A couple of weeks ago
, I told how most of my 'gaming' time from the past year or more has actually been devoted to writing. I've always wanted to be a novelist and decided it was time to make it a reality.
My intention is to self-publish my novel (The Ramparts of Tharrenton Deep
), and I'm running a Kickstarter campaign
to fund that process. The campaign is going fairly well; I'm currently at 57% of my funding goal of $2266 with 17 more days to go.
To try to draw attention to my project, I'm posting chapters of the first novel here at CartoCacography. Chapter One is here
. Chapter Two is here
. Chapter Three is below.
As with any crowdfunding campaign, it will not be successful unless I can find backers who are interested in my writing and interested in the project. I purposefully wrote the story to match the general aesthetic that I like in my gaming--a decidedly old school vibe where normal people are attempting abnormal things, where success is not guaranteed, and where death is a very real possibility. I truly believe that anyone who frequents this corner of the blogosphere would enjoy the story. Please go read the previous chapters; please go check out the Kickstarter campaign; and please help out if you have a spare buck (or pound or euro) or two. Thanks!
Without further ado, Chapter Three:
The Brothers: Kolredd and Gaenid
stood at the entrance to a small stone crypt on the hill over the House of
Karred. The morning chores were done for
the day, and the late morning sun shone on his back. The crypt’s eave came barely to his shoulder,
although he knew that the four steps just inside led downward so that he’d be
able to stand upright. He hadn’t entered
since he was but eight or nine years old, when his grandfather had been laid to
rest within its dim confines. It was the
stories that his grandfather used to tell him that brought him to the crypt
this day, tales of mighty warriors who protected New Tharrenton from the
creatures who called the forests home.
grandfather had spoken of it many
times, so much so that Gaenid knew the stories were true. Despite his grandfather and uncles now dead
and his own older brothers denying that it existed, he was sure that he would
find it in the crypt.
He said a
short prayer for forgiveness, made the sign, and withdrew the iron key from his
pocket. He slid it into the lock and
twisted hard on the cold metal block.
Surprisingly, it turned easily, and the lock fell open in his hand. He pulled it from the door, quickly ducked
through the entrance, and, in his haste, forgot how steep the steps were and
fell to the stone floor. Cursing loudly,
he pulled himself to his feet and was struck by the dank odor of long-ago
the five paces that took him to his grandfather’s resting place, actually a
hole in the stone wall that was two feet wide, a foot high, and six feet
deep. The top of the deads-helm was
plainly visible in the dim light. Just
below his grandfather was a smaller hole; only a quarter of the size and half
as deep, the deathhold contained those items sacred to the deceased.
moved to his left, gazed from floor to ceiling, and then left again, tracing
backward through generations of family patriarchs. Finally, he came to the ancestor he
suspected. Again saying a short prayer
for forgiveness, he reached into the deathhold and felt around with his hand. Some ancient items of clothing disintegrated
under his touch. He continued to grope
around and then felt it. Leather, dried
and cracked, wrapped round a long and narrow object. His hand tightened around the object and the
leather cracked further. It was heavy,
as he expected it to be, but he quickly pulled it from the deathhold. He had found it!
hand, in a leather scabbard that fell to pieces even as he gazed upon it,
rested a sword. Buthercurr was wielded by his grandfather six generations previous
and by the men of three generations previous to him.
say that Buthercurr is
enchanted—could it be true? Is there
magic still in the world, or has it left with the passing of the dwarves, the
elves, and the dragons? Gaenid didn’t
know the answer to these questions—he had asked them many times over the course
of his short life.
the blade close to his face, he examined its edge, and then pulled his thumb
across it. Keen, even after all of those
years. His eyes slid up and down its
length—no nicks or dents to be seen. And
then he felt it—Buthercurr seemed to
vibrate in his hand. A slight
tingling—it was as if he had struck the sword against a stone wall. Was he imagining it? He swung the sword once, as far as could be
done in the small confines of the crypt.
It felt to Gaenid that the sword pulled his arm through the motion
rather than him directing it.
feel the excitement in the pit of his stomach.
