Saraya and the land of the lost (excerpt from chapter 1)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a small part of chapter 1 of a fantasy book i am currently working on.

Saraya finds herself very far away from home in a place she had only ever heard stories of, a place her people had been forbidden to go to. It is the beginning of events that no one could have foretold.

Submitted: August 19, 2014

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Submitted: August 19, 2014

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A A A


CHAPTER 1

Her eyes fluttered open….what little she could see of the sky was startlingly clear blue and almost cloudless above her, and she could feel warm sunlight streaming down on her face. She blinked…the blink quickly turned into a squint as the rays of light hit and began to hurt her eyes. She gingerly lifted her head from…yes, what was definitely wet grass… and a sharp pain immediately shot through her head. She groaned, put her head back down and raised trembling hands up to either side of her temples to try to control or stop the pain as well as that horrible ringing that seemed to accompany the pain. Feeling wetness along her right temple, she reached behind and felt a painful lump on the back of her head, gingerly touched it and checked her fingers for blood.

Her fingers were stained……with blood…Her blood. Panic set in. What had happened to her?  Why was she bleeding? Where was she? What in the name of Elkitahad happened to her?

She slowly sat up and caught a shuddering breath, attempting to steady her trembling hands as well as fighting the sudden wave of nausea. She took a few more deep breaths and after a few minutes of this, she slowly stood up, trying to get her bearings. A wave of dizziness coupled with pain from her head injury as well as a few other unidentifiable aches threatened to overwhelm her and she stumbled. Her hand shot out, and she felt…bark?

Glancing up, she just managed to brace herself on the huge, gnarled trunk of the tree closest to her. This helped steady her, just stopping her short of falling. She growled in pain and frustration at her weakness and confusion. What in the name of Elkitawas is going on? She straightened slowly, still struggling through the fuzziness and pain to make sense of what had happened to her and where she was. How did she get here? Where was ‘here’? What had happened to her? Why was she bleeding?

The questions just kept tumbling unbidden into her mind. She looked round slowly, taking a deep breath against the continued pain she felt with every movement. She immediately noticed that she was no longer in familiar surroundings, no longer in Doran. She was quite obviously in a forest, surrounded by patches of greenery, some large fallen trees overgrown with moss, lichen and fallen leaves, and a mix of young as well as ancient-looking trees. Trees that stretched as high as the eye could see, their shadows mirrored on the forest floor as they swayed rhythmically in the light breeze that seemed to carry whispered messages that she suddenly and inexplicably felt a compelling need to decipher.

As she listened closely, she started to make out what sounded like faint whispers from a dozen voices. They seemed to be saying what sounded like one word, over and over again…sounded like a…like a name? As she listened harder, her eyes suddenly widened in shock as she finally made out what was being repeated over and over… ‘Saraya...Saraya.’ Not just any name….her name! But that was impossible, wasn’t it? Trees do not speak, nor does the wind – well, they certainly had never spoken to her before - and even if it did, why would it be calling out her name?  And what did that mean? It couldn’t be real…it…it must be her imagination, or the after effects of her head wound.

In sudden panic and desperation, she looked around again and immediately noticed a rough path - a well-worn, winding path of beaten earth, shadowed by weeds and small bush clumps - almost unnoticeable but there all the same. Everything else was greenery, trees and some of the oddest plant-life and bushes she had ever seen. None of this made sense or helped. She still did not have the vaguest idea where she was…the last thing she did remember was the feast in the Great Hall…she remembered leaving the feast…but then everything after that was a blur…no, a blank…with nothing to say how she had ended up here. This place was a far cry from the place she had grown up in; the city she had never dared to venture out of…till now?

Doran, home, where she had grown up among the only family and friends she’d ever known. Doran, famed as one of the brightest jewels of Tern…so called partially for the shining walls that encircled the city. Its high shining walls were made of a very rare white stone mined from the Kaylok Mountains’ quarry, located east of Doran. The stone was now very rare (since most of it had gone into the building of Doran itself…most of the houses and major buildings, particularly in the inner city, were built using this stone) and therefore very expensive. It was prized for its granite-like quality, which tended to reflect light like marble, and this was what caused the stone of Doran’s walls to gleam and shine when hit at certain angles by the sun’s rays. Doran’s walls were famed to be the highest of all its neighbours –causing it to loom like a vast, towering fortress. Saraya had grown up knowing little or nothing of life beyond the inner city’s equally impregnable walls, except what she had been taught or read about (most of which was precious little, oddly enough). No enemy, according to lessons and legend, had ever been able to breach those famed walls. The city walls were guarded by two gargantuan gates – known as The Northern and Southern Gates - that reached almost as high as the walls themselves, made from an equally rare mix of magic and metals.

