Monday, December 7, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09

Here are the first few chapters of what I wrote for National Novel Writing Month '09. I'll post a new version over the Summer of 2010 when I finish and edit the Novel for publication. Enjoy!

Heydon Hensley
NaNoWriMo ’09
Shadow Inquisitor
(Working Title)

Chapter 1

I started my career in a much different form from that which I currently pursue. Ten years ago, I was a street urchin, picking the pockets of the few travelers who wandered through the poor district of Ersine. Ersine was a modest city of around six thousand. The dirt roads all sloped towards the poor district so for two days after a big rain, everyone in my district would have to rake the sewage and filth from their dirt-floored houses.
In that respect, I was lucky. I lived wherever I could so I’d leave wherever I was staying on the night of a big storm, that way I didn’t have to help clean up. On a warm night, I’d sneak up on the thatched roofs and watch the stars glow. It wasn’t an easy childhood, but nothing was easy after the Dragon Dawn.
All the adults still talked about the “good ol’ days” when the taxes were lighter and the land around Ersine wasn’t blasted into glass and black rocks. I had no idea what the landscape looked like before the Dragon Dawn. The war ended eight years before I was born.
Personally, I didn’t mind the blasted landscape. It had a lot of hiding spots to offer. The large pitted black boulders called Dragon Stones made difficult terrain for the armored city watchmen. My nimble feet could quickly outdistance them on the few occasions I got caught sticking my hand in the wrong purse.
My favorite spot was South of Ersine. I found a huge hollowed out Dragon Stone that had just a big enough opening for me to squeeze through. I kept my favorite finds there. I had a ring with a really pretty, clear green rock in it. I’d sometimes gaze at it for hours, watching the different ways the hard lines of the rock caught the light. The inside of the ring had an inscription that said “For Anya.” I hope she got a new ring.
I also had a small chest with a lock on it. It wasn’t very big, it couldn’t hold anything larger than my foot, but I liked it. I buried it outside my rock fortress and dug it up when I felt like being one of the pirates I heard the adults talk about. I’d stomp around and shake the few coins I’d saved and threaten people’s daughters and collect ransom and all sorts of fun things.
Things changed after about my eighth summer, though who knows how accurate my reckoning is?
It was carnival time in the main city – the poor were expressly forbidden from Ersine Commons during this time. I sneaked over a wall and waited for the carnival the next morning. I was walking down Smith street, looking for a fat, easy purse when I saw someone purchasing the shiniest sword I’d ever seen. It stood almost four feet long at the tip with intricate gold wiring around the hilt.
I figured something like that would have to cost, so I walked a little closer. The man reached a hand out from his voluminous white shirt and stroked the handle gently. “It’s perfect.” He said, nodding his shiny, bald head. He balanced the blade on his fingers. “Good balance. What is your price?”
“400 and not a bent copper less.” The smith said, spitting tobacco into a bronze pot.
The man sneered, “300 and I’ll buy a scabbard.”
“Deal, but I choose the scabbard.”
The man waved two fingers in the air. “Go on.”
The smith drew a silver scabbard from under the table. Red and green stones glittered in the harsh sunlight. “Dwarven made. Dwarf worked for me a few months, made a few items in exchange for materials and the use of my forge. Made ‘specially for that sword.”
“700 and not a silver less.”
“700 for the pair? That’s ridiculous.”
“No. Not the pair, 1000 for the pair.”
“Why, my good, misguided sir, would I ever spend more on my scabbard than my blade? What would the Brotherhood think, hmm?” The man said.
“The Brotherhood? You didn’t say anything about this being Brotherhood business.” The smith turned pale under his sooty tan.
“Quite. I am Illithid assistant to Beholder, master of the Western Wastes.”
“Well, in that case I can offer you a special deal. 800 for the pair.” The Smith said, leaving a grey streak of caked soot as he wiped sweat from his brow.
“Good, sir.” Illithid said with a cool that took the edge off the sun and drove it into the hearts of all nearby. “That is still asking more for the scabbard than for this blade. Is something wrong with the blade?”
“Uh. Oh no, sir! It is an exquisite blade, but the scabbard has enchantments. Dwarf magic.”
“Proceed.” Illithid leaned forward, revealing a fat purse. As the smith went on about how the blade would never dull, I seized my chance and the purse at the same moment. I continued to walk down the street.
“Hey!” The smith shouted. “That twerp stole your coin purse!”
“I’m well aware.” The white bedecked man said. “HALT.”
My feet instantly ceased their motion, flinging me face forward into the hot sand.
My body picked itself up and walked back to the bald man, money sack outstretched.
The man looked at the smith again. “Continue, please.”
“What?” The smith said, staring. “Oh, right, the enchantments. The blade will never dull or uh rust – hey, is that kid going to move?”
“When I tell him to, yes.”
“Erm, right. So, the scabbard won’t let anyone except the owner draw the blade. Couldn’t you just do that to me? Tell me to hand over my goods and be done with it?”
“Why don’t you, then?” The smith asked.
“Would you?”
The smith whistled long and low. “No, sir. But that kind of power does stuff to people’s heads.”
The bald man smiled. “Doesn’t it though?” He drew out slim gold coins from his bag. “Here you are, eight hundred gold coins, as agreed upon. A pleasure.” He bowed low and grabbed his sword and scabbard. “Walk with Alhazar.” He said, kissing his hand and touching it to his head and then his chest.
“You as well, Brother.” The smith said, bowing low and repeating the salute.
My feet snapped to attention and followed Illithid.

