Writing Exercise #2

October 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

The prompt is: “You can never go home again.”

Lerit pulled gently on Switch’s reins and coaxed him to a stop at the crest of the hill.  The old steed grunted in protest, but eventually halted.  The small village laid out before him, nestled tightly in the small valley below.  Lerit thought that he had been prepared to see it again, but he found himself surprised by how he felt.  It had been three years since he’d left this village.  Three years since the day he’d discovered his power.  Three years since they exiled him for using it.  Three years since he’d been forced to leave his home behind.  He had expected to feel sad, or perhaps even angry at seeing the tiny village again.  But instead he found he was relieved.  It was good to see Creat again.

The trip up had been a long and difficult one.  Winter still hadn’t released its grip on the land, and the mountainside was still covered in thick mounds of snow. Despite the difficulty he and Switch had managed to make the final push up the crest just before dusk.  If he hadn’t grown up in Creat they probably would have died three days ago.  The mountain range here was a treacherous, full of steep cliffs and jagged valleys, and it was prone to landslides. It was not the type of place one would expect to find a small farming village.  Nevertheless, here it was.  A wide valley with a large flat plain at the bottom–perfect for farming–lay smashed in between what most people thought to be an impassable portion of the Krettihn Mountains.   The natural barriers provided Creat with a wonderful defense.  In addition to being difficult to get to, no one in their right mind would even bother looking for places of habitation in such a place as this.  There weren’t even any proper roads leading in or out.  It was completely isolated.

He’d always loved that about Creat.  It was a quiet, peaceful place, away from the dangers of the world.  The people of the village cared little for outsiders, and any time a wayward traveler got to close they would coax down a small landslide or avalanche to turn them away.  As far as they were considered, the rest of the world could go on living however it wanted, just as long as it left them alone.  And for ten generations they had been able to live that way.  But no longer.  The world was coming to them.  That was the whole reason Lerit had come back.  He had to save them.  He had to convince them to leave.  Despite what they had done to him, he still cared for them.  If they didn’t leave before the Mad King’s electromancers arrived, they would all be killed.

Lerit unconsciously fidgeted with hilt of his sword while he waited.  He knew that Geldrin would be coming out soon with a group of the village’s strongest men.  He’d already managed to evade the traps and hazards laid about to keep him from reaching the summit, and he knew that the townsfolk would be getting nervous.  They would be demanding that Geldrin do something–anything about the stranger in the green cloak.  Lerit could imagine the scene; Geldrin would be dressed in his finest suit–well, fine for someone from Creat.  In the time that Lerit had been gone he’d seen lord and governors, and even Kings whose dress would make Geldrin look exactly like the small town farmer that he was.  Lerit could picture Geldrin standing in the town square trying his best to look mayoral and calm his people.  Bettenn would be there, shouting that they had to take action immediately, probably demanding that they send out their best archers to cut down the mysterious rider.  Irado’s voice would be the sharp counterpoint to Bettenn’s.  He would insist that this stranger in the green cloak was clearly an ambassador from the lower kingdoms and that he’d come to collect on hundreds of years of long-owed taxes.  Only a man with maps drawn by the Mad King’s own cartographers could navigate these mountains and escape injury, especially a man with a horse.  Irado would insist that they should send out an ambassador of their own to negotiate.

The last pieces of daylight pulled back across the hills as Lerit noticed group of about ten men, each carrying a bow and full quiver, a small sword, and a long staff.  So, it seems Bettenn won the argument. Not terribly surprising I suppose.  The men walked quickly, but with some hesitation, doing their best to hide an obvious sense of nervousness.  Lerit assumed that there was likely another group of archers hidden in the woods.

“Let’s hope they don’t try another foolish.  Be on your guard Switch,” Lerit said.

Switch snorted.

“I know, I know, just keep an eye out ok?”  Lerit pulled his scarf and hood tight around his face and road down the hill to meet them.

“Halt stranger! What business do you have here?” one of the men cried out.  It sounded like Geldrin.

“A fine good evening to you m’lord,” Lerit tried to keep it light despite the heavy tension in the air, “I do not mean to cause such concern, I am simply traveling through these lands and am in need of a warm bed and a safe place to stable my horse.”

“There are no travelers in these mountains. Only thieves and bandits, tel’crin.”

Bettenn stepped out in front of the men, his small sword held low at his side.

