Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 4, Fantasy

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Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 4, Fantasy

Post  Firebrand on Fri Mar 09, 2012 2:47 pm

Sin waited at the village gate for Lisana. He adjusted the strap on his sword and fixed his new cloak. Lisana arrived soon after with her father, Derrian, a tall man with his hair tied back in a queue. He shook Sin’s hand. “Keep my daughter safe, you hear?”

“I will, sir. I’ll see her safe to the Capitol.”

Lisana smiled at Sin. Their argument a few days ago was resolved, and she looked a little nervous about leaving home. “Everything’s going to be fine,” Sin whispered. “We’ve never been on a real adventure before. It’ll be a great start to adulthood.”

Harrison and Henrietta strode up with Chifumi and a large draft horse with a coat the color of straw. Harrison embraced both of the young people. “Good luck, and may the road be smooth before you.”

Henrietta and Chifumi both hugged Sin tight. “Bring me back some sweets from the Capitol,” Chifumi hissed. “I promise I’ll be good until you get back.”

“You better, Fuzzball.”

Harrison patted the draft animal. “This here is Dusty. He’s going to carry your things for the trip. He’s as reliable beast as any, and he’s strong. Derrian, let’s help them get their bags set.”

They spent the next few minutes strapping Lisana’s few parcels of clothes and tools and Sin’s pack to the horse’s saddle. Dusty obediently stood still, his tail the only thing moving.

Sin took the bridle, and nodded to the small gathering. “Well, we better be off. Lisana, do you want to ride or walk.”

“I’ll walk, if it’s all the same to you, Sir Chauvinism.”

Sin shrugged. “Suit yourself, Lady Obstinate.”

Harrison glanced at Derrian. “They’ll be fine.” Lisana’s father laughed. Henrietta smiled and waved as the large solid gates slammed shut as the two young people walked onto the dirt path outside of the village.

***

Anjaru, Kelrick and Thalia met them at nightfall. The demons had gone ahead the night before, sneaking over the Wall and clearing the path of any feral demons. They had made a camp during the day, where Sin and Lisana could rest that night.

Anjaru pulled a silver sword from beneath his falcon feather cloak. “Master Sin, Kelrick has asked that we keep your skills as sharp as your sword. So, each night, you will spar with us. Have at you!”

Sin barely had time to draw his sword. Whereas Kelrick used a style that relied strongly on powerful attacks to strike the enemy down, Anjaru used a particular school of fighting that involved lightning-quick moves to confuse his opponents before attacking.

As he fended off Anjaru’s attacks, Sin realized that these styles were very similar to the animals whose aspects the demons shared. He was willing to bet that Thalia, when she actually picked up a weapon, would fight very much like a cat toys with a mouse, testing it and wearing it down until it ceases to be amused, and then going for the killing strike.

Finally, Anjaru nodded. “You’ve done enough tonight. Rest. Keep your strength up. We rise early tomorrow.”

“Anjaru, I’ve been waking at sunrise every day since I was four years old.”

“Fair point. Well, Master Sin, I will see you in the morning.” The demon threw his cloak back and changed into a falcon. He soared up into the trees to keep watch as Sin relaxed on his bedroll. Kelrick and Thalia vanished into the Forest.

Lisana extinguished the fire, and soon, all Sin could hear was hear was the gentle rise and fall of her breathing as they drifted off to sleep.

***

Dusty’s nostrils flared and he danced nervously. Sin pulled on the horse’s bridle, trying to drag him along, but the normally obedient Dusty refused to budge. His deep, strangely empty eyes seemed to be trying to tell Sin something.

Thalia, in the form of a blue, white and silver cat, burst from the bushes. She shuddered, and returned to her humanoid shape. “Robbers,” she spat. “Coming from the northeast. We cannot outrun them. Kelrick, guard Mistress Lisana. Master Sin, now would be as good a time as any to polish your skills.”

Anjaru appeared at Sin’s side. “Do not worry. I have your back. No harm will come to you if I can prevent it.” He unsheathed his rapier, the long slim blade glinting in the noonday sun.

Sin likewise drew his own sword. A small part of his brain wondered if he’d have to return it to Harrison when he got back. If he did, that would be a shame, since he reallyliked it.

Sin and the demons formed a circle around Lisana and hobbled Dusty so he would not bolt. They waited in silence for a few moments, and then the robbers burst from the bushes.

This was like no bout Sin had ever been in. It was not a carefully measured exchange of strokes or parries. This was an all-out brawl. There were only about fifteen robbers, but they fought with almost no form whatsoever.