Chapter 2
As we walked, Illithid explained things to me. He was a monk, a member of The Brotherhood. His cloister brothers were all taken from bad situations as I was now. Through the Brotherhood they were led to their true destinies. “I am named Illithid after the bipedal mind controllers, for that is my gift and my calling.” I nodded. “You attempted to steal what I owned, so now I own you. I am a man of justice.”
I walked forward without comment. I did not know whether my mouth was my own or not.
“We are a brotherhood devoted to the one, true god’s will. All praise be Alhazar.” He said as he kissed his fist, touching his head and then his chest.
I rolled my eyes. Gods were useless to me. All I needed was a meal and a place to sleep. I was exhausted.
We walked for long hours as Illithid droned about Alhazar’s holy order. “We purge the nation with holy fire. We are the Enforcers of Alhazar’s holy will.” I tried to ignore him. He annoyed me as much as I annoyed my mother with the incessant why’s.
I felt a twinge of guilt for leaving my mother. She was in prison so I didn’t see her often, and I couldn’t really do anything to help her, but I would miss my occasional visits. “Will I ever go home again?” I said aloud without realizing it.
“No one ever returns home.” Illithid said and then remained silent for a long while. Sun beat down upon the glossy, black Dragon Stone around us.
A hard wind kicked up hot sand and shards of Dragon Stone, stinging my eyes and cutting my face.
* * *
We walked through the night. I don’t know how we managed to survive the trek, as we never rested for food or drink despite the constant heat.
The landscape changed during our night trek. Gently rising hills of golden sand replaced the familiar blackened mounds around Ersine. “Beyond this dune lays my monastery.” Illithid spoke for the first time since the day earlier. “There we shall bathe, dine, and pay our respects to Alhazar.” He kissed his fist and touched it again to his forehead and chest. “We will be there before evening falls.”
His time estimate seemed off to me. The sandy hill looked close. I figured that another three fingers of the sun would fetch us there. But distances among the dunes are deceptive.
We walked for hours. First one hand, then two, then three hands of the sun passed. I could count a full six hand spans between the sun and the horizon. All the time we never seemed to gain on the dune. It grew further off with each step. I felt my strength begin to falter. “Focus.” Illithid said.
I focused on my feet, they still moved under duress. I focused on the dune in the distance. Get closer, damn you. I thought.
To my surprise, it did.
The dune appeared at my feet, in fact. I looked up and saw the dusty, blowing top some eighty feet above me. I sighed and kept following my guide. I had no other choice; even if I could control my body, the desert would surely kill me. Climbing the dune took impossibly long. We trudged for hours. The sun touched the tip of the dune behind us. I tried to watch as it set, and tripped on the gritty, rolling sand. Hot sand scalded my hands and knees. Granules of fire rolled into my boots, causing an itching burn that older men told me they felt downstairs after visiting certain whores. I had no idea how sand got on their stairs, or even what stairs they were talking about since all the houses in poor district were one storey, but I guess these men found sandy stairs and fell down them.
The sun plummeted behind the dune. A low purple haze colored the dunes around us. A light, droning hum thrummed around us as we topped the dune. “Locusts. Men suffocate when they swarm. Pray you find favor with Alhazar.”
I stepped out onto the plateau of the dune. The sand erupted into thousands of winged, buzzing monstrosities with large eyes and small brown bodies. I covered my mouth out of fear of inhaling the flying menaces. My guide laughed. It was a hard laugh, as hard and clear as the green stone in the ring I’d stolen.
I faintly saw the outline of my guide through the circling swarm. He seemed to have a great gap between him and the locusts. “They are our little guardians. No one who is unwanted may pass their many eyes.”
I closed my eyes and wished I could swat fast enough to knock away the big dumb eyes and round heads that kept flying into me. Suddenly, the bumping and crawling stopped. The world was silent except for faint chanting in the background. I opened my eyes.
