Living Story Excerpt
Getting involved in the farmers’ love lives was one of the last things Seryth wanted to do, and after running a few errands, he continued on his way to Stormwind.
A few silver pieces and a piglet were among the families’ gifts to him. A calico cat also began to follow Seryth wherever he went.
On his way through Goldshire, one of the guards recognized him as as having taken part in the capture of Hogger. The guard told Seryth there was also good money in clearing kobolds out of the local mines, but Seryth declined. Stormwind was waiting for him…
Goldshire = Timberfalls
For sake of condensing down the number of cities Sirith goes through, I rolled the narrative of Westbrook Garrison and Goldshire into one, and Timberfalls stands in for Goldshire as well here.
This chapter proved an interesting dilemma for me. Most of it is filler, either already covered in essence by Chapter 1 or just plain boring. The one point of interest in the whole chapter is that this is the first time Sirith comes across the calico cat, AKA the imp, who kickstarts him on the path to becoming a warlock.
I decided ultimately that the parts about the farm chores would be a good time to instead do a little flashback into Sirith’s past, living as the odd akor’mar out in a human farming village. In the actual novel, this chapter might need to be moved to a later chapter or broken into actual scenes rather than exposition. That’ll be something to look at in a second draft though, not this part of the process where I am simply making a small amount of words into a novel-length amount of words.
This choice did give me the chance to introduce Barat though, a character I meant to include in Seryth’s Story from the first, but never found a good place for in the Living Story Roleplay. Barat will later serve as a counterpoint for when Sirith returns to Hillet with his powers fully fledged: a reminder that not all the farmers are worthy of his hate, that his oppression of them has uncomfortable parallels to the bullying he received as child, but which Sirith will, inevitably, blow right past as he falls into evil.
As a final note, I also revisited the Daelin-as-a-supposed-hero-in-Timberfalls arc. I didn’t feel like this got enough attention in Chapter 1, but it’s at risk that it starts sounding like a repeat.
Sirith woke up sometime in the early evening to the sounds of other people shuffling around him. The common room was now filling, other travelers claiming the beds around him. One man paused next to Sirith, eying him in the dim light. Sirith thought at first the man was trying to decide if he was still asleep, and Sirith’s hand went to his sword just in case the fool decided to pilfer his things, but then the man asked, “Are you really the akor’mar kid?”
Everyone went silent, heads tilting in their direction. Sirith, glad that the dim light of the candles would hide his embarrassment, slowly sat up and pulled his sword into his lap. “I’m only half-blooded,” he said.
“I know that,” said the man. “I meant…are you him? The akor’mar?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about,” Sirith said tiredly, though he did have an inkling. It wasn’t the first time someone had remarked on his race in Timberfalls, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. However, this time he was pinned in place, forced to have a conversation about it. Though the recognition was gratifying, it was also uncomfortable. Usually humans were afraid or vaguely disdainful of him, and he kept wondering when the other shoe would drop.
Not any time soon, apparently. “Oh, by Carro, it is you! Your father saved me during the wars, you see,” said the man reverently, and he thrust a hand at Sirith that he obviously expected the half-akor’mar to shake.
Sirith tentatively took the man’s fingers and gave them a waggle, then pushed the hand away. “That’s all very well, but I need to–“
“Wait, the akor’mar? He’s here? My pa saw his pa fighting!” said another, nearer the door.
“Heard he led the militia back then,” rumbled yet another.
“I thought that was closer to Haven.”
“Naw, that was here. My pa saw him!”
Sirith thought maybe he could escape as the humans bickered about the details of Daelin’s exploits. Yet, as he stood up, everyone’s attention riveted back on him.
“Will you be staying long?”
“Are you as good with a sword?”
“Say, where has your father been all these years?”
“Hillet,” Sirith snapped off sullenly, glad he could finally get a word in edgewise. Still, the ring tightened around him.
“What’s a Hillet?”
“Hillet,” Sirith confirmed. He raised his hands and began to push through the crowd. “Excuse me, but I haven’t had any dinner. Move!”
