This is the first book I started writing. I came out of the gates with a simple plot idea and decided to run with it. I definitely wrote this pantser style and while I’ve done some minor editing, this is by no means a polished work ready to be published. But I wanted to share it with you.
A small circle formed in the blackness, growing larger, until Asher could make out the same circle of runes that had been in the clearing. The circle stopped just before him.
“Come to me.”
The same voice that called him in the spirit world reverberated through his being. Hesitantly, Asher stepped forward and reached out his hand. Just before his fingers touched the circle of runes, they flared and drew him forward, engulfing him once again in a blinding light forcing him to close his eyes.
The brightness faded and Asher opened his eyes. A storm raged all around him. Great sheets of rain pelted the ground and fell through his body, each drop leaving a trail of heat in it’s wake. He bellowed in rage, all the hatred, anger, and frustration he had felt while he lived came crashing down on him at once. Emotions kept at bay by the spirit world filled him with their fiery vengeance.
He looked around, wind blowing leaves every which way. His gaze fell on a lone figure, one arm cradled an ancient tome, the other held high as he shouted to the heavens, oblivious to the deluge. His black cloak billowed about, the wind tried to wrench it off of his body.
With a feral cry, Asher pulled his sword from its sheath and lunged forward, his anger echoing the storm raging all around him, he drove the point of his sword towards the man’s heart. In a flash of lighting, Asher saw terror fill the man’s eye. In a pitiful attempt to stop the blade, the man raised the ancient book before him.
A foot before the blade met flesh, Asher’s sword crashed into an unseen wall.
His sword fell from his grasp, its point sinking into the mud. Unable to stop himself, Asher crashed into the wall. A sharp pain shot through his shoulder as he connected with the barrier.
He screamed as he stumbled back. He regained his footing and once more lunged at the man, hands reaching for his throat.
“Die!” Asher screamed.
Once more he crashed into the wall and pain lanced through his hands and up his arms. The man flinched and looked towards the ground, wet hair fell over his eyes, and water dripped from his nose.
Asher followed the man’s gaze. The same runes that pulled him from the spirit world glowed brightly against the mud between them, unaffected by the riverlets of water running through the mud. He looked up. As their eyes met, the man’s lips curled into a sneer.
Lightning crashed into a nearby tree, splinters of wood flew through the air. Thunder ripped through the clearing drowning out the sounds of the storm.
“Who are you and what have you done to me!” Asher roared.
The sorcerer’s eyes flicked back to his book. Once more he raised his hand towards the sky and shouted a single.
The word sounded strange to Asher, ancient and filled with power. A wave of heat coursed through his body.
Amidst all the rage and anger that stormed inside, a small twinge of uneasiness wormed its way in. Asher knew the sword, the spear, and the bow, but magic was a thing of fairy tales and legends.
Asher moved to gather his sword from where it was stuck in the mud but his arms wouldn’t budge. He strained against invisible bonds, his muscles flexed and strained but he was held firm.
Asher’s mouth opened in a yell. Whatever spell the sorcerer had cast did more than just bind him, he couldn’t utter a word. He had no control.
The sorcerer began to chant. Asher felt as if invisible ropes wrapped around his body, encompassing each limb. The spell intensified as the sorcerer’s voice grew louder. With the final word, the runes on the ground flared, illuminating the entire clearing.
The runes faded away and a distinct uneasiness settled over Asher. Deep inside he knew that he was trapped.
All his life he had been free. Even when the military came to his village recruiting for the war, he had been a volunteer. He had served his kingdom and its king willingly, for no other reason than loyalty.
He could feel that freedom dissipate as the bonds trapping him tightened their hold, connecting him to the man who stood before him.
“I am Tenanael.” The man’s lips didn’t move, yet he heard the voice inside his head clearly. “I am now your master, and you will obey me.” As he spoke, Tenanael began walking around Asher, studying him, observing him.
“I have no master!” Asher shouting out in his mind with all the fury he could harness.
“We shall see my Tur’saith.” Tenanael’s voice dripped with condescension as he circled Asher.
“Kneel.” This time Asher heard the word and felt it pulse through his entire body, commanding every fiber of his being to obey.
