Here's the Prologue to my NaNoWriMo and it's the 5th Book in my "Legends of Galria" septology. I hope you enjoy, and I'm looking forward to working on this one! :)
A rush of wind blew past him and fluttered his long brown duster as he stood in the middle of the empty road. The scent of decay wafted up from the ruined buildings around him, and it was clear that the village hadn't been inhabited in some time. When he took a step, his footfalls echoed against the bare walls of the homes as his boots crunched on broken glass and bones. The rings of his armor clinked together with each step.
The remains of villagers, those that hadn't been dragged away by scavengers or picked apart by carrion, had expired where they'd been mowed down. Closer inspection revealed that many of them had limbs severed from their bodies, suffered stab wounds in the back, or had their heads lopped right off. Everything suggested that it was a hit and run, that the raiders had come on horseback, and laid waste to the village.
“What would bring the Legion so close to Sanctuary?” Dane thought out loud, hearing his voice echoing back at him. There were bloodied hand prints on the walls, long since dried up and faded from exposure to the elements. “They've never left Olaraan territory before.” With the Legion's capture of Olaraa, they'd taken over all of its agriculture, stolen most of its technology, and enslaved anyone who hadn't escaped the country before their initial invasion. There was no need to harass the people living within Sanctuary's borders.
Amongst the bodies were those of children. No one had been spared, and looked like they'd been cut down while running for their lives. Images of a time not so long ago, of a village much like this one, flashed in Dane's mind. This destruction reeked of the stench of orcs, but one thing bothered him.
“Why didn't they kidnap the children instead of killing them? This makes no sense.” He looked around, at the total devastation wrought by the Legion attack. “They took everything of value and ran. This is definitely their work, but it doesn't look like the Fleshgorgers were involved. Who's in command this time?” He brushed a few stray strands of his long hair that had been blown in front of his face. “The war is over. The Legion should be so disorganized that it shouldn't be able to mount an offensive against Sanctuary again.”
There was a crashing sound coming from inside one of the buildings that snapped Dane out of his thoughts. He instinctively reached for Vengeance, the katana strapped to his back, and lowered himself into a crouching position. It was coming from inside a two story shop to his left. The half-destroyed sign that hung on a single chain read “Maron's Lutes &” before the final word was cut off.
Dane approached the doorway cautiously, and drew his katana slowly in an attempt to make as little noise as possible. He stood inside the door, and gave his eyes a moment to adjust to the dim light before he continued. Once he could see a little better, he side-stepped to the right, keeping the wall against his back and facing the center of the room.
Channeling a bit of mana, he reached out and pulled the door closed slightly with a mage hand spell, expecting someone or something to be hiding behind it. Fortunately, there was nothing there, and he continued on in his search.
Something fell from the rafters above and Dane jumped back, slicing at it with his sword. He bumped into the wall, and once his heart rate slowed, he realized it'd just been a corpse that had been hung by the neck that he'd bumped into. The lower half of the body fell lay on the ground, and maggots spewed from the cut Dane had made in the flesh.
He swallowed the bile that was steadily rising in his throat, not wanting to lose the breakfast he'd eaten only moments before teleporting into the village. Get a grip on yourself, Dane! You've seen plenty of bodies before.
Other than the body that had been hung on the ceiling, there was nothing else in the room save for scattered and shattered parts of instruments and furniture. Guess the Legion doesn't care much for the finer things in life. No surprises there, I suppose.
Across the room was a staircase that went up along the western wall, before it turned sharply and ascended into the darkness. As Dane got closer, he found that the staircase had been shattered and left the area completely inaccessible. If there was anyone or anything upstairs, he wasn't going to get up there without a levitation spell. Chances were good that there was nothing up there to begin with except for abandoned living quarters, so he opted to inspect a door that was nestled beneath the stairs.
As he moved towards the door, the floor creaked beneath him, suggesting that there was a basement or cellar somewhere here. Could someone have hidden down below? A door slamming shut could've made the noise I'd heard, and it would imply someone running to hide.
Dane crept across the room, feeling and hearing the solid bits of instruments break beneath his weight. He brushed aside a cobweb and tentatively placed a hand on the door's knob. He took in a deep breath and then tugged to try and open the door. Nothing happened. It was locked firmly in place. Certain that there was no one in the room with him, he conjured a little globe of light and noted that the door had a lock in the knob that prevented it from being turned.
