As the Year Dies

As the Year Dies

A Chapter by SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
"

“Stand back! Give her air!” yelled the panicked king, rushing to his wife's side. "Someone fetch a healer!” The group dispersed, revealing the queen’s inert form. She’d gone utterly still, face ashen.

"

Kiran rolled the sleeves of his tunic up to his elbows. Why had he worn a cloak? It felt more like the end of April than the last day of December. Almost none of the hobbits bustling around the kingdom of Drémeadow had the scarves, mittens and head coverings one would typically wear in early winter. Wasn’t Drémeadow supposed to be colder than Cancalia since it was further north on the continent? Ah, well. He wasn’t about to complain. He’d be out here at least an hour while the two princes and two princesses carried out the tradition of greeting guests in person for the Pre-New Years Banquet. Unseasonably warm was preferable to bitter cold while he juggled a fifth line to speed up the admittance process and making sure Princess Nora, Princess Jillian, Prince Odo and Prince Folco were safe.


The royal family's home stood out amidst the spread-out houses, shops, silos, storage sheds and marketplaces.  Not only was it very large compared to the other buildings, but it was the only edifice with two stories.  A five-foot stone wall enclosed the wooden  palace. Hedges lined the inside and outside of the wall. Bare rosebushes lined the front. The sides were devoid of plants, but bare dirt evidenced the presence a garden at times of the year that permitted plant life. Compared to other kingdoms, the Drémeadow palace’s exterior was nondescript. The Foxtrots, like most halflings, preferred making the inside as comfortable as possible to impressing foreign visitors with a gaudy exterior.


          Dozens of party-goers gathered around the palace in Drémeadow’s capital city, Hardscrabble. Those waiting outside the front gate, evenly distributed among five queues, were clad in dressy clothes.  Clips and pins held carefully styled curls and waves in places. The dresses, coats and trousers were the finest material their respective wearers could afford. Seems Drémeadow’s halflings- no, hobbits,Kiran, they hate being called halflings - dress up just as much as Cancalia’s humans, elves, dwarves and gnomes. The most interesting thing here was the homogeneity of the population. The palace had employees of other races but otherwise Drémeadow seemed all hobbits. 


Hobbit guards in garments of red, brown and gold  stood ten yards back watching the princes and princesses check invitations. As the adolescent and young adult children of the king and queen, they wore the most expensive garb of all. Their gold jewelry and hair ornaments glistened in the sinking sun. Kiran, the fifth, towered over the two lads to his left and the young hobbit-women to his right. Both his height and the gold armor bearing a crest other than Drémeadow’s made him stand out like a sore thumb. He was the only one out here that wasn’t a hobbit. 


But then, it could have been worse. There could be orcs. Kiran was grateful none of the orc guards were out here. He’d known about and felt disquieted by their presence ever since he’d entered Drémeadow as an envoy from Cancalia a week ago. He’d casually asked about them the other day once he’d built enough rapport with his hosts. King Hrothgar said his advisor Jarmir Esteel had suggested the orcs. Jarmir’s reasoning was that orcs were bigger and thus useful for protecting Drémeadow denizens in ways his own race could not- through brute strength. Kiran was far from satisfied. Though none of the orcs had done anything, he did not trust them. He could not forget the way their eyes had malevolently followed him after they noticed the holy symbol of his god. Then there were the various horror stories about orcs around the continent to consider, not to mention his own personal experiences. Presumably the orcs in the employ of Drémeadow’s king were better behaved than most, as Kiran had seen no signs of wanton destruction, but it seemed too good to be true that the orcs were refraining from trouble. Orcs were notoriously difficult to control. What was keeping them from devastating the entire city? Ah, well, not my homeland, I suppose I oughtn’t worry too much. At least I don’t have to have dealings with them. Thank the gods.


