Look, I did it, I wrote the chapter...
anyway. I'm terrible at writing fight/action scenes, but this one was more than one paragraph long, so Yay for me! Anyway, some feedback on that part of the chapter would be much appreciated, as would your perceptions on the characters. And anything else, if you're up to it ^_^
(I know I said I would include beetle wings but I know me and that would mean rewriting this scene again and I just. Later, maybe? Also, don't question that this isn't quite a giant beetle.... but it does have some similarities sooo... :|)
The ancient walls of the City around the Mere were at least twenty feet tall, a foot thick, and made of bricks with ages ranging from weeks to decades old. There were two major gates still in service: the Northern, facing the wildlands of Teslal, and the Eastern, facing the bridge into the center of Teslal.
William met Arial just inside the North Gate, dagger on hip.
A wave of fog rolled over the thin forest a distance away from them, grey clouds looming above. Richard stood talking with last night’s guard outside, laughing.
Arial stood with her arms crossed, her gaze drifting lazily from Richard to William as he walked up to her. The corners of her mouth were free of tics. He had only met her outside of the Inn a handful of times, but they were always in the morning, and her tic was scarce found. Why, then, it was so present at night, was a mystery he couldn’t solve.
“You look tired,” Arial noted, raising her eyebrows.
“I feel quite the opposite.” For the moment, anyhow. William nodded at Richard. “Is that my man?”
Arial nodded, walking towards him. “Richard!” she called.
Richard turned around. “Aye, Arial, how you doing?” The man had a light accent, one that was vaguely familiar. He was balding and he had wrinkles around his eyes.
Arial breezed straight past his question. “This is the man I was telling you about, William of Woodsworth. William, this is Richard Fleischer.”
William extended his hand to the man.
The man took his hand and shook it firmly. Wrapped around his wrist, charms drawn in sharp edges to Likren, but on the back of his hand, the immortal image of Ryku as the sun. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Richard said, bowing with a flourish.
William nodded back at him. There was something familiar about him, about his sharp cheekbones and narrow eyes. “And you.”
Arial clasped her hands together. “I already sense the chemistry of friendship.” She cleared her throat. “I have to take care of private matters. I trust one of you won’t stab the other?”
“Of course not!” Richard said confidently, smiling at Arial.
Arial raised an eyebrow but nodded. “Good day, gentlemen,” she said. Her boots clapped on the cobblestone with each confident stride away.
The men bid adieu to the night’s guardsmen. William leaned against the inside of the gate while Richard spoke with the man in the guard tower outside of it, stationed there to approve visitors entrance to, or exit from, the city.
“Tell me about yourself, William,” Richard said, taking some sort of cloth from the guard in the box office. He proceeded to cross under the wide arch, not turning to see if William followed.
William’s eyebrows shot up as he followed. “Me?” He paused, considering what the correct answer might be. “Oh, I don’t know. I’m just an average fellow,” he decided.
“Yeah?” Richard said, running his fingers across the stones of the wall as he walked. “Wife? Children?”
“Oh--” William paused, coming to walk beside Richard. “No wife, no.”
“As old as you are?” When William opened his mouth, Richard held up a hand to silence him. “I should’ve been less specific. Have you got a spouse?”
William shook his head. “No. No spouse. I am fully single.”
“No romantic interest?”
William shrugged. “What of you, sir? A spouse? Children?”
“Aye,” said Richard, nodding enthusiastically. “A young son and daughter. Beautiful children. And my wife, currently, she’s living away from me, but we intend on her moving over quite soon.”
“I’m sure you’re quite excited.”
“Oh, indeed.” Richard nodded. He turned to William and broke into lilted song: “As the sun peeked from / behind her covers / Shines so warm on us--” Richard stopped singing, looking pointedly at William.
William stared back.
Richard frowned. “Don’t you know it?”
A child’s lullaby generations old? “I certainly do. I simply have no interest in singing it.”
As the drizzly morning wore into a sunnier afternoon, William found himself regretting that he had skipped breakfast. Their patrol was boring, Richard singing randomly and then looking to William for him to join in, but William was in no such mood.
Richard leaned against the wall, eyeing William. “You’re not much fun, are you? Too serious for your own good.”
“My apologies,” William said. “I wasn’t aware my life was to be lived for you.” He peered into the forest. As sparse as it was-- hardly able to be called a forest properly-- he couldn’t imagine entering it. It had always seemed to him that the most dangerous of monsters lived there.
“What is it?” Richard said.
William tore his eye from the woods. He shook his head and turned his gaze to the tall grass in the distance. “Nothing.”
