Duality: First Part

Friends and strangers, welcome to my (other) novel.

Duality was born from a desire to write something other than Aelan, my other story. That is not to say I do not enjoy Aelan. It has become very much part of my life that I feel losing the several moleskines I have filled with writing would tear me apart more than any other possession. 

A similar vein of writing – still Fantasy – Duality is aiming to become a bigger, broader world than Aelan ever could be. Warfare stands centre-stage as usual, this time with the inclusion of costly magic (or ‘magecraft‘).

Do try and enjoy.


 

First Part

© Richard Ford

“Magecraft comes in twos. A person born with magecraft will share his (or her) magecraft with another. They might live in the same city, they might abide in different lands. They may be friends, they may be mortal enemies. Yet they will be connected. For better or for worse.”

 

The Beginning.

His gambeson was damp, the dew from the long grass creeping steadily through the quilted fabric. An unpleasant and uncomfortable experience, yet not a new one for Quickdraw. It was a sad fact of his army career that he found himself sliding along on his belly a good portion of the time. Through mud, through grass, even over stone. His legs, at least, were saved from the cold damp. The weight of his greaves was a small price to pay for comfort. For half his body, at least.

An arrow was already notched to his bowstring, just in case an over-eager scout stumbled upon his hiding place. Years of practice left him as an invaluable asset to the county, a position he revered and hated in equal measure. There was a lot of trust placed on his own eyes. Hundreds – potentially thousands – of lives depended on his accurate information and careful studying. Slowly he stole forwards, using his elbows like crutches to reach the edge of the hill.

The enemy’s camp was in the valley below him. A quick look told him it was well dug in. A longer study gave the impression it was well fortified. A further evaluation brought him to the conclusion that an all-out assault would be suicide. It was a mini fortress, complete with palisades and trenches, surrounding makeshift barricades built out of felled trees. Ideas formulated, visualised, and fell apart in swift cognitive patterns lasting mere moments. From where he was, there was no weak spot in their defences. They could pepper the encampment from up on the hills to either side. A few might find their targets but at some point they would run out of arrows. At some point they would have to advance upon the base. And that’s when the defenders would bring forth arrows of their own, revealing themselves from the copious hiding spots Quickdraw could see even from this far away.

He shook his head, cursing to himself. This was a fool’s errand, guaranteed to put a swift end to their skirmish if an assault was attempted. Marshall Galro may not be a fool, but some members of the war council were. Quickdraw could just imagine Kadlow sneering at his report when he advised against an assault. The upstart would dismiss it as false intelligence. ‘A quick and decisive victory is what we need!’ seemed to be Kadlow’s favourite, and only, input during the campaign. Two months of his snide comments, of his sordid claims of negligence. What did nobles know of war? Quickdraw had to resist the urge to spit in the mud. Kadlow was the worst, but far from the only one. Eldest sons of loyal Adels and Adaelles to the Pral, sent on their first command for the glory of their household names. War was not the place for egotistical upstarts. War was the place for the hardy, for the brave. For those willing to die.

Men like Quickdraw. Men like those below him. Men like the sentries patrolling the encampment, unaware that their deaths could be seconds away. All Quickdraw had to do was raise his bow and let fly. He wouldn’t, of course, but he knew he could. To hold a man’s life in your hands like that … it was a feeling Quickdraw never got used to. He would kill, he had killed, but it never got easy. You don’t think as it happens. You watch the arrow sail, or feel the blade puncture flesh and it feels as natural as getting out of bed in the morning. Then it hits you later. The guilt, the remorse. Funny thing, feeling remorse for a man you never knew. For a man who fights for the opposite of what you do. Against you. Guilt shatters all barriers of race and beliefs. Makes you question if your cause is just. Which, of course, it wasn’t. Quickdraw knew that. Killing could never be a just cause. But duty came before justice to him, and that was all that mattered. His duty was to report on the enemy’s activity, and that was what he planned to do.

With one last, sweeping look over the encampment, Quickdraw slunk back down the hill, the damp still clinging to his now sodden gambeson.

 

***

Arms raised, bow slung across his shoulder. There was no way he could appear less threatening. Yet his appearance prompted warning cries each time he re-entered camp.

“Hold! Hands above your head!”

“They already are, Kampa.”

“Oh, it’s you. False alarm, guys – it’s only Quickdraw!”

He supposed he couldn’t fault Kampa.  He was only doing his job, after all. It was a testament to his hard work that no enemy had managed to surprise them. Yet. Their location had been well chosen: there was only one direction for the enemy to attack from, unless they fancied scaling the steep cliffs on either side of them. Much of the credit should go to Quickdraw for finding it, but he was sure the nobles would claim it as their own.

“What news you got for us?”

Quickdraw shook his head. “You know the drill. Council first, then the troops. It’d be my head if gossip reached them before I did.”

Kampa gave a gruff laugh. “Kadlow would love that, I’m sure.” He spat at his feet. “Dusk was looking for you earlier.”

“Aye, sounds like her.” With a nod of thanks, Quickdraw made his way through the outskirts of the camp, greeting those who cared about his reappearance. Respect was hard-earned in a company that war brought together. Mercenaries fought for gold; patriots, such as Quickdraw, fought for their countries. Then there were the conscripts, dragged into fields of muddy hell by their liege-lords, who fought out of demand, not out of choice. Those men Quickdraw pitied. Maybe they saw it in his face. They always had a greeting for him. Not cheery, but recognition. That was the respect he thought he needed, and deserved.

“You’re back.”

As always, Dusk had a way of creeping up on him just like her namesake. None padded as softly as she, nor as covertly. It was just a shame brashness overcame tactical sense for the most part. She would’ve made a great leader otherwise.

“Aye, as I always am.” She was so young. Couldn’t be past her teenage years yet. Far too young for war and death.

“One day you won’t be. Then what? What becomes of us?”

“Not this again.” It came out as a growl. Dusk at least had the sense to look sheepish. As always, though, it didn’t stop her from blundering on.

“We respect you, Quickdraw. I respect you. But you won’t always be here. The Shades need a second-in-command, for when our captain doesn’t return.”

“Whip’s been with me the longest; if I don’t come back then you follow him.”

“Whip? The man’s a prick. We’d be at each other’s throats by the end of the second day.” Dusk’s unsaid nomination was written across her face, in her body language. The same as it always was.

“You’re too young, Dusk. You think the men wouldn’t follow Whip? How do you think they’d feel if they had to follow a teenager? And a girl at that.” Quickdraw shook his head. “Thinking like that is what gets men killed.”

“But if we need—”

“Enough, kid. You’re good, but your ego needs to be tamed. That’ll be your downfall, mark my words.

“Now, I need to report to the council. Other difficult children need to hear what I have to say.” Harsh, yet necessary. Soft words did little to dissuade Dusk’s desire for greatness. At least when he added weight to them she learnt modesty. For a while, at least.

