I have finally been getting back into the groove of writing every day. (Now that life has decided to give back a little of the free time it stole from me) Honestly, a lot of it had to do with prioritizing writing above other things. *stares angrily at the Pinterest link*
As a treat for all my loyal readers, I've decided to post a small chunk of my book. Some of you may remember the beginning from my post Snagged a while ago, so you should enjoy seeing how the story continues.
As always! Critiques are welcome. In fact, they are requested! If you have a tip to share, a problem you noticed, or just a thumbs up, pretty-please share in the comments at the bottom of the post!
Nobby’s heart pounded in his ears and his lungs burned with fire as he dashed through the shadowed forest. His soft leather boots made only the slightest thump on the marshy floor with each flying stride he made and his flight was as silent as it was swift. A patch of mist hovering low over the ground warned Nobby of the starving mud below. Rapidly counting the strides, he leaped over the mist and landed on the safety of firm ground. Nobby glanced back and saw several fleeting shadows following him like wraiths in the night. He snapped his head around in time to dodge another patch of bog. A fallen tree lay up ahead, its gnarled roots splaying in all directions like an overgrown palace. Nobby bounded up and slid down a root that led into a maze of dirt tunnels that barely allowed his slim form to slip through. He clambered up a web of roots and slid down to the other side in a desperate attempt to lose his pursuers. There was a loud scuffle and several hissed oaths because the pathway only allowed one person to go through at a time. Nobby changed his direction and grasped a low hanging branch, swinging himself into the tree. With the agility of a squirrel, he bounded from limb to limb; using only the sturdiest ones that wouldn’t shake as much. After a distance he dropped back onto the ground and continued to run. His legs felt like water and his heart was a burning ember in his chest. With a final burst of energy, Nobby swung himself into another tree and climbed up into the crotch. He sucked in several choking breaths before forcing himself to stay quiet. He shut his eyes to focus on steadying his trembling limbs that would shake the branch he was hiding in. He resisted the urge to pull down the black cloth covering his mouth and nose. His pale skin would shine out in the night if he pulled it down to gasp in fresh air.
All was painfully silent for an eternity of time. Nobby’s eyes scanned the forest floor, picking out the areas of mist covering the bog that, in the daytime, looked like any other patch of marshy, moss covered ground. The mist, the key to avoided death by drowning, only appeared in the dead of night and evaporated in the morning– making the Murkwater Forest the most treacherous to anybody other than the Loriens.
Nobby tensed as a shadow silently drifted by underneath him. Judging from the broad shoulders and sturdy stride, Nobby suspected Garner was just below him. Another figure, slimmer than the first, joined Garner, and they held a hushed conversation. Nobby’s sensitive hearing picked up several words.
“…Must have headed towards the Blackwater”
The slim figure shook his head. “Would have heard him.”
Nobby held his breath as the two figures looked around the forest. As long as they didn’t look up he would be safe.
The rustling of branches behind him caused Nobby to jerk around just in time to see a third black figure pounce towards him. Nobby gripped a branch and let himself fall, only to be caught by his hand. His assailant, missing his intended target, fell to the forest floor with a thud and the other two figures looked up. Nobby hung precariously from one hand over thin air for a moment before hauling himself back into the branches. He considered jumping to the ground and fleeing on foot. A glance down made the decision for him. Too late. Garner and the other figure were already halfway up the tree while the third figure picked himself up and waited for him to make just that decision. Nobby slung himself through the branches, jumping from tree to tree. The next tree was a far jump and Nobby took it without hesitation. Suddenly his leg was caught from behind and his momentum stopped. Nobby fell to the forest floor inches from a section of mist and the air was forced from his lungs as his attacker fell on top of him. Before Nobby could catch his breath his hands were pinned and a dagger was at his throat.
“Close. But no close enough.” A smooth male voice said from behind the black cloth that covered everything but his eyes.
Nobby looked up into the eyes of his captor, whose razor sharp blade was dangerously close to slitting his throat. The corners of the bright hazel eyes wrinkled as the owner smiled. Nobby tensed as three more black figures joined the victor who pinned him down.
“You don’t have to completely humiliate me, Twain.” Nobby gasped against the dagger.
The figure sheathed his dagger and got to his feet, offering a hand to him. Nobby allowed Twain to pull him to his feet. His legs were still shaky from the flight and his lungs burned as his breathing gradually returned to normal. He ripped the cloth away from his face and inhaled the cool forest air.