Sin nearly had his arm sliced off because he was surprised anyone could use a sword with so little tact. It appeared Kelrick was right, not everyone was trained in Damin’s school of swordplay. He doubted these bandits were even trained at all.

One tried to twirl his sword like a baton, something that never worked outside of storybooks or songs. Kelrick smashed into him with his large broadsword, and the bandit fled into the woods.

Anjaru fought four opponents at once, his sword a gray curtain in the air in front of him, an bizarre mirror to the cloak of falcon feathers he wore about his shoulders. Thalia waved her hand, and the ground became a slick with frost under the bandit’s feet. They stumbled, and the Ice Maiden quickly disarmed them with clawed gauntlets made of ice.

Sin locked blades with a boy about his own age. The dark eyes that stared out from the ragged mop of hair had a feral look that made Sin nervous. Using a trick Kelrick had shown him, he feinted with a low strike, and then applied pressure to the top of the sword. The young rogue fell back with a thud.

Sin turned to engage his next opponent. As he and the new robber fenced, Lisana cried out. “Sin, behind you! He’s got a knife!”

Sin lashed out with a back kick that struck the young robber in the groin. He groaned, and staggered away. Thalia licked her lips and stalked around her group of struggling marauders.

“Anjaru, I’m getting bored. Can we finish this soon?”

The wind demon nodded. “I too, am finding this to be tiresome. Cease this nonsense!” He threw his cloak back, and a sudden gust of mighty wind surged through the clearing. Brigands were picked up off the ground and knocked into trees. Thalia froze the slightly marshy ground, trapping her prisoners before they could be carried away.

After the wind subsided, the rogues scattered into the woods. Kelrick snapped his fingers, and the seat of one outlaw’s pants caught fire. The man tried to put it out, while still running from the demons. He yelped as the fire seared through the rough fabric and burned his rump.

“I hope he doesn’t have to sit down for a while,” Kelrick chuckled.

Thalia purred as she examined the frozen robbers. She sniffed at one. “A little ripe, but they’ll still make a good meal I suppose.”

“No!” Sin cried. “I don’t know how you’re used to doing things, but we are not going to execute our prisoners!” Then he realized what the demon was proposing, and hastily added, “Or eat them!”

Thalia glanced at Lisana, and the girl nodded. The ice demon grumbled, but waved her hand again. The icy covering around the prisoners broke, and they scrambled into the trees, eager to get away from the fearsome demons.

Lisana rolled her eyes at Sin. “They don’t really eat people, you know. We were just trying to scare them, see if they’d drop any information.”

Sin suddenly felt foolish. “Oh. Well, at least they won’t bother us again.”

They continued along the trail through the Forest for some time, and they began to hear hum human voices. The trees opened up, revealing the village of Hollyvale. Sin glanced up at the sky, quickly growing dark with the onset of night.

“C’mon!” he called to Lisana. “If we hurry, we can be there before they close the gates. Harrison gave me some coin for the inn!”

Lisana nodded, and urged Dusty into a trot. The demons reverted to their animal forms, for they would draw less attention that way. Thalia curled up on the draft horse’s back, while Kelrick loped alongside. Anjaru soared above the trees.

The town guard was preparing to swing the heavy stone-and-wood gates shut as they barreled through. Kelrick barked with glee, obviously exhilarated by the experience. Sin ruffled the fur around the demon’s neck.

Finally, they found the inn Harrison had told Sin about. The innkeeper, an elderly man named Jean, smiled when Sin told him they had come from Harrisholt, as the village Harrison presided over was called out beyond the Wall.

Jean looked at Thalia and Kelrick. “Ma’am, are those demons?” Lisana nodded. Jean sighed. “I’m sorry, but they’ll have to sleep out in the stables. I’m fine with ‘em, really and truly I am. But some of my patrons…”

Lisana shuddered. She knelt down and looked at Kelrick and Thalia. “I’m sorry. But you heard him, right? I don’t like doing it, but I’ll bring you out something to eat later.” Kelrick licked her cheek, to show there were no hard feelings. “Take care of Dusty, okay?” Lisana said with a grin.

***

After a good, warm, filling meal of roast chicken and mashed potatoes, Lisana and Sin retired to the room Jean had given to them. Since there was only one bed, Sin gallantly volunteered to sleep on the floor. Lisana had rolled her eyes, but made no protest.

At some point during the night, Anjaru, in the form of a falcon, had come to rest on the sill outside their room. He remained there until morning, keeping silent vigil. When the humans awoke, Sin went to get food from the common area while Lisana bathed.

Then, they moved out into Hollyvale to obtain provisions. After buying a bag of feed for Dusty, they were joined by Thalia and Kelrick, in their animal forms. Sin purchased some dried fruit to eat while on the trail, and a heavenly music reached his ears.

