The first two chapters of my novel, submitted as an EMA for university.
Option 1 Fiction (Starting chapters of a novel)
The Queen of El Manis
Twenty Years Ago...
The rain lashed against the wall of rock that loomed ominously to the side of the horses and their riders. The storm was really in its stride now, pelting the earth like it had a vendetta against the ground, smashing into the soil and bending the branches of the trees. The frantic movements of the riders was apparent, their flight and fear obvious. The steeds charged into the depths through the trees, mirroring the raw, naked fear radiating from their charges. Their flight was swift and no obvious reason that could be seen but still they rode hard into the safety of the canopy of nature, hoping desperately for sanctuary from the demons at their heels.
They slowed when they saw a clearing in the wood. Cautiously, the lead horse, a dark brown stallion, trotted closer to inspect the strange and calm clearing. It was a small oval clearing with part of a river flowing straight through, yes oddly enough, in this violent night of crashes and wailing, it was calm. Still.
The rider climbed off, feet thudding into the soft mud. He drew his sword, stepping into the clearing. His bearing and attire put him as a soldier, as with the third of the troupe. He scanned the foliage, looking for any hints of dark murder, sweeping swiftly through the dark and vicious maelstrom of the night.
After a few moments, he sighed and nodded. He turned to the other two riders, apparently satisfied with the safety of the area. They both climbed down from their horses, one dismounted delicately, like a lithe dancer, the other, smaller figure seemed to stumble, and landed awkwardly on the ground, skidding on the mud. The leader caught the smaller figure as it fell. He pulled them straight and looked into the darkened hood.
"Are you hurt your Grace?" He muttered,
"No, thank you." The smaller figure removed her hood to reveal a mass of dark brown curls and a pale worried face. She shook out her hair and looked around, eyeing any possible escape routes.
The first rider glanced at the remaining figure, "We will need a warning."
"Yes sir." The figure slunk out of view, as silently as a shadow.
The wailing of the wind enveloped the two remaining figures. She sat huddled, waiting for the storm to calm, he was standing, on watch for any sign of danger, hoping for the signal of safety so their journey could continue. The lady clutched a small bundle she had strapped to her, quietly giving a reassuring jiggle to the small infant inside the swaddle of cloth. The infant opened his eyes, small face covered in rivulets of rain. The lady sheltered his small frame with her cloak, a look of tranquillity slowly changing her expression. She sighed again, causing the man on guard to look over. Suddenly he ran to her side, franticly looking for the cause of this change. As he took her hand, he felt a strange sticky feeling on his palm. He squinted at it in horror in the dim light.
"No...nonononono." He muttered like a madman, searching the lady for a sign of injury. She looked at him, nodded and slowly passed the infant into his arms.
"Please...look after...him." She whispered. He nodded, still looking for the source of the blood when she fell, silently like a petal dropping from a bloom, thus Her Grace, the Duchess of El Manis was dead.
The man wept as he watched her pass into the veil, his warm tears mixing with the rain and falling on the boy in his arms. A sudden sound to his left made him stop. He sprang up, unsheathing his sword. The bushes rustled and he tensed, ready to kill anything that disturbed this shrine of grief. A figure came into view. It was his companion. He looked shaken. "Sir, we need to go, now!" He stuttered. He made to go for the horse when suddenly he gasped in pain. An arrow protruded from his shoulder.
"Shit!" He cried, "Sir, give me the child and let's go!" The soldier shook his head as he ran to his mount.
"Please sir, I'm a faster rider and we need to split up." He gestured desperately at the bundle. The soldier hesitated and finally relented. He passed the child over and nodded at his man,
"Get him out of here, protect him with your life. He must live to see this travesty avenged. He deserves his place in history." The soldier smiled, "Thank you for your loyalty Keran, you have the fate of the land in your charge." With this, the soldier turned slowly to the sound of movement in the distance, clutching his sword and watching the brush. Keran nodded, turned his horse in the opposite direction and swept away into the night.
Slowly, the sound of howling became louder as the soldier hid the body of his beloved Duchess in a hollow log to protect it from scavengers. He then mounted his steed and slapped the Duchess' horse on the rump, making it crash wildly into the night. He then steered his stallion toward the noises of pursuit, grimly determined to give Keran and the baby as much time as he could to escape.
Lights suddenly came into view and his night vision destroyed. He swore as he went blind for a few seconds. He blinked rapidly and felt a burning ache in his midriff. The pain intensified rapidly and he fell off his horse, which hurtled off into the night. As he rolled to hit the ground, he felt the edge of a bolt in his stomach. He groaned but struggled to get up as fast as he could. He heard laughing close by and the sound of many hooves slowing. As his vision cleared, he saw that he was surrounded. The figures on horseback dismounted, all the while aiming their crossbows firmly at the soldier. The central figure approached, his gait slowed by his plate armour. He smiled predatorily at the wounded man.