The Shades were his responsibility. His men, his scouts. As immodest as it was, there was no Shades without him. He had always led them right. Towards the danger, that much was true, but what other option was there during war? No, he always led them out afterwards. Calculated risks that ended in success were the defining characteristics of a leader. With Dusk in charge, or even Whip, the Shades would lose the respect and reliability that Quickdraw had spent nigh on ten years of his life to achieve. It would be better for them all if – more likely when, with the way things were going – he fell, that the group disbanded. Legacies were important in war. A fervent belief of Quickdraw’s was that a legacy was the founding stone for greatness. It could be built upon, increased, expanded. Joining more to your cause, filling the ranks, letting them swell for all to gaze at in awe. But there needed to be a starting point, a reason for popularity. Even within the Shades such could be said.

Quickdraw was the forefather, the first. Then came Whip, whom he took on as his apprentice. Ten years on and Whip was a man with countless missions of experience under his belt. The others had cropped up throughout their long years together. Snake, Sharpeye, Feline. The promising recruits. Each had earned the rank of the Named – reputable scouts, yet far from leaders. Each one had their roles, their responsibilities. And Quickdraw governed them, the anchor that kept them from drowning; the shield that kept death at bay. It was cocky for him to think it, yet he knew it to be true. The others knew it, too. The Shades would be incomplete without Quickdraw, as Quickdraw would be lost without them. Faults and all.

The anticipation grew as he neared the tent, as it always did. Tent was a loose term to use. Pavilion seemed more appropriate. Obtuse and garish, the muddy red canvas was as noticeable as an angry mob. The council – those elevated to states of command through a variety of mediums – lived, argued and dictated inside. A centre room held the map of the area, numerous chairs surrounding it. Branching off in each direction were the pathways to the accommodations and food halls. It was comfort away from home. Whilst the rest of the soldiers were left to shelter where they could, the ones lucky enough to afford tents were given that luxury. Anger rose with the anticipation, as it always did. Not only did the Generals and the nobles languish in comfort, letting the little people, their pawns, suffer in mud and death, but also did they have no sense of discretion? An enemy scout could spot their position, high upon the hill as it was, from a mile off. Quickdraw had no doubt the enemy knew where they were already. How long would it be before the enemy acted? They were well-placed, that was true, but if an attack was launched, if it did indeed end up being them on the defensive, then what? They had nowhere to run, save for a thirty foot drop on to the rocks below. They were entrenched as best they could be, but would it be enough? Such was the burden Quickdraw was faced with every day.

“Ho, Quickdraw,” one of the guards at the entrance to the tent said. His helm shadowed his face but Quickdraw knew his voice and could imagine the grin underneath.

“Lieutenant Zarav, surprised to find you on guard duty.”

Zarav shrugged, his great armour rattling as he did. “S’not so bad. We get to share in the food, even have a fire next to our beds. Plus I have Riordan here for company.” He jerked his head towards the guard adjacent to him.

Quickdraw looked into his helmet and could feel the eyes staring back. Steely, cold, almost emotionless. It made him feel uncomfortable. Quickdraw nodded, but received nothing in return.

“The council in?” he asked, turning his attention back to Zarav.

“Dah. Squawking like little chicks, as always. You got to report?”

“Aye, sadly I do. Let’s grab a drink when your duties are done.”

“Aye,” Zarav said, mocking the use of the word. “Riordan will join us as well, won’t you, friend?” Riordan didn’t respond.

Shaking his head but not quite hiding his smile, Quickdraw entered the tent. Zarav came from across the sea; no one knew where, he was secretive about that. But his accent and complexion made it impossible to hide his origins entirely. Even without speech, the knight’s armour he wore could not entirely hide it. Small mannerisms, different to their own culture, made Zarav stand out. The common belief was he came from the Western Isles, before regicide had turned it into a bloodbath. Oddly there was no nicer man in their whole company. Always smiling, that one. It was a strange change from the grim faces that were usually worn around the camp.

Quickdraw could hear the bickering as soon as the flaps closed behind him. It grew progressively louder, more irate, grinding against him. How could men with so much power act like children when it came to plans? Silence yielded more results than arguing could. Quickdraw himself was proof of that.

The arguing stopped as he entered the room. There were only four in the room – such loud noises for such a small contingent. Three he knew; the fourth was a stranger to him. The mystery woman looked at him with suspicion. Maybe a touch of fear, too. Who could blame her? Quickdraw was slight, not much to look at. But he wore his scars with pride. Scars he’d earned fighting for his country, for saving the lives of his men. If they brought fear into the hearts of lesser men or women, then war was not the place for them.

“Quickdraw, what news do you bring?”

He had always liked Marshall Galro. Pleasant enough, with a mind constantly analysing, planning. Just as a leader should be. He wore a thin, strained smile, yet Quickdraw knew it was not directed at him. Time spent with Kadlow would do that to any man.

“Marshall,” Quickdraw said with a smart half-nod and bow. He turned his attention towards General Kadlow. Mutual disdain passed between them. “General, sir.” Kadlow grunted in response.

Quickdraw turned again. “A surprise to see you here, too, General Tardinaut. Things go well in the west?”

“Victory is close,” Tardinaut said. “My liege thought I would be better utilised out here.” Quickdraw could not fault that. Tardinaut was known to lead a fine contingent, their loyalty unwavering, their courage never failing. A welcome addition, in Quickdraw’s opinion.

“Report, soldier,” Kadlow all but snarled.

Quickdraw ignored him. “Forgive me, Marshall, yet I do not know our final guest.”

“You dare!” the woman said, fear and suspicion replaced by anger. “Marshall Galro, you allow your men to address me such?!”

“Ease, my Sera. He meant no offence. Caution is why Quickdraw stands before us still. He is the leader of the Shades.” The woman’s eyes widened at that. Some anger abated, but not all. Quickdraw had a feeling he had just made another enemy. “Quickdraw,” the Marshall continued, “this is Sera Mausfiend, an emissary from the Eastern King. She comes to lend us strength.”

Quickdraw bowed low. Not low enough to symbolise deep respect, but enough to be polite. “It is an honour, Sera Mausfiend. I apologise for my callous suspicion. We welcome any help King Jaramiar can provide.” He was always proud that he could sound eloquent when the moment required.

“The fault is mine,” Mausfiend said, with a minute bow of her own. Polite, yet with underlying hostility. A bow befitting Quickdraw’s station of a common soldier. “Caution saves lives; I cannot fault you for that.”

“Well, Quickdraw?” Marshall Galro asked. “What of our enemy? What does the South have planned?”

“They are well-fortified. They’re dug deep into the valley, watchers patrolling at all times. Deep trenches dug, palisades up with more coming. They aim to stay.”

Galro grunted, as though he had been waiting for such news. “What course of action would you recommend?”

“At the moment, sir, none. We know where they are; guaranteed they know where we are, too. No doubt if we moved word would reach their encampment before we arrived. Give them plenty of time to bulk their defences more.”

“Preposterous!” Quickdraw had been expecting it, but it did not stop the resentment from boiling up inside him. “It is false intel,” Kadlow continued, even rising from his seat in a misaligned sense of passion. “A quick and decisive victory is what we need! We must march with our full force and smash their puny defences!”