Lisana drifted over to where a crowd of people had gathered. Sin peeked through the press of bodies, and glimpsed a tall, strong man playing a set of reed pipes as a young woman danced.

People threw coins at their feet, and the young woman smiled. The crowd was held spellbound for an unknowable span of minutes. Finally, the man stopped playing the haunting, beautiful tune, and the woman stopped dancing.

“Thank you,” she murmured.

The crowd cheered as she passed a hat around. It had not even made it to Sin before it was filled with coins. The crowd dispersed, and the man put his pipes away. The woman gathered up the coins, and began counting.

“Not bad today, Orrin.”

The man nodded and said nothing. Then, he caught the woman’s eye and gestured to Lisana, still standing motionless next to Sin. Seeing that she had the performer’s attention, Lisana smiled. “That was beautiful!”

Orrin bowed his head modestly. “Thank you for your praise. Your patronage too, would be appreciated.” He gestured to the hat.

During the performance, Thalia and Kelrick had returned to their human forms, with no one the wiser. Thalia’s nostrils flared, and Kelrick raised an eyebrow.

Sin caught the motion and dropped back a step. “What’s wrong?”

“One of them is a demon. But the other… is not a sorcerer. It’s strange.”

The man looked up from his pipes again. “You have either a keen eye or a keen nose, Swordsman.”

“And you have keen ears,” Kelrick replied.

“I highly doubt my humble ears are as keen as those belonging to the Master of Flame, the Infernal Hound.”

“My, what very keen senses you have!” Kelrick gasped, genuinely surprised and trying not to show it.

Orrin blinked slowly. “And who is this but the Maiden of Ice? I am honored by your presence. I can but wonder where the Master of the Air is.”

Anjaru, still a hawk, lighted down on the cobblestones, but quickly assumed his human shape. He drew his cloak around him. “My dear friend! It has been too long!”

He embraced Orrin, and the big man patted him on the back. “It certainly has, Anjaru.”

Sin cleared his throat. “I can’t be the only one confused by this.”

Lisana nodded. “Anjaru, I demand an explanation.”

“As my lady and mistress wishes,” Anjaru said with a bow. “Orrin was a member of King Artos’s court. He was traveling when the King was slain, and thus escaped persecution. To think he was so close, all these years…”

Orrin got up slowly, for he had not risen during the entire exchange. “Orrin, the Stone Cutter at your service. Though Anjaru, I was not always this close by. My associate and I traveled all across the kingdom, bringing music wherever we tread.”

The young woman who was Orrin’s companion glared at him. “Orrin, we don’t talk to strangers.”

“These are not strangers, Beloved, but dear old friends. Well, three of them anyway.”

The woman’s nostrils flared. “That means one of them is a sorcerer!”

Lisana held up her hand. “Sorceress, actually.”

The woman eyed them suspiciously. “You don’t look like a sorcerer… uh, sorceress. And your demons seem to like you well enough.”

Lisana shrugged. “I guess I’m not officially a sorceress yet. I’m going to the Capitol to get trained.”

Sin placed a hand on Lisana’s shoulder. “Perhaps we shouldn’t just tell two complete strangers all of our plans.”

Lisana waved him off with a smile. “Oh, don’t worry. If Anjaru trusts them, that’s good enough for me!” She held out her hand. “I’m Lisana.”

The woman shook it. “Julia. And this, as you know, is Orrin. My companion.”

Sin nodded. “I’m Sin.” Before Julia could ask about his odd name, Sin changed the subject. “You say Orrin’s your partner. I guess that means he’s not bound to you?”

Julia scoffed. “Bound? No. He’s free to leave any time he wants. But, as they say, hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned. Or left behind, for that matter.”

“Love you too, dearest,” Orrin replied.

Lisana shook her head. “Love? You mean you two are—?”

“Not married, no,” Orrin said with a smile. “But soon, hopefully.”

Sin wrung out his hands. “Is that even… possible? I didn’t think…”

Julia shrugged. “What’s it matter? We love each other. Even if we can’t have children, Orrin’s love is enough for me.”

Orrin closed his eyes and nodded slowly. Sin noted that his gaze was sharp and intelligent. He would not mistake this man’s slow and deliberate nature for dullness, because there was certainly a mind behind that brow.

“Come with us,” Orrin said. “If I understand correctly, you are going to the Capitol. As pleasant as Hollyvale is, we too are leaving soon. There is safety in numbers, if you don’t mind us coming along.”

Lisana smiled. “Of course not!”

