Battle Stories, featured, Short Stories
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Fantasy Fiction: Prophecy

Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! – Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,. Edgar Allan Poe.

After a long absence to writing I’m returning to an unwritten world. Some may already be aware of characters from before. Others will find little sense in where this is going… something I share as much unfolds in the telling. Either way it is a consequence of this months BlogBattle word prompt.


The Amanuensis stared at the candelabra on his desk. They stirred a distant memory from before. Long ago, although exactly when escaped him. Part of a conversation, the edges of which blurred.

Cresswell looked up. “You mean another world has infiltrated?”

“A possibility. Although it is but conjecture. Events in the Library ceased when a discovery was made by two of our own.”

“You mean the dwarf and sorceress sent to uncover Elder relics?”

The Amanuensis nodded.

“When I voiced opposition to that expedition it fell on deafness.”

“I know Jeremiah, you were not alone. However Thaumaturgical Archaeology has a guild that holds sway in the higher councils. Thirst for Elder knowledge drives them like arrows. They consider scholars too cautionary. I appeased them by personally selecting the two you mentioned.”

“That fits,” said the assassin. “There is an aged prophecy stating the old collapses when two release the crow.”

Cresswell, the Assassin and Delalande the lore master. Yes, that was who they were. Back…again time slewed. Something in his memory hidden, denying retrieval. A redacted line in his thoughts.

Except the crow prophecy. In front of his vision the flames twisted between black and red. Two phases of existence where neither held sway. It happened each time a piece of his mind rediscovered something. What had happened next?

The two were obvious. Dwarf and elf. Old friends and…this time the flame surged red… the elf meant more.

He recalled them departing the Keep. Sent on a quest to find and document elder relics. It was her eyes he saw now. Deep green and locked upon his. An unspoken tender moment where the sadness of separation fell through one’s chest to fracture in pieces.

The prophecy had spoken of two releasing a crow. All had concluded it was the departing explorers that would unlock a relic. Perhaps by deception would a sorcerers bubble be opened and whatever the elders had imprisoned would no longer be held outside time.

He watched the candles fade to black. This was how it always happened. Delve too deeply and the cognitive force wall reinforced its hold.

There was one path open though. He could commune outside of his own conjurors prison.

###

“Naz, ever get the feeling you’re being watched?”

The dwarf snorted, “You are asking me that? I thought you were the one with foresight.”

She turned, not smiling. Something not missed by her companion. “My foresight is not reliable now. It feels wrong. There are too many conflicting visions.”

Naz frowned, prodding the campfire with a stick. “You’ve said such before. I see the world as it passes day by day. You seem to think it’s all out of phase and fluxing. One minute the vision says this and the next it’s altered into a new one.”

“Forward paths are not linear anymore. They skew in different directions. Ever since the cliff.”

“You mean the conjurors trap.”

She nodded. “From that point time is no longer moving in one direction connected to one reality. It’s splitting, creating many. As if…” she paused to find a layman’s term of reference, “…it’s not sure which direction to take.”

“That path is what most folk take. Day to day, choices dictating what follows. To speak of future paths as if set in stone implies free will does very little and fate is all mapped out and immutable.” He stared across the glade. Something seemed at odds. It was quiet and not filled with wood noise.

Yish followed his gaze. Her own hackles were rising, however a smile started spreading across her face. “This discussion is ever circular Naz. You don’t get it because grasping what foresight is isn’t easy to explain. Nothing is pre-ordained. They show what could happen given current events. Some things are fixed and act as nebula around which visions float.”

Naz looked back. He knew the smile of old and had missed it. That she was about to waffle on about things he knew nothing on seemed inevitable. Nevertheless he held up his palm in a gesture of silence. “Answer him Yish.”

###

“Elf, are you there?” The Amanuensis stared into his own mind. Trying to remember each line on her face as he settled on the eyes. He’d always liked their radiance. They drew one’s gaze in.

“I am.”

“And the dwarf?”

“Naz is here yes.”

“And is all well?” He could sense her getting annoyed.

“Ever the formalities Guild Master.”

Guild Master? That triggered a memory. The two leaving while he was Master of Law and Chronomancy. He felt the sadness wash over him. She had been with him for so very long and that day was the last he’d felt her warmth of touch. It eclipsed the sun at its apex. That merely kept  winters depths at bay. Something that always came back as it’s arc drew nearer the horizon as months passed through fall. Hers was constant. Or had been.

