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  1. #1
    Poet of the Deed Captain Corrigan's Avatar
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    1608 (x8)

    The Shadow Sonata - A new fantasy piece

    In keeping with my tradition of starting something but never actually finishing it, I thought that I would post up the first 1000ish words of my current project. I won't be likely to give this an update since there is the possibility that I might seek to get the finished, refined (read: very different) product published, and publishers don't like anything that has been published online.

    Any thoughts?

    -Corrigan

    (C) Copyright 2013 James Wonnacott
    _________________________________
    Prologue

    I am but a simple scholar.

    What is left of my life is all present here: my body, frail and aged; my books, thumbed and with pages worn by constant use; and my pens.

    Nothing else. As I say, I am but a simple scholar, and a simple man is wont to lead only a simple life.

    I am a simple scholar, but I was once much more.

    I have always believed that there are only two qualifications required in order to call yourself a historian: the ability to write, and events worthy of remembrance to write about. I first voiced this conviction many years ago in the lost days of my youth, and perhaps then they possessed an air of the prophetic about them. I doubt, however, that even in those days I could have foreseen the stories that it would fall to me to chronicle. A saga of treachery, of darkness, deceit and woe; of the intervention of gods and the fall of the unassailable.

    My tale is not a happy one, for the world has fallen far from its former state. It is a tale scribed in blood, dominated by betrayal and hatred and ignorance. But it is also a tale of heroism, of courage and honour. It is the tale of two brothers and their stand against the coming dark.

    It is the story of Ballista Ronell, Praetor of the Empire, last and greatest of the heroes of old, and of Mattias, the warrior who should never have been. These pages belong to them; to them, and to the men who followed them to the edge of the abyss, ever on the verge of annihilation, and who dared to challenge the gods themselves. They stood their ground and fought one, final battle against impossible odds.

    And they lost.

    There exists no memorial to these men. Betrayed by the empire they fought to protect, they lie in shallow graves, publicly dishonoured and then ignored. But not forgotten.

    This is their story. It is a painful one to recollect, and I doubt that I shall survive its telling. I am sanguine about that. I look out of the narrow window of the room that has become my dwelling and gaze upon the streets of the city of Myrsi, capital of the largest empire that has ever existed, and I know that I have grown weary of what this world now becomes. A new age is beginning, a younger age, and in such times there can be no place for a tired old scholar.

    And so I write.


    I

    Here we stand,

    By this world forgotten,
    Cursed we few that remain.
    Unbowed and unbroken
    Yet weary with memories
    And burdened with lost hopes to sustain.

    - Marcus Leofris, Of the Fate of Armies


    A wash of crimson light spilled slowly into the darkness of the Dural night above Setteran, heralding the new dawn and dancing wildly in the vast golden domes of the Adjudicator’s Palace to give the impression of a thousand fires raging across the city. It was an impressive spectacle, and one with which Mattias Ronell was well-acquainted.

    The scene gave birth to perhaps the greatest irony of all, he thought; that the greatest reward for his service in keeping the province safe was to see the city – his city – burn each day in the glittering domes of his home below.

    He sighed and cast his eyes elsewhere, tracing the too-familiar labyrinth of the city’s streets over to the northern gate, the end of the province of Imperial Durallen, and all that those things represented. Somewhere, a solitary bell tolled, its mournful, lonely pealing distant and forlorn, but the sound was carried away by the breeze, leaving the city shrouded in silence once more.

    “I thought I’d find you here, brother.”

    Clad in standard issue legion plate, Ballista Ronell was an imposing man. His weathered features regarded Mattias with amusement from beneath the helmet of an Imperial Captain-General. Mattias turned to face him, his face solemn. Ballista met his gaze for a moment before his face cracked into a grin and the two embraced.

    “Why did you come here?” asked Mattias after a while.

    Ballista shrugged. “Morbid curiosity I suppose. Wanted to find out why you spend so much time here.”

    “And have you?”

    “Apart from that you enjoy being depressed? No.”

    “This city represents the only hope for order on this gods-forsaken continent, Ballista, and it is that which is defended by the blood of the legions. But it is a fragile hope, one that will only last whilst it is defended not only by swords, but by men who know what it means. We cannot afford to forget that. I cannot afford to forget that.”

    Ballista looked at him and smiled again.

    “You are right of course, little brother. That is why you are the politician and I the soldier.”

    Mattias smiled back, some measure of ease returning to the patrician cast of his features as he faced his sibling.

