The Snows of White Ridge continues an epic, as blessings, changes, and trials alike come to the newly-named White Ridge Pack, and their allies, the Swift River Clan.
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 Prologue to my book in progress (Teaser)

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Gildarius
Loyal Packmate
Loyal Packmate


Number of posts : 104
Age : 30
Location : B.C. Canada
Registration date : 2008-01-09

PostSubject: Prologue to my book in progress (Teaser)   Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:07 am

Prologue

The air of the room was dank and pungent. On window was shuttered, but boarded up with a pair of six foot planks across the mid and top halves of the frame. Only one or two shafts of sunlight broke into the darkness of the room, illuminating the motes of dust aloft in the stale air. A man stood in a dark corner, to the right of the window, shifting from foot to foot as he uncomfortably fingered something in the left pocket of his long black cloak. The movement caused a silence breaking crunch as the thick leather boot landed heavily upon a stale piece of white bread. A young man sat up quickly, with wide eyes and a hushed gasp. He had been alerted of the others presence by the noise. A shaft of light from the window across the room it up the young man’s short red hair, and expression of nervous apprehension. A glance to his lft revealed the door slightly ajar. Tense now, the young man turned his gaze slowly to the right. The man in the black cloak lifted his black gloved right hand slowly, and pulled his wide brimmed black hat lower to tilt just over hi eyebrows. "It's over Domeko. After six years of searching I have found you. The last of the deceased Lord Aarsenvald’s property."
Domeko licked his dry, cracked lips nervously. "I..." he began to reply shakily in a high baritone voice. With his left hand he felt around the sleeping bag that he sat in secretively, as he mustered his courage to continue speaking hastily. "I don't even know what you're talking about, let alone who you are and what you want with me." The cloaked man sneered in annoyance at what he believed was a petty game of bullshit, and took a bold step forward. As the man came to loom over him, Domeko closed his left hand over a familiar, palm sized, hard surface. "Show me the bottom of your arm. Now." The cloaked man demanded in a smooth, but hard voice. The young man began to move his right arm before himself, staring the cloaked figure in the hood, and quickly lunged with a wide left swing at the cloaked man’s head, putting all of his strength behind it. Bazzan easily caught Domeko’s swing at the wrist, and effortlessly pressed his thumb into a pressure point. The young man winced in pain and uttered an oath before feeling his hand go numb and drop his kuri knife. Bazzan whipped Domeko’s grey, woolen sleeve up the young man’s arm, and with a sharp tug, pulled the bared white arm into a shaft of light. He then twisted it to reveal the bottom.
Past his wrist, just before the concave bend of Domeko’s elbow, a seared patch of skin was made obvious in contrast of red against pale, white skin. The mark could only have been the work of a firebrand, as it had left a particular mark of a scorpion with an eagle over it, all surrounded by the name Renkassim, and a pair of crossed scimitar forming a circle around the two creatures inside. Bazzan narrowed his eyes at the brand mark; a look of frustration was slowly working its way onto his face. Curling his tongue in dissatisfaction, the cloaked man then spat on the young mans marked arm and threateningly hissed, "This is not right. Show me your other arm. I know you bear the mark of property, you pustuling grub worm." Domeko felt the nausea of fear creeping up through his stomach as he brought his trembling right arm before him. The cloaked man quickly bared the bottom of Domeko’s right arm with no resistance. Bazzan’s jaw fell agape at the sight that was then before him, and he stumbled two steps backward, fumbling to cover his mouth and nose with a black scarf as he did so. Scared, humiliated, and outraged, Domeko took a step forward, bringing the bottom of his arm into better lighting, and waving it at the other man with a look of torment on his face. "Is this what you came here seeking?" Domeko cried at the man, his outrage lending power to his words. Cast in the rays of light from the window, black and purple bumps covered a good length of the young man’s arm surrounded by darkened, yellowing skin that appeared to be dried out and slowly cracking. "What even the jackals veer away from?" Domeko huffed a sour laugh before continuing. "I pray only that you take this back to your people. Long have I suffered from the vile action of your people."