The Northern Gate led in and out of the city, and was the one most used; it was the one by which Doraneen traded, travelled and interacted with the few outlying villages and farmsteads as well as other kingdoms. The Southern Gate, however, was rarely ever used and led directly into the region known to Doraneen as the Wastelands. The history books Saraya had read told of how the Southern Gate had been created to provide access to the wastelands, when Doran was being built. It was said that this gate had been built initially and specifically to allow young Doraneen warriors in the old times access to a place where they could test themselves, as a rite of passage into manhood – a place they used to test themselves and learn survival skills. These were usually those young men destined for the Guards or the army.

Saraya had been brought up, as had every child in Doran, on stories of the Wastelands – that mystical but dangerous place beyond the Southern gate. It was said to cover a vast area, almost as wide as the Tahin desert and very like the desert, was also said to be a bleak, inhospitable and uninhabitable place with little or no plant or animal-life, which made survival difficult or near impossible, according to the stories. This was part of the reason she, like many Doraneen, had never been allowed to venture beyond the Southern Gate.

Saraya was suddenly brought out of her musings by the sound of twigs cracking and yes…footsteps approaching behind her. She glanced back in panic, but whoever it was wasn’t yet visible, but they were definitely getting closer. Some unknown instinct as well as a sudden adrenalin burst from fear as her heart pounded faster and harder with each approaching step, decided her. In a blind panic and with frantic haste, she grabbed the hem of her dress up in her fists so she wouldn’t trip and made for the path she’d noticed earlier, hoping to find a better hiding place ahead - there seemed no other choice. She ran.

She ran full-tilt, as fast as her slippered feet would take her. Panting, Saraya knew even as she ran that she’d never be able to out-run her pursuer, whoever they were, if they were really determined to catch up to her. Already she could feel herself losing what little strength or momentum she had left, what with the loss of blood from her head wound and its accompanying headache.

Sobbing for breath, she stumbled and as if her legs needed that as an excuse, they buckled beneath her, unable to take any more. She landed face down with a loud thud, with such bruising force that she gave an involuntary scream of pain just as the right side of her face hit the floor. She lay there, winded and unmoving, panting as she tried valiantly to catch her breath. The now-running footsteps were right behind her now, and next thing she knew she was staring at a pair of well-worn black, leather boots.

A few moments later, she felt someone grab her right arm and found herself being lifted up if somewhat roughly. As soon as she found her feet, she looked up and locked gazes with the most intense pair of hazel eyes she had ever seen. As she straightened, still in her captor’s grip, she found herself unable to tear her gaze away from those eyes.

After what seemed like an eternity, but was in actual fact only a few minutes, she blinked and shook her head in a bid to break that gaze, wincing at the movement. She slowly took in the rest of him. He was tall, at least a head taller than her, slender and broad in the shoulder. He had brown shoulder-length hair with light streaks of blonde running through it, framing a very serious face. Saraya knew she had never met this man before but she immediately felt a familiarity and recognition in some indescribable way. And his eyes…Oh, those eyes! In spite of the seriousness of his expression, they appeared to dance merrily as if at some private joke.

She felt her face flush, as she realised he was speaking to her, and had been doing so for a while.

“…Do…you…understand…me? Can you speak?”

Still embarrassed by her earlier scrutiny, she nodded, wincing again at the pain, and whispered,

“I do speak… and I do understand you.”

“Ah…Well, now that we’ve established that much, who are you? And what are you doing here, alone and dressed like that? Do you hold your life so cheap, that you so willingly seek death in this way?”

Saraya was again momentarily captivated, this time by his low, soft, gentle voice, which even though in this instance was being used to convey anger and frustration, still had her mesmerised. He had an odd look on his face, a mixture of anger, curiosity, puzzlement and something else….something she couldn’t quite place.

She tried to speak, but couldn’t seem to form any coherent thoughts or words. She couldn’t seem to look away from those eyes and it felt almost like she was sinking into their incredible depths. She shut her eyes and shook her head again, in a real effort to concentrate and used that excuse to look away, as she once again studied this fascinating conundrum. She immediately noticed two things…his clothing, which was clearly not Doraneen and…the fact that he was heavily armed. As opposed to most of Doraneen people‘s simple and more colourful robes, he appeared to be dressed more for hunting or fighting. He was clad in tight-fitting well-worn black breeches, black leather boots and a sleeveless dark brown leather jerkin over a dark long sleeved tunic shirt. She noticed the hilt of a sword sticking out above his head, and a full quiver slung over his left shoulder. He wore a sheathed dagger on the left side of his belt as well as a finely wrought small silver curved horn and a worked leather pouch. She could see he was a slender but big man, a bigness born more of muscle than fat, and he was quite obviously a warrior, judging by all the weapons, and the way he carried himself. She had seen enough of Doraneen guards to know that much. That fact, coupled with the sudden realisation that she was no longer within the safe walls of Doran suddenly hit her. Saraya took an involuntary step back and nearly tripped over the folds of her dress and something else. Looking down she noticed a bow lying on the floor next to where she had fallen a short while ago. Turning back to him, she shuddered, feeling the first real stirrings of fear begin to overshadow her initial awe of this enigmatic stranger.