"Good evening Captain. How lovely it is to see you again." The armoured brute watched the man wave his sword in his direction but saw no threat. The bolt piercing his stomach had taken most of the fight out of him. He stepped a little closer, a sneer on his long face.
"You have run a good chase this night, but it is over. Hand them both to me and this will end swiftly." He looked around and frowned, "Where are they? The traitor and the whore are not with you Deschard?" The soldier lurched, enraged by the insult.
"Shut your mongrel mouth, you bastard. They've gone. They escaped your masters claws forever." He laughed as blood seeped through his teeth. "You'll never find them."
"Oh really?" The steel clad behemoth drew his weapon, a massive bastard sword, many had noted this was an apt weapon for the man. He stepped closed and struck Deschard in the mouth, spinning him around. Deschard screamed in defiance and threw all his strength in a thrust but the behemoth laughed as he blocked his attempt, the men surrounding them jeering. With a swift motion, the behemoth slammed his fist into Deschards stomach, forcing the bolt further into his abdomen. He collapsed, groaning and wheezing as he writhed in agony. As Deschards vision began to fade, he felt the bastard sword slide into his neck, slowly and deliberately. The behemoth leaning into the dying mans face, no longer laughing.
"We'll find them. And you will have died for nothing. Goodbye, hero."
With a rattling gasp, Deschard slipped into oblivion, dark and silent. His last thought on his son and the trust given to his friend Fion, the baby's last line of defence and the saviour of his bloodline.
Seryn awoke with a start, looking bemusedly at his surroundings. He had fallen asleep at his work table in the barracks halfway through repairing his gauntlet. A few hours previously he had gotten into a sparring match with his captain, a sour looking fellow not known for pulling punches even during training. The resultant onslaught on the young soldiers' armour could be plainly seen, the dents and scratches a testament to the frenzied attack, not to mention the thumping headache now blossoming in Seryns skull. He groaned and stood up, realised a fraction too late that he had risen too fast. Spots burst in his vision. He wobbled to the door and clung onto the frame. As he sighed with relief, the door slammed open, hitting him square in the jaw.
"Argh! Watch out you moron!" He bellowed, glaring at the figure now in the doorway. The figured laughed and patted him on the head.
"Hey there sarge, how's your noggin' then?"
"Oh, just wonderful, thanks for asking." Seryn muttered, "What do you want now?"
"The General will be arriving in a few hours and Captain Rosen said we all need to be ready for his arrival." The man smirked, "Even the wounded idiots who challenge their superior to a fight."
"It's that late?!" Seryn scrambled to his armour and started frantically dressing himself. "Help me or get out Royston!" He barked.
"Yes sir!" was the chirpy reply as the recruit bounded over to help.
Several long minutes later, Sergeant Seryn A. Hamilton of the Royal Dragoon Regiment stumbled his way out to the courtyard to meet with the recruits. His task for the last three months had been to break the men in with basic training, discipline and acting as a mentor for the young men, most of whom were both eager and nervous and had no previous experience of military life.
At twenty four, Seryn himself was only a few years their senior, but he commanded a respect that the recruits quickly felt at home with. His rank was unusual for a man of his age and indeed of his birth, for he was destined to be no more than a infantryman as the son of a beggar. He made his own destiny and received the rank of sergeant through pure bravery, having rallied a band of men through a surprise attack near the border town of Lairen. He was part of an escort of a local lord who needed to travel through the badlands into the province of Manis. The attack would have seen all involved slaughtered but not for Seryn, his leadership skills and the subsequent counter attack that overpowered the bandits. The lord concerned was extremely grateful and insisted that he be commended for his valour. The high command obliged with a promotion in place of a medal or other acknowledgement, as sadly this kind of honour was reserved for the higher class.
Despite this, Seryn enjoyed a good measure of respect from both the military and the nobility and his reputation for honour and bravery set him up well.
After dressing himself hastily, Seryn made his way outside to the courtyard where he saw his men in varying degrees of readiness. He sighed and whistled. Instantly the men dashed to form a line and stood, for want of a better word, attention. This ragtag bunch of men and lads were about to meet one of the top military minds in the country and who also happened to be sixteenth in line to the Lilac Throne. They looked terrified and flustered, which only made Seryn more determined to bolster their resolve..
"Alright lad, listen up. At 6pm sharp, General Christopher Thomas, Duke of Elmana, will be arriving to oversee the selection process for the new Dragoons and the Royal Guard." He smiled and glanced at each face, seeing the look of fear and exhilaration that mirrored his own quivering heart.
"Despite the fact that you are relatively new to the military life, myself and Captain Rosen has spotted a lot of potential in you recruits and so this is an opportunity to get yourselves in the two toughest regiments in the Elmarian army." Seryn walked down the line, inspecting the red tunics and chainmail of the men. He stopped and turned toward the sun.
