Hi so here’s a more complete version of my previous excerpt. I would love to hear any feedback whatsoever, particularly for the fight scene. Like I mentioned before, I am awful at fight scenes. So if anyone here is a ‘fight scene’ expert I would love a bit of advice on the fight moves, descriptions, stances etc. But any other feedback would be great. It is a bit long, so read at your own pace hehe
Anyways there’s a lot more context behind the scene, I hope it’s a bit clearer now. Hope you enjoy! XD
Chapter 1/Prologue Part 1
The air smelled like rotten fish. Then again, the area round the docks always stunk like that. The freezing night air bit into my skin. Blood was rushing through my skull, and my eyes strained from the effort of squinting into the darkness. My breaths were puffing out of my mouth like silver smoke. My feet were pounding silently beneath me as I sped onwards across the roofs.
The lights of the city centre flashed in the distance, lit up skyscrapers scratching the skies. I could hear the distant announcements of the city intercom mumbling away, vibrating the ground beneath me.
The shadows aided me, as always. I melted into them, my body swiftly disappearing and reappearing as I ran. Even so my teleportation was of practically no use to me. Because no matter how far I travelled through the shadows, my pursuers still ended up at my heels.
I laughed, the sound drowned out by the city noises, a mixture of intercom announcements, sirens and traffic. It had been a long time since I had received such resplendent pursuit from unknown enemies, whose faces I had to see.
I leapt from roof to roof as easily as any panther. Tonight, I was less agile. My feet skidded slightly on the tiles several times as I increased speed.
My ears picked up sharp, distinct sounds of rapid footsteps, grunts and harsh breathing. About a hundred yards or so away. I gritted my teeth. Flipping heck, they were some sturdy bunch. Clearly, even I wasn’t fast enough.
A shock of pain struck me in the ribs below my shoulder blade. I let out a shout, stumbling, but quickly picked my pace. Hissing I yanked out the arrow and discarded it before leaping off the building roof and teleporting onto the next structure in my path.
Spying the sea shimmering below the cloudy moonless skies, I pushed on. The docks weren’t far.
I took a deep breath, my foot bracing against the ledge as I took that leap.
Sharp agony burst open in my left shoulder as something sharp sliced through it. I yelled out as I jumped. Cold air blasted in my face. I had to keep going. The docks were right there. I just had to transport myself to the next block and then I would be there. Summoning the shadows, my air-born body disappeared in a whorl of darkness.
The loss of concentration from the pain cost me. My body manifested at the edge of the roof of a building under construction. I grappled onto the piping below the roof, grunting from the pain. It was difficult to see now my surroundings now, therefore I couldn’t teleport.
Warm liquid was already covering my skin as I reached back and roughly pulled the arrow out. I pulled myself up with great effort, my muscles screaming with the effort.
“Come on you big eejit,” I snarled. “Push – up.”
One hand grasped the top of the roof. I used that as leverage to pull myself up. My fingers cut into the concrete. Almost there-
Pain exploded in my arm as an arrow embedded itself into. I roared, losing my grip. And I fell into the darkness blanketing the ground forty feet below.
I wasn’t disoriented or panicked enough to act on my instincts. I disappeared into shadow as I tumbled, manifesting again two feet above the ground. The tarmac was cold and unforgiving as I landed, biting in my skin as I instinctively rolling and landed on both feet, my knees bent beneath me in order to prevent damage. Not that it would have lasted long anyway.
Hissing I pulled the arrow out of my forearm, blood spilling out in streams. I grunted as the wound immediately closed up, the pain fading. Assessing my surroundings, I noticed I was near the edge of a junkyard. There were a few cars parked in parking lot fifty yards away. The docks were just half a kilometre away. I could hear the lapping of the waves, the ringing of boats. Tarpaulin from a nearby construction was flapping in the wind, and the smell of tar and salty wind filled my nostrils.
A faint light caught something on the body of the arrow, and I frowned, tipping it to the side for a better look. A series of patterns had been carved on it, stretching all the way up and ending with an eye symbol on its arrowhead.
A series of light thumps sounded around me, and I slowly looked up. Tall figures stood around me, dressed in hooded robes. Fifteen of them approximately. I was surrounded. There was no way out for me. They skulked in every corner of my vision.
