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: You never think that you’ll be that person. Until you are.
If you like this, share it. If you love it, suggest a prompt to continue the series. The more vague the prompt, the better.
Hours passed as they walked, slowly, so Tra’Khil could maintain the correct direction tracking. Kru’Nah found himself desperately wishing for some error on the part of the experienced commander, but that wasn’t likely to happen. Tra’Khil had been sent up to Kru’Nah for a reason. He was the best. As far as Kru’Nah could remember, there had been no unfinished assignments, no failures from Tra’Khil. There was nothing Kru’Nah could do that wouldn’t arouse suspicion, so he followed. Hour after hour until the light nearly faded.
Tra’Khil swore in annoyance. “We should have caught him by now. His tracks still go this way, but we can’t all follow him.” He looked around, scowling.
Kru’Nah remained perfectly still.
“What will you do, Commander?” one of the soldiers asked.
“I’ve a mind to go after him myself.”
“No one goes alone,” Kru’Nah said. Tra’Khil pursed his lips.
“Sire.” Tra’Khil gave a curt nod. “Clear a space for a fire. We huddle and sleep under the stars tonight.”
The soldiers worked silently and before Kru’Nah had even cooled down from the march, a fire was raging and a snow well had been created around it. Everyone took his place around the edge of the well, leaning against the snowbank to their backs. Trail rations were passed around and everyone ate an unsatisfying meal.
Exhaustion quickly set in and soon, the entire camp was sleeping.
Except Kru’Nah. He rose without a sound and walked out of the snow well. The moon shone brightly, the light filtering down through the tree cover. He traced the trail in the same manner as Tra’Khil, trying to make out the footprints he was following. Kru’Nah couldn’t see any difference between any of the prints. There was nothing to indicate a significant difference.
“You shouldn’t be out here alone,” an unfamiliar voice said. Kru’Nah jumped. Turning to look, he saw nothing in the direction of the voice.
“Who-who’s there?” he said, trying to fake bravery.
“Does it matter who?” the voice said from another direction.
Kru’Nah started to answer, then stopped. He considered the question. “I suppose not,” he conceded.
“Aren’t you afraid?” the voice said from yet another direction.
“Should I be?” Kru’Nah asked, his bravery returning.
“You dare speak to the Guardians without fear?” the voice asked, swirling around.
Anger filled Kru’Nah. Those cursed Guardians. “What more can you take from me except my life?” he spat.
The voice tsked at Kru’Nah. “We have done nothing of the sort.”
“Prove it to me!”
A shape appeared in front of Kru’Nah and took on the appearance of a Kjelger-shaped shadow. “Spoken like a man who has nothing to lose.”
“I have nothing to lose.”
“What about your kingdom?” the shape asked, circling Kru’Nah slowly. “Your family? Your new-found grandfather? That sounds like a lot to lose.”
“Those things mean nothing to me.”
“So you say now. You would give up all of that for a slave? For a dead woman?”
“She’s not dead,” Kru’Nah snarled.
“No need for such anger,” the shape replied. “I thought royals were supposed to have perfect composure.”
Kru’Nah seethed. “What does it matter to you anyway?”
“You are a fool, aren’t you?” The shape expanded and then dissolved leaving Kru’Nah alone in the woods.
“Get back here and face me!” Kru’Nah shouted. “You’re a coward!”
Kru’Nah gasped and opened his eyes. Commander Tra’Khil was shaking him. Looking around, the eyes of each soldier were trained on him. Tra’Khil stepped back, revealing the dead fire. Kru’Nah became aware of the snowpack behind him. How had he gotten here?
“Are you all right, sire?” Tra’Khil asked.
Kru’Nah automatically set his royal face. “Of course,” he said.
Perfect composure. The shadow had accused him.
“What are we waiting for?” Kru’Nah stood and brushed the snow off himself. “Don’t we have a trail to follow?”
“No, sire,” Tra’Khil said through his teeth. “No trail.”
“What do you mean ‘no trail’?”
“All the footprints are gone. There’s nothing left.” Tra’Khil turned and fumed, walking a slow circle around the fire. He stopped back in front of Kru’Nah.
“Well where did they go? Footprints don’t just disappear. There’s no new snow, is there?”
“I’m aware,” Tra’Khil said, looking away, clearly fighting to maintain his appropriate station. “They’re just gone. As if they’d never existed. The snow is undisturbed, as if we’d been dropped in here from the sky.”
Kru’Nah looked around. The snow was pristine, just as Tra’Khil had said. He turned a slow circle. Had he simply dreamt everything last night? But then how were the footprints erased without any new snow?
Finally, he turned back. Tra’Khil’s face wore a worried expression.
“How does this happen?” Kru’Nah asked.
Everyone looked. The white-cape had spoken.
“What’s that, old man?” Tra’Khil demanded.