“You nearly gave us the slip going through the Tarn,” Garner said through wheezing breaths.
The slim figure pulled off his hood and revealed his tan skin and black hair. “If Garner hadn’t insisted on going first we wouldn’t have lost him.”
“That’s what you think, Varl,” contradicted the third, “You were the one that – “
“Peace, Severin,” Twain said with a smile as he clapped a hand on his companion’s shoulder. All of them were nearly the same height except for Garner, who’s thicker build made him appear larger, but Twain was most certainly the shortest. “Nobby gave us all the slip quiet neatly. I just happened to be the lucky one in the tree when he took that foolhardy leap.”
“Couldn’t you have avoided landing on me?” Nobby asked, wrapping his arms around his bruised chest. “I would never be able to explain a broken rib to Edmund.”
The spark of Twain’s eyes shone around his massively dilated pupil, which looked eerily cat-like, as he grinned. “Be thankful I didn’t grab the hood of your cloak or you would have had to explain a broken neck as well.”
Nobby rolled his eyes, which showed as much blue than Twain’s showed hazel. The extra dilated pupil enabled him and all other Lorians navigate the dangerous Murkwater Forest where no Human feet ever tread. The woods, blanketed in the midnight darkness, was a canvass of blues and greens to Nobby's dilated eyes.
Twain looked up through the fluttering leaves of the trees. “The moon is going to sleep.”
Nobby nodded and pulled his cloak back over his face, giving a farewell nod to each of his Lorenian friends. “I need to get back before the servants wake up and Edmund hears I’ve been out again.”
Twain gave Nobby a backhanded slap on the shoulder. “You did much better tonight. Perhaps tomorrow Severin will deem it a good use to time to throw some knives around.”
The Lorien named Severin folded his arms across his chest and glared. Twain spread his arms out in innocence. “That was meant as a compliment. We all know you could pick a crabapple off a branch while reclining in the grass.”
The cold in Severin’s eyes eased a bit and he nodded. Nobby thought he caught the faintest hint a smile tugging at the corner of his stoic friend’s mouth. Garner, Varl, and Severin raised a hand in parting.
“Cowritte,” they said in broken unison.
Nobby raised his hand in return. “Cowritte, hu cwaik.”
The three Loriens disappeared into the forest as silently as shadows.
“Your forest navigation isn’t the only thing improving,” Twain commented approvingly. “Soon you will be speaking Lorenian so well nobody would guess you weren’t a full-blooded native.”
Nobby turned and allowed a faint smile cross his face at the compliment. Twain, who had just pulled the fabric over his freckled nose, gestured for him to follow.
“Come along, cwaik. I shall walk you to the Forest’s edge.”
Twain began sprinting across the ground and swung into a tree. Nobby followed a few steps behind as they dashed from tree to tree. When they neared edge of the forest they dropped to the ground and walked until they could see the fields and dark silhouetted houses of Marlin. Nobby stopped and turned to his friend.
“Tomorrow is a full moon. We will be able to see better while throwing knives.” Twain said in the typical blunt fashion that seemed to accompany the Lorien blood.
Nobby nodded and grasped the hand Twain offered. Twain turned and vanished back into the forest while Nobby headed down the dirt road that skirted the village of Marlin. The fields were bathed in pale moonlight and the long shafts of wheat waved gently in the wind that caressed them. Nobby broke into a jog as the fields and quaint wooden cottages petered out into the cobblestone streets of Marlin Square.
Nobby slipped into the shadows of a building and paused for a moment. He closed his eyes and trained his ear to sift through the night sounds until he picked out the gentle creak of leather and rubbing of gloved hands. A shuffled footstep pinpointed where the guard was standing. Nobby retreated and turned down another road where he knew no guards would be patrolling. He paused for a moment to think. It was probably about the third watch of the night - there would be guards stationed along all the roads leading home. Nobby ran to a dead end alley and shimmied up a pile of crates. He leaped up and gripped the corner of the roof. The wood nearly gave way under his weight as he pulled himself up. Keeping low to avoid being silhouetted against the sky, Nobby ran from roof top and rooftop. Several times there was a large gap over an alley. With practiced strides he cleared the daunting obstacle. As the houses grew farther apart he was forced to return to the ground. He was on the outskirts of town again and before him stretched the manicured lawn of Marlin House, belonging to Baron Gormon – the only home he could ever remember. Nobby avoided the main brick pathway that led to the Manor doors, instead slinking along the outskirts where a thick hedge walled in the grounds. He came to the far side of the house where ivy grew in a thick tangled web up the rock walls. Nobby dashed over and gripped a stout ivy vine. He shimmied up the ivy ladder until he was below a window. He reached a hand up and grasped the ledge, digging his nails in as he pulled himself up. Balancing on the ledge, he pushed the window inward before swinging his legs into the empty room. He listened for a moment and was satisfied with the silence that greeted him.
