It’s pretty, so it’s here.
Shattered is the title of my book. It’s a kind of post-apocalyptic Fantasy novel that will be split into four parts. I will not be revealing any of the plot here, but I am going to post the first chapter. It’s the second draft, and while I’m still not completely happy with it and the plot is still under development, I know enough to where I have started writing with some confidence. You will meet Wrath, one of my main characters and while he may not yet be all there mentally, I think he will be a character that some people will be able to sympathize with. I hope that this first chapter draws the reader in and makes them ask questions. That’s the main point of the first chapter, right?
Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it. If you do, let me know, if not, let me know. I’m just trying to get a feel for this. Here goes:
“Do me a favor and die would you?” Wrath looked down at his battered hands, his coarse voice rasping in disgust. “Nothing ever seems to come with you. You go on and on and on, never quite letting go.” Anger crept into his voice and spittle flew from his cracked lips. Black hair fell over blue eyes that brimmed with tears in frustration. Shivers took a hold of his body and he fell down to one knee, catching himself with his left hand.
“Die!” His mouth turned into a snarl as he scratched the cobblestones with his nails as if to make them bleed.
“Darling…why do you weep?” A soft voice asked. “Isn’t it enough that you live a hard life without wishing death upon yourself?”
Wrath’s eyes found the voice’s own and he gazed into them. Warm and vibrant they were; green pastures within a round face, pale as the moon and surrounded by gold fibers. Red lips puckered into a smile, and a hint of teeth showed between the gap.
“Rachel. You are not suppose to be here.” The shakes had ceased. “You are suppose to be with the children!”
Rachel reached down to Wrath and lifted him to his feet, saying, “No, you are suppose to be with them remember? I am with others right now and later we are going to a ball!” She smiled wider, cocking her head ever so slightly. “Or did you forget again?” And she embraced him.
She was cold, and her fingers held none of the warmth that her eyes did. That, however, was normal. She had always been cold to the touch. Cold, but beautiful. And Wrath suddenly did remember.
“Silly of me, Love. I had completely forgotten. I shall go to them right away and see that they are safe!”
Rachel smiled at him and said, “Thank you. I have to run now, I will see you later in the eve.”
And she walked away, her hips swaying in the milky white dress that she wore upon her slender form; leaving Wrath to himself.
The snarl returned, and the children forgotten immediately.
Wrath turned his eyes to the cobbled streets and ruined buildings. The moon waxed in the sky, casting deep shadows over the metropolis like spilled ink. He found himself standing alone in one of the old courtyards in the city, heaps of stones surrounded him. Windows lay barren and old doorways were barricaded with the dead bodies of ancient civilians. However, it wasn’t the dead that bothered Wrath here. It was the eyes that he could not see, staring down at him, accusing and hurtful.
He shoved a hand into one of his eyes and rubbed hard, causing it to tear up. “I can’t do this. I can not.”
Yet somehow, he did. Wrath shifted the sword that he held over one shoulder and carried on. Through more deserted streets and courtyards he passed. He never felt alone, though, as the eyes that watched him never left.
Did he just speak with someone? Was it Rachel? He could not remember.
No matter, he had to keep his eyes open for their eyes. The evil ones.
His snarl passed like it had never been, and he drew his sword. There was the feeling of real eyes upon him, he was sure. Animal instinct bounded to the forefront of his mind, eradicating any thoughts of Rachel or…whatever it was she had said, if she had said anything at all.
He focused on what was in front of him, peering into shadows that were created by the buildings surrounding him. He knew that there would be no warning if he were attacked. It had happened before, many times, but he was not going to ignore his instincts because of an ego that had built up over time.
“Come here you slimy bastards!” Wrath shouted into the night’s air. Oh how badly he wanted them to come to him so that he could slide his sword into their pale skin. He wanted to see the blood run thick and watch their peering peepers go dim!
Come they did. Bounding toward him from their hiding places in fact. The shouting had alerted them and now they were on the run, to kill whatever had made the disruption. Wrath’s pulse escalated to a frenzy and he found it hard to breath or to see, yet his mind had never been clearer. It was this feeling that he lived for now. Nothing could destroy the rush that he felt, it was in him, and it ran through his veins.
The first of the creatures jumped over a mount of stones that sat in an alley to Wrath’s right. The street was tight, much to Wrath’s pleasure, the killing would be easy this way.
Human in form and much emaciated; the creature’s pale skin shone like a beacon in the dark. The moon wrapped its naked body in light far brighter than it did Wrath. The eyes that Wrath so vehemently abhorred were sunken into a balding elongated skull. It’s teeth were the only clean thing about it, and they shone brightly in a perfect smile. He, and it was a male, was a skeleton wrapped in too little skin, ready for some blood.
