The thrilling beginning of what I hope will be a grand adventure.
| PROLOGUE ROUGH DRAFT #1
I was intoxicated with energy, drunken with adrenaline, and felt strangely as if I’d swallowed lightning. It flashed like fire through my veins, prickling rapidly along the underside of my skin like tiny, needle legged spiders. I savored its power, let it surge savagely between the fibers of my tissues- my muscles sprang and darted lithely, and with deft precision; my thoughts became sharp, my vision crystalline, my instincts unearthly and omnipotent...
Giddy laughter bubbled up out of my lungs; with a sword in my hand in the midst of battle, I was unstoppable.
A sharp stab, a swift kick; thunder erupted in the glutted clouds, boiling deeply through the blistering blackness. Fat raindrops exploded with metallic thumps on my thin, bluish armor, combining with spattered blood and rolling down my shoulders in cloudy, red streaks. With a sweep of flashing steel, I decapitated a soldier to my left, clawing at my long, dark hair as it whipped across my eyes; I took a moment to secure it. The wind was tempestuous.
The sounds of battle struck my ears in a barrage of frightening percussions: the blast of a cannon, the thuwump! of a catapult, the thunk of an arrow entering flesh. Shields clattered against spears, swords against helmets; a fire crackled distantly from a mutilated warship as it sank into the bay. Soldiers shrieked as they were skewered, and horses screamed as boulders pounded the beach with deep, rumbling tremors. I occasionally added my own voice to the discord, bellowing orders and words of encouragement to the men. Ah, my boys! They fought a fearsome fight.
I jumped a man, slit his throat, stood and turned to face the sound of heavy footfalls. I looked up, blinked, and staggered backward, smiling incredulously.
Glistening with sweat, his tattooed skin shiny and pulled taut over a layer of tough fat, the beast towered over me with nine feet of lumpy, soiled bulk. He was bald and beady-eyed, with a very small head and a very big gut. An unfortunate combination. Yet despite his menacing enormity, the sight of him brought two words overwhelmingly to mind: cooked turkey. Like a hook-handed pirate, his right forearm was entirely gone just below the elbow, and in its place was- oddly enough -a long chained mace, and a bloody one at that. He gave a toothless smile. "Pretty girl!" he rumbled resonantly.
"Ah." I chuckled, my Litian kind and formal as I inclined my head politely. "My dear friend," I said. "But I'm not nearly as pretty as you!"
He blinked- stupidly.
"'Ey!" I flattened myself against the ground as his mace careened heavily over me.
"That was very close!" I said. " And I applaud you!" I laughed, panting, beaming up at him from the ground. He growled, irritated.
"You know, if you relaxed your wrist a little- whoa!" I rolled quickly to one side as he righted himself and swung again. "It would vastly improve your aim!" His fat mace was stuck in the sand; I straightened but didn't strike.
"Anyway, darling, have you seen the king?" I crouched a little, shield forward, circling. "I need to give him something."
"What?" he snarled, wild eyed and losing patience.The beast finally wrenched his weapon out of the ground, and I leaped backwards to avoid his latest strike.
"A stomach piercing." I twirled my sword then, grinning wryly.
He shook his head. "Funny girl." He panted heavily, roared, and took another swing.
I ducked. "And you're a funny man. Whoever told you maces were in fashion? Battle axes, my friend; they're the only way to go."
Suddenly- thuwump! -a whistle pierced the air. I whipped around to discover a fiery boulder, hurtling toward us at a disquieting speed. Oh, gods... There wasn't much time. I turned to face the beast again.
He swung his mace above his head and brought it down with a roar. I dodged to the left. Boom! The mace hit the sand. Schink! I plunged my sword through one of the chain links and into the ground, rolled out of the way, covered my head. The beast saw the approaching boulder, pulled at his mace, was stuck. He whimpered, bellowed, struggled against the sword, eyes wide, mouth agape, and then...!
Thunk! He was gone. And all that was left of him was one bloody, detached mace-arm.
"That poor behemoth." I plucked my quivering sword from the sand. "He had the worst luck with arms."
I turned to leap back into battle when suddenly...
Our eyes met.
Ah, your majesty, I thought, my feral grin widening. We meet at last.
Bruised, bloody, and soaked with rain, King Cauldebron veered his horse in my direction, sword raised. His eyes ignited, looking almost too blue against his blackened skin. My mind began calculating; he was maybe twenty feet away. A man charged forward to my left. Crunch! I sank an elbow into his nose, bent, plucked a knife from my boot.
Let’s level the playing ground, shall we?
The knife cartwheeled through the air and buried itself in his horse’s throat with a wet thunk. The animal reared up, eyes round and white with fear, and fell backward onto its rider.
I ducked, swung, felled a man at his knees and straightened, trembling with voracity as I watched the king kick his way out from under the horse. I clutched my sword now with both hands, bent slightly, coiled to spring. Cauldebron slashed wildly, cropping a path toward me through soldiers like a farmer with a scythe. But I was ready, had been ready. Yes, I was ready...
A shock of pain exploded through my arm, and I cried out. My knees jarred as I clutched at the hot, slippery wound and struck out at the brave little soldier who’d taken advantage of my distractedness. He crumbled to the ground.
“Ah!” I stared at the blood that bathed my trembling fingers...
And what happened next...
...Took less than a second.