[Hi everyone! I wrote this scene about 2 months ago. My aim with it was to write the first scene of a prologue to a fantasy novel. This is the second draft (perfectly preserved from two months ago!). Bonus to anyone who can guess where I ripped my character names from haha. I will be taking a few days off over Christmas, so I figured I would put this up so that people will have plenty to read until I’m back 🙂 I know you’ll all miss me terribly. It’s pretty long for something to post to the internet, but if you guys enjoy it then I’ll try to write some of these longer-style stories more often. I hope you like it! Happy Christmas! – Kevin.]
“What are you doing with that stick Matt?”
Matt blasted Ham with a look of pure indignation and violently thrust the stick up into his face, showing clearly the runes he had been scraping into it for the last five minutes. “Making some bloody Runes because I left my bloody Wand with the GODDAMN BLOODY TENTS!!” he exploded, sputtering, his outrage making him swear quite profusely. Ham looked down at the stick – which Matt had thrust so close to his face that he was forced to tilt his head back and squint at it quite uncomfortably – peering past his rather substantial nose and facial hair.
The stick brandished triumphantly in Matt’s grimy hand did have a few scrapings on it… Ham supposed they were meant to be the runes Matt had been referring to. Ham regarded the stick for a moment longer, then “mmm”ed noncommittally – and turned away. Matt remained frozen in his position for a long second, still thrusting his stick aggressively towards the place that Ham’s beard had up to that moment been residing in. Then, with a huff of exasperation, he retracted his arm and once again devoted himself to furiously working on the stick. Ham sighed, baffled, and turned his attention to more relevant matters. A stick, after all, is hardly important when one is being attacked by a horde of blood-crazed savages.
Ham wasn’t sure where they’d come from. One moment they’d been preparing to pack up camp and move out, and the next they were trapped behind a low wall, sheltering from a ferociously unrelenting hail of the spears, arrows, magic missiles, and war cries of a particularly nasty war pack of Shiftsand tribesmen. Starting to get cramped from several minutes stuck in an awkward crouching position, Ham decided to peek over the top of the wall for a second to see what the tribesmen were up to. He was rewarded for his efforts by a renewed flurry of rage and projectile weaponry. Ham dived back down behind the shelter of the wall and turned to find Matt looking at him disconcertingly. “They’re still there I’m afraid,” he helpfully informed him. Matt stared at Ham flatly for a couple more seconds then turned back to his work once again, not even deigning to reply.
Ham was not a small man. In fact, he was by far the biggest man anyone had ever seen, dwarfing even the tall tribesmen that could be found in the further reaches of the Shiftsand desert. Getting stuck behind such a small wall was a bad idea, Ham thought to himself, Should’ve chosen a bigger one. Ham glanced wistfully across at their main camp, which was happily nestled behind a much larger-and much more comfortable!-wall. “Wish I was over there with Lin,” Ham confided to Matt, sighing mournfully. He immediately realised this was exactly the wrong thing to say at that particular moment, as Matt’s eyes, already wide with terror and frantic desperation, bulged out even further with outrage and righteous fury. “HOW CAN HE BLOODY WELL SLEEP THROUGH A BLOODY FULL SCALE TRIBESMAN ASSAULT,” Matt howled at Ham, punctuating each word with a violent waving of his stick, each coming dangerously closer to Ham’s unprotected face.
Matt stared accusingly at Ham after this outburst, as if waiting for him to explain what was clearly inexplicable. Why does Matt always seem to think that everything is my fault? Ham thought to himself dejectedly. “Maybe being a Wizard is tiring?” He answered out loud instead, sounding unconvincing even to himself. Matt blinked slowly, struggling to find an appropriate response. Apparently giving up on the merits of a reasoned reply, Matt groaned in frustration and lanced his stick towards one of the magic missiles flying overhead instead. The runes hastily carved into the stick immediately flashed with a brilliant white light and the magic missile, with a booming crack, lurched from its original trajectory and crashed into Matt’s tent in the main camp – which promptly exploded in a ball of sorcerous flame. Lin’s blanket-covered form stirred briefly following the eruption, but then rolled over into a more comfortable position and resumed what appeared to be a very pleasant nap.
Ham and Matt blinked at each other, stupefied, their argument momentarily forgotten. “Well,” Matt observed in a normal but shocked voice, eyeing his ruined tent with mild consternation, “I wasn’t really expecting that to work!” Matt had never really been good at wizarding things.