"This is it guys. This will be your chance to show the world that you are more than just commoners or beggars or farm boys. This is your chance to make something of yourselves." He turned and caught the eye of the newest recruit. A shy boy, barely a man who seemed oddly out of place in the army, but as Seryn stared at his pale face, he saw the strong look of resolve which was in many ways like his own. This is the power he sought in all his men, this deep reserve of passion and the willingness to stand firm.
"This will be the most important display in your lives to date. Make it count." He smiled again and looked towards the main gates. Captain Rosen was approaching with his aide.
"Dismissed boys. Go get ready."
Captain Rosen stopped and watched the recruits as they scattered, eager to help prepare for the arrival of the general. He placed his hand on Seryns shoulder.
"Well done Sergeant." He muttered, "They are looking good." Seryn saluted and stared just above the captains head. "They worked hard and they deserve this chance sir."
"Indeed they do. Do bear in mind that they are not the only ones being scrutinised today sergeant." Seryn nodded slightly at this, "The general will be assessing all of us in due course so I'll expect you to smarten up a little." He smirked at the still dented armour and ripped tunic, " You look like you've been in a scuffle."
With that, Rosen waved his hand vaguely and left for the barracks. Seryn glowered and followed. He slowed when he heard footsteps pounding towards him.
"Sir!" Royston bellowed as he ran, clearly panicked, "There's fire! Fire coming from the temple!" Seryn spun around, as did all within earshot.
"Shit. Royston, form a bucket chain, start pumping the water!" He ran to the barracks and ripped the door open. Rosen collided with him and staggered back, "Get the men organised."
"I have sir."
"Good. Then fetch the mage, we may need her help." Rosen sprinted into the courtyard and Seryn ran through the corridors to the mages quarters. As he skidded to a halt the door creaked open and the mage emerged.
"I am on my way to help sergeant, have no fear." She glided past the sweating soldier and proceeded toward the open courtyard. Seryn stared at her back, dark thoughts temporarily halting his movement. He hated magic, he knew relying on it will only cause problems in the long run.
"Well," he thought bitterly, "It's the reason I'm here I guess." He snorted and shook his head, trying to clear his anger in order to focus on the task at hand.
Word count: 2487
During my preparation work for the EMA, the first thing I decided to do was to consider the type of writing that I wanted to attempt. My passion for writing is quite varied but I know that I am a fiction writer at heart and so this made the poetry option a non starter. Having gotten this out of the way, my next aim was to decided upon the subject matter. Throughout this course I have attempted to deliberately go away from my first choice of genre which is fantasy writing. I did this in order to test my writing skills in fiction to see if I was able to work in other genres, namely horror. I found this was overall a good experience but I do believe that my marks in all the assignments including the poetry and life writing reflect my strengths and weaknesses well. So to this EMA. I chose my favourite genre of fantasy and in order to create these starting chapters my next step was to read through all my feedback from my tutor on the previous work. This gave me many different ideas and improvements to consider, for example my feedback for TMA 2 highlighted my need for more details in the writing and to identify and structure the paragraphs effectively. This was somewhere I felt needed improvement so I went back over the workbook, part two with Structure and the drafting in chapter three to help me be more effective. In terms of style and inspiration, I looked at two of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett and Tolkien. I wanted to create a fantasy setting with a blend of what some would say is the generic fantasy tales, with the historical setting and knights, queens and magic in the mix, but I also wanted to make it feel a little more contemporary and I attempted this with the dialogue and the general layout of the writing.
Pratchett has always had a special skill at blending the traditional fantasy settings with a parody-like story that draws the reader in with a stylish mix of wit, satire and wordplay.
" Now it curves away towards the great mountain range called the Ramtops. The Ramtops are full of deep valleys and unexpected crags and considerably more geography than they know what to do with. They have their own peculiar weather, full of shrapnel rain and whiplash winds and permanent thunder-storms. Some people say it's all because the Ramtops are the home of old, wild magic. Mind you, some people will say anything." T. Pratchett, Mort, 1987
Tolkien's legacy is of course his ability to write on an epic scale. His command of the genre has, in many way paved the road for many fantasy writers and I feel that many writers have him as the standard to meet in fantasy writing.
Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
I started my writing cycle by producing several word clusters in order to get a tone for the piece as well as the characters, plot and language. I tried many different start words and settled on 'Sacred', 'Hero' 'Commoner' and 'Darkness'. These made it easier for me to begin to flesh out the start of a plot and to consider the characters.
I have always struggled with starting pieces. I found this one no different, except this time, for a refreshing change, I knew that I needed a kind of prelude in order to set the stage for the heroes without having most of them on set as it were in the entirety of the first chapter. The exception of course being the infant, who was introduced and later hinted at in chapter two.
This whole process has helped me to gain the skills to begin to write in a way that I feel does my talent some justice and I will be completing this particular story, which is a dream that I have had for a very long time.
Word count: 736.