“Did you not hear what Quickdraw just said?” Galro’s voice was strained. “I understand your position and I assure you we all share your desire for a swift victory. But we cannot risk the lives of our men on all-out charge when the odds are stacked against us.”

Kadlow spluttered in protest, before withdrawing under the fiery looks the others gave him.

“I, for one, will not risk my countrymen on an adolescent whim.” Respect for Sera Mausfiend bloomed in Quickdraw as he watched General Kadlow visibly shrink.

“Quickdraw is right,” Tardinaut said, nodding in the scout’s direction. “Your words are courageous, General Kadlow, and certainly there are times when boldness is favoured. A trait you have inherited from your father. Adel Kadlar was a bold and effective leader. We do not doubt your strategic mind but in this case it would do more harm than good to assault the enemy’s position. Your time for glory will come, do not forget that. We’ll be counting on you.”

Tardinaut was a diplomat if there ever was one. It had been a brutal dismissal, disguised as high praise. It worked wonders at quelling, even if it came with the heavy price of bolstering Kadlow’s ego.

“Yes, sir!” Kadlow said, snapping into rigidness, bowing in Tardinaut’s direction. Equal in rank, yet the difference in class was staggering. Tardinaut had seen endless warfare, countless victories. Kadlow was green, an inexperienced whelp in well over his head. Quickdraw had to hide his smile.

“Is there anyone else here with a less … reckless plan?” Galro addressed the company at large.

“How much harm could you and your men do?” Mausfiend asked Quickdraw. It sounded like a challenge.

“Not as much as I would like,” Quickdraw admitted. There was a thin line between self-confidence and cockiness, with one major difference: cockiness led to unnecessary death. “We could pick their sentries off from a distance but there’s no way of stealing entry into that camp. It’s built more like a fort. A temporary one, but just as unassailable.”

“We need a closer look,” Mausfiend declared. “Quickdraw, you will lead to your vantage point so I can survey the area for myself.” It was not a request. The hierarchy left Quickdraw with little room for manoeuvre. Alliances had been lost over smaller things.

“I am yours to command, my Sera,” Quickdraw said, bowing once more. “I will bring two of my Shades, too. That way the path ahead will be kept clear.”

“I’ll come, too,” Galro said. “Perhaps seeing it will spark some plan in my aging mind.”

“Then I shall accompany you as we—”

“No,” Quickdraw said, cutting across Tardinaut before he could finish. “Forgive me, General, but five is already a greater risk than I would like to take. I would advise staying here with General Kadlow, in an attempt to formulate a plan of your own.”

Tardinaut’s composure spoke volumes of the respect between the two of them. They had fought together on multiple occasions, Tardinaut finding a useful tool in Quickdraw’s covert team. In turn, Quickdraw admired Tardinaut’s patriotism and tactics. He was more than willing to follow that man, to the death, if necessary.

Quickdraw’s gaze flicked towards Kadlow and Tardinaut’s eyes widened ever so slightly. Unspoken understanding passed between them. If one General went, then the other would insist on coming, too. Having Kadlow blundering through the overgrowth was the last thing any of them needed.

“Very well, Quickdraw,” Tardinaut said with a nod. “We shall await your report here when you return.”

 

***

 

There were only two Shades with better eyes than Quickdraw. Both appropriately Named, too.

Eagle scouted ahead, unperturbed by the dew still clinging to the long grass. He had been the third man Quickdraw had recruited when the Shades first formed. A man of few words, he kept his thoughts and feelings closeted. A difficult man to read, but a remarkable scout. Quickdraw liked to think a bond had grown between them but, in truth, he had no idea what Eagle thought of him. He still followed him, though, did he not, even after their long years together? That had to count for something.

Dusk scouted around them, in sweeping circles. It was a tactic Quickdraw utilised, especially when he had to guide the uninitiated. Eagle would find a safe path for them, whilst Dusk made sure their trail had not picked up any unwanted attention. Quickdraw’s job was to guide their guests as quietly as he could, along the path laid out by Eagle.

To Mausfiend’s credit, she left little imprint with her footing. A little sloppy here and there, but Quickdraw could tell she had been trained in stealth. Mayhaps a long time ago, but some things you never forgot.

Marshal Galro on the other hand, was a lost cause. An excellent leader of men but an atrocious scout. Quickdraw had signalled Dusk to widen her circle fairly early on. Sound travelled, particularly in woods that housed no locals. Galro’s footsteps crunched leaves and twigs, squelched in mud, even the occasional curse escaping his lips. Their whole operation could be compromised, yet Galro was the Marshal. He instructed, and Quickdraw followed, more or less without resistance. Sure, he could advise and make suggestions, but ultimately when the Marshal made a decision, that decision was final. It was a lesson any soldier knew, regardless of rank.

And so they made slow progress, Quickdraw keeping their pace to a minimum, in an attempt to reduce the noise from Galro’s booted missteps. Tedious would be a kind word for their progress. It was not even midday and Quickdraw could feel the tension from the two uninitiated. The Marshal infuriated with his own clumsiness; Sera Mausfiend at the clumsiness of her ally. Quickdraw worried what affect this experience would have on their two countries.

He was not sure how much influence Mausfiend held with the Eastern King, but he was sure that somewhere in her report, she would include how the leader of their army lacked the appropriate discretion when called upon.

It would be unfair to expect the Marshal to have some innate ability for scouting. That wasn’t his role. He had people, like Quickdraw, to fill those roles for him. A Marshal could not be expected to be seen wading through wet grass. It was preposterous for a leader to be sneaking around. Quickdraw knew Galro had seen plenty of action, heard tales of his spectacular deeds and rise to leadership. He was a soldier, a man feared with sword and shield, revered as a leader of armies. Not a scout. It still did not stop Quickdraw’s patience from wearing thin.

Eagle signalled for them to stop, and they dropped into a low stance. “Ten twelve,” Eagle said, coming back to join them. Quickdraw nodded, his heart beating faster. Eagle set off again, and a few seconds later, their group set off, too. If Mausfiend or Galro were expecting an explanation, they didn’t voice it. The less they knew the better, in Quickdraw’s opinion. He crept forwards, hand tight around his bow, fingers flexing. He licked his lips in anticipation. Then Eagle whistled.

There was a reason Quickdraw was Named so. He had earned it a long time ago, first meant in jest. Now it was his, his birth name forgotten but to a few.

He drew, notched, swivelled and released in two seconds flat, sharp eyes locking on in an instant. The arrow sailed. Its target didn’t even have time to react. The arrow lodged itself in the neck, cutting off any cry for alarm. Quickdraw remained crouched, listening, searching, in case there were more in the overgrowth. It didn’t seem so. With a nod, Eagle confirmed his suspicions. Their whole group visibly relaxed.

“A notable feat,” Mausfiend said quietly. She almost even looked impressed. “Some sort of code?”

Quickdraw nodded, drawing a circle in the wet grass. “Imagine a sundial and twelve markers. As we’re heading now, ten twelve would make the direction that way.” He pointed north-west, towards the dead scout that Eagle was now examining. “All Shades have been trained in this way. It leaves the enemy unsuspecting until the last minute.”

