In honor of my fantasy writing series, I’m going to share with you the bones of a fantasy story I’m writing that I’ve totally fallen in love with. It obviously needs SO much work, but it highlights so many things I love about fantasy.
This story progresses further by various writing prompts given in Author’s Tale, so the direction of the next section is never really known by me until I get a prompt that I can incorporate.
Prompt: It’s winter. There is a thick blanket of fresh snow on the ground. A lone set of tracks leads away in the snow.
If you like this, share it. If you love it, suggest a prompt to continue the series. The more vague the prompt, the better.
***Footprints in the Snow***
Allyandrah sat in the snow, wrapped in skins, unable to believe her luck. How had she been pardoned by the queen, allowed to live but forced leave the kingdom and never return? Her heart ached at the thought of leaving Kru’Nah behind, but she must. After all, he was the prince. Who was she? A Kjelger slave. Nothing. No one. Expendable.
Even so, he had come to save her from the flames of the fire.
He had shown up on his very own Grojodan to save her. She would never forget the feel of riding atop the marvelous stag, his horns stretching out wide, his body firm and sure underneath her. Sitting behind, she had clung to Kru’Nah with desperation as they fled, thankful for his taut muscles, his strong arm wrapped around her to help keep her on the beast.
The small fire in front of her crackled and spat resin from the burning Hornothol Needle tree. These were the only trees here. She fled to the far north, hoping to survive. Fewer threats lived in the north. Survival here was barely possible and not enough reasons existed for even the Hoomverdauns to visit. The short, stocky creatures could live anywhere, but even this cold was too much for their hairy bodies, survival too much work.
Allyandrah shivered, trying to decide what she would do now. She needed shelter. There was no point in trying to settle here without a shelter. Sighing, she thought there was no point in trying to settle here at all, but what else could she do?
The stars sparkled above, pinpoints of light in the blackness. Tonight, she would have to sit and keep her fire burning, her blood moving. In the morning, she would make a shelter and try to find a way to survive. Without Kru’Nah even near her, though, the will to press on waned.
Allyandrah tossed another branch on her fire, the wood slowly catching flame. The warmth radiated out and she huddled closer into herself, wrapping her body with the long fur cape Kru’Nah had sent with her. It was on his suggestion she had gone north. He had provided her with a pack of thick fur clothes and a stash of food. Despite the electricity sparking between the two and the secrecy of their meeting, he maintained his regal dignity and kept his distance. His eyes told another story, though, and it was to that story that she hung her hope.
Exhaustion took over and Allyandrah’s eyes closed, her head drooped. She fought the sleep as long and as hard as she could, but eventually, sleep won.
Several hours later, Allyandrah woke with a start. It was light and the fire had been buried in several inches of snow. She looked around trying to see what had woken her. Was it a sound? She pushed the oversized hood off her head, dumping snow off herself. Scanning the horizon, Allyandrah searched for any sign of movement. Turning around, she saw a lone set of tracks from as far as she could see to as far as she could see, leading to the woods.
Standing up, Allyandrah pulled her hood back up and shook off the remaining snow. Her muscled stiffened from the cold made standing slow, hard work. Her heart hammered in fear, but she needed to know who, or what, had been there. They looked like Kjelger footprints. Who else would be up here?
Looking around again, she saw no movement. Quickly, she moved over to the tracks and then followed them precisely. The tracks went on, mile after mile. Fishing out some of the supplies from inside her cape, she munched on some food and scooped small handfuls of snow for water. Her body warmed with movement and she needed to slow down even more. She couldn’t risk getting too warm and then dying when she got cold later. As she passed by the trees and closer to the mountains, she saw the tracks continue on and on. The sun dipped ever lower in the sky. She needed to make a decision: stop for the night again and sleep or follow them by night in the darkness. What if it snowed again?
Against her better judgment, Allyandrah continued on and picked up her pace. Hunger gnawed and she ate more of the food even though she knew she should ration it. She began to sweat as she followed the prints. Just as the sun reached the horizon and the sky burst into the reds and oranges of sunset, she came to the base of some foothills. The tracks curved to the east, around a tall rock spire. Slowing down, Allyandrah caught her breath and as silently as possible, followed the tracks in the quickly darkening sky. She was running out of time.
