I wrote this in response to a writing prompt on Minds: https://www.minds.com/newsfeed/1279870076492714003
‘Why are there so many dead snags here?’
‘Those are all that’s left of the town trees.’
‘How could there be so many? They don’t even look burnt.’
The horse commander just shook his head. ‘Volarien! Take two muckers and do a sweep on foot. This overgrowth must have happened since the sacking. There could be elf or human remains under it all.’
‘Sir,’ the rider replied, and beckoned to two others. Tying their mounts to a snag, they left their lances leaning together and moved about on foot.
The rest of the warband moved on, picking their way through the faint trails, left by… game? Itinerants? Up ahead were the remains of the Tower – the Library had been right next to it. The commander shook his head – such loss!
There was a mound of overgrowth, brambles and nettles and bracken, ahead. Grey stone peeked out of the green – this must have been the wall. There was the shell of the Gatehouse. There were young saplings sprouting from the wall.
‘Sir! Here are bones!’ Volarien called out. He and his mates had found something in the gatehouse.
The commander called his tracker. ‘Tuval! Take a look at this and see what kind of story you can work out.’ The others stopped moving, so the tracker could see the ground undisturbed.
Tuval dismounted and squatted down. ‘Cooking fire, sir. See the bones? By the size and thickness, they were eating one of their own.’
‘A pity they didn’t do that before the siege,’ the commander humphed. ‘But they probably were anyway. Life means nothing to the Foul Folk.’
‘Are there any bones of our own folk?’
‘I think there are, sir – look, this is a jawbone. It’s an elf or a man. The earth is packed hard, they stayed here for several days.’ Tuval rooted about, and pulled out – a piece of cloth. It was covered with massive bloodstains, but recognisable as part of a Woodelf tabard, worn over armour. ‘This was… one of ours.’
The commander nodded grimly. ‘May the Powers rest them,’ he said.
One of the other foot-sweepers said, ‘Ow!’ Everyone looked at him. ‘I just hit my shin on some teeth,’ he looked at the commander. He was standing right next to a small mound of vegetation.
Tuval stepped over to him, trying not to disturb the ground. He pulled up the top of a skull. ‘There was a skeleton on a spear, almost lying flat,’ he reported. Looking at it, he said, ‘This was a shaman. They always chip their teeth into points, see? That’s what you walked in to.’
‘Best get a potion for any marks those teeth left,’ ordered the commander. ‘It could be septic, or cursed, being a shaman skull.’
‘So,’ announced the tracker, ‘it looks like they impaled the shaman on a spear. The spear goes lengthwise through the whole skeleton.’
‘What a way to go,’ someone muttered.
‘They probably decided they didn’t need magic any more after they’d won.’ The commander had a sour look on his face, as sour as an elf could look.
Tuval looked at the skull with distaste. Unthinking, he tossed it over his shoulder, and one of the lads, deftly sweeping out his cavalry sword, slashed upwards at it as it came towards him. The skull shattered, but instead of bone shards scattering everywhere, it turned to green dust with a sound like a small explosion.
‘WOOOAAR-EEEEGH!’ a phantasmal scream shattered the gravelike quiet of the gatehouse. A spectral, translucent shaman suddenly appeared among them. It leapt at the elf that had broken the skull, ghostly fingers grabbing his throat. The elf tried to pull the phantom off of himself, but his fingers could only grasp air.
‘What the sod?’ erupted the commander. Some of the elves stabbed at the phantom, with predictable results. The commander saw it all, and realised he needed something more. Reaching into his belt, he pulled out a silver dagger. He jabbed at the head of the phantom, and it sunk in to the hilt! The phantom burst into sparks, leaving a smell like a sewer.
The elf that had been attacked dropped to the ground, gasping for breath. ‘We’re going to need a cleric to cleanse this place, I think,’ said the commander. ‘The Sack of Tumgelion will forever be a stain on our history. But given time, we will rebuild.’ He re-sheathed the silver dagger. ‘And we have all the time in the world!’