Of course, Wrath thought, it would be the humanoid’s blood on the stones, not Wrath’s this night.
Wrath took a sideways stance and nodded to the man in front of him, his sword poised above his head. A breath seemed to sigh through the streets before the two rushed at each other, humanoid screaming and flailing, Wrath gliding through the arms of the beast and practically dancing with his sword.
And a dance it was, though of night and day, dark against light, one savage, the other a leaf in the breeze. Steel glinted in the moon’s radiance only darkened by the blood of its victim. Other shadowed humanoids watched from alleyways and rooftops, waiting to see what would become of their potential victim. They watched as the steel glittered and the nails of the man Wrath was fighting became covered in blood. Soon, too soon for Wrath’s taste, the dance was over. Wrath stood over his assaulter, staring in victory as rivers of blood ran between the cobblestones in the street.
Then he turned to face his next opponent, his breathing turned heavy and once again, the blood lust overcame him. Two, this time, rushed at him, crying out in harsh voices. Once again the night became a stage as the man and once-men danced their symphonic promenade.
The night rained red and buildings were coated once again in a curtain of wolf’s bounty. The dead in the street watched the fight, envy building inside of them, as the three clashed at each other without any thought of what they desired most.
Wrath had lost himself in the old ways of his love to fight. Power, strength, and savage cunning were what kept him alive and they had served him far better than virtue, patience, and loyalty. His old sword’s-master had taught him wrongly he long realized. For when on the battlefield, nothing else mattered but the strongest. Weak against strong, and it never paid to be weak.
At last, the fight was over, and any other once-men that had been lurking during the fight had disappeared. They would try again, Wrath knew. They always did.
A sudden clapping snapped Wrath out of his rage making him swing his sword toward the sound. Instead, a familiar face greeted him.
“That was wonderful, Aron! Your father would be proud of you! How about you go at it again, only this time, more flair! It is dreadfully dull if you dispose of all your opponents in the same manner.” Wrath’s sword’s-master was standing over one of the once-men’s body. It had been he who had made the clapping, and a wide smile was plastered on his face in open admiration.
“Da’Aron!” Wrath did not return the smile. “It was perfect! Flawless! You can’t mean that I wasn’t good enough again, and you got my name wrong. I go by Wrath, remember?”
Da’Aron flapped his hand in Wrath’s direction in a dismissive way, sending a flood of rage through Wrath. “Close, but not perfect. Try again! When I return from the others, I expect perfection. Just killing your enemy is not enough, anyone can kill someone, but it takes a real master to kill someone beautifully!” He smiled even wider at Wrath through a dark beard, “When I return.” And faded into the night.
Wrath knew what happened now, however. Da’Aron would not return, and Wrath would not live up to the man’s expectations. He was dead, Wrath remembered now, and that made him angry. How could someone who was dead, who had not been good enough, admonish someone who was alive for the skills that had kept Wrath alive for so long. His old sword’s-master had been too far into the beauty of the way a sword was swung than the actual killing.
Oh how Wrath wished that he was dead now. A normal death would be acceptable to him. Living for an eternity did things to a man and when a man lived in a hell like this, it was hard to want to continue living. However, a normal death was not possible any more than grass growing within fire here. The body could die, but the spirit continued on living, watching in envy of those who were still alive. Wrath did not want that kind of fate. He wanted to lie down and let his spirit pass on to those whom he loved a millennium ago.
Wrath rubbed his eye by pressing his left palm into it, trying to clear the tears that were threatening to fall. All of them, passed on, long before the world had turned into what it was now. He wished that the men that attacked him now would go back to their old jobs as merchants, peddlers, and smiths. The courtyards and streets had been filled with laughter and singing, the sun shining down on people’s faces as they did business and bantered with each other. People passed into the clouds with loved ones staring into a pale face, waiting their turn further along to join the one that had preceded them. Things were normal and Wrath missed the normal. If the war that the gods had waged hadn’t happened, he would be about four hundred years gone with his wife and four children. But no, they had to be slaughtered and he had to be the one that went on living.
Wrath began to walk, trying to force his mind from the sadness that was building in him. He was here, and he had to deal with it the only way that he knew. Violence had brought him this far, and it would keep him alive. Soon enough the city would run out of these once-men, and when it did, maybe he would be able to die normally. Whoever said that immortality was a good thing, Wrath wanted nothing more than to punch them in the jaw and shove their idea down their throat.
The moon was starting to set and Wrath could now see the first signs of dawn coming over the horizon.
“Time to move on home. I wonder if any of the kids are there.” He turned and walked toward one of the many palaces that littered the lower levels of the city that he called…home.
Copyright: Ben Smith Aug. 13, 2012