his brow. “Fine then, you sour lot. They’ll be here too soon. Hector, begone! You have too much history with the giants. I’ll not have you giving offense to a defensive action. Aias, stay close but do not be seen. Mercian, my dear, your presence is appreciated, but not necessary. Go and find relief from the heat. Able-men, fetch water. Lots of it; just in case. Acolytes and above, to the balcony. Fellows, to your seats. Remember the rules. Go!”
Aias darted to the large shutters near the missing wall. “They are here.”
“All of you! If I hear the words Big Man I will burn you to embers on the spot! Silence from all.” Vikare shouted.
He walked calmly to his throne opposite the shutters and settled himself. The Fellows took their respective chairs on either side of him. Staring at the oversized throne and benches in front of him – too many for comfort – he recited the rules to himself.
“Look them in the eye. Speak evenly and without anger. Be hospitable but do not infer need. Matheuss holds his position by will as much as strength. Telemachus is second by right of battle. Above all, find the one without binds on his wrists.”
Aias cleared is throat. Vikare looked up and reluctantly gave him a nod. The man pulled a chain hand over hand until the shutters swung wide.
An enormous set of fingers grasped the ledge. A second hand shot up and smacked the floor. A thunder clap rang through the counsel chamber. Matheuss’ head rose into view, his close grey hair shining in the sunlight. The giant pulled himself up over the ledge and stood.
“Welcome, Theuss!” Vikare stood and met his eyes, in demeanor if not in fact. “Please, enter and sit if you like.”
Matheuss lumbered from the edge, blocking out the sky behind him. He sat in the throne opposite Vikare. More giants hoisted themselves into the chamber. Nearly two hundreds men. A truly giant band. The benches would be full today.
Matheuss almost smiled. That concession to courtesy seemed to be all he was capable of. Near enough, Vikare thought with relief. The other men of his party filed to the benches. Bare chests and leather quickly changed the odor in the room. The giants adorned themselves with trophies of the hunt and battle. Bits of armor clanged like cathedral bells. Many wore helms or masks of plate, scale, or bone. Vikare could barely see the sky behind them. Their presence darkened the chamber. He began to worry whether the iron-Woven floor would hold the assembled weight.
Vikare scanned the giant’s wrists quickly. None were armed, but every giant he could see wore the ceremonial steel binds. Disconcerting.
“Would you favor water?” Vikare asked.
Matheuss cocked his head downward, searching the words for insinuation of weakness.
“I think, wise Vikare, that we would not empty your wells today. My thanks.”
Telemachus shouldered his way to the front and sat on the bench nearest Theuss. He was a head shorter than his Chieftain, and wore his hair long. His youth reflected in his movements.
Telemachus rubbed at his newly fashioned binds. No chain restricted his movements, but Vikare could tell the idea of restraint did not sit well in the young man’s heart. So very human, Vikare pondered.
“Machus, Young Mountain, welcome! Your presence adds strength and safety to the house of the Gathered.” Vikare spoke loudly. His words brought a proud grin to the youth’s chin. Vikare nodded respectfully. Employing the affectionate boast used by proud clan fathers for their sons had worked.
Vikare sat and leaned toward Matheuss. These are the men who took the field at Lilipidae?”
Matheuss nodded.
The room settled into relative silence. Vikare addressed the ranks of seated giants in turn.
“Welcome! Welcome men of the Mountain Clans!” Welcome scouts, standard bearers, triarii and rorarii. Welcome brawlers and infantrymen alike. Missiliers, cavaliers, cornicens and drum men, spears-men, battle makers, – and Telemachus.” The men laughed. “Welcome to the Refuge of the Gathered!
The giants shout as one; a single syllable of affirmation. The aviary rang. Vikare could feel the men on the balcony behind him flinch.
Vikare turned back to Matheuss.
“The clan did not come to Lilipidae for the reasons you credit.”
“I know this.” Vikare responded. “You came because Machus and his party needed your aid. Intentions do not always matter. Some actions happen when the must. Because they must. The people of Lilipidae care not for your reasons. Suddenly they care very much for you. It is no terrible thing to find an enemy is suddenly your friend.”
Matheuss laughed. “I need no friends among the little people.”
Vikare fixed the giant’s eyes from under his furrowed brows. The ploy worked. Matheuss leaned down to meet his gaze.
“Do you have friends among the dragons?” Vikare chuckled. “They are awfully big.”
“What purpose can the little people serve alongside us? They will die!”
“Alongside you, if they must.” This gave the Chieftain pause. “Stop calling them little people. You hate ‘big man.’ That is common knowledge. They are men, the same as you. They fight as fiercely. Look to your own dead and know this to be true. Machus, you came over that hill. Why?”
Telemachus shifted in his seat. “My blood craved battle.”
“Bull shit.” Vikare kept his stare on Matheuss.
“The- The town was afire. There were children fleeing toward us.” Telemachus took an unsteady breath. “The beast turned in the air. Its bellows opened… It was heading for the little people ch- for the children.”
“You acted nobly. Without thought, but nobly. Theuss, this youth seized a dragon by the bellows. Surely you can be bold enough to fight in common cause alongside your lessers.” Vikare leaned back, watching for the giant’s reaction to his rehearsed words.
“Fear is bigger than dragons, isn’t it Matheuss? A Big Man ruled by a little emotion is reduced to feebleness. “ A harsh voice rang out.
Vikare’s head spun. On the far side of the room, Hector sat smirking at the Chieftain.
“Hector–” Vikare began. The giant did not let him finish.
“Has no one killed this fool yet?”
A young giant with a bone mask covering most of his face responded in a hushed tone.
“I will.”
The giant, seated at the far end of the chamber, stretched his arm out quicker than the eye could follow. He grabbed Hector around the torso and slammed him, open palmed, into the far wall. Without expression, the giant tossed Hector’s body over his shoulder and out the open shutters. The wrist lacked the customary gleam of steel.
Well, there he is, Thought Vikare.
Matheuss’ eyes were lit with anger.
“You planned for this violence?” Matheuss’ silence spoke the truth.
The people on the balcony shifted uncomfortably in the silence. Vikare could hear the Fellows on either side of him breathing. The giants were motionless as springs.
“Will the magicians fight?” Matheuss stilled the silence.
Vikare took a moment before answering. “We will provide support. Healing and certain other… talents. The Gathered do not fight.”
Matheuss stood and turned to leave.
“Do not lecture me on common causes when–”
Vikare bolted out of his throne.
“I resign from my duties as Head of the Gathered. The Refuge will chose a new leader. I will fight, Theuss.”
The giant glanced over his shoulder, a knowing grin on his face. He nodded sharply, and led his men out of the Refuge.
Ignoring the muttering and shouting from the fellows around him, Vikare collapsed into his throne and cursed the heat.

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Comments
  1. Alayne says:

    Teaser is right! You better write the rest of this in short order.

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