This was in response to another writing prompt on r/WritingPrompts:
An agoraphobic princess is sick and tired of knights breaking into her tower and trying to slay her emotional support dragon.
I shouldn’t have to do this.
This is manual labour, commoner’s work, blast it! What do I know about using a crowbar and excavation rods? I have more important work to do, like slaying – bloody – dragons!
That should do it. Now what? Why didn’t father make those bloody churls accompany me, so they could do this donkey-work? Rights of the Commons, hah! If he really cared about the commoners that much, why didn’t he go live in a monastery, and become one of them? Then Giles could be Lord Tallyrand, and I’d be the heir! For a change. Until he had a son, of course.
Right… that stone came out very – easily. Almost as if it had been moved before. That’s… not encouraging. Now what’s this?
Who boards up a stone wall? And it looks like it was done from the inside, too. Stupid – inexplicable – churls, repairing… oh! They repaired it from the inside, because it had been moved before. Not good. Phew, this is heavy going, doing manual labour in plate mail. No matter. I am sworn to slay the dragon and rescue the princess, and must do or die. A man is only as good as his word.
That’s that for the carpentry. They must have heard the noise, no sense in stealth. This looks like a passage: no space for the greatsword; Poleaxe and bastard-sword. Onward! Visor down, idiot, in case of flame.
Stairs… up. And up… up again. Dash it, this is a bit thick, what? Where the devil is that dragon? God’s blood! It must have been behind me! But moving away. Give chase! I fear no traps. I am girt with steel, by St George!
Up, and up some more. Oh, I am winded, lathered with sweat under plate mail. We must be nearly at the top of the tower!
Hark… I hear a maiden’s voice. It must be the Lady Morag. She sounds beautiful! But wait! That inhuman sound! The drake is within! She may be in danger! Poleaxe versus door… poleaxe wins! ‘HAVE AT YOU, FOUL WORM!’
Saints and angels, she is beautiful! But why does she cling to the monster? If monster it be, ‘tis wondrous fair! And it guards her like a mother hen, even as she holds it.
‘Please, my lord, hurt not my drake. She is here for my comfort, she only eats stoats and rats!’ there are tears in her eyes.
How could I do any harm to a lady as fair as this? Her hair so fair, ‘tis almost white, her eyes of forest green. My arms, suddenly weak, lower my axe. I go down on one knee, to show my good intentions.
‘Forgive me, my lady. I thought only for your rescue.’
‘I am not held against my will, my lord. I am sore distressed by the world and its tumult. I desire only to dwell in peace and seclusion, and the drake is a comfort to me.’
I am amazed. ‘What manner of beast is it? I had heard it was a monster, and desired to prove myself against it.’
The maiden sobs and shakes. Her tears cut my heart. ‘Knights are ever coming to kill my Sheelagh! But she is all I have in the world!’
I drop the axe and come closer, going down on both knees. I feel like the monster, now. ‘I am sorry, my lady.’ There must be something in my eyes, smoke perhaps. ‘I promise, on my honour, I shall never harm your… Sheelagh?’
‘Thank you, my lord. You are a noble knight.’ We are now very close. Our eyes meet. I know, deep down, I shall never leave her. I take her white hand in mine. ‘I am Sir Tormund, Viscount Tallyrand.’
The drake makes a chuttering sound. She blushes, very prettily. ‘I am Lady Morag, Recluse of the Crag.’
‘Might I visit again, my lady?’ I must bring men to repair her tower.
Winter Days, brief, dull time of less darkness. Trees brush the grey with bristles black, scouring sympathy from the sky. Lights in windows give comfort - though cold the world be, where Home is, is rest, warmth, family.
Well, it's been a 6-week gap, but I finally finished the map of the backstory to The Ironwood Staff! The epic back-story of the Eladi of the Sunlands takes place on a huge continent stretching from the northern tropics to the southern temperate zones. It's taken too long to get this map into digital format, straighten out the details. The horizontal line through the lower part is the southern tropic (Capricorn in this world).