Preview Chapter – Forsaken Lands Book 2

Hello out there blog folk! It’s been a wild month-and-a-half or so. Despite an ever-changing schedule and an impending move (again), the work on Book 2 has been proceeding as scheduled. With 73,000 words in the Forsaken Lands sequel, I’d like to present a sample of what’s been going on so far. Slowly but surely this thing is getting finished… goal date to finish the draft: June 23rd. More blog posts to come in the next few months! Sorry for the decrease in chatter.

The scene below is from the second chapter of Forsaken Lands Book 2 and contains spoilers – you have been warned.

           Even balled up in her fur cloak with the hood drawn up, Eila had glittering green eyes and a thin little body that made all sorts of interesting shapes in a fight. She was probably younger than him – maybe 16 – but she was better with a sword and a hell of a lot better at speaking the Kaldari’s god-cursed language.

           Elden gifted the girl with one of his sly half-smiles and threw the stone right back. She laughed and said something under her breath that he couldn’t understand.

           Sigh.

           It was getting colder than he could ever remember. Seven Kaldari huddled around the center of a traditional Kaldari Chitaka, a semi-permanent, round, tent-like structure that he helped construct from animal hides about a week ago. There were sleep sacks scattered around the periphery of the structure and a blazing fire in the center, the smoke pushing cold air out through the hole in the ceiling. Even with the roaring fire and the close quarters, Elden hugged his own body tightly to keep in what warmth he could. The snow outside formed a barricade, so thick that folks could barely squeeze through to use the outdoor facilities. Fortunately the snow seemed to slow the Celet down almost as much as it slowed the Kaldari. They hadn’t seen action since the Chitaka went up.

           Though he’d spent several weeks with these people, Elden felt incredibly alone. When a Kaldari patrol cornered him outside of Nivenea on the week of The Fall, Elden had given serious thought to killing them all. He had the ability to do so, certainly, and no real moral issue with it, but part of him knew that being a loner wasn’t going to work forever. The emergence of the Celet and their mysterious weapons brought his entire world into question – he could run, but to where? And for what?

           He was nothing without a group to hide within, so it made some amount of sense to just go with them. Growing up on the Kaldari Border Elden had picked up a little of the language – mostly slurs – just enough to get along. He understood more than he could express, at least. “Yes” was the only word that seemed to matter, anyway.

           Given his poor control of the language he came off as quiet, but nobody seemed overly disturbed by his lack of conversation. Quite the contrary, they treated him as if he were some kind of ideal stoic. Unfortunately stoicism wasn’t his usual gig. He found himself craving real human interaction, without the fear of being found out.

           It might not have been worth all the isolation except that the Kaldari gave him a steady supply of the fire, which saved him from the withdrawals. The fire alone might not be enough to keep him around. As time went on he gave greater consideration to joining the infamous Nivenea’s Sword, the Children of Elseth’s resistance movement against the Celet. Elden had his first encounter with The Sword just the day before, and he couldn’t help but admire with tenactiy. More than that, he liked that he was able to understand what they were saying effortlessly.

           Gods I hate being alone in my own head.

           <That one, where did he come from again?> Eila whispered to the male, Berik, beside her.

           <I heard he was Alke,> Berik replied.

           <He’s so slow,> Eila chuckled.

           Elden stared up at the ceiling as if oblivious. She either believed that she was speaking softly enough that he wouldn’t hear, or more likely, she thought he was too dumb to understand. He had no intention of finding out which. He grabbed his bag and stood, stretching his stiff legs. Berik raised eyebrows in his direction.

           Elden jerked a thumb toward the entrance flap, <Pissing.>

           Berik nodded.

           Pausing just a moment to gather his wits, Elden pushed through the hide-flap into the biting cold of the night. Outside the Chitaka very few people stood guard; he counted four, one at each cardinal. Only their shadows were visible through the dark and falling snow, outlined by torches which seemed to be swallowed up by the forest. Ice hung heavy on the pine trees, the whiteness turned to black with the occasional sparkle of stray light. He could see no stars; when he looked up the snow stung his lashes.

           Somehow being physically alone was comforting compared to the sensation of being alone in a crowd. Hunching his shoulders, Elden trudged out to the edge of the camp where people typically went to relieve themselves. The forest was too quiet; his every movement was amplified a hundred times, yet the guards spared him only stray glances. They did not expect an attack this night.

           Once safely out of sight of the guards, Elden huddled up against a tree. He checked one way and then the other, took a long breath, and relaxed. When he raised his hand his lighter slowly levitated from his pocket, spinning free while he packed his stolen pipe. His covash was getting low, but a hit or two and he’d be able to forget enough to get to sleep.

