…I have no excuses, and I won’t give any. Forgive me?
Anyways, finally I am releasing chapter 1 of The Storyteller. This chapter is called “Introduction”, in which things are made clearer, and we get a better understanding of Phillip. Also, Heartless: Cold Hands will finally be coming out soon. I’ve re-planned the whole thing, and am working on structuring around the new concept. Hopefully you guys will like it. As for now though, enjoy. 🙂
Phillip’s mind awoke before the rest of his body did. A close second however was a throbbing pain that emanated from his spinal cord. Groaning, Phillip blinked his eyes open only to be startled by the same intruder who had entered his house earlier.
“Don’t you move,” the stranger warned. “Your back is in no condition to sustain such strain, though perhaps you know a way around that,” and the aged man winked suggestively.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Phillip said defensively. “Who are you anyway, and what are you doing here?”
Getting to his feet from a chair Phillip did not recognize, the questioned began pacing. He seemed to be pacing in a mindless fashion, and for a while did not speak. Then, as he began to speak, it was not the words themselves that Phillip heard, but the meaning and power behind them. As a companion to this strange man, Phillip travelled back in the mists of time, to a snowy mountain pass, where the wind howled desperately, lightning flashed dangerously, and thunder growled demonically.
“Come on Phillip!” the man called as he looked back, his cropped brown hair flailing madly in the wind. Together the two plowed onwards through the blizzard, part of the annual group of what were known as “migrants” who travelled from their respective villages and towns to the dark fortress of Rarrakogn to watch the yearly executions.
After an age, the wearied boys, for Phillip and his friend were but strapping lads, arrived at the massive black ice-encrusted gates. Squinting up to the top of the towering gatehouse, they could barely discern the cloak-covered figure of the Keeper, the one-eyed guardian of all that was evil and abnormal in the kingdom. Complaining loudly, the enormous gates slowly swung open and the crowd which had gathered outside poured into the courtyard of Rarrakogn.
Quietly the people filed into the courtyard. They were all aware of the ceremony by now, and formed a large circle around the leafless-tree that clawed at the sky like the hand of some trapped beast that lived below the earth. The skeletons of all who were abnormal or evil swung from the branches of that tree and clattered evilly with each other.
A wordless murmur passed through the crowd as the prisoners for this year’s execution were brought out. A man, taller than all others present, with a mask of black metal seared to his face was led out by the Keeper. His wrists and ankles were shackled with heavy chains, and a submission collar circled his neck. Roughly the Keeper stood his prisoner beneath a large bough on the tree and fed the captive’s neck through the noose that dangled before it.
All was silent save for the howling wind as the Keeper signaled and the noose’s counterweight was released. Shooting up at a pace that snapped his neck, the now dead prisoner dangled quietly from the tree. For a moment, everyone continued staring as if expecting something out of the ordinary to happen. Then, when they were all finally convinced that the criminal was dead, they turned and began treading slowly towards the gate.
A wooshing sound with a metallic tinge to it froze them. There was a sound of rending flesh and a loud thump. All turned to face the tree. An empty noose swung violently in the wind, and a headless corpse lay on the snow beside the decapitated head. Black blood slowly oozed from the wound. A strange looking axe lay on the ground; it had a pair of blades on either end of the handle.
Instantly everyone was whispering fearfully while the Keeper fruitlessly demanded silence. Despite all of Phillips’ efforts, his traveling companion slowly walked towards the axe. Phillip looked on fearfully as his “friend” bent over and touched the weapon. In an instant the axe shot from the ground into the stiff hand of the corpse, knocking the adventurous boy over.
Getting to its feet, the person who should have been dead seized its head from the ground and planted it on the stump of its neck. In a same fluid motion, the revived criminal swung his newly found weapon down on the prostrate form of Phillip’s companion.
“Before the axe hit, a branch fell from the tree!” These words, spoken by a youthful voice, echoed through the fortress loud and clear. As they were uttered, the very branch which the prisoner had been hung from cracked and began its downward descent. The masked man glanced up, then disappeared in a cloud of ash.
Once again, all were silent, then the Keeper stormed over to the boy, who lay panting as if from some great exertion, in the snow.
“What did you do?” thundered the voice of the Keeper as he held his new captive up in the air by the collar.
“I didn’t do nothing sir,” sputtered the frightened boy.
“We all saw you,” the Keeper growled. “You’re coming with me,” and turning, the scraggly man, who was surprisingly strong began dragging his captive to the shadowy prisons.