The man's attention shifted to a particularly large family, the Rivers, near the front of the youngest hobbit's line. They were too deeply immersed in discussion to notice, let alone acknowledge him even though he'd become acquainted with some of them, especially the eldest, Lindo.   “I can scarcely believe it’s already becoming 3015. It seems just yesterday the Continental Calendar hit 3000! And would you believe we’ve been a monarchy for five years already? Seems the Restructuring just happened!” remarked a corpulent gentlehobbit with a blue cloak. He nodded towards the youngest of the hobbits checking invitations, a gangly adolescent. “But then, Prince Folco was just a pudgy lad. Nowhere near my height, let alone taller than me!”


“Will the party be any fun?” asked a tiny girl. “Or will it be the king or queen talking the whole time? Say, look at that!” She pointed directly at  Kiran. "Why's he so tall?" Kiran could not help but smile at her bluntness. Young children had no restraint on their words.


“Don’t be daft, that’s a human,” Lindo snapped. “And Folco’s family always throws good banquets. Plenty of eating, drinking and entertainment for all.”


“His Highness.” rebuked his mother. “You might be good friends with Prince Folco, but you’re in public.”


The adolescent muttered, “right.”  He gestured to the Pre-New Years Banquet invitations held by his parents and younger siblings. “Give those here. I’ll give them to Prince Folco.” As the prince signaled to the guards that the four hobbits in front of him were permitted to pass, Lindo stepped forward with a respectful bow of his head, presenting the pile parchment. “Your Highness, the Rivers family.” He tucked his chin to his chest, waiting for the young prince to take them.


            The dark-haired prince smiled slightly as he accepted the parchment, halfheartedly thumbing through them. “Go on,” he whispered.  As the Riverses began to pass through the ornate wooden gate, Prince Folco laid a sinewy hand on Lindo’s elbow. “You know, you don’t have to bother with the niceties. How many times do I have to tell you? People know we’ve been friends since before we ever became a monarchy. It’s not exactly a state secret.”


            “Don’t be absurd, others can hear,” Lindo whispered back to Prince Folco as the Rivers family exchanged discreet smiles with the prince. “Talk to you after if you have any time to sneak away, okay?” He inclined his head one last time.


"Straight through the gate, along the path and into the main door," said Folco, his voice exaggeratedly businesslike. "There will be guards to direct yoiu

~*~*~


            Once the palace’s banquet hall was filled to capacity and wine had been distributed to the guests, the king and queen stood up. The king was first to speak. “Welcome, ladies and gentlehobbits, to the annual Pre-New Years Banquet. I am pleased to see each and every one of you present in my hall. My staff has my thanks for ensuring the banquet would be possible. I intend to keep my speech short-“ there were several appreciative smiles among the guests- “as I know everyone is hungry. We shall commence our feast with Queen Arabella leading us in a toast.” A smattering of applause ensued.


Queen Arabella’s fine-boned hand rose, holding her red wine aloft in the air. The tight golden-brown curls gathered by several gold clips into a long plait and topped by a small gold crown were immaculate. Though the lines in her face indicated middle age, her dark brown eyes were vivacious, her cheeks rosy with the glow reminiscent of youth. “My dear hobbits! Thank you all for taking the time and effort to travel here tonight despite the cold. I greatly appreciate seeing each and every one of you gathered here, as do King Hrothgar, Princess Nora, Princess Jillian, Prince Odo and Prince Folco.” The royal family, oldest to youngest, gave a wave at mention of their name.  “I invite you all to take part in a toast. Raise your glasses.” Crystal wine glasses rose to the ceiling all over the feast hall.


          “To a happy and prosperous 3015!” Arabella said in acknowledgement of the Continental Calendar. The rest of the hall echoed her. “To family and friendship!” Another echo. “To the health of all in Drémeadow!” At that, the queen began to drain her glass, followed by the rest of the royal family and all the guests.


Suddenly, Queen Arabella’s eyes went very wide. Her pupils contracted. Her rosy face blanched to white, then grey, then an ominous greenish hue as she began to gag and cough. The human stirred, sliding his chair back, staring at the ruler with a speculative face. Gasps, resonating cries and murmurs erupted among the guests.