Bazzan’s face blanched a pall color. "By the seven of NocrUtaal. How... do you still live? And why do you not bear Aarsenvalds mark? This is not right... I must have miscalculated something." The cloaked man edged cautiously towards the door. "Adani mitzine occuph." Bazzan muttered in another language. Domeko coughed, and spat a mixture of blood and phlegm onto the floor at Bazzan’s feet. "I itch for an end." The young man stated, now with bitter humor. Bazzan, regaining his composure, sneered. "You will die here, but I will not risk my life on your blood." Quickly, and very smoothly the cloaked man pulled the door open wider, and leapt out into the next room, and slammed the door behind him. Slowly, Domeko moved to the door and waited silently for a few minutes. He heard something happen to the door, followed by a few loud crashes, and then... silence. Sweating profusely, he tried the door. It was jammed. By the sounds that he had heard from the next room, Domeko was also sure that the door was well barricaded. He glanced quickly about the room once more, and picked up his kuri knife before settling his back against the wall to let his heart slowdown from a gallop.
Smoke. Domeko’s eyes shot open in distress. How long have I been asleep for? He thought to himself. The thick smell of carbon from burning wood invaded the stale atmosphere of the room, pervading his sight and bringing stinging tears to his eyes. He coughed heavily, hi lungs trying to reject the overwhelming smoke. He couldn't go through the boarded window. He lifted the top of his ratty brown shirt to cover his mouth and nose before kneeling down to pick up his belongings into a large grey backpack. Rolling up his sleeping bag revealed a wooden trapdoor in the floor of the room. Licking his dry, cracked lips, the young man moved to peer out of his window before hoisting the backpack onto his shoulders.
Looking through the window was nearly blinding from the contrast of the bright noonday sun to the dark room in which he stood. A handful of people lined the street, watching the building spew smoke as the building continued to catch fire. He also noticed a few running in panic for help. Desperately, he eyed the growing crowd to catch sight of Bazzan. The smoke was getting far thicker now, making it hard to breathe, and forcing Domeko to crouch down onto one knee. His vision was starting to blur, water pooling in the corner of his eyes. Still nothing, and then... There! Just to the left and behind an old woman. The man in the black cloak. Domeko 'woofed' into a triumphant cheer, but broke off into a haggard cough. Instinctively, he pulled his brown woolen shirt closer to his face with one hand, trying to ease his breathing. He looked for the trapdoor, moving to lay on the floor heavily as he did so.
The temperature in the room was starting to become unbearable, black and grey roiling smoke hot boxing the room. He inched forward, his hands searching for the opening catch for the trap door. Where did it go? He caught a splinter from a broken piece of wooden floorboard in his scrabbling hunt. Gingerly he sucked on the pinprick wound on his finger and tried to bite the splinter. No such luck, he thought absently before pushing himself to continue his search. Out of the corner of his eye, Domeko saw an orange tongue of flame lick hungrily through the top of his door. Panic was just starting to set in, but just as he was about to yell in frustration, his fingertips caught a familiar crevice that broke the floorboards pattern. Catching his breath with excitement, he eagerly felt hi way along the frame for-there! Pushing his fingers in deeper, he pulled up and toward himself, falling backward as the trapdoor swung open with him.
Domeko let out a rough cough from the combined powers of smoke and exertion on his lungs. He spat thick, black and yellow phlegm at the door, as if that tiny amount of moisture could slow the growing might of the house fire. For a moment he lost his grip on reality, the burning door punching agonizing flashbacks into his mind.
The tower bells clamored across the city, warning of invasion. He could see a few resilient soldiers continuing to fight a hopeless battle far on the ramparts of the city wall. The wall had already been breached, the portcullis and gate opened, and the castle overrun. On every block of the city, Domeko could see houses ablaze, men, women, and children running... and soldiers in black, red and purple armor cutting them all down without discrimination. From the roof of a stone masons shop, he was overwhelmed by the entire atmosphere; Thick bellowing smoke stinging his eyes and throat, fires burning his memories down, a few people that burst out running from them, and the noises of screaming, crying, metal on metal, the dying, the crashing projectiles from siege engines, and the guttural, unfamiliar language of the foreign invaders as they cheered and yelled.