    “We each serve in our own way. It’s good to see you, Ballista.”

    “Likewise. I wish that I could stay longer, but I’m here on business,” answered Ballista.

    Mattias frowned. “Business?”

    “Aye, the business of war. The fires have been lit, the legions are marching. It won’t be long now. The Emperor wants war.”

    Mattias shook his head.

    “Surely not here? Gods know we need it, but surely the Council would never let him-”

    “He’s the Emperor, Mattias. He does what he likes, and gods damn the rest of them. Durallen will fall.”

    ***


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  3. #2
    Interrogator-Chaplain pilot00's Avatar
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    459 (x8)

    Moar plz!
    Praise be to the Emperor!!
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  4. #3
    Poet of the Deed Captain Corrigan's Avatar
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    1608 (x8)

    Cheers mate, a bit more should be coming soonish but exams have slowed things to a grinding halt. More will come though, my Extended Project next year will be on the decline of the Roman Empire so its not like I'll have any shortage of decaying-civilisation type ideas to work with.

    -Corrigan

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  6. #4
    Poet of the Deed Captain Corrigan's Avatar
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    1608 (x8)

    Well, its been a while but since I have found myself unable to do much recently I thought I'd get on with some more writing. It feels quite fragmented, but short of ridiculously dragging out the sections I wasn't sure how to deal with this, so any thoughts on that are welcome.

    -Corrigan

    (C) Copyright 2013 James Wonnacott
    ________________________________________________________________________
    “Carthago Delenda Est” – Cato the Elder, Roman statesman


    I am but a simple scholar.

    What is left of my life is all present here: my body – frail and aged; my books –thumbed and with pages worn by constant use; and my pens. Nothing else. As I say, I am but a simple scholar, and a simple man is wont to lead only a simple life.

    I am a simple scholar, but I was once much more.

    I have always believed that there are only two qualifications required in order to call yourself a historian: the ability to write, and events worthy of remembrance to write about. I first voiced this conviction many years ago in the lost days of my youth, and perhaps then they possessed an air of the prophetic about them. I doubt, however, that even in those days I could have foreseen the stories that it would fall for me to chronicle. A saga of treachery, of darkness, deceit and woe; of the intervention of gods and the fall of the unassailable.

    My tale is not a happy one, for the world has fallen far from its former state. It is a tale scribed in blood, dominated by betrayal and hatred and ignorance. But it is also a tale of heroism, of courage and honour. It is the tale of two brothers and their stand against the coming dark.

    It is the story of Ballista Ronell, Praetor of the Empire, last and greatest of the heroes of old, and of Mattias, the warrior who should never have been. These pages belong to them; to them, and to the men who followed them to the edge of the abyss, ever on the verge of annihilation, and who dared to challenge the gods themselves. They stood their ground and fought one, final battle against impossible odds.

    And they lost.

    There exists no memorial to these men. Betrayed by the empire they fought to protect, they lie in shallow graves, publicly dishonoured and then ignored. But not forgotten.

    This is their story. It is a painful one to recollect, and I doubt that I shall survive its telling. I am sanguine about that. I look out of the narrow window of the room that has become my dwelling and gaze upon the streets of the city of Myrsi, capital of the largest empire that has ever existed, and I know that I have grown weary of what this world now becomes. A new age is beginning, a younger age, and in such times there can be no place for a tired old scholar.

    And so I write.

    Prologue

    The Grand Temple of Ma’iel, Lorinum, Maeti Peninsula. The Year -376 of the Quietude

    It no longer had a name.

    Its idols smashed and its famous horn sundered, the temple lay in shattered ruins as the elemental forces that had built it were slowly coerced into tearing themselves apart. The place was too dangerous to merely destroy; instead it had to be carefully and utterly dismantled. To Karor, it seemed almost as though the rising columns of dust that drifted lazily from the crushed stone evoked images of terrified, fleeing figures, echoes of the life that had existed hours earlier, as though the building itself made one final protest at the injustice of its destruction.

    This was not the case, Karor knew. The scene, born of his imagination, faded as he saw the ultimate truth behind the fame and power of his home, for there was no poetry in the ruthless, precise destruction here. There would be no songs about the death of the monks here, for none would live to write them. It would be as though the temple had never existed.

    And yet – for all that, it could have ended differently, he thought. Would have ended differently, had sanity ruled his masters, or mercy stayed their enemies. It had not.

