Part of the storyline for the first novel in the epic Five Swords series. For NaNoWriMo.
| The story starts in a fair-sized town called Elinn with a seventeen-year-old boy called Thess. Thess, like so many of his forefathers, was born into poverty, living on the outer edge of Elinn.
In recent times, since Salfarr had imposed his rule over Southern Alterigh, the slums of Elinn had grown so large that the inhabitants had given it a different name, effectively separating it from the main city in all but law. They called it Esti.
Esti was overrun by gangs, poor stealing from the poor in order to survive. But out of this came a sort of ruling system. The city is divided into territories, each run by a single powerful gang. The territory Thess lived in was run by the Leffir gang, a gang not quite as powerful as some, but still powerful enough to cause trouble.
Thess’ greatest wish had always been to become part of the Leffir gang. It would allow him to escape the stifling little wooden house him and his family lived in and he would be welcomed into Leffir House, a sprawling estate, made up of around twenty wooden shacks connected together. But most of all, he would be given recognition.
He had always been picked on and looked down upon by others, even people poorer than himself. Part of the reason for this was his small stature, but mostly it was because of his parentage. Thess’ grandfather, Lokess, was Salfarr’s right-hand man before the witch-king grew into power. Without Lokess’ help, Salfarr would have never wielded the power he did now.
In the end, Salfarr had disposed of Lokess, seeing him as a liability instead of an asset, due to the fact that he had grown a conscience and started to protest about the things Salfarr did.
Unfortunately for Thess, becoming a part of the Leffir gang was all but impossible. The gang, and the gang alone, decided who to recruit and when to do so. Despite that fact, Thess kept trying to appeal to them. So far, most of them had ignored him, but one boy in the gang, Niklos, second in command of the gang, had struck up a friendship of sorts with Thess, originally stemming out of pity for the boy, but later growing into a friendly relationship.
He appealed to the gang leader, Torris, to give Thess a chance. Torris was completely against Thess joining the gang, but he also knew that he had to keep his second in command’s good regard. Therefore he decided to set Thess a task. On the surface it was designed for Thess to prove himself. Only Torris knew that it would be almost impossible for Thess to succeed.
Like all of the other cities and towns under Salfarr’s rule, Elinn had an armoury, stocked with weapons that belonged to the Kingdom. Thess’ task was to sneak into the armoury and back out again. In order to prove that he had actually been there, Thess was to bring back something from the armoury, like a sword or a shield, preferably with the King’s sign on it.
Niklos agreed with the idea, assured by Torris that it wasn’t a very dangerous task to send the boy to do. Niklos believed him because he didn’t know what Torris did – that a mage was stationed in the armoury.
Mages were more likely than not servants of Salfarr in those days. They were tasked mostly with gathering information through magical means, but also used as a very effective weapon in battle.
All mages of Salfarr generally kept a low profile. After all, a spy is only effective until he is discovered. It was much easier for the mage to keep his finger on the pulse of Elinn and Esti without people knowing he was there. If they had known he was there they wouldn’t have talked as openly about certain things as they generally would.
Torris only found out about the mage when he overheard a conversation between two guards one night on his way to a meeting of gang leaders. They had been discussing the arrival of the mage in hushed tones, as if afraid of what would happen to them if the mage should hear them speak of it.
He knew little about the mage. He knew that it was a relatively young man, around thirty years of age, and he knew that the man had a liking for cruelty. The only other thing of importance he knew, information also gathered by listening in on conversations between guards, is that the mage had hair as white as chalk, despite his young age.
Torris didn’t think it odd that a mage was stationed there. Elinn was a major centre of commerce, due to the fact that it was a seaside town and had a large port. He only thought it natural that Salfarr would want to have a mage in such a strategic location. Little did he know that the mage was there, more than anything else, to guard Caerzul, the sword who’s names translates from the ancient language of Balta as Seer.
The Five Swords, magical relics of ancient times, were the only threats to Salfarr’s rule, and then probably only if they were united. Salfarr only knew the location of one of the swords – Caerzul, but it had been enough for him. He knew that without Caerzul having a wielder, the other four would have slim chance of actually overthrowing him. But he was also relatively sure that the other four didn’t have wielders either. The swords had been all but forgotten over the eons, living forth in the minds of most only as bedtime stories for young children.
