Writing a book…

So in November I signed on to do the NaNoWriMo competition: to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. I chose to write the complete tale of Trey of Herongarde, who is featured in the 25 Days of Writing challenge (which I will someday actually finish). I wrote my 50k words and found out I wasn’t even close to finishing the book, but I’m still working on it. I’m thinking that, in addition to maybe finishing the Writing Challenge, I will post a few of the completed scenes from the book, Knights of Herongarde, on this blog. I dunno, maybe someone will read it and be interested in motivating me to finish it.

For fun, I also plan to join Script Frenzy in April, to write a 100 page screenplay for Knights of Herongarde. I took a screenwriting class a while ago. Maybe I’ll apply my screenwriting skillz? Or maybe it’ll just be easier to complete the story in screenplay format. Or maybe I’m just nuts!

25 Days of Writing – Day 13

Day 13: Your character has a whole day off to do whatever they want. Write a scene of them enjoying this free day.

Trey walked down the steps leading into the courtyard. It had been his intention to ride out for another patrol this morning, however his Uncle, Lord Markus, had warned him that the King was likely to call Council that evening. It would be poor form for the heir to the throne to be absent during council, especially during peacetime, so Trey found himself trapped at Herongarde Castle for the day. He wondered what he might do to amuse himself.

He walked slowly around the stone-bordered pond that formed the centerpiece of the courtyard. A sculpture of Mary stood at the center, overlooking any activity that occurred there. Trey knelt and said a silent prayer, that he might be calm this day and be at peace. He doubted that his prayer would work – he already felt the anxiety building in him. He longed for the open road and silence. He rose again and made the Sign of the Cross before the statue.

He gazed upon Mary and his mind began to drift. He thought about Rose – the times they had spent in this very courtyard. He shut his eyes, trying to banish the images, yet only making them stronger.

The sound of women’s voices jarred him back to reality. The Ladies of the court were walking out to the courtyard to take in some fresh air. This was the first truly warm day of the spring, and everyone was eager to get out from the castle walls. Trey looked up as the Ladies noticed him there. There were three in this group. Trey new them all: Margeth, the head Lady, Anise, and Katherine. They turned to each other and giggled with glee.

All the Ladies of the court were aware that Lord Trey was unmarried. All three of these Ladies fancied themselves as Trey’s next wife. It didn’t seem to matter to them at all that the only reason why Trey was alone was that his first wife, Rose, had died. They also seemed indifferent to his disinterest in ever wedding again. They only knew that one day, Trey would be King, and his wife would be Queen.

Trey looked away, glancing about the courtyard quickly. It had suddenly lost its charm with the presence of the Ladies. Trey stomped on a remnant lump of snow then strode away from the pond and the statue of Mary. He nodded at the Ladies as he rushed past them back into the security of the castle chambers. The women bowed reverently as he passed, then commenced to giggle and titter as he marched away down the hallway, toward the King’s Hall.

The King’s Hall was empty. Trey was disappointed, as he had hoped to find his father there. He turned to leave, beginning to walk out the door while still looking at the large tapestry that hung over the desk at the head of the room. The tapestry depicted the herald of Herongarde, the mark of Trey’s home and family, and the mark that he bore on the forearm of his right arm. He would rule Herongarde one day. The thought depressed him.

“My Lord!” cried Gilbert as Trey crashed into him in the doorway. Gilbert had been on his way in with various parchments to review with His Majesty, and had been paying as little attention to where he was going as was Trey. Trey snapped his attention onto the man in front of him, trying to keep hold of the rolled papers in his arms. Trey grabbed a few as they fell, as others bounced and rolled to the floor.

“Aye, Gilbert!” said Trey, embarassed. “So sorry, my Lord. My mind is on other things.”

“Aye, Trey,” said Gilbert, wrestling with the disordered pile of parchments in his arms. “Could you spare a moment to help me?”

“Of course, my Lord,” said Trey as he was already picking up the rolled papers that had fallen. “What business is this today?”

“We review our trade agreements, Trey. You should join us.”

Trey rolled his eyes. This would certainly be dull. “I would rather be riding Garnog beyond the walls of this castle, my Lord.”

“It will one day be your duty to endure these meetings, Trey.”

“Aye, but not now, Gilbert,” said Trey, with a forced smile.

“Aye, first you must learn to read, Lord Trey,” boomed a voice from the doorway. The King – Trey’s father – stood there smirking. “You need to turn your focus to your learning, and less to your riding and patrols.”

Trey frowned and looked away. “Rather not,” he grumbled.

“I am surprised, actually, that you remain here, Trey,” said the King. “Are you ill?”

“Lord Markus advises me that you may call council this day. Is this true, your Highness?” asked Trey.

“Aye, it is. I am glad that you take that duty seriously.”

“Of course, your Highness. Nevertheless, I request leave to ride patrol. There are questions near Quilgar that I wish answered.”

The King frowned deeply. “No, Trey. You will not indulge such foolishness this day.”

“But–,” began Trey.

“No, Trey. You will remain here this day and attend to your duties as a proper bearer of that Mark on your arm.” The King’s voice grew louder with each word. “I’ll not have you off chasing fantasies!” He ended with a great wave of his arm.

Trey knew he could not win such an argument with his father. He would spend the day in or near Herongarde Castle. He was disappointed.

The King’s expression lightened. “I suggest a day of rest for you, Trey. Rest and pleasure.

“This castle is a prison to me,” muttered Trey.

“Then go you to the market this day. To Artyl to enjoy a tankard of mead with your brothers at arms, aye?” suggested the King.

“Or to Gastin to repair your shield?” added Gilbert.

Trey frowned deeply. None of these things interested him.

“Ride out and pay your respects to Rosaline, perhaps Trey?” said the King with a much softer demeanor. “It is ten years since her passing. Is this why your mood is so dark?”

This angered Trey. Rage welled within him, but he knew better than to express it – not to the King. He clinched his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut, drawing a deep breath. Exhaling slowly, he opened his eyes again. “I will find something useful to do, your Highness, Lord Gilbert.” Trey turned smartly and marched from the room.

***

Trey eased Garnog into an easy trot. He was on his way to the village of Artyl, an easy one hour ride from Herongarde Castle. He would avoid the market. He thought of shopping as women’s work, and certainly below a man of his status. Instead, he rode toward the shop of Gastin.

Gastin was a well-respected blacksmith within Herongarde. He has been entrusted with making many of the swords and shields borne by the Mark-bearers of Herongarde. His son, Jason, was himself soon to earn the Mark. Gastin was as much family to the brothers of the Mark as could be any man.

Trey’s shield had been damaged over a year earlier in an ugly match at tournament. The function of the shield was not harmed, but it seemed unsightly for the heir of Herongarde to bear such arms. Trey had put off repairing the shield as he had more important things to do. Besides, he did not care that he was heir. He didn’t want to be heir, and he didn’t care what others thought either. Today was a good day to get it fixed, as it was an appropriate excuse to get him away from Herongarde Castle for the greater part of the day.

As always, Gastin was in his shop busily working. Today he seemed to be working on making a set of horse shoes. Trey had seldom ever seen the man not coated with sweat and wielding his hammer. Trey wondered if Gastin ever slept. Trey dropped his bent shield onto a table in Gastin’s shop, making sufficient noise to call attention to himself.

Gastin looked up, and smiled broadly upon recognizing Trey. “My Lord!” he said, setting his work aside. “My Lord Trey! It is great to see you.” Gastin bowed. “How may I serve you this day, my Lord?”

“Aye, Gastin, Tis good to see you too,” smiled Trey. “My shield here is damaged. I wonder if you might repair it?”

Gastin eyed the shield, picking it up and turning it over in his hands. “Aye My Lord. It must have been quite a battle to cause this.”

“Aye, but I still defeated my opponent. Of course, this still functions fine, Gastin, but it is ugly and unbefitting me.”

“Truly, my Lord, this this true,” agreed Gastin. Gastin continued to inspect the damage. He looked up from the shield. “I can certainly straighten the damage this day, my Lord, and before you must return to Herongarde Castle. However, I cannot correct the herald. I am out of cobalt paint, and the merchant has not brought me any for months.”

Trey smiled. “I shall be pleased to have it the correct shape again this day, Gastin. Encourage your merchant to get proper cobalt quickly, however, as soon your own son will need properly marked equipment, aye?”

