The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Hero
PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2009 10:37 am 
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1. Blessed Wannabe

Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 5:13 am
Posts: 18
So, here we go: this is Hero, a complete original novella that I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2008. For those of you who don't know what this is, it's a challenge to write a 50k word story entirely within November; not necessarily to finish it, but just to write those words. So, this is a complete piece, but I'll be posting it up here in installments, because as it turns out, writing at that speed? Makes for a loooooot of time spent editing. So, it'll be put up as I edit, and I hope anyone reading enjoys!

This novella is rated PG-13 for some language and violence.

Hero

A flash of grey light, and the figure landed on its hands and knees.
It could see grass between its splayed fingers, grass that was an extraordinary shade of green. It was a shade of green that even the ancient world had only seen in one other place, and that place was the world’s stockpile of five-year-olds’ crayon drawings.

He stood up.
Hold on. He?
Well, he felt like a he. Not that he had any experience – any experience at all – to compare with.

And, out of the green, even he could see nothing resembling a mirror, even though there was only that dreadful grass for as far as he could see, he knew what he looked like. He knew who he was.

His name was Wolf-
No.
His name was Coh-
No.
His name was Hero.

Something inside his mind said, Yes. That’ll do.
Hero knew that he was eighteen, although he had no memories of life before the present. He knew that he was lean but not thin, muscled and chiselled. He wasn’t entirely sure how he knew this; he had not so much as glanced down at his body since his… formation?

He could see no-one through the woolly fog, but nevertheless felt slightly silly about examining himself openly. As a result, it was with studied nonchalance that he glanced downwards and-

Ah.

-and blinked, as clothes appeared where there had previously been an absence of clothes; crushed black velvet robes and a cloak that somehow managed to look rustic and picturesque. Softly impractical canvas shoes, too; they were already being dampened by the grey fog that rolled over the endless grass.

Well, he wasn’t about to complain. He returned to his mental itinerary.
He knew that he was tall, though nothing and no-one stood nearby with whom he could compare himself. He knew that he was handsome, although he had no idea what most people his age looked like. He knew that his eyes were a deep brown, almost black next to his pale, flawless skin. They were dark and soulful; the eyes of a romantic poet.

He blinked those eyes in confusion. Brown? Why had he thought brown? His eyes were, and had always been, a bright, mischievous green. Nearly the same green as the grass.

And then Hero shook his head and smiled at his own silliness, because he knew – both suddenly and with no change at all – that his eyes were light blue. They were an unreal blue, they were an eerie blue; Hero knew that he had always known this.

If Hero had ever had the inexplicable experience that is dreaming, he would have wondered at this point if he was still awake. If a certain something inside of him had answered that question, he would have regretted wondering.

Blue eyes. Hero returned to the checklist. He had blue eyes, and – black, red, brown - blond hair. Slowly, with not a little trepidation, he lifted his hands into the air, and lowered them slowly towards the top of his head.
His fingers met spiky fronds of hair several inches above his scalp.
He pulled one of the spikes down to eye level. It was indeed blond, and bright enough to outshine the grass.

He let go of the frond. It sprang back into position immediately, although it did continue its shuddering from side to side for a few moments, as if irritated.
So, he had a body. Leaving aside for a moment the oddness of that thought, he turned to another: could it do anything else?

He took a few trial paces over the grass, and was pleased to discover that his muscularity at least was not a trick of his mind – and less pleased to find that his hair bounced around his face, neck and immediate vicinity as he walked. He grew less cautious; he jumped up and down a little. He jogged around in a circle. He even did a cartwheel, although as soon as his heavy boots thumped back onto the grass – with an unpleasant, worrying crunch – he straightened up, tried to calm his furiously bobbing hair, and looked nonchalant, although there was still no-one around who could have witnessed his moment of athleticism.

Wait, wait, wait. His heavy boots?
He looked down at his feet, and there they were, nearly knee-high, fur-lined and fastened with leather and gold enough to make any barbarian raider proud.

Hero knew that he had been wearing shoes: ankle-high canvas shoes. He could still feel the damp around his toes where water had soaked through them from the grass and fog.
Slowly, knowing already what he would find, he let his gaze travel up, over his knees, along his legs and to his chest.

Gone was the velvet; gone was the cape. In their place was pure, only slightly adulterated leather. If a barbarian raider would have been proud of Hero’s boots, the rest of his attire could have had him flooding a raiding galley with manly tears.
A tooled leather breastplate. A few well-placed strands of hanging chain mail, looking suitably battle-worn. Lifting those up, he could just about see a pair of what he sincerely hoped were just rather small shorts, but doubted were anything so innocuous.