“Things are unfolding swiftly.”

“Are or have? If you are still inside the conjurers bubble then what you see as now happened centuries before.”

Centuries… how did that escape his recall? His mind felt doors opening.

“Lost for words was never your forte,” she continued through his silence.

“No, I am lost Yish. I have been since recommending you two took the lead in Elder research. It left a rip in the arteries of life.”

Naz watched the smile fade and tears trickle down his friends face. What passed between them he could not hear. He guessed well though. Time was skewed. Once he’d seen the Keep destroyed and lost in a desert of ice. A voice had reached across aeons to tell him to flee. That was while he and the elf were separated. Another time slip. Her to the past and him to the future. Maybe there was something in this foresight thing after all. He put his hand in hers for moral support. Not a light matter for a dwarf, but he knew of little else that might offer comfort.

“I know my love. I also see what you dare not ask. The conjurors trap is broken. We were caught unawares by a powerful snare. A thaumaturgical resonance I didn’t detect until too late.”

“The crow flies free then.” Not a question but a statement of fact. An immutable reality that stopped the Vault transcribing and led him here. How still escaped him.

“We saw nothing leave. Elder magic is strong even now. Whatever they put in the bubble was cast out long before their civilisation collapsed. I suspect it was a necromage.”

“Then our battle is both over and not yet begun.” Even in temporal commune he could sense her warmth. Words may dance, but the aura still held her true.

“Explain again how these prisons work.”

“Do you not recall? They are cast by powerful mages. Or were. Nobody since the Elders has managed it and yet from within the Vault were you ensnared and cast out through time. They are traps from which escape is near impossible. Not without help from the outside.”

She paused searching his mind. Never had his will prevented this. “Yours is not a prison though. I believe it was deliberate to prevent access to the Vault. You are a Key Master. Without the three it remains locked. And yet…” she drew in breath. “It has stopped hasn’t it?”

“It ceased recording. My last memory is of Cresswell and Delalande. Jeremiah was touched by the past, the assassin chasing shadows of a prophecy. Then I was here”

“Then it is likely a defensive bubble. Do you not recall last time I told you there would be two mechanisms to undo the enchantments? Find those and use sorcery to unlock it.”

“That you did and yet I am no closer to uncovering them. Neither am I a sorcerer. That is your talent.”

“As before, you are The Amanuensis. That role belies you even now. It is not inherited by someone whose abilities are meek. The trap has disabled your memory of what to do. Find the keys and it’s confusion aura will fail.”

“And if I get it wrong?” He frowned in recollection, “The bubble constricts to a singularity and everything turns to dust…you told me this too.”

“Then don’t get it wrong. You and I are destiny. Even over millennia the bond is strong. Don’t you dare get it wrong.”

“And time exists between us. You deep in the past and me somewhere outside existence.”

“For Amanuensis with the whole vault library and Guilds to control you can be intolerable.”

This word he remembered. How often had she scolded him thus?

“You are a master of chronomancy fool. Escape and you can go anywhere once you restore the Vault.”

“If I go back to there I won’t need to.”

“Oh?”

“You and I will be in the same temporal stream.”

He felt the connection stressing. Something was breaking it.

###

Naz tugged her arm. “Yish, somethings wrong.” He yanked harder. The wetness on her cheeks belied the strength returning to her eyes. He knew he was intruding.

“What is it?” Her words harsh and bitter.

He pointed. The lack of wood noise suddenly explained. A mist crept through the undergrowth. Preceding it was an edge of decaying fauna. Withering as the fog approached. Much like the dandelion Wayland observed before his life was broken.

“Run Naz.” His breath left him as a force wall pushed him away from the advancing decay. Raz, he thought, that’s how Raz felt.

Yish had stepped back from the fire pit. Heat had been lost to the incoming wave of cold. Sucked away in a matter of moments. Her mind raced with emotion. She wanted to process touching minds with her betrothed. Lost now, and yet still able to traverse time and space to find her. The twisted knot tightened in her stomach. She had to focus on now.

“Suffer me chylde.” The voice as chilling as the fog preceding it. She knew it.

Naz gripped his axe. His eyes darting left and right but unable to find a target. Fear had left him now. He knew it was after Yish. The dwarf intended otherwise.

“Last we spoke you lost an arm.”

There was no reply. She could feel something behind the mist watching. Her skin crawled as it’s aura dripped across the glade. Never had she seen vegetation freeze and die in the same moment.