After closing the window, Nobby shed his Lorien garb which included leather Baldricks, which held his daggers and knives, a Jerkin of dark oiled leather, his forest green cloak, Bracers, and the black scarf that wrapped around the lower part of his face. He sat on the edge of his bed to pull off his boots and unbuckle the sheathed knives around his ankles. Nobby gathered everything together and tied it in a bundle with his cloak before stuffing it on the top shelf of his wardrobe where the servants wouldn’t find while cleaning.
Nobby closed his window and slid under the blankets just as the moon dipped behind the distant mountains. He collapsed against the pillows and his body gave into the exhaustion he had been fighting off on the journey home. He had slept a few hours before leaving and with another hour of sleep he would be back to normal. His Lorien blood worked in bursts of energy that hardly needed any sleep to fuel. But after the night’s chase through the forest, Nobby was completely spent. Sleep soon captured him and refused to let go even after the sun’s rays pierced the window’s curtains and fell on his face.
A knocking on his door finally dragged Nobby from the arms of sleep. The door opened and Edmund strolled in. Nobby pushed himself out of bed and raked his fingers through his unruly copper hair.
“You are about to miss breakfast, Nobby.” Edmund warned as he pulled back the drapes.
“Too bright!” Nobby exclaimed and winced against the sun, shielding his eyes with his hand.
Edmund crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at him with piercing blue eyes full of suspicion. Once Nobby was able to see against the sun he threw back the covers and swung his legs over the side of the bed. His toes tingled as they touched the cold wooden floor.
“We have riding lessons after breakfast,” Edmund stated.
Nobby nodded, jerking on his boots. As he pulled his white tunic over his head he heard Edmund sigh. “You were out again last night, weren’t you?”
Nobby slipped his arms through his green doublet and began fastening the buckles, hoping his silence would give Edmund enough of an answer.
“Answer the question,” Edmund demanded with a harsh edge to his voice.
Nobby looked up at his brother. They stood nearly eye to eye despite the fact that Nobby was seventeen and Edmund a year younger; they were different in nearly every way except their blue eyes. Even that one similarity had its limits since Nobby’s eyes could dilate far more than Edmund’s.
Edmund gave an exasperated huff and turned away to run his fingers through his wavy, dark brown hair. “Why do you still cling to that side?”
Nobby threw his arms out. “Why not? I’m just as much a Lorien as I am a Human.”
“But we live with Humans,” Edmund said, his voice rising ever so slightly.
“Correction: You live with Humans. I, on the other hand, live in both worlds.”
Edmund sighed in defeat. Nobby walked up and laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “You should come with me, Edmund. You are Lorien as well.”
Edmund shrugged his hand off. “I don’t choose that side.”
“If you have the freedom to choose, can’t I?”
Edmund’s shoulder’s sagged and he slowly nodded. Nobby put his hand back on his brother’s shoulder and this time Edmund allowed it to stay there.
“I don’t want to always have this conversation,” Nobby said, trying to dispel the tense atmosphere. “You are the only person who knows that I spend my nights with the Loriens, and that’s how it will always be. No questions will ever be asked and you will never be hindered by my actions.”
Edmund glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. “That’s not what I’m worried about.”
“You can try to pretend,” Nobby said, “But I know that’s what bothers you. I don’t want our life here to get messed up any more than you do.”
“If the people ever learned that you went out with the Loriens.” Edmund didn’t finish his sentence, but the point was clear.
Nobby nodded. “Nobody will ever know.” And awkward moment of silence reigned until Nobby said, “I’m starving.”