Despite the inherent unsuitability of the outfit for the current climate, he felt remarkably warm. He could even ignore the fog, just about. What Hero wanted to know, what he was really burning to find out, was one, where the heck had the velvet gone, and two, how the heck had he been dressed in this without noticing? He certainly would have noticed being put in the shorts, at any rate. He could hardly imagine how he was going to get the things off. Not that he would want to. He was baring enough skin as it was.

And then he realised, with a shock and with no shock at all, that he had always been wearing them. How could he have thought otherwise?
Suddenly, the greyness of the fog and the brightness of the grass, combined with the buzzing of his own apparently-only-half-formed mind, hit him with the force of - he tried to think of an analogy, and failed. It hit him; that was the point. His vision seemed blurry. He swayed a little, and stretched out an arm, leaning on the point of his broadsword.

His broadsw-
No. He was past surprise. He was past confusion. He would not let this get to him. He did have principles, after all, despite a sneaking suspicion that he had not had them for over ten minutes.

“Fine,” he said, out loud. His voice had a strange, husky quality to it, and one of those accents that are completely unidentifiable, while still both exotic and fascinating. He tried it out again. “Fine.”

His broadsword was half as tall as he was. Its hilt had not been designed by a swordsman: it was gold, jewelled, ornately carved, and did not look as if it could fit in both his hands together, although when he put his palm on the handle it was as if it had been made for him. It had been made for him, in fact. It must have been, because he knew exactly how to use it, what sweeps and twists would send the sword pirouetting.

There were runes along the blade. He did not try to read them, although he was beginning to think he would be able to. That could not be more complicated than inexplicably acquired swordsmanship, after all.
It was not a trustworthy, battle-worn sword that had been quenched in the blood of enemy hordes. It sparkled. If it had only been the same colour as the grass, he would have been able to simply blind his enemies–

Um.

Right, thought Hero muzzily, now he was surprised, principles or not. He had enemies now? Or was that just a trick of his mind?
Yes, he thought, and then said it, wanting to hear his own voice again for slightly less arrogant reasons than most that have the same desire. “Yes. A trick of my mind.”

Because after all, if you looked at a sword, you imagined fighting with it, didn’t you? And, well, you would only fight your enemies. Hero would hardly have fought his friends, if he could recall having any.
And something inside him said, No. You have lots of friends. Many friends, wherever you will go, only you haven’t met them yet. Just wait.
Hero ignored it.

He lifted the blade up to his eye level and stared at it, unmindful of the damage he was, in all probability, doing to his eyesight. He looked in particular at the point of the blade, wasp-sting sharp, which had been pushed into the ground as he leant on the hilt.

It was completely free of mud.
With a little unease, he dug the tip deep into the ground. All that he unearthed were more strands of that ghastly grass.

Tiredness rolled over him like the fog, sucking away his energy. Suddenly, he just couldn’t rationalise any more – not that he had done that much rationalising yet anyway. Maybe, if he slept, it would look better in the morning – although how he would tell that it was morning in this place of fog and grass was beyond him.
Maybe, if he slept, he wouldn’t exist in the morning.

He quashed that treacherous thought – that wrong thought – sheathing his broadsword in the scabbard fastened over his shoulder, and pointedly ignoring the fact that he had certainly been wearing neither sword belt nor sheath when he had examined his outfit earlier.

Where to sleep? The grass had never looked less appealing. The dew clinging to the spikes, so unpleasantly like greasy strands of hair, looked more congealed than condensed, and the grass itself looked unreal. He could not forget that crunching sound – he had never heard bones crack, but knew that that was the sound – that the grass had made as he trod on it. What would happen when he lay down on it?

Another wave of the foggy exhaustion swamped his head, and he realised that he just did not care any longer. Still, he threw himself onto the grass a little quicker than was maybe necessary, and lay still – only his blond spikes nodding up and down in horror – until the crunching had died out. Only then did he permit himself to shudder.

He closed his eyes – they were blue, always had been. He felt surprisingly comfortable considering he knew he had a broadsword digging into his back. In fact, he could hardly feel it at all-
His eyes shot open as, ignoring the grass, he sat up and reached for the sword. He hadn’t really cared about the velvet, or the canvas shoes – they were never really there, forget about them – but somehow, after one or two extremely unnerving minutes with it, he could not imagine being separated from that sword.

It was still strapped to him, in its sheath. He clasped his fingers around the width of the secured blade, breathed out slowly, and lay back down. The leather top must be padded more than he’d realised.