Asher resisted. He would not kneel before this man. He stood firmly, staring Tenanael in the eyes defiantly.
The pulsing in his body began to grow stronger the more he resisted. Then came pain, sharp pain, and Asher felt his resolve to disobey weaken.
“I said… Kneel.” Tenanael commanded, pointing at the ground in front of Asher.
This time, the command pulsed painfully in his body. Asher screamed in defiance, one leg began to bend. Desperately he fought against his body. He was fighting a losing battle. Inch by inch his leg lowered till it rested on the ground. He glared at the sorcerer as his other leg bent towards the muddy earth.
A foot above the ground, Asher’s leg froze, all his will focused on defying the sorcerer. For a brief moment he felt as if he might win. The command once again pulsed throughout his entire body and his resolve shattered, his leg descended the final inches with no resistance.
Tenanael stood triumphantly over Asher as the storm raged about them.
“That’s better now isn’t it? I have plans for you Ture’saith. You see, someone recently tried to kill me.” Tenanael gestured to his clothes. The hem of his cloak was blackened with scorch marks running up the sides. Ember holes ran across his chest and up over his left shoulder, and pieces of his hair were singed and curled.
“We had an agreement of sorts and after fulfilling my part of the arrangement he burned my home down around my head. I escaped, just barely. And I have brought you from the underworld to serve me as I take back what is mine.”
Asher’s eyes flared with anger at the sorcerer’s words.
“You are mine, Tur’saith, and you will help me obtain my ambitions. If you try to resist, I will not hesitate to make you suffer.” With that Tenanael turned away.
He walked towards the edge of the clearing. There underneath the canopy of leaves were several travel packs. Tenanael slipped the ancient tome into the largest bag. He swung the bag over his shoulders awkwardly, as if unaccustomed to carrying anything so large. The smaller bag had a single strap that he slung across his chest.
“Come, follow me, we have a ways to go before night settles.” Once again Asher felt the command resonate and pulse within him and his body reacted to it before he could stop himself.
Against his will he followed Tenanael deep into the forest until they reached a small campsite. After a while the rain stopped pouring and the wind died, and Asher felt the intense fire of anger and hate that had raged inside him fade to glowing embers.
Tenanael once again pulled the tome out of his pack and walked over to where Asher stood. “Stand, Tur’saith.” He flipped open the book, drew a circle around Asher in the mud then drew twelve symbols evenly spaced around the circle. When the circle was completed Tenanael chanted a few brief phrases. One by one the runes lit up, when the last one glowed Asher felt a familiar power settle over him.
Asher raised his hand slowly, reaching towards Tenanael. His hand connected with an invisible wall, the same as he had in the clearing. The now familiar pain lanced through his fingertips as he pulled away.
Pleased with his work, Tenanael went to a stone ringed fire pit and pulled back a small tarp to reveal a pile of dry firewood. Asher watched on as Tenanael piled kindling and firewood into the pit. Several minutes passed until he had a roaring fire. The wood spit and crackled as the flames devoured the dry branches and wood shavings.
A light breeze carried a pillar of smoke towards Asher. Where the smoke passed through his body, he felt a slight warmth. The effect of the smoke was calming. Despite his ethereal form, he felt a sense of solidarity. He was in the living world once again.
He allowed thoughts of his life before death to lull him off to sleep, not that he actually needed to sleep, since he had been brought back to the world of the living, he had felt none of the calls of life, not hunger, nor thirst, nor exhaustion.
Asher was startled awake, something stirred in the brush off to his left. In one fluid motion he rose from the ground and drew his sword. He settled into a defensive stance, sword held in front of him one foot slightly back, his weight evenly placed on the balls of his feet.
A doe emerged from the brush, grazing on the tall grass that grew just off the game trail she came from. Asher lowered his sword and stood still, careful not to disturb the graceful creature. She wandered closer to him, seemingly unaware of his presence. When she was only a few feet away Asher raised his hand, not wanting the doe to run into the invisible wall surrounding him. The doe raised her head when he moved, she glanced at him briefly before going back to her grazing.
She reached the runes on the ground and walked over them unhindered. Asher tried to move out of the way but stopped when he brushed up against the far side of the invisible wall, the light brush sent a shock coursing through him. The uncaring doe walked right through his leg, as if he wasn’t there. A strong wave of heat followed the deer where she passed through him. The feeling was much stronger than it had been with the smoke.