The sword would be
accompanying him on the journey.
gazed at him with a face that was stern, but with eyes that belied other
feelings. “You have been a proper third
son. You have served your duty to me, to
your older brother, to the land. You
should be thinking of a wife and a homestead of your own soon. Instead, you think of this.”
no answer. He merely returned his
father’s gaze with similarly calm eyes.
man stood just beyond the low stone fence that marked the edge of his
property. They had met there, where the
son knew the father would be returning from his day. Karred leaned his walking stick against the
stone wall and turned to walk along it.
have seen this coming,” Karred said. “Long
after tales of adventure faded for my eldest, you continued to ask to hear
them. Perhaps I fed your desires—those
tales interested me when I was a lad.
Telling you the stories was a way for me to remember when my father told
me the same.”
nodded absently. He always knew that his
father enjoyed their times by the fire, whether the great hearth of his home or
under the starry sky.
know that our ancestors once believed that New Tharrenton would grow to be as
mighty and prosperous as Tharrenton itself?
When the City Guarded by Stone fell and the survivors fled, many of them
came to settle in the lands around the village.”
of the oldest men in and around New Tharrenton, Karred was still strong and
straight of back. Kolredd often hoped
that he might be half as strong when he reached his father’s age. And yet, walking across the fence from him,
the older man seemed somehow smaller than usual.
“So many of
the old homesteads have been abandoned,” Karred continued. “The old families have faded. Fields overgrown; homes homes no longer. Even as our family has grown, most of the others
have shrunk or died. I remember, before
I married, when Marketday might see five hundred faces in the village—when it
was still a village!”
could not imagine such a thing. Five
hundred faces! He had never seen half
that in one place.
said, when I was your age, that New Tharrenton had been growing smaller for
in silence for some minutes. Karred
occasionally bent down to look over the stones of the fence. He tugged at them, testing the wall’s
journey, perhaps it will shrink the village even more,” said the old man. “Or perhaps the village will grow after your
success? Who can say? I cannot, and I’ve no right to try. I’ve toiled the land, raised a family, built
a homestead to rival any that New Tharrenton has seen. But I haven’t left this place. Will you leaving help kill the village or
leaving the village for its sake,” Kolredd responded. “I’m leaving for mine. I’m leaving so that when I grow to be your
age, I can say that I did. Perhaps I’ll
settle here, after my fortune is made.”
“Fortune—yes! A sack of crowns and a mighty sigil to my
name! Then I will raise a family and
build a homestead—to rival even your own.”
laughed at his son’s confidence. The
smile was warm and affectionate and easily returned by the son. Karred’s smile lingered on his face for many
moments, and he occasionally chuckled to himself. They walked further in silence, until the
smile eventually faded.
tales by the fire, most were not truths but lies told by travelling bards. Heroes, mages, maidens, creatures stronger
than ten men? Mmm.” The old man paused and looked at his
son. “Evil nobles? There is enough evil in each of us—the world
could not bear truly evil men. Quests
for shining treasure? No.”
treasure to be found; there are piles
of gold crown.”
“I hope for
my sake that you are right. But for now,
silence. Back to the hearth where we
will feast, and you can tell your sister what it is you plan.”
hearth of the commonroom was bright with the light of three cooking fires
blazing. Kaise, Karred’s only daughter
and youngest child, sat next to a large cauldron at the center of the hearth,
stirring its contents with a great spoon.
Gaenid had just entered to find his three older brothers sitting at the
High Table with Karred. Amathere, the
oldest, and Ongrinn, the second, sat across from Kolredd with grave expressions
on their faces.
nodded, already tired of the conversation.
you leave?” The question barely hid the
contempt in Ongrinn’s voice.
paused in the doorway, not wanting to be drawn into a debate about their
plans. He looked to his sister, obviously
interested in what the men were discussing.
The aroma wafting from her cauldron was the only reason he did not turn
and leave immediately.
looked back to the table to see that Amathere’s question was directed at
him. He didn’t feel it necessary to
and Ongrinn were a year apart. And then
seven years later, Kolredd had been born, Gaenid a year later, and finally
Kaise two years after that. The two
eldest often took it upon themselves to tell the three youngest how and why
they were wrong. Their reaction was
expected and boring because of it.
wanted so much to announce to the room that he had Buthercurr and that the sword would ensure that he and Kolredd
would return safely. He knew without a
doubt what the reaction from his brothers would be. He was unsure of Karred’s reaction, and it
was for this that he held his tongue.
spoken of it often,” Kolredd answered.
