I have returned! Once again, forgive me for not having been able to upload yesterday, as I was rather busy, but that doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that I’ve returned to deliver fresh content, but what is this? This is the first chapter of my fantasy novel “The Swordsinger”. The book is still in its first draft, but I decided I might as well upload the revised first chapter in the novel. I feel that my writing has evolved to be much better since I made this first draft, yet this book still holds a special place in my heart. I can only hope you can treasure it as much as I. Enjoy!

***

   Adrun gazed at the mountain range in all its splendor. He watched as it stretched endlessly throughout the plains, serving as a natural line of demarcation against the steppes that lied east of Sulfar. Awe had been etched on his face the second that he first stepped foot outside of his home at Narsos. The grassy plains slick with dew that came from yesterday’s drizzle were all around him, and the fresh air of the world tickled his nostrils. There were hollows upon hollows inside of Gorth’s Ascent, with copses of slender trees cropping up between the rugged hillside every now and then. When a lone breeze would tug at the bladed leaves on the boughs of a tree, the leaf would come soaring down to the beds of grass that were all over the countryside. Piles of leaves were abundant in the hills. His boots would crunch, shovel, and push them out of the way while he traveled the frontier. Adrun stooped down for a moment to pick up one of the leaves. Glossy with rain, he crumpled it in his hands, smiling at the memories of the forest in his old home.

Yet today was not a day to be nostalgic. Today was a day of great change, a day that he’d longed for through much of his life. He would venture to Darfton Keep, where he had been told was the place that his father quit the Swordsingers and left his one and only sword to be inherited by his son.

Adrun smiled to himself. The Swordsingers. He had lived with them through all of his life, yet only today would he be able to call himself one. They were people with which he’d poured sweat and tears day after day, the people who had molded him into the man that he would become. He fought like them, he studied like them, he trained like them, yet there was only one thing keeping him from being one of them.

The Swordsingers wielded blades that had long enchanted the imaginations of poets and historians alike. Histories that would mention how their swords altered the tide of battle, how the haunting melodies they sang to their blades were older than the first Curnalians to settle in Sulfar, and the countless heroes that sundered the foundations of the earth with them in their grips. His oldest memories were of sneaking out late at night, to watch how his Swordsinger brothers and sisters dabbled in magic. He would watch with the fires of curiosity flaming within his naive eyes as they would sear the ground with flames, call upon water from the Lake Aktoran, raise up pedestals fashioned with only earth, and sweep rending gales across the Academy.

But no longer would he have need of them to provide him with flights of fancy, for he would carve out his own stories. And he would find the truth behind the tales that they had told him.

The Swordsingers whispered of ancient legends and tales of men who used magic that could alter the very course of history, Kings and Queens of strange lands called Seiren, Gaim, and Kuronkia, of festivals held in the capital of Curna, and many more things he struggled to recall. His hand hovered to the hilt of the steel sword that was strapped to his waist. Adrun visualized his father’s sword lying in the place of that old weapon of his, a gleaming blade ready to be taken to all corners of the world.

He rested his palm under his chin as Malius and he walked through an upward slope in a hill they were crossing. The sun’s rays felt gentle during this time of morning and merely gave off a shiny reflection as they made his steel vambraces gleam. Mounds of earth rose up to dot the landscape, with the dappled shadows of clouds casting themselves on the hilly horizon. Past these were the Twin Rivers, Gurios and Melkas, which twined through a score of woodlands and through a dozen hamlets in Curnalia. There were far too many things to be seen in the world, so many that Adrun had only now just begun to grow weary. Malius had told him that traveling in his full set of plate mail was part of the Initiation Ritual, but Adrun would not allow this to discourage him.

The previous days they had been escorted with horses, trotting through dense forests, vast plains, and scorching prairies, but now while they trekked through foothills into the mountains, bringing a horse would not be allowed for this part of the journey. They continued to march along the countryside with little chatter between the two of them, for that is how it had been throughout most of the journey. Malius was, for all intents and purposes, a stranger who just happened to be the senior Swordsinger elected to hold Adrun’s ceremony. Adrun had no reason to assume Malius was irritated for having to accompany him, his face never changed, his posture was never impatient, and he still smiled a fair bit. But he couldn’t help but feel like he was responsible for bringing Malius along, after all, in most journeyman ceremonies one doesn’t celebrate by traveling to the opposite corner of the Empire!

Malius stopped in his tracks and stretched out his arms into the air as widely as he could, exhaling once they reached the top of the hill and got another view of the mountain range. Adrun’s curiosity got the best of him and he looked out as a gentle breeze stirred the blades of grass on the hill, making the landscape into a sea of green filled with calm waves. He took a glance behind their trail and was able to see the fringes of a few forests they no doubt had crossed, gradually disappearing into the horizon. Further off he could see a small caravan of about ten people heading towards the town of Quaith. His closest friend, Rhyanon, had told him that the town had an ancient shrine that pilgrims would visit annually. But before he could lose himself in thought, a voice pulled him back.