“Yish,” Naz’s voice ripped her from immobility. Whatever it was had tried to beguile her. The dwarf was immune. “Take your own advice Elf, now is not the time or place to fight.”

She stepped back, aware the earth crunched as she did so. Breath steamed from her exhalations. It was toying with them.

She felt an hand grab her arm and yank her backwards. “Dammit Yish, now is not the time.”

He was right. While she was convinced she knew who this was uncertainty had now replaced confidence. If it was her father then silence would not be the greeting no matter what had gone on before. This, the prophecy fell forwards pushed by a distant mind, was the crow.

“To me Naz.” There was a chance. Slim, but there. The edge of the glade held an elder portal. She could pass through, could the dwarf? Neither probably if it failed to function. What was on the other side barely crossed her mind. It wasn’t here. Delalande’s lecture cut to the chase.

“To open an unknown elder relic is, by normal intellectual standards, folly. It is beyond our capacity to fully understand what they do. Is it safe to open a door that might be closed on the other side? Land changes over millennia. Water laps where once it did not, a cliff rises where ground has risen, a monolith tumbled or broken and weathered into dust…”

Bit late for revision. She took the dwarfs hand and pushed hard with her mind. The watch stone responded. Ozone filled her nose. It was the light that blinded her.

When she awoke it was sunset. “Naz?”

There was no answer.



Previously such an Elder Portal created a Time Split. This is where Nahir first heard from his old friend the Amanuensis

The Prison of Ice
This entry was posted in: Battle Stories, featured, Short Stories

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Former research scientist the became the primary stay at home Dad for two children. Writing has always been factual in the previous life but always had a fascination with fiction but never been brave enough to develop it further. A comfort zone thing. Science writing is familiar, fiction is not. Hopefully the blog will provide more confidence and lead to a change in career writing from home around children!

25 Comments

  1. Wow–lot’s to unpack. I was clutching at the narrative in places; I think the only real solution to that would be to slow it down if you felt like making another draft. But I love the world building, and I’m curious about the characters and want to see where you take it. : )

    • Thanks Cathleen. I appreciate your thoughts. Much of my BB is stream of conscious. I’m still playing around with back story long before the actual story starts. That said the bit with Cresswell the assassin is an extract. I think re narrative I know these so well sometimes I forget new readers will find it harder to follow. You’re right though, I do need to go back to the actual WIP at some point. However since I actually didn’t write anything for 12 months at all I think I’m safer practising first haha

  2. On starting to read this I began to slip easily into this world where time is out of joint, and your style of narrative guided me through the characters, their places and relationships. It was particularly poignant to witness the tenderness and yearning between The Elf and The Amanuensis and yet although we know their names ‘Ever the Formalities’. Using the blog word as this juncture added this touching layer.
    You astutely introduced me to four characters; An Assassin, The Amanuensis, The Elf and a Dwarf, giving me a fairly clear picture of their positioning in a much wider and longer tale, the nature of which intrigued me.
    And there was the cliff-hanger.
    One question. Where do I go to find out more about this fascinating, dangerous, fragile world?

    • Very generous Roger. I felt very out of practice writing this owing to a long time out. The assassin Creswell part is from book content that was started last year. He’s relatively new. The other three are well established here. TBH I have loads of BB stories with this particular trio. Rather oddly the Amanuensis concept began in an A to Z challenge a while back. He was “supposed” to be a sort of interviewer to characters and places from three other manuscripts. By “D” he’d become one in his own write – excuse the pun – and this concept began. There is a link at the bottom of this piece to his prison, or should I say, conjurors bubble.

      Also, since I know the BB prompt words they do appear next time too. The original Dragon Stone pieces have their own heading on my blog too. While not featuring these characters you do see Wayland, who is referred to and The Black. The three parts are an chapter (unedited properly to date). The BB section also has a lot of this world. It’s all back story really. Situations I put the core characters into to see how they react. For me it firms up their story lines giving them history. Even the last story under this does link in. The main man there is Whitaker who steps in from yet another manuscript.

      In effect I have about 4 such written and it seems they are all interconnected. Three are stand alone, one is part of another arc and then this world build which is becoming rather too large for my liking!!

      Thank you so much for the positive thoughts.

