Monday, 25 August 2014

Innocence Is A Divine Thing

Years ago, I started an account on 'Fiction Press' and decided to have a go at writing my own 'novel'. I only posted one chapter. Now, three years later, I have decided to revisit it!

Under the 'Read More' tab, you will find the new, improved version. (However, if you really feel like reading the first draft, you can click here.)

One thing is for certain: I did not kill the king. And another thing: everyone believes I did. I'm totally innocent; I was just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cliché, I know, but believe me, it happens. 
 Except now I'm on the run, my horse pretty much hates me, and winter is fast approaching. I don't think I'll be able to camp out in the forest when the snow sets thick.
{Fantasy Adventure, set in Medieval Britain with Germanic roots} 

 I don't think I've ever moved so fast in all of my life. (Well, maybe that one time when my older brother tried to shove a roach down my throat, but even then I did more batting away with my hands than actual moving.)

Dawn was approaching, and by then it would be far too late for me. I had to get out, save myself. For Igvan's sake, if not my own, but really, I value my own skin much more than I value his, so I guess I'm really just doing this for my sake.

My fingers stung; the pain shooting through the tips and up my arm, like a flowing river of fire searing through my veins. But I was in no position to stop, tend to my wounds- they had to carry on. Scrambling through the dirt, egged on by a dirty inflection of desperation, it was a while before they found what they sought.

A slim stalk of metal. My ticket to a so called freedom. Carrying it between my bound wrists, I sneaked forward toward the jail bars enclosed around me and crouched, picking up the second piece of metal. This one was much thicker, and hopefully, combined, the two pieces would form an adequate substitute for the key to the cell door.

Honestly, the guards in this establishment were not the creams of the crop. Never, ever tie a prisoner's hands at the front of their person. Like, seriously. It makes jail breaks so much easier to attempt, especially if they have the attitude and stealth for it.

Not to blow my own trumpet or anything, but I definitely do. This is a cinch, for me.

Taking my time, I carefully turned the two pieces of metal, mindful not to drop them, as doing so would create a clatter. Any and all noise was unwanted. Eventually, I heard a soft, almost undetectable click. I would say that my face was sombre, focused and darkened, but to be quite honest- I was grinning like a child at Yuletide.

Inch by inch, I pushed the cell door open, wide enough only for me to squeeze through. I imagined the feeling of being free would be this all encompassing, overwhelming joy; but it wasn't. I didn't feel anything, so long as you didn't count the growing dread in the pit of my stomach as a feeling.

I wasn't dreading because I was afraid. I mean, I was afraid, of course I was! If caught, I would be put to death, there was no two ways about it. I don't really know what the dread was. Perhaps that's just how I live life, with a perpetual feeling of dread lingering on my person at all times.

I knew there was a cellar door around here somehow. My hunch was that it was behind the appalling sacks of food- which was more grime, than anything, to be honest.

My hunch was right. I didn't, however, expect it to be covered by a sturdy chest. Yet it was, and now I was stuck. Letting out a frustrated whine - in my mind, of course, not out loud, I don't want to die - I crouched down, inspecting the chest. There were metal handles on either side, serrated at the edges.

Huh. I looked from the chest, to the rope around my wrists, and back to the chest again. Getting myself unbound wasn't supposed to be part of the plan until later, until I was home free, but hey, waste not want not.

The best way to approach this was with short, fast strokes. I kept my bottom lip in between my teeth as I sawed back and forth, watching as the rope grew finner and thinner until it finally snapped. The strands fell to pieces on the floor around me, dust rising up and the faint smell of singed wood lingering.

Staying in my position relatively close to the ground, I pried my fingers underneath one end of the chest and heaved, straining to lift it, move it over slightly so it was no longer blocking my exit.

Lifting the hatch wasn't as difficult as picking the lock was, but it was a hell of a lot noisier. It seemed to take forever for me to lift up the contraption, and then, after I had climbed down and was resting on the third from top step, lower it in the only fashion that prevented the hinges from squeaking: slow, and with immense care.

The cellar led to an underground tunnel, which I knew was unguarded. (When I said 'knew', what I actually meant was: 'severely hoped'.) There was nothing down here to illuminate the tunnel, so as soon as the tached was closed all the way, I was plunged into an impenetrable darkness.

With my one hands braced against the wall, I began to slink away, leaving the prison, the guards, everyone and everything, behind me. Rats scurried and scuttled through my legs, over my toes, their tails a horrible kind of fuzz that made my face contort into a grimace.

Worse than the feeling of furry vermin on my toes, was the stench. God, it was ghastly. I didn't care to think about what - or who - was creating said smell, so I resorted to breathing through my mouth, and as infrequently as possible.

I don't know how long I walked. I would say my feet were aching, but I don't think what I felt qualified as an ache. They were just sore, and scraped from several incidents involving some rocks. I'm also pretty sure a rat got a nibble or two in, here and there. But that wasn't important. What was important, was that I had reached the end.

