Didn’t really get a chance to work on much yesterday, so I’ve already missed a day!
Occasionally I dip my toes into the pool of fantasy, though I’ve yet to finish anything of the sort that I’d consider submitting somewhere. There’s a certain built-in formality to the language of fantasy, a by-product of the epic nature of the genre I guess, that I’m not sure I’m any good at. Plus there’s a lot of world-building to do, which has a lot of different pros and cons involved. And don’t get me started on attempting to cull something new from the genre that doesn’t get mixed up with some half-remembered Tolkein myth or D&D rulebook.
For years I’ve tinkered with a story involving an elf and human teaming up for some quest. It always starts off with the two of them tracking some villainy in a forest, and the elf crafting a weapon from a dead tree to exact vengeance. The names and genders (and even the species – the human was originally some half-breed goblin or something) have shifted and there’s several different versions on various notebooks in my bookshelves.
Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to finishing it. Here’s yet another version of the opening, about 600 words.
Katarin knelt by the ancient roots of the injured redwood. Her fingers picked at the tracks left in the moist ground. Three heavy, scaled toes. Four sets. A broken axe handle lay nearby, tossed aside in frustration. The tree had held despite the trespassers’ efforts; her smaller cousins nearby, however, had not been so fortunate. Katarin kicked the smoldering pile of firewood. Her eyes met those of her companion’s, but after a moment she looked away.
“Little emotional, are we?” Shaugn said. Katarin, unfamiliar with his species, wasn’t sure how to read the expressions buried beneath his thick facial hair, but the amused tone of his voice was clear. She chose to ignore his taunts.
“They will not be far,” she said, carefully enunciating each word of the little-used human language. She kept her voice even, cold.
Katarin ran her hands over one of the fallen branches and retrieved one nearly as long as she was tall. Smudged scorches and ash from the fire still marred the bark. She whispered to the dead branch in the ancient tongue forged between her people and the trees and began to shape the wood with her hands. Knots in the wood straightened and strengthened. She heard faint murmurs from the redwood in return. Katarin stood, hefting the staff in her hands, feeling the balance. It would do.
She glanced at Shaugn, but the man seemed wise enough to keep his mouth shut. He gestured in the direction of the tracks, inviting her to lead the way.
A heavy fog descended from the tree tops, but Katarin never slowed as she led Shaugn through the forest she made home. They weaved between the tree trunks. To his credit, the human stayed close and remained quiet. She noticed him put away his bow; his limited vision in the fog would make it virtually useless. Her elfish eyes had little trouble penetrating the veil.
Despite herself, Katarin was impressed with the human’s skill set. The fact that he’d found her at all, much less approached with humility and requested her help, put him in higher esteem than others of his kind she’d met. Shaugn had skirted the edge of the woods, careful not to enter without permission. A scout for a passing column of troops, he’d spotted an enemy patrol enter the forest. He couldn’t risk them escaping to report on his army’s movements, but to enter her wood without her word could be just as dangerous. He’d let her track them, but she’d seen his eyes covering the ground, picking up on the same clues and trails as she. This soldier was no amateur. She wondered if he’d be able to find his way out of the forest on his own.
An hour after finding the abandoned camp, Katarin spotted their quarry. Four dragon-men strolling through her land as though they’d conquered it centuries ago. She ground her teeth and gripped the daggers at her waist. The dragon-men walked low to the ground, shorter than most humans or elves but broad-chested and long-limbed. Their tails hovering just inches above the moist floor of leaves over which they tread. Plate armor clattered across their arms and chest. Their grey scales were more suited to their mountain home than the forest. One of them carried a short bow at the ready and strained to peer through the mist. The others kept their claws on spears or axes.
Shaugn crept beside her, his brow furrowed. He couldn’t see them. She waved for him to follow and turned north, taking them on a course to intercept the intruders. She lifted her staff. Shaugn nodded and readied his sword.
“You need them alive?” Katarin asked.
“Just one,” said Shaugn.
“Then I suggest you get to that one before I do.”