      • I reckon it is always a good sign in a world build when one character starts to grow and show their own potential. You never know where that will go, and it’s great fun to see originally minor folk develop.
        Your world does come across as lively and intricate one.
        I will have to look into the Dragon Stone, there sounds as if there is much going on here to be read.

        Don’t be too worried about your world build expanding. In this there is true plausibility. My backdrops are based on the complexities which history reveals to us. No one is totally in charge. All plans come apart at some stage. There is never any seeming all powerful protagonist…Everyone has at least two or three ‘D’oh’ moments.

        Keep on keeping on I say

        • Intricate I do find it. I think part of the big draw is I write what I like to read. I find plotting in advance makes it less… if that makes sense. I start and let it unfold. When I did try “planning” it never panned out anyway. I think King states similar in his book On Writing. You know the characters better at the end than at the start so get the story bones down first then sort the fleshing out later. I use that approach myself. Except I get stuck in backstory character plays.

          My protagonist here however is pretty well established. I used to do RPG online. The character I built there was the starting point. People used to say it narrated as a story. Ergo it’s been following me a long time. When I wrote Dragon Stone Originalis. It became clear fast that this creation was waiting all along to have its book. Perhaps a prophecy of sorts.

          Using history is no bad call either. GOT is rich in English king lore back in the day. I myself often dip in and out of myths. Similar principle just different “history.”

          • I experienced something along those lines, my central characters were fairly well realised, too well in fact because they took control on more than one occasion and had me running after them.
            The first book was something of a ‘Road’ and ‘Buddy’ novel setting the ground; the second and the third pitched in themes from History, military and the politics of warfare being mainstays. I agree backstories can be tricky, you have to be careful they don’t break and distract from the narrative. It seems to be a question of getting them to fit into the ‘present’ in snippets, so that if the back story does has a major relevance the reader is already prepared….takes a lot of tinkering though.
            All this said, there is that fine feeling when everything begins to work and you’ve summed it nicely there Gary:

            ‘It became clear fast that this creation was waiting all along to have its book’

            Yes GOT is certainly deep into the English and French lore, particularly in the Hundred Years War eras (That time was short on nice folk too!- Richard III was the least of it). I used themes from European history in general and some American experiences as backdrops.

            World Build eh? You gotta love it.

            • Seems we have similar writing hazards then haha. For me backstory is more to give depth to a character. Know limitations and family traits. I see too many writers with characters arriving at a key point and some new special ability cropping up to solve it. If I write with the limitations in place the Uber moment is avoided because the character would know and not just rush in. I allow them to think as it were. With my own back story ramblings nothing is absolutely set in stone unless things in different stories coalesce and produce a stronger arc. I also think a developed back story allows a reader to get closer. Random gets avoided and the personality, for me, gets better.

              Now I need maps too. Start pulling places together. Or…just stick to back story and procrastinate 🤔

              • Agreed I never cared for the finger-snapping ‘I’ve got it!’ or ”In one mighty / single effort (bound) they….’ or ‘The Captain Kirk’ penultimate scene monologue solution. Sure a central character or group of them can try some sort of manoeuvre, but as you point out Gary, this has to come smoothly from previous parts of the narrative and the sort of thing that character would do.
                (One of my principal characters is a front line ‘Grunt / PBI type who sometimes does things in a world -weary ‘ Enough of this -bad word-. -Bad word- I’m gonna stop this -bad word- now. If command don’t like it (more bad words) too bad’ way and not necessarily with violence.

                I am hopeless with maps, I tried them, but the geography kept shuffling about- which considering the ‘world’ was not surprising, so in the last book the readers were supplied with a foreword containing the European equivalents…. I call it the Joe Ambercrombie defence.

                I reckon it’s not procrastination, it’s thoughtful planning and negotiation with those pushy characters.

                Should we be having so much fun?
                Of course. 😃

                • Definite bugbear of mine that is. As is convenient meeting new characters when you need a special skill. #soapbox.

                  I said I need maps…not that I’m any good at making them 😂 place names though I ought to be storing better. Nothing worse than writing one of these and wondering where the heck they’d just been.

                  I shall use your take on procrastination too. Far better way to describe the “fun.” 😊

                  • ‘Fun’…It’s my great coping mechanism when stuck in part of the plot or the dialogue is getting stale.

                    I hear you talking. That’s why Europe was my template (along with a tweak in which Time and Distance could be variable – in a small way). Otherwise I would have lost track of everyone (or they…me🤨)

                    • A fair point! If it weren’t “fun” then I very much doubt we’d even actually write anything in the first place!!