Gastin smiled broadly, exuding the pride he felt for his son. “Aye, my Lord. I shall remind the merchant that he serves his King, not just me.”

“I shall ride on to the tavern and have some mead, I think,” said Trey. “It is not often I have time to enjoy some leisure.”

“Of course, my Lord. I shall attend to this at once.”

“Thank you Gastin,” said Trey with a short bow. Gastin bowed deeply as Trey turned and left the shop.

***

He was already into his third cup of mead when two young men from Artyl came in, boasting of their success in a fight with some rival fellows over some woman. Trey tried to ignore them. He recalled when such ‘conquests’ were the fabric of life when he was younger. Trey knew now that such victories seldom lasted and these fights were wasteful of energy. He hoped they would just get drunk and shut up.

The young men’s boasting and bragging grew louder as they consumed their drinks. Trey was starting to feel annoyance. He was seated in a dark corner of the tavern, hoping for some peace. These men, little more than boys, really – were disrupting everything. Trey noticed that they were starting to act belligerent toward the tavern keep and other occupants as well.

A barmaid approached Trey’s table, offering him another drink. Trey glanced at her with a sour expression. “Those boys ought not to be here,” he commented.

She smiled. “Aye, my Lord. Yet they frequent this place. Always difficult, they are.”

“Whose are they?”

“They are local, my Lord. Their father has died; their mother is ill. The keeper tolerates them for pity.”

“I’ll not,” grumbled Trey. “Tis no excuse to act so vile.”

The barmaid smiled uncomfortably. “Another mead, my Lord?”

“Aye, woman. I would like that,” Trey said as he rose from the table. “But first, I shall have my peace.”

The barmaid stepped aside as Trey walked past her toward the pair of boasting men. She worried that this would not end well.

“Gentlemen!” said Trey with a malicious smile and open arms, “I hear you have had great success this day!”

One of the men, a blonde, smiled in return. “We have conquered some fools this day,” he slurred.

“Fools, aye?” said Trey. “What fools?”

“Aye, my Lord,” responded the other man who had darker hair, “the fools that thought they were greater men than us!”

Trey’s smile turned to a frown and he nodded. “There are none greater than you, aye?”

The blonde chimed in again. “Not in Artyl! We shall have whatever we want.” The other man grunted his agreement and raised his glass. The men tapped glasses and drank deeply.

“More mead, Keep!” shouted the dark-haired one. The Keeper looked up with a frown and began to move as if to obey the order.

“Nay, gentlemen,” said Trey in a low voice. “I believe you have had enough.”

Both men turned and glared at Trey. “We shall have what we wish!” said the blonde.

“No. We shall have what I wish. And that is silence,” growled Trey. The Keeper froze, and all eyes in the tavern turned to the conflict building before them. “You have had enough.”

“I don’t think you know who you’re dealing with,” muttered the blonde, too drunk not to slur slightly.

“Oh really?!,” boomed Trey. “I believe you know not who you are dealing with!”

“There are two of us,” added the dark-haired man.

Trey turned to the dark-haired man. “And I am ten times the man you are. I say silence. Harass this place no longer.”

“Hah!” laughed the blonde. “You know nothing.”

Trey’s lip twisted. “Nothing aye? Then why bear I this mark on my arm?” He pushed his sleeve up, exposing the symbol of Herongarde tattooed on his forearm.

The cocky expressions faded from the faces of both young men.

“Aye, boys,” continued Trey, “I believe you are finished here today.”

The blonde straightened. “I could –,” he started to speak, but the other man smacked him across the chest. The blonde glared at his brother.

“We will leave, of course, my Lord,” said the dark-haired man.

“Good,” replied Trey with a contemptuous smile.

The dark-haired man grabbed his bother by the tunic and pulled him out of the tavern, leaving Trey standing in the middle of the room. Trey nodded to the keeper and returned to his seat. A fresh up of mead was brought to him, which he drank slowly, savoring the new silence of the tavern. This was much better.

When his fourth cup of mead was drained, Trey glanced toward a window. Judging by the quality of the light, he knew it was time for him to return to Gastin’s shop and then on to the castle. He dropped a few coins on the table, and walked out of the tavern in silence. His time of leisure was over, and it was time to get back to his duties.

Finally.

 

25 Days of Writing – First Kill

This is another post not specifically called for by the 25 days of writing challenge. I started writing this, long hand, while out hunting with my Dad in Utah. My handwriting is awful, though, so I figured I’d better type it up! N*Joy!

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Hanna cautiously approached the table where Jason and Trey were seated and knelt. “That guy gives me the creeps, my Lords,” she said softly. Trey looked sourly at her. It was a breach of proper conduct for a woman to speak like this without invitation of her Lords, and this grated upon his nerves. Trey looked at Jason, who returned his gaze with a confused look. Trey found equally annoying this woman’s persistence in saying things using idioms he did not understand. Jason shrugged, and Trey turned back to Hanna, scowling. “What?” he snapped.

“I don’t trust that guy,” said Hanna, gesturing over her shoulder in the direction that the man that Jason and Trey had been talking to had gone. “He was grinning like a fool – like he’d just gotten away with something,” she continued.

“Ah,” said Trey.

“Aye, he did seem rather insincere to me as well, my Lord,” said Jason. “He was distracted.”

“Well, the look I just saw on his face made me want to bolt from this place,” added Hanna.

Trey cast her a stern glare, and Hanna bowed her head and looked away. This was not the first time she’d spoken without proper permission. Trey sighed and looked back to Jason. “Aye. I felt that too. I trust not a man who will not look me in the eye.”

Trey turned back to Hanna, who still knelt beside the table, eyes downcast. He frowned. After a moment’s pause, he addressed her. “Woman, collect our horses and bring them around front.” He reached into his purse and pulled out a coin, which he held out to her. “Give this to the stable keeper in payment.” She took the coin and regarded it carefully, flipping it over in her hand.

Trey leaned into her face. “Give that to the stable keeper and tell him we’ll take our horses now. Tell him nothing more.” He closed her hand around the coin. Their eyes met, faces only a few inches apart. He gaze softened slightly from its usual glare, filled with encouragement. “Now go,” he commanded softly.

She stared raptly back into his eyes, frozen by his gaze. Finally, she spoke again. “Yes, my Lord,” she said as she pulled away from him, rising to her feet. Trey’s eyes followed her as she turned and quickly left the room. He continued to stare after her, even after she was long out of sight.

Trey turned to Jason, leaning back heavily into his chair, thinking about the bad feeling they’d all gotten from the behavior of Tarin, the man they’d met this day. “Oh!” he spoke suddenly as he remembered something important. He dug into his coin purse again and drew out another coin. “Put this at her table, Jason, lest the keep think she dodged payment.” Trey handed the coin to Jason, who rose and place in on the table where she had sat. Trey had not permitted her to join them in the discussion with Tarin, but had allowed her to enjoy a pint of ale and a bit of food while she waited.

Trey had met with Tarin to discuss game meat for the upcoming Solstice Festival that would be held at Herongarde castle. Tarin claimed he would provide sufficient meat to support the entire festival, and could do so with only three weeks notice. Herongarde had had dealings with Tarin before for such events, but Trey himself had never met the man. Tarin’s strange behavior did not sit will with Trey.

Trey sipped on his tankard of ale, pondering an appropriate course of action, and waiting for the woman to bring up the horses. Jason finally nodded toward the window behind Trey. “She has the horses, my Lord,” he said.

Trey lifted his tankard to his mouth for one last drink. “Let’s go, then,” he said, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

As Trey and Jason left the tavern together, Tarin shouted at them from across the road. Tarin stood between two buildings – shacks really – and was enthusiastically waving at them. “Aye! Come have an ale with my brothers and me!” he called. Tarin eagerly motioned them to come closer. “Aye! Come join us!” Tarin yelled again. The scene struck Trey as peculiar. Why would Tarin be inviting them to drinks between buildings?

“Aye, thank you good sir,” called back Trey, “Alas, we must return to Herongarde with haste!” Trey waved at Tarin and strode to where Hanna held their horses.

“Aye, my Lords,” returned Tarin in a less friendly tone. “I insist!”

Trey did not turn. He took up Garnog’s reins from Hanna. “Mount up now,” he ordered. Jason was already astride his horse. Trey held Hanna’s horse as she pulled herself into the saddle. As soon as she was seated, Trey leapt onto Garnog.