Suddenly, he was staring down the side of the stone building at the cobbled road below, watching the contents oh his stomach evacuate his mouth onto an invading soldier that had his sword raised to cut down the young girl in front of him. Puke and bile sang against the steel helmet of the foreign soldier, creeping down his face and uniform distractingly. The girl gasped, covering her mouth with one hand, before her common sense kicked in and sent her fleeing. The soldier, shaking in utmost fury, had no mind for anything but the source of vile contempt that covered him. The soldier looked up, locking eyes with Domeko, and wordlessly, in that look, told tales of the evil and heartless things that he would do to the boy. The boy’s eyes went wide as saucers, and fear overtook him.
Domeko ran. He ran headlong across the rooftop and made a leap of faith, knowing his life to be otherwise forfeit. Luckily, he landed on the next rooftop, the momentum carrying him forward to be flung from his feet to his knees painfully. He could hear the audible ‘thunk’ upon the impact on the wooden roof. He groaned painfully, tears pouring down his face from the mix of pain, rage, fear and smoke. He looked back, and saw the soldier coming up the trapdoor to the roof that he had just left. Anxiety gripped him, blinding him to the pain in his knees. Without another thought for his health,, he got up and bolted for the next roof. He could feel the fear pumping adrenaline through his veins now, giving the boy strength and endurance that he did not know he could possess. Two roofs away now, he glanced back. The soldier had his eyes locked on Domeko in silent promise of death as the man unslung a shortbow from across his back. The boy would watch no more. He ran for the next roof and leapt, but nearly slipped on the edge as he did so. He slammed bodily against the wall of the next building, knocking the air out of his lungs as he hung uselessly from the rooftop by his hands. The lip saved his life, for as he collided with the wall, the distinct sound of an arrow whistled by overhead to where he had been leaping.
Tha-thump tha-thump, tha-thump. All Domeko could hear at that moment was his heart racing like a spooked horse on an open plain. He looked down below him. Mangled bodies of a few families and a couple soldiers littered the small alley. Flies and rats flitted about the bloody carnage like a gluttonous feast. The smell alone was horrible, and the boy blanched, instinctively dry heaving from his precarious perch. Catching his breath a full minute later, he clambered back up the roof, and looked around like a frightened deer. The soldier was gone from the rooftop, no doubt walking this way on foot. He backed up, and jumped across to the next roof successfully. Hurriedly, he clambered down the house’s trap door into the building’s interior.

He was in a wooden hallway with two doors ajar, a window at the end of the hall to his left, and a staircase at the end to his right. A rat skittered boldly from one room to the next, stopping only to squeak once and hiss openly at him. The once grey, white and yellow carpet underfoot was forever ruined by a large bloodstain that trailed away toward the room that the rat had just left. Domeko swallowed his fear nervously and walked tip toed to the staircase. Quietly he made his way down into the dining area. The room was a broken, tattered mess with pieces of chairs scattered about, a splintered table left concave, and broken wooden cabinets. He took a few steps into the room, crouching low so that he would not be seen through a window. A rustling sound gave him cause to pause briefly and look around more closely. At first he notice nothing, and then, there beneath a broken cabinet, and under an overturned straw basket. He could see some light brown hair poking out suspiciously.
“Hello?” He called in a feeble, quiet voice. The basket shifted, and Domeko tensed visibly as the basket was tossed in front of him. The before him the young girl he had incidentally saved earlier crouched, shaking wide eyed in terror. He relaxed a little and commanded urgently “Oh. Hurry, this way!,” he motioned toward the kitchen around the corner, “We have to get away from tis place.” Wordlessly, and still wide eyed, the girl complied without hesitation, eager for any form of hope or salvation from the cities destruction. Awkwardly, he took the girl by the hand and peeked around the corner into the kitchen. It was littered with smashed dish wear and food, but contained no other sign of danger aside from a few rats feeding upon the littered food. The pair darted across the kitchen to the back entrance and swung the door the back yard open. As the door swung open they watched a soldier in a brown, studded leather uniform release an arrow from his longbow in the throat of the enemy soldier Domeko had been hunted by earlier. As fast as the children could draw a sharp breath, the grey plumed soldier had another arrow nocked and drawn. The soldier lowered his weapon upon seeing children and not enemies.