Eagle whistled again, beckoning them over.

The enemy looked almost peaceful in death, if not for the fear that had reached his eyes in the last second of his life. It never got easy, ending a life. Especially not one so young. The boy barely had hair on his chin. Quickdraw wondered what his name was, what he fought for. A patriot? Or a conscript? You could never tell.

Not that it made any difference. War was war. Corpses were inevitable. It would do them no good to get caught up on the death of one young boy.

“They’re watching this area,” Quickdraw murmured. “Five was too big of a risk. Let’s make our way to the viewpoint quickly. I don’t want to linger with the dead when we could soon be following.”

He wasn’t sure if he was imagining it, but the Marshal’s footfalls seemed lighter than before. Perhaps the ease at which they had been spotted had scared him into watching where his feet went.

Quickdraw recalled Dusk as they neared the hill with the encampment below it. “Eagle will be our safety net,” he said, nodding to Eagle as he did. “I want you to survey the camp with us. Call it a learning experience, if you wish.” Dusk only nodded in response but Quickdraw could tell she was excited. It was in her eyes, the one thing she found impossible to mask.

Together, they slid along their bellies towards the edge. None of them complained, though the discomfort of sodden clothes was felt by all, Quickdraw was sure.

There was a sharp intake of breath from Galro when they reached the edge. They’d been busy. Men flocked in and out of the camp, preparing for what Quickdraw could not guess. Wagons laden with provisions trundled into the camp. More followed, men pouring out of them once stopped.

“Well, Dusk?” Quickdraw whispered. “What would you suggest?”

She swallowed but gave no reply.

“We need to bolster our own defences,” Galro said. “A hundred gold says those wagons contain weapons. We don’t stand a chance if they assault our camp.”

“What of siege weapons?” Mausfiend asked. “What can we use?”

“Little that would be effective,” Quickdraw said, eyes still watching the valley below. “Trebuchets would be best, but they can’t navigate through this terrain.”

They all lay there for a while longer, watching, staring, a sense of foreboding stealing over Quickdraw. The enemy was gearing up for something, and they were powerless to stop it.

“We could waylay one of those wagons and disguise ourselves,” Dusk suggested, without much conviction.

“Aye, we could. Risky, though, and no guarantee it would work.”

“There’s never a guarantee anything will work,” Galro said, shifting in the grass. “Let’s return to camp. There’s nothing more to see here.”

“Wait, who’s that?”

Heads turned to the camp again. A lone figure on a horse was riding up to the encampment. Men seemed to shrink away from him, as though he was cleaving a path towards the entrance.

“We must leave.” It was Eagle’s voice that caught them unawares. Galro jumped; even Quickdraw felt his heart flutter. There was a sense of urgency to the Shade’s voice that he was not used to. “We must away. Away!”

“Aye,” Quickdraw muttered. “Let’s go.”

Marshal Galro was the first to move. He raised himself from the ground and with it a great pressure filled the air. It pressed against Quickdraw’s skull, a sense of dread swallowing him up. He closed his eyes and bit against his knuckles. It was all he could do to stop from crying out. He shrank into himself, curling his body, making himself as small as possible. Nothing helped.

The pressure abated as soon as it had come. The air felt empty without it, a void filled with anticipation. Quickdraw uncurled his body, his vision blurred, but through it, he saw something spitting towards them from below. It crackled and sparkled as it came, hissing its displeasure.

It struck Galro dead in the chest, blew him back, head cracking against a nearby tree. The smell of burning flesh overwhelmed Quickdraw’s senses. He was stunned, could not move. Even Eagle seemed frozen, staring down at the Marshal.

With a huge effort of will, Quickdraw crawled towards the slumped figure. His body felt weak, unable to function as it should.

A splatter of blood marked where the Marshal’s head had hit the tree. Blood trickled down the nape of his neck, eyes wide and unseeing.  His skin still bubbled and boiled where the bolt had hit. A wave of nausea filled Quickdraw but he could not look away. It was unlike anything he had ever seen. He reached a hand out to touch it.

“Magecraft,” came the fearful whisper from behind him. He turned to see Lord Mausfiend staring at the blistering mass of flesh, white as a sheet, her whole figure quaking. “That was Magecraft. Magecraft. God’s Blood, we’re fighting a Weaver.”

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Fenilia: Chapter One

Friends and strangers, welcome to my novel.

The Chronicles of Aelan: Fenilia (very much a working title, seeing as it’s the name of the land and not the title of the book), began many years ago, and has since been at the forefront of any and all writing I do. 

Mostly out of a desire of wanting to increase interest in my writing, and due to a severe laziness of sending it to individual people, I’ve decided to post the first chapter – as a teaser – on here, for those with a desire to read.

This blog, newly reformed (with a few choice posts left up from three/four years ago related to writing) shall now contain teasers and snippets of my writing, relating to both Aelan and its Chronicles, as well as others I dabble in.

Do try and enjoy.


Chapter One.

© Richard Ford

“Jason,” she whispered.

Alone, she crept along the decrepit hallway, a solitary torch her only source of light. Her hair flowed behind her, as black as the shadows that stalked the walls. Her icy blue eyes pierced unyieldingly into the dark. The red banners of Fenilia that had once blown proud and strong now hung ripped and dulled, a gentle breeze occasionally causing them to shudder. The once great fortress was now desolate. Nothing moved, save for the skulking woman and the stray rat disturbed by her presence.

“Jason,” she whispered again, raising her voice slightly. Her foot dislodged a crumbling flagstone and the sound echoed down the corridor. The woman halted at the noise, cursing herself for her clumsiness. The sound ebbed away and she waited several more minutes to be sure nothing had been disturbed. Content with her safety, she stole forwards, placing her feet upon sturdier-looking stones.

Remnants of a statue of the king, who had once called the castle his home, floated in the shallow water, parting before the woman as she moved. He had ruled and governed the land from the tall castle, his prowess for such things well-respected and well-deserved. Then the land had been torn apart. In a time before the New Age only the elders remembered, the great Quake had rent apart the realm of Fenilia.

The ground underneath the great Charshaw fortress had shifted, and it had fallen into the sea, wrapped in the loving embrace of the water and its ever-moving tide. Yet it was found decades ago that a great maze of tunnels ran underneath the fortress. This maze had been dubbed the Ruins of Charshaw, in memory of the great castle. And it was here Jade prowled.

The reasons for her adventure were simple ones. Rumours ran like wildfire through the Kingdom of Fenilia. One particular rumour had pricked the ears of a wealthy businessman; a rumour of an ancient relic that had been lost when Charshaw had crumbled. The Sceptre of Kings. Her job was to retrieve the treasure and return it, in exchange for a hefty sum.

Friends had begged her and her partner not to go, claiming the place was cursed, that the Fracture to the north had claimed it for its own. There was not a single story about the Quake that did not mention the Fracture, the split of land to the north that hung like an ominous shadow over the realm, but Jade was not one to heed such warnings.

