Many things require explaining here. First however, I will clarify as to the reason for the absence of the first chapter of Heartless. The reason for this is, as I mentioned before I was trying something new– Ah, you know what? Scratch that. I’ll give it away. I’m writing Heartless in first person present tense. However, I ran into a slight problem. The whole time, I was thinking of the story in a third person past tense point of view, so when I wrote, despite being grammatically correct, the first chapter of Heartless sounded awful. So what I’ve done, is I’ve put that on the back burner, for hopefully a maximum of a week while I get it all sorted out. In the meantime, I decided I may as well start on another story that’s been flying around inside my head for about three weeks now.
I just need to clarify something with this. Somewhere in the middle, I switch tenses, and, in that span of time, if you think too deeply about what’s happening, things might seem a little – off. This is fine. The Storyteller is meant to be an abstract story, but have no fear, that will be cleared up partially in the next chapter, and things should make a ton more sense. So, without further ado (I love that phrase), I present to you the prologue of: The Storyteller.
In everyone lies a story, some just never get told. My story begins quite a long time ago. We need to travel back around the sun hundreds of years, to a time filled with superstition, simple folk, and tales waiting for the storyteller: the Medieval Ages. Woosh! There. Now that we have entered into the correct time period, we must journey to a nondescript village (insert sound effect of your choice here) whose name is of no importance to this tale. Arriving there, we meet the protagonist for this story…
Phillip sat up straight in bed. The sun filtering in through his window was enough to tell him that it was around six in the morning. Yet what had awakened him? Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he swung his legs off the bed and stood up. Instantly his knees buckled and he fell crashing to the floor; his legs were worse today.
The floorboards squeaked loudly as he got back to his feet. Then he froze. Even though he was now motionless, the floorboards continued to squeak, and from a direction that appeared to be in the front room. Slowly hobbling to the trunk in his room, he swung the lid back and drew out the rusty sword that lay inside.
“Come come Phillip,” a voice boomed from behind him. “You have no need for that.”
Phillip turned around so fast that he fell backwards into the trunk. It took but a split second for his eyes to lock onto a grey haired man standing in the doorway, and another split second had his shaking hand pointing the blade in the general direction of the intruder. Slowly the man drew back his tattered sleeves, and extending his hand in Phillip’s direction, the stranger closed his eyes and spoke in a similar booming voice.
“But he forgot that his sword had been left on the dining table last night.”
The next thing Phillip knew, his sword no longer was in his hand, and he now pointed a trembling index finger at the grey-haired man. Smiling grimly as his eyebrows which had knit together in concentration relaxed, the stranger took a step back and seemed to be appraising Phillip. Slowly he nodded. Then, whirling around suddenly the intruder disappeared through the doorway. Phillip was not completely sure, but he thought he heard the man call over his shoulder, “I cooked breakfast!”
Phillip blinked. Then he blinked again. The apparition, for that was truly what he believed his unwelcome guest had been, certainly seemed to hold no more place in the land of the mortals. Easing himself out of the trunk, Phillip limped into the main room, which also happened to contain his dining table.
Upon his eyes lighting on what lay in there, Phillip staggered backwards until he hit the wall. Even then he had to pinch himself to make sure that what he saw was correct. On the dining table lay his sword, and beside it was a platter filled with a breakfast that to him was luxury beyond belief. In reality, it was some hard bread and venison along with a jug of water fresh from the spring and an apple, but it was not often that he had eaten breakfast after the death of his family.
What could this mean though? Something out of the ordinary certainly was happening here. A spirit entered his house, scared him half to death, then made him breakfast? Phillip’s stomach however, had ideas other than standing there staring at the food. It protested loudly, and this complaint seemed to be enough to wake Phillip from his stupor.
Warily he approached the food, as if afraid it might attack him, but as it seemed disinclined to do so, he sat down and began eating heartily. As his stomach filled, and its supplications for more victuals diminished, so did his mind’s demands for answers increase. Finally, after scraping the crumbs from the platter and pocketing the apple core, Phillip pushed himself back and studied the table and the two items that lay upon it.
The food had been real, physical food, for he was fuller now than he had been for years. Indeed Phillip was the very embodiment of skin and bones, though perhaps in a nicer manner. Despite the fact that he lacked the musculature of others his age, there certainly was no argument that could be made for an ounce of superfluous flesh about him. Wiry, lithe, and energetic, if it were not for his crippled legs, he would not have had any trouble with life.
