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Report article RSS Feed Short Story - NaNoWriMo Novel Excerpt

Posted by Arcones on Nov 1st, 2012


Chapter One - Strange Beginnings

It seemed like a typical tavern, not much rowdier than the majority of taverns I had stayed at in the past. Drunken commoners and not so drunk merchants mostly filled the room, barmaids whisking between tables, catering to the needs of the customers. It was loud too, but even that would have been tolerable if not for the pair of distressingly horrendous guitar players near the fireplace. It was worse than a baby crying. All in all, it would have been a typical tavern.
What made this one different however, was the woman in the corner trying hard not to be noticed while she peeked carefully from beneath her cloak’s hood. I grunted. Unless I missed my guess entirely, she was young and trying hard to remain incognito. And she was failing completely. For starters, sitting alone in the darkest part of the room usually made people believe you meant business, not that you didn’t want any. Second, she had her hood up. Inside, in a bright room. I sighed. You couldn’t get much more obvious than that. He was wrong.
The cloaked woman stood and trying to look innocent as could be with a hood that screamed, “I don’t want anyone to know I’m here!”, she walked over to my table and sat down. I took a drink from my mug before acknowledging her with a hard glance. The woman merely stared at me. Despite my desire to be alone that evening, I was impressed. Usually that glance galvanized even the most desperate cutpurse to avoid me. I took another drink, but didn’t glance at the lady again. If she wanted my attention, she would have to gain it. Taking another long draw from my mug, I leaned back into my chair. Despite myself, I could not help thinking about what she wanted. True, I was a mercenary for hire, evident by the badge I wore and the sword at my left hip, but usually it was men who required my services in protecting their traveling goods. And I had done a good job of it until my last employer. I winced inwardly. Reputation was a large part of being a successful mercenary and I had built a very credible one, but having the goods you were supposed to guard be stolen from under your nose (at an inn of all places!) was quite a blow, no matter your prestige.
Which explains why I was attempting to ignore the woman who was still staring at me. All that I wanted was some peace in quiet while I drowned my failure in my drink. Something told me that I wouldn’t get rid of her until I heard her out. I sighed irritably before turning to my table’s other occupant. From long experience I knew that she would speak first. Any mercenary worth their salt never spoke first; it meant you were desperate.
Several long minutes stretched on before the woman opposite of me stirred, as if from thought and spoke quietly. “I have need of your services.” She paused momentarily before continuing. “I need protection from... some unsavory characters. All that I require is your security from here to the capital.” Up until that point, I had appreciated her bluntness. Now I was wondering whether I should walk away immediately or hear her out. The capital? Fate! Who was she running from that she needed protection in the capital?
The woman continued just as softly as before. “I have the coin to pay well, and can deliver more upon arrival at the capital. If you have any questions, ask now so that you know what you are stepping into.” Fate, the woman was acting as if this was already a done deal! To gain a few more seconds, I chugged the last of my ale. Placing my mug down, I peered towards the darkness of the hood. “What makes you think I’m going to go so willingly when you haven’t told me your name, who you’re running from, what I’m up against nor how much you’ll pay me?” I inquired, acting bored as though I had done this dozens of times. Truthfully though, I had.
For a moment I thought I saw a flicker of a smile but that could have been the ale. “I have heard from a reliable source that you recently lost a shipment of goods you were hired to guard. Reputation is lost so easily in the mercenary business, so I hear. An easy job might just do the trick to boost your standing once more.” Inwardly I seethed angrily while outside I maintained a calm facade. How in all of Correndor did she know that? To be sure, word of my failure would eventually get out and I would be avoided like a leper until I fixed my reputation, but I had only lost that cargo yesterday! On the other hand, the woman was right, I did need a soft job to get me back on my feet.
The lady smiled for sure this time and answered, “I have three hundred golden marks before we start and twice that if you get me safely to the capital.” I was suddenly glad for the many years of practice of schooling my face to show no emotion whatsoever. Inside I mentally calculated the amount of gold she would be handing to me. My average employer usually paid over fifty golden marks depending on how much cargo he required watching. Several of my wealthier clients had sometimes paid one hundred and fifty marks for personally delivering a package, but I had never received any payment over two hundred marks. Yet even if I had enough money to live well enough for a while before getting another job, this woman had maneuvered me exactly where she needed me.
I gave my mug to a passing barmaid and flipped her a silver coin. She smiled quickly before moving on, but my attention was on my companion once more. The woman retained her little, knowing smile and inwardly I growled at being so deftly manipulated to do exactly what she wanted. Outwardly I nodded, saying, “I accept your offer. Do you wish to leave in the morning?”
“Before dawn preferably. I am anxious to maintain a steady lead on my pursuers.”
“Of course,” I replied, frowning at the table top. “You still have not told me who is pursuing you.”
“Suffice to say, I angered some powerful people who are now avidly looking for my head on a pike.”
Fate, the way she said that made it sound commonplace. This time I didn’t hide my growl in answering as I stood. “You may not think it prudent to tell your guard who is after you, but I shall know, sooner or later. You would be incredibly foolish to not inform me of everything I may need to know. It may save your life one of these days.” The woman merely looked at me. “I am going to pack and ready for tomorrow, I would suggest you do the same.” Suiting my words, I turned to leave, but the cloaked woman’s voice stopped me, making her next words sound like a favor. “You may call me Ada.” At least she had the decency to tell me her name, no matter how arrogant she sounded. “Jacob,” I replied through gritted teeth and wound my way to the stairs before I exploded. Somehow she had managed to wedge herself so deeply beneath my skin in so short a time that I did not know whether to be angry or impressed.