Garnog, sensing Trey’s tension, immediately broke into a trot. Jason and Hanna spurred their mounts quickly to keep up. As Trey drew alongside where Tarin stood, he gave a wave. “Thank you, sir,” shouted Trey.

Tarin looked bitterly angry. “Aye,” he grumbled.

Trey noticed that in the gap between the buildings where Tarin stood were two horses, mounted by unknown riders. He knew an ambush when he saw one. “Aye! Run!” he called back to Jason and Hanna. As the party from Herongarde began to gallop out of the small village, the two horsemen took up a rapid pursuit.

They raced along the forested road, the pursuers close behind. Trey was confident in the speed and endurance of his and Jason’s horses, but was concerned about the mount of Hanna. The mare was old and slow, and the woman was a novice rider. He feared what might happen if the pursuers caught up with her. This was no time to hold back and check on her, alas. The pursuers clearly meant to attack he himself, and thus his escape was most vital. He prayed silently that the riders would simply ignore the woman as irrelevant.

The forest closed in around Trey and Jason. Escape off the side of the road was not possible. Trey rounded a sharp corner to find his path blocked by several freshly fallen trees. A trap. Trey wheeled Garnog about as Jason rounded the corner and slowed his own horse. “Damn!” he yelled. Jason turned his horse about as both men drew their swords. Battle was unavoidable.

Hoof beats closed in. One of the enemy riders raced alongside Hanna as they rounded the corner to the blocked road. The pursuer paid the woman no mind; his intention was to kill Trey. Hanna pulled up her horse when she recognized the trap, and was passed by the second pursuer.

The lead rider drew his sword and charged at Trey, but was blocked by Jason. Their swords clashed. The second rider raced past Jason and his attacker to charge directly at Trey. Swords clashed again. The only sounds in the forest were those of swords crashing, hooves stomping, and the grunts of the men’s exertion.

Hanna glanced about desperately, trying to discover what she might do. She, like Jason, was sworn to protect Trey, but she had no weapon and no armor. She feared that the man Tarin may come along soon and that she may be called into action. She needed some manner of weapon, or to assist Trey or Jason to defeat their own opponents so that they themselves could defend against a potential third enemy. She chose to attempt the latter.

Hanna walked her horse carefully toward the melee of swords and sweat, looking for an opportunity to do something helpful. The fight between Jason and his opponent blocked her access to Trey. She guided her horse toward the edge of the road, hoping to dodge the fighting pair. As she drew even with the fight, the enemy rider has his back to the woman, and she tried to slip past on his right.  Jason took a swing and the enemy backed his horse into her own. The enemy returned with a glancing blow that knocked Jason off balance.

The enemy drew his arm back to deliver a finishing blow, unaware that Hanna was directly beside him. His sword-bearing fist flew back directly into Hanna’s face, crushing her nose. Instinctively, she reached up and grabbed at his arm. In his surprise at finding his arm restrained, his grip loosened, and she swept the sword from his fingers and held it in her own grip. The rider turned to her in astonishment, reaching for his second sword for further defense.

By then it was too late for him.

Hanna righted the sword and thrust it deeply into the rider’s mid-section, fearing for her own life. At that same moment, Jason connected a blow from the opposite side that nearly took off the man’s left arm.

The man stared in shock at the horrified face of Hanna as he accepted his own death. He fell off his horse awkwardly, slipping off the sword still held by Hanna, and lay dead on the ground. Hanna stared at his crumpled body. Silence buzzed in her head.

Trey had by then knocked his own opponent to the ground and had directed Garnog to finish his enemy with a well-placed hoof to the head. He glanced up to see the last moments of the fight of Jason, Hanna, and the unknown rider.

Hanna gazed at the bloodied sword in her hand. She shuddered. Blood dripped onto her hands, and she realized that this was not the blood of the man she had killed, but her own blood. She touched her face with her empty hand and found it painful and slick with blood. She grimaced and rolled her eyes back from the pain and shock of what she had just experienced. Her eyes fell again upon the sword in her hand. She felt the urge to cast it aside in horror, but instead froze when she heard Trey ride up.

“Don’t,” he cooed quietly. “Keep that sword. You may need it.” She slowly looked at him, feeling tears welling in her eyes. He winced. Her nose was clearly broken. Hopefully, that was all. “You’ll be all right,” he said softly. Her pain was obvious, and he did not want to upset her. He needed her strong.

Jason removed the saddlebags from the horses of their enemies, and flung them over the shoulders of his own horse. Trey nodded approval to Jason then looked back to the road. He knew they’d have to backtrack some to escape from these thick woods. He was concerned about additional riders or hidden assailants, and prayed that it was only these two men – now dead – that were sent to attack.

He turned back to Hanna, who was looking dazedly at the dead man lying on the ground in front of her horse. “Woman,” he said. She did not respond. “Woman,” he repeated, a little louder. She still did not react. He guided Garnog a little closer to her. “Hanna,” he said softly. She looked up blankly. “We must ride on or we will surely die.” She nodded and looked back to the dead man. Trey saw that she was shaking. “Can you ride, aye? Shall we lead your mare?”

She looked back to Trey, trying to clear the fog from her head. All her senses felt dull. “I-. I-,” she stuttered. “Yes. Yes, I can ride,” she said softly. “I think,” she added at a whisper that Trey did not hear. Trey looked at Jason and saw that the younger man shared his concerns. He returned his attention to Hanna.

“Good,” encouraged Trey. “We’ll ride a little slower and get off this road. Just follow.”

She nodded glumly at him.

“And don’t drop that sword,” he added.

“Aye,” she whispered, and they set off.

Trey and Jason exchanged a glance, to which Jason nodded his silent agreement. Trey lead on as they trotted first backtracking along the road, then cutting through the forest to avoid contact with other riders. Hanna followed Trey and Jason rode behind, watching the woman carefully. The blow to her face was severe, and both men shared concern that she may at any moment drop from her horse.  Her pace slowed as they moved through the forest, which Jason attributed not only to the woman’s injury, but also to an exhausted horse. The old mare was lathered in her efforts to keep up with Garnog.

They had trekked more than a mile through the woods when they approached a small but steep ravine with a tiny stream. Trey paused at the rim and searched for a path for a safe crossing as Jason rode up beside hm. Trey looked at the younger man expectantly.

“Rest, my Lord. Rest would be a good idea now,” said Jason, nodding in the direction of the woman and the mare.

“How fares she?” asked Trey.

“I fear neither woman nor mare has much left in them this day,” replied Jason.

Trey looked toward the woman. Her horse, usually a soft bay, was covered with patches of white lather. The woman was equally soaked with sweat, and blood. One side of her face was puffed with swelling, with only one eye fully open. Her cheeks were streaked with tears. She looked barely conscious. She still held the sword in her grasp, with such a tight grip that her knuckles were white from the effort.

“Aye, Jason,” he agreed. “We’ll find shelter on the other side of this.” He indicated the ravine in front of them.

Trey guided Garnog to stand beside Hanna. “We’ll rest soon,” he said to her.

She nodded without looking up. “Aye, my Lord,” she whispered.

“We’ll cross this and find a defensible shelter.” He leaned toward her, trying to catch her attention. “Hmm?” He leaned closer.

She shut her eyes and hung her head. “Aye, rest,” she whispered.

Trey reached out and touched her shoulder. She jumped at his touch, but still did not look up. He frowned. “You’ll be fine with rest, aye. It has been a difficult day, I know.”

Hanna looked up at him. Trey saw the distortion of her nose through the swelling of her face. Yes, her nose was clearly broken, a most painful injury. Furrows from her tears striped her cheeks. His frown deepened.

“Aye, hand me that sword,” he said gently. She looked at her hand, seemingly surprised to see that the sword was still there. She handed it over to him. “A fine instrument this is,” he said as he examined it. “That man was no peasant fighter, but a skilled warrior. I am impressed.” He looked back to her to see her look away quickly. Clearly, his words offered no comfort to her.

“Aye, woman,” he cooed. “Later you will feel better of this. We’ll rest soon.” She nodded weakly and Trey slid the sword into a scabbard attached to his saddle.

Jason rode up. “There’s easy passage up there,” he said indicating further upstream.