Lerit stared at him for a moment.  The years had been much kinder to Bettenn than Lerit had expected. And hoped.  Bettenn was dressed in one of the finest tunics Lerit had ever seen any Createn wear. Not even Geldrin wore anything that fine.  Lerit remembered Bettenn being nearly as tall as him, but he didn’t recall him being so…broad.  The man was massive.  He looked as if he could rip a tree trunk straight out of the ground–indeed Lerit assumed that was why Bettenn looked enormous.  Shortly before Lerit’s departure Bettenn’s family had acquired a new piece of land that had been overrun by thick kesslewood trees.  A grove of kessle’s wasn’t really a grove at all, but was actually one giant plant.  The kesslewood root structure was deeply woven and intertwined just below the top soil.  If Bettenn and his brothers had managed to clear out the kesslewood trees then it would account for two things; Bettenn’s size and his fine new tunic.  Kesslewood was also the strongest timber in the entire Reao Province.  It was expensive.  People all over Reao used it.

Did that mean the people of Creat were trading with outsiders?

“I assure you my good man I am no thief.  I am just a weary traveler.  I can even pay you for your trouble.” Lerit did his best to sound non threatening.  He needed these people to trust him.  It was going to be bad enough when he told them why he was there. He needed to start things off easy.

“You tel’crin are all the same.  You think you can just toss a few coins around and everyone is going to drop everything and tend to your every need.  Maybe we’ll just take your coin and send you on your way.”

“Enough.” Geldrin held up his hand.  Lerit was relieved that Geldrin was able to keep some level of control over his people.  “This man has done nothing to you Bettenn.  Either compose yourself or you are excused.”

Bettenn glared hard at Geldrin, but kept quiet.

“Now, stranger, why are you here?  We don’t usually get travelers through these parts.  Your arrival has made us all a little nervous.  How did you find us? Did the King send you?”

“Not exactly,” Lerit said, dismounting. “But it is because of King Caldrian that I’ve come.”

Lerit stepped forward and removed his scarf and hood.  The group of men gasped in a moment of recognition.

“Lerit?” Geldrin said, dumbfounded, “what are you–”

He was cut off by Bettenn shouting, “YOU! I’ll kill you, you damn tel’crin bastard!”  Bettenn leaped towards Lerit, swinging his sword wildly.  For all the man’s size and power he had no grace.  Lerit easily sidestepped Bettenn’s swing.  Bettenn cried out in a rage and spun back around.  He lunged again towards Lerit, this time slower and more controlled.  Lerit drew his own sword and parried Bettenn’s swing.  He grunted as he struggled to hold the weight of the enormous man back with his blade.  Lerit spun around and let Bettenn’s weight push the lumbering man to the ground.

“Bettenn stop!” Geldrin shouted.

Bettenn ignored him as he stood for another charge.  “Bettenn,” Lerit said as calmly as he could, “I don’t want to hurt you.  Please, I didn’t come back to cause trouble.  Let’s find another way to settle this.”

“This will be settled with your death, tel’crin.”

Lerit knew he couldn’t waste any time fighting Bettenn.  He had to end this quickly.  He closed his eyes and let all the air leave his body.  Lerit slowly drew the air back into his body, but not as a breath filling his lungs, but as if he was pulling in the very power of the wind itself.  He held his sword in both hands and slammed the blade into the ground at the same time that Bettenn ran in a final time.  Light flashed in a brilliant explosion and the earth around him split like cracked glass.  A shockwave shot out from Lerit and slammed into Bettenn, knocking him hard to the ground.

“Like I said. I do not want to hurt you.  I will only say this once.  Yield.”  Lerit’s voice was strained as he struggled to use a portion of the air to speak.

Bettenn looked up at Lerit, with anger and hatred in his eyes.  For a moment Lerit believed Bettenn really was going to yield, but the stubborn man whipped out a small dagger and flung it wildly in his direction.  He easily avoided the knife and expended the last of his air to send out another shockwave.  This time it tossed Bettenn backwards into a large Kesslewood tree, and knocked him out.

Lerit allowed his breathing to return to normal.  He did his best to fight the sudden rush of dizziness as he stood.  He moved over to the unconscious man and disarmed him.  “Geldrin, I am sorry to have caused so much trouble.  I never would have even come back, except I had to warn you.”

“Warn us about what?”

“If we don’t evacuate Creat then by the end of the month, everyone here will be dead.”

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