As the doe passed through the other side of the circle, her back foot drew a line right through one of the runes, the glow immediately faded.
Asher reached out hesitantly towards the edge of the barrier, yet his hand met no resistance, no shooting pain. He pressed forward till his entire arm was outside the circle. His confidence grew and Asher stepped completely out of the circle of now ineffective runes etched into the ground. Asher stepped silently across the ground towards Tenanael, not a single branch, or leaf broke under his ethereal footsteps.
He stood over the sleeping form of Tenanael and drew his sword. He held the blade above his head like an executioner. With both hands he swung the sword downward toward the sorcerer’s neck.
His sword passed harmlessly through Tenanael’s neck, no more solid than Asher himself.
Tenanael chose that moment to roll over. He opened his eyes groggily to find Asher standing over him with his sword held out.
Tenanael’s eyes went wide with fear and he scrambled for his bag. He ripped open the flap and yanked the time out of his bag.
Unable to kill the sorcerer, Asher turned towards the woods, looking for a way to escape his captor. He spotted the game trail the deer came from. Asher quickly made his way towards the trail. He went to brush aside the overgrowth and his hand passed right through, the trail of Earth following where the leaves passed through his hand.
Caught off guard he paused, he still wasn’t used to his body being insubstantial. His hesitation passed and he pushed forward, this time not bothering to push aside branches and leaves. Each object caused the wave of heat to follow as it passed through his arms, legs, and chest. Asher glanced back towards the clearing and saw Tenanael tearing open the tome and flipping through the pages, searching for a spell of some kind.
Just as he turned around he was engulfed in total blackness, he couldn’t see anything, the entire forest had disappeared. He began to panic, worrying that Tenanael had done something to his vision. A heartbeat later he emerged out the other side of a large tree that had been in his path. Once he could see again he ran through the forest, trees and bushes became a blur all around him. Each step carried him dozens of paces as the ground raced by.
“Stop!” He heard Tenanael’s voice in his mind.
Asher froze mid step, one foot poised inches from the ground, the other planted firmly on a large stone.
“Tur’saith, return to me at once.” Obedient to the command, Asher’s body turned and headed back towards the clearing. This time he walked back at a normal pace. He was shocked at the distance he had covered in the few moments since he left the clearing. Ten minutes later he arrived back in the clearing.
Fully awake, Tenanael was inspecting the circle of runes. His eyebrows were furrowed in anger at what had happened to the runes. He looked up to find Asher standing mere feet away from him, silent and terrifying. He took one hesitant step back, then his confidence returned. Tenanael drew himself up to his full height.
“How is this possible?” Tenanael questioned incredulously.
Asher remained silent, staring at the sorcerer, not deigning to speak to this man before him.
“Speak, Tur’saith, I command you!” Tenanael’s voice was sharp and dangerous.
“A doe destroyed the runes.” Asher spoke quickly, biting off each word as he spoke.
Tenanael quickly traced the runes in another circle around Asher, this time adding several others that Asher didn’t recognize.
The sorcerer stood up and stared Asher directly in the eye, not a sliver of fear present. “You will do no harm to me.”
Each word was filled with power and Asher felt the new command pulse within his body. He had missed his chance to escape and another opportunity was not likely to present itself soon. Storms danced in his eyes as he stared back at Tenanael, one day he would make him pay for everything he had done, of this he was sure.
They stopped at the edge of a small cliff. The river next to them ran off the edge and crashed onto the rocks below, sending spray high into the air. The water roiled and at the bottom of the waterfall a large pool had formed. Tenanael carefully made his way down the cliff to the small beach of gravel and sand. Asher followed easily behind him, each step feather light on the ground. He never lost his footing, and never had to grab for roots to steady himself like the sorcerer had.
When they reached the beach, Tenanael dropped his packs on the sand, and heaved a great sigh as he relieved himself of his burden. He stripped off his scorched cloak and tunic, tossing them in a pile nearby, his boots and stocking followed quickly after. At the edge of the pool, he stripped off his breeches and waded into the water.
