So I’ve been busy with school, drinking frappes and drinking more frappes. But recently I found some time in my busy schedule to unarchive an old chapter I wrote to a book that I never completed, let alone really began. As I was rereading it, I realized how intense it was. What I mean by this, well, it was sorta violent. A lot of people died. I eased it a little bit, but altogether, it was still quite crazy. I don’t think it was much different than a lot of the books out there, but if I had to give it a rating, it would have been PG. I’m wasn’t trying to praise violence or bloodshed. I just thought a lot of it was just crazy and could be skimmed.
On this post I’ve beed editing and cutting, and editing and trying to tune all of the violence down. But I kept on fighting guilty about posting out. God is not a lover of violence. Being a Christian, I don’t want to make it look like that.
So I cut out three-quarters of it, all the violent parts.
I took a lot of good parts with it, but altogether, it was worth it. This beginning section is still good and samples my writing at it’s peak. So I hope you enjoy it.
Oh, and before you read, remember that some things were quickly replaced. Dan was the best I could think of that fit the main character.
Up above the cities, above the canopy. Away from the crowds. And replaced is constant din of life with the bright but quiet twinkling of the stars in the vast sky bowl. The sun had set long ago, journeying around the other side of the globe. Now the two moons shine pure white light over the vast canopy of leaves around me, illuminating the nighttime dew that trickles on their corners.
I stand on one of many watchtowers that jut through the thick field of leaves, leaning on my elbows against the parapets, looking distantly somewhere between the night sky and the canopy, both of which stretch from horizon to horizon. I sigh, breathing the view in. It is not a rare thing that I see such beauty. Living in the cities of the trees assures that. But none of it ever grows old. Shucks, I’m up here pretty much every night. My ma always hates it when I fall asleep in the watchtowers. But I don’t mind the long disciplinary talk that a drift to sleep up here brings. Every second I spend under the stars is worth it.
“Dan,” I hear. I look to my right. Fauns, my fellow bowman apprentice, is looking right at me. I almost forgot he is here. “You OK?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say, turning back to the view. “Just caught in the beauty of it all.
“Never gets old, right?” Tayl says with a gleam in her violet eyes, walking to my side. She too had wanted to join us up here, and of course I said yes. It’s against my ma’s rules that I spend time with a girl at night. But Fauns is up here too. That makes it OK, right? I frown as a pit of guilt falls in my stomach.
She smiles, and I give her my signature lopsided grin in return. Fauns’s the best male friend I could possibly have, but Tayl, well, she’s different. All three of us have never left each other’s sides for years. Literally. We played together, and now we train together. I don’t think I’ve let one arrow shaft fly without theirs racing parallel to mine. And even though I’ve spent an equal portion of my life with them both, I feel like I tend to lean towards Tayl in companionship more than Fauns. Don’t call it love. Just stick to friendship. Really, really, strong friendship. Heck, maybe I just feel it’s strong because they’re almost the only friends I have. Yeah, so I have Ricky from the Vistar, then my teacher, Alpha Bowman Brondwise, but most people don’t like halfbreeds like me. I’m lucky just to be an apprentice, despite my father’s position.
I look down over the tower’s edge at the carpet of leaves. The massive trees below me make sure that the canopy has no holes; their leaves are so dense you can practically swim in them. Back in the cities, just a couple of flights of stairs down, the leaves are much less dense. The flets, huge expanses of wood held up by the massive tree limbs, hold hundreds of buildings and all the Elves that live in the cities, but to fit them all in the trees, branches and boughs needed to be cut. Cut branches means less leaves, and less leaves means clear, open cities built in the trees, but still beneath the canopy.
Clear except for all the people.
Thousands of Elves live in our various tree cities, towns, and even villages. The capital, known as Deerendom, is the location of my home and is probably the most cramped city known to Elves. Not like the Twin Cities to the North. They’re nice and wide, making one city into two open ones, both few in population. I’ve never been there, but I hope to someday. But the trip takes miles. To bad I can’t use the portals. Fairwood, the forest of the great trees that hold our cities, is huge. Perhaps the largest forest in the world, considering that it covers about a quarter of the globe.
I stand up from my leaning position. Fauns and Tayl follow suit, wondering what’s next. I merely point up.
A flock of dragon loons flies above us under the two moons, creating silhouettes of flapping bodies. In a few seconds, they’ll be right over us.
“I bet you can’t hit three of those birds with one shot,” I challenge Fauns. He smiles, and without a word, his pale hand reaches back and flicks three arrows out of his quiver between each of his fingers. They’re drendrofir shafted with griffin feathers for fletching. They’re tipped with the ivory of unicorns. Not the best stuff, but sharp enough to take down a dragon loon, or even a small roc if we’re lucky enough to see one. He nocks all three arrows on the bowstring and waits. I know he’s measuring the distance. And the timing. There’s a lot to think about when a bowman, even if your just an apprentice like us. We’re no pros, but we’ve still got talent. And because of that, we are all proud to say we are among the Venkai, the Elite Bowmen of Anyasia.