A series of crashes reverberated around the hall as the Queen collapsed in convulsions, her long sleeve sweeping her plate, silverware and some of Princess Nora’s utensils off the High Table. One of her flailing arms struck her chair, knocking it sideways. Her grip loosened on her crystal glass. A dark purple stain spread on the white silk carpet covering the dais. The crystal glass rolled along the dais and off the platform, shattering upon the stone floor. There were several cries. Many of those sharing a table with the royal family left their seats, crowding around the thrashing queen. “Stand back! Give her air!” bellowed the panicked king, rushing from his seat to the side of his wife. He shoved aside Princess Nora and Prince Odo to get to his wife. “Out of my way!  All of you! Someone fetch a healer!”  The group dispersed, revealing the queen’s inert form. She’d gone utterly still, face ashen. The human stood, striding towards the anxious hobbits.


A lithe figure with long pointed ears and sweeping bottle-green robes with silver lining that highlighted his green eyes emerged from the chamber behind the High Table. The elf cut in front of the human, knelt over the queen, jet-black hair falling into his thin face. She had gone utterly still. He seized her wrist. His thin, straight eyebrows deepened into a frown. The bony hand hovered just above her mouth to feel for breath, then straightened her face and placed two fingers against Queen Arabella’s neck. Finally, his pinkies closed the inert hobbit’s eyelids over fixed and dilated brown eyes devoid of light.


The faces of the king and queen's sons and daughters varied in reaction.Though all but Folco were over twenty and thus past the age of legal adulthood, they looked suddenly as uncertain as five-year-olds away from their parents for the first time. Jillian blinked rapidly. Odo's fists were clenched, and Nora clutched her chair so hard that her knuckles whitened. Whispers swept the hall. More than once, the paladin was sure he heard the word "poison."


Presently, several servants bore the lifeless queen out of the hall. The human sank into his chair in dismay. The two princes and two princesses looked fearfully at the goblets from whence they’d just imbibed their own wine.

The elf whispered something to the king, who turned very pale. His children, comprehending, shared expressions of mingled shock, disbelief and terror. The look in the elf’s jade eyes could chill one’s blood. The elf and the king exchanged whispered words impossible for anyone else to hear through the hullaballoo erupting in the hall.

The king stepped forward, extending a long finger towards the human, cheeks bright red spots against a white background.  Golden-brown eyes smoldered with fury. The confused human retreated a step. Nothing could have prepared him for what happened next.

 “Paladin!” roared King Hrothgar. “How dare you! You enter my land, we grant you hospitality, and you repay us by taking away my wife’s breath and heartbeat with your poison! Leave at once!”


© 2014 SpeedyHobbit Armstrong


Author's Note

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
I've just divided this chapter in half. Formerly, this and chapter 2 used to be one big chapter, but after several people suggested that sheer length might scare off readers before they ever peruse a word, I figured it'd be prudent to leave off at the accusation.

Please leave me any ideas for improvement you have!

My Review

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Featured Review

I think this is written well and saw no obvious errors. Good description. The characters seem believable. My only problem is with the orcs. Unless I missed something, they seemed to appear halfway through this chapter from out of nowhere. Also, as a huge Tolkien fan, I picture orcs as evil. What are they doing at this banquet?

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Good idea, especially since the incidents I'm thinking of, for most part, don't do much more than sh.. read more
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

I'm trying out this paragraph: Kiran was grateful none of the orc guards were out here dealing with .. read more
Craig2591

6 Years Ago

Perfect! It explains a lot.



Reviews

As a former childhood devotee of Mr. Tolkien, this is a lot of fun. :) I didn't notice any obvious grammatical errors or major problems with the writing style. No complaints here. I'm definitely looking forward to continuing this story!