Richard strode up to him, pursing his lips. “Tell me, sir, have you lived through the plague?”
William laughed. “Love, everyone my age has lived through the plague.”
The elder man smiled politely. “Allow me to rephrase-- have you survived the plague?”
William faced Richard. “If I have, what of it?”
Richard merely shrugged. “I don’t desire to die because they allowed a man with hallucinations to join the guard.”
William’s lips set hard. “Mr. Fleischer, I have no hallucinations.”
A harsh hissing filled the air. Just visible above the grass, a beetle, running at full speed towards them. William searched frantically for signs of the rest of the herd, heart thumping in his chest.
Richard interrupted his panic in a calm voice. “I’ll run back and tell the guard.”
William turned to stare at him. “There’s no way to tell them here?”
“Then we’ll both go--”
“So it follows us to the gates?” Richard interrupted coolly. “They may not be able to close them in time--”
William shook his head. “You know better than I how to draw them off--”
“It’s easy, I’ll show you--”
The monster roared again. Its feet pounded into the ground; its smooth striped back reflected the sun.
“Whistle sharp.” Richard whistled ear piercingly high. “Run to the woods, draw it off. I’ll be back with guards, hear?” He turned on his heel and started sprinting away.
William stared after him, his jaw opening and closing but no words coming out of his mouth. His lips were dry. I’m going to die. I’m going to die and they’re going to take him.
He stumbled back a step, licking his lips, desperate to catch his breath. When he turned back, the beetle was only a few dozen yards away, and closing in fast. He could run back to the gates, but if the beetle kept pace and made it into the city before the gate dropped shut… it’d wreak havoc before they could penetrate the thick armor or turn it over to get at its fleshy abdomen. Yet, was it worth his life?
It wasn’t worth his life, but it wasn’t worth the call of coward, either.
He put his pinkies in the corners of his mouth and mimicked Richard’s whistle, skeptical of its effects. William whirled on his heel and ran. He sprinted as fast as his legs could carry him. His lungs burned. The beetle breathed heavily behind him.
With any misstep on the muddy ground, he might fall prey to the monster.
Trees closed in around him. His shoulder smacked a low hanging branch. If he took his eyes off the ground, he might trip on a root; if he took his eyes off his surroundings, he might crash into a-- sapling. A sapling stood tall in front of him.
He took a hard turn. His feet slid out from under him in the mud, sending him crashing to the ground. He got to his knees and the hard body of the monster hurled him aside. The air rushed from his lungs as he slammed into the ground. Something sharp pierced his side.
Crying out, he opened his eyes to find the fangs of the monster directly about his face, saliva gathering on the tip of one mandible. He patted down his sides, desperate to find his dagger. Its breath smelled like puke.
I’m not dying.
Warm saliva dripped onto his chin. His fingers wrapped around his dagger. The mandibles opened and its head reared up. He thrust his head and shoulders sideways, impaled side burning. The mandibles slammed into the ground. He pulled the knife out, holding it tight, and drove it into the fleshy belly of the beetle.
It hissed, yanking its leg out of his abdomen as it tottered backwards a few feet.
William rolled away from it and pushed himself to his feet, biting his lip against a cry of pain and ignoring the stinging of his neck. He nearly careened into a tree, slamming his hand into the bark to stop himself.
A sharp whistle sounded. The beetle hissed in pain again.
“Richard?” William gasped before he had finished turning.
A man stood over the carcass of the beetle, holding a sword covered in fresh blood. Another man with a satchel approached William with quick steps. “Aye, man, you alright?”
William stared at him. He nodded once and dropped to the ground.
@typical_demigod This was a really good scene in my opinion. nods
As someone who generally suffers with any sort of action scene, I salute you.
Also.... I don't know why but when Richard started to go on about his family I had a very clear "this dude's gonna die isn't he?" moment. lol
And, what is/was the plague? ^.-
Haha, thanks :)
Idk what that trope is called where they talk about their family and show off pictures in a war film and then die, but I can see the similarities now that you say that. Anyway, time will tell if he does or doesn't die.
Well, it's not the bubonic plague :P Anyway, it swept through the world some 15-20 years ago and while a lot of people made full recoveries, there were some left with lingering breathing problems or other maladies. In terms of hallucinations, I'm debating if there may be lasting psychological issues, but it's certainly a myth. It's just, was it a coincidence with a notable person, or an actual thing? It could go either way and I'm leaving myself room to decide.
I have notes on more details about the plague but I haven't looked at them in ages so my memory is faint. I'm thinking on going into more depth later, but we'll see if that happens.