A few more moments pass. I calculate the shafts’ line of fire in my head with Fauns. I see Tayl doing the same, her neck-length sandy hair hanging softly back. And then without warning, Fauns pulls back the bowstring, takes a breath, and releases. All three arrows pierce the air with lethal precision. There’s a moment of silence, then thwap-shunk-thup! All three arrows strike home in the dragon loons’ hearts or necks, and not three but four flailing bodies come hurtling down. I look at my friend in awe, then back at the descending bodies. We predict all four will hit the tower’s deck in a sloppy pile. But a sudden gust of wind blasts our faces, and apparently the loons. The first three land with a sickening thud! on the tower, but the fourth ricochets off the parapets into the forest below.
“Good shot!” I say with a smile. I examine the birds. The once-beautiful loons are now crushed and mangled. Their silky feathers coated with blood. But as I guessed, not one of the arrows are in their corpses. They had all cleanly shot straight through their hearts and are probably still sailing somewhere in the sky. Fauns had killed two birds with one arrow. And from our distance, that’s considered amazing.
Fauns just shrugs at my comment. “Could have gotten more if the wind was right.” He picks up the three loons by their feet and gives them to me. “Here. Give these to your ma to cook up.”
“She won’t cook these!” I laugh. Tayl giggles too. As if to emphasize my point, a loon’s wing limply swings down and falls on the ground.
“Ah, then feed them to the panthers,” Fauns says. “I should be getting home now. My pa will have my hide if I stay any longer. See ya, Dan. Tayl,” he nods.
“See ya,” Tayl and I say in unison, and Fauns hauls the tower’s trapdoor open and goes down to the winding staircase.
I look once more an the panorama before me. Then I realize Tayl’s still here. Great. Now I really am disobeying Ma’s rules. I sigh and turn to Tayl. She’s smiling at me. I take in a breath and forget to exhale. Awkward.
“Well, I better go too, Dan,” she says. Now I don’t want her to go. I’m so fickle, and I despise myself for it.
“Are you sure? I mean, we can stay here for a while, I mean, if you want, actually, well, it’s only—” I look at the two moons. “Oh. I guess it is late.”
“Yeah,” she laughs. I love it when she does that. “I really should go.”
I sway back and forth. “So training? Tomorrow?”
She smiles. “Like we have a choice,” she says. “See ya then.”
“See ya,” I say, and I give the official Venkai salute, which is really only a single beat to my chest. I mean, just because we’re friends doesn’t mean we don’t be formal. We’re both Venkai. It’s expected. Tayl just nods and leaps lightly down through the trapdoor.
Now I’m alone. I steal a last glance at the sky, then look down at the wooden floor. I study at my face’s reflection in a small pool of blood gathering at one of dragon loon’s bodies. Ginger hair, green eyes, and freckled skin. That’s me. Plain in appearance, but complex at the same time due to my parent’s varied breeds. I think I’m the only Elf in Deerendom with only one pointed ear. Everyone is normal, and has two, but not me. Not the halfbreed.
I turn my head to the loons. I better get them out of here quick. If a maintenance guy comes up here now and sees this mess…well, best not think of that. I’m tempted to just toss the dead birds over the side, but I know Da’ would disapprove. “Never kill just for sport,” he always says. “Everything you kill you should be eaten.” I sigh and pick up the bloodied corpses, being careful not to get to much gore on my leather armor, and especially not my Amulet of the Venkai. But it happens anyway. But that’s fine. I’ll take a bath later.
I kick open the trapdoor and take a cautious step on the stairs. Then I begin a long spiraling decent down the watchtower. For a while, it’s pitch black. I only can navigate the steps by memory and my left ear’s keen hearing. But then as I grow closer to the bottom I see faint light, like seeing a glow at the end of a tunnel. I can actually make out the mauled birds in my hands now. As the light intensifies, I smile. I let my shoulder brush against the wall to my right. It’s no longer made of stone, but wood.
At last the stone wall to my left ends, and now I’m exposed to the light of lanterns around me. But I’m still on the spiraling stairs that wrap around a tree trunk, nearing the city below me. All the trees in Fairwood are huge. They have to be to hold up cities. So, imagine the biggest tree you know, multiply its size by one-hundred, and you’ve got our trees. I’m inside the canopy now, dense leaves all around me as if giving me some great hug. But they don’t drown out the clamor of life I hear beneath my feet. The jingle of coins in vendors’ hands and laughs and applauses of awed people watching street performers. The snaps of fists from the cantinas. The soft footfalls of panther feet. At last I pass below the leafy canopy, and I look over the stair’s rail. And I behold Deerendom.