“Kallus, you’ve never been outside of Narsos have you?” Said Malius with a smile that Adrun interpreted as being mere courtesy. Malius turned his head back to gaze at the skies, Adrun tried searching for what his senior stared at but could spot only some massive shadow forming in some distant plains.

A tide of darkness crept its way over in the far side of Gorth’s Ascent, over even the Torcan Mountain Range. A single shadow slinked through the foothills, as though it’d manifested from nothing, darkening the surroundings. Adrun had not expected nighttime to be coming so quickly.

“Well…I, um, yes, I’ve never been out of home. Honestly, a bit of these things are new to me, I guess this is what it feels like to view the world from high distances, just like Rhyanon would say.” Adrun scratched the back of his head and straightened his dark cloak, being careful not to make eye contact, he decided to pretend he was wiping some dust from his tabard. He abhored any kind of conversation with strangers, as he would inevitably run out of things to say.

“Seeing as how you’re new I thought I’d play guide during the journey. So let me introduce you to one of the greatest wonders in all of the continent.” Malius pointed upwards towards the skies “If you look carefully you’ll be able to spot the floating citadel.”

Adrun’s eyes widened, those last two words had been more perplexing than anything he had seen during his journey “Floating citadel? Is that even possible?” Adrun’s lower jaw dangled from his upper lips. Not even a drunk bard would come up with a tale like that.

Malius gripped his cloak tighter around himself and turned to give Adrun a smirk “Have a look for yourself then.”

Adrun scoured the skies from top to bottom yet still had trouble finding the citadel. He then turned his view to the shadow that was being projected on the plains, which he had begun to notice was growing much larger. Soon darkness had not only enveloped the plains, but the forests which they had just crossed a few days ago, and it also obscured the pilgrims to Quaith. Then he finally shifted his gaze upwards and then he saw it. A mound of rock that made Adrun think the world was about to end for a few seconds. “J-Just what the hell is that!”

Malius chuckled and patted Adrun on the back “Oh well, what a shame, it seems they’ve come to do their annual summit with the Grand Exposer. And I was hoping we’d get to see the actual city too.”

“Who are they?”

“The Aerons, those people who actually live on that city. I’ve never met one in person, and I don’t think I want to considering what I’ve heard. Supposedly they’re a tad too arrogant for my tastes.”

“What is it they do with the empire?”

“Ah-h-h.” Malius shrugged and blew a draft of air into his bundled up gloves. There had been a chill that morning “I almost forgot you don’t know anything about what I’m saying. Of course, we should probably leave this for later, the sun won’t be shining this brightly forever, you know. I’ll tell you all about the floating citadel after your ceremony.”

Adrun nodded, but he didn’t appreciate just having his questions batted away. These so-called Aerons apparently knew how to make flying cities, yet he’s expected to just shut up and wait before he can ask how any of that works? Adrun sighed to himself, but did not give out complaints, after all, that would have been a mere nitpick, not even worth mentioning.

After some time, the shadows had begun to leave as the mound of rock hovered westward, and from what Adrun could gather, towards Curna. He gazed back to see if he could catch a glimpse of what the citadel looked like but found his vision interrupted by a stream of clouds. In due time, the whole of the citadel had been shrouded in milky white. He kicked a pebble in anger and watched as it flew down the hill, nearly striking Malius. Before he knew it, the Senior Swordsinger had stopped dead in his tracks. This time he looked off into a small clearing between the hills and his hands hovered along the hilt of his Arcanum sword. Adrun ran towards him expecting to be scolded for kicking the rock.

“Rus!” He came up to Malius and put his hands on his knees, and started panting in tired breaths “What happened?”

“There’s someone down there….it looks like he has grave wounds.”

Adrun squinted his eyes downward and there it was. It was a boy, seemingly around Adrun’s age sitting in front of an evergreen. He had bruises, scars, and Adrun wasn’t sure, but he swore he was seeing a gash on his abdomen. Should the boy be left to his own devices, he would have surely bled to death under the shade of that clearing. Not a single word escaped from either Adrun, nor Malius. Yet there was a churning in Adrun’s stomach. Then there was a faint pang of pain that rang along his spine as well, as though someone were prodding him with the point of a pike. He had to go down there…he just had to.

Before even stopping to think, Adrun sprinted down the hills. With the fading voice of Malius’s shouts echoing from behind him, he skirted through outcrops of rock while on his downward flight. It was no love of life that made Adrun sprint down for the boy, but neither was it some sense of altruism. But there was something. Something that was pulling him to that boy, something that whispered in the back of his mind. We are one.