I had conditioned myself over the years to awaken at whatever time I set my mind on, allowing me to be down in the stables the next morning, an hour before dawn. I stiffened however, as I saw Ada calming saddling her black horse. Somehow she had managed to be completely ready and in the stable while I had only just brought my saddlebags down from my room. Her face was calm except for a small upturn of her lips. Fate she was smug! Unfortunately that did nothing for my already weary mood. I had spent most of the night packing and puzzling over my employer’s unique request and situation. Rare was it that anyone hired a mercenary for personal protection. Despite our skills, most mercenaries were rarely seen much better than hired toughs. That was why reputation was important in our trade. Respect brought you employment, and employment brought you the coin you needed to live until the next job. Most mercenaries did not accept personal assignments mainly because of the opportunity of failure. Not meeting an employer’s expectations was bad enough with it being a personal protection assignment where your employer gets killed or wounded badly enough to utterly ruin your livelihood. No, mercenaries generally stayed as far away from personal jobs as possible, unless they were desperate. Which sadly I was.
I moved forward from where I had stopped in the doorway and did my best not to look too peeved at being showed up as the tardy one. I didn’t manage that as well as I would have like, judging by the way I roughly saddled my own brown horse.
Swinging into the saddle, I joined my employer at the entrance to the stable. Saddled as well, Ada pointed to the east. “I know very well in which direction Idonia capital of Correndor lies,” I growled savagely. “Let us stop wasting time and move before your precious hunters come asking for you.” That focused her, if only slightly.
“Very well,” murmured Ada, “Let us be going then.”
In answer I slapped my reins, my brown mare Rearth surging forward, hoofs clapping loudly on the paved road. From the sound behind me, Ada had started as well. She would keep up if she knew what was good for her.
Very few people were about this morning, yet two riders riding fast through the town was not noticed as much as might be expected. People did odd things for odd reasons all the time. Most people just never pay attention long enough to ask why.
Darkness swiftly became grey as Ada and I left the town behind, her black horse keeping pace with my mare as we left the cobblestone streets behind and rode onto the solid dirt roads that pervaded much of Correndor. The open fields on either side of us held farmers land, and breeding ground for many of the common meats. Ahead of us, the sun rose, gloriously golden in it’s blazing light. A rooster crowed somewhere near as we sped over the land. It was roughly one hundred and ten leagues to Idonia from the town where I had been staying. Inside however, I knew it was going to feel much longer than one hundred and ten leagues.

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Arcones Author
Arcones Nov 1 2012, 9:40pm says:

My apologies for the format. Copy and paste doesn't work as well as we all would like and I don't have the time to fix it :)

I'm working hard on chapter two (nearly finished) but I don't know if I'll have time to post another excerpt for a while. I have a busy day tomorrow getting ready to leave on Saturday for the entire day. But anywho, enjoy!

+2 votes   reply to comment
phoenix8
phoenix8 Nov 2 2012, 12:42am says:

Nice. Write it ya self?