The corner of Edmund’s mouth twitched up and Nobby felt his chest relax as his brother nodded again. He grabbed his riding gloves and cap off his desk before following Edmund out into the hallway. They walked down the carpeted halls lined with stone walls covered in painted pictures. Several maids, dressed in stiff grey dresses and starched aprons, bustled by to clean the rooms without making eye contact. Nobby flipped the soft green hat over his unruly hair as they neared the dining hall. He reached a hand up and pulled the corners of the hat low enough to cover the point of his ears. The points were subtle enough that people dismissed it as a deformity. But anybody who saw him dressed in his Lorien clothes would quickly discover the truth.
Nobby could hear the clinking of dishes as he rounded a corner and came to the dining room where the servants were already setting the table. Baron Gormon, a pale, sickly man, who spent far too much time in his dungeon of a library studying absolutely nothing of any importance, sat at the head of the table peering at the breakfast preparations down his long and skinny nose.
“It’s a pleasure to see you two have remembered to be on time for a change.” The Baron declared louder than needed. “Hurry and eat before the stable master rides without you. He is not as patient as I am.”
Nobby suppressed his facial expressions as he and Edmund took their seats at the table. Thankfully, this condescending comment was all the Baron deemed worthy to say for the rest of the meal and Nobby didn’t linger any longer than necessary. He excused himself as politely as he could without sounded sarcastic and exited the dining room followed closely by Edmund. They went through the heavy oak doors and into the intense sunlight that bathed the world in its warmth. The trees were just beginning to turn into the brilliant shades of Fall. Winter would set in soon. Then the Murkwater Forest would freeze and there would be no more midnight chases.
Nobby put off these somber thoughts and followed the pathway to the far side of the grounds. Here the manicured lawns gave way to several large paddocks where horses grazed. They picked their heads up at the sound of his footsteps and nickered their greeting. Tethered to the hitch stand outside the stable were several horses belonging to village boys who were training under the Stable Master.
“Come inside,” a deep and raspy voice called from the stable door.
Nobby turned to face Peter Snade, the Stable Master and trainer. He had come to the village only a few years ago and had instantly begun training all the village boys who were big enough to draw a sword in the art of being a King’s guard. Baron Gormon had insisted upon Nobby and Edmund joining the ranks so there was little choice.
Nobby after master Snade into the warm barn. Dust drifted through the air and Nobby stifled the urge to sneeze as he inhaled the scent of crushed oats, broken hay, and warm horses. Over a dozen boys, all around his age, stood in a military line against the barn wall. Nobby and Edmund joined their ranks, though their clothing distinguished them as higher ranking. Nobby caught the eye of Gary Whiliker, a blond village boy who spent most of his time ploughing the fields alongside his father. He was a bit of a troublemaker and fiercely set upon being a king’s guard. Gary acknowledged Nobby and Edmund with a barely perceptible nod as they came to stand alongside him.
“Some of you boys from the village have your horses already saddled,” Master Snade grated. “Those of you who don’t will have to work double time to saddle up and get out into the yard. Those who are late will spend the rest of the day cleaning this barn until I can actually breath without inhaling half of mother earth through my nose.”
Nobby couldn’t hold it any longer. He doubled over with the force of his sneeze and half of the line erupted into terribly suppressed giggles. When Nobby straightened he met Snade’s steely eyes.
“Unless you’re volunteering now, Lord Gusto, I suggest you keep your thoughts to yourself.”
Nobby bit his tongue to fight a snarky comment as Snade jerked a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the paddocks. “Saddle up, soldiers.”
Nobby, Edmund, and several of the other village boys entered the paddocks where the horses eagerly came to them. They nuzzled their pockets hoping for a carrot or a lump to sugar. Nobby selected a long-legged black gelding named Raven and slipped the bridle over his ears. He tied the reins to the wooden fence while he picked up the saddle and hoisted it across Raven’s back, cinching the girth tight. Raven tossed his head as Nobby swung astride. Across the paddock, Edmund mounted a grey mare with a testy personality. Nobby grew slightly concerned as Edmund worked the bit out from between the mare’s teeth.
“There are many other horses in the pasture.” Nobby said as they rode out of the paddock to join the other riders alongside master Snade.
“Don’t pretend you’re the only one who can ride.” Edmund retorted as the mare’s tail flicked irritably.
Nobby shrugged and they pulled up in a line next to the other riders. Snade began laying out their riding course for the day. It was going to be a lesson in reconnaissance.