The group, now with Orrin and Julia in tow, meandered through the streets of Hollyvale. They picked up Dusty at the inn, and proceeded to the North Gate. When they arrived, a crowd had gathered.

A man stood on a wooden box, preaching to the crowd about something. Sin couldn’t make out the words from a distance, but he was willing to bet it was not a Light Sermon, fairy story, or dramatic peace. When the band drew closer, their hunch was confirmed.

“Demons are a plague upon this earth!” the man roared. “They steal our crops, kill our children, and will murder us in our beds!”

Kelrick bristled as his hand reached for his long sword. “Easy, boy,” Lisana hissed. Still, Thalia had her fangs bared like a cat, and Anjaru was taking a fighting stance. Sin’s own hand found the ornate pommel of his curved sword. Whatever this man was saying… it was definitely not true.

“How long until the demons rise up against the sorcerers? Sure, those men of power can hold them off, but what of the rest of us? What if those demons start looking for easier prey? First it’ll be our livestock!” The man paused for effect. “Then, it’ll be us!”

Sin couldn’t contain himself any longer. “That’s a lie!” He pushed his way to the front of the crowd, and jabbed a finger into the man’s chest. “Take it back. Demons follow the orders of their masters. They would never hurt someone, unless the sorcerers told them to.” He shoved the man off his box. “And the sorcerers protect us. What do you have to say for yourself?”

The man’s nostrils flared. “Demon lover! You’d rather consort with them than your own kind!” He moved to slap Sin across the face, but Sin’s weeks of training to be a guardsman paid off.

He quickly drew the knife he had received on his birthday, and drove it into the man’s arm, intentionally missing any vital veins or arteries. “Take back what you said,” Sin spat.

“Never! Get them!”

The crowd, stirred into a frenzy by the man’s words, jumped on Lisana, Julia, and the demons. Sin drew his knife from the man’s flesh, and growled at him. “I’ll be back for you later.”

Kelrick lifted Lisana up over his shoulder, and tried to run out through the gates. A guard blocked his path, aiming a crossbow at him. Though only enchanted steel could kill a demon, a crossbow bolt would hurt a lot. Kelrick stepped back and set Lisana down.

Thalia hissed and spat at her attackers, intentionally not harming them. She changed into a cat and bolted between their legs. “Master Sin!” Anjaru cried over the clamor. “Be careful not to harm the people! That would only increase the prejudice against us!”

Sin nodded. “All right! But we have to get out of here!”

Orrin barreled past him. “I can arrange that. Protect Julia.” The muscular demon bellowed, and stomped his foot on the ground. A spider web of cracks appeared in the cobblestones, and the ground began to shake.

Orrin shifted into his animal form, a large, broad-shouldered ox. The creature bellowed again, and charged at the guards blocking the gate. His horns glinted in the sun, and the terrified guards brought up their spears.

“No you idiots!” Kelrick roared. “Get the bloody hell out of the way!”

Another group of guards snuck up behind him and engaged the fire demon in combat. Lisana snatched a fallen sword, and brandished it in a way befitting a complete and utter novice.

The spears dug into Orrin’s flanks as he rushed through the guards, and rivulets of blood seeped from the wounds. But he broke through their resistance, and stopped outside the village wall, pawing the ground and snorting.

Anjaru nodded to Sin and Thalia. “We need to get out of here! Once we’re out of sight, they won’t give chase. I hope.”

Sin grabbed Dusty’s bridle, and ran. Thalia, in her human form, bounded along beside him. Anjaru leapt up onto a rooftop, and darted over the wall. Sin realized the air demon could have left any time, but stayed by Lisana.

Speaking of which…

Kelrick used his broad sword to push men away. But one guard, armed with a sledgehammer, brained Lisana, and she fell with a cry. “Take that, sorceress bitch!”

Kelrick shouted in rage. Sin saw Lisana fall, and stopped dead. “Bastard.”

He rushed towards the man at top speed, beating Kelrick to him. Only the guard’s armor saved his life. Sin slashed wildly at the boiled leather and steel, his sword biting deep into the former and glancing off the latter. Kelrick through Lisana’s limp form over his shoulder again, and ran off.

“Hurry up, Master Sin!”

Sin broke his battle trance, and raced after Kelrick. He wanted to put Hollyvale far, far behind him.

***

In the Capitol, the Chancellor looked out at all the other assembled sorcerers and high mages. “Harrisholt has been a blemish on the kingdom for too long!” the man said, his voice echoing in the stone chamber.

“They have not bothered us!” High Sorcerer Ludwig retorted. Ludwig was a problem. The Chancellor knew the young man was ambitious, so how long until that ambition compelled him to act against the Chancellor? He would have to be dealt with.