“Guardians. I’ve heard your stories. Your soldiers have told me about the disappearances and reappearances. This is the work of the Guardians. You’d better be sure whose side you’re on because once they interfere, as they surely are now, no one who moves against them is safe.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Tra’Khil said.
“You say that, but you don’t believe those words.” The old man’s tone held a warning.
Tra’Khil stared until the old man shifted his gaze.
“Commander. Which direction do we march?” Kru’Nah asked, ending the long silence.
Tra’Khil looked the direction they’d come and then looked toward the outpost.
“We march home,” he said with resignation. “We can’t delay.”
“We can’t delay?” Kru’Nah asked.
“Of course not, but just last night you were willing to trek us all to who knows where following some mystery man!” the old man said.
“Sire, I anticipated catching him sooner,” Tra’Khil replied.
“What’s so important that we can’t delay?” Kru’Nah said, shooting a mandatory glare at the old man.
“We are losing men fast and we still need to escort you safely back to the capital. That has been our mission this entire time.”
“Ah, yes, to get me back to the capital because I’d been kidnapped by a slave, was it?” Kru’Nah asked.
“That is the official reason,” Tra’Khil said.
“The official reason,” Kru’Nah laughed. How’s this for perfect composure you shadow?
“What’s the unofficial reason?” the old man asked.
“That’s not your concern,” Tra’Khil snapped.
“Of course it wouldn’t be the concern of a prisoner,” Kru’Nah mocked. “What if he’s not a prisoner? What if this is all part of your elaborate plan to lure me into your confidence so that you can take me home and have me assassinated by my own mother?”
“Sire,” Tra’Khil said, looking uncomfortable.
“For all I know, this is my grandfather, back from the dead! Blessings to the Guardians! He’s alive!” Kru’Nah knew he sounded insane. All his pent up rage and emotion coursed through him. Since he’d uncorked his control, he was fast losing it.
“Sire, it’s not your grandfather,” Tra’Khil said.
“Not him? You’re so sure?” Kru’Nah said. “Of course you know that because you planted him!”
“Kru’Nah,” the old man said, his eyes pleading.
“Don’t you presume to address him!” Tra’Khil screamed at the old man.
“You probably planted the other person, too, faking following him so that you could get rid of me quick and easy. Pin it on the old man, what’s he going to do?”
“Sire!” Tra’Khil said, an edge to his voice.
“I am royalty!” Kru’Nah screamed.
“We’re not going to kill you!” Tra’Khil screamed back, panting. “We need you to take control of the capital!”
Kru’Nah stopped. He hadn’t expected that.
“Everything is out of control. Your mother has lost her mind or something. We need you. We’re not going kill you. We can’t delay because we need to get back in time to save everything!” Tra’Khil winced.
Kru’Nah took a breath and held it, not sure what to think.
“Sire,” Tra’Khil said, just above the silence that had settled. “We were never sent. She doesn’t know. We came of our own accord.” Tra’Khil shook his head, and lowered himself to his knees. “I am begging you. Come save your people.”
Kru’Nah nodded, slowly at first. “Of course,” he whispered. “Yes, the people.” He looked around at each soldier, a mixture of fear and relief on their faces. Kru’Nah could imagine fear for his reaction and relief that the plan was finally out in the open.
“Sire,” the old man began.
Kru’Nah turned his attention to the old man. “Old man,” he said, extending his arm and setting his hand on the thin shoulder. “Go back to where you came from. Live in peace. In time, perhaps, you can come to the capital city as my guest. For now, go to your place.”
The old man raised his hand and rested it on Kru’Nah’s arm. Expectancy radiated from his face, but his eyes were kind.
Kru’Nah bit back his emotions. He’d already let them rage out of control enough for one lifetime. He never thought he’d be the one to lose control like that. He must vow to never do so again. Everything depended on his ability to keep himself together.
“Peace you, old man,” Kru’Nah said and released his grip. “Let him go. If he truly is on the side of the Guardians, he will be safe. And if not, we don’t want to fight him anyway.”
The old man slowly lowered himself to one knee and bowed. “Of course, my prince,” the old man said. “I bless you for giving me my life to live in peace again.” He struggled to get back to his feet. Kru’Nah stayed still and composed and two soldiers stepped in to help him to his feet.
“Do you have rations to make it back home?” Tra’Khil asked.
“I am from these woods. I will survive,” the old man said, his eyes twinkling. He slowly worked his way out of the snow ring toward the outpost.
Kru’Nah clenched his teeth, fighting against the tears that wanted to leak into his eyes. Curse his perfect composure. What had it gotten him? Allyandrah was lost to him, and now his grandfather. What did he have before him? Trying to clean up whatever mess lay before him at home. He’d lived his whole life ready for the moment to be given the responsibility of ruling. Of course, he’d never factored in the possibility of attempting to wrest it from his mother’s hands. He took another deep breath and turned to Tra’Khil.
“Commander. Lead us away.”
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