I sighed, fixing the leather collar of my overcoat. “Domnu kill me,” I muttered, my head still spinning slightly. “I’ve finally gone and done it now.”
Their leather armoured outfits would have easily ascribed them to the roles of assassins. Of course, they weren’t just assassins. Freaking Asarlaithe. Specifically, the Dark Druids. The sun crosses emblazoned on their black hooded veneers made it blatantly obvious. Yep, I was officially dead. No will for me so.
I smiled at them, showing my teeth. “I had no idea that I would be graced with the presence of a wonderful group of magical wizards tonight. Going to practice a bit of hocus pocus with me? I am truly honoured.”
They sneered at me, though some bared their teeth at the affront.
“You would do well not to insult us, sand scum,” one chuckled, stepping forwards. He clutched his staff in his right hand, while in his left, he held a scroll. When he raised his head, I could see a series of white scars lining his sunken face. His only eye eyed me beadily, night black in colour. He could have been anywhere between fifty or two hundred years old. It was hard to tell with asarlaithe.
I pushed myself to my feet and glared at them from beneath my eyelids. “All right. Let’s get it out, shall we? Who hired you?”
“Does it make a difference?”, he sneered. “I think you know who we are. The Order of the Dark Druids.” He made a small bow. “It truly is an honour to make your acquaintance. Boy,” he added with a sneer.
I made a low mock bow back. “You gave quite an impressive chase there. I never knew that the Dark Order were in such strapping condition.” I chuckled humorously. “It seems I have met my matches after all.”
“This may be a surprise to you dog, but a great many people wish to see you dead,” his smile widened, his one eye shining. “And you’re a very difficult person to catch. We Brothers of the Darkness never allow something escape our clutches.”
“Oh, I’m well aware of that, thank you.” I looked at them each in turn, assessing their faces, their size, the weapons they held. I could take them down easily enough, the numbers didn’t matter. They seemed a rather gawky, spindly lot in comparison to me anyways. Not that I was bragging. I was just being realistic.
Even so they were armed. Three druids had a blade each. Four had one on each hand. Four were archers, crossbows held tightly in their grips. Three of them held no weapons, though they could be easily concealed beneath their cloaks. I smiled. Yes, I could certainly handle this lot.
The deformed man before me was no doubt the leader, judging by his more decorative outfit and staff. Narrowing my eyes, I took in the purple stone set into the carved wooden six foot long stick. Hazel no doubt. Carvings were etched into its side, giving it the appearance of ropes wrapped around it. No. Snakes. Hundreds of them, big and small, frozen into wood. With the intense detail, their scales, eyes, fangs, you would be forgiven for mistaking them for real ones.
“I know who you are,” I said. “Garbhán Ó Dubhuir, the High Druid. I’m rather surprised you’re here to tell you the truth.” I shrugged, “I figured you’d be working in some cave somewhere festering in your own excretion.”
His smirk faded, and his mouth twisted. “You would do well to keep your tongue to yourself boy. You should be grateful.”
I tilted my head thoughtfully. “Oh dear. That does sound like fun.” I sucked in a breath. “But unfortunately,” I took a few steps forward, flexing my neck and cracking my knuckles “Duty calls.”
With a growl, I swung my fist at him. He dodged, skirting out of my reach. A blade swung at me whistling through the air, and I dodged it smoothly, disappearing and reappearing in front of the assailant, my fist walloping into his neck and swinging my foot into his side. Teleporting behind him, I grabbed his arm, twisted it, and swung my knee into his back. I turned to greet my other opponents as they charged at me, flipping one over my shoulder, roundhouse kicking another off his feet. All my moves were calculated, controlled. Battle frenzy was not the way I was taught.
“Is that all you got?” I rasped, a smirk tracing my face. “Come on. Don’t be shy.”
The next few moments were a blur as I fought off the gang of druids with all my strength. My brain calculated their next moves based on their positions. They were skilled in combat. But they lacked in agility and resilience. I smiled at them as I deflected one blade, dodged an arrow, disarmed an aggressor with two swords and slammed my head into his. The fact that I could teleport into the shadows and fight at the same time caught them off guard.