That is, until this moment, when she heard a sound in the distance. Jade stopped moving again and strained her ears. Silence met them. Her hearing failing her, she turned to her eyes for clues as to the cause of the sound. All she could see was the corridor in front of her, and the water upon the floor, where it had seeped in through one of the cracks in the walls of the maze. Then came the clanking of metal and the splash of water. Her heart skipped a beat. Her hand instinctively moved down to grip the handle of her sword. As quietly as possible, she drew it. Sword clenched in her left hand, she waited.

An orange glow appeared, reflecting in the water at the end of the corridor. It began to creep towards her, bathing the maze in light. A shadow appeared upon the opposing wall. It grew longer and longer, and soon the silhouette of a figure loomed before her. Never had Jade seen a more eerie scene; a shivering black shade, wreathed with a burning glow of orange. Her fingers began to drum on her sword, but she gripped it more firmly. Taking control of her nerves, she started to move.

At the same time, the figure rounded the corner, letting his shadow spill into the open. An armoured knight stood in front of her. He held a shield in his left hand, with a sword stowed within it. The torch he held aloft in his right. His steps were slow and precise. There was no urgency to them, no sudden rush to challenge the invader of the halls he guarded. Jade noticed something familiar in the way he moved, before he dropped the torch, and drew his blade. There was a slit in his visor, and within Jade could see nothing but black.

Quenching her fear, she charged. She threw her burning torch towards him and it flared before his eyes, blinding him. Then Jade’s blade came soaring through the air and clanged against his helm.

“Woah, easy there, kid!”

The light spluttered out of existence as it hit the floor.

 

***

 

“Look what you’ve done now.”

“Jason?!” Jade hissed through the dark.

Jason laughed. “Yes, it’s me. You should’ve seen the look on your face!”

“The Fracture take you! What are you doing?!”

“Scaring you, clearly.”

“But the armo– just light a fire, knucklehead.”

“Would you relax? Okay, okay, fine.”

Jade heard the sound of flint being struck and then a flame burst into being. Jason had now removed his helm and Jade saw his eyes were crinkled at his little joke. His dark-brown hair, tinged with grey, hung around his shoulders, already drenched with sweat from wearing the helmet.

“So, do you like the armour?” said Jason, gesturing to his suit.

“Where did you find it?” asked Jade.

He shrugged. “Just lying around.”

“You’re a fool for joking around in a place like this,” said Jade, her voice full of anger.

“Why?” Jason raised an eyebrow. “There’s no one here except for us.”

“And how do you know that?”

“Because I searched everywhere,” scoffed Jason. “Come now, kid, you know I’d never do anything foolish.”

“Clearly so,” said Jade, her voice laced with sarcasm.

“Fair enough.” Jason shrugged. “Here, help me out of this armour, would you?”

“No,” said Jade, sliding her sword back into its sheath. “You’re a grown man, apparently; take it off yourself.”

Jason grumbled in response. He handed the torch to Jade, who waited impatiently whilst Jason took off his armour. She could not help but glancing around her. She was sure something must have heard the clamour they had made. Jason however, seemed calm and collected.

“Tell you what,” he said, as he removed the greaves. “It’s warm in that.”

“It’d be warmer if I burnt you with the torch,” muttered Jade, glancing over her shoulder again.

“Would you stop being so jumpy? There’s nothing here except us.”

“We’ll see. Come on, show me how far you explored.”

Jason led the way his voice louder than Jade would have liked. Despite stripping off a second ago, he could not resist re-donning the helmet, nor leaving the shield behind.

“Still don’t understand why you dislike shields so much,” he said as Jade shook her head.

“Where’s the bravery in hiding behind a piece of wood?”

“This,” said Jason, gesturing to the shield upon his arm, “is not wood. It is pure steel, of the finest sort. Only the elite knights would have been gifted this protection.”

“That’s even worse.”

“You’re incorrigible.”

“Too kind.” Jade grinned.

Her humour soon died. Jason showed no regard for any dangers there may still be. He waved the torch around as he gesticulated about the surroundings with his shield-arm, commenting on the crumbling walls and floors and how unsafe they were.

Through her constant vigilance, Jade could not help but agree. More than once she nearly tripped or fell through a cracked paving stone. Dust seemed to stream from the ceiling as though knights still patrolled the corridors above.

Charshaw had been a strange design from what Jade could deduce from the limited information they gathered before venturing out. Wandering the Ruins just reinforced the fact. The tunnels they walked led deep underground, as though the King had lived beneath his actual castle. The building above remained standing, despite the Quake and the dismay of time. It was the labyrinth underneath that was broken and unusable. It left the foundations weak and fragile, and Jade could not help think of the worst possibilities of being buried alive.

The corridors they followed wound and twisted through each other. Several times Jade was sure the path they followed they had always traversed. When brought up with Jason, he waved away her comments, telling her not to doubt his sense of direction. It took a lot of her self control to not say more.

“Wait!” Jade cried, as they turned another corner. The urgency in the tone of her voice seemed enough to stop Jason before he put his foot down. Something about the corridor caught her eye. Even in the limited torchlight, certain things looked out of place.

“There could be a trap,” explained Jade. She brought her torch around, searching the walls, taking extra care to check the corner, for any traps. “Look.” She pointed to the top ceiling, where, barely visible in the dancing flame of the torch, was some sort of chute. As Jade searched more, she noticed small pot-marks dotted along the ceiling at irregular intervals.

“It’s a hole,” said Jason, flatly.

“No,” said Jade, a hint of impatience in her voice. “It’s a chute. Throw your helmet onto the ground.”

“But I like this helmet…” Jason quailed under the look Jade gave him. “Okay, okay.”

He removed the helm from his head. His hair clung to his forehead with sweat and Jade wrinkled her nose at the sight. Jason threw the helmet in front of them. As soon as the helmet clanged to the ground, there was a small whoosh of air, followed by a crunch.

“Oh,” said Jason. His helmet lay upon the floor, a dart protruding from it. It had punched right through the outer layer of metal, and a sharp end pierced the visor.

“I think you owe me your life,” stated Jade. “Again.”

“Apparently I do. Perhaps you should go first.”

“Follow me very carefully.”

As instructed, Jason watched and imitated Jade’s movements to the best of his ability. Left foot here, right foot placed out wide. Soon Jade had crossed the perilous traps and she turned to watch Jason inexpertly tread the same path. He had never been light on his feet. Still, Jade had to admit he handled his feet quite well in the tight space. The dart piercing the helmet had apparently engraved itself upon his memory.

It was not long before Jason had also made it across. He stood in front of Jade, a big smile spread across his face.

“Oh, you did alright,” said Jade, waving a dismissive hand.

“I’ll take that as one of your deepest compliments,” said Jason, bestowing a mocking bow upon Jade.

Jade rolled her eyes. “Get a move on, you moron. Let’s see where this tunnel leads.” She turned away, and Jason had no choice but to follow her or be swallowed by the darkness.

Though it took a while for her to notice, they were gradually making their way upwards. The water, once several inches above Jade’s ankles, gradually receded to nothing more than damp as the incline of the corridor carried them up away from the deepest parts of the maze.

