Chronicals of Tenarria

So I’ve had a few ideas about writing over the years, some horror, some fantasy and some spy like fiction. Here is some of the fantasy line…

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Prologue.

The fire was flickering, crackling and fizzing in front of the makeshift tent. Every now and again a green pine cone would pop loudly echoing off the surrounding trees. Not that there would be anyone to hear it except the man hunched close to the flames trying to stave off the cold. The forest was big. Vast. A virgin expanse that grew in all directions for many many miles. No one would find him out here.

The only thing he would have to worry about finding him out here was the wildlife. He nervously glanced out into the darkness that loomed between the tree trunks. The light of the fire flickered and moved, making the shadows move restlessly. There were things in this forest that would kill a man and eat him, leaving not much behind that wouldn’t get cleaned up by the little scavengers, but mostly they were afraid of fire. Mostly.

After stacking a few more small logs on the blaze, his hand reached out automatically to touch the hilt of his battered shortsword that was lying in the dirt next to him. He wasn’t the most skilled swordsman in the land, nor was it the best of blades mostly used lately for hacking firewood and clearing underbrush. It would do for protection against a hungry beast.

Feeling the fire-warmed steel under his fingertips, he remembered the last encounter it was wielded with purpose. An easy enough sounding job, like dozens that had come before it over the last few years, but that quickly changed into something less easy. Something with ramifications that now had him now running out here alone in this forest.

The merchant caravan had looked like any other, no special markings or indeed anything out of the ordinary that might have served as a telltale sign that things were about to get nasty. It plodded along the dry, dusty canyon road with a train of mules behind it and a few bored looking guards sitting on it’s swaying roof. The fat merchant was sitting at the front driving the horses along himself.

From his hidden viewpoint, four men should be more than enough to overpower them with the element of suprise. They needed food or at least, goods to sell and trade for food as things had been very lean lately. Times were getting tougher and the smaller caravan’s like this were easy targets in rough times such as these as merchants couldn’t afford to hire the guards needed for proper protection. The more or less leader of the bandit crew, Dogan, said it would be a ‘doddle – a quick and easy knock over, don’t kill them unless we have to sort of job’ He’d had a tipoff that this train was carrying something special and was lightly gaurded.

As the van moved into a particularly slow section of the pass where the caravans roof came almost level with the top of the sides, two of them stepped out onto the dusty road 10 yards in front of the train with their swords drawn to flag the horses down, the merchant saw them and shouted out. The bored roof guards stood up and turned to the front to get a better look and were quickly subdued by the remaining two coming in swiftly out of hiding from the sides.

‘All valuables in the bag if you’d be so kind’ Dogan said, dropping a large sack on the ground in front of the van and pointing his sword at the merchant ‘And let’s see what’s in this train shall we?’

The man had stayed at the front of the train with his hand on one of horse’s bridles to keep them calm as Dogan walked down the side of the van to open the cargo doors. That in the end was what saved his life because it was over in the space of 5 secs. As Dogan reached out to unlatch the door there was the sound of splintering wood and Dogan staggered back with a crossbow bolt in his throat. One of the roof bandit’s had slid down the other side of the caravan to open the other side door was already on the ground with a bolt through his eye.

Still holding the horse’s bridle the man saw this happen in the blink of an eye and in shock looked up at the one remaining on the roof. He was standing, staring out unfocused into space. As the man watched, the man on the roof very slowly toppled over, turning as he did. A bolt had taken him from underneath.

‘One more at the front!’ someone had shouted, possibly the merchant, if it even was a merchant, but by that time the man had come to his senses and had bolted the way he had come. Something whizzed past his ear as he dodged to the side of the road and up into the scrub and rocks beyond.

Somehow he kept running far beyond the road not looking back and keeping to the rocks for cover expecting any second the jolt in his back, but it never came. Either they didn’t follow or somehow he had lost them. Eventually, far from the road, he stopped and collapsed down onto the ground, lungs and legs of fire. And fainted.

Out in the dark, past the edge of the small clearing, a twig snapped. The man drowsing by the fire started, his head snapped up and he peered out into trees in the direction of the sound. He strained to listen over the fire. Crackling. Another snap, and the rustling of undergrowth. Then suddenly in between two tree trunks a pair of eyes, shining and reflecting the firelight. At least it was one single pair of eyes not a cluster of eyes, or worse, several pairs of eyes or indeed several clusters. A wolf? No it was bigger than that. The beast trod forward just into the edge the firelight. A bear. A black bear. It just stood there watching him intently, seemingly not bothered by the fire at all. Without taking his eyes of the beast, his slid his hand towards his sword, not finding it. He felt a sharp jab on the back of his neck.

‘Hello,’ said a low, calm voice ‘I’ve taken care of that issue, so down on the ground, face first and hands behind your back, no running this time please’

As the man leant forward towards the ground he had a fleeting, mad thought about running,  but where to? Into the forest? Blindly running into the night? It wasn’t the sort of thing that lent itself to longevity, besides the crossbow bolt on his neck said otherwise and he was still haunted by the images of his recently depatured fellow bandits. In his mind he saw Dogan laying on the ground with half his face missing. Oh and of course, there was the bear. He noticed that the bear had moved forward into the firelight and had sat down. It was still watching him intently. In an odd moment of clarity, he noticed that the bear wasn’t actually black, it was brown. It was just wearing black armour.

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A nice map I drew too:

Tenarria