This is an excerpt from my fantasy novel. It is the chapter in which you meet one my characters, Lorendell. The other important characters included in this chapter are Luthin, my main character, Alfeon (both elves), Hradac, a dwarf, and Verduin, the villain. If you find that you need/want more context, let me know. Enjoy!
The sun was hanging low in the sky, having burned the back of Lorendell's neck long since. The scent of the food being prepared inside made its way to his nose, and his stomach complained and wished his mother would call him in from the fields. Impatiently he continued his work, straining his ears for the sound of the dinner bell.
Eager as he was, he briefly mistook the sound of the jingling bridles for the bell. The sight of several horsemen on the road quickly brought him to terms with his blunder. He frowned unhappily, much preferring the idea of food over that of travelers, but his curiosity was awakened when they turned up the lane to his house.
Skewering his shovel into the hard ground, Lorendell made his way to the squat cottage that sat at the base of the hill. Smoke rose from the clay chimney, laden with the smells of his mother's cooking, and even as he watched the horsemen dismount, Lorendell hoped it would not be long before supper.
"Evening, good sirs," Lorendell's father was saying as he approached. "Is yer lost?"
"Nah," replied the dark haired man who appeared to be the leader. "We knows where we are. My men and I are hungry, and we was hopin' you'd share your meal with us."
"Ah, times is hard, sir, and we ain't gots the eatin' to spare wot to feed over a dozen grown men. Y'all'll have to go elsewhere."
"Aye, times are hard indeed. In fact, I am surprised you think yourself able to afford to not befriend myself and these fine gentlemen that accompany me." The suave man's followers chuckled intimidatingly behind him. Lorendell's father tilted his head ever so slightly in an inquisitive fashion and his eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"And whose friendship might I be refusin'?"
"My name is Verduin," the man said, bowing graciously as he spoke.
"I knows you," Lorendell's father replied, stepping backward and pointing an accusing finger at the man. "You the thief. The highwayman. You and yer men been prowlin' these woods fer months. Get off me land. No criminals will be welcomed in me home. Go!"
"You fool. Do you think you can keep me from what I want simply by telling me to leave?" he laughed.
"Don't you speak that way to my father!" Lorendell shouted, coming forward. He had been watching the whole discourse, and he was seething. "Who do you think you are? He told you to get off of our land. Do you think you have any right to stay? Go, or I'll escort you off myself!"
"You're a feisty one, aren't you?" the man said, his cool eyes seeing Lorendell for the first time. "We can't have that. Take care of him."
Before Lorendell was able to react, three men lunged forward and took a hold of him. Alarmed, Lorendell's father took a step towards the leader, ready to fight for his son, but the man quickly knocked him down with the back of his hand. Lorendell shouted and kicked violently, trying desperately to escape the grip of his captors. Instead, all he gained was a fierce blow to the head that set the world spinning.
Lorendell fought his dizziness and continued to thrash in the grip of the men who had seized him, but his attempts at escape were weak and feeble. It was hard to see, and he was aware of little. The men dragged him away and bound him to a tree. He continued to squirm and shout, and one of the men, growing impatient, hit him on the head a second time. Blinking, Lorendell watched them laugh as they left him. As his consciousness slipped away, he was dimly aware that there was much more smoke coming from the chimney of his home than there had been before.
The small group had been awakened by the smell of smoke. It had not taken long to locate the burning cottage, but by that point there was little to be done about it. They spent the remainder of the night sitting on top of the hill, watching the flames and vaguely hoping it would not spread elsewhere. By dawn, the flames had died, and the building was smoldering weakly.
Luthin picked her way through the rubble of the dead building. Very little had survived the flames. Most of what was left was unrecognizable, and the rest was ruined. Her footsteps kicked up small clouds of ashes, leaving her boots a dull, ugly white. Suddenly, amid the dirt and ashes, she noticed something shining dully. As she reached down, she saw that it was a sword. It was not particularly nice, but she supposed that it could probably be sold for a fair price, and so she strapped it to her belt alongside Diadris.
Meanwhile, Alfeon was absentmindedly picking through the rubble on the other side of the building. He kicked casually at a fallen beam, dislodging a piece of broken plaster. His stomach turned inside of him as he saw what was underneath.
"Luthin!" he called. "Come over here!"
Luthin stepped carefully through broken crockery and smoke stained furniture over to where Alfeon stood. Face ashen, he pointed at the pile of rubble. Under the debris, pale and scorched, was a pair of feet. Luthin shivered.
"Luthin!" echoed Hradac's distant voice. "Alfeon! Leave that bloody pile of ashes and get over here!" The red bearded dwarf was on the opposite side of the road, kneeling beside a tree. The two elves abandoned their own discovery and made their way to Hradac. As Luthin saw what Hradac had found, she quickened her pace and hurried to his side.