And miraculously, they did. They returned to chattering amongst themselves as he wriggled through them, pulling his hood up as he neared the door, in the hopes the kitchen staff wouldn’t similarly bombard him with questions as long as he kept his face hidden. It seemed to work, as another traveler shoving through the door also shoved past him without a care, grunting a curse at him for standing in the way.
The kitchen was towards the back of the inn, with one long, low table taking up the front of the room and a fireplace, oven, and giant cauldron filled with stew taking up the back. Sirith grabbed a trencher of bread from a row of them cooling on the hearth and lined up with other diners to receive his helpings of stewed vegetables and cheese. People gossiped around him, and he tilted an ear towards them.
It seemed many travelers were also bound for the Castellea market day. Most of them were human, some coming as far away as Lion’s Head, if the shiny and dark brown shaved scalp Sirith could just make out through the crowd was anything to go by. The crowd pressed up against him as even more travelers filtered into the room, buzzing with conversation about the “akor’mar lad” staying at the inn. Sirith quickly faced the fireplace, not wanting any more questioning for the night.
A Little Folk tripped over someone’s foot and stumbled into his side. He reached out a hand to steady her reflexively, but she pushed off of him and wormed back into the crowd, muttering about finding a properly sized establishment for next year. It was then Sirith noticed other Little Folk weaving their way through the press of people, as dexterously as little turnspit dogs. One even snatched an apple off a trencher while its human owner wasn’t looking.
Sirith got his food and then shouldered his way through to the table, too tall to follow the Little Folk’s example but also too short to command some distance by size alone. He found himself a space near the end of the table to sit at and hunched over his trencher, just as much to keep anyone from knocking the bread plate to the floor as to hide his face. He supposed most of the humans saw him as a teenager due his mar size and build, and most of them left him alone. He was able to let his thoughts slip away as he worked his way through the meal.
Daelin never spoke about the wars, and it was only the gossip of the villagers and the warbow that hung by the door that gave Sirith any clue. The akor’mari, Sirith’s legacy, had invaded much of the continent years ago, boiling up from the subterranean caverns of the Reaches to murder and plunder wantonly across the Surface. The vicious raiders had focused mostly on Avaliet, the homeland of the ilph’mari in the far north. Sirith had always assumed Daelin had fled the place, adopting Sirith along the way for reasons of his own. He had never known his real mother and father. He never knew how he came to be in Daelin’s care. He certainly had never known Daelin had been a hero in the next town over.
Was that why Daelin avoided Timberfalls when travelling to Castellea? The thought of it made Sirith sour. As an ilph’mar, maybe Daelin never had to worry about being shoved around or spat on just because of his bloodlines, and now Sirith was learning he could’ve grown up here, with quite the opposite treatment in store for him.
The seat next to him filled up, breaking up his thoughts, and Sirith pivoted slightly away, keeping his head down. Then again, maybe hero-worship wasn’t much better, he considered. He wasn’t looking forward to returning to the common room tonight. Perhaps he could wait until most of the humans were asleep. He felt refreshed after his day of napping and could spend a few hours outside of the inn.
Sirith ate his cheese and vegetables, then ate the trencher, the hard bread softened and tasting of the juices that had soaked into it. He wriggled his way back through the crowd, up to the front door, and had to stand aside quickly when a couple of large humans, grumbling as they carried baskets in their arms, came through, as unstoppable as a pacing bull. A cat flashed through between their ankles, its fur a blur of colors.
“Hey, your cat got out!” Sirith called into the general pandemonium of the inn. No one noticed, and the two humans continued to traipse their way past, their shoves sending ripples of similar movement through the crowd. With a shrug, Sirith ducked out of the inn after the humans passed him.
The cat was sitting on the stoop just outside, calmly washing its shoulder. It paused and peered up at Sirith with bright green eyes, then blinked as if to thank him. Its fur was a mix of patches of white, orange, and a darker brown, and it was the white it was working on at the moment, trying to get it clean of the mud that seemed to be everywhere in the town after the past week’s rains.