Ó Dubhuir did not join in. Instead, he appeared to be kneeling and looking at the ground. Why was he not fighting back? He was letting his henchmen do all the work instead? The thought made me even angrier. I roared as I delivered blows upon my assailants.
Adrenaline pulsed through me as my fists swung in every direction, disappearing and reappearing in order to get the upper hand. Spinning I drove my fists into two, then another. Swing. Crack. Disappear and reappear. Punch. Crack. Disappear and Reappear. Crunch.
And they still kept coming, showing no signs of standing down.
“So, my informers were speaking truth,” Ó Dubhuir laughed, getting to his feet. “Your invincibility is quite formidable, boy. Your people taught you well.”
I snarled, slammed a druid into the ground, and struck another in his abdomen and sprinted at him. He just stood there calmly, watching me. Disappearing into shadows, I reappeared before him, my fist smashing towards his face. In an instant, he disappeared into dust, and my fist drove through the brick wall with a resounding smash. Clouds of dust rose up from the damage.
A laugh sounded and I whirled, breathing heavily. “That temper of yours will get you into trouble someday boy,” he jeered.
I braced myself, going to move towards him. But I suddenly hit a barrier. Confusion rippled through me, then my eyes widened. I knew what was going on before I looked at my feet. A circle filled with swirling patterns and lined with ancient runes.
I swore under my breath. I heard them laugh.
“It’s like I said boy. That temper was bound to cost you someday. Now look at you. Pathetic.”
I attempted to call the shadows, to move within them and get out of this thing. But nothing happened. I gritted my teeth and tried again. I stood there, sweat beading my forehead as the reality of the situation slowly came over me. I was trapped.
The druid closer to me stepped in my direction. “Having trouble with the auld Sacred Metamorphosis, vermin?”
Sweat broke out on my skin as I tried again and again to move across the barrier or to teleport. But nothing happened.
The words surrounding the circular shape were easy to understand. I swore under my breath when I realised that for the first time in a very long time, I had been outsmarted.
“If only you had looked where you were going,” Ó Dubhuir said to me, his ebony eye glinting.
“You wish to kill me?” My voice was low, even as a drop of sweat dripped down my neck. “Well then.” I looked at them through a dark gaze. “But I should warn you. You have just made a fatal mistake.”
“Oh, I don’t think so.” He stepped forward, his reptilian smile widening. “The fact that it us that are allowed to do this task – don’t you see? It is fate. It has been decided that it would be better to do the job ourselves. That way there will be considerably less pain involved.”
I tilted my head. “So that’s it then? You kill me in exchange for a little smithereen of power?” I sighed. “You Dark Druids never learn do you. No matter how many times you repeat this blasted spell, it never satiates your thirst.”
“Ah but this isn’t the same as the others you see. Our great King heard our pleas for a task that would bring him glory and so he entrusted this valuable mission to us. We are but his servants who do his bidding. We will exchange your powerful body – for something much, much greater than you or I. Oh don’t worry. I promise you that it will be over soon. In fact you will join your brethren in Eternity, serving our most benevolent Dark King of All.”
“How saintly of you,” I spat. “Tell me something oh great sorcerers. When exactly will this end? When will your power finally be enough?”
“When all of it belongs to us,” he answered coldly. “The chosen ones. The servants of the true King.”
“Keep fooling yourselves until you’re dead in your graves. But you are not chosen.” My lips formed a sneer. “Least of all by some made-up entity. Dēwos dropped you the moment you corrupted the Sacred Metamorphosis and chose to follow the path to acquire forbidden power. Or hasn’t anyone told you?”
He smiled at me, as if he knew something I didn’t. “I’m not speaking of your imaginary Creator. I speak of someone more powerful, more courteous than this Dēwos ever would be. He is who we follow.”
“And who might that be?” I demanded. “If I am to be given up as his sacrifice, shouldn’t I at least know who this amadán is?”
They snarled at me, surging towards me. The High Druid held his arm, shouting at them to stay back. I sneered. “Oh dear. Have I insulted your precious god? Do excuse my poor manners.”