From my still high-up view, she is breathtaking. Flet Five, the top level of Deerendom, is buzzing with commotion. Night markets dance in activity, vendors in their respective booths selling every imaginable resource: raw meat, jewelry, clothes, weapons, and strange gadgets, all drawing money into the sellers’ pockets. Elven peasants bustle in large crowds, fighting for the best but cheapest merchandise. Children run wildly, playing and screaming in excitement at the various shows. Jesters. Minstrels. Fire breathers and monkey trainers. Jugglers tossing up to twenty balls in the air and snatching them just before hitting the ground. Music from the flutes and violins of Elves flirts with the people’s ears, luring them to the source of the pleasant but bouncing song. Dancers whirl about on makeshift stages, drawing gasps from the audience. Talented swordsmen spar in either aggression or good fun. I smile and shake my head. How can anyone be asleep with all this racket?
I bounce down the rest of the stairs to Flet Five, making sure not to fall down being so near the edge. Being an Elf of the trees, I’m not afraid of heights. But such a fall to the forest floor could be disastrous. I’d be nothing more than a huge scattered splat on the dead leaves. I know a lot of good Elves who died that same way from just taking a brave peak over the edge. For everyone knows that almost any Elf that touches the forest floor in Fairwood doesn’t get back in the trees alive. Too many dangers. Vicious predators. Murderous Slitherjacks. I shudder. That’s probably the worst way to go. Good thing they can’t cut down the trees.
I boost up the dragon loons in my arms and walk to the crowds. I push my way through the masses, being careful not to bump into any pickpockets. I find my eyes drawn to the the stacks of goods, most of the things too expensive for me to buy. Sure, Da’ purchases things for me all the time. Heck, he’s the head of the Venkai. Well paid, you know. But I don’t want to be like all the rich kids. Even at fourteen, my age, they’re bratty and rotten. No one really likes them. See, I tend to actually want friends. So I try my best not to spoil myself and be like most of the normal Venkai kids.
I near the stables, knowing it my the faint smell of panther scat. I turn a corner around the tack barn, and then kick open the stables’ side door. The scent is strong now. No one else is here, so I run right up to a special stable. Stable 3.
At first it is quiet. “Parthos?” I call in the dark. I hear a rustle. A muted yawn. Then I smile. Sure enough, my cat’s there. But this is not any cat. This is a panther.
The sleek black hair shimmers in the lantern light as Parthos nears me. He smacks his lips and yawns once more. His yellow eyes gaze at the loons in my arms, and I smile.
“Here ya go, Parth’,” I say as I dump the loons over the stable door. The broken carcasses of the birds splat on the wooden floor, and Parthos licks his chops. Then he dives in. Blood spatters. Bones split. But it all goes into Parthos’ mouth. I grin and stand with my hands on my hips. I am proud to have such a panther. They’re not like horses, which aren’t allowed on the flets. These guys seem warmer and more affectionate. And their the best climbers in Fairwood.
I jolt. The warning bell is ringing. What’s happening? Parthos’ ears perk up and he noses the air. His tail swings back and forth anxiously. The bell keeps sounding, and I hear the cacophony of the crowds building up outside. What could be going on? Fire? That’s the trees’ worst enemy. But that’s not worthy to sound the Venkai warning bell. I jump. Deathly screams sound. Shouts. It’s the people outside. Something has gone wrong.
All dozen of the stable doors burst open. Men and women stream inside with saddles and reigns in their hands. I recognize them immediately by their amulets. They are Venkai, probably all coming for their panthers. Is this a drill? Then why aren’t their any apprentices?
I, not knowing what to do, throw open the door to Parthos’ stable and mount him bareback. He looks up at me questioningly. What’s going on?
“I don’t know, bud,” I say, patting his flank. By now all the Venkai have their panthers tacked and ready to ride. Scores of legs swing up and over the cats’ backs and stick their feet in the stirrups. “I don’t know.”
All the mounted Venkai burst out of the stables and out of the main doors, which were opened by a young stablehand. I send Parthos galloping after them, not making a sound at all despite our immense speed. Before me are only Alpha Venkai, the highest ranking bowmen. To have most of them in one place must mean something big is up.
As Parthos and I make it out of the stables on the flets, I finally find out what had caused the panic. Slitherjacks. hundreds of them. I gasp. It’s an attack.
I hope you liked this even though a lot of it was cut. Don’t worry, the rest of my books aren’t as violent and don’t need constant abridgment.
To God be the glory, and may it be remembered that He is not a lover of violence.