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Thread: 'The Mountains Awake', a short story (in progress)

  1. #1

    'The Mountains Awake', a short story (in progress)

    I wrote this about a week ago but haven't decided exactly where I'm going with it just yet. Decided to post it anyway to gauge interest, and I think it stands on its own as a little vignette if nothing else.

    Any feedback will be much appreciated, I haven't written anything creative in a long time so I need all the help I can get :) Though I'm fairly happy how this turned out, given the above.



    'The Mountains Awake'


    His breath frosted on the cold grey steel of the blade. He found no familiar faces among these men, standing idly about him in the barren village square while chickens pecked at the frozen ground. Aside from the occasional flutter of wings, the air was silent, and still. It might almost have been peaceful, were it not for the knife at his throat. For some reason all he could think of was how blue the sky looked. A rare sight these days.

    'Who would have thought it would be this easy,' came a woman's voice close to his ear, yet somehow distant. He recognised it, of course; he could picture the face without needing to turn. Not that he was in any position to do so.

    He swallowed, his throat bobbing uncomfortably close to the blade, and met the eyes of one of the ragged men clothed in black. This particular fellow had notched an arrow, and had a faint smile on his lips. Not a friendly one, at that. Another had drawn his bow taut; his arm shook slightly and the wood and string seemed to creak, the sound whispering gently across the snow. 'Were I you, my lady, I would advise that young man to relax his arm, or he's like to skewer us both,' he said, forcing a grim smile. 'I am in no hurry, after all.'

    'My lady', she spat. Even now, he could not help but enjoy driving her to anger. Nevertheless, it appeared she had given one of her Looks, because the offending bow was lowered and its owner's eyes cast downwards.

    'Let me be clear,' came the harsh, bitter voice, one suited to the inhospitable rocky ridges and cold hard earth that surrounded them. 'I did not come looking for you. Though I cannot deny that I find this meeting fortuitous. Pleasant, even. In the circumstances.'

    'I wish I could say the same, my sweet.'

    She drew blood at that, the knife moving swiftly and deftly. 'You will not call me that', she said, a mixture of command and statement of fact. Certainly not a request. She was not the type to make requests, he thought wryly.

    He would not be himself if he did not take the opportunity to press her further, though. 'Your sweetness cannot be denied. Why must you harm a man for speaking the truth?'

    An exasperated sigh suggested that she was discontented by this. 'Enough of this nonsense', she screeched, and slashed at his beard. The hair was stiff with ice, but yielded easily. Her blades are always so sharp, he thought, yet he could not remember ever seeing her work a whetstone. Perhaps she simply looked at the steel until it folded into itself in despair.

    The tangled, matted mass of hair nestled itself gently and soundlessly into the snow. The men looked on, impassive. A chicken raised its head with a quizzical look, possibly as an expression of solidarity, though more likely he had spotted some grain somewhere.

    'My thanks, it was growing too long,' he muttered, trying to keep his voice calm, though his heart wasn't truly in it. He'd liked his beard.

    She ignored him. Most of his memories of her, in fact, involved her ignoring him. Instead she patted about his person with her free hand, either searching for weapons or as an unusual gesture of affection. The chipped old axe slung at his side was tossed away.

    Satisfied, she spoke. 'Now, I do not mean to kill you, so try not to give me a reason to do so. You are not my enemy, not truly, though you often do your best to act like one.' He could feel her begin to rummage roughly through the pack slung across his back, though the hand holding the blade remained steady. The weak winter sun glinted brightly along the ridge of the metal. Cold, functional, bare, but singular of purpose and very, very sharp; a blade well matched to its owner, and a worthy one to die by, he supposed. He'd prefer not to, though.

    He said nothing, and let her continue her searching behind him while he breathed in the clear mountain air and contemplated his surroundings. Some of the men were talking among themselves in low voices, or idly looking off into the distance. They do not see me as a threat, he thought. Perhaps for good reason, having been so easily subdued by a woman. Although this particular woman probably shouldn't count. It was hardly fair.

    After a moderate silence, and doing his best to ignore the tightness of the arm locked about his neck, he posed a question, affecting an air of philosophical meditation. 'If we are not enemies, then what are we, my dear? And why do our meetings so often end with sharp objects near people's throats?' His eyes glanced down at the weapon, which was uncomfortably close.

    'There are greater dangers afoot,' came the reply. 'Which leads me to wonder why you are heading north, alone, into the eye of the storm.' The rustle of paper suggested she had found his map. 'If I felt charitable, I might inform you that you would find nothing where you are going but more empty villages, and a pointless death.'

    'Are you feeling charitable?'

    'No.' The arm released its iron grip. 'You may turn now.'

    Rubbing at the soreness around his throat, he turned, feeling somewhat light-headed. The thin layer of snow crunched beneath his boots. He looked up, his eyes widened, and he stumbled backwards, then fell with a muffled thud. 'How graceful,' came her scornful voice. 'Do I terrify you so?' She followed his gaze, turning her head idly towards the great beast of a man standing nearby, still as a statue, tall as a house. Massive hands rested on the pommel of a great-sword, its tip driven deep into the snow and earth. 'Oh, you have noticed my friend. I should introduce you. This is Valdrikr.'

    The huge figure bowed his head slowly towards him as he lay prone in the snow. A low rumbling voice tumbled out, emerging from a beard so wild and expansive that a child might be able to hide inside of it. He could not understand the words, but he could certainly feel them. The ground itself seemed to tremble.

    'And this,' the woman said, kicking up a handful of snow at his face by way of indication, 'is my dear brother.'

    'I have a name, Kata,' he said, wiping his eyes.

    'Mag-nus', intoned the giant, extending a rough and hairy hand, and pulled him to his feet with surprising gentleness and grace.

    'How does he -'

    'My scouts have been tracking you since this morning. I recognised the description; a fool with a brown beard turning grey, and a scar across his cheek. I told him who you were.' She turned abruptly, and began walking away down the hill. 'Come, we have little time to waste.'

    Magnus opened his mouth to question her further, but before he could speak he felt himself being lifted into the air and thrown over one of the Varl's thick shoulders. Another hand wrenched the sword from the ground, hefting it onto the other shoulder, and then they too were trudging down the hill. The men behind followed, laughing, carrying squawking chickens.

    Last edited by simon280586; 05-03-2013 at 03:14 AM.
    Crest by StandSure, many thanks!

  2. #2
    Factions veteran stoicmom's Avatar
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    May 2012
    Oak Ridge, TN
    a great read, simon look forward to much, much more

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