This tunnel went underneath all of the streets in Jawrunger, terminating under a tavern on the very outskirts. Stromner was a frequent visitor to the Goblin's Sancture, but I myself had never been. Mostly due to a lack of interest, not because of the ale they sell. I'm sure the ale is fine.

When I say 'terminate', I don't mean that it leads into their basement, or whatever. It's actually a dead end. Once, long ago, this tunnel went all the way from the palace in Jawrunger, to northen Kahleen, just across the border. My great grandfather helped construct it, apparently. But it caved in when my dad was younger. Some huge earth tremor happened that caused a huge commotion in the building above, which made their basement undergo some premature subsidence.

What I actually meant by terminate, was that this is my exit. Someone - cough, Stromner, cough, - has dug a pretty deep hole for me to clamber through. I'd have missed it, if it wasn't for the fact that right underneath it is a shed load of pebbles. They imprinted on the heels of my feet, making me hiss.

I'm not going to pretend to understand how Stromner came up with the genius that was this tunnel design. So, instead of wallowing on it, I hoisted myself up, and began the treacherous climb. I was basically wriggling, like a worm, all the way to my freedom. What a heroic story.

Except, you know, I'm not really free. Not yet.

By the time I emerged, I was covered from head to toe in dirt, a slick form of grime. It was still dark outside, but barely. I could see the lingering pinkness on the horizon, the hue that would slow,y but surely, give way to the rising sun.

I clambered to my feet, and set out a steady jog. I wasn't trying to draw attention to myself, I just had to move fast, get out as soon as possible. Besides, the only other people around at this hour most likely weren't up to honest deeds themselves, anyway. Adulterers, mountain cat hunters, that sort of shindig.

It wasn't long before I spotted my destination: an abandoned shack, half collapsed, with only one fully erected wall left standing. I could just about see the swish of Marco's tail, flicking in and out view from behind a pile of stones..

Marco wasn't a remarkable horse in the slightest. He was grouchy, and aggressive, just like a mare, except this gelding could produce no children. (Thankfully. I'd have a heart attack, if there were more than one of him.) Standing at just shy of 16HH (15.2, if my memory served correct), Marco was a dark bay Andalusian, with four black socks, whom was Stromner's favourite and my absolute worst.

I knew better than to sneak up on him. Making my presence known, I waited for him to acknowledge me before starting towards him. His acknowledgement was to snort and start walking away, only to be stopped by the rope that tethered him. He snorted again, throwing his head and pawing impatiently at the restraint. I also knew better than to let him go before I was mounted. Like I said, he was my absolute worst.

Carelessly thrown over the saddle were my belongings- a pair of worn leather trousers, boots, gloves, a hood, face cowl, matching leather armour for my top half- gauntlets. Equipping them, I basically looked like an assassin, a wonderer of the night there to harm your precious children and steal your soul. Which was ironic, because that was virtually the opposite. I wasn't an assassin, yet I was imprisoned for being one.

Marco was still trying to escape from my proximity. "Stand still," I snapped at him. There was no point in me trying to be quiet now, because Marco certainly wasn't. I grabbed the reins, untied the rope keeping Marco close to me, and hoisted myself up into the saddle just as Marco decided it was high time to bolt it.

Though loath to admit it, I couldn't agree more. We ran through the forest together, his hooves pounding against the ground, snapping twigs and rocketing flecks of mud off the ground. These boots were ill fitted for the stirrups, what with their lack of heel, but they would make do for now.

As Marco galloped on, the sun begin to rear its ugly little head atop the horizon. I slowed the boy down to a rough canter, muttering a stern "Woah," and kept my head low, the hood concealing my face within its shadows.

We were traversing upwards, now, closing in on the summit of Mount Canmro. Admittedly, it was a small mountain, but it was high enough for me to be able to see all of Jawrunger, the buildings now pint sized. The church was the biggest building, and even from this distance, I could hear the morning bells chime.

Any moment now a nation wide search for me would begin. Perhaps it has already began. Regardless, I shall be long gone. Pulling Marco to a stop, I paused for a moment, surveying the town.

I was born in Jawrunger; I grew up here, with my father and my brother, with Stromner and Igvan. I don't want to leave, but if I stay, then I may as well just fling myself off the top and plummet to my death. It would be far more merciful. With a sigh, I clicked on my tongue and dug my heels into Marco's sides, urging him on as I turn my back on the city that turned its back on me.

My journey to freedom will be a long and perilous one, and I proving my innocence may just be the most difficult thing I have ever done. (It probably is.)


Come on, guys. This is essentially the start of a free book for you all. (I have every intention of finishing this, and then making it available to download. Consider this a free trial into the world of Jawrunger and its number one most wanted person, Ayla.) So I hope you enjoyed!

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