My NaNoWriMo creation – Chapter 1
We’re now approaching the middle of November, which in most respects is a good thing: we’re closer to Christmas; closer to the release of Far Cry 3; it’s more likely to snow (not too much more though!). It also means that we are half way through NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. This is my first attempt at participating in this event this year and so far I think it’s been going really well. I have a general idea of where I want my story to go, but I’ve been lacking slightly in the whole putting fingertips to keyboard department. I currently have just under 10,000 words written, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to catch up with that par bar on the NaNoWriMo website over the weekend.
I thought it would be a nice idea to post the first chapter of my novel on here, to add some new content and to give friends and family a chance to see where my novel’s story may be heading. Please enjoy.
The wrong side of the portcullis by Stephan C
Following the twisting path my imagination has forged, never looking back until the 1st December.
Chapter 1 – The decision we made
The great oak tree that Edward had perched himself up against was starting to hurt his back; the rough bark digging into his skin. He was only vaguely aware of how long he had been sitting there, staring up into the sky. It was still dark when he resigned the idea of being able to get any sleep, and now the morning sun was piercing through the tree canopy. If his friends had seen him they would probably wonder what was so fascinating about a cloudless morning sky. His thoughts were not with them though; he couldn’t even remember their names. All he could do was revisit that moment two evenings prior. The site of that great, unfamiliar army stood outside the gates of his home. He remembered that sickening feeling of his heart plummeting when he knew from the size of that army all hope must be lost for those trapped inside the settlement’s walls. He was grateful that they had remained undetected; he didn’t dare to think what may have happened if they had been spotted, but with this relief came an incredible pang of guilt. He had abandoned everyone he had grew up with, his princes, and Lord and Lady Manson in favour of his own survival. While he knew there was almost certainly nothing he could have done, it didn’t stop the guilt from eating away at his heart and stealing any desire to get some rest away from him. He had been sat there all morning and his friends were beginning to worry.
“Edward?” The voice brought his senses crashing back to him with a start. It was Lysa, he could tell by the drained look in her eyes that her quest for sleep had only been slightly more successful than his own. On another day he might have been jealous, but today? Today, only death’s calling could bring him the gift of sleep. She sat down beside him and started to brush the morning tangles out of her long chocolate-brown hair. It was exactly the same colour as his own, but while his stopped just short of his shoulders, Lysa’s hair flowed down in a silky smooth stream ending at the base of her back. “I share your pain,” she said sympathetically “but there’s nothing we could have done. There’s only four of us, and we have two good swords. I doubt we can count that ceremonial longbow.” Edward felt his mood lift a little away from the pit of resentment he had placed himself in back when the moon was sitting proudly in the sky as he thought about this comment. He visioned himself standing back on the fields surrounding Merehill, the great silver and ruby encrusted longbow gifted to Lord Manson by the court of Tymaria to honour to eighteenth birthday of his eldest son Matthew. In reality he knew a longbow made from silver would never work, but this was his vision with his rules. The arrows were flying true into the hearts of nameless figures from an unknown land. One by one his enemies fell; he felt great, the surge on adrenaline coursing through his veins. Nothing could stop him from saving his friends and family trapped inside the palisade walls of Merehill – he was back leaning against the base of the oak tree. Lysa had given him a prod on the arm, bringing him back to reality. She giggled, “you always drift off like that,” she said smiling “off on another of your little flights of fancy, leaving me here alone.” Edward smiled back. He was so grateful that Lysa had caught him in time to declare her intentions to accompany his caravan to Tymaria to collect the supplies for the upcoming celebrations. Normally she would wish him well, but always remain at home. Tymaria was a city that she had always wanted to visit though. The market was known across the land as the place to visit for exotic goods from far off lands and high quality local produce alike. The thoughts of what may have happened if she had stayed at home in Merehill didn’t bare thinking about.
He had always thought of Lysa like a sister. Ever since the age of five they had always been spending time together. Their parents were always working closely together while they were children. Their fathers co-owned the Lord’s caravan business and therefore would often have to travel to towns and cities up and down the land. Occasionally, when they were a little older, they had travelled with their fathers on some of the journeys to more local, neighbouring towns. Edward’s father had told him numerous times that he wanted him to take the reigns of the company after he had retired. Edward had always been excited by this; the idea of always being able to travel to the distant cities and islands that he knew he would never be able to visit as a child.