Fresh air floated down to them and Jade did not appreciate Jason’s smug remarks about leading them the right way. To Jade, there was no right way. They had no idea where to look for the Sceptre.

A battered and rotting door greeted them as they crested the slope. With a small push from Jason, it swung open, before crumbling at the unexpected force and falling to the floor. What greeted them beyond the door shocked them both into silence.

The night sky was clear above them, its twilight blue speckled with shining stars. The moon seemed larger to Jade in the enclosed space they stood in. What was before them could only be described as a garden. Or at least, what used to be a garden.

“Come on, kid, let’s go.” Jason’s voice was soft as though, he too, felt the weight of the Quake.

“Can’t we stay for a little bit, Jas? Please?” She did not know why she wanted to stay. It was an indescribable feeling of longing. Perhaps Jason felt it too, for he did not object.

They went separate ways as they explored. The roof had caved in round the garden, leaving only the centre-piece clear of any rubble, save for the fountain. The grooves carved into the ground could only be the Quake. Nothing else Fenilia knew had the destructive power to do such a thing.

Jade found herself drawn to the shimmering light of a flower in the far corner of the garden. Crouching down, she looked at it in wonder. Nothing like it grew anywhere else in Fenilia as far as she knew. The silver petals gave off an iridescent glow and the earth caught in its light looked green and healthy. She reached her hand out and plucked the flower from its grounding.

In a moment of melancholy, Jade was sure she pictured what the garden used to be. At night, the carefully selected white and silver flowers scattered around would reflect the light from the moon and the garden itself would glow. The King and his company would sit and laugh, drinks in hand, round the great fountain set proudly in the centre. A fire would roar next to them, its flames almost as merry as the company themselves. A bard would sit by another fire, the children of the court cross-legged in front of him, awed by his ballads of the King’s adventures.

Then it was all torn away from Jade in an instant. All she saw was the broken fountain in bits on the floor, the ground cracked and naked. A few patches of silvery flower attempted to bloom, but its magic was lost in the surroundings. It was a desolate image, and nothing before made Jade so keenly aware of the Quake and its danger than this. The flower in her hand wilted against her, its light gone forever, snatched away by her moment of greedy intrigue.

She rose, letting the lifeless flower fall to the ground. The garden suddenly felt like a burden she did not want to hold. She made her way to the far doorway, gesturing to Jason to join her.

As they neared it, they saw a skeleton half buried under the rubble. “The king?” said Jason, looking down at the disembodied bones.

“Does it matter now? Let’s just find this sceptre and get out of here.” She did not tell Jason about the moment the past had lovingly shared with her. She did not want to.

Stairs led down from the far door. It, miraculously, was still hinged to the wall but it was the stairs that proved the danger. As Jade placed her foot on the second step, the slab of stone slipped from beneath her and went skimming down the rest, almost along with Jade. Jason caught her flailing arm just in time and pulled her back. There was a nod of thanks from Jade before she continued forwards. She refused to look at Jason’s concerned face. It had been a careless move. Normally she was the light-footed one. She shook herself both mentally and physically, attempting to shake the garden above from her head.

The next tunnel was better preserved than the ruins before; the stone walls were smooth to the touch. Even the water seemed to be little more than a trickle on the floor. Unburnt torches lined the walls, and Jade lit the occasional one. Light flourished in earnest along the morbid corridor. A dull wind drifted towards them, the breeze dancing with the flames of the torches, casting eerie and flickering shadows, like black smoke drifting along stone.

They walked in silence, turning where the tunnel dictated they did, Jade still keeping a wary eye out for any more traps. She though it unlikely there would be more. A tunnel leading straight on from the garden would not need such security. Jade believed this part of Charshaw must have belonged to the King and his entourage, whilst the ruins before were for the general public. Presumably the trap they had encountered earlier had not always been armed. Perhaps the Quake had re-armed it, somehow? It was a far-flung presumption, but thinking of the alternatives left Jade feeling ill.

She scanned the walls left and right as they went. A while later, her eyes fell upon a piece of carved stone that did not quite match the walls around it.

“Jas, look at this.”

“I can’t see anything,” frowned Jason, his eyes darting along the wall Jade was gesturing at.

“See how the stone is a different shade here? There must be something behind. If we could only find a way to open it.”

“Want me to smash it?” grinned Jason, raising his shield.

Jade shook her head slowly, her eyes upon the wall. “You’re welcome to try, but it looks too solid.”

“What should we do then?”

“There must be some way to open it,” mused Jade.

“Wait, what’s that?” Jason moved forwards and used his hand to brush the dust away. As the dust dispersed into the air, engraved words appeared before their eyes:

Guardian of the Night,

Let thy Lord know that thou art true.

The base of thy most treasured treasure,

Shall be thy key, if thou wish to be allowed through.

“What in Geis’ name does that mean?” asked Jason.

“Shh,” said Jade. “I’m trying to think.”

Underneath, there was an etching of a knight holding his sword high above his head. The tip of it came within millimetres of touching the ‘key’ of the riddle.

Jason managed a few minutes of silence before his impatience seemed to break out. “Well? What do you th–”

“Your sword!” exclaimed Jade. “The sword you picked up with the armour, where is it?”

“It’s right here,” said Jason, his brow furrowed.

“Give it to me,” Jade demanded. Jason drew the blade and handed it to Jade, hilt first. Jade flipped it over and examined the pommel. A red jewel was moulded into the steel hilt and a gold inlay had been woven around the jewel. She traced her fingers over the edges, and to her satisfaction, she found a groove allowing her to free the jewel from its steel restraints. She snapped it off.

“Jade!” gasped Jason. “That was an antique.”

Jade gave him a look. “It’s meant to do that, idiot. Just watch, would you?”

Jade moved towards the writing on the wall and searched the surrounding stone for anything untoward that might present an opportunity for Jade to prove her theory. Jade was beginning to sense Jason’s annoyance before she felt something beneath her fingers. Brushing away more dust, Jade saw, much to her satisfaction, that the in-dent was the perfect size for the pommel of the sword. She placed the ruby into the keyhole. There was a click, and the stone wall swung inwards.

“See, I told you.” She could not quite keep the smugness out of her voice.

A throne stood before them. Stepping through the doorway, Jade saw they were in a room that may once have been counted as majestic. Vast pillars of marble rose high up, some almost touching the ceiling. Broken pieces lay scattered over the floor, and Jade felt her hatred for the Quake renewed for destroying something so precious to the realm of Fenilia.

Set in a stand next to the throne, was a silver rod. Thinly pointed at one end, it gradually expanded in size. A glass sphere sat upon the other end, held to the rod by black streaks, inlaid in the sphere. Inside the glass, there could be seen jewels of every colour imaginable.

“We’ve found it,” whispered Jade. “Charshaw’s Sceptre of Kings.”

Interview with Nema Ruffalo

What-ho my old beans (I have decided that shall be my new greeting).

Today, I am once again trying something different to broaden my horizons, as well as helping out a friend.

So, as some of you will know, I have a profile on a site called Wattpad, which is basically a big story website where anyone can write stories.