“On then,” said Trey, and Jason began to move toward the path he had found. Trey paused, waiting for Hanna to look up again. She finally raised her eyes to meet Trey’s soft gaze. It startled her. “Follow Jason,” he directed her softly.

“Aye,” she agreed, and turned her horse toward Jason.

They rode on for another half mile or so, until Trey selected what he felt was an adequate place to camp for the night. He leapt from Garnog and approached Hanna as she clumsily attempted to dismount her horse. Her foot caught in the stirrup as she tried to step down. She fell backward into the waiting arms of Trey. She was shocked by how his touch comforted her, and quickly regained her footing.

“Thanks,” she whispered, feeling her cheeks burn. She dared not look him in the face.

“Um-hmm,” responded Trey, feeling equally awkward.Trey glanced around quickly and spotted a clear, flat spot under a tree. “Here, woman,” he said, and guided her to sit on the soft loam covering the tree’s roots.

Trey leaned close to her face, studying her bruised nose. “Ooh, aye. That’s broken,” he muttered.

Hanna looked at him through puffy eyes. “Bad?” she asked.

Trey noted the concern on her face. She was already in pain, and he didn’t want to make it worse. But he didn’t want to see this woman’s face permanently disfigured, especially when he was fairly sure he could straighten things out. This he had done before many times on the battle field for other men. A woman should be no different. Right? he thought.

“Oh, no,” he smiled. “Not too bad at all.” He ran his fingers over the bridge of her nose. “No, no problem,” he smiled again. Then he squeezed his fingers around her nose to reshape it.

A cry escaped from Hanna’s mouth, which was promptly covered by Trey’s massive hand. She silenced her voice quickly, but was wracked with sobs, as blood once again poured out of her nose. Trey frowned. “I’m sorry, woman. That had to be done,” he apologized. She nodded through her tears, her hands over her face. But the tears weren’t because of the physical pain. The tears came with the crystal clear memory of what had happened earlier that day. She could not erase the image of the face of the dying man, who stared at her as he died, knowing that she had killed him.

Trey sat beside her, not knowing what to do. He looked to Jason, who returned the same look of confusion. Trey felt helpless – he did not want her to suffer alone, but he could not think of how to offer comfort. He felt an ache in his chest. When had he felt that before? He hesitantly placed an arm around her and pulled her close. She pressed into him, grateful for the human contact. His arms closed around her, and he relaxed. This seemed to be helping her, and he didn’t mind so much. He supposed there was some time for this. He was glad to see Jason cooling out the horses and arranging the campsite for the three of them.

Jason walked over to Trey and Hanna after the horses were cared for and provisions for dinner were laid out. Hanna was silent by then, but still awake. Trey still held her, but now that she had stopped weeping, he had his mind on other things. Jason laid the saddlebags of the attacker on the ground in front of Trey.

“Shall I bring your blankets and bedding, my Lord?” asked Jason.

“Aye,” said Trey. “Bring her’s as well, will you?”

Hanna lurched, trying to pull away from Trey. “I can get my own-,” she started. Trey held her tightly.

“Rest, rest,” said Trey to her, and nodded to Jason to continue as commanded.

Hanna tried to pull away again. “But my Lord, I can -.”

“I’m quite sure you can, but rest,” he soothed. “Here. Let us see what our enemy carries, aye?”

She looked at him, feeling a fleeting sense of panic.

“Hmm?” he inquired.

“Aye, my Lord,” she agreed, meekly.

“Good,” smiled Trey, releasing her from his arms. He pulled the bags toward them, and began to withdraw items. Enclosed were the typical pieces that a traveling warrior might carry: a water bladder, a sharpening stone, a small knife. Flint and tinder. A blanket. A hood. An awl and leather laces for repairs. And a letter.

Trey looked closely at the letter. The broken seal was clearly that of Falgarth. He unrolled it to expose two pieces of parchment. One was a map with many points marked and labeled, with arrows showing movements between points of interest; the other was mostly text, with the stamp of Falgarth beside the signature. These seemed to be orders.

Trey handed the letter to Hanna as Jason returned with their bedding. “Read this to me,” Trey ordered.

Hanna regarded the letter. The script common to Herongarde and Falgarth always troubled her. With her eyes swelling, she found it even more difficult to read than usual. She rotated the paper, thinking she held it upside down, then rotated it back when her eyes finally made sense of the lettering. She rubbed her eyes and brought the letter closer to her face.

“Captain,” she began. “Herongarde falls at mid-summer -. ” She massaged her eyes again. “…mid-summer fest,” she continued. “We gain entrance with Tarin of Maldok dead. Gather men of Karon at Sere and enter as Maldok. Attack from within at dawn.

She squinted closely at the paper in the failing light of evening. “I can’t make out the signature.” She looked up at Trey.

“Read it again,” he commanded.

Hanna looked at Jason, and noticed he looked very pale. She read the letter aloud again. “The signature is something like ‘Norad’ or ‘Normal.’ I think it’s an ‘N’ anyway.”

“Northal!” exclaimed Trey and Jason simultaneously.

“Damn,” breathed Trey. He turned to Jason. “No hope to return tonight, aye?”

“Nay, my Lord,” he replied. “At least not together. The horses are tired and her injury…”

“Aye,” agreed Trey. “She must rest and her mare is spent.”

“Aye, and I dare not travel alone or have you travel alone this night, my Lord.”

“And night is upon us,” sighed Trey. “Nay, we rest here this night and ride at first light.” He turned his gaze to Hanna.

She bowed her head. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“Huh? Feel not guilt, woman,” Trey responded, confused by her reaction. “We will be fine. Tonight or tomorrow, it makes little difference.” He took the letter from her and returned it to their fallen enemy’s bag.

“Jason,” said Trey as he rose, “We must secure this site. Gather the horses close. We will take turns to watch tonight.”

Trey turned to Hanna, still sitting on the ground. “you will rest, ” he commanded. “Fashion yourself a bed over there.” He pointed to a flat, sheltered place tucked into a cluster of trees. “Take these over there as well,” he said, indicating the bags and blankets on the ground in front of her. “I will walk the perimeter.” They each moved off to their tasks.

Hanna spread out the thinner of her two blankets on the ground where Trey had told her to make her bed for the night. She grunted in pain each time she bent forward, feeling the uncomfortable pressure from her broken nose. She carried on, however, knowing that the work had to be done. She set down her own saddlebag to use as a pillow and laid down miserably under her other blanket. She was cold and everything hurt. There was no comfortable way to lay, and she felt tears welling in her eyes. She was in for a long, long night. Her thoughts drifted again to the face of the man she had killed and a wave of sobbing overwhelmed her. She tried to stifle the tears, but was failing. This made her weep all the more. She tried deep breaths with some success, only to find herself coughing. Oh, how she hated this!

The sound of Trey and Jason speaking nearby caused the sobs and her breath to catch in her throat. She felt a wave of panic. Would Trey be angry at her for all the noise she was making?

“Aye, needs must we make haste at first light.” Trey’s voice.

“Shall one of us ride ahead, my Lord?”

“Nay, Jason. We ride together for safety.”

“Aye.”

Silence. Hanna felt her teeth chatter. She felt awful.

“She is not well, my Lord,” Jason said softly.

“Aye.” A sigh, then a long pause. “And how feel you, Jason?”

“I am weary but well, my Lord.”

Hanna coughed then groaned, as the act caused her face to hurt.

“Maintain first watch, Jason. I have much to think about and may sleep a bit myself.”

“Aye, my Lord,” replied Jason. He moved off.

 

25 Days of Writing – The Hunt

This scene is not an actual specified scene from the 25 Days of Writing challenge, but I wrote it with the same characters that I’m using there. This was written long hand in my personal notebook/journal whilst I was in Utah accompanying my father on an elk hunt. N*Joy!

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Trey stepped quietly along the forested trail, looking around for sign that his quarry had be through recently. Overnight, he had heard the eerie wail of the bull elk, and he was determined to fell one this morning for the Spring Sowing Feast. He stepped cautiously, trying to hide his grimace each time he bore weight on his injured right leg. Only four weeks prior had he been stabbed in the thigh, a wound that became infected and very nearly took his life. They knew that it was only by God’s grace, and the actions and care of that curious woman Hanna, that he still lived and walked. He also knew that he pressed his luck by attempting this strenuous hunt so soon, but it was imperative that he show his resolute strength, lest the people question his leadership.

