Chapter Two

Chapter Two

A Chapter by Robert Nicholls

 

            Sly’s mind faded back to where his journey began; his dreams turning towards the day fate decided to rear it’s fearsome head.

 

The goats were bleating loudly, as they filled their bodies with the precious liquid that was pooled in the hot, dry desert landscape. This was the only oasis in all the hundreds of miles of sand, and it served as a meeting point for many forms of life, from beast to human, to vegetation that could not be found anywhere else in Aerathol. The heat rising from the dusty ground carried almost no moisture in it, but this was what Sly had become accustomed to. This was his land, his home. He was raised from birth in the nearby village of Disree, and today was just another day in the journey of life, as his father would say. He had been sent out to this watering hole, as he had every morning, to gather the tender stalks of the reeds that encircled it. The ten mile walk was painful, his bare feet sinking into the hot sand, pulling down on his legs as he trudged to make it over the many fin-shaped dunes after which the desert had been named. His chest rose and fell as he climbed over the last one and his eyes laid upon a scene all too familiar. The water was so clear, he could see nearly to the bottom. It had the inviting blue tint to it, and one could feel how unnaturally cold it was just by looking at it. The critters that plunged their feet, heads, and sometimes whole bodies into the water seemed so relaxed, it gave Sly the urge to run and dive in head first, splashing and spraying the shores of the oasis with water that would disappear into the sand almost as fast as it had appeared. Sly resisted, however; he had a job to do.

            Sly picked up his basket, widely open and constructed out of the very material it was created to hold. He walked quietly to the edge of the water, his view obscured by the numerous thick reeds, but as he parted a few, his eyes beheld a beautiful scene. A goat was directly across from him, lapping up water and soaking his brown and grey beard. A low flying bird dipped her beak, snatching up a small fish and swallowing it down in one motion. Sly was amazed at the abilities of all the animals around here, being able to survive these harsh conditions and find sustenance to carry them through the cold nights and sweltering days. He had learned a lot about his own survival instincts through the careful study of these creatures, and so he admired them for all he was taught. Sly kneeled down to cup a small amount of the fresh, crisp water in his hands, but was distracted by a shadow that caught his eye. A wispy smoke seemed to appear over his left shoulder in the reflection in the water, but when he turned to look, nothing was there. Sly shrugged it off as delusions from the heat, and turned back to the water. He scooped up some of the life giving liquid in his hands again, and sucked it down to quenching the burning in his throat. A gasp escaped his lips as he felt his body groan in pleasure, his aching back stretching with appreciation. He continued to drink until his gullet was saturated, and decided to begin his work. He retrieved his shears from his knapsack, and started clipping the reeds around him, at the base of the stalks where they were the thickest.

            While he worked, the insects around him buzzed, the goats chatted continuously, and the light breeze whistled between the plants that had taken their hold here. Sly worked so diligently, he hardly noticed the faint smell of burning wood waft over him. He barely noticed the sound of crackling flames far off in the distance behind him.

           

 

Then, suddenly, everything went quiet.

            Sly glanced up from his tedious job, and noticed something was off. The goats, birds, insects… where were they? He could not see a single one. The wind… Why could he not feel it? The reeds were not moving, but surely he thought the breeze would remain steady all day?

            A huge, booming sound erupted in the distance.

            A rush of air washed over him, bringing with it a strong, pungent smell of smoke, burning flesh, and death. Sly was knocked over by the sudden burst, and desperately tried to catch his fall with his hand, but was too late. He saw the ground rushing up at his face; saw the rock lying right where his head was sure to land. And then, the world went black.

 

 

           

            A vulture squawked in the distance, jolting Sly to consciousness. He opened his eyes slowly, to a splash of water hitting his forehead. He tried to get his eyes to focus; the world was swimming above him. Another splash of water helped him shake awake; he looked to the sky to find that it was raining. Strange, he thought, it never rains here. It had been months since the last rainfall that had replenished the watering hole he now sat at, and none was expected for months to come. Yet here it was, cooling his face and soaking his cloth shirt. Sly got up, his focus fading in and out, looking around for his basket of reeds. He searched all about him in the cold rain pouring form the dark clouds above, but his spoils from the hard work could not be found.

            Sly shrugged and turned away, towards his village. He could not see it from this distance, but over the dunes and ridges of sand he was able to make out a faint hint of smoke rising from the horizon. He squinted, trying to see, but there was no way he could distinguish between anything in this rain. While light, it casted a dim gray appearance over the land in front of him, and Sly figured he should start the journey back before the shower became a storm, and before the creatures of the night surfaced. He slowly climbed over dune after sandy dune, his feet sinking farther into the ground as the rain swept across his body, the soft grains becoming saturated below him, dragging him to a turtle-like pace. His muscles ached in his back as he lugged his own weight up over the final dune to the road that signaled his final leg in the journey to his village.
           