My intention today, is to introduce a fairly prestigious writer upon there. I like to think that we are friends, plus I do admire her dedication and effort she puts into her stories. Therefore, I have asked her some questions and have received some answers.

Her name is Nemaiza (or Nema) Ruffalo, and she has written several stories, her most notable one being The Last of The Guardians. Without giving too much away, it is a Hobbit Fanfiction, which ties in closely with the film/movie version of the story. It is well worth a read.

Right, onwards to the questions:

Where did your idea for ‘The Last of the Guardians’ come from?

Well it was just after An Unexpected Journey first came out and I had recently discovered role-playing on Twitter. I wanted my character to be something new to Middle-Earth so I came up with the Guardians. It was just a small idea at first but the more I thought about it the more captivated I became by the idea. It got to the stage where I began thinking about the Guardians in the Hobbit timeline. I hadn’t ever written a fan fiction before but I thought it was a fun idea so I gave it a go and here we are!

Where did the character of ‘Nemaiza’ come from?

Well obviously the name is the same as mine so I would say she is a fairly accurate self-insertion. We are alike in appearance, as well as in our beliefs. As I’ve said before, I enjoy role-playing on Twitter so I really wanted to involve myself in the story.I spent about two weeks imagining little scenarios just to find the right fit for me in the story. I didn’t actually plan to make the story revolve so much around the Guardians but the more I wrote, the deeper I got into what the Guardians actually were and why they existed.

As for Nemaiza’s personality, it mostly stemmed from the desire to not make a Mary Sue character: so although she’s good looking, a skilled fighter, and compassionate, she does have flaws and she’s not always the hero. She’s not 100% fearless either.

Her appearance was based loosely around that of angels but I didn’t want to have too many religious connotations so I changed the name to Guardians, which I actually much prefer.

What influences you to write?

Turns out it’s mostly music. I’ve found that listening to ‘I See Fire by Ed Sheeran makes me want to write my Alternative Universe Hobbit fan-fiction (coming soon!). My readers, or fans if you want, are also a big influence over me; their comments make me want to write more just for them.

As for original works, anything can trigger an idea. I can see someone in the street and think of a few lines to describe them which I think is good practice. Or I can be in the middle of a test and an idea will hit me that I have to hold onto until I’ve finished. Now that’s an utter nightmare.

So really, anything influences me: strangers, fan comments, other novels, even abstract things like the way the sunlight hits the wall (when it’s actually sunny here…).

Do you set yourself deadlines and actually stick to them?

The main deadline that I set myself is the Friday Fan-Fiction update which I’m not bad at sticking to most of the time. My biggest challenge was last November when I did NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in which the aim was to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I managed that and I’m pretty proud of it but writing is the only deadline I can stick to. School essays on the other hand, are not so easily achieved.

When did you first start writing stories for fun?

I think I was about five when we had to write a story in class about being abducted by aliens. I didn’t ever finish it because I’m awful at writing short stories; this bugged me, so I tried to keep writing it at home. I suppose that’s when I first got into creative writing. Plus, I was always making up stories about what we’d done at play group – one time I told my mum we had climbed a pylon while on a walk… She wasn’t impressed.

Finally, do you write a plan out before you start a story?

I’ve never actually planned a story that much before. When I was still considering writing a fan-fiction, my days consisted of thinking about the storyline, which actually took up pretty much every waking minute of the day. This continued until I had a rough idea for a plot. So I guess I have planned it, but every detail is in my head. However, my mental plan (in terms of in my head, not crazy…) does change a lot.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers but quite a lot of the key events in both parts of TLOTG changed even as I was writing them. You’ll have to read it to find out these key events!

——

And there you have it! That was my interview with Nema. Now, I implore you to go and read her stories – a link to her profile can be found here.

I wish thou all a joyous adventure in your respective lives (this is now my farewell line. Deal with it).

 

Writer’s Block (Bastard).

Please note: The “bastard” in the title should be read, and then said out loud, in the accent of Sean Bean’s Sharpe. Thank you.

Moving onto the actual subject of this blog post, today I am going to basically get angry and abusive towards writer’s block.

Anyone who writes a story, be it terrible (like in my case) or of the highest standard, will be faced with the bane of all writers: The Block.

Now, you may think that you know exactly what you want your story to contain, but writer’s block has other ideas. It stops you and your mind, midway through your story, and seems to mock you as you struggle to think why you can’t write what you want. You know what you want to happen next, you know how you want it to happen, but there’s a small, almost insignificant, block that has wormed its way into your mind and festered, causing you to struggle to write anything that sounds even capable of being literature. Then, if you’re like me, you give up completely and maybe try and come back to a few days later (…maybe a week later). For those truly determined souls, they power through and manage to write down something that is at least acceptable and go back to review and change the section later on.

In fairness, I get writer’s block whilst writing blog posts. I have a tactic (or tic-tac, as I used to call them…), which is: that whenever an idea pops into my head for a half-way interesting topic, I write down a note about it. Then, when it is time to write my blog, I bring it up and choose the best out of the list. At this point, I actually have to write the post. At the time that I thought of the idea, I tend to feel as though I have enough to write a post a reasonable length. When it comes to the daunting task of scribing upon a blank page, my mind decides it would be extremely comical to make me completely forget how I was planning on writing about the topic. So then it’s back to the drawing boards to try and re-envision my plan.

As for the story I’m writing at the moment (see previous blog post – totally not self-publicising here by the way…), I have never been the kind of person to plan beforehand. I always write the story chapter-by-chapter and, if I’m feeling organised, I write a brief plan about what I want the next chapter to contain. But that doesn’t happen very often. So, I get blocked again. I have an opening, and an idea for the ending. What comes in between is a mystery. I don’t know how I’m still writing…

So really, writer’s block is a bastard (Sean Bean style). It ruins my attempts at writing both stories and blogs, as well as ruining other people’s writing which is quite likely going to be better than mine.

 

Halls of Fire – Hobbit/LotR Fanfiction Snippet

Kyni smelt the burning before he saw it. The pungent smell came wafting down the halls of stone, towards where Kyni stood. He was fully armoured, with a sword and shield in each hand respectively. He was aware that he was shaking, yet he was determined. The smell grew ever more empowering. The ground began to shake beneath him, in the slow steady rhythm of footsteps, one after the other. Thump, thump, thump went the ground, and thump, thump, thump went Kyni’s heart. He could now see smoke curling around the edges of the small doorframe that was the entrance to the hall where he stood, alone. And trapped.

The smoke swirled around him, partially blinding him. He coughed, his eyes beginning to water. The heat was now becoming stifling and Kyni wiped his brow with the back of his padded gauntlet. The thumping of both heart and ground were getting louder. Kyni gripped his sword tighter, as the footsteps finally ceased. There was great exhale of air and another plume of smoke wove its way into the hall. There was a snarl and Kyni dropped his sword. An eye, a large eye, mostly yellow except for a diagonal black slit of an iris, had appeared in the doorframe. A deep, booming voice spoke.

“Ahh, how quaint. I have come for my vengeance.”