A clunking noise in the woods to his right caught his attention. He looked back at Karrick, directly behind him on the trail, and further back at Hanna who brought up the rear. Both Karrick and Hanna had stopped and were staring intently into the woods. More clunks and now crashing emanated from the woods. Large hooved animals were moving through the trees below the hunting party. Trey glanced at his followers again and his eyes met those of Hanna. She looked away swiftly, turning her attention once again to the sounds below.

Karrick moved closer to Trey. “Winded us,” he said glumly.

Trey sighed. “Keep going?” he asked. Karrick was the most respected hunter and tracker in Herongarde. Karrick had served King Anthony of Herongarde for nearly twenty years, not as Mark-bearer, but as keeper of the gates and portcullis of Herongarde. Kerrick was also the King’s first hunter – a personal guide to the King when called upon, and also charged with felling appropriate prey whenever ceremonies and festivals called for it. Trey would always follow Karrick’s instruction when it came to catching his quarry.

This trip was like most other hunting trips. Trey had often accompanied Karrick on trips, even a child, learning from Karrick’s example as he stalked his prey. Karrick would give Trey the first opportunity to kill the beast, but if Trey were unsuccessful, Karrick would take aim and finish the beast nearly every time. Karrick was an excellent teacher.

Karrick nodded at Trey’s disappointment. “We’ll continue on, my Lord,” said Karrick. “I believe a bull to be proud of will be found further on.”

“Aye,” muttered Trey. He looked again beyond Karrick at Hanna. She stood, still scanning the forest and listening. “On then,” said Trey louder, so Hanna could hear. Their eyes met again and she nodded.

“Aye, my Lord,” she agreed softly.

Trey looked to Karrick and nodded. Karrick looked back at Hanna, and she nodded. Karrick turned back to Trey and said, “Lead on, my Lord.” The quiet march through the forest began again.

It was unusual for a woman to accompany any hunting party, except perhaps at a hunting camp. Karrick had been annoyed and concerned when Trey told him this woman would be coming along. Trey had explained that Hanna’s presence was necessary, for she was responsible for the continued care of his leg injury. Every morning and every night, Trey’s thigh and knee were bandaged and wrapped, to promote healing of the wound and to prevent further injury.

Trey knew full well that he would not be able to walk at all, were it not the the skillful and supportive care of his leg by the woman Hanna. Her care had made it possible for him to appear to recover quickly, to prevent doubt of his ability to lead his people during this time of war. The people of Herongarde, indeed all of the Mark-bearers as well, knew of his wound, but very few knew of the extent of the injury. At any other time, he might have lain abed for weeks. As it was, he was up and walking after only five days. It was imperative that he not seem so severely injured. The ruse was working.

Trey also knew that the woman came along as part of her other assigned duties – duties known only to himself, Hanna, the King and Queen, and Lord Gilbert. She was charged with the defense of Trey’s life, with her own life if necessary, should the need arise. Such a task was usually assigned to another Mark-bearer, but none could be spared at this time of war. Trey was confident that she could do this duty, and felt safe in her care, but no others could know of this duty unless it could not be avoided.

Karrick did not know, and had no need to know. Trey simply assured Karrick that Hanna’s presence was necessary, and that the woman could carry her own weight and would not be a hindrance to the hunt. Thus far, his assurance had been borne out. The woman was having no problem carrying a pack laden with her own necessities and the supplies needed to care for Trey. Hanna was also proving herself to be useful on the hunt, by noticing the sounds and other signs of their quarry, that sometimes Karrick or Trey missed. Karrick seemed impressed by this, and Trey was grateful that Hanna was not holding them up.

They continued on in silence, walking perhaps another mile. Trey heard Karrick stop behind him, and looked back. From the intent lo0ks upon their faces, it was clear to Trey that both Karrick and Hanna had heard something that he had missed. Hanna pointed in a direction slightly to the left of their direction of travel, and looked at Karrick. Karrick nodded agreement. Trey looked off in the direction she was pointing, and finally heard the distant, eerie call of the elk.

Karrick stepped up beside Trey. “Your woman has good ears,” he said to Trey softly. Trey looked at Karrick, with a slight smile. “That sounds like a fine bull, if we can circle it before it winds us,” Karrick continued.

Trey’s smile broadened. “Aye, Karrick. I shall let you lead, then,” said Trey.

“Aye, my Lord. We’ll get the beast,” said Karrick as he moved past Trey.

Trey looked back at Hanna, who was still listening intently toward the source of the sound. The cry came again, and she pointed with a smile on her face. He eyes met Trey’s and he felt a smile crossing his own lips. “Come on then, woman,” he said cheerily, though quietly. He motioned her to follow and they carried on through the forest.

25 Days of Writing – Day 12

Day 12: What does your character do when their day isn’t a normal day? Write a scene where something goes amiss in your character’s day to day life.

Trey shook the leaves off of the blanket that he had used for a bed the previous night. As he haphazardly folded and rolled it, he brushed off the remaining sticks and debris that clung to the blanket. A beetle held on.

“Ho there!” Trey muttered at the beetle. “Fly away thou, or meet my wrath!”

The beetle waved its antennae at Trey, but otherwise did not move.

“Thus, you make your choice!” growled Trey, and he flicked the beetle away. “Doubt not my strength, beetle, for I could crush you if I cared to!”

Trey chuckled to himself as he stuffed the blanket into his horse’s saddlebag.

“Aye, Garnog,” said Trey, addressing his horse, “Today we’ll find those Falgarth traitors and thus begins justice for Herongarde.” The horse tossed his head in agreement.

Trey mounted and Garnog sprang into a lively trot. “Restraint, Garnog,” Trey spoke low, slowing the steed to an energetic walk.

Trey had been on patrol for two days now. Today, he would return to Herongarde and make his report. There were indications that outriders of Falgarth had been through this area, but no direct unequivocal sightings – merely strangers with unusual accents and the odd firepit in the woods.

Most of the commoners preferred not to speak to Trey or answer his questions. Few details were offered, only vague references about missing livestock from a neighbor’s field. Trey sighed. Would that I could get a straight answer from anyone! He thought.

As they returned to the open road, Trey spurred Garnog to a ground-covering trot. They moved swiftly past fields and pastures, and the occasional hovel, with Trey endlessly surveying the scene for any sign of something amiss.

A woman was peering out a window of a small cottage near the road. Trey saw her face disappear as he approached. Hiding, he thought, and assumed he would not see her again. Suddenly the woman burst from her home.

“Ho. Ho! My Lord! Stop! Please!” she shouted as she stumbled toward the road. “Please, help us!”

Trey saw as they approached each other that this was an older woman, her body worn by the years. She had clearly been weeping. She looked both distraught and terrified. Trey sighed, and turned his horse toward her. He was not interested in the problems of women, but perhaps something useful could come of this.

“Why do you summon me, woman?” demanded Trey.

The woman ran up to him. “Oh, please help!” she begged. She noted the insignia of Herongarde on his tabard and horse, and awkwardly tried to kneel. She fell instead. From her knees she grabbed his foot.

“Please, Lord of Herongarde. Please! Men came through this night and have stolen my daughter!” She gasped and sobbed. “My husband follows them, but we have no horse! I’m so frightened for my baby!”

Trey kicked his foot free of her hands. “Men? How many? From whence?” he demanded.

She grasped for his foot again, and Trey’s horse sidestepped away from her.

“Please!” she sobbed.

“Answer me, woman!”

She took a breath. “Not many. More than one. Less than ten, I think” She pointed toward her home. “There are tracks…”

Trey guided Garnog to the cottage and dismounted. He saw the tracks, leading into the forest. Clearly men had used the forest for cover, ridden in, stolen the child, then ridden out again. From the disruption of the ground, he guessed no more than three riders.

There were human footprints. Some were barefooted and small, perhaps of the woman herself. Others were larger, from a man who wore leather wrapped about his feet. Trey presumed these were of the missing husband.

Then he saw the prints of booted feet. Ah, the riders, he thought. These were serious horsemen and probably warriors. No common person would wear such a shoe. At least two of the riders had dismounted, and there were signs that these two had struggled with this woman’s daughter.

The woman ran up shouting. “We thought they were riders of Herongarde! But no men of Herongarde would do such a thing, aye? Where have they taken her?”