Cod steel blue eyes surveyed the yard readily before the man barked at the kids. “Get over here! See that sewer grate? I want you to open it and climb down.” The girl looked at Domeko silently questioning, but the boy was already moving to obey the adult. The iron grate was heavy, but he was still a rush with adrenaline and managed to pull it up without help. He glanced at the girl and began to clamber down. The sewer was pitch black, save or the light filtering down from the hole above. Cautiously, he moved aside to make room for the girl’s passage, covering his mouth against the smells of piss, decay, and feces. He heard a splash and feet cold liquid hit his feet, flowing over his sandals; but he could not be phased by it after his experiences above. The girl was halfway down the ladder and he heard another arrow whistle accompanied by an angry shout.
Splash! The girl made it down, and moved to cling securely to Domeko as they listened nervously to a noisy altercation above. Two minutes later a shadow blocked the light from above, and a long steel guisarme splashed into the water. The children held their breath tensely, as if it would save them. Then they heard metal move and a heavy ‘thunk’ as the grate fell back into place. The grey plumed soldier clambered down into the sewer and sparked a torch silently.
Domeko could hear echoes of the cities war torn atmosphere reverberating through the sewers tunnel system. In the torchlight he could see that the heroic soldier was bleeding from a wound above his right hip joint. The brown, studded leather chest piece was taking on a dark crimson stain In the area of the wound. The boy gave a worried look to which the soldier shook his head, and bent down to pick up his polearm. “We should be able to get to the aquifer that feeds the moat through these sewers,” the man stated gruffly, with only a hint of pain in his voice. “I expect both of you to keep yer’ yaps shut, and get low if we find trouble. You, boy. Don’t do anything heroic if I go down… unless you have to. Then you must be a man.” Domeko licked his lips nervously, the impact of the expectations unnerving him. He then nodded slowly as the girls grip increased on his hand as if lending him strength. In his thirteen summers of life, he had never felt older.
They began to walk now, steadily but with caution. Domeko followed the soldier while maintaining his grip on the girl’s hand. The splashing of their footsteps was barely audible in contest to the chaos above, but still scattered what few rats remained down there. Domeko felt a chill go down his spine as a drain they passed dripped ruby blood droplets to mix into the quagmire of waste that the three walked through. The girl barely bit down a terrified squeak at the sight, briefly picking up her pace and bumping into Domeko’s back. The soldier glanced back at the disturbance, stifled a laugh, and faced the fore again without losing step. The girl blushed in embarrassment, but thankfully it went unnoticed in the dance of light and dark from the flickering torchlight.
The sewer shook for a moment, sending bits of dirt and water falling from the roof of the sewer caused by siege fire above. The sounds above were getting louder as the last bits of resistance were overrun and destroyed. They had been walking for a good fifteen minutes now, and Domeko had lost all of his anxiety through the slogging walk, but remained aptly alert for danger. He studied the silent soldier with a mixture of curiosity, respect and gratitude. His heart ached over the loss of his mother and older brother, but then returned to a sense of numbness as he considered his present situation. The faint echoes of a conversation in tongues both foreign and local drifted to his ears, and the soldier motioned for the children to stop, dousing his torch in the water. Suddenly it was black again, and the boy’s eyes strained to adjust.
“Whizt gandii eyen zökchur malgavi?” Bachest zeiner vortumiskaad. Echen.” A voice of deep tone spoke from above. The boy could make out faint light from a sewer grate ahead. His eyes moved to look at the soldier whom appeared to be listening intently, with his head cocked to the side, and hard steely eyes set on a pair of figures above the sewer grate. The boy could see only the red pants and black suede boots of one figure, whilst the other remained a vague shadow. “General, I assure you that all of the men, women, and children, property of Lord Aarsenvald, are not only branded with his mark, but present here. In destroying each and every one, you are making example not only to the prophets, but to any that would deny you great leader. These are the last peoples to stand in your way.” A second voice stated assuringly in a lighter, whinier tone. “Afon deshkahr azüne melikadatt forshtenai. Ugun visk orumm,” Replied the first voice with a threatening undertone. “I aim only to please, Urzag. Any survivors remaining will be lined up before you, and beheaded. The body of Lord Aarsenvald himself, as you commanded, already is staked spread eagle upon the heights of the central bell tower.”