“You will know his name once you see him.” Ó Dubhuir said quietly. “I do envy you for that privilege boy. Imagine. Meeting the Dark King face to face for the first time since he was banished. It will be the most important achievement of your most miserable existence.
Then without warning, he slammed his staff onto the ground. The ground rumbled beneath me, and the lines making up the circle around me took on a dangerous purple glow.
Pain rocketed up my spin, through my nervous system, and into my brain. I shrieked, falling to my knees as I clutched my head. Suddenly, I was pulled backwards by a rough force. Agony sliced through my forearms as they were suddenly pinned to the wall on either side of me. By two intricately carved daggers. Holding me in place.
Something rocketed through my muscles from the point of contact of the daggers. Faces suddenly flashed in my vision, contorted ugly creatures from the past, howling with fury. Bloody battlefields, the bodies of men, women, children lying in heaps. And a creature of darkness rising out of that massive blood sacrifice with a face so terrible that I let out a shout of horror. I jerked out of the visions, raking in a breath.
“Him,” I rasped. Dread filled me as I finally understood what was happening. Who they were really working for. Who their so-called King was. “You’re bringing – no. No, you can’t do this!”
I lurched forward, ignoring the pain in my hands. “You can’t bring them back, you thick apes! It’s blasted suicide, you just can’t. You’ll bring the blasted apocalypse down on us all!”
Each of the druids wore the same hungry look in their eyes, the same poisonous grin. They said in perfect unison. “Oh yes. We will indeed.”
“No! Stop this! Stop this!” I roared, my muscles straining from their agonizing restraints. I could feel the veins popping out of my skull. They just smiled and began to murmur under their breaths. Prayers or incantations, I had no idea.
I shook from the agony in my body, staring at them wildly. This couldn’t be happening. It was too soon. The prophecies stated that these events would unfold, yes. But not yet! Not for another hundred years or–
The coming events will unfold like a thief in the night. I fell slack as those words filled my head. I closed my eyes. Again, I was proven to be an absolute eejit. I had fallen into this trap. And now because of me, the world will face total annihilation.
I knew why they were using me of course. They needed a representative of all the races. And it seemed I was their closest option.
I let out a hiss through gritted teeth, my fists clenched so tight I could feel the nails cutting into my hardened skin. “You. Will. Never. Win.”
“Why so ungrateful. You see, our original sacrifice is – unattainable. So, we must make do.” His lip curled mockingly. “You’re so very lucky scut.”
I stared at them through lowered eyes, fury contorting my voice as I spat. “Blasted amadáin! I’ll kill you. Each one of you. I’ll kill you dead. And I’ll do it from the grave if I have to. Go mbrise an diabhal cnámh do dhroma!”
Ó Dubhuir stepped forward and bent to his knees so that I was looking directly into his eye. “Ah. But you see, sea scut. We serve the one you call the Devil. So your petty insult is wasted on us.”
I spat at his feet.
He chuckled, rasping as if his throat was dry. “Say your last prayers.” His venomous smile grew, twisting his deformed face, and stood up. As he raised his staff and the mutterings increased in volume, their shadows seemed to expand behind them, becoming alive.
Humiliating, was all I thought. This is how I die. At the hands of whiney, slithery asarlaithe.
The light came first, blue and blinding, like lightening, ripping from the staff Ó Dubhuir held, connecting to the lines on the ground and flowing into the circle entrapping me. Then came the agony.
And it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I felt millions of knives embed themselves into my skin, slip beneath and fill my veins, invading me, consuming me. The ritual circle lit up, its rays almost rendering me blind. My brain was consumed with burning venom as I violently slipped in and out of darkness. My muscles contorted, twisting and turning this way and that. My roars were drowned out in the chanting, as the Dark Druids stood in a wide semi-circle and raised their hands as they prayed to their beloved entity.
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to die. Then all of this agony would end. I would be free from this world.
Then before my eyes, darkness manifested into something solid. A swirling portal of darkness flashing with purple lightening. I could hear a horrifying howling like a band of mournful banshee. The veins under my skin boiled as I felt the violent pull, the feeling as if all my cells were being taken apart and pulled one by one into that gateway of chaos.
This was it. This really was my end.