    He was broken. He knew that. His blood stained the earth beneath him, his eyes growing ever darker as the sun rose in a brilliance of crimson above the jagged peaks on the horizon. He no longer feared the moment when they succumbed completely. He was the last remnant of the sect, and when he died he would carry his memories of its present sorrows and past triumphs with him. He did not regret that. Some things were meant to be forgotten.

    “I am sorry, friend.” The man beside him spoke to him with genuine familiarity and regret, but they did not know each other. Destruction, he thought, brings us all closer.

    “As am I,” he answered after a while, though he did not know why. The man beside him was not a monk, instead wearing the plain white tunic that denoted him as one of the temple’s destroyers. Karor tried to care about this, to bring himself to outrage or anger or fear or – anything besides the apathy that now so haunted him.

    “Why?” he managed, his voice soft.

    The guardian beside him looked down at him in surprise.

    “Why indeed, we might ask. Why were your rulers allowed consider themselves the equals of the gods they served? Why was this sect allowed to forget that it existed amidst the pain of the mortal world? Why should men be forced to kneel before a false altar out of fear for their souls?” he shook his head. “I think, Karor Linrelt, that you know exactly ‘why.’”

    “Why,” persisted Karor, “could you not have saved them?”

    The pale man shrugged at that, as if the answer was inconsequential. “I do as my Cadre bid. It is not for me to question what must be done.”

    “And,” Karor struggled. His breathing grew quick and laboured now as his death approached, but he wished to hear the answers before he died. “And is it worth it?”

    The pale man watched him for a moment, considering his words. Then he turned away as the light faded from Karor’s eyes at last.

    His answer, spoken in a voice barely more than a whisper, was lost on the wind, but Karor heard what he said.

    “No,” answered the Librarian, “no, it is not.”

    ***
    The Olamic Palace, The Domain. The 1213th Year of the Quietude


    The Man was still at last.

    The hollow, broken shell of the being known simply as The Man lay crumpled on the white marble floor, haloed by the brilliant white light that streamed in through the tower windows high above. He was a mindless, aimless object in the vastness of the cosmos as even the confines of his own home began to envelop him.

    LesCarre cursed and threw the corpse a baleful glare. Coming here had been a mistake, a pointless journey to request the insights of a senile old man with a grandiose title.

    And yet – for all that The Man had proven a disappointment, something had drawn him here. Perhaps it had been the arrogant singularity of the title itself, a statement of superiority that LesCarre could not resist.

    He doubted it. Once he might have taken pleasure in such a thing, but those days were long gone now, lost with his youth and the myriad other fragments of himself he had left scattered across the void. No, this was something else, a new player in this game he played.

    He cast the thought aside for a moment and turned to face the stony features of his bodyguard.

    “Iskaban, join Fifth Blade and cover the entrance please.”

    “Sire?” queried the bodyguard.

    “I’m expecting visitors. I would appreciate it if you left us in private.”

    “As you wish, sire,” nodded Iskaban.

    LesCarre listened to the rhythm of the man’s heavy boots on the paving as Iskaban disappeared into the distance before the sound faded altogether and left LesCarre alone in the room but for the corpse and the monolithic silence. He cast his gaze around the chamber. At first it appeared to be circular, however a closer inspection revealed that the room was in fact octagonal, its particular geometries concealed by the light-manipulating technologies The Man had been so fond of. On every side gigantic white stone columns rose skyward to support the walkways and galleries above that encircled the central platform upon which LesCarre himself now stood.

    “Adjudicator LesCarre.”

    He turned as the veil of silence that shrouded the room was suddenly shattered, and faced the speaker.

    “It’s been a long time since I held that office. I’m just LesCarre now.”

    The stranger shrugged.

    “I admit, I did not expect to see you again. I may have been lax with my record-keeping.”

    “Again? I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you before,” queried LesCarre.

    “And you would be right, Adjudicator. But I have seen you. Many times.”

    LesCarre narrowed his eyes at the stranger.

    “Who are you?”

    The stranger smiled and waved a slender hand dismissively.

    “So we reach the interesting questions at last. My name is not important. You may call me The Librarian.”

    LesCarre’s lip curled with distaste at the man’s arrogance.

    “My men don’t work without names, Librarian. Tell me who you are or there is no deal.”

    The Librarian laughed at that, a ripple of genuine mirth that echoed across the platform as the sound was dispersed in every direction.

    “I did not bring you here to request the services of a band of mercenaries, Adjudicator.”

    LesCarre didn’t like the sound of that.

    “So you did bring me here?”