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

Thanks so much!
Just the thought of hobbit guards makes me giggle. Then in their little suits of armor, standing all tough. Your wording is brilliant and you paint a picture so vivid that there is no confusion as to the setting. I like how this is set in the future, when most stories with this feel are set around a Medieval period. Great work! I look forward to reading more.

Posted 5 Years Ago


SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

Yass, they're probaly just soooo, cute! xD
wordsmith you are..! will read a lot this week..ty for introducing me to your books..!


Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

Thanks so much! [=
Folco's story about the actors freaking everyone out cracked me up.
Very dramatic. You've surely got your reader's attention.
I hope everyone gets out okay.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

Yeah, here's hoping! Well, you already know the outcome xP

I wish I'd reread this revi.. read more
C. Rose

5 Years Ago

I think the actors story explains why the people leaving will be hurried and nervous. If there was s.. read more
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

What if I have both, where he comments on the food, then goes into the "actors"?
"did he care about his proving his innocence."


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


C. Rose

6 Years Ago

Sorry about lots of little reviews, but with such a long chapter it's easier for me to submit one li.. read more
I reviewed one of your chapters about hobbits a long time ago, but it seems it was a different story. Coming back now, I see that you have improved quite a bit all around in your craft.

Using the word silos gets me thinking about missiles, and this is a more medieval story

You might want to hone in on someone's pov near the beginning, and you wouldn't have to alter the description much to do that. As it is, it's kind of an omniscient intro, and somewhat throughout.

The characters don't feel quite like we are anchored through him, but a narrator's voice is giving more info through him instead of his own filter

Getting to the part where the queen dies brought my attention back completely

Overall there is interesting political intrigue between races. Though it is hard to believe that they wouldn't detain the human. The sudden action between the guards and the human is a little unclear

It is unique that there is a kingdom of hobbits, instead of just villages like in LOTR

I think you could be a little more creative in your descriptions. Not doing so at times actually leads to explaining more, and using more adverbs which can be reduced

Let it sit for a time, then go back over it. I know you will continue to improve it. You are a hard worker from what I gather


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

I tried to do some tweaking to ground it in Kiran. Definitely harder to anchor in one character for .. read more
Kuandio

5 Years Ago

looking back at my review, I'm afraid maybe I sounded too harsh. I'll try to point our more strength.. read more
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

Nah, I hope to be published one day. As I like saying, have no mercy for publishers won't [=
<.. read more
"... I don't need you wasting anymore of my time.
(Missing end quotation mark.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

"I would never do commit such a crime" Kiran made a typo. Bad Kiran. This was his first one.


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

He tries to remember to refer to them by the term the race prefers but old habits die hard.

Or "Old hobbits die hard." OK sorry, couldn't resist.

Shades of George R R Martin, killing off royalty in the first chapter, by poisoning.

I don"t have much to add as regards edits, I see C. Rose has done an admirable job of that. Personally in hobbit tales, I think the reader is accustomed to, and expecting to see archaic words, and a more complex vocabulary, so that part didn't bother me.

A good start to a tale, i will have to look at the rest of this soon.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Hahaha, so true, old habits (hobbits! XD) definitely die hard. I'm glad you both noticed my intercha.. read more
This was really good and I was so into it, I didn't even notice any actual errors that jumped out at me. Honestly it was like reading a novel in my hands; it flowed so nicely and the candence was steady when it needed to be and quick as well. That's still a quality I'm tinkering with and quite haven't gotten the hang of so hats off to you! I can't wait to read the rest!!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Thanks so much, Mira! BTW, please feel free to RR me a story or book you want people to check out an.. read more

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Added on March 5, 2013
Last Updated on December 3, 2014
Tags: feast, holiday, new years, celebration, party, hospitality, family, royalty, fun, terror, fear, death, queen, king, fantasy, murder, accusation
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Author

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

Long Island, NY



About
My name is Cher Armstrong, also known as Speedy Hobbit. I'm a USATF athlete in racewalking for the Raleigh Walkers club team. I just graduated from Queens College in Queens borough in New York Ci.. more..

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