The opportunity to join Edward had been offered to Lysa, but she had her heart set on moving south to Tymaria to run a stable. She had always had a great love of horses, and once she had learnt that she could make a living breeding and looking after them her mind was made up and Edward could see no going back.
Their mothers had worked together to give the town its relatively well-known inn, The Jolly Blacksmith. Lysa had been told that they named it in homage to her grandfather Walter, who had passed away a year before her birth. He had been the settlement’s blacksmith for thirty-five years and the quality of his metalwork customers from most of the nearby towns, and the inn named in his honour continued to have this appeal to residents across the region. During the evenings the inn would always get relatively busy so Edward and Lysa were always happy to help out. They were sometimes mistaken for being siblings by travelers from neighbouring towns while helping their mothers. People saw their similar hairstyles, heights and judged from how well they got along that they must be brother and sister. When asked the pair just giggled and agreed. They weren’t blood related, but they were damned if they weren’t just like brother and sister in every other way. He wondered how much, if any, of that old life could be salvaged after that army marched on Merehill. They had to go back and check to see what remained of their home. It had to be tonight, he couldn’t let all the possibilities fight amongst themselves in his mind. He had to know for sure, one way or another, whether the others wanted to come with him or not.
Edward opened his eyes. He noticed the temperature had dropped compared to earlier when Lysa had joined him under the tree that had been his home all morning. The clear blue sky that greeted him this morning had been replaced by stone coloured clouds which looked ready to drop their payload onto the forest where they had sought shelter last night. He looked down and saw that Lysa had fell asleep on top of his leg. The early morning warmth must have sent them both off to sleep. In the distance he heard the crackling of a fire, which told him that his other companions must be awake now. Edward tried his best to move his leg from under Lysa’s head, but he knew this would be a tough challenge. She was always a light sleeper and, sure enough, she awoke the moment he started moving. “So much for that sunny day I was hoping for,” she said after a long yawn, “we should probably start making our way back to the others before these clouds give us what it looks like they are promising.” She picked herself up from the floor and started brushing the fallen leaves from her clothes. She was wearing an emerald coloured dress today, which contrasted with his own sky blue attire. Her dress matched her deep green eyes, which he had always been a little jealous of.
“We should.” Edward replied, “It sounds like they are preparing a meal.” Which meal he could not say; he had no idea how long he had been asleep for under that tree. As he got to his feet he cursed aloud. His legs had become numb due to the length of time he had been sat there. Lysa offered him a shoulder and they started making their way back to the camp. The numb feeling in Edward’s leg soon began to give way to the hot stabbing pains of a thousand pins being poked up and down his legs. Edward started to wish he could have the numbness back, but thankfully, after a few minutes the pain started to subside and he could move his toes freely again.
A short walk later they arrived back at their makeshift camp where Edward’s quest for sleep the night before had been so unsuccessful. Maxwell was standing over their metal cooking pot, a fire crackling away with a happiness that couldn’t be found anywhere else underneath. “Edward. Lysa.” he said nodding his head in a curt welcome. “Beef stew will be ready in a few more minutes.” Much like himself, Maxwell had also been a man of few words since they retreated into the forest. It didn’t surprise Edward, they were all worried about what fate may have become their loved ones. Maxwell was both taller and older than Edward. A man of twenty-four years, Edward liked to think of him as the group’s bodyguard. He had short black hair and Edward had noticed that he never seemed to wear any vibrant clothing. Today he was dressed in his usual grey, covered by a boiled leather vest. Even now he still had one of the group’s swords sheathed at his side; ever prepared Edward thought to himself. He was friendly enough, but often hid his emotions behind a stern looking face, making it difficult to work out how he was feeling. But today that mattered not, he knew that all four of them felt the same.
Edward joined Lysa who had taken a seat at the front of one of their two caravans. They had let their horses roam free in this part of the forest for the time being, Edward could see the head and front legs of one of them through the trees when he looked to his left. It was happily grazing on the long grass that was abundant here. We should be grateful we were returning from a trade mission and have two caravans full of goods to sustain us comfortably, he thought to himself while they waited for the stew to finish.