I held onto the thing that had always been on my mind ever since I was boy. That image of her. Her toothy smile and mischievous eyes. The way I remembered her. Now there was no way I will never find her now. My gaze shuttered.
And then all of a sudden, it was over. There was a deafening screeching sound, accompanied with a roaring engine. Shrieking and howling, cracks and snapping, a series of brutal crushing-
And then I felt a snap within my bones as if the hundreds of sharp threads that had been attached to them had been ripped off. There was loud clap as if lightening had struck the the ground before me, so loud it popped my ears. Whiteness danced before my eyes, and I gasped, greedily filling my lungs with air so cold that I cried out.
White noise consumed my hearing as I slowly opened my eyes, struggling to squint through the whiteness. Stinking ash like rotten bodies filled my nostrils as I stood there, dazed. My brain felt as though it had been cut open and put back together again. Slowly the whiteness faded.
I sat there for a few moments breathing. Breathing. My head jerked up, disbelief filling me. I – was still breathing.
I was alive. I was truly – alive. Though I certainly had a bad dose all right if the agony in my muscles and bones was anything to go by. Even so, the hold this spell had on me had been broken. Thank Dēwos. I wasn’t evaporated into nothingness. I let out a soft cry of relief, smiling faintly. Death had certainly not gotten the better of me yet.
I could see bodies scattered around me, dark shapes fading in and out of my gaze. And an orange red light, flickering and dancing. Fire? Where did that come from?
After several excruciating moments, I regained some of my sight. Blinking the hot dampness from my eyes, I tried to take in my surroundings. The portal was gone. The asarlaithe were all lying in crumpled, broken heaps, as if they had been struck down like dominos. Dead? Or maybe just unconscious. I couldn’t help hoping that the former was true. I smirked. So much for their colossal power.
To my right lay the battered remains of a vehicle. Its rear lights were on, glowing like rubies. Well – at least I knew what the ‘fire’ really was. Stinking gas was rising up into the air, meaning that engine was banjaxed of course. I blinked the sweat from eyes, my mind whirring. Someone had driven that jeep right in. And in doing so, had saved me.
I had to be saved. From weedy sorcerers of all things. I gritted my teeth in frustration. There had never been a lower point in my life than this moment. “Mortifying,” I muttered to myself. “Someone had to save you as if you were a wee lamb, eejit.”
Remembering the brutal twinging in my right arm, I turned to see it still pinned into the wall, the glow still emanating from dagger.
I wasn’t stupid. I recognised the symbols carved on it, the faint circular lines splaying out and splitting my skin. I spat at the ground in disgust. The sigils of – . I couldn’t help shuddering when I thought about what they had tried to do to me. Until I was abruptly saved by a jeep of all things. A stinking jeep. If that didn’t reduce my honour to cinders I don’t know what did.
Blood sacrifice. They attempted to destroy my body, my life, in order to attain forbidden power from a bottomless pit of chaos. In order to – bring their King back. I had never witnessed one up close before. Until now. In the worst way possible too. Crikey. At least I knew now what it felt like. I let out a bitter chuckle, which turned into a hiss as the pain in my right arm intensified.
Hazily, I turned to examine my left arm, wondering why I felt such numbness. At first, I didn’t register the empty space, the wispy ash floating in the air, the dagger still embedded into the brick, the blackness covering my bicep. I stared, my breathing becoming shallow.
I blinked, hoping it was a mistake. I was suffering from hallucinations. The intense pain was making me see things. I had to be wrong. Because – there was no way.
My shoulder twitched, and flakes of blackened particles fell off the stump. White noise deafened me. I suddenly found it impossible to control my breathing. Where – what –
I wanted to roar with rage and horror, but no sound came out. Just this hoarse choking sound as I stared at the blackened stump that looked as though it was about to crumble even more.
It was gone. My arm – was gone.
“Gone,” I whispered, my vocal chords straining. That word was the thing that undid me completely. I let out a strangled yell, a crescendo that split my head open and made my eyes water.
I don’t know how long I was roaring for, effing and blinding as if there was no tomorrow. I might have thrown up a couple of times too. Oh yes, my honour had most certainly been sucked down the drain.