His expression sharpened, hazel eyes hardening and narrowing he stepped towards her.

“What is it? Why do you suddenly pull away?” 

There was a slight tinge of irritation in his voice. This was the first time she had shown any real fear since he had found her and he seemed genuinely puzzled by her sudden switch in moods. Saraya gave an involuntary cry and backed away even further, stumbling slightly over what she assumed were overgrown roots till she found herself trapped by the trunk of another huge tree.

“Nizari!” She finally blurted out, in a small voice. “You are Nizari, aren‘t you?!” She accused more forcibly, scowling at him with instinctive suspicion and distaste.

There were other stories toldin Doran… stories of the ’Nizari’ - the ‘lost’ ones. It was a name most Doraneen used derogatively to refer to people who had at various times and in various ways rebelled against the Doraneen way of life. Saraya had even heard some vague rumours that there were actually once a people that were so called once who had also almost collectively rejected the Doraneen laws and way of life, culminating in sporadic but violent attempts at overthrowing the ‘Denine’.  The Denine was the ruling High Council of Doran. Its members were chosen from some of the best and oldest of families. All seven members were said to be hand-picked or chosen by the gods to help in the rule of Doran. Their role was to help create and maintain the laws and help preserve the traditions of Doran, with help and support from the King, whom they also served as advisors. The Denine worked together to ensure there was peace, order and justice for all the Doran people. The only word that could overrule theirs was the King’s and that rarely ever happened.

These were the ones the original Nizari had allegedly dared rebel against, but they had been discovered, their plans foiled. And for that reason, among others, they had been banished and cast out beyond the city walls - via the great Southern gates - driven one and all into the Wastelands by Doraneen warriors. This had happened a long time back, so long in fact that when, in her curiosity about these people, she had attempted any enquiries, Saraya had been unable to discover any exact details. Most of the people she asked acted like she was strange for enquiring and the older ones always claimed it was too long past for them to remember. All she had really been able to discover was that none who had been cast out had ever returned. Though rumours persisted, discouraged by the priests and tutors wherever possible, that there were Nizari who had survived and managed to eke out some sort of an existence beyond the Wastelands, no-one had ever found or brought any real evidence of this.

His reaction to her outburst was therefore totally unexpected. He burst into laughter, and even his laugh was warm and melodic.

“I have not heard that word in such a long time. By all the gods, you must…you must be a Doraneen, then?! Ye-e-es…..that would explain your robes….you must be part of the filth from that accursed place. But….how, in the name of Togun’s horn, did you come to be here?”

“Filth?Accursed? How dare you?”

Saraya fairly screamed in anger, an anger that momentarily over-rode even her initial fear of this stranger.

“You…you...people…tried to destroy our home, a place of peace, justice and joy. You… people brought nothing but violence, disorder and chaos, driven most probably by a thirst for power. Power that was never meant for you… You…you rebellious wretches betrayed the people of Doran in your arrogant pride. And you DARE to call us Filth?…You? You, who are not even worthy to speak the name of Doran…”

As she spoke, she had been unconsciously moving forward with fists clenched, buoyed by her rage at the temerity of this person. But as she finished speaking, she again realised that it was one thing to be brave enough to speak, but the reality was that she did not have anything to defend herself with against this man, if he chose to do her harm. That realisation coupled with that momentary surge of anger at him as well as panic at her limited choices, spurred her into reckless action. Tensing herself she launched herself at him taking him by surprise. By putting all her strength and body weight into it, she knocked him clean to the ground. As quickly as she could manage it, she disentangled herself and without a backward glance, lifted and bunched up her robes and ran back in the direction she had come from.

As she ran, she heard a sharp whistle behind her. Uncertain of what that meant for her, she ran even faster, uncaring of where she ran as long as she got away. She had to get away from here, back home, back to Doran.

She was running as fast as her feet would take her in her condition. All of a sudden, out of nowhere she was struck down to the ground by a ringing blow to the side of her face. The last thing she saw as she drifted into unconsciousness was the blurred figure of a woman….


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