Here is a new, long-awaited excerpt from FotS: Book 1. Here we have Cirrus (the Soldier POV). He is taking a ship, on his way to his ascension ceremony with a legend as escort, Arturus Mariner. Overall, it is an action-packed chapter. Again, this is from the original draft. I only read through it once to make it presentable on here. Criticism is welcome, as usual. Parts two and three won’t be this long. Hope you like it!
Chapter 21 (first draft)
Part 1 of 3
Cirrus approached the Lieutenant. He had questions. They had been at sea for days, certainly Islos did not take this long to travel by sea.
The 5th was standing on the deck, a lone figure. Without turning, he spoke to Cirrus. “My apologies, brother. I decided to take a detour. It is not every day I have the opportunity to sail like this. He said to bring you, but gave me no time limit. I’m sure he expected a few days for grieving from you, either way. I agreed with him, but you see, I decided you could do so on the ship. It is not like we need a specific place to grieve, is it? You have fared well, am I right?” Arturus turned sideways to look at him.
“Ah…yes. I have been fine,” Cirrus said.
“Perfect. We will be at the island in a few hours,” Arturus said. Then he pointed straight out ahead of the ship. “You see it there? Islos, brother. The first city we built here in this new world. Have you been there before?”
“No.” Why should he have? Islos was a tiny city of less than fifty thousand inhabitants, housing the officer’s training grounds and the high-king’s home – although Tarrus could be found in Aquos on the mainland more often than not – and little else.
He could see to where the man was pointing. Still far off, but for the first time on the trip the winds were in their favour. Not a huge island, for Cirrus could see both ends without shifting his gaze, though the bluish tint to the land told him the trip would take a while yet.
“You are in for an awakening then, brother. It is built like the old cities, from our distant homeland. Beautiful from top to bottom. For it was not just us who constructed it. We had the help of the Esteri back then. Amazing what we achieved…together.” He seemed to Cirrus to be in deep thought after those words.
It is just a city. The man in front of him on the boat’s deck was living up to his reputation. Such odd thoughts. No wonder they talk behind his back. Arturus Mariner, both Lieutenant and sea-man. Why? What greater honour was there in life than that of being a Lieutenant? Let the retired men and boys in training do the fishing and sailing.
Arturus caught him off guard with the next subject. “Would you like to spar while we wait? Let us test each other’s skills, what do you say? A few days without training is good for no one, after all.” He smiled.
“I do not have my equipment with me-”
“Either do I. I have a few practise blades in a chest over there,” he said, pointing to the front of the ship. “Come, the winds are perfect. The ship will not need my full attention until we get close.”
They both walked over to the chest, and each took one of the iron short swords from it. Standard training weapons: real weight, though unsharpened. They could not cut, and the tips were flat and rounded to avoid accidental puncturing during practise. Still, they hurt when struck, and Cirrus thought a strike from this man, even from weapons like these, could still kill a capable soldier. Such was the 5th’s immaculate reputation.
“Do you know of the ceremonies accorded to a new Lieutenant, Cirrus?”
Finally he uses my name. “Not much beyond the selection.” He had not thought of that before. The high-king handpicked new members of The Eleven. What they did in their own small world was beyond anyone. The grandiose of their feats in battle was enough to occupy a normal soldier’s amazement. And I am to be one of them.
“Ah, yes. Tarrus chose you, but did the king choose wisely? I have little doubt, and in a few moments I will have a proper answer to that question. The ceremonies include a formal match with each of the other ten.”
Arturus had clearly noticed Cirrus’s reaction. Part shock, part awe, part intimidation.
“All of them? Even-”
“Even him, yes. Every two days you will face one of us in a match. From ten to one. You will use your own weapons, however they will be recreations and made blunt like the ones we are holding. That is one reason why your equipment comes behind us. Proper measurements of your gear are being taken.
“Do not worry too much, and do not look at it like a deciding test. We are chosen for a reason. It is also the only opportunity you may have to test your skills against them. Unless they ask you to train later on, but that is doubtful. You will become the 11th, after all.
“It is a true honour, Cirrus of Aquos! To duel with officers of The Eleven. You wield two blades, is that correct?”
Cirrus nodded. Two medium blades of equal length were his choice. Not uncommon, yet his own weapons had circular guards on the outside of each grip, perfect for blocking. It meant he was capable of effective defence and was not simply an attack minded fighter. Wrist shields made it possible to get close, something most dual-weapon soldiers were reluctant to do. Thinking about his own equipment made him miss it. As excited as Cirrus was for the ascension to Lieutenancy, he really just wanted to spar. He hoped Arturus was done speaking sooner than later and they could get to what they were made for.
Once again, Arturus showed his seeming ability to read minds. “Two blades with shields. An all-around fighter. That I can relate to,” he said with a grin. Cirrus knew Arturus, too, was known as an all-around soldier. “And so I look forward to our formal match in a few weeks time. Until then, we must make do with these,” he said, looking at the iron weapon held in his hands.
Cirrus was about to ask if he was ready to begin, but Arturus continued.
“Your match with Rammos is what I really want to see. There will be an audience for that one, take my word for it. Four blades in one duel, exceptional skill in each hand. I can not say I have ever seen that. You will be surprised too, in how your style will be quite effective with some, yet a weakness against others. I do not mean to offend you with that lesson, brother, for I know you realize this already. But you are to be a Lieutenant now. We live on another level, and daily you will witness things that you once thought impossible. Such is the skill with some of our enemies. There are Esteri with incredible ability, and we do not get the pleasure of knowing the details of them until they are in front of us, trying to end our lives. That is our primary role. As Lieutenants, it is our purpose to challenge those men, and win.
“So this is my advice to you: if greatness is what you seek, face every moment from this point forward with the utmost seriousness. Train harder then you ever have, and become better. You are no longer in the presence of average warriors and common men that you can toy with, you are among gods. Now, shall we begin?”
Arturus’s speech did its job, if there was a purpose to it. The calm tone of his voice was difficult to read. Intended or not, it caused a surge of adrenaline to course through Cirrus. Yes, Yes! This is the feeling!
He raised his weapon, bowed, then ran at the 5th with full speed. The dual had begun.
* * *
(end of part 1)
© 2013 FOTS Fantasy