    “Of course,” answered The Librarian, surprise registering on his patrician features.

    “Why?”

    “The same reason I bring anyone anywhere. To remind you of the things you have forgotten. To remind you of who you are.”

    ***
    Hall of Reckoning, The Imperial Archive, Myrsi.

    “In the beginning, there was death,” the archivist’s transcription had started, the words scribed with an almost religious reverence that chilled Yttrias Thoern as they threatened to etch themselves into his soul with the same dark precision that the author had inscribed them in the metallic slate.

    The slate had been a prize discovery, dating back at least three millennia to an age before the ascendency of mankind, and the honour of being tasked with its keeping was not lost on the Master of Ravens.

    Nonetheless, honour or not, the slate unsettled Thoern, and he would not be sorry when the time came for it to be passed on to the archivists again. There was an odd familiarity to the words, as if he had seen them before somewhere but had repressed the memory. Such was the curse of his Mahrani heritage, he decided.

    “You called, Master.”

    Thoern looked up at his assistant and tried to remember why he had called for him. Then, he shook his head and regarded the boy with a wry smile.

    “It doesn’t matter lad. Just the rambling thoughts of an old man.”

    His assistant smiled patiently.

    “Very good, Master. May I leave then?”

    “You are free to go. It doesn’t do to keep the Empire waiting,” answered Thoern, before adding “pass on my regards to the Emperor.”

    “Of course Master,” said the assistant, although he doubted Thoern even knew who sat on the Imperial throne any more. It had been a long time since his master had left the safety of the college.

    The boy left the room, and Thoern turned back to his transcription.

    “In the beginning…”

    He sat upright again, suddenly remembering where he had seen the text before, and cursed as the sudden movement caused the lamp on his desk to gutter and die. He fumbled in his pocket for a tallow and relit it before rising to his feet.

    “You still there lad?” he called. Silence answered his call. He swore again and stumbled towards the door, carrying the light and the slate with him.

    “Lad?”

    There was still no answer, and he made for the exit onto the college courtyard. He had almost reached the door when he tripped, falling heavily on hard stone floor.

    Only, it wasn’t hard.

    He frowned and reached for the lamp, inspecting the floor he had landed on.

    Below, the dead eyes of his assistant stared up at him from where he had fallen.

    “Poor bastard,” Thoern muttered as he looked at the face of the only person he had known for the last three years. He started a prayer, before realising he had never learnt the boy’s name.

    “In the beginning…”

    He shuddered, haunted even now by the words.

    Had he looked up, he would have seen that he was not alone.

    “A waste,” said the voice from the shadows, “his death was…unfortunate.”

    Thoern looked up sharply. The voice belonged to a tall man who did not so much stand in the shadows as wear them as a cloak to hide his face, less as a disguise but as a statement of individuality in itself. Thoern’s eyes narrowed in recognition.

    “The Librarian sends his regards. It seems your persistence has impressed him,” said the voice.

    “Wolfmaster Taren. That is still your name, I presume?” he asked. Taren nodded, before Thoern continued.

    “So you found me.”

    “Of course. Such is my job.”

    “And what brings you here? I presume you didn’t come here just to kill an old man.”

    Taren shrugged.

    “You underestimate yourself, Yttrias. Always was your trouble. You’re a problem to the Librarian, and that alone makes you worthy of my time. Especially now that you have come into possession of something that belongs to him.”

    “And the boy?”

    “As I said, his death was unfortunate. I did not expect him to be here. It matters little.”

    “Get it over with, Taren. I am tired of hiding here.”

    Taren nodded slowly and drew the blade from under the shadows that sheathed his corporeal form.

    “Goodbye, Yttrias.”

    Yttrias Thoern slumped to the ground as ice lanced through his body from the knife, the light in his eyes slowly fading. Taren watched him for a moment and took the slate.

    “In the beginning, there was death,” whispered Taren.

    ***


    “I don’t follow.”

    “Disappointing,” answered the Librarian, “but not entirely unexpected. Tell me, Adjudicator – tell me, what do you know of the Cadre?”

    “The Cadre?” LesCarre shook his head, “nothing. That’s the problem. Spent fifteen years searching for even a scrap of evidence, and I know no more of this elusive group than I did at the start.” He smirked for a moment and gestured at the corpse at his
    feet. “Oh, except the identity of its leader.”

    “Don’t be flippant, Adjudicator,” frowned the Librarian. “The Cadre is the ruling council of the Domain. From this position, it controls everything it chooses to, maintaining the balance of power in whatever manner it sees fit.”