           Plans could wait.

           He lit the pipe, careful to shield it from the wind and keep it from falling out. His supply would need to last until… well, until something. He didn’t know what. He used his mind to effortlessly place the lighter back in his pocket and took his first pull. He had to avoid using his abilities in the presence of others who might be suspicious. The freedom to move objects with his mind was absolutely freeing, a pleasure he too infrequently enjoyed.

           Movement off to his left caught his eye mid-drag, giving him pause. He hadn’t heard anyone coming up on his position, but the movement was unmistakable. When he turned to look he was met with the bear-sized frame of the Kaldari merc, a large bag slung on his back and a thick cloak drawn around him, only adding to his size. A hook was attached in place of his right hand, lost in the fight at Nivenea’s Fall. For a man so substantial he moved with the grace of a feline.

           Elden quickly concealed his pipe up his sleeve and hitched his breath, hoping that the man would pass him by. The merc halted his progression and slowly turned towards him – the feeling of the merc’s eyes on him gave Elden a start.

           “You did not see me,” the merc’s gruff voice came from beneath a faceless hood, appropriately lowered so that the guards would not hear. “Go back to the camp.”

           Elden leaned his head back against the tree, closing his eyes. He opened his mouth to formulate a reply in Kaldari, but stopped abruptly.

           The merc was speaking to him in Leyvada.

           He was inclined not to answer back in order to maintain this illusion of being a Kaldari soldier, but by the merc’s rough, staccato laughter, he had already fumbled too far. He knew. The merc grunted and kept walking, his back to Elden.

           “What the hell was that?” Elden whispered urgently.

           When the man looked over his shoulder Elden caught a glimpse of his long, black hair peaking from beneath his hood. “Your accent is very bad.”

           “You’ve known? All this time?”

           The merc’s shoulders slumped just slightly. His tone was flat. “Yes.”

           “And you didn’t think I was some kind of spy?”

           At that the merc laughed again. “Spy? If you are the spy I pity The Sword for sending you.”

           Elden couldn’t help but feel taken aback by the comment. He wasn’t a spy, but he didn’t think he would be so bad if he was. The other Kaldari accepted him, and showed no inkling of suspicion. To be identified by one man out of dozens was hardly something to scoff at.

           The merc began walking again, and something very stupid and very deep inside Elden’s psyche cause him to follow, even as he was telling himself, Leave this guy alone, idiot. He’s dangerous. He supposed that it was his power that got him into these situations. His whole life he’d struggled to impose deterrents such as fear into his every day actions, but doing so was difficult when he’d never met a person that he couldn’t defeat in a fight… at least in theory.

           “Do not follow me,” the merc said patiently.

           “You’re not giving me an abundance of options. I’m not done with you,” Elden proceeded, reckless with the need for change. “I want out of here, and it looks like that’s where you’re headed.”

           The merc didn’t turn around or stop. “And you think this is what I am doing, getting ‘out,’ as you say?”

           “You’re leaving the camp alone in the middle of the night, and word is your loyalties aren’t proven. Nobody trusts you.”

           “They let me live with them, they cared for my wounds. You think they do this for a man they do not trust?”

           “Look man, I don’t care why they let you in, I just want to follow you until I find someplace else to hide for a while. I don’t belong here.”

           When the merc swung around to glare at him, Elden instinctively ducked and raised his energy, ready for a fight. To his surprise the bear-man did not hit him. The shadowed face studied him a moment, and Elden could feel his hairs standing on end.

           “I can just go ba-” Elden began.

           “Your name is Elden.”

           Confused, Elden crossed his arms, in part for warmth and in part as a defensive posture. “And your name is…” he searched for it in the depths of his memory. “Garren.”

           “You are from Vail.”

           Elden physically and mentally withdrew, wary of Garren’s knowledge. He hadn’t told anyone where he’d come from, that much he was sure of. “Who says?”

           Silence.

           “If you wish to find the other Deldri then you follow me. If you do not wish it, you do not follow.” The statement was final. Garren turned away yet again and set off into the woods.

           “How do you know?” Elden called after him at the loudest volume he imagined to be safe.

           No answer. The mysterious merc man just kept walking, disappearing into the darkness, the snow, and the trees. Elden hesitated another beat – he was faced with one of his recurring life decisions, to go or to stay, to follow on to an uncertain future or wallow in the disappointing reality of his present. He supposed that he would continue making these decisions forever until eventually he found the decision which led to his happiness or he died, whichever came first. He was relatively certain that this was not one of those happiness-making choices.

           Settling his bag squarely over his shoulders, Elden followed his new-found traveling partner into a future unknown.

 © 2014 Sydney M. Cooper – No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

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