A vast chamber lay before me. Round, red columns with black streaks supported a great domed ceiling. Red marble floors streaked in every direction. Rich tapestries depicting men battling winged humanoids with long fangs and glowing blue eyes hung against the wall over the stairs in front of us. “Whoa! What are those things?” I said, running up the stairs to the tapestries.
“Our enemies. They worship the Sender of the Flood.” Illithid dropped to one knee. “Praise Alhazar. He saved us from annihilation. Alhazar’s Ark was completed moments before the flood by Nahim, the father of mankind.” Illithid kissed his fist and touched his forehead and chest.
“Why do you do that?”
“The salute?” Illithid said, standing back up. “It is a symbol of the pact between my order and Alhazar. His desire conquered first our minds then our hearts. Unlike the Sender of the Flood, who demanded people’s hearts then asked their minds to follow the folly of emotion.
“When the rational people rejected the Sender’s doctrine as false, he sent his agents among us. Anjils, as they are known. They robed themselves in light, but fought like demons. All was almost lost when Alhazar himself descended late one winter night with a third of the stars. He rallied the people to him with his rational rhetoric and fierce fighting against the Anjils. Under his leadership we prevailed. Alhazar’s stars married our women, and we married theirs. Together we bore tremendous warriors, the Phalim.
“The Sender saw our might and grew afraid. He sent the Flood and for 40 days and nights, our world drowned. Alhazar and his troops returned to their starry kingdom, but not before Alhazar, praise be his name,” Illithid performed the salute, “told Naphem to build an Ark to save the world. Naphem took two of every animal along with his many sons and his harem. Through him the world was saved.”
“Whoa.” I said.
“Whoa, indeed, little one.”
“I’m not that little!” I shouted. Illithid struck me across the face, sending me sprawling across the shiny red and black floor.
“You are exactly as I say you are, and you are not to question me. Understood?” I nodded. He continued, “No disrespect of elders is permitted here.”
I wiped the blood from my mouth and nodded.
“It is good that you did not cry out, or I would have hit you once more. Never show weakness.” Alhazar wiped my blood from his hand on his red sash around his waist. “As penance for your crimes against our order and against Alhazar, I sentence you to a life of service to our lord. We are the Avengers, the Brotherhood’s arm in the world. Under my guidance and the watchful eyes of your teachers you shall learn discipline. We shall instruct you in the ways of mathematics, logic, combat – armed and otherwise – as well as training you in the precepts if Alhazar.”
“Praise be his name.” I kissed my fist and touched it to my forehead and chest, smearing blood over my dusty face and tunic. As soon as I finished the salute, I felt the unnatural hold of Illithid fall from my body like heavy chains.
“Alhazar has set you free.” Illithid said. “Now that you are free, Alhazar will give you a new name. Come, we go to the library and read from the Holy Texts. Then you will write your new name in goat’s blood and set fire to the scroll, as it is written for it is a pleasing aroma to him.”
“Excuse me.” I stuttered. “But I can’t read or write except for a few words.”
“How have you survived this long without the gift of words?!”
“An empty stomach doesn’t need words much.”
Illithid struck me again in the face. “Books are the bread of the mind. You ate, yet you starved.”
I picked myself up again, being careful to stay out of reach of Alhazar’s arms. “Can I eat something, speaking of food?”
“After the Holy Texts have been read.”
I sighed, but quickly checked my complaint as Illithid raised his hand to strike me again.
“Follow me.” He said.

I hope you all enjoyed the read. I just got comments back from my Creative Writing teacher who has spent the last 20 years as a producer for HBO. She's fully expecting a book contract to stem from this work. Thoughts?


  1. In the the 5th to last line of the 2nd chapter I think you mean to say Illithid, not Alhazar. ;) Good though!

  2. Cool stuff, Heydon. Hope you post some more!