The eye narrowed, before being replaced by a mouth. Kyni saw an array of sharpened yellowing teeth, before the mouth opened and a warm glow was seen deep in the throat. Kyni let out a shout of fear, yet the sound was soon drowned out by an echoing  roar unlike any other. Then, he was engulfed by flame.

Kyni awoke, a cold sweat covering his body. He sat up, panting, his heart racing. He threw the covers off him, his chiselled chest shining in the light of the moon coming through the window. He crossed to it and flung it open. He took in a long deep breath, smelling the fresh, clean air of Dale. Yet he could still remember the smell of smoke. He could still taste the fear. And he could still see the eye. He shuddered, suddenly cold. He closed the window and climbed back into his bed. Yet he could not sleep. His nightmare still haunted him. Though he had not seen one before, he knew that the creature had been:

A dragon.

————-

Hey guys, sorry this is a bit of a cheat post – I’m currently extremely busy, not to mention tired (possibly a tad hungover as well but shh, let’s not talk about that) so I thought that, instead of racking my brain for an interesting topic to write about, I’d share a sneakpeak of a Hobbit/LotR Fanfiction called The Return of Smaug that I am currently writing. If you are at all interested in this extract, and feel like reading more of my story (or as far as I’ve got in the story at this point in time…) then you can find it on Wattpad here. I don’t think you have to create an account to read it but if you do, then I apologise.

If any of you feel like giving me feedback, positive or negative, then please do! I am well aware that it’s not great literature but it keeps me entertained so that has to count for something, right?

Revisiting Escapism into the World of Fantasy, via Science!

One of my first blog posts was entitled “Escapism into the World of Fantasy” (it can also be found here). Within it, I spoke about how fantasy books and games are used to escape from the bonds that life has ensnared us with.

Currently in my Psychology class, we are being taught about Supernatural Phenomenons or Anomalistic Experiences. How does this relate? Well, we were discussing people who suffer from neuroticism and why they are more likely to people in the Paranormal. It appears that they try use the paranormal to escape from reality, therefore making it a defence mechanism or even a safety mechanism in order to run away from real life. See the similarity? If you class the paranormal as Fantasy (which I do, as I don’t believe in any form of the paranormal), then this is essentially the same as using books or games to escape, except that it displays you have a more vivid imagination. In fact, these beliefs in the paranormal could have easily been inspired by fantasy novels, or even truly great literature!

Take A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Supernatural phenomena plays a big part in this story. So, it is equally possible that a person who is convinced that the paranormal exists will have enjoyed this book and used it as some form of escapism in early life. Then, if this person has a very lively imagination, they may start to believe that they are living in their own adaptation of A Christmas Carol, using it to hide from the iron fist that is reality. Quite possibly, due to a disorder such as neuroticism or just strong beliefs, they might start to perceive the world as being filled with ghosts and will therefore, in their eyes, be living in a paranormal world.

I suppose the same concept can be applied to any Fantasy book or game: a person enjoys a story too much and become immersed in it to the point of concern and then use it to escape. I imagine Sherlock’s ‘Mind Palace’ whenever I picture this: someone being bullied or shouted at and they just close their eyes, block out the noise and retreat into a story where they are the singularly most important person.

I can’t say my use of fantasy is in anyway science-y. I am, in fact, a very anti-science person. That’s not to say I don’t understand the importance of science in the world, I just don’t enjoy learning about it. Which is why I’m surprised I enjoy Psychology. I suppose it is a “social” science, but even so. It’s still got the word ‘science’ in it so I’m quite proud of myself! Saying that, our most recent lesson did involve having to watch a tedious TV programme about Joe Swash trying to decide whether he believed in ghosts or not… there were two reasons I disliked this. Firstly, I find the whole possibility of believing in the supernatural ridiculous. And secondly, Joe’s voice annoys me beyond reason. Not a great mix in all honesty.

 

Eisoptrophobia – A Terrible Short Story

Hey guys! This is my first short story I’ve posted on here and well… Yeah, here it is. I am well aware it’s not greatly written, I’ve decided that my forte in writing utter crap about anything and everything, rather than trying to construct something. But anyways, here you go:

 

My reflection. The heart of the fear. My daily suffering. The eternal struggle of a phobia. One day something bad will happen, I know it will. I know.

It all goes back to my childhood. I remember it vividly. Walking past the mirror, catching a glimpse of something. Looking back and just seeing myself. I thought nothing of it. A figment of my imagination I told myself. And I believed it. Until that night. The nightmare. The first of many.

Staring at my reflection, paralysed, immobilised, unable to move. A figure, behind me, moving slowly forwards. Long, straggly hair masking most of the face; only its dark eyes are visible. Black eyes. Dead eyes. Closer and closer it moves, slowly, knowing I can’t escape. Fear wells inside me. I try to scream, but the figure raises its hand. Hushes me with its finger. It’s smiling now, as the scream gets trapped in my throat; Immobilised. Like me. The creature extends its arm – dead skin, burnt red – and touches me. I feel pain. It becomes excruciating. I let out a scream. And that’s when I awake. Screaming. On and on and on.

My dad comes rushing in. He holds me, trying to comfort me. My scream is drawn out, my eyes fixed on something. He follows my gaze. He sees only a mirror.

I see the figure, reflected behind us. The grin. The finger upon the lips. The straggly hair. And the eyes. The cold, dead eyes.

 

Several weeks later. I remember being taken somewhere. A shrink they called it. To be cured they said. Several long hours of questions. Analysed to the end of the earth. Taken home, told to come back tomorrow. At home, the nightmare repeats itself.

Diagnosed the next day. Eisoptrophobia they called it. A fear of mirrors. They are wrong. It’s not the mirrors I fear. It’s the creature inside the mirror.

Life continues. I get by. Trapped in a shadow of fear. The nightmares continue, always the same. All the mirrors have been covered up. They think it helps. But it doesn’t. I still know. Know that it’s still there. Hiding. Waiting.

Fourteen years old. Dad is fed up. Says it was a childish fear. Says that I should face it. He doesn’t know what it is. No one does.

He’s uncovered the mirrors. I screamed at him. He didn’t listen, saying it was time to confront the phobia. I can’t. I refuse. I won’t.

Walking past mirrors, not looking at them. Avoiding my own gaze. I don’t care what I look like. I can go without that. It’s worth it, to never see it again.

I’m seventeen now. Still avoiding mirrors. Still plagued by the nightmares. I even start to believe that’s what they are: just nightmares. Maybe I imagined it all. Maybe the figure is not real. A figment of my imagination, as I once told myself. I’m going to do it. I’m going to look in the mirror.

I wait until the night. Wait until my dad is asleep. Turn on the light, prepare myself. Tell myself that there is nothing to be afraid of. I take a deep breath. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Look up…

and see my reflection. Just my reflection. No figure, no nothing. Except me. I let out a laugh and blink.

And there it is. The figure. Grinning at me.

I try to scream, but she silences me before it can fully form. An arm shoots out of the mirror and wraps around my throat. The searing pain from my nightmare becomes real. I feel my flesh ripple. Then, I’m gone. Pulled into the mirror. Lost forever. Tormented endlessly by my nightmare.