Trey held up a hand demanding silence, while still inspecting the tracks.

“Were they of Herongarde?” she asked.

“Silence, woman!” he shouted. “How old is this daughter?”

“She is 15,” replied the woman. “They won’t hurt her, will they?”

Trey looked at the woman. “There are no riders from Herongarde in this area save me. The men who have done this are not of Herongarde, but are likely highly trained. This bodes not well.” He sighed and looked to the woods following the tracks made by the riders’ horses. Swiftly, Trey mounted his horse.

“Remain in your home and keep your door battened. I will find the truth of this.” He rode off, leaving the woman standing alone and weeping.

Trey spurred Garnog to a gallop, following the riders’ tracks into the forest.

Garnog trotted as Trey guided him through the forest. The hoof prints of the riders were relatively easy to follow, so Trey could make good time. After about an hour of riding, he came upon a man kneeling and weeping at the base of a tree. Clearly, this was the husband of the woman he’d spoken to, and the father of the stolen girl.

“Ho there,” Trey said.

The man rose quickly and brandished a rusted blade.

“Ho, friend,” smiled Trey. “I ride after men who have stolen a child. Are you her father?”

The man lowered his blade and dropped to his knees. “Oh, thank God!” he wept. “Oh please, help her!”

“This I aim to do, good man. Tell me, know you how many riders there are?”

The man looked up and wiped tears from his eyes. “I believe there are two, my Lord.”

“Only two?”

“Well, two came to our home,” responded the man. “I see another set of tracks here that join this set. Perhaps there are more. I know not. It was dark!”

Trey looked at the ground. There was evidence that horses and riders had waited here a while, perhaps to meet up with others. All the horses seemed to then go in the same direction deeper into the woods.

“Good man, I will try to find your child. The men who have done this are not of Herongarde and have no business being here. Return to your home and remain safely hidden there.” Trey kicked his horse and raced off deeper into the forest, leaving the man to his thoughts.

Trey rode on through the forest following the tracks made by the riders who presumably had 15-year-old girl who had been stolen from her home in the night. The tracks were obvious and easy to follow. The riders clearly weren’t concerned that they were being followed. He rode on for more than an hour until the sun shone through the trees from directly overhead.

Suddenly the shriek of a woman broke the silence of the woods.  Trey wheeled the horse and raced in the direction of the cry. Screaming continued, and Trey guided Garnog toward the noise. He heard male voices now – taunts and laughter that grew louder at each scream of the woman.

No, women. There was more than one woman. Trey could tell the voices were coming from just over the next rise. He spurred the horse over the forested hill and came upon an unexpected scene.

Four men, swords drawn, were taunting three women. Two of the women were little more than girls and were responsible for most of the screams Trey had heard. These girls hid behind the third woman, who was older and was brandishing a tree limb like a club. The older woman was curiously dressed and was shouting in anger at the men, but Trey could not quite understand what she was saying. Of the four men, only one was directly fighting the women. The others just stood by and goaded on the first. “Smash her!” “We’ll take her last!” “Show her your manhood!” “Don’t let a woman beat you!” The man slashed at the older woman with his sword. She blocked his blows with the tree limb. Clearly the man was stronger than the woman, but she was determined to ward him off.

Trey galloped toward the scene.

“Ho! What means this!” he shouted. The men looked up in surprise. “Who are you?” demanded Trey.

The men began to move in Trey’s direction, swords drawn ready for a fight. The woman took advantage of their distraction and clubbed the man who stood most close to her, knocking him to the ground and taking his sword. “Run!” she screamed at the other girls. All three of the women turned and ran into the forest.

The other men ran at Trey, who drew his long sword to defend against the three swordsmen. Trey urged Garnog to rear and strike at the attackers. One of the men fell at a blow from the horse’s hooves.

Trey could handle two attackers. He’d been trained to successfully defend against this many, plus he had the advantage of height as he sat astride Garnog. These men were fast though, and lead Trey and Garnog in tight circles, keeping to the left side of the horse making it more difficult for Trey to successfully strike any blows. Trey observed in his peripheral vision that the man felled by Garnog regained consciousness and was dragging himself out of the way of the horse’s hooves. Trey continued his defense against the two swordsmen. He scored a blow on the arm of one of them, who stumbled backward. The other grinned at Trey.

It suddenly occurred to Trey that the man knocked down by the woman was no longer lying where he fell. Trey swung at the grinning swordsman and twisted to look for the missing adversary. Instantly there was fiery stinging pain in his thigh. The missing man was on the side of the horse opposite the men Trey had been fighting and had just driven his dagger deep into Trey’s right leg. Trey screamed in pain and swung his sword to ward off this new attacker. The attacker leapt back, out of Trey’s reach, pulling the dagger back out of Trey’s leg. Trey screamed again, and nearly dropped his sword for the shock of the pain.

Shaking his head to clear his senses, Trey turned his attention back to the attackers on the left. Both were coming at him with swords at the ready. Trey tried to beat them back with a swing, then turned back to his right. The attacker with the dagger was running at him. Trey swung and connected a glancing blow to the man’s arm. Heavy hands grabbed his left arm. He tried to swing again at the attackers on his left, but missed as they pulled him from the horse.

A barrage of blows rained over him as he fell to the ground. His sword was ripped from his hand. He tried to kick away, but pain shot through his stabbed leg, leaving him weak. He covered his head with his arms and tried to roll out of the grasp of the men, but he could not escape. A sharp kick to the belly knocked the wind from him. He tried to gasp, but could not draw a breath.

“Kill the bastard,” he heard, as he continued to struggle.

He was forced onto his belly and his arms wrenched behind his back.

“Bind him.”

“Naw, kill him!”

Trey recognized the dialect of Falgarth. His suspicions had been true. Men of Falgarth were in the lands of Herongarde. But why? To steal the women?

A kick to the ribs. Then his right arm was twisted violently.

“The Mark of Herongarde. He’s worth a bunch. We buy something with him…”

“Posh!”

Searing pain across his forearm. “Cut that shit off of ‘im!”

More pain on his arm, and a squeaky groan escaped his lips. These men meant to cut his Mark from his arm.

“Nay! Leave it! How we prove it come from ‘im if it not on ‘im, aye?”

“Aye, damn!”

A kick to his head sent Trey’s senses spinning. All was blackness and the only sound he heard was the sound of his own heartbeat.

25 Days of Writing – Day 11

Day 11: What does your character do on a daily basis? What is their job? Do they have one? Write a scene from a normal day in your character’s life.

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Trey slipped his brigandine over his head, adding the final layer to his protective armor. The weight and tightness of layers gave him comfort, like a bear-hug that he could wear daily. He contorted his body slightly, to buckle the straps at his rib and waist. This would be easier with the assistance of a squire or one of the ladies, but he felt some pride to be able to prepare himself for battle, if ever needed.

He flipped his tabard, emblazoned with the herald of Herongarde, over his head. After straightening it, he affixed it in place by strapping his sword belt around his waist. His swords lay on the table near the fireplace, where he had left them after carefully polishing and sharpening them the night before. The long sword bore the results of years of wear. This sword was originally forged for his great-grandfather and had been the weapon of Trey’s brother until Rion’s untimely death. Trey ran his fingers across the Herongarde symbols raised upon the hilt and etched into the blade. Then he kissed the blade and slipped his long sword into the scabbard on his left hip. His short sword was given to him the day he earned his Mark. It too bore the symbols of Herongarde. He kissed this blade as well and slipped into the scabbard on his right hip.

He draped his mail coif over his head, and regarded himself momentarily in the polished steel mirror hanging on the wall. Though he was well into adulthood at thirty-three years, he still made faces at himself when he could see his reflection. A momentary smile crossed his face, followed by his usual expression of deep brooding. He stroked his beard in an effort to arrange the hairs in a more pleasant arrangement. Hopeless.

Another day, another patrol. Trey sighed.

He pushed the coif off to hang about his neck on on his shoulders. He would only need it in the case of true battle. But now, he was prepared to perform his daily duty to King and country.

He would ride toward Quilgar to ask the locals if they had observed any suspicious activity. He had found evidence that outriders of Falgarth had been in those woods recently, and it filled him with discomfort. His Majesty did not seem to take Trey’s concerns seriously, and Trey feared this would be the downfall of the King and of Herongarde. On this day, he hoped to find better evidence of the treachery of Falgarth.