“No! No!” the boy pleaded. “I didn’t do anything, I promise!”
When this brought about nothing, the terrified child closed his eyes and spoke out once again in the same clear voice, “The Keeper tripped over a root.” Nothing happened.
Whirling around, the Keeper glared straight it to the pale face of his “criminal”. “That kind of evil don’t work agin’ me nor within the walls of Rarrakogn jail,” he thundered, then, as the gate to a jail cell swung open, the Keeper tossed his youthful prisoner into the dungeon. All Rarrakogn’s new inmate could do was watch as the bars slammed shut.
“But you would know all about this,” the intruder said, whirling on the spot and facing Phillip who had sat up in bed.
“Wha– Wait, what happened?” Phillip asked, looking around in search of the world that had just disappeared.
“Do not play dumb with me boy. You know what a recitation is. You have seen that same scene in your own life.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about sir,” Phillip said, but his heart was pounding so fast it felt like flying out from his chest. Could it be that there was really another Storyteller in the world?
“I said do not play dumb!” the man roared, moving with surprising speed and shaking Phillip sharply by the shoulders.
“Okay okay! Just get your hands off me. What is your name anyway?”
“That is of no importance. There are times when heroes have to rise from the ashes of a civilization too blind to understand true power. You are needed Phillip.”
“Slow down a second. First off, I am no hero,” and for a moment, Phillip’s mind travelled back to an incident he kept locked in the darkest room of his memory. “Secondly, why can’t you just solve the problem, you’re a storyteller too right?”
“That is the advantage youth has over age Phillip. What is required is more than I can handle. You saw from my recitation, that foul evil that was the cause of my life wasted in prison. He is known as the Executioner. Since that day when I defeated him, he realized that he was not as completely unstoppable as he thought. Now he has returned, with a greater source of power. You’ll need to stop him.”
“No.” Phillip said resolutely. “I can’t do it. I can barely even control my power let alone save a world. And what do I get out of it anyway?”
“Are you so selfish as to only work for your own profit?” the man growled, once again seizing Phillip sharply by the shoulder.
“What is that to you?” Phillip grumbled. “You can save the world if you’re so interested. I’m fine with just living my life unmolested, where things make sense, where I can control my powers without running the risk of hurting anyone.”
“Ahh, you are referring to your ‘event’.”
“Everybody who has powers has an event somewhere in their lives where they misused it. My event ended up getting me locked away in Rarrakogn. Yours though, as I’ve heard had more severe consequences.”
“If you’re trying to pry into something you have no business in, then you may as well give up now; I have no intention of sharing this story with anybody.”
“Ahh, so you admit to it,” the man said, leaning back against a wall.
“I admit to nothing!” Phillip declared.
“And thus you dig yourself deeper. Now, back to this business about saving the world. There are several steps you have to follow.”
“How many times must I tell you, I’m not saving the world!”
“Oh yes you are Phillip. You know why? Look at this.”
A ghostly wraith-like creature clothed in black glided smoothly through smoking terrain. The spectre raised its hand silently as a whooshing sound filled the quiet void. A spinning axe, with a double blade on either end of the handle, flew into its hand. As the monster moved through the destruction, Phillip could see charred bodies lying around in haphazard angles. A woman’s groan broke the silence.
Instantly the wraith’s head snapped to the direction it came from. In a similar tantalizing fashion, it glided towards the hapless human, and raising the red-stained axe, brought it down sharply with a dull thud. As the creature turned to continue on its path of destruction, the ash-composed head of a woman’s charred corpse rolled to the ground.
“That is only the beginning Phillip,” the aged man said, as the vision vanished. “This evil will not stop until the whole world is laid to waste, and only you can stop it.”
Phillip, still retching from the graphic image he had just witnessed, asked, “How can you give a recitation of something you have never witnessed with your own eyes?”
“Every time you use your powers to affect someone, it creates a bond between you. When I caused that branch to fall, I made a link between me and the Executioner. At times like this, when his presence is prominent, I can detect him, and view his surroundings. Currently he is on a route of decimation that is spreading gradually through the world. At the rate in which he is traveling, it will not be long before the whole world is destroyed, and we, as a people, will exist no longer. So, what do you say?”
Slowly Phillip looked up. His face was drawn and slightly green from holding back the bile in his throat, but his eyes flashed fire and his chin jutted determinedly as he said:
“Where do I start?”