That was his last thought before the grey fog of sleep drowned him. As the brightness of the world faded and he succumbed, something inside him – sort of a part of him, sort of a part of the world, sort of its own entity entirely – thought, Hmm. It was a happy Hmm. It was the Hmm of a job well done.


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 Post subject: Re: Hero
PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 11:55 pm 
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23. Volumey Text

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 10:39 pm
Posts: 3787
Location: UK
Great story.


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 Post subject: Re: Hero
PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 5:36 pm 
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11. Fish in the Bowl

Joined: Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:35 pm
Posts: 1487
Topics: 2
Location: California
Incredibly intriguing. The mystery is a killer, though! You're cruel and unusual :whip and so is your story!

But thanks!

Ariel
How I Met Your Mother


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 Post subject: Re: Hero
PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:37 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 1:44 pm
Posts: 433
Location: Australia
wow, TiE is kind of a placid lake at the moment but this story has totally reeled me in (wow slow down with the fishing AND water metaphors all at once)!

In short, go ooonn..... :D


-Bell

_________________
let me live forever.. in the space between our lips...


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 Post subject: Re: Hero
PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 6:48 am 
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1. Blessed Wannabe

Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 5:13 am
Posts: 18
Okay, so I've been sort of away for the last forever but decided to pop back - might as well add another chapter of this :)


Hero woke. He blinked. He tried to wake again, and failed.

There was no absence of any previous occurrence in his mind, as there had been before. Hero knew for sure this time that he had gone to sleep on horrendous, bone-crunching grass, and woken up in…

It was a city. It had to be a city. From where he lay, Hero could see only one street, but there was an undisputable city-ness about the whole place.

He lay on a wide, paved boulevard, with citizens – real people! Other people! – passing around him as if he did not exist. Buildings towered on all sides. He rolled onto his back, not caring how he looked stretched out in the middle of the street. Hero stared up into the sky, blue as his eyes though a good deal deeper, with not a wisp of fog in sight. He sat up, feeling for his sword as he did so – not out of a feeling of being threatened, but for simple comfort – and saw the sun ahead of him, between two hills in the distance. It was the far distance; for a long way around him there was only the city.

He stood up, spinning around unselfconsciously to take in the city, acting as he had been afraid to in the land of grass and fog, although there were people here to look where there had not been before. That, he could not explain. It had been as if every blade of grass had been scrutinising him…

The light was that of the morning sun. Hero knew it not because of any inbuilt compass or pasted memory, but out of pure human instinct. The city was alive around him, white and clean, buzzing and new, and he was a young man with a sword and an empty mind just waiting to be filled with memories. He looked again at the sun, pulling itself clear of the hills, and smiled, because Hero knew that this was how it was supposed to be.

As soon as he had stood up, people had begun to take notice of him; several boys around his age glanced his way with stares that were both menacing and totally comprehensible, and one elderly man made a deliberate detour around him. He decided that it was probably the sword.
The sunlight gleamed off the white buildings. It glittered on the surface of the puddles in the street, the only remnants of what must have been a recent rainfall.

(He wondered how it had rained without his noticing and being woken – the puddles were deep, and the sky devoid of clouds, so the rainfall had certainly been heavy. He had decided that he would steer clear of wondering how the city had appeared without his noticing and being woken, for that way lay madness.)

The young men were coming closer.

“Oh, heck,” he said, and closed his eyes. It was the sword; the sword and the leather. They must be like a magnet for aggression, even in an apparently perfect city like this.

And he knew that he could beat these boys; he knew that he could fight them off, kill them, even, but… but it didn’t seem like something that Hero would do, even if he couldn’t actually remember enough to decide on his personality.
Well, he knew what he felt now, and he didn’t feel like a fight.

At some point, however, he had drawn the sword without noticing. He noticed now; it hung listlessly from his hand, point scraping on the stone street, twitching slightly.

Hero tried not to stare as the boys approached, but just couldn’t help himself. There were six of them in all; big, bulky and tough-looking. He remembered thinking, just a moment ago, that he could beat, even kill these boys with ease, and wondered where on earth he had gotten that idea.

No matter how hard Hero stared, though, he couldn’t quite make out their features.
The boys came closer, and Hero stood still, clutching at that more-trouble-than-it’s-worth sword. He was darned to heck if he’d let go of it now. It wouldn’t change a thing, anyway, not now that they’d seen it. He wondered vaguely what they would say when they got to him. When you can’t decide on the colour of your own eyes, he thought, it’s a pretty sure thing that events will go downhill from there onwards.
Aimless pedestrians were beginning to give Hero a not-so-aimless berth.

Now the boys were next to him. Hero noted that not one of them appeared to be armed. This was not particularly comforting, however, since none of them appeared to be the slightest bit worried about the sword clasped to his chest, either.