"I found him tied to the tree," Hradac said of the unconscious boy at his feet. Luthin dropped to her knees beside him.
"Someone hit him," she observed, pointing out the blood on his forehead. "Alfeon, will you dampen a rag of some sort for me please?" She placed her bag under his feet and took the dripping cloth from Alfeon's hand.
"Your sock?" she laughed drily.
"It's all I've got," he replied. Luthin shrugged and began to clean the dried blood from the boy's face.
"So this was no accident, then," Alfeon said quietly, looking back at the burned house.
"I would think that getting hit in the head and tied to a tree is not usually evidence of an accident," Hradac stated drily, gnawing on the stem of his unlit pipe. Alfeon glared gently at him, not much amused by the dwarf's sarcasm.
"You two aren't helping much," Luthin retorted. "Why don't you see about getting some breakfast put together? I'm starving."
Starting a fire was not hard. Alfeon and Hradac quietly worked together to assemble a combination of still smoldering debris and untouched firewood in something of a burnable pyramid. They were interrupted by a sudden ruckus from across the road. The young man had awakened, and despite her protests, he was quite determined that Luthin would not keep him where he was.
Lorendell ran to the charred remains of his home, his ears ringing. What the elf had said could not be true; he refused to believe it. She had lied. His parents had only left, in search of him, probably. They would return soon enough. The elf had been wrong. They would be back.
But if he did not believe her, what was he searching so desperately for?
Lorendell threw the debris across the ruined house. He overturned a table, flung a scorched, brittle blanket across the room, kicked his mother's brass kettle and smashed clay pots beneath his feet. Finally, flinging aside a beam, he finally found what he had been looking for, but hoping he would not find.
His parent's charred bodies lay together, their arms wrapped tightly around each other against the flames. The elf had not lied. They had indeed died, and their disfigured forms lay before him. Suddenly aware of the throbbing pain in his head, Lorendell collapsed beside his parents.
Luthin slowly approached the young man's trembling form. She was not at ease with disrupting him at this moment, but neither could she ignore him. She hesitated a moment, then spoke.
"We are preparing some food. You're free to join us whenever you like." She waited a moment, but he did not reply, so she turned and left him.
Lorendell uncurled slightly, watching the young elf walk away. His mind was numb, and it took some time to process what she had said. Food. The word food crept slowly into his brain, awakening his senses. He had not eaten for several hours. Yes, he needed food.
Sitting up, his head spun. The sun was already growing hot, and he felt a little nauseous. He forced himself to his feet, teetered a bit, but did not fall. As he stood there, in the middle of the ruins of what once was his home, he slowly realized what had happened. His home was destroyed. His parents were dead. Not just dead--murdered. And for what? What had they done wrong? They had done no more than try to protect their home, their livelihood. Now they were dead, and it was all the fault of one man.
"His name is Verduin," Lorendell announced. The three traveling companions looked up in surprise.
"Whose name?" the male elf asked.
"The man who did this," Lorendell said impatiently, as if they should have understood immediately. "He said his name is Verduin. He murdered my parents and burned my home without any remorse. And now I will find him."
"Find him?" exclaimed the dwarf. "And do what? You can't intend to kill him."
"And why not? Tell me what else he deserves. Do you believe he deserves to live?"
"Oh, perfect!" the young elf cried, shaking her head as she stood up. "Solve the problem of death with more death! Brilliant!"
"And original," muttered the dwarf, putting his pipe back in his mouth.
"Do you think to defend the fiend?" Lorendell shouted accusingly. "You are in cahoots with him!"
Luthin swatted away the finger the boy was pointing at her. "Don't accuse me of anything! Do you think you know who we tie ourselves to? You're a fool."
Lorendell lunged at her. "Who do you think--." Suddenly Lorendell found himself on his back, looking up at two irritated elves and a very perturbed dwarf, and pointed at his nose was his father's sword.
"You are in no shape to go out vengance-ing," the young elf at the opposite end of the sword said. "Not to mention that you've disrupted our breakfast. I don't know about these two, but as for myself, I am very hungry, and I just want to eat. I don't want to think about some crazed pup bent on retaliation. Now, sit down, shut up, and eat your breakfast. We made extra for you."
Stunned, Lorendell sat up. A plate of food was shoved into his hands and he was reminded of just how hungry he was. He buried himself in the food, the first meal he had eaten since noon the day before, completely unaware of those watching him.
"So, kid," Luthin finally said, interrupting his stomach, "what's your name, anyway?" He looked up, surprised. He had quite forgotten about making any sort of introduction, and it had not struck him that these companions did not yet know who he was.
"Lorendell," he announced, his mouth full. "My name is Lorendell."