Caerzul herself had been lying in that very armoury long before it even became an armoury, nearly five hundred years. Unfortunately for the Kingdom, the sword could not be touched by anyone not meant to wield her, so Salfarr had been unable to move her to a more secure spot.
Because of this, he converted the ancient building, which had once been a lone fort, to an armoury of the Kingdom to better hide her. Nobody had ever questioned this (not that anything would have come of it if they had), since Elinn also seemed a likely place for an armoury.
Niklos told Thess about the task he had to carry out in order to become one of the gang. At first Thess was a little sceptical about accepting the challenge, but what he has been yearning for since he had been a young boy was now seemingly within his grasp, so he quickly agreed.
He would attempt his break-in the very night he was offered the challenge.
In the meantime, around a league away from the city of Elinn/Esti, a woman who looks to be middle-aged was sitting at the mouth of a cave, staring intently in the direction of the city. Her name was Selena and she was a sorceress.
When she had awakened that morning in her cave, she had gotten a strange feeling that something big and important was going to happen that day. She knew about the swords. As a matter of fact, her very existence was intertwined with theirs.
But she didn’t think that the event she felt was going to occur would have anything to do with them. The swords were too long forgotten for anything to do with them to happen. She felt it more likely that a mage or some similar practitioner of magic was readying themselves to perform a great feat of magic.
Of course, there was no way for her to know the specifics. It could have been anything from a groundbreaking magical discovery to a mage lifting a large pile of rocks. Yet, she waited, and listened. There was something in the vibration that felt familiar to her, that demanded her notice. It was almost as if it was calling out to her specifically. She was hungry, but decided to stay right where she was in order to witness whatever was going to happen.
After a while of waiting, she reached into the folds of her black cloak and pulled out a tiny ebony flute. She wet her lips and lifted the flute to her mouth. The melody she played was light, fast and complicated, yet at the same time deep bass sounds also streamed out of the flute, almost as if a second instrument was playing with her.
The flute was also an object of magic, designed to amplify signals like the very one she was hearing in the direction of Elinn/Esti. She concentrated on the melody and the vibration from the city, at first seeing them as two separate things, but slowly coaxing the melody to wrap itself around the magical vibration.
When it became clear exactly what the source of the signal was, Selena gasped and quickly got up. With haste she packed up the necessary and headed out of the cave. She picked up the flute again and blew two short, shrill notes that seemed to echo and reverberate much longer than they should have. Shortly, two small blackbirds dropped out of the sky, one landing on each of her shoulders.
Smiling grimly at them she merely said one word: “Caerzul.” She started walking briskly. The journey to Elinn from her cave usually took at around two days if she walked continuously without rest. She had to get there before dawn the next day, and the sun was already hanging low in the sky.
Only after Thess had accepted the challenge did he start to get second thoughts. Sure, he wanted to belong to the gang more than anything else, to get rid of his poverty and the stigma surrounding him because of his grandfather. To be somebody.
But what if the guards at the armoury catch him? What if they then decide to take him to Salfarr, or worse, torture him?
Or kill him.
And what if he got lost in the place? It didn’t take a smart man to see just how old the armoury was. And everybody knew that in the days that the armoury was built, the builders riddled buildings like it with halls that lead nowhere to confuse the enemy if they should gain entry. Losing his way was a very easy scenario to imagine.
Nevertheless, he waited around in the little wooden shack that belonged to his family for the sun to set, and when night time came, he slipped out, unnoticed by his family members, and made his way across Esti at a measured pace, hesitating only briefly before crossing through the gates of Elinn.
There were guards at the Elinn gate, of course, but they were mostly for show. They hardly paid him any attention as he walked through the large, square opening. They were busy chatting among themselves, about a very interesting subject, too, from what Thess overheard, and did not have the inclination to give notice to a scrawny, dirty boy with dark, curly hair.
This was the way of Elinn. Nobody would answer your cries of help if you should be robbed, not even the guards, unless you ask for it – in a nice way that would generally involve compensation. They didn’t care whether he was a would-be offender or not. It was, as they saw it, not their business. Not yet, anyway.