His horse was ready when he arrived at the stables. He’d already made his morning rounds: to the King to announce is departure and intentions, to the kitchen for a few day’s supply of food, and to his mother for a farewell. The horse stomped impatiently as Trey filled the saddle bags with his travel necessities. When finally Trey mounted, the horse nearly bolted out the gate, eager to begin another long journey.

The road to Quilgar was empty. This was not surprising for the hour of the day, nor the day of the year. It was mid-Spring, and this morning carried the remembrance of the winter that had just ended. The breath of the horse and of Trey was visible in front of their faces.

As the sun rose higher, the frost burned off the tender new growth and people began to venture out of their homes to begin their day’s errands. Trey met some of these people as they scurried about their business and asked questions of them. Most of the commoners were terrified of him. Not only was he a man of the Mark, but he was Trey, heir to the throne of Herongarde and arguably the best swordsman of the land. Trey was known for his ill temper and quick steel. None wished to ever raise his ire. Questions were answered quickly and reverently and Trey continued on his way.

25 Days of Writing – Day 10

Day 10: Your character has dreams, ambitions, and goals don’t they? What are they? What are they doing to achieve them? Write a scene that shows these aims.

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Trey sat gazing out over the practice fields. The men of the Mark were returned; the war was over and won. His father was back to managing the daily business on the throne and Trey could return to his preferred pursuit of swordcraft. Here it was, finally, what should be a golden day, and he was miserable.

He felt more like he was mourning. The war, and the battle for Herongarde Castle, had resulted in great loss of life, but this was not what he mourned. The battle had, in fact, given him a greater gift than anything he could have imagined. He had loved again, and became aware of that love on the battlefield. His Lady, Hanna, had survived that horrid night. He had professed his love for her while lying in a muddy conduit, together, facing the truth that it was possible that neither would survive the night.

For two months since that battle, he had loved her openly and gladly. None knew of her battle prowess, but all knew of their love. None knew of the oaths he had sworn to her before she would accept his love, but all knew that Trey was suddenly a man ready to lead his country. He was changed from a brutal, angry swordsman, to a gallant and powerful heir to the thrown, tempered by a woman at his side fit to be Queen.

But it was not to last. Trey and Hanna both knew that the King would not approve of their relationship. She was not noble. She was cheeky and difficult. She was hardly lady-like, especially in her willingness to bear a sword against an enemy. Trey’s mother did approve, for she had seen their love and the transformation it made in Trey, but the King would not.

Trey and Hanna were ever cautious to avoid doing anything which would surely result in Hanna’s dismissal from Herongarde. Most importantly, though they laid together every night, they had not consummated their relationship. This would be a heinous sin in the eyes of Trey’s father, and could possibly even drive the King to have Hanna executed. Thankfully, their decision to abstain was made easier by each of their reluctance to risk pregnancy. Trey had already lost one love to childbirth, and Hanna herself had nearly died bringing her own son into the world. Neither of them felt that succumbing to the passion that they felt for each other was worth the risk of her death.

Besides, Trey pondered, she knows things. Trey grinned at the thought, with tears gleaming on his cheeks.

As expected, the King had not approved of their relationship. So far as Trey could tell, His Majesty thought their relationship a continued ruse so that the couple would have an excuse to spend time alone together while Trey trained Hanna for combat. The King was furious to find that Trey and Hanna bedded together, and called them both liars as they attempted to explain their love to him.

The woman – Hanna – was to be sent away. His Majesty had at least seen value in Hanna’s actions that ultimately saved the life of Trey on more than one occasion, so she was to be send off to serve the Lord Gerard at Coolwal. She would remain within the realm and jurisdiction of Herongarde, but would be far enough removed to put an end to this ‘false’ love, as the King called it. She would be safe there, and treated well, but she would be alone.

Both she and Trey wept at the decision of His Majesty. Hanna had accepted the order and left to gather her things from Trey’s chamber in preparation of her departure. For her to argue would have only made matters worse. Trey, however, had plead with his father, then shouted angry words. Three times since the order, Trey and his father had angry exchanges.

Ultimately, Trey also accepted the order of the King. He did this at Hanna’s request. He had sworn to her on the battlefield that night that he would embrace his future as King of Herongarde, and that he would never place her first before that. He knew that if he tried to escape with her to some other place, he would lose her love. At least when he was King, he could bring her back to Herongarde. He would have to be patient.

But the pain was agonizing. Today was a day of celebration. Aian and Jason had just received their Marks – true bothers of Herongarde they were this day. A tournament to celebrate the end of war and the induction of new Mark-bearers was about to begin. All was jubilation and glee. But Trey’s heart was heavy.

Trey took a deep breath and began to walk back toward the tournament grounds. At least the King had agreed to allow Hanna to remain until after this tournament. Trey would champion her this day, and maybe – with one more night before she must leave – maybe Trey could convince his father to allow her to remain.

 

25 Days of Writing – Day 9

Day 9: How was your character’s first kiss? Who with? Where was it? How old were they? Write the scene.

———-

“Shh.”

“What is it?” Rosaline whispered as she squatted in the bushes, trying to see through the leaves past Trey, and into the pasture beyond.

“Quiet. Come on.” He waved her forward. She crawled through the undergrowth, catching her skirts on twigs and branches as she passed.

“Bother!” she groaned.

“Shhh!! Come on!”

Rosaline finally pulled herself alongside Trey, fully enclosed by the bushes. Trey reached forward and drew down a branch, clearing their view of the pasture.

On the far side of the pasture strode an enormous grey stallion. The horse tossed its head and galloped out of sight. Trey and Rosaline could hear the hoofbeats of the stallion, despite being unable to see it. The drumming of hooves got louder. And louder.

Suddenly the great beast crossed in front of them, thundering by. The stallion stopped abruptly, circling back toward them. The horse approached the bushes where Trey and Rosaline cowered, its nose reaching into the bushes. They held their breath. Suddenly, the horse lurched back snorting. Rosaline screamed and tried to jump back, herself, but was caught by the branches of the bushes and then by Trey’s strong arms. The stallion reared up, and roared, then careened off again, out of sight.

“Let us leave this place!” cried Rosaline, desperate to escape.

Trey smiled a toothy grin. “No, wait. Let’s watch some more.”

“No, that beast means to kill us!” She watched the horse galloping again on the far side of the pasture. “Please, Trey, let’s go!”

Trey smiled and gazed back at the awesome beast. “Alright. I’ll visit him again soon. Let us go back how we came.”

Rosaline looked relieved as Trey helped her out from the bushes, carefully unhooking branches and thorns from her long gown. She looked at him, smiling. His gaze met hers, and he stopped fussing with her gown. “He’s a beautiful horse, Trey,” she smiled.

“Aye, and he’ll be mine when I have my Mark,” he boasted.

“You’ll kill yourself,” she chided.

“No, I’ll fight gallantly in many battles! You’ll see!”

Rosaline looked away, laughing. “Boys..”

“You’ll see Rose,” said Trey, stepping closer to her. He put his hand on her shoulder. Another step forward. “You’ll see.” He touched her face with is other hand. Though still hardly more than a boy, Trey’s hand was rough and calloused from months of training with the sword and on horseback.

In contrast to his own, her skin was pale and smooth, like silk. His rough palm caught on her skin as he stroked her face. He leaned close to her, a faint smile on his lips. “When I am champion, I will fight for you,” he said softly. “I will always stand for you.”

Rosaline blushed and tried to pull away. He stepped toward her, keeping her in his touch. She glanced back at his face. His eyes were warm and his mouth was smiling. “In three years, I will be your champion, always and forever,” he said softly.

He pulled her toward him and gently pressed his lips over hers. He shut his eyes and savored the sensation.

Rosaline lightly placed her hands on his chest, then suddenly shoved with all her might. “Oof!” he uttered as he stumbled backward. “Silly boy!” she laughed. “Eww!” She ran away, leaving him standing alone among the brambles. He stood, mouth agape, watching her run away. He couldn’t understand what had just happened, but he had enjoyed it. Finally, with a shrug, he took off after her, laughing as he ran.

“Stop you! Get back here!” he shouted as she disappeared over a hill.

He sprinted up the hill at stopped abruptly when he saw the scene on the other side. Rion was there, striding furiously in Trey’s direction.