“And yet,” the Chancellor countered, “we know Harrison opposed the new regime, the regime that has put us all in power. He is likely aiding the Royalists!”

Arch Mage Henrich cleared his throat. “So what if Harrisholt is a problem? What do you propose we do about it?”

“Destroy it.”

This sent off a flurry of whispers. The Chancellor sat back and waited. He knew that there would be qualms about the innocent lives that would be lost. He would only have to convince these foolish old men and women that all people in Harrisholt were Royalists. That way, all of them would have to vote in favor of the village’s destruction, lest they be accused of treason.

When the voices quieted, the Chancellor explained just that, and called a vote. The overwhelming majority voted in favor, as he knew they would. Many of these fools were naught but his puppets.

“Who will carry out the attack?”

The Chancellor could not see who asked this, but it did not matter. He crossed his arms. “I have meditated deeply on this. I believe the only suitable candidates are the demons Talreya or Liath. Talreya is necessary for protecting us all from Royalist attack, so Liath becomes our only option. Bring her out.”

Under the Chacellor's regime, all sorcerers’ demons were controlled by the Chancellor, giving him an absolute monopoly of power. If any of the sorcerers rose against him, he would simply set their demons upon them.

Liath loped into the chamber from the Demon Pens, and glared at the sorcerers. The Chancellor spread his arms wide. “Liath, you have been given a great honor!”

Liath bared her fangs. “Oh, really now? What is it?”

The Chancellor smirked. “You will lead the attack on Harrisholt. Take any demons you wish. No human soldiers will be dispatched to hinder you on this operation.”

The wolf demon howled. “Harrisholt! Oh, I haven’t been to Harrisholt in years! It’s about time I finished up some business there!”

She ran back to the Demon Pens to gather her force. The Chancellor gestured that the meeting was concluded, and the sorcerers dispersed, back to their meaningless lives.

Once the last of the stragglers had left, Kutayara the Poison Brewer appeared at his master’s side. The Chancellor glanced at him. “I trust you fulfilled my request as I ordered?”

Kutayara bowed. “Of course, my lord. The deed is done.”

“You and your sister settled it without quarrel?”

“Yes,” Kutayara nodded, his emerald and black robes flowing as he moved. “We reached a compromise. A poison spider.”

The Chancellor smiled. “And you disposed of any evidence that would connect it to me?”

“Much to my sister’s horror, I squashed her little bug and dropped it in the sewer.”

“And what proof have I that the deed is done?”

Kutayara reached into his billowing sleeve and drew out a slender stick of wood. “His wand, master.”

The Chancellor bared his teeth in a genuine, though terrifying, smile. “Perfect. Thank you Kutayara. You are dismissed.” As the Poison Brewer left, the Chancellor laughed to himself. His most steadfast opponent on the council, Arick Vonrist, was dead!
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Post  Vagrance on Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:40 am

Technique:

They stumbled, and the Ice Maiden quickly disarmed them with clawed gauntlets made of ice.

It's just a thought, but I think shortening the sentence (or deleting the adverb) may make the action faster.

Thalia froze the slightly marshy ground, trapping her prisoners before they could be carried away.

I think you could perhaps try "marshland", or remove the word slightly, which I felt detracted from the pace of action.

“I too, am finding this to be tiresome. Cease this nonsense!”

I think removing the second part of the sentence may give this statement more punch. Again, just my opinion.

Mistake(s):
If he did, that would be a shame, since he reallyliked it.

Nothing really major, just missing the the space.

Scenario:

1. Skirmish: a good action scene. The emphasis on how Sin perceives the battle is very effective; you could consider conveying how Sin felt about the impending battle. The demons and their respective aspects are also quite interesting. A good variety of action. Perhaps you could think about adding an additional element of chaos and carnage.

2. The streets of Hollyvale: I felt Jean's reaction towards the demons was better than the orator on the street. It was more subtle and felt much more controlled. Orrin and Julia are proving to interesting characters.

Speaking of which…

Not sure why I didn't like this scene change. Feels very informal and almost conversational, which is certainly not the tone you have adopted through the story.

There was a much more "chaotic" tone in here, which I liked. Unfortunately, I felt that the odd conversation in between the action was distracting.

3. Council: dark little snake pit we have here. Hopefully we'll get more information on the Chancellor.

Plot:

Subplot of the council was adequately timed and executed. This was my favourite part of the chapter. Sin's journey is progressing at a good pace. The experiences and encounters are varied and rich. The tension between human and demon was made clear. Overall, I liked it.

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