  3. I’m one of those that are not sure what is going on. This is packed with mystery, which definitely has me wanting more. However, as someone who is not immersed in this world, I find that there’s almost too much going on. Some scenes might appreciate some room to breathe.

    • I knew their would be more than a few there. Abe got it as he’s familiar with these characters.

      These types of piece are part of back story world building. My blog has a lot of that. Possibly more than the books may have word count wise. As I said on the last one I enjoy these because there’s no physical tie to the main story. Links and connections yes. The Stones are particularly important as is the Elder civilisation. This method helps me get to grips with the world build and character profiles. I have tried character sheets as such, but they don’t inspire me as much as learning by trial…as it were.

      I’ll take onboard the room to breathe. I appreciate anyone not familiar might find too much rushing on that I and some others are already up to speed with.

      That said….I’m sure you may have a similar process at times….when the words move go with the flow??? It does feel good to be writing again though so thanks for the feedback

      • Oh, absolutely. We all have different processes and I respect that. Sometimes our goal for a piece does not align with that of a reader. It’s not a bad thing. What I like about blogging is that you can basically have all your learning in one place. We experiment, learn, and hopefully grow ‘live’ as we go along with the writing. Ideally, it helps us develop some of the off-screen stuff. Keep at it and stay golden!

  4. Always enjoy how there’s so much going on in these stories, and especially trying to piece together what clues I can remember. Can’t really recall anything about a crow, but wondering if it’s somehow actually connected with the wyvern? He’s black, he can fly…. 🙂 Another tickling in my memory (makes me identify with the Amanuensis) recalls an earlier installment where Naz figured out Yish was communicating with an imposter because he called her elf instead of by name. Or did I get those characters wrong? A little detail that I’m not sure was on purpose or finger entanglement: Naz recalls the ‘dessert of ice.’ Ice does work well in some desserts, but did you mean ‘desert’? Nicely done!

    • Good spot, I often miss auto-incorrect assumptions on the word I intend to use haha. The crow is relatively new as a concept. The reference is from actual book chapters set before the Amanuensis gets trapped. It’s an Elder prophecy about something they imprisoned.

      You got the memory tickle right. Naz did spot that yes. That was the one where they unwittingly released the prophecy. Not quite sure how much of this ends up in the actual story story though. I think I’ve said before these let me prowl ideas and get to try things. If the connections stay strong then I guess it reinforces the back story arc.. something like that 😂

  5. Hi Gary,
    I love the Raven! My favorite all-time poem. Great to see you blogging again. Did you stop for awhile?
    Janice

    • Hi Janice, kudos on the swift recognition on the poem. One of my favourites too. Re blogging yes, I had a year away from social media. Confidence thing. Gave me chance to review things better. I’m hoping to do more again now though. Missed it and the friends made through the journey. Hope alls well with you

        • All good here thanks. Bit of a new direction as a beer cellar consultant… missed our joint posts though. Mix annoyed me after their change of direction so I’ve dropped using that now. Shame as I had a huge following there

          • Hi Gary,
            That is a new direction! I also miss our joint posts so if you have any ideas going forward, let me know. I have also stopped using capital MIX. I agree it was a shame since it had such potential.
            Janice

            • Do you still use Flipboard? I’m trying to decide if it’s worth investing more time in. That said I’m more wary of spreading over too many sites now. It can distract from productivity if returns are not matching input time. I’ll put my thinking cap on re posts. One I did ages ago on Twitter hashtags still gets hits. I’ll have to check out your blog again too. Be nice to see what you’ve been up to in my absence

              • I would welcome your return to mostlyblogging. Thanks in advance! Yes! I like Flipboard. It seems to help my search engine optimization which in turn gets me traffic even if Flipboard doesn’t get me direct traffic. I am interested in all aspects of social media so Twitter hashtags or anything like that works for me. It’s great to be communicating again.
                Janice

                • Already had a quick look Janice. Seems you have a much neater layout now too. I’m planning on a bit of a revamp here too as the current theme isn’t supported now. As you know hashtags are invaluable for keeping content from dropping out of sight within seconds and targeting trends that actually want to read what your posts are about. Sometimes I think just updating older posts with new info isn’t a bad idea either. New people hit social media all the time and often need help quickly. I often get frustrated trying to find solutions to problems to find ancient posts dropping on Google that have out of date info.

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