Rosaline was being restrained by her scolding father, Lord Donnal, whilst her equally scolding mother examined the condition of Rosaline’s dress. “What means this, running off with that boy?” demanded her father. “Where were you? So unbecoming of a Lady!” screeched her mother. “But Father – ,” Rosaline plead, only to be silenced by a slap to the face.

“Oh no,” muttered Trey. He began to back away from the scene.

“Oh no you don’t!” shouted Rion, as he broke into a run toward Trey. Trey wheeled and attempted to run, but Rion was already upon him. Rion gripped Trey’s arm and spun him back around. Trey writhed to get away. “Who do you think you are, boy?” demanded Rion. Trey fought to escape, but his older brother’s grip as too strong.

Trey swung his free arm at Rion, trying to escape. Rion dodged the blow, then tackled his brother, forcing him to the ground.

“Let me up!” shouted Trey. “Let go!”

“You are a fool, boy! How dare you steal away with Lord Donnal’s daughter!”

“Not a boy!” grunted Trey. “Let me up!”

Trey struggled under the weight of his brother. He would not escape without intervention, or a lucky hit. He freed an arm and swung again at his brother. Trey’s fist thumped weakly on Rion’s back. Rion retaliated with a sharp slap to Trey’s face. Trey tried to swing his arm again, but stopped when he felt an enormous hand take a grip of his hair.

Lord Donnal dragged Trey out from under Rion and to his feet by the hair. Trey screamed in pain as he was lifted.

Rion rose and gripped Trey’s arms behind him. Trey was forced to turn and face Lord Donnal, the irate father of the girl he hoped to champion one day.

“My daughter is not for you – or any other man – to court without my consent.” Lord Donnal wagged his finger in Trey’s face. “And you aren’t even a man! You are a child! You have no business stealing her from my sight.”

“I would only honor her – ” muttered Trey, breathless.

He was cut off by Lord Donnal’s sharp blow to his face. The back-handed slap to the face was made worse by the enormous rings worn by Donnal, which dug deeply into Trey’s flesh. Trey’s head snapped viciously to the side.

“Father!” Trey heard Rosaline’s voice carry across the hill slope.

Trey centered his head again, his eyes closed. That had hurt.

“I’ll not catch you with her again, boy,” scolded Lord Donnal.

“Aye, my Lord,” whispered Trey. He tasted blood in his mouth. He thought he noticed a loose tooth. Then he fell, and thought nothing more of it.

25 Days of Writing – Day 8

Day 8: What about their earlier school days? Write a scene of your character in grade school or middle school.

(This will be a little challenging, as my character did not attend school in the sense described above, but we’ll make do.)

————

Trey hefted the sword and glanced up at Sir Gilbert. Gilbert was poised with his own sword held in front of his body, ready for whatever Trey could hurl at him.

“Come on then, boy. Take this sword from my hand,” Gilbert commanded.

Trey glanced around him. The other boys, ages six through fifteen, watched him intently. Rion stood among the other boys, the eldest among them, smugly waiting to see how his younger brother would fare against their instructor. In a couple of weeks, Rion would undergo the trials and would become a full Mark-bearer.

Trey looked back at Gilbert and swallowed hard. He wondered if he could succeed.

Gilbert grinned, passing his weight from foot to foot, waiting. “Come on, boy.”

Trey glanced around again. On the hill beyond the practice yard he saw the young ladies gathering to watch. Rosaline would be there. He squinted to see her against the harsh backlight of the sky.

Smack!

Gilbert slapped Trey’s sword to the side, snapping the twelve-year-old boy back to reality, and nearly causing Trey to drop the sword. “I’m waiting, boy,” growled Gilbert with a smile.

Trey leapt into action, thinking himself capable of quickly disarming Sir Gilbert, and imagining the glory of having done so. Rosaline would be so very impressed.

Gilbert easily stepped aside and dodged and blocked every attempt Trey made. Gilbert laughed harder with each failed attempt. Trey’s frustration mounted and his technique became sloppy. Anger flushed through the boy, and he found himself fighting not to disarm, but to injure Sir Gilbert.

Gilbert, recognizing this, quickly put an end to the duel. With a few swipes of his sword and one well-placed boot, Gilbert disarmed the boy and left him sprawled on the ground.

“Control, boy. You need control. Strength and skill are nothing without control,” admonished Gilbert. Rion snorted. Obviously he felt that Trey had a stronger sense of self-worth than was deserved.

Gilbert stepped back and addressed the crowd of boys gathered there. “Enough for this day. Go to your chores and duties and remember: it is important to know your limitations and work within them, rather than to think yourself something that you are not.” Gilbert clapped his hands and strode away. The boys scattered.

Trey remained on the ground, thoroughly embarrassed and shamed. This day had been a disaster. He looked to the hill again, the girls were still there, gossiping among themselves. Rosaline had seen and heard everything. Yes, disaster indeed.

 

25 Days of Writing – Day 7

Day 7: FREE DAY! Write any scene you want!

————

Trey sat alone among the undergrowth, contemplating his life. He glared into the pond, the shore of which was only a few steps from his feet. Tiny fish swirled near the shore, snapping up insects that lit on the surface. A light breeze shifted the leaves in the trees, causing the dappled sunlight to twinkle in the water. A lovely, peaceful scene it was. It enraged him.

Trey found a stone near his hand and hurled it into the water. Ker-PLOP! He found and threw another, and another. And when there were no longer stones within reach, he tore up grass and flung it. And gobs of dirt and mud. He hated this place. He hated this day. He hated everything and everyone.

“Aaaaugh!” he hollered, clinching his fists and alternately waving them in the air and pounding them into the ground. He pounded the ground until the pain in his hands made him stop. He felt tears coming on, so he hastily rose and stalked off to find a less-beautiful setting.

Rion was dead. Rion was dead and now Trey was heir to the throne. He didn’t want the throne. He better served his kingdom as Mark-bearer and defender. The throne would mean stifling meetings, and courtly behavior. No more days and days afield, removed from all the bitterness of Herongarde. Now he would have to face everyone every single day. Rion was trained and groomed for the throne. This was never part of Trey’s destiny.

There would be a forced marriage, most likely. No proper king was unmarried. This enraged him the most. He did not want a wife. To have a wife can only bring pain. This marriage would be arranged for diplomatic reasons, no doubt, so at least he wouldn’t be forced to love her. But he’d have duties to her, duties that he did not want.

Trey broke from the woods near into a small open glade. A few people were gathered there, discussing the days burial. They noticed Trey and tried to wave him over, but he marched in the opposite direction. People! People everywhere!

He found a crumbling stone wall a short distance away beyond another stand of trees and sat. How could this have happened? What had he done so wrong? He gazed at the open field in front of him. He had played here with Rosaline as a child, and as they grew. He remembered her laugh, and how well she could kick the old puffball, when they could find them. She seemed to always hit him in the head with it, covering him with fungus spores, which would always result in a fit of sneezing from him and a solid scolding from his mother. He missed those days.

He had loved her, with every ember of his being. They grew up together. They were best friends. After he earned his Mark, he married her, and felt that no man could be as happy as he. But it was not to last. He had lost her two years ago. Lost her and their son as she tried to give birth. He had wanted a son desperately. She was not as eager, but she loved him so. The effort had killed her. Trey had killed her with his wish for a son.

Despite assurances from all that this was a matter beyond the control of any mortal man, and that surely Rosaline did not blame him, Trey could not forgive himself. His mother’s constant assurances that the pain would heal over time never came to pass.

Over time, he found himself withdrawing from all those formerly close to him. He committed himself to being the finest defender of Herongarde that lived. He would proudly serve the King, whether it be his father or his brother. He would lead men into battle and risk his life – daily if necessary – for the protection of his King’s lands. He would busy himself with this, and remove himself from the possibility of suffering that pain only women can cause ever again. It was the perfect outcome, he had thought. His life may be shortened, but it would be worthy.

But now Rion was dead. His plan was meaningless. His future destroyed. What now? he thought.

Tears welled in his eyes again and a sob built in his chest. He fought them back. Leaping off the wall, he began to walk back toward the castle. The emotional wave loomed over him. He walked faster, as if to escape. Before long he was running, but no longer toward the castle but toward the stables. A ride. A ride would do him good. And he would ride until this pain was gone.