+4 votes     reply to comment
Sab3rr
Sab3rr Nov 2 2012, 4:58am replied:

yes I believe he did. Think it was a school project or something. Haven't been paying attention to twitter lately.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Arcones Author
Arcones Nov 2 2012, 10:11am replied:

NaNoWriMo my lad! National November Writing Month, nothing to do with school :P

+3 votes   reply to comment
Arcones Author
Arcones Nov 2 2012, 10:11am replied:

I would never plagerize another author's work ;D

Thanks!

+4 votes   reply to comment
Sab3rr
Sab3rr Nov 2 2012, 7:16pm replied:

then my bad, was just very confused :D
Had a super tense day...

+2 votes     reply to comment
Arcones Author
Arcones Nov 3 2012, 12:02am replied:

No probs :)

+1 vote   reply to comment
Salsa_Shark
Salsa_Shark Nov 3 2012, 1:49am says:

Wow! Nice job. :D

+3 votes     reply to comment
Arcones Author
Arcones Nov 5 2012, 10:04am replied:

Thanks :D

+2 votes   reply to comment
cork279
cork279 Nov 3 2012, 8:52am says:

Awesome, I like your writing style. I hope you meet the target (you did last year didn't you?). I didn't last time, so I feel I must this time, but I'm supposed to start revision for my January exams apparently too :P

+2 votes     reply to comment
Arcones Author
Arcones Nov 5 2012, 10:04am replied:

Aye, I met the target last year, but it was hard and it's gonna be harder this year with movind D:

So far you seem to be off to a fantastic start!

+1 vote   reply to comment
SinisterExaggerator
SinisterExaggerator Nov 5 2012, 8:57am says:

Your writing style sort of reminds of the impecable logic that Terry Pratchett has in the Discworld books this therefore means its awesome keep at it you have talent.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Arcones Author
Arcones Nov 5 2012, 10:27am replied:

Wow, thanks for the compliment, it means a lot :)

+1 vote   reply to comment
phoenix8
phoenix8 Nov 5 2012, 11:05pm says:

When can I read the next part? :D

+2 votes     reply to comment
Arcones Author
Arcones Nov 6 2012, 8:39am replied:

I don't know bro :\

This comment will probably be the last you'll see of me until Thursday or Friday. I've written 5 more chapters, so it's coming along well but I don't know when I'll be able to post one of them.

+2 votes   reply to comment
phoenix8
phoenix8 Nov 11 2012, 3:50am replied:

Ok. :)

+2 votes     reply to comment
Simcardo
Simcardo Nov 19 2012, 5:42am says:

You're a good Writer! I enjoyed reading your story ;)

+2 votes     reply to comment
Arcones Author
Arcones Nov 19 2012, 11:25am replied:

Thanks for taking the time to read it Simcardo! I appreciate it :D

+2 votes   reply to comment
=СРБ=Ori`verda
=СРБ=Ori`verda Jul 30 2013, 3:51pm says:

Pretty interesting, I would love to see what happens next in this tale. I really like stories set in times medieval or ancient times, I relate to them more then to modern stories and they allow for quite a greater amount of adventure and creativity.

Jacob, not the most interesting character as... Well I didn't get a feel for his character, other then that he is quick to anger if he is not the alpha dog in the conversation. If you keep this anger and expand a bit more on him then you have something new, fresh and exciting because a quick to anger protagonist is not something I've seen before. One thing though, a contradiction: Earlier he mentioned that he didn't need the job, then he says he is desperate.

Ada, interesting to say the least. Mysterious characters are always intriguing if done right. Her character spoke to me quite well, though a bit oddly at the beginning where she appears helpless only to later corner an experienced mercenary and infuriate him. This will be an interesting pair-up.

Story in general, quite good. Character A gets saved by character B, of sorts at least. The potential for double crosses, plot twists and so on is present which I like, though I'm also a sucker for cliché.

Fantasy elements, so far very little besides taking place in a new land. The most fantasy elements take form in location names, character name and profession. Names are easy, but the way you changed what a mercenary does is interesting as is the concept of a mercenary badge as identification. It is these unique ideas that set a story apart from others, writers generally have a good story in a less then grand fantasy setting or a cliché story in a totally new and alien world, some of course take elements from both worlds and make something like Lord of the Rings. I guess what I am saying is either add a whole new level of fantasy or some smaller yet very unique elements.

Great story Arc.

+2 votes     reply to comment
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