Because he could make out their features now; oh yes. He could see the boys’ expressions, now that they loomed over him. It took him a moment to realise that the looming was a result of Hero’s having, at some point, hunched back down to the floor.

The leader – Hero knew, just knew, that he was the leader – was actually rather shorter than Hero had estimated. His hair was brown, practical; a good deal shorter than Hero’s hair, and significantly less bouncy. His nose didn’t appear to have been recently broken and then reset; it just appeared to have been broken, as did most of the other bones in his face.

Hero looked up. He looked down. He realised that he was supposed to be intimidated, or be brave, or be working out a way to run, but all that he could do was wonder how this city, this beautiful, perfect, early-morning white city had let this boy wander around with his gang. Maybe that was why Hero hadn’t been able to focus on their faces; if the boys had let the guards see them, they would have been thrown out of the city for sure. He was a little sketchy on how the boys stopped people from seeing their faces, and was considering dismissing it as another trick of the mind, but-

Hold on, hold on. This city has guards?

Hero couldn’t think when he might have found that particular fact out, but, sure enough, there was a guard only the other side of the street. The guard looked exactly as Hero had imagined him, too; chain mail glimmering, surcoat red and sword impractical.
The guard was standing very still, and staring in the other direction, down the street.

And then Hero looked up again, straight into the face of that leader. He considered shouting to the mysteriously appeared guard for assistance. He considered ducking between the legs of the leader and sprinting away – sprinting through this city that he hardly knew, pursued by a gang that (once again, he just knew) would’ve lived here all their lives. (Despite the fact that the city hadn’t been around before Hero had gone to sleep, that was – No!)

He considered everything, in short, but using the sword that had gotten him into this - that he thought had gotten into this, for there was no way of knowing what the looming gang leader actually wanted.
He stared up at the head that blocked the sun.
He thought: I bet his name’s Shark.

“Hello,” said the leader. His voice scraped a little; he was trying to make it mockingly upper-class, to match Hero’s clothes and hair and sword, but he just sounded… strange. “I’m Shark.”

And, in Hero’s mind, a little nugget of something fell into place. It wasn’t quite understanding, nowhere near developed enough for that. It was almost regression; a regression to a time that Hero could not remember for the life of him. It was like dreaming, and remembering something from outside the dream world, but not waking up.

He was sure that he didn’t know, or he knew that he wasn’t sure, but for a moment, he felt like…
Like a hero.
Like someone who could change the world.
Well, maybe not the world. Someone who could change the immediate future, perhaps.
And at that realisation, cold knowledge dropped into his head.

He reeled backwards; the action startled the gang member behind him (how had the gang member moved behind him?) into drawing a previously-hidden knife, but Hero couldn’t have helped falling even if he’d tried.

Because without warning, without even knowing how he had felt without one, Hero knew his past. He looked through all the new old memories, fuzzy and sharp, painful and comforting enough to make him cry and laugh at once, memories where he knew instinctively what they contained and memories so old that he probed them as if he were feeling his way through a crowded street in a foreign country. At night.

As he did so, he had another realisation. His past was changing.
It was barely tangible; simply a sense of memories shifting and shuffling at the edge of thought, with a sensation akin to vertigo. Hero had a feeling that this should scare him, or at least confuse him. If anything, however, it made him surer of himself, because the past didn’t matter. Let it change. Hero was Hero.

He smiled up at the gang, and said, “You’re going to go, now.”
They disappeared. They simply vanished off the street.
Hero blinked, and stared at the place they had been. He knew that something had happened, that he had made a realisation. He knew that, in some indefinable sense, he was the centre of this strange, ever-changing world. He knew that his past was shifting behind him like molten rock.

Yet, try as he might, he could not remember what that past had been.
Moreover, he had no memory of what had just happened. He had stood up from where he had lain for the night, and…
And forgotten.

There was no dropped knife on the ground behind him – why should there be? None of the other pedestrians paid him any notice, and there was no sign that anyone had stood in front of him. He had a feeling, though. Something about a shark.

Hero put his head in his hands, running his fingers through hair that nevertheless refused to lay flat. He needed a drink. He turned around, half expectant and half wary of what he might find.

There was a building – three stories high and set apart from the others – with a painted sign outside it, just across the street.
The King’s Head. Of course. It was always The King’s Head.

But, of course, Hero had never seen a pub before, let alone one called The King’s Head.
He walked over to it, and passed through the doorway.


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 Post subject: Re: Hero
PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2012 12:44 am 
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23. Volumey Text

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 10:39 pm
Posts: 3787
Location: UK
Great read.


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