Domeko watched the soldier wince, before the man’s face contorted with fury. An urgent prodding in the ribs brought the boy’s attention behind him. The girl was pointing back in the direction they had come from. Far behind them he could just make out signs of distant torchlight. He just about panicked, grabbing the girls hand and leaning forward to rush into a solid gloved hand. The soldier studied the pair introspectively before lowering his hand to pick up the doused torch. The voices above had gone silent, and he could barely make out the sound of footsteps above. The city had gotten quieter too. The soldier put the torch snugly into a belt loop, took the boys free hand, and began to lead the group ahead through the darkness and stench.
At a few points during their walk they turned, losing sight of the pursuing torches briefly, and losing them fully after the third turn. He did not know how long they walked for now, but they eventually topped at a portcullis. The water there was, for Domeko and the girl, shoulder deep. There was a resounding roar of falling water, and Domeko could hear little else over the noise. Pale moonlight lit up the area for up to a stone’s throw back from whence they came. “Alright,” Domeko and the girl started in surprise at hearing the soldier’s voice for the first time since they had started travelling the sewer system, “I am going to turn that wheel to our right. That will open this portcullis. I want you both to go through, and if the coast is clear, jump. Will barely have time to make it through, and so I must hold it open until I see you both jump, for I will be short to follow. Understand?” The girl looked fearfully ahead and clung to Domeko. The boy took a deep breath, mustering what remained of his courage. He was sore, exhausted, and his knees felt in rough shape. “Yes…” He answered in a cracked voice, having said little that day, “I…understand. Sir. Thank you.” The soldier looked at him studiously, his eyes softening a bit almost sympathetically before moving to the girl. “And you girl? Do you understand?” The soldier asked softly. She nodded shyly in return. “Good.” The soldier said with a smirk.
The man moved to the wheel, and straining his muscles against the heavy burden, began turning it. Chains clinked and rattled as the steel gate began to lift from its secure placement. Rivulets of water cascaded down from the bottom of its spikes as the door to freedom moved grudgingly out of the waters grasp. Domeko’s heart raced, and he swam to the other side, closely followed by the girl, as he was beginning to become accustomed to her constant proximity. He found purchase on a cut stone block to his left, and clambered atop it. The water rushed a few feet further before leaping into a twenty foot waterfall. The sight was both unnerving and dizzying, and as the girl scaled onto the stone block, she accidentally bumped Domeko ahead into the current, to be thrown down by the waterfall.
The girls mouth dropped open in horrified shock as she watched Domeko go over the edge. It was all she could do to put her hand over her mouth to stop herself from calling out after the boy. The current had easily overpowered the boy and as he found, to his grim shock, he was now being flung bodily over the lip of the waterfall, which turned his fear to a light hearted exhilaration. He twisted, and then straightened out his body in the air, imagining himself to be a simple, untroubled fish. As fast as it started, it was over. Domeko hit the deep water below, immediately coming into the grip of a powerful undertow., but because he arched his back as he collided with the water, he shortly shot back up to the surface lithely. He was somewhat disappointed that he had not turned into a fish as he swam for the shore.
As he reached the rocky shore he heard a great splash, and was bombarded by a series of water drops and waves. Above, the portcullis was shut with no soul in sight. The rocky shore stretched for only eight feet before curving up six feet into a muddy embankment with a hairline of grass hanging over the edge of the top. The pool from the waterfall divided to embark both to the left and the right in deep blue canals that appeared to go around the cliff face to eventually encircle the entire city above as a protective ring. He remembered looking from the walls parapets many times before, to stare at the great lake that the moat fed into on the other side of the city from where he was now. In the pool of water, the soldier surfaced in the moonlight with the young girl wrapped tightly in the crook of his arm, and the shaft of his glaive. It was a wonder that the man could even swim with his free hand burdened also by his backpack of gear. The soldier made it to the embankment, red faced and breathing heavily, choosing to promptly sit and lean against the embankment to catch his breath. Picking up a knuckle sized stone, the boy toyed with it between his fingers, bringing his gaze to look high over the cliff top at the palely illuminated, grey stone city wall. A faint orange hue set dominance in the air above the wall. Tears of loss found their way to Domeko’s eyes as he zoned out into a grieving reverie, thinking of all that he had lost in that orange glow. The night air was cool for summer, carrying the smells of flowers pine, redwood, cedar and smoke. Crickets loudly contested music with each other to the ambient background of the waterfall and interrupted only by the odd toad or owl. Even the soldier was feeling a creeping sense of peace in this place.
