J.F. Posthumus

J.F. Posthumus

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Virginia, United States
A computer tech and artist that thrives on writing fantasy to escape the harshness of reality.
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Friday, May 15, 2009

Chapter One Redo

Ok, redid Chapter One, will probably end up tweaking it more later when we have more time. Enjoy!
Flames from the torches flickered along the corridor, casting eerie shadows against the floor, ceiling, and walls. Xandra gripped the silver sword tightly in her hands. The hilt was cold and comforting, yet it did nothing to abate her nerves. Even the fact that her great-grandfather, the lord of the manor, was walking alongside her did little to ease her tension. There was something about eradicating vesimyyras that didn’t bode well with her. It wasn’t the fact they were lycanthropic rat-like creatures as large as small dogs that were nothing short of childhood nightmares. Long incisors jutted from jaws that were long and crooked, as though they had been broken multiple times even before birth. Long, gray and white whiskers were sprinkled on the furless muzzles giving them an even more hideous appearance. Claws almost as long as short dirks and as sharp broken crystal could shred wood as easily as silk or skin. Despite the short, gray, matted fur that covered head and body, the tail was long, rope-like and bare. The scratching of claws against stone, snuffling, and hissing echoed around the hallway. Xandra glanced up at Xantos, only to find his expression as calm and emotionless as always. I'd give anything to be hunting with Mother or Father instead of hunting here, she thought bleakly, keeping her thoughts carefully hidden from her elder relative. She flexed her fingers, loosening them before tightening them once more around the hilt of her weapon. No gloves covered her hands, much to her irritation and regret. Great-Father insisted she be able to use her magic without the hindrance of a glove. Considering he carried no weapon in his hands reminded her that he was lord and owner here and the pests that had taken over his dungeons were barely worth his time. Certainly nothing he would fear. A shiver ran down her back as she carefully picked her way behind her great-grandfather. The ancient docelfar feared nothing and she loved him greatly, despite the fact he was always pushing her and encouraging her in ways her parents would object loudly to. Especially this little expedition in his dungeons hunting a lycanthropic creature that could tear me to shreds faster than a demon's talons, she added with a silent sigh. The hallway opened into a large room with several corridors leading into various directions. Empty chains and shackles were scattered about, hammered into the wall to keep the potential prisoners hanging anywhere between inches to feet off the floor. Three cages hung in the center of the room from the tall ceiling. Xandra hated this room for the feeling of death was as thick as a slaughterhouse during butchering season. This is only one of the rooms Great-Father uses, she mused silently, keeping her expression carefully schooled. She was very much aware that each hallway led to several more rooms and cells used for torture, inquisitions, and as simple prisons. If I become his heir, will I become like him? Xandra asked herself, crossing to one of the cages slowly and touching it with her free hand. The metal was rusted and rough against her skin, cold to the touch. The image of a prisoner in ragged, torn clothes grasping the cage with fresh, red welts covering his or her body sprang to life unbidden. She could envision the sunken cheeks and blackened, swollen eyes and bleeding ears. Snatching her hand back, she turned towards her great-grandfather. Hoping to rid herself of the image, and wondering if he had placed it in her thoughts, she asked, "Why did you bring me, Great-Father?" "I have personally supervised your learning in the ways of magic and weapons." Xantos replied with a casual tone that she did not believe in. "You are as learned in such as beings hope to be at twice your age. Did you think I have pushed you merely to impress your instructors at my guild, or those students you bother to socialize with?" His sarcasm came through, as well as the contempt he held for most beings that were not of the same race as he. Xandra had never felt this hateful compulsion that her great-grandfather lived by. Did living among the ruthless, self-absorbed peoples here or in the city of Fellhaven cause such? Xandra worried again that she would become more akin to Great-Father's worst behaviors the more time she spent with him. "Of course, not, Great-Father," Xandra replied quickly. She bit her lip uneasy about how to continue. She wasn't, yet, ready to proclaim her desire to be his heir. She wasn't entirely certain she wanted to be his heir if it meant being as cold, cruel, and heartless as him. "It's not as though I'm able to impress all your instructors, Great-Father and I don't 'socialize' with that many at the guild." She kept the smile that threatened from her lips. There was one whom she enjoyed spending every moment of her time with. Not to mention making certain she sat beside him in every class they shared. "No, but you do have a favored fellow student or two. Regardless, you must be prepared to conquer any task that befalls you." Xantos continued, still speaking in that maddening tone. "This is an unpleasant task, and not one that most of the guild students could take to. All the more reason you must show your ability to me." Xandra wrinkled her nose in ill-concealed contempt. "I don't even see any vesimyyras," she countered, the word rolling from her tongue fluidly. Most people called the wererats, finding their true name difficult to pronounce. She paused before narrowing her eyes and adding, "Why do I suspect you aren't referring just to hunting the wererats?" "Every lesson and test is a starting point for greater lessons and tests." This was a phrase that Xantos had told her many times, and she could almost say the words with the same inflections he used. She bit her lip from saying it with him this time. "Is the weapon too large for your hands, Xandra?" Xandra furrowed her brow in confusion. "No, it's not. Why do you ask?" "You continue to flex your fingers around the grip; suggesting you are either anxious to use it, or the weapon is uncomfortable in your grip." He reported. Shoulders slumping, Xandra consciously stopped flexing her fingers. "I'm nervous. I don't like hunting those wretched things." Another shiver raced through her and she was tempted to turn away from him. If she were to do that, an even worse fate would befall her: she'd be sent ahead without him. "I have a faint memory of one when I was younger. Three, perhaps?" "You were four years of age. I know that you have not told your parents or sibling about the event." Xantos said, and then he suddenly lunged to the left. A flicker of movement caused Xandra's instinct to step back and swing the heavy sword in a long, downward arc. There was an ear-piercing shriek a split second after the sound of metal parting flesh and muscle. Xandra felt the sword's blade impact against bone, and she suppressed a shudder as two wet halves of a vesimyyra hit the stone floor. "If you had, I am certain we would not be having this lesson, or precious time with each other." Xantos continued, as if there had been no true pause in the conversation. Xandra turned and backed towards her great-grandfather as the innards uncoiled onto the floor from both halves of the fresh corpse. A part of her wanted to turn and run into his robes and hide behind him as she had all those years ago. "How do you know I didn't tell my parents or Caritas?" Xandra asked, striving to keep her voice steady. The last thing she wanted was to show weakness in front of Xantos. "I barely remember what happened, myself." "Your father has not approached me." Xantos chuckled. "Even before he married Aly, he had little of what could be called 'respect for elders or betters.' Your mother would dare my wrath if she felt I was forcing you to experience danger too early in life. Caritas would not have kept such from either parent." Whirling around, Xandra stared in wide-eyed shock at her great-grandfather. "You're the reason behind that nightmare? Why? I was four!" "Why is it a nightmare? You defeated the creature." His tone had not changed, and Xandra's own ire threatened to rise. How could he dismiss these things? "Perhaps it was a nightmare because I had nightmares afterward!" Xandra snapped. She remembered her older brother comforting her, holding her close and asking what was wrong. Xantos was right: she had never told what the nightmares had been about. She gestured towards the dead vesimyyra with her blade. "I presume I'm here to overcome my childhood fear of those... things?" "You wonder why I consider you such a promising student," Xantos replied as he smiled. "I think I'd rather be patronized and humiliated by Budtrizz," she grumbled. "Which leads me to wonder why you have not handled the infidel's behavior in an appropriate manner." Xantos scolded. She winced, recognizing the subtle change in his smooth, silken voice.