Saturday, June 21, 2008

Chapter Excerpt

Well, since no one else is using this blog yet, I might as well!

Those who read my comic ought to on some small level (as I post about it there often enough) that I am foremost a novelist. My comic is an adaptation of the novel form of The War of Winds.  Sometimes I post excerpts and chapters for curious folk to read.  Here’s one from the latest revised chapter “Heed the Small Voice,” which was originally titled “Man in the Tavern.” It is chapter 2, if you want to compare it to the comic version.

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Chapter 2- Heed the Small Voice

Later that same night, a cold, wet wind began to beat through the empty streets of Goranga, the bad tidings of a springtime storm. It smelled of moist, lowland grasses and swollen rivers, pungent in its scent and hardly refreshing. Many in Goranga hung wind chimes of hollowed wood from their lintel in a plea to the West Wind the center of the storm would pass them by. Others prayed before clay figurines of the dog-like deity of neighboring Chin Kom Pa, their belief in the Four Winds long considered the foolishness of another time. As the wind stirred the chimes and beat upon barricaded windows of the Lower City, it sped along the narrow, twisting streets until it blew open the door of a dank tavern, ushering inside one wet, tired, and confused young man.

“Shut the damn door, kid,” the tired bartender demanded from behind a crooked counter.

“I told you once,” the newcomer grumbled, massaging his temples, “I’m not a kid.”

“And I told you twice,” the man began to reply, “your sister finds out I let you drink here and she’ll have my hide.”

Talon stumbled to the bar and climbed on top of a hard stool. He noticed grass stains on his pants, and dirt on his hands, but they did not interest him. “Just give me something for this headache, Horrock,” the thief mumbled, groaning as he shut his eyes against the dim firelight.

“You’d better not be nursing a hangover with more beer, kid,” Horrock said even as he poured Talon a glass of room temperature, flat alcohol. The thief did not bother to reply as he tucked his head in the cool crook of his arm, gripping the mug with his other hand. “You can pay this time, right?” Horrock suddenly asked, already reaching to take back the beer.

Talon sat up straight suddenly, eyeing Horrock suspiciously. He looked at the palm of his left hand suddenly, about to say something, and then curled his fingers into a loose fist, forgetting whatever it was that took his attention. “Yeah, yeah, I can pay.”

Horrock sighed, and turned to cater to another patron.

Talon took a deep swig of the flat alcohol and dried his lips with the back of his hand. Groaning again at the agony in his skull, he turned around on his stool to survey the bar. The interior of the Tavern, as simply as it was called, was as filthy as its exterior, and though the condition of outer walls could only be blamed on the constant barrage of elements, the inside had no such excuse. There was a sour stench that permeated every piece of poorly-laid wood, every chipped, ceramic bowl and every article of clothing that managed to find its way inside. A heavy veil of smoke clung to the decaying eaves, fed not only by the fireplace with partially closed flue, but also by the many drinkers who rolled their own smokes. The floorboards, made of rough pine, were warped and crooked from standing water, and four coarsely-hewn tables were scattered about in a random manner. Despite the late hour, the tables were packed with the short, burley farmers of southern Gan-go, with the exception of one table, where only one man sat.

Talon drew circles on the counter with a finger doused in stale beer as he cautiously eyed the man from afar. He immediately noticed the stranger wore a hooded cloak where the rest wore thin leathers to suit the sticky heat, often leaving a hairy torso bare. In the wavering firelight, Talon could see the glint of two objects beneath the cloak: one could only be the expensive sheath of a sword, but the other hung from a thick neck and from the short glance the thief got, it sparkled like a gem. He thought he saw something else, something that looked like the glow of an animal’s eyes, but shook his head. Just a trick of the firelight.

Probably some rich Lord from the Upper City,
the thief mused with a snort. Doesn’t want anyone to recognize him with his pretty, young, mistress.

Only, there was no woman with him, and certainly no young or pretty women in the entire establishment. Talon could also not help but taste the aura of disgust and anger that surrounded the stranger. A sane part of his mind told him to leave the man alone, that he was too dangerous, but another part reminded him he needed the money. Wait, money? The pack that hung around his shoulder seemed heavy. I thought I had—the thought stopped cold with the sharp pain in his head. No, he remembered, I spent my last coin on a fried rat-on-a-stick.

Talon sighed. For some reason, he felt very tired, and his palm itched. As he scratched it, he took another glimpse at the hooded stranger. It would be a tough steal, he could tell. The only way he would be able to get close to the man would be to…Winds, I hate that routine, Talon griped to himself, smearing his tired face with his hand in an attempted to wake himself up. Then, he downed the rest of his beer, loudly demanded another, and drank half of it. Belching loudly, he was sure to spill some alcohol on his clothes and grab at women as they walked by. When one of them finally slapped him, Talon grimaced and thought of the dirtiest song he knew. He began to sing off-key, until half the crowd joined him, and the other half threw their food at him demanding that he stop. Finally, Talon grabbed what was left of his beer and stumbled over to the table occupied by the one man, plopping himself down with a wide grin.

“Hey there, stranger,” the thief slurred. “You don’t join in any of the feshtiv…festishs …festivities!” Talon leaned in and winked, sure to breathe his beer-laden breath into the other man’s face. “Are you havin’ lady problems? I might be able sholv…solve that for you.”

Talon found it hard not to get up and leave immediately at the response of the threat of violence that emanated from the man. He knew he should, and he did not feel like getting his face beat in that night, but when he tried to get up and leave, he could not. He could not understand it, but he was stuck, and if he were stuck, then he could only continue and hope for the best.

“Just between you and me, stranger,” he began again, “I know of some fine herbs, y’know, if you’re havin’ a problem with…” Talon proceeded to illustrate with his finger, raising it from flat on the table to pointing up at the ceiling. The thief waited. That line rarely failed him, and never yet in a bar.

Hope you liked it! More to come.

-Kez

posted by KEZ at 2:44 pm