As it were, having been born with these deformed limbs, he had been a ‘useless child’, good only to help his mother around the house, while his father, already showing signs of the arthritis that was to hit ten times harder later, had to work in the field. These thoughts were gloomy though, and having had a free breakfast, Phillip was as far from gloomy as left is from right. Deciding no longer to trouble himself about where the food had come from, the woodcutter, for that was his occupation, stood and walked stiffly to the door.
Seizing the axe that leaned against the inside of the doorframe, he swung the crude aperture open and exited into the bright sunlight. His cottage, a different abode from the one previously occupied by him and his family, was located beside the woods from which he cut his wood. Whistling a tune that his dog-mannered donkey knew to be the call for work, Phillip limped towards his source of income.
As he walked, Griffin, Phillip’s donkey, trotted up behind him and nudged his master sharply. Stumbling forward with a laugh, Phillip cut his tune short as he dug into his pocket with his free hand. Drawing out the apple core, he tossed it over his shoulder, and grinned wider at the resounding crunch as Griffin caught it in his mouth. Now, as both master and beast were satisfied, they proceeded along at a speedier rate, and soon arrived at the copse of trees Phillip was thinning.
Nobody in the village but Phillip cut trees. It may surprise you, who can well be allowed to doubt the fact that an underfed seventeen year old could provide wood for a village, that this was so. But, Phillip knew something that no one else did.
Sitting down, with his back to a tree, Phillip closed his eyes, and let almost a sleep overcome him. However, in that trance-like state, his mind was working actively.
I move through the copse at a speed which for me is running, for others, jogging. Halting in front of a tree, I begin hacking at it with the axe. Then, as it tumbles, I whistle my special tune, and Griffin, who has been standing behind me all along, trots up beside me. I take a second to envy the speed at which he can travel, then shaking this unwarranted thought aside, I start cutting the tree into fagots.
As I do this, Griffin shakes himself, jingling the harness which I put on him before we left the house.
“Quiet,” I chide, but he knows that my words mean nothing. Ever since the day I picked Griffin up from the side of the road, I have been liberal to a fault, and he takes full advantage of that. Yet despite this, it is a close bond I share with my donkey. He is, after all, my only companion in this deserted place.
I pause to wipe the sweat from my brow, and in three more chops, finish chopping the last fagot. It is at this point that I pause, and hobbling over to the nearby stream that had swelled during the night, I dip both hands into its cool water and scoop the refreshing liquid into my parched mouth. Then, having cooled myself sufficiently, I turn to Griffin and prepare to load him up.
The harness which I created for Griffin is of a special design. It consists of a neck strap to which another two straps are connected. These two pieces of leather run back from his neck along his spine and connect at the base of his tail. Another half loop comes from one of those parallel straps, runs down under his belly, and comes up on the other side to connect to the other strap. From this loop, a series of rings connect to five ropes on each side.
It is to these ropes which I tie the bundles of fagots, and from the way I cut the ropes, when Griffin moves forward, the bundles trail out in two parallel strings behind him. Between these I put a bar which stops either side from tangling with each other. Now I step around to Griffin’s head to lead him home, but he whinnies and kicks, refusing to leave. For a moment, I am confused, then with a laugh, I remember the bundle of kindling which I had tied together earlier. Limping towards it, I start to hoist it onto my back when suddenly–
Phillip suddenly teleported from his position at the now damp base of the tree to the side of Griffin, while his muscles, which were not expecting any resistance, hyperextended. The bundle fell backwards, and he fell with it, his lower back landing sharply on the bundle. Phillip cried out at this, for the kindling was an uneven bundle. Pain shot from his spine to his head, and his eyes saw red.
As blackness slowly overcame red, a shadow took form from the trees around Phillip and approached the woodcutter who lay sprawled on the floor. Griffin whinnied uneasily as the grey-haired stranger stooped down and scooped the limp body of Phillip from the ground. Phillip, vaguely aware that he was being carried, moaned uneasily. He realized now that his intruder of the morn and he were similar in one respect:
They were both storytellers.
By the way, just cause we’re out of Creative Writing class doesn’t mean you guys are exempt from giving good feedback! 😛