About twenty minutes later Maxwell announced that the stew was ready. He knew that no-one would particularly feel like eating, himself included, but starving yourself wasn’t going to accomplish anything. Just as Edward to climbing down from the caravan he felt a spot of rain hit his lower arm. The clouds had promised to open earlier, and now they were ready to deliver. Maxwell had served the stew up into four bowls already. Lysa and Maxwell grabbed their bowls and Edward picked up one for himself and one for Peter, who didn’t seem to have come out of the tent. They all headed inside one of the two modestly sized tents they had brought with them before they fell foul of the weather’s promise of a heavy storm.
Inside the tents everything was very basic. Two makeshift mattresses made of leaves and grass stretched out down each length of the tent and in the centre was a lantern, which was no giving off a bright glow in stark contrast to the now dull outside. Edward didn’t mind; if he had his way they would only be stopping there one more night. The fourth member of their group, Peter, was sat cross-legged on one of the mattresses reading one of his books by the light of the lantern. Peter looked up from his book when they came in and smiled “Feeling any better?” he asked to everyone in general as Edward gave him his bowl of stew, and they each joined him sitting on the mattresses.
“Better than earlier.” Edward replied.
“I guess so.” said Maxwell.
“I just wish there was something we could do.” said Lysa.
Edward had wanted to leave bringing up his wish to return to Merehill until they had all eaten something, but Lysa had presented him with the perfect opportunity.
“I want to go back to Merehill tomorrow.” he said after a few spoonfuls of his stew. There was a few moments silence before Peter replied “Is that wise? What if it has been garrisoned, you saw how many of them there were outside the walls. That doesn’t even include any that were doing goodness knows what inside—”
“We’ll never know for sure if we don’t go,” Lysa interrupted “if there is nothing we can do when we’ve seen the situation, then I guess I can live with that, but good or bad I hate not knowing. What if Mother and Father and everyone else can be saved?”
After that Peter quitely agreed. It was quiet for a few minutes afterwards. The rain had started to get heavier, and the sounds of the droplets hitting the top of the tent and the trees was the only music that broke the silence that filled the tent. Edward didn’t feel particularly hungry, but the beef stew was very tasty and he found it easy to enjoy. Most of this food they have with them was meant for Prince Matthew’s birthday feast – he stopped that train of thought right there, refusing to acknowledge the dark possibilities that he kept hoping wasn’t the reality. Lysa and Maxwell were the first to finish their stew, Peter chose to have some of the crusty bread with his, and Edward was just cleaning out the last few chunks of beef with his spoon. After they were all finished Maxwell offered to take the bowls down to the stream about ten minutes walk from their tent to give them a wash. Edward followed him out of the tent. The rain greeted him like an old friend, and within a few minutes he was soaked through. He walked towards their horses, which were taking shelter stood under one of the larger trees he could see. They both looked calm and content, if rather wet, and one of them neighed happily as he stroked their manes. As he was standing there the rain started to subside a little, but he could tell the sun was setting because the light was fading fast in the forest. Now what little light made it through the clouds was blocked from completing its journey to the ground by the tree canopy.
Maxwell returned a few minutes later carrying the now clean bowls and cooking pot. “We should get some sleep if we’re going to be awake in time to make it to Merehill before sunrise tomorrow.” he said as he got close to Edward. Edward nodded his head in agreement. “I just hope I can actually get to sleep tonight.” They walked back to the tents and entered the empty tent opposite the one Lysa and Peter were inside. Once inside Edward unfolded his wool quilt and placed his feather pillow at the head of his leaf mattress. He laid down and placed the quilt over himself, which quickly started to take some of the chill out of his bones. The days had been getting noticeably shorter for weeks now and he knew it wouldn’t be too much longer until the first snowfall of winter. They had to have a course of action before then, which is why Edward felt it was so important to get some closure to the sight they had witnessed a few nights ago at Merehill. As he was laying there, in the dark, Edward was pleasantly surprised to feel his eyelids getting heavier. After a few more minutes the urge to close them had become too great and he had drifted off to sleep.