“Good luck with that,” Sirith told it, and he stepped out into the street. He had hours before him, and he resolved to check on his horse first. The cat stood and pranced up behind him, banging its head into his ankles as clumsily as the humans had been banging into each other in the inn.
“I don’t have any food,” Sirith said to it with a scowl. “Shoo.”
“Mrryowl,” said the cat. Sirith just sighed and deigned to ignore it.
The farms in Hillet always had cats lurking around them, too. They helped keep the mice down, and a few of the humans even lavished care on them like lapdogs, though it wasn’t common in a village where most thoughts were on hard work and not pleasure. Sirith had never much liked cats himself, ever since he had tried climbing up into a barn after the neighborhood boys and they had thrown a spitting tom down on top of him. The cat’s claws stung as much as the boys’ message: no sneaky little akor’mar allowed in their childhood games.
Sirith ducked down the stable aisle. It was only an inn stables, austere, and the horses stood in rows, tied to a bar, only separated from each other by wooden planks instead of proper stalls. His own horse was fast asleep on its legs, one back hoof cocked. Someone had given it a brisk combing, and though it was its proper black color again, its hair still pinched together with mud along its belly and legs. It raised its head and tilted an ear at him as Sirith found a currycomb and began to work away at its dirty coat, more for lack of anything better to do than because he thought the horse needed it.
Horses were rather like those Hillet boys, Sirith thought sourly. Stupid, always dirty, too much strength for their own good, and his foster father had always insisted he treat them well no matter how much they kicked him. This horse seemed disinclined to do that at the moment at least, though it did lean on him heavily as he lifted its hoof to pick the mud out of it. The cat jumped up on the hitching bar to watch him, occasionally punctuating his toils with a meow that Sirith ignored.
This horse wasn’t so bad, maybe. Out of all the boys in Hillet, Barat hadn’t been so bad, either. He was also stupid, but he was slow, more like an ox than a horse. He was always getting left behind like Sirith had: whacked harder during the boys’ mock battles with sticks or ignored when they tried to tease and (later) flirt with the village girls. Perhaps that’s why he decided to hang around with Sirith so much instead.
Not always, of course; if one of the other boys took notice of him, even in such a condescending way Sirith knew Barat would be beaten up for it later, Barat would always toddle off faithfully to the other boys and leave Sirith alone. Typical treatment. Typical humans.
He was half human himself, of course, and it was for that reason he couldn’t let go of the hurt. Sirith let the horse drop its hoof and straightened, stretching the kink out of his back. The cat meowed again, watching him, eyes like twin flickers of yellow flames in the gloom. The reminder of that embarrassing day in the barn stabbed Sirith in the chest, and he threw the currycomb at the cat. It leapt off the hitching bar and hopped away with its tail in the air, seeming more amused than insulted. Sirith kicked hay after it, then stopped when his horse jerked its head up in alarm and considered kicking at him, too.
Sirith eased his way around the horse and muttered to himself as he exited the stables. The moons were rising, leaving a dash of color in the puddles on the road. He stood for a while, dropping clods into the water and watching the colors break up and then reform between each splash. Someone’s dog started barking. Someone else yelled at it — and him — to quit. Without the light on his akor’mar face, he was treated like just another burr caught in someone’s coat.
Sirith was well sick of people by the time he returned to the common room and bedded down for the night, pulling his covers up over his head to make it clear he was not in the mood for talking with anybody else still up at this hour. He wished, not for the first time, that he lived far away from simple, sorry villages like Hillet or Timberfalls. He wished for the cosmopolitan dignity of Castellea, or the fabled majesty of Stormvale or Griffinrock on the coasts. Just as he slipped off, his thoughts began to take a deeper turn, thinking of endless tunnels and the cunning, treacherous ways of his true people: the akor’mari.
He smiled in his sleep. Barat was doomed to a life of being left behind by humans who considered themselves better than him. But Sirith needn’t be bothered by such things, for he was an akor’mar, and that was a person to be feared.