    “A worthy task. What has this to do with me?”

    The Librarian frowned. “It has everything to do with you. Expelling you from the Cadre was perhaps the Man’s greatest crime.”

    For a split second, the Librarian noted the look of startled disbelief that crossed the mercenary’s features momentarily, and then it was gone as LesCarre recovered his composure.

    “Impossible. I recall none of this.”

    “Of course not. The Cadre is nothing if not thorough Adjudicator. Your life since the expulsion was necessarily…engineered. To protect certain details you understand. It was deemed too dangerous to risk you ever discovering what happened. The result, of
    such a revelation would be anarchy.”

    “Then why,” LesCarre asked, “are you telling me now?”

    The Librarian smiled and shrugged.

    “Because, Adjudicator, I like anarchy. The question is, do you?”


    I
    Here we stand,
    By this world forgotten,
    Cursed we few that remain.
    Unbowed and unbroken
    Yet weary with memories
    And burdened with lost hopes to sustain.


    - Marcus Leofris, Of the Fate of Armies


    The Adjudicator’s Palace, Imperial Quarter, Setteran The Province of Imperial Durallen. 1218th Year of the Quietude

    A wash of crimson light spilled slowly into the darkness of the Dural night above Setteran, heralding the new dawn and dancing wildly in the vast golden domes of the Adjudicator’s Palace to give the impression of a thousand fires raging across the city. It was an impressive spectacle, and one with which Mattias Ronell was well-acquainted.

    The scene gave birth to perhaps the greatest irony of all, he thought; that the greatest reward for his service in keeping the province safe was to see the city – his city – burn each day in the glittering domes of his home below.

    He sighed and cast his eyes elsewhere, tracing the too-familiar labyrinth of the city’s streets over to the northern gate, the end of the province of Imperial Durallen, and all that those things represented. Somewhere, a solitary bell tolled, its mournful, lonely pealing distant and forlorn, but the sound was carried away by the breeze, leaving the city shrouded in silence once more.

    “I thought I’d find you here, brother.”

    Clad in standard issue legion plate, Ballista Ronell was an imposing man. His weathered features regarded Mattias with amusement from beneath the helmet of an Imperial Captain-General. Mattias turned to face him, his face solemn. Ballista met his gaze for a moment before his face cracked into a grin and the two embraced.

    “Why did you come here?” asked Mattias after a while.

    Ballista shrugged. “Morbid curiosity I suppose. Wanted to find out why you spend so much time here.”

    “And have you?”

    “Apart from that you enjoy being depressed? No.”

    “This city represents the only hope for order on this gods-forsaken continent, Ballista, and it is that which is defended by the blood of the legions. But it is a fragile hope, one that will only last whilst it is defended not only by swords, but by men who know what it means. We cannot afford to forget that. I cannot afford to forget that.”

    Ballista looked at him and smiled again.

    “You are right of course, little brother. That is why you are the politician and I the soldier.”

    Mattias smile back, some measure of ease returning to the patrician cast of his features as he faced his sibling.

    “We each serve in our own way. It’s good to see you, Ballista.”

    “Likewise. I wish that I could stay longer, but I’m here on business,” answered Ballista.

    Mattias frowned. “Business?”

    “Aye, the business of war. The fires have been lit, the legions are marching. It won’t be long now. The Emperor wants war.”

    Mattias shook his head.

    “Surely not here? Gods know we need it, but surely the Council would never let him-”

    “He’s the Emperor, Mattias. He does what he likes, and gods damn the rest of them. Durallen will fall.”

    ***


  7. #5
    Senior Member Ipshank's Avatar
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    514 (x7)

    Well done! The writing is spot on, a easy on the mind to read yet not so simplified that it takes some of the mysticism away.
    For me each part read like a separate short story, linked by a shared theme and setting, and in effect it removed any idea of fragmentation.

    Insanely tiny thing:

    It is a tale scribed in blood, dominated by betrayal and hatred and ignorance.
    Perhaps rephrase it like so: ...,dominated by betrayal, hatred and ignorance." it reads a bit smoother in my opinion, though the current sentence isn't bothering it just breaks my personal flow of reading a bit because of the ".. and.. and.."

    Definitely earned your rep with this!
    Me after fixing the alarm: Praise the Omnissiah!
    Mom: You've been writing stuff again, haven't you?
    All hail Odinsgrandson and His divine cake toppers.

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