Apparently the tribesmen hadn’t been expecting it to work either, as their previously tireless fusillade immediately stopped. In the ensuing quiet, the sounds of confused questions and worried debates drifted over to the two heroes from the attackers’ position. Although their words were in a foreign tongue, their meaning was clear: they were discussing how to deal with this new and unexpected threat – and they weren’t going to be nice about it.
Matt turned to Ham and shrugged innocently. “They’re probably going to attack in force now” he pointed out, using his best it-wasn’t-my-fault voice. Ham looked back at him, aghast. “Oh please no!” he wailed. Matt shrugged again, appearing unperturbed. “Better get your axe ready, Ham.” Ham glanced down at his axe – a gigantic and wickedly curved beast of a weapon – then across in the direction of the tribesmen, whose panicked discussion was quickly coming to a decisive and aggressive-sounding end. Oh bollox! He said to himself. Bloody flaming bollox!!
Suddenly, with a bloodthirsty howl, the tribesmen charged.
Taking his axe in hand, Ham vaulted over the meagre protection of the wall to meet them, Matt – clutching his stick – at his side. But for all their surface bravado, Ham knew they were doomed. True, he was a giant of a man – but being a giant is no good in fights. How many times have I told Matt? Being a giant is good before fights: you can scare people into not fighting you! Once you get into a fight though? Absolutely useless! The only difference then is that it makes you a bigger bloody target! Ham hugged his limbs close to his body and stooped down, praying that this size-hiding deception would mask his obvious weakness from the approaching horde. May the Creator bless us and save us! He moaned to himself. We’re bloody well doomed!
Ham’s desperate trick obviously failed to fool the tribesmen, and their reckless charge continued unabated. Ham really hated fighting – more than he hated anything else in the world. He was quite simply dreadful at it. A wise man would always run away from a fight, Ham knew. If given the choice between running away and certain death a wise man would choose running away every time! Ham suddenly remembered that Matt had said something about Sandsworn when the ambush first started – Sandsworn! The ultimate elite fighting force of the Sandshifting army! If there really were Sandsworn taking part in the ambush then Ham and Matt would die even faster than he had originally thought. Well, at least these ones aren’t running away, Ham reflected. A smart soldier would run away, therefore, these mustn’t be the Sandsworn. Thank the Creator! Regardless of the charging soldiers’ ineptitude and his reassuring logic, Ham was still absolutely terrified. And only a bloody fool wouldn’t be!
Then, with a final burst of speed, the tribesmen were on them. Ham watched in horror as the leading soldier leapt into the air towards him, pulling back his sword, readying himself for the vicious thrust that would pierce Ham’s chainmail and drive straight through to his heart, causing certain death. Ham, all things considered, reacted admirably to the situation: he closed his eyes. Crying out in terror, he swung his axe in a massive sweep at the leaping soldier, desperately trying to deflect the mortal blow. It was at times like these that Ham really wished he had listened to his weapons master more carefully. Old Grimjaw had been a harsh and unsympathetic bastard but at least he’d known how to fight – not that he ever managed to pass any of that expertise on to Ham.
It gave Ham a small measure of reassurance that the poor man couldn’t see his last pupil now, about to be slaughtered by the dregs of the Sandshifter army. In honour of his late instructor’s memory, Ham reluctantly prised his eyes open again. It was lucky for him that he did so, because at that very moment the rest of the first wave of tribesmen joined the fight – but at least the first man was nowhere to be seen. Probably ran away after he killed me with that thrust, Ham realised. If I was a good fighter I would have done the very same thing. Admiring the first soldier-and dying to his thrust-would have to wait, however. There were plenty more tribesmen raring to kill him who would have to be dealt with first.
Three of them came at him simultaneously. Ham lunged forward and fired a massive punch straight into the stomach of one of the shocked looking soldiers, knocking him unconscious and catapulting him backwards into the oncoming second wave of troops. Ham winced, picturing Grimjaw’s glare of disapproval at Ham’s most un-warrior-like technique. The second man – exploiting the brief opening in Ham’s defence – swept his curved sword in a brutal arc towards his feet. Ham leapt over it, jumping an unnecessary four feet into the air. Grimjaw’s frown deepened. I’m sorry master! I thought he was going for my knees! Ham apologised to his master’s memory. Grimjaw just shook his head in disappointment.