If this town was raided, then this door should have been broken into, he reasoned, looking for signs of forced entry but finding nothing. Why go to the lengths to destroy this shop but not check for valuables in the basement? He looked down at the floor, and saw that the layer of dirt and dust that had formed ended abruptly in front of the door. There must've been something hiding this entryway. But who moved it?
Without any knowledge on how to pick locks, Dane was at a loss for how to get inside. He called out through the door, “Hello? Is anyone down there?”
There was no answer. Any pretense of stealth was already gone when his feet started tromping on the floor of the shop, so there was no use in not trying to communicate with whomever might still be there.
Dane called out a second time, but there was still no answer. With no other option, he took a few steps back and pointed towards the doorknob before snapping his fingers. A tiny bolt of lightning formed and struck the door, its thundering crack echoing through the empty shop. A sizable chunk of wood broke off the door and the frame split near where the spell had hit, allowing him access. He moved to open it, but it swung open without warning and nearly smacked him in the face.
With his arms raised in front of his face, the long sleeves of his duster fell away to reveal the gleaming mithril bracers on his wrists. He crouched to lower himself in a defensive stance to block a a weapon strike from hitting him in the face. He was expecting something to attack him, but instead he heard the skittering of paws as something scurried past him. He looked up to see a cat darting out of the store. Dane shook his head at his own unease and decided to get things over with and head into the basement.
It was dark and dusty, and he had to brush a few cobwebs out of his face. Whoever was down here was either very short, or hadn't come up in a very long time.
“Hello?” Dane called out. He reached the bottom of the stairs and touched the hard packed, dirt ground. There were empty crates and bits of thrown away food littering the floor. It was a storehouse of some kind, probably used by the store's former owner while she lived in the upper floor.
There were bones from meat, cores and peels from fruit, and even the remains of a cooking fire strewn about in the center of the room. It stunk of refuse, and it was clear that someone had been living down beneath the shop. Flies buzzed in the corner, likely where the person had been relieving himself. The smell was horrible, and Dane covered his nose with a handkerchief he'd pulled out from one of his pockets.
There was a whimper coming from somewhere behind a crate. Dane rushed towards it, but was rewarded for his zeal with a stab to his stomach by a knife wielding child. The wind was knocked out of him as the dagger failed to pierce his ring mail tunic, and he was grateful that he never traveled without wearing his armor. He slapped the weapon out of the boy's hands and the child flinched away from him.
Dane instantly felt guilty for his reaction, “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you. Are you alright?” The child was a young dwarf, young enough that he could've easily been mistaken for human had it not been for the fierce, orange colored hair that was a hallmark of his dwarven heritage.
“G-go away! This is m-m-my hiding place!” the boy tried to sound defiant, but he was shaking visibly as he backed towards the wall.
“It's okay, I'm not here to hurt you. The Legion is gone.”
“I don't care! Go away!” the boy screamed.
Despite the child's fervor, he fell to his knees, unable to hold himself up any longer. Dane could see the thin frame housed within clothes that looked to be two sizes too small for him. It was obvious the child hadn't eaten in days, and probably hadn't had anything to drink for a while either. He rushed to the little dwarf's side and lifted his head up. Grabbing for the small metal flask he kept in his belt pouch, he unscrewed the cap and tilted the boy's head to give him some water.
“Come on, drink up,” he whispered. “By Xenar, how are you still alive after all this time? It's been weeks since this place was attacked.”
The boy could only groan in response and turn his head away once the flask had been emptied. When Dane called to him, the boy didn't respond. His breathing was laboured, and he was unconscious.
Damn it, he thought, I don't want to do this, but I'll have to take him back to headquarters so he can be questioned. There's no other choice. If I can't get the information from him here, I'll have to do it back home. And I really don't want this kid around the Blackguard, not after what he's been through.
Dane lifted the boy up off the floor and headed upstairs again with a sigh. He had the dwarf over one shoulder, holding his legs to keep him from falling, while his other hand held tight to his katana in case there were any other surprises waiting for him.
Teleporting back to Sanctuary is going to be too much for him to handle. And it's going to be weeks before we get back to town on foot. Ugh, why didn't I take a horse? Always rushing headfirst into something instead of thinking it through, aren't you, Dane?
There was nothing left to do but start walking as quickly as he possibly could. The boy's life depended upon it. If he didn't get him to a healer soon, he could die.
The thought didn't rest well with Dane. He carefully sheathed his katana, making sure not to cut the poor boy, then lifted him with both arms before he broke out into a full on sprint. He kept the dwarf close to him, holding his head against his chest so it wouldn't roll around as he ran.