Not wanting to watch as the sorcerer bathed himself, Asher wandered over to a large outcropping of rocks jutting over the pool, creating a natural barrier between the two men. Asher heard a small splash followed by a sharp gasp. The corners of Asher’s mouth wandered up ever so slightly as he pictured the sorcerer freezing in the cold water.
Asher found a stone that jutted out a foot or so from the surface of the water and sat down. He pulled his sword from his sheath, as he had a thousand times before. He held the blade reverently in front of him. His father had given him this sword when he was no more than a child.
It was strange to feel as if he was solid, yet be able to see through himself and his sword. Through his sword he could see small fish darting in and out of the stone’s shade. Thinking back to the doe in the woods, Asher lowered his feet into the water. (Insert the part about the water here, I really liked that description of it.)
Boots crunched on the gravel. Asher looked up from the water towards the sound, but the boulders separated him from the source. Carefully he picked himself up from his perch, walked to the edge of the largest stone, and peered out.
Five men strolled across the beach. Each of them carried some kind of weapon, though only the man in the front carried a sword. The rusty hilt and cracked leather spoke of the interior quality of the blade. Asher would have laid into any of his soldiers if their weapon looked like that.
The smallest of them appeared to be no more than a teenager. He held a light hunting bow with an arrow knocked and the bow string taunt, his head swiveling back and forth nervously.
The leader gestured towards Tenanael’s packs with a smile and nodded towards his men. One of them broke off from the rest and began rummaging through the sorcerer’s bag.
He pulled the tome out and tossed it to the side with a look of disgust.
“Hey!” Tenanael shouted indignantly from the water. “Who do you think you are!” He stepped out of the water, completely unconcerned with his current state of undress.
The leader opened his arms wide in a friendly manner. “Why, we are but humble travelers hoping we might share a bite to eat with you, a fellow traveler.” His eyes gleamed wickedly as he addressed Tenanael, the same way a wolf stares at a sheep before he devours it.
Tenanael was not fooled in the least bit by the man’s words. “Travel has been hard these last few weeks and I don’t have any supplies to spare.” Tenanael said, feigning a look of apology.
“There now.” The leader’s hands dropped in disappointment, one hand coming to rest on the hilt of his sword. “I’m sure there is something in that pack of yours you wouldn’t mind parting with.” He pulled his sword a few inches from the sheath menacingly as he spoke.
The other two goons pulled their knives out, imitating their leader. The knives they held were barely more than cooking utensils a housewife would wield in the kitchen.
“I promise, nothing I have would be of any interest to you good folk.” Tenanael’s words indicated that he felt the men before him meant less to him than a dog starving in the street.
The one going through Tenanael’s belongings let out a shout of triumph. “Tak! Look at this! ” In his hands he held a leather coin pouch. He shook the bag. Coins jingled inside, and not a few from the sound of it.
“What do we have here?” The leader sauntered over to the bags, eyes fixed hungrily on the money pouch. Greedily he snatched it out of his goon’s hands. He yanked open the pouch and upended the contents into his hand. Gold and silver coins clinked into his palm.
All five bandits lowered their weapons at the sight of all the money, it was probably more than they had seen in their entire lives.
“Wait!” Tenanael reached out towards the coins, as if to stop them, but he let his hand fall in defeat. (Input this before the coins are poured out)
Asher pulled back from the edge of the rock and pulled his hood down over his head, hiding his face in its shadow.
“Tur’saith,” Tenanael’s voice spoke in his mind as he had anticipated, “come.”
Asher pulled his sword from his sheath and stepped into the rock between him and the robbers.
He emerged from the rock just as the boy looked up from the coins still glinting in the sunlight.
The boy screamed and raised his bow haphazardly. He jerked the string back and launched the arrow towards Asher.
Surprisingly, with the boy’s haphazard shot, the arrow would have hit him in the leg, instead it passed harmlessly through his body and clattered against the stone behind him.
The boy screamed and dropped his bow as he stumbled away from Asher, eyes wide with terror.
“What in the world are you going off about?” The leader whipped his head around to look at the boy cowering in fear on the ground. The boy raised a shaking hand to point at Asher. “De… de… demon.” he croaked out in a whisper.