As Sly trudged northward on the beaten path created by the bare, sandaled, and hoofed feet of the many who had travelled to and from Disree, a feeling of foreboding overcame him, nearly knocking him over, much like the strong gust had not but an hour ago. He knew that he would soon lay eyes on a terrible scene, but what he saw next he nearly could not comprehend.
            Nearly a mile away, Disree lay in ruins, smoke billowing out from what was left of every small clay-built house, flames easily flickering into view with every step Sly took closer to the destroyed town. A putrid, acidic smell washed over him, nearly blinding him with tears that began streaming down his face as his eyes burned with disgust. He chocked back an anguishing cry and dropped his bag, picking up his speed to a mad dash, scared of what he would find. As he got closer, the town grew larger, and more ominous. His heart leapt to his throat when he reached the entrance, the small guard tower obliterated to nothing more than a pile of rubble. Thick black smoke rose from the center of the now black stones that once held up the tower, and an eerie crackle emanated from the small flames in the center of the destroyed building. Sly took one look and continued running towards the west side of his home village, shaking with anxiety as he neared the house in which he had been raised. He flew past Daren’s Blacksmithing Shop; once the largest building in the city now barely rose to his hip, the large flat iron anvil that had been in front looked misshapen, as if melted but such an intense heat that even Daren’s great furnace could not have created. Sly glanced towards the town square, where the once mighty statue of their village founder, Stearn Disree, had stood, a glorious mantelpiece for the bustling community that was growing into a glorious trading ground for all those in search of rare keepsakes and the finest weaponry this side of the Finchi Mountains. The statue was no longer there; instead a massive scorched earth ring and pile of ash marked where the once great and beautiful landmark stood. Sly could not keep back the stinging tears that poured out of his eyes, as he realized his culture had been, in one swift move, completely wiped out. Sly furiously rubbed the salty tears away from his vision, preparing himself for what he might find when he arrived at his destination.

           

Sly reached the end of the only path leading to the west side of Disree, and fell to his knees. His home, his beautiful two story house, was gone. Soot, burnt wood, and red glowing stones lay surrounding the foundation, which looked itself as if it been blown apart from the inside out from a massive explosion. Nearly unrecognizable scraps of metal that once were used for cooking and eating now melted into the hard ground where they lay. Sly winced as he touched an old wooden frame, now blackened with ash, in which a portrait of his mother, father, sister, dog, and himself was displayed. His mother stood on his father’s left side, as was custom in the time it had been painted, holding the arm of her soul mate in hers. Her soft left hand rested on the shoulder of young Sly, only seven years of age. His sister, her long green robe-like dress flowing outward from her legs as if forced by a strong, but still wind, billowed around her as she stood oproudly in front of her tall father. Nathaniel, his father, was the most striking, his features standing out against the deep gray background behind him, showing how much of a sturdy, but kind, man he was. And finally, the small beast Sly received as a gift from his loving parents, only a puppy at the time, sat on her hind legs in front of him, tongue hanging out to the side, as she would always do whenever given a wonderful turkey bone from the monthly feast. While looking over the painting, he noticed something was off. Abruptly, a large amount of bile rose into his mouth and burned the lining in his throat when he realized what it was. The faces of each human were suspiciously burned away, leaving behind only a dark circle upon the shoulders of each body. Only his hound’s eyes could be seen, her amber eyes shining in the flickering glow that surrounded his house, and they had a mournful look of tears forming near the irises. Hot tears welled up in Sly’s eyes, son spilling out of the corners of his eyelids, streaming down his cheeks, pooling onto the charred earth below him. He suddenly could not see, a burning rage building up inside of his stomach, expanding to his chest, and through his blood vessels, until his entire body felt enraged with anger, and a need to hunt, a need to run, a need to kill.

 

            In his blind hatred, Sly raised his arms to the heavens, screaming at the top of his lungs, in a voice that would scare the leaves off of a willow tree. He yelled, he cried, he screamed until he could do so no longer, his voice running raspy and hoarse. He punched the ground, over and over, trying to beat the answers out of the earth, but only receiving bleeding knuckles and more questions. Who could have done this? Why? Why wasn’t he here when it happened? He could’ve stopped them!

            And then, another questioned surfaced in his ticking brain. Where are the bodies? In fact, Sly noticed that he had not seen a single soul, alive or otherwise, within the entire city. He rose to his feet, looking around for some sign of life. Where were the farm animals that provided sustenance to locals and travelers alike? Where were the bodies of the victims that had been targeted in such a heinous act? He sifted through the rubble of what remained of his cottage, but could find no one. He did find an old mirror that seemed untouched, and a small satchel of bread crumbs, but under the rest of the rubble laid only more signs of destruction. Sly found his journal, burnt beyond repair, given to him by his mother to keep his most precious memories in. He rarely ever touched it, but now it seemed like the most profound literary piece of his life, and he clang to it with all the force he could muster, until it crumbled to dust, falling out of his arms. He looked in despair at the lost memoir, hatred once again filling his heart, and turned with a furious gaze to the rest of what was once Disree. Small flames sparked up here and there, smoke rose into the air from multiple ruins into one large column of black floating away to the east, a signal for what had happened here. Sly gathered the pouch of bread crumbs and mirror into his arms; he chose to leave behind the family portrait, thinking the pain would be too much to bear with him. He lugged his small keepsakes to the entrance of the city, passing the destroyed shops of his childhood one last time, taking in the reality of the situation. Dismayed as he was, one thought returned to his mind with every step he took closer to the edge of the city, and the edge of his adolescence.

