Friday snippets for Thursday! Poetry Thursday delayed until Saturday! Cats and dogs, living together! Gross overuse of exclamation points!!! When will the madness end??!!
Hey, it's been a long day. Back off and read. Excerpt from a WiP fantasy story that I'm still writing background for.
Excerpt from The Ard Prophecy
Perhaps if they had not lingered in the mountain pass, waiting for a scouting party that never arrived, they would have been in time to warn the people. But would these people have listened to a disheveled, battle-worn soldier with wild eyes and a young priest that didn't look old enough to recite the Litany of the Heavens? Explaining they were chosen by the gods to save Ard, and proving it were two different matters.
As Hosam crested the final hill, he pulled his lathered mare to a halt. Below in the bowl of the valley lay Raamat, huddled against a bend in the wide river. A young city, with only the temple and fountain square built of stone. The remainder of the town consisted of wood and claybrick buildings in various stages of construction, open areas for crops, and corrals for the food animals Raamat grew to sustain itself.
Black smoke wreathed the sprawling community. Dead sheep and cattle dotted the plains. Soldiers on heavy horses cantered through the scrambling mass of citizens and swung tapered swords in sweeping arcs. The screams of the maimed Raamatians drifted on the wind to mix with the bawl of sheep and crackle of flame. Even from here Hosam caught the mingled scents of burnt flesh and wood. Horsemen rode over the top of the fallen and trampled them into the mud. The gross casualness of their actions horrified Hosam. He clenched the reins so tight the mare began to back up, tossing her head.
A woman ran from the carnage, pulling a boy by the hand. Her head covering streamed behind her, a pennon of white in the sea of black and red. She changed direction, began to angle her run towards the craggy hill on which Hosam stood. There was no way he could tell her he was not a warrior. He could not save her. He was a priest, he could pray, but it looked as if the gods were immune to prayers this day.
A horseman rode after the woman, aimed a nocked arrow with relaxed grace. He let it fly. It pierced the running child through the back, knocked him sprawling, and pinned the boy to the ground. The woman turned, screaming words Hosam could not hear. She picked up a rock, brandishing it at the horseman. Beneath the furred helm the horseman's shadowed face split into a grin. He spurred the beast forward and raised his sword. Smoke swirled and parted to let him pass.
To the right of Hosam came a strangled cry. "Stop!” His companion had finally arrived, dressed in the brilliant gold armor of a Warrior of Ard. He yanked his horse to a halt, took in the carnage with a glance, and spotted the woman and her adversary. The warrior unsheathed a sword. "Come, Little Brother! To battle." He kicked his exhausted horse. Gamely, the animal broke into a run.
"We're too late. We cannot save the city!"
"But we can die trying!" the warrior shouted. He plunged his horse over the crest of the hill. The horseman below turned his attention from the women to this new threat, pulled a Krez horn from a rope around his neck, and blew. The deep boom spun out over the valley until Hosam could feel the reverberations in his very bones. The casual slaughter became a frenzied killing spree. A group of the enemy soldiers broke away and galloped in formation to face this new threat. Any other place, a lone warrior attacking an entire army would be laughable. But since the war gods had chosen sides, the enemy had no way of knowing if they faced a mere man or something more powerful. A battle line formed as every enemy horseman raised a bow and aimed at the charging Ard rider.
Hosam kicked his horse, dropped the reins, fumbled with the unfamiliar sword at his side, unwilling to let the Ard warrior ride heedlessly to his death. The mare took several steps forward, attempted to run, then skidded to a stop and reared as if someone grabbed her bridle. Nothing Hosam could do would make the little mare go forward. He attempted to dismount, intending to proceed on foot. An unseen hand clamped down on one shoulder in a painful grip and a voice like caged thunder spoke in his ear. "His life belongs to Maahes. Yours belongs to me."
Sounds vanished, and his vision narrowed until Hosam could see nothing but the Ard warrior that galloped in slow motion toward the wall of soldiers. He didn't hear the order that loosed the barrage. He could only watch as a hundred arrows sped forward like birds at sunset.
The arrows winged through the soldier and traveled on, pushing a great wall of red in their path, blood from every man, woman, and child in the town. The wave consumed the woman and her foe, added their life breath and grew taller. The red barrier continued toward the priest.
"Djehuty protect me..." Hosam didn't know if he spoke the words out loud or merely thought them, but the reply thundered in his head.
As you wish.
Powerful arms encompass Hosam. The last thing he saw was the crimson wall vanish before the brilliant glow of the lights of heaven.