He walked through Elinn towards the armoury, which was located near the industrial area smack in the middle of the town. When he got close enough to see it from a distance, his heart sank.
There was a burly figure standing underneath the window he was supposed to use in order to get in.
According to Niklos, Torris said that it was the only way in and out that wasn’t heavily guarded. Windows in the armoury were as a rule not really guarded, since most of them had thick lengths of steel rods over them to keep out burglars.
The window Thess was supposed to use did not have the rods over it, though. It was the lowest placed window in the entire armoury, and the only one that was positioned below the first-storey windows.
He cautiously approached the building, stopping only about five meters away from the figure. Hiding in the shadows, he tried to decide what to do. In the end he reasoned the best thing would be to pass in plain sight by the figure. If it was a guard posted there to make sure nobody got in (which even to Thess seemed an unlikely scenario) then he could just pretend that he was on his way somewhere else.
To Thess’ huge relief he found it was just Niklos standing there when he walked past. Niklos told Thess that he was just there to wish him good luck and was looking forward to seeing him in Leffir house later that night. Then Niklos turned around and walked away.
Now that Thess was alone again, he found himself worrying about what he was about to do to the point of experiencing nausea. For what felt like the hundredth time that evening he thought of leaving this foolishness behind him, going home and forgetting about his ambitions of belonging to the Leffir gang.
But he had only to think of how he would be treated by the ordinary folk should he complete his mission and be accepted into the Leffir gang. For the first time in his life he would be an important figure and he would get the respect he rightly deserved.
No, he decided. He was going ahead with his mission no matter what. With that thought, a sort of calm stole over him. Deep down Thess knew that this was his chance, maybe his only chance ever, to make something of his life. And he’d be damned if he threw that away just because he was too scared to do something about it.
He fished around in his pockets for the object Niklos had given him. At first he couldn’t feel the rod shape of the pen-like item, and he panicked. All this way, just to make a stupid mistake like this! He dug deeper, and breathed an audible sigh of relief when he located it.
The object was made of some type of metal, probably steel, and was reminiscent of a writing pen, or a huge nail. It was tipped with a small faceted diamond, impure and not really worth much, but more than adequate for the purpose he needed it for tonight.
Like Niklos told him to, he positioned the tip of the diamond against the upper left corner of the window and made a slow, controlled swipe across the window to the right.
The diamond cut about halfway through the pane of glass without making a sound. Being careful to always keep the metal rod straight, he cut along the rest of the sides of the window, until he had completed the rectangular incision.
Then he went back to the upper left corner and cut a diagonal slice, thus creating a small triangle shape about the size of his fist. He burrowed in his pockets again and found another rod, this one wooden and short with a much greater girth than the cutting tool.
He tore a piece of cloth off his shirt and wrapped it around the wooden rod. He positioned the rod in the middle of the triangle and tapped lightly against it with his open palm. The triangular slice gave away easily and dropped into the armoury. The tinkling sound of it smashing on the floor reached him not a second later.
It was a risk breaking in this way, but much less so than destroying the whole pane and creating even more of a ruckus. He repeated this procedure: cutting out another triangle and knocking it out of the pane, but from the other side through the first hole he made so that the glass broke out towards him instead if into the armoury, until the whole window was out, lying in smashed pieces in front of him.
He stowed the cutting tool and the wooden battering rod in his pockets again and carefully slid through the opening, minding not to cut himself on the pieces of glass still held in the frame of the window.
A panic gripped him as he slid through. He felt certain with his whole being that he was going to fall into an abyss on the other side, falling for hours and hours until he struck the bottom and was crushed instantly.
But his vivid imagination let him down, and he was standing safely on a firm concrete floor within moments.
Thess looked around him. He seemed to be in a cellar. It was totally dark and the air was rather musty. He allowed his eyes to get used to the darkness and before long he could make objects out in the gloom.
It definitely was a cellar he was standing in. The place was littered with what looked like a variety of broken furniture, weapons and an assortment of tools. Thess had an idea that no-one ever went in there but the maintenance staff, and for the most part he was right.
But there was one other that frequently paid nocturnal visits to the cellar of the Elinn armoury in contemplation of a certain object. An object that had been eerily glowing as of late.