            Revenge.



© 2011 Robert Nicholls


Author's Note

Robert Nicholls
I'm not as confident about this chapter as I could be, and I think it might show a bit. I think I dragged some parts out a bit and didn't delve into other parts as much as I would've liked to. Also, some verbage/grammatical stuf could be fixed, but hey, it is a pretty good chapter nonetheless, so check it out and let me know what you think!

My Review

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I like what your trying to do with this chapter answering the question of what caused Sly to leave his home. Your attempting to make a descriptive story full of well descriptive words but sometimes it is just to much. In some cases it is better to be blunt and straight to the point while other times it is better to go on and on with description. Personally, if I'm ever writing anything when I'm talking about a horrible event in history I would not add these extra flourishes because it just obscures the truth about an event. If I was writing about the deaths of 10 people what holds more impact: 1. Ten people dies today in a horrible pile up. or 2. On the date of December 15, 2011, a car stopped short for red light. The two minivans behind him each holding 5 passengers could not react in time they all perished. You see in the second example death is obscured by detail. Be blunt when talking about the horribleness of a situation.

You can use a lot more description when talking about something good but, in a bad situation as I said before be more blunt.

A more normal human reaction to the destruction would be to immediately seek out where his family was at first ignoring the rest of the destruction to the village. While something like the blacksmith and the guard tower may be important to Sly family comes first. Then Sly should go out and examine the destruction to the rest of the village.
Just one or two small thing:
"hot, dry desert landscape" wouldn't arid be a better word?

And "It had the inviting blue tint to it" (change the to an)
if you look down at water it isn't going to look blue. And unless the water is deep enough it isn't going to look blue.


There are other grammatical errors in your writing but, at the moment I do not have the time to proofread it maybe later.

Posted 7 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Mr. Submarine, thank you very much for your review, I greatly appreciate it. And do not worry, I have plenty of tricks up my sleeve for this one, I think you will be pleasantly surprised or happy about the true plot of the story.

Posted 7 Years Ago


Very dark.
And while i agree with Mr. Bomb to some extent, the amount of detail did not bother me very much. I kind of imagined it as a slow-paced movie scene, a very painful one (i mean when Sly is entering the town). There were parts where i did feel distracted by moments of unnecessary detail, yes. But overall i enjoyed the chapter.
(I just hope it isn't all going to be about revenge on Sly's part, i usually dislike when characters revolve around revenge only. But don't tell me anything about your plans. Just saying, i'm expecting a lot of depth.)

Posted 7 Years Ago


I appreciate your comment, and I understand exactly what you are saying. I think I was really trying to "just get through" this chapter, and it shows. I will keep that in mind for future chapters, as well as when I do revisions of the entire story.

Posted 7 Years Ago


I like what your trying to do with this chapter answering the question of what caused Sly to leave his home. Your attempting to make a descriptive story full of well descriptive words but sometimes it is just to much. In some cases it is better to be blunt and straight to the point while other times it is better to go on and on with description. Personally, if I'm ever writing anything when I'm talking about a horrible event in history I would not add these extra flourishes because it just obscures the truth about an event. If I was writing about the deaths of 10 people what holds more impact: 1. Ten people dies today in a horrible pile up. or 2. On the date of December 15, 2011, a car stopped short for red light. The two minivans behind him each holding 5 passengers could not react in time they all perished. You see in the second example death is obscured by detail. Be blunt when talking about the horribleness of a situation.

You can use a lot more description when talking about something good but, in a bad situation as I said before be more blunt.

A more normal human reaction to the destruction would be to immediately seek out where his family was at first ignoring the rest of the destruction to the village. While something like the blacksmith and the guard tower may be important to Sly family comes first. Then Sly should go out and examine the destruction to the rest of the village.
Just one or two small thing:
"hot, dry desert landscape" wouldn't arid be a better word?

And "It had the inviting blue tint to it" (change the to an)
if you look down at water it isn't going to look blue. And unless the water is deep enough it isn't going to look blue.


There are other grammatical errors in your writing but, at the moment I do not have the time to proofread it maybe later.

Posted 7 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


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Added on December 15, 2011
Last Updated on December 15, 2011


Author

Robert Nicholls
Robert Nicholls

Rogers, AR



About
I have always loved writing, but I dropped out of the game for a while during the span of my life in which I gained a family, great job, and the rest of life's little pleasures. Now, after many years .. more..

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A Chapter by Robert Nicholls