We are working on scenes, transitions and flashbacks in the workshop now. So we have to go through and analyze each scene for certain criteria and make sure they are pulling their weight.
In the following scene, the necromancer resurrects the corpse of the Bladesinger. I’m fairly pleased with some scenes, but I have to admit in going through the whole I am concerned about others. The scenes are there to plant elements for later action, but the to person who doesn’t know the story they might seem unnecessary.
Another thing I have been concerned about is adding more mystery elements. I would really like this to be an epic fantasy mystery if that sounds right. I’m just not sure with all the other things that have to be established if it could be even remotely thought of as having a mystery feel to it. Most mysteries are pretty fast moving. This one wanders down a lot of different rabbit trails that eventually converge at the right spot.
Someone once asked me what makes Paladin different from the other hundreds of fantasies out there. If I could turn it more into a mystery, I think it would move to another level. As it is, I’m not sure what makes it unique. Voice? Humor?
Sarian Arragas, apprentice to the order of Wendt and necromancer, flitted between the headstones in the church cemetery. He licked his lips nervously as he read the names on the stones until he came to one that made him pause. “General Simon Lgarth. The skullsplitter. Champion of the Sylvans. Hero of the Marsh Wars. What would you give to live again, Skullsplitter? Would you serve just to draw breath again?”
The hound beside him whined and circled his feet, as if urging him to leave hallowed ground.
“Quiet, beast. I’m the only one who discovered the secret to disarming their wards and you better not distract me.”
She whimpered and put her head down, peering up at him with golden eyes.
“All their heroes will rise once more and this time they’ll destroy the order they lived and died for. And all of them will answer to me.” He rubbed his hands together in glee and giggled uncontrollably. The hound whined again, earning her a swift kick to the ribs. She yelped and ran away a few yards to lie on a fresh grave. Within moments golden sparks erupted from the soft dirt. The hound’s hair stood on end, crackling with magic. She yelped again as it pierced her like thousands of tiny needles; and then ran back to her master.
“Get over here, you ignorant mutt.” He pulled a leather-bound volume from a bag as the dog curled back up at his feet. Ancient pages crackled when he turned them gently until he reached the binding spell. Between the pages of the original text was a new one with notes and translations. He laid the tome on the ground and pulled out four rune-etched stones, which he placed at the corners of the grave. The stones began to hum when he placed a larger quartz crystal at the head of the grave. From a leaded vial he poured a ground powder the color of sage in an intricate design over the center of the grave. He stopped frequently to consult his notes and then stuffed the page back into the bag draped across his shoulder. One missed line might mean the difference between life and death. Life for the corpse or death for the summoner.
He threw his hood back from as beads of sweat trickled down his face. His sallow complexion spoke of too many long nights poring through archaic volumes, searching for the sorcery, which would set him apart from the gaggle of incompetents and reveal his true worth.
“There,” he whispered as the last line was drawn. He reached long, slender fingers up to wipe his brow dry with a linen cloth; and chewed nervously at a thumbnail as he reread his notes for the fourth time. His hands spread apart when he spoke words of magic with lips thin as thread. The runestones began to glow and hum louder and louder. The hound jumped up and backed away, growling at the grave and then whining at her master.
The stones vibrated wildly as the earth in the old grave trembled. A golden warrior’s spirit lifted from the grave and looked around. Mists lifted around him like gossamer veils of goldcloth.
The necromancer stared at the apparition and began to croak warding spells, quickly trying to banish the guardian.
“Who dares defile the consecrated grave of Skullsplitter?” the apparition demanded.
The stones exploded, sending flying shards in every direction. The horrified man’s face was lacerated in several places. Blood trickled down his face like crimson tears. The tome he spent months searching for incinerated when the guardian pointed his sword at it. Flames leapt skyward and then died out as the masterpiece was reduced to ashes.
The necromancer raised his shaking arms in a desperate attempt to return the guardian to the hall of champions. The guardian laughed at the feeble attempts and drew back his shield. The spellcaster screamed words of protection, creating a brief haze around himself just as the shield swung toward him. It hit him soundly, sending him flying several feet through the air. He landed outside the barrier fences of the cemetery. Warding magic turned the wrought iron pickets turned from black to cherry red, bright as the day they were forged. He backed away from the lethal magic and waited. The hound tucked her tail between her legs and bounded out of the cemetery to her master. She dove between the man’s legs, hiding under the crimson robe.
He kicked the dog away and sank to his knees, watching the guardian plod around the cemetery looking for more intruders. The guardian was unaware of anything outside consecrated ground, but the man still shuddered in fright every time it looked toward him. His trembling fingers withdrew a flask from a pocket in his singed robe. He drank the contents down quickly, choking slightly as the guardian strode up to the fence and looked directly at him. The golden warrior finished his ghostly patrol and returned to the grave from where he sprang. He knelt down and placed his weapon before him then bowed his head as if in prayer. Slowly the gold faded away into a mist until nothing remained, but a terrifying memory.
It was several minutes before Arragas recovered from his fright. He stood up and tried to control his shaking knees as he wobbled over to a nearby tree to relieve himself. His arm remained on the tree for support until he had recovered enough strength to go back to the place he had collapsed before.
“You know the spell,” he whispered. “Summon someone not in consecrated ground.” He whimpered softly at the thought of what the brotherhood would do to him should they discover who removed the tome and subsequently lost it. His only redemption lay in proving the summoning spells could replenish their army safely.
He began searching the unkempt graves outside hallowed ground. There was supposed to be a warrior here who had dishonored himself. So many unmarked graves. With his luck he would summon a milkmaid. He pulled the weeds away from a stone with a sword engraved on it. “Captain Helfred Malorean,” he muttered as he read the faint inscription. “Bladesinger! Perhaps yet the old gods will favor me with good fortune this day. What could be more perfect than a fallen paladin?”
“Sarian Arragas, the Favored,” he whispered with a giggle. He drew out more etched stones and placed them at the four corners of the damned paladin’s grave. They began to hum to the giddy necromancer when he placed another quartz crystal on the grave. He steadied his shaking hand to pour out the powder in the same design as before. The magic stirred once more when he spoke the summoning spell with growing confidence, referring to the page only once to confirm the spell.
The hound crouched at his feet once again, growling at the grave. The man snickered while his fingers formed arcane signs towards the grave. Wood splintered and cracked as the Bladesinger rose from the depths. The weed-choked soil split when a rusted helmet erupted through, followed by a warrior of bones in rotting armor. The creature struggled under the chains of supernatural energy the necromancer wove about him. Arragas directed another stream of magic to the hound standing before him with her hackles up, barking at the corpse. The dog yowled in pain as he began to drain the life from her to sustain his hold on the newly risen. His hold on her broke when the corpse stepped toward him.
“Do you think to hold me with your puny magic, mortal?” he growled. “Know you not of my powers in life?”
“You are mine, Bladesinger. Kneel to your master.”
The corpse laughed, a hollow sound, echoing off the nearby crypts. “Yes, master.” He reached out and grabbed the necromancer by the throat, dashing him to the ground like a ragdoll and then knelt roughly on the broken body. His armored knee ground through the screaming man’s chest. Bones cracked and blood shot out in a gory fountain, bathing the living corpse. He stood at last, looking down at the remains of the one who summoned him. “As you wish…master,” he sneered.