Here is an extract from chapter 4 of my upcoming novel ‘Secrets of Arkana Fortress’. Comments and feedback are welcome as always but please bear in mind that this is the unedited version :-)
NB – Bad Language is Present!
A sudden pain brought him back into consciousness and he coughed a deep grating sound. He tried to lift himself up but was pushed down.
‘For crying out loud, keep him still.’
Byde stifled back a shout of agony as he felt something sharp stab him in the leg. ‘What the fuck are you doing to me?’
A blonde, short-haired woman looked up from the end of the bed, a metal sewing utensil in her hand. ‘I am stitching up this giant gash in your leg. Now keep still!’
He grunted with reluctant approval and then looked at the dark skinned man still with his hands on his shoulders.
‘Who are you two?’ he croaked.
The man, built like a castle fortress and with a mane of jet black hair, looked at him with soothing brown eyes. ‘We found you on the eastern plains near the Spring Waters well. You were in a bit of a state so the wife and I brought you back.’ The man looked at his wife who was cross stitching surgical thread through Byde’s leg.
Byde groaned. ‘It’s… very kind of you. You could have just left me there to die you know?’
The woman laughed as she tied up the loose end of a stitch.
‘What’s so funny?’
‘We’re not barbarians in Cryldis you know?’ the husband replied with a sly smirk.
Byde spluttered at what he had heard. ‘Cryldis? Are you sure?’
The wife finished up and packed her sewing equipment away in a long steel case, placing it on a bedside table. She stood up and looked at Byde with cloudy blue eyes. ‘Well we’ve lived here for 30 odd years now so we’re pretty sure of where we are.’ She placed her hand on his forehead and clucked her tongue. ‘You’ve still got quite a temperature.’
He remained silent and stared at the ceiling of the hut. It was surprisingly big for what it was… probably a hunter’s lodge. Furs of various animals adorned the walls and floor. There were cuts of salted meat roasting on an open fire giving off a mouth watering aroma that made his belly rumble loudly.
‘I bet you’re hungry pal,’ said the husband.
Byde smiled pathetically. ‘You can say that again.’ He sat up, struggling to do so without help. Glancing down he noticed that his clothes were gone. There was a sudden panic in his voice. ‘Where are my things?’
‘Your clothes are hanging up by the fire to dry. The rest of you stuff is over on the table,’ said the wife pointing.
‘Could you bring me the things from the table?’ he asked the husband with urgency.
He was handed his belongings – his sword, a pair of gloves, a belt, a small knife and a brooch. His heart slowed down. ‘Thank the gods for that.’
The man looked at him with a bewildered expression. ‘What was so important?’
Byde looked up and stuttered. ‘N…nothing. Just that some of this stuff is inherited tis all.’ He breathed a sigh of relief then assessed the couple. ‘What are your names anyway? I can’t thank you properly without knowing them.’
‘I’m Ilsa and this is my husband Olen.’
He looked up at the husband. ‘Nice to meet you Olen.’
He then looked at the wife. ‘Thank you, Ilsa, for sorting my leg out.’
She smiled warmly. ‘It was no biggy; had nothing else to do today so I thought ‘why not stitch someone’s leg up?’’
Byde laughed briefly before coughing up what felt like his innards. ‘My name is Byde.’
‘It’s a pleasure’ replied Ilsa as she fiddled about with a dressing for his leg.
‘Oh I bet you’re in need of grub,’ said Olen. ‘It’ll be up in an hour or so, so make yourself comfy till then alright?’
That evening at the table he was treated to a hearty assortment of salted meats and steamed vegetables which he wolfed down as if he hadn’t eaten for a millennia. ‘Good food,’ he stated with a more than ample mouthful. His fingers, riddled with juices from the meat, were poised to refill his gullet as soon as the present load had gone.
Ilsa covered her mouth, trying not to giggle too much at the sight of this stranger’s enthusiastic consumption of her cooking.
Byde looked up. ‘What’s so funny?’ he asked after swallowing too much and nearly choking.
She shook her head timidly. ‘Oh nothing… it’s just that I know Olen has an appetite but I’ve never seen anyone eat food that quickly before.’
Olen agreed with a throaty chuckle as he tenderly chewed on a piece.
Byde stopped and put his hands in front of his mouth. He wore a guilty look in the recesses of his face. ‘I am so sorry… am I making a pig of myself?’
‘No no it’s ok. Carry on… I’m flattered you find it so tasty.’
He exhaled. ‘Thanks… it is bloody lovely stuff.’
Olen finished off his chunk of meat and shifted on his chair. ‘Not to be offensive, but you act like you’ve never eaten food like this before.’
‘That’s because I haven’t.’
‘What you mean?’ asked Olen.
Byde stopped in mid-chew. He realised that he was divulging too much pertinent information to the two of them. ‘Erm… what I mean is I don’t have stuff like this where I come from.’
Ilsa leaned forward, resting her elbows on the hardwood table top. ‘Where are you from then?’