To make up for his foolish error, Ham brought his axe crashing down on the third soldier, who had frozen in his tracks and was staring at the now airborne giant in amazement. The second man recovered from his swing at the same time that Ham landed, and turned to face him, eyes wide. Ham abandoned his axe, which had become unfortunately stuck in the other man’s head – Grimjaw turned away in disgust, unable to watch such an awful display any longer – and raised his fists threateningly. The soldier’s frantic eyes darted quickly from one fist to the other, the sword in his own hand apparently forgotten. Ham thanked the Creator for such a lucky opportunity – then headbutted the man in the face, killing him instantly.
Matt, luckily, was a much better fighter than Ham. He stood firm before the armed and armoured warriors, the runes on his small stick blazing light in his left hand. Matt’s face relaxed into an expression of serene determination – totally incongruous with the pair’s situation. Then, totally calm, he raised his right hand and pointed his palm towards each of the enemy soldiers in turn. Each time he pointed at a soldier, a brilliant bar of blinding white light erupted from his palm, flickering in and out of existence in an instant, blinding and deafening everyone around it for that fraction of a second. Each bar of light sliced through its target effortlessly, leaving behind neatly severed and smoking corpses.
Ham squeezed his eyes shut in pain, and shielded his ears with his hands. I hate it when he does that! He winced, shaking his head, trying to clear the sunspots from his sight and the ringing from his ears. It’s a nice trick though. Makes fighting much easier! I don’t know why Matt doesn’t try harder to learn how to be a wizard! Grimjaw wouldn’t have been so tough on me if I’d been able to do some of those flashy moves!
With a start, Ham realised that a minor miracle had occurred – they had survived the first wave of Sandshifters! The second wave had been bowled over by the man Ham had accidentally thrown into them, but they were quickly regaining their feet. Ham bent down and awkwardly retrieved his axe from the skull of one the dead soldiers, then turned and frowned at the newcomers, who were staying a good safe distance away from the pair. Why don’t they attack? He wondered. They must have realised by now that they can take us easily!? The soldiers, however, had different plans. The men exchanged a fearful glance with one another and then, unbelievably, turned around, dropped their weapons and fled.
Ham blinked, shocked. Are they mad? He wondered. Then, in a sudden flash of insight, he understood what had happened. Not mad – Wise. These soldiers must be the Sandsworn –unequalled tacticians and warriors! Their retreat… must be some sort of new and brilliant strategy! Cold fear gripped Ham’s heart. They’re the most elite of the elite. Then, with uncharacteristic wisdom, Ham made a good decision: Better run too! And with that, he jumped back over the wall and dived back into the safety of hiding.
Matt, still wielding his impromptu Wand, felt a small flare of triumph at the soldiers’ retreat. Allowing himself a humble but confident grin he turned to Ham, “Good work. We should push our advantage and take out their Shaman befo-” Ham wasn’t there. Where the hell has he gone? Matt quickly surveyed the scene, feeling a sudden jolt of panic at his big friend’s absence. Four bodies: all well and truly dead. No sign of Ham though. Matt noted with a laugh the axe-halved body of the first soldier who had leapt at Ham. Bet he regretted that decision. But where was Ham? He had clearly dealt with the enemy quickly and efficiently. Maybe I should be nicer to the poor chap – especially if he has that giant axe of his to hand! Matt shook his head ruefully. Lucky for me he doesn’t realise how dangerous he is with that thing.
Matt’s mirth suddenly died. He had a suspicion – one which was rapidly changing to certainty – regarding Ham’s current location. No. No. He wouldn’t have. Even he’s not that dense. He wouldn-. Matt turned around to stare back at the wall, any semblance of calmness fading as his face changed to register what can only be described as a cross between disbelief and helpless frustration. And, sure enough, there was Ham, fearfully crouching behind the cover. Matt’s mouth fell open. I don’t bloody believe it!
Ham looked up and saw Matt staring at him – Matt! What’s he doing standing out there in the open? He’ll get himself hilled! – and started to frantically beckon him back to safety. Matt, still too dumbfounded to be truly angry, turned back towards the tribesmen. You’ve got to be bloody kidding me, he thought numbly, his usually keen mind shocked into inanity. This can’t be happening. You’ve got to be bloody kidding me! He can’t possibly still think he’s useless…A quick glance at the hiding giant, however, confirmed that that was exactly the case. Ugh! Fine. I’ll just fight them without him.
The tribesmen, unfortunately, had used their brief respite to rally their forces; their archers and spear-throwers were quickly racing back to their positions. “Bollox,” Matt growled to himself, as the enemy started to open fire on him once more, “Bloody flaming bollox.” Then, expelling his breath through his nose in one final burst of frustration, Matt leapt back over the wall to join the cowering Ham.