“I’m hungry…” the girl muttered, breaking the silence after a good ten minutes or so. The words brought Domeko back from his reverie, the boy’s stomach grumbling in agreement. He felt his cheeks go hot at the sign of human weakness. The soldier blinked, breaking off from whatever thoughts plagued his mind, answering bitterly, “Of course ye’ are,” In a mutter. Am I now to be a nanny? The soldier thought bleakly to himself. Indeed pessimism was all that he could feel about his shoulders. His liege was dead and made sport of, his career was over and now unpaid, his comrades and friends to be found as little more than hacked bodies and pools of blood, and all that was left of his life was his skin, gear, and two local children. “Hah!” he barked in a sarcastic laugh, breaking into a hysterical cackle at his misfortune. The children looked at each other unhumoured and the girl whispered, “Is he okay?” to which Domeko shrugged. This made the soldier laugh even harder, breaking into a hiccupping chuckle as he brushed tears aside with a gloved knuckle.
Suddenly, the man stood. “We are all that is left of our people and entire nation. For this reason alone will I look after you two, instead of going on a suicidal attempt at revenge. And you, boy. You will be the investment of my revenge so that some fateful day, heavens permit, you may justify our nations unreasonable and treacherous end.” He gave both children and unbending look that promised both loyalty and much hardship. The boy wordlessly hurled his held stone at the waterfall, as the girl fought with her own chaos of emotions numbly. “This way.” The soldier commanded, “We will make camp in an abandoned bear den two hundred and some yards from here.” And with that, they began to walk once more. Domeko looked back only once more as they were crossing an open field. The city was still in alight in its blaze as the invader finished their pillaging there. All that he could think of was all of the blood and fire.

Fire. Domeko shot up from the floorboards with an angry roar. Disoriented and confused, the young man looked about him. Half of the room was now ablaze, including his right shoe. His eyes opened wide and he beat the fire on his shoe out, yelling “Ow, ow, ow, ow!” A few boards came crashing to the floor ablaze, scattering angry sparks everywhere. He saw that the trap door still lay wide open invitingly. “Oh! That’s right.” He said to himself, as he remembered his plans of action. Without hesitation he grabbed one of the burning floorboards that had fallen, and tossed it down through the trap door. Quickly now, he clambered down after the board, closing the trap door before climbing down the wooden ladder that he now stood on. It was a long climb down, the dirt shaft having been a well that dried up long ago, and was built over. When he had learned of it, he rented the room above it and built the trap door, keeping it hidden as his little secret. The bottom of the adder started to catch a tongue of flame from the board, but the young man was low enough now that he simply hopped off of the ladder. In the flickering gloom he crouched, looking for his small adjoining dirt tunnel. Ah, he thought, brightening at his find, my tunnel. Perfect. With a grin and a heavy coughing fit, he grabbed the burning board, and tossed it in through the small dirt tunnel he found. With but a last glance up at the trapdoor and burning ladder, he crawled through.
At the far end of the tunnel was a twelve by sixteen foot dug out room with two logs upright as support pillars. Tools, a few armnents and armour, as well as sacks of dry goods lined two walls. There was a pair of boulders just slightly smaller than the tunnel that he had just come in from, sitting by the entrance. He used the burning board to light a pair torches on wall sconces, before putting the board out. Relaxed, and out of any immediate danger, Domeko rolled the pair of boulders into the well tunnel, and attacked the dirt above the stones, until that section of tunnel collapsed. He returned to the room, humming cheerfully for he could no longer be followed.
Whithout hesitation, he unpacked his sleeping back and went back to sleep.
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