He kicked himself again. You dumbass he thought to himself. ‘I… err… come from the south. Lived on my own for many years now so I don’t get the chance to cook up such a spread – I’m no hunter or expert cook; simple food is all I’ve had for a while.’
She smiled broadly. ‘Well I’m just glad you like it anyway.’
The room was warmed by the roaring fire and crackled every so often, giving it a simple and relaxed air that Byde found endearing. This place was so different to the unstable Isles of Dinsk, with its magical disasters, quakes, storms from clear skies, magical illusions. This place had undisturbed weather processes, carefree wildlife, no earthquakes or illusions of the sort.
‘Tell me about Cryldis… I’ve never been here before,’ he asked after taking his last piece of the feast in a pincer-like motion of his fingers.
‘It’s an alright place to live,’ replied Olen as he handed his empty plate to Ilsa for washing. ‘Not many cities or large towns here though. You’ve got Hocklino – the port to the north-east of the island just past the forests. That’s the big place for incoming trade from anywhere in the northern territories.’
‘What about the south?’
‘There’re a few smaller port towns that aren’t on any map that’s been done yet but Cryldis rarely trades with anybody from the southern territories coz they tend to keep themselves to themselves down that way… bunch of unsociable people if you ask me.’
‘I’ve never dealt with anyone else in the south other than my own sense of loneliness,’ said Byde.
Olen looked at him. ‘Where in the south do you live? Anywhere near that port town of Pillin? That’s the only place in the south I know of.’
Byde looked down at the table. ‘Erm… near there, yes. Just down the coast.’ He hoped that his making up of a story would pass as believable.
‘Ah right. Must be lonely,’ Olen acknowledged.
He breathed out subtly, relieved that he had deceived the man. ‘Anyway you were saying about this island…’
‘Yes I was.’ Olen perked up as if he rarely had a lengthy conversation with anyone at all. ‘Anyway, the capital of the island is a place called Hocknis; ever heard of it?’
‘No I haven’t.’
‘No matter – it’s a grand place where a lot of trading goes on. You see, this island is very trade oriented; always has been. Hocknis never used to exist many, many years ago; it was a lot of separate villages that soon realised that they could survive a lot longer if they all joined together rather than competing against each other for trading supremacy. In the end they formed a coalition government that did ok for a small while, but then collapsed due to conflicting ideas and a lot of unrest from the people. Instead of bickering over things they clubbed together and put things to the vote; now they’ve got a stable government – a minister as leader of the council. Democracy seems to have worked over here. I can’t say much for Donnol up north across the pond.’
Byde raised an eyebrow out of curiosity. ‘Is Donnol in the northern territories then? Why can’t you say much for it?’
Olen screwed half of his face up with indifference. ‘It used to have a good government but over the past dozen years or so everything across Salarias has gone to pot; the plague and all that shit.’
‘Plague? What plague is this?’
The dark-faced Olen was taken aback with utter disbelief. ‘Are you serious?’ He turned to look at his wife. ‘Ilsa… our friend Byde here doesn’t seem to know about the plague.’
Ilsa stopped her washing and peered behind her at the pair of them, mostly at Byde’s look of confusion. ‘The Psyloss plague? The thing that’s been sending people across the land completely loopy? Surely they’ve been affected down south?’
Byde shrugged and shook his head gently. ‘I’ve lived on my own for a few decades so I have no clue what’s going on in the world.’ He lowered his head.
Olen waved at Ilsa. ‘Carry on with the washing sweetie.’
She moved back to the tub of hot water.
‘We didn’t know how long you had lived on your own for; we’re sorry for seeming a bit unbelieving.’ He gave a soft smile. ‘Where was I?’
‘You were talking about Donnol up north,’ Byde answered.
‘That’s the one. Yeah it was a thriving market town that developed into a large city – got it own military and everything now. It kind of monopolised the port trade up there so there aren’t any others left – they all went into the care of the Donnol government.
‘It holds a monthly market – impressive stuff I might add; go there myself every so often. You get allsorts going up there to sell their wares and stuff – loads of different races from all over Salarias.’
Byde sat in his seat, fixated on what he was being told. He hadn’t known much about the outside world and what it was like. Sure he had a map or two back home, but having no experience with any of the places on it he was now like an eager child learning about it for the first time in his life. ‘Sounds like a grand place regardless of the troubles you’ve mentioned.’
Olen nodded. ‘Yeah, you should go there and have a look around for yourself. It’s certainly something you should do at least once in a lifetime to be honest.’
‘I’ll do that sometime.’
Ilsa dried off the last plate and joined them, holding a bottle of some liqueur in one hand and three glasses in the other. She set them down and parked herself on the stool. ‘A night-cap is at hand.’ She poured three half measures of the dense purple-red liquid and replaced the cork.
‘So… tell us about yourself, Byde.’
Hope you enjoyed the read and have some valuable feedback for me :-)