The four men followed the boy’s hand and saw Asher standing there with his hood pulled low and sword drawn.
“That’s not a de-” the leader started to say but was cut off as one of his companions elbowed him in the side.
“Tak, look,” the one who elbowed him was also pointing towards Asher, “you can see the stone behind him.” Tak looked closer.
“Don’t be fooled, men, it’s just some kind of trick to try and frighten us. I ain’t scared! Are you?” He asked as he looked at each of his men, daring them to say something.
“I really think you should listen to your friend there, he speaks reason.”
“Shut yur trap! Or I’ll shut it for ya.” Tak looked around at his men. “Take these coins and grab that fancy cloak there and let’s go.” Tak poured the coins back into the coin pouch and tied it onto his belt.
The boy had regained his feet and once again held an arrow trained on Asher.
“I’m tired of your charades. I am cold and would very much like to put my clothes back on.” Tenanael gestured towards his pile of clothes on the other side of the group.
“You can get dressed when I say you can get dressed.” Tak puffed up his chest trying to intimidate the naked sorcerer.
“Stop them.” The command came to Asher’s mind as Tenanael started walking towards the armed men.
Tak drew his rust pitted sword, holding it leveled at Tenanael’s chest.”Stop moving!” he shouted.
Tenanael kept walking. His eyes flicked towards Asher who still stood unmoving by the stone.
Tak raised his sword, angered by the sorcerer’s boldness. Faster than Tak could blink, Asher appeared between him and the sorcerer. Too late to stop, Tak swung his sword towards Asher’s head.
Instinctively Asher raised his sword to parry the blow. Instead of Tak’s sword passing through the spirit sword, they collided hard (pull phrasing from first draft).(He needs to say something about Asher being solid.)
Figure out when and where to put these conversation, maybe Asher hesitates to kill Tak which gives him away as a good guy)
“Kill him.” Tenanael commanded in a cold uncaring voice, staring at Tak.
The familiar pulsing filled Asher’s body and he obeyed, feeling himself become more substantial. His sword flashed in a rapid series of moves. Overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught, Tak wheeled backward, swinging his sword widely in an attempt to fend off the blows.
With a powerful downward cut, Asher knocked the sword from Tak’s hands. Before the sword even hit the ground Asher slipped in close, hooked one foot behind Tak’s, and shoved him flat on his back. The entire ordeal lasted no more than thirty seconds, it was over before anyone else had a chance to come to Tak’s aid.
Asher stood over his fallen opponent, the sword tip pressed against his neck. A small drop of blood pooled around the sword tip and fell, leaving a trail of blood in its wake.
The command to kill pulsed again, stronger than before, urging him to end the man currently at his mercy. Still he hesitated. The pulse came again, this time accompanied by pain. His arm moved forward just a hair, blood began flowing freely, Tak winced in pain.
Asher lifted his eyes from where his sword rested and looked Tak in the eyes. They were filled with fear. Asher could tell that Tak knew this feeling.
With tremendous effort, Asher steeled himself against the pain radiating throughout his body and pulled his sword back from Tak’s neck.
Silence filled the beach. Tenanael stared at Asher in disbelief. “I said kill him!” he screamed.
Asher dropped his sword on the ground and fell to his knees in pure agony, unable to withstand the pain.
“I.. will.. not.. kill.. him..”
His refusal broke the bandits out of their stupor. All at once the four would-be bandits still standing grabbed their weapons and ran for the trees. None looked back to see if Tak followed.
A mixture of gratitude, apology and fear flickered across Tak’s face as he scrambled to his feet. He tripped over himself in his haste to get away. Tak made it to the cover of trees, shouting insults and swearing at his friends.
Still naked, Tenanael walked over to Asher’s crouching form, sneering down at him as his body was racked in pain. The pulses came quicker now, each one accompanied by an echo of Tenanael’s command to kill Tak.
Asher felt himself becoming weaker with each passing moment. He lay there hoping that the torment would end.
Tenanael spat in the sand next to Asher’s head. “Do not ever disobey me like that again.” Asher gasped as the pain released him all at once. Tenanael stormed over to his clothes to dress, leaving Asher to pick himself up off the ground, no longer tormented by the sorcerer’s command.