The crackling of a large fire echoed off the rocks and she froze. Had she caught up with the maker of the footprints? The danger of approaching an unknown suddenly dawned on her. She’d been following these tracks all day with no thought of who or what she would find. Fear crept into her belly, followed by the chill of having sweat all day. She needed that fire, but she didn’t know whose fire burned ahead. What could she possibly do to defend herself? She had no weapons.
There must be rocks at the base. Quietly, she crept to the spire and dug under the snow. She silently rejoiced as she found a fist sized rock with one fairly smooth side and one jagged side. Cupping the smooth side in her hand and holding the jagged side out, she continued forward. As the darkness crept in, she began to see the light from the fire.
Steadying her breathing, she crouched down and peered around the edge. Just more rock. Slowly moving forward she reached the next semi-corner. A small cave loomed in front of her with a large fire. Someone was in it, watching the fire, clothed in fur skins just like hers.
Allyandrah crept back until she could just see the cave and knelt down, watching. Suddenly, the person in the cave looked out her direction. She sat completely still, hoping to blend into the rocks around her. The person walked out to the mouth of the cave and looked around before turning and heading back in. Something familiar about the stranger niggled in her mind. She studied their movements, now certain it was a Kjelger.
Allyandrah shivered as her body cooled down. Unable to warm up without the fire, fear gave way to a desperate bravery. Taking a deep and slow breath, she stood and slowly approached the cave, watching the movements of whoever stood inside engrossed in the flames.
Using the large fire as a block between the two, Allyandrah crept to the mouth of the cave in a low crouch, still holding onto her rock weapon. The warmth from the fire reached out to her and caressed her frozen cheeks. It was time.
She stood and watched as the other caught her movement.
“Allyandrah? Is that you?”
Shocked, Allyandrah dropped her rock and backed out several steps. Could it be?
“Allyandrah?” He pulled down his hood, revealing himself.
“Kru’Nah? What are you doing here?” Allyandrah said just above a whisper.
“What do you think?” Kru’Nah replied. “I am here for you!”
Allyandrah’s mind wouldn’t work. It simply went blank. There was no possible way that he would leave for her. It must be a trap. She drew herself tall and stiffened.
“If you are here to kill me, I accept my punishment,” she said resolutely.
Kru’Nah rushed over and embraced her. Pulling back, he looked in her eyes, down into her very soul, those green eyes boring into her.
“I would never kill you. This is not a trap to punish a slave.” He backed off and raised his hands. “I swear. I am here on my own, of my own accord, without the blessing of my mother. She will hunt us. She will try to find us. She will try to kill us. She will not succeed because we will work together.”
Finally, the stupor in Allyandrah broke and she rushed forward into the arms of Kru’Nah.
“I knew it!” she cried. “I knew you loved me! I never doubted, I swear!”
“I know,” he said, stroking her hair. “I know.”
Violent shivers quickly replaced Allyandrah’s excitement.
“We need to warm you up!” Kru’Nah cried. “I did not come all this way just to watch you freeze to death!”
Kru’Nah rushed Allyandrah into the cave and stripped her of the clothes that encased her cold body. Peeling off his own outside layers, Kru’Nah helped her redress into his furs and pushed her as close to the fire as either dared.
He offered her some food to eat and hot tea that had been sitting near the fire. She gratefully and wordlessly gulped it all down.
“We must leave in the morning.” Kru’Nah said as Allyandrah ate. “I know which direction we must go. We have a guard stationed up here to the southwest, so we must move northeast, away from them. They patrol up here, which is how I knew about this cave. I was going to stay here the night and then try to find you.”
Allyandrah nodded in agreement, her eyes sparkling with hope realized. She knew. She just knew. Catching her eye, Kru’Nah smiled and took her hand.
“We will celebrate soon. For now, we must conserve our energy and survive.”
“I will follow you to the ends of the world, my love,” Allyandrah said.
“We just might have to go that far. For now, sleep.” He kissed the top of her head and helped her lay down. Even though her mind was buzzing, Allyandrah quickly drifted off to sleep.
Kru’Nah moved away to lean against the cave wall and watched her from a distance, a mixture of fear and love on his face. He had acted foolishly to follow her and it might cost them everything.
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