Gaenid was more enthusiastic for the journey than he was, but, as had
been the case for as long as he could remember, Kolredd felt the need to band
together with his younger brother in defense against the older. He wasn’t sure if Gaenid appreciated it or not;
he never thought to care.
Ongrinn asked. “Your band? Terga, Felrath, and the others?”
nodded in response.
the House?” demanded Amathere.
of Erretharbin is strong,” said Karred, speaking for the first time since
Gaenid entered the room.
House is only as strong as the sons of the Lord,” said Ongrinn.
“And I, as
Lord of this House,” began Karred, “have been blessed with four sons, two adult
and two to become so.” He looked evenly
at each of his sons with approval and respect for each of them, and then he
stopped and gazed lovingly over his shoulder at Kaise, diligently working the
cauldron. “And a beautiful daughter
besides. The House is strong—stronger
than I could have hoped for when I was given the badge. No other Houselord around New Tharrenton
possesses a like bounty.”
want to grow that bounty—”
interrupted his oldest son. “You have,
and will continue. But Kolredd and
Gaenid have chosen a different path.”
interrupted again, anger rising in his voice.
“The duty of the Third Son or Fourth Son is not the same as that of the
First, or the Second. They have done
will let them and their—playmates,”
Ongrinn almost spat the word, “journey to the Pit—”
“Second!” Karred’s sharp use of the formal title caught
his son. Ongrinn abruptly shut his
mouth. “Permission was asked and
turned to face his father directly.
“What of Adojan? What of the
Party of Ten? Have you told Kolredd,
Gaenid, about them?”
Adojan caught both of the younger men by surprise. They had not known the man, but they did know
some of his relatives. What they both
knew is that he had left New Tharrenton around the time that they had been born. It was not uncommon for men to leave the
village, so they had never given him a second thought. They both looked to Karred.
wasn’t. At least, not for Gaenid. “What of Adojan?”
ignored him and stood up.
Houselord stepped from the table and moved toward the doorway that led to his
chambers. Halfway across the room, he
Kaise repeated. She stood from the
cauldron, ready to abandon it.
turned toward his children, but did not raise his eyes to them. “Adojan was one of Riorley’s folk, of House Gulhobar. Twenty-two years ago, at the height of
summer, he led a band of ten New Tharrenton men to the Pit.”
became of him?” asked Kolredd.
father took a deep breath; it was obviously difficult for him to answer the
question. “They left on a
Marketday. The village held a kermis for
them. It hadn’t been attempted in
years. There was still, among some in
the village, the old desire to return to the city, to take back what had
belonged to our ancestors.” He quieted
as he spoke, reliving a memory that he had not come to him in many years. “Songs were sung; flowers were thrown.” He finally looked up at them.
said Gaenid. “What happened?”
glanced at his youngest son, his face calm with the memory, and then he grimaced. Striding back to stand before his eldest, he
struck Amathere with his open hand. Not
expecting the blow, Amathere fell to the ground beside the High Table.
your purpose in mentioning it?” Karred raged.
“The First, and even now a fool!”
His sudden rage surprised everyone in the room, especially his battered
son. He turned back the way he had come
and left the commonroom.
knelt to help Amathere to his feet, but the eldest violently shrugged him
off. Amathere glared at his siblings and
then left the room through another exit, growling low in his throat as he
asked Kaise. “What was that…?”
stood, puzzled, and then realization struck him.
Amathere hoped to remind father of Adojan, to convince you to stay.”
his anger?” asked Kolredd.
Adojan’s story may not be the lesson that Amathere hoped.”
Ongrinn,” said Gaenid. “What happened to
exactly sure,” Ongrinn answered. “I don’t
think that anyone knows. He never
returned, but one of his party—Billeg was his name. Billeg was found near Center Rock. He said that they were all killed, every man,
except himself. They ventured into the
Pit, but only he returned to the village.”
earlier enthusiasm drained from his face.
“I’ve not heard of Billeg,” he said.
“Does he still live?”
answered Ongrinn. “He died when you were
pondered the story for a moment. “What
of that story… Why was Karred so angry?”
looked at his younger brother, reluctant to speak.
angry, because, although they all died, Billeg returned with something that he
had taken from the Pit. He had with him a
pouch full of Tharreni crowns.”