“The only way to learn is through life.” Snade bellowed at them. “Several farmers have new livestock. Based off of your work yesterday you should be able to locate where they house them, how many there are, and who they belong too. I want you back before noon. The Loriens in the forests are getting more sneaky in their raids so we need to keep tabs on every single animal that these farmers have. As a guard you don’t have time to dilly-dally. All decisions must be based off of instinct. If you hesitate,” here Snade dragged a thumb across his neck.
The riders nodded and Nobby felt Raven began to prance under him. Snade stepped back and pointed in the direction of the village. “Captain Nobby will take the outskirts with his men, Captain Trisk the middle ring, and Captain Peete, the town Square. Get out of here.”
Raven lurched forward without the need of the riding crop and Nobby leaned forward to keep himself from being flung off. Edmund was only a stride behind him as they raced over the fields. Nobby glanced back with an ear-splitting smile as he cleared a fence into a local pasture. He knew exactly which farmer had gotten at least some of the animals. Yesterday while on patrol he had overheard farmer Hon talking about getting some piglets from his neighbor. Nobby caught sight of several riders branching off from the group. No doubt they were having similar recollections. Edmund and Gary still followed him as they thundered across the fields towards a little cottage not far outside of village. A grey haired man stepped out of the house at the sound of horse hooves.
“We heard you’ve gotten new piglets,” Nobby stated in an authoritative voice.
Hon’s eyes flickered between the three youths in unease. “Yes, sir, just got ‘em this mornin’. I hope there ain’t nothing wrong.”
Nobby felt bad for making the old man nervous but he couldn’t slacken his posture.
“As our rank demands, we are obliged to keep track of all happenings in the village of Marlin.” Edmund said crisply.
Hon paled a bit. Edmund leaned forward on the saddle horn to stare down at him. “How many animals did you get?”
“Just three, your lordship.” Hon stammered. “They’re housed in the barn as I speak.”
Edmund sat back up and narrowed his eyes. Nobby stopped his from rolling at his brother. One of these days I’m going to put a pig skin full of air under his saddle so when he leans forward it will sound like there’s a pig in his pants. Nobby jerked the reins and tapped his riding crop to his cap before riding off towards the next house. They inquired at every cottage until they had gleaned every bit of information they could squeeze out. Nobby led the way towards the Square, where he hoped to meet up with Captain Peete. The shops that had been closed during the night were now open and people filtered through the streets. Nobby navigated among the people at a brisk trot. Several of the other riders joined him and reported their findings. Nobby’s eyes drifted over the crowds around him to see if there was anything out of the ordinary. As he analyzed each his gaze came to rest on a cloaked figure with a light brown beard covering his chin. Intense eyes stared directly at him from under the shadow of the hood. Nobby felt his skin crawl and he sidled close to Edmund without taking his eyes from the man.
“He’s new,” Nobby muttered.
Edmund followed his gaze until they rested on the cloaked figure. “Let’s go find out his business.”
Nobby rode towards the man with Edmund close behind. When the man realized they were coming towards him he turned and fled into a side street.
“Stop!” Edmund yelled as he kicked his horse into a canter.
Raven needed no urging and Nobby yelled at the people to move. They rounded the corner and Reynold saw the tip of the man’s cloak disappear around another corner.
“That way,” he yelled and spurred his horse onward.
Nobby came around the next corner first and pulled is horse to a stop. The alley was empty and a dead end.
“Impossible.” Edmund exploded as he stared around wide eyed.
Nobby checked but there were no doors that could have allowed the man to slip through their net and nothing big enough for him to hide behind or in.
“He was up to no good, I can assure you of that.” Edmund conjectured.
Nobby gave a half nod. “Master Snade won’t be pleased that we let him escape.”
“Escape?” Edmund snorted. “The wraith vanished into thin air. How could he expect us to trap a shadow?”
“He was no wraith, Ed. Just a very good escape artist.” Nobby muttered.
Edmund turned his horse around and rode back towards the square, still muttering under his breath angrily. As Nobby turned to follow his eyes fell upon the far corner of the dead end where two buildings came together to form a sharp corner. Along both edges there were deep ruts scraped into the plaster and the moss was worn away from a few areas. Reynold’s heart leapt in his chest. Only a Lorien could climb like that! But what was a Lorien doing in Marlin?
As I said earlier: Tips, suggestions, and approval/disapproval are all welcome!! Also, if you would like to read more of the story, let me know and I'll start posting more of it on my blog.