I looked around frantically, hoping against hope that my arm was sitting here somewhere, and I had just missed it. My eyes fell on a shape lying motionless several yards away from me. The body of someone much smaller than all of the warriors. Someone who wasn’t wearing the embroidered Grim Reaper attire of the asarlaithe. Limbs spread eagle and face down.
My gaze moved towards the smoking jeep that was lying on its side, its windshield smashed. Calculating the distance between the wreckage and the small body, I knew it was a no brainer who the person was and how he or she had gotten here. A human, from what I could sense.
A part of me wanted to move closer, to crawl to that human and check for signs of life, even though I knew it was a lost cause, but my pinned forearm prevented me. Besides that, the agony in my legs, my torso – every part of my muscle – was excruciating. I tried to move my left leg slightly and ended up screaming through gritted teeth.
I wanted to move off this blasted circle. The longer I stayed here, the worse chance I had for escaping. Any moment, the portal could be restarted somehow. I couldn’t be sure that the sorcerer-freaks were all dead. But I couldn’t move an inch without feeling that burning pain.
And my arm was gone. I shook my head vigorously, numbness filling me. “This isn’t real,” I muttered to myself desperately. “My arm isn’t gone. I’m dreaming, it’s all just a brutal dream-“
I heard a soft groan. I blearily moved my head in that direction, seeing movement out of the corner of my eye. The small figure was stirring ever so slightly. My heart rate sped up. The little human responsible for the failed ritual – who had knocked the wretched wizards down like dominos – who had quite literally smashed through a windshield – was still alive?
I closed my eyes, sure that I was dreaming. After all, humans were fragile beings, unable to withstand much stress without succumbing.
An awful snap was heard, and the person let out a muffled cry. A girl, I thought, still disorientated. That’s what it sounded like anyway. Another crack followed after that. Then another. These sounds didn’t register with my brain. They followed one after the other in unison, confusing me more and more, particularly because these cracks were accompanied by groans of distress.
At first, I assumed it was the sound of bones being broken. But I opened my eyes again, my eyes tracked the movements of the stranger, I realised what it truly was. Squinting, I watched as her arm, bent at an odd angle, suddenly snapped into its normal position once more. The human let out a sharp groan.
No way. Not possible. This – this was a human. Her bones couldn’t be snapping back into place like it was nobody’s business. She should be dead. The impact of the crash should have killed her instantly.
And yet – she was pushing herself up off the ground, slowly but surely. Getting up. She was getting up.
My blood flow had slowed, a buzzing sound hammering in my head even as I tried to contain my pain. This – I had not been expecting this. Not at all.
The girl pushed herself up on her knees, then slowly stood up. I could see that she was rather small in size. No more than sixteen or seventeen maybe, though it was difficult to tell.
I tried to lean forward to get a better look. A wave of agony came over every muscle in my upper body. I couldn’t stop the roar that came out, though I gritted my teeth in an effort to quieten it. My vision blurred, red, black and white patterns and spots swam like fish before my very eyes, and I felt more sweat breaking out on my body. Every muscle in my body was wailing as this acidic poison turned every part of my body into inferno.
I thought I had known pain. I was wrong. This was inferno.
Somewhere far away, I heard voices, calling out. Hands lifting my face, checking my pulse. I forced my eyes to open, to look towards the face hovering above me.
My blurred vision prevented me from seeing her face. Even so, it seemed to be mostly buried beneath a hoodie. Dark hair spilled out, further obscuring my view. She appeared to be speaking to me, but she might as well have been speaking another language.
Around her neck was a golden medallion. I focused on that, struggling to stay conscious. I would not black out in front of a human. I was already humiliated enough.
The girl was shushing me. Stroking my hair. Saying words that jumbled together like a box of puzzle pieces, all convoluted and mixed up. I wanted to scream at her to stop, to go jump in a hole and stay there, to leave me be, but none of that came out.
“Leave,” I rasped. “You – can’t help me human. Just – leave.”
And with that, I retched violently. Bile dripped from my mouth as if I was a mere infant. I shuddered, feeling as though lava was pouring into every pore in my body. I groaned, wanting to just let the darkness take me then and there.