Saturday, June 1, 2013

Cliché Storyline

When I went to count votes on my website, one of my stories had earned it's first vote. It's a bit of a cliché story - prince's parents die and the distant family member who is appointed regent decides he wants the crown. Even for bad guys, there are legal considerations. Said prince must go away, but he can't be responsible for the deed. So, he decides to make the prince the most hated person in the land, then he sends him out as just another soldier (almost) to put down another rebellion. If one of the rebels kills him, so much the better, but just in case, a back up plan is in place. Only something goes wrong and there's no body. With no body, he can't claim the crown.

Some months later, strange things start happening. The ghost of the old king walked the land claiming vengeance, but the regent knew the truth. The ghost, you see, was leaving him a calling card. A link from the mail armor the regent had made special for the prince was found on every body. The regent now had to find and kill the prince before anyone learned that he was still alive. And he had to ensure his claim to the throne by another means.

The prince had been betrothed when he was a child, and the girl was soon to come of marrying age. If he could marry her, he was that much closer to that crown, plus, he would take something away from the one person who was proving to be his worst enemy, or so he hoped. 

The idea came from my favorite movie, Black Arrow, but really the only resemblance is the prince himself. After I decided on that, the rest just swept me away on it's own wild ride. Here's the first chapter as a sample - Please understand that this story needs a lot of work before it sees publication. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

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Dire Fortune

King Martemik and Queen Jolene of Kashkar were well known throughout their land for their strength and fairness, and were therefore loved by most everyone. Of course, those on the receiving end of some of the harsher judgments thought they were dealt with too harshly and unfairly, but a line had to be drawn somewhere; the laws were the laws and the king was quite strict about the breaking of them.

Martemik was a big, powerful man, standing over six feet tall with the wide shoulders of a swordsman. In keeping with his fathers before him, he had the white hair of the royal family. Other members of the nobility all had varying shades of blond hair and light eyes, but the children born to the rightful king always had thick white hair and pale gray eyes. Even daughters born to the bloodline had the white hair and gray eyes, but their children did not carry on the family trait.

Jolene was also tall; coming from a bloodline that produced men much like her husband. She was a proud and stately woman with copious amounts of pale gold curls and striking blue eyes. With effortless ease, she commanded the attention and respect of everyone around her. She was also great with child.

The knights of the nobility and most of the soldiers wore their hair pulled up and bound in several bindings down the center of their heads in an imitation of the manes on their horses. The number of such bindings was dictated only by the thickness of the hair; a knight wanted a proud crest, not a collection of horse’s tails. Also, the type of bindings was dictated by the formality of the affair they were attending at the time. Anything from brightly designed wrappings for formal court events, to common leather straps for casual time at home or for wear with armor was used.

Since it was a tradition in the queen’s home country to seek out a fortune teller and have a child’s future told in the last month before birth, she requested this of her husband, and though it was not necessarily a custom in this country, he was familiar with the practice, so he relented to the wishes of the beautiful wife he had come to value highly and adore.

So they packed up, ostensibly for a tour of the country, to show the people that the queen was soon to produce an heir to the throne. They planned to be gone for a week to ten days. This would only cover a small portion of his kingdom but it would do to spread the word of the coming birth.

Everywhere they went, they were greeted with cheers and many of the women gifted the queen with good luck and easy delivery charms. Jolene accepted them all graciously and treasured all the charms with the respect and deference with which they were offered.

The custom of visiting a fortuneteller at this time was fairly common among the peasantry, so it wasn’t difficult to find what they were looking for.

Late one night, the royal couple approached an old cabin in the woods. “I don’t like this, Jolene,” said the king. “There’s no light inside. If you would only consent to one of the fortunetellers who were willing to call at the palace, we wouldn’t need to go through all this.”

“You just don’t like sneaking around in the dark, dear, and you know that those fortunetellers willing to call at the palace would say anything to make us happy; who would know if it was a true telling or not. At least coming this late at night, she won’t have any time to set up some show,” replied the queen with quiet patience.

The king knocked solidly on the old door. A few minutes later, the old woman who answered was greatly surprised to see the king and queen standing on her doorstep so late at night. There was no doubt that’s who they were; everyone knew who the king and queen were. She quickly invited them into her humble home, wishing fervently that her accommodations were better than they were, but there was no helping it now. “What can an old woman like me do for you, Lord and Lady?” she asked as she poked up the fire and added some wood and then lit the one lamp she owned with a coal from the fire.

“Are you a fortuneteller?” asked King Martemik as he moved his wife closer to the fire; the night air was chilly and damp.

“I am that, my lord, among other things. Do you seek your fortune?”

“My wife seeks the fortune for our child soon to be born. Can you do this?”

“I can, your grace,” she replied with a small bow. “My lady, please have a seat.” The old woman offered the queen the only seat and pulled a crate out from beneath the cupboard for herself to sit on. “My lord, I have nothing else for you to sit on, even my bed is on the floor.”

He was somewhat impressed with the way the old woman so readily handled the simple preparations for this ordeal, without making any attempts to set up any kind of stage or use any elaborate bobbles, but he was still very uncomfortable about all this; he never did like this mystic stuff. “Never mind me,” said the king. He had no interest in becoming comfortable.

The queen smiled at her husband as she took the offered stool. It was amusing to see her tall brave husband unsettled by this small frail peasant woman. She would have to tease him about this night many times.

The fortuneteller sat across from her and held out her callused hands to the queen. When the queen’s delicate hands were in hers, she closing her eyes, and with a deep breath, she rested her forehead on the table and searched for the future of this child.

Just as they were beginning to worry that the old woman had fallen asleep, she raised her head and spoke in a resonant voice that could not possibly have issued from the throat of the old woman.

“The news I have for your son is grave and troubling. Are you sure you still wish to hear it?”

“I do, speak your news. I must hear it,” said the queen as color drained from her cheeks.

Martemik would have swept his wife away from here but the words that followed froze him in his tracks.

“Your son’s life line will be fraught with sorrow, anger and danger. He will loose his father to death, his mother to fear and treachery will hunt him like a rabid wolf. All of this will beset him before he comes of age. But, there is still hope. There is one man who is close to you now; one whose loyalty to you will remain strong, despite all the evil he must see. This man will find your son and help him to see through his sorrow and bitterness. If your son has not become too lost, if he is not too bitter and angry, this man will be able to lead him out of his darkness. Only then will he be able to gather the people to him in a union that will surpass even his father’s. If he can do this, he will ascend to the throne and become a king far greater than any of his forefathers.”

“A son; we’re having a son, but how can my son become so lost?” asked the queen, but the old woman opened her eyes at the question and the spell was broken.

The old woman had heard the question though – had heard similar question before, many times, and it was her habit to try to answer it. “To become lost is never an end; it’s only a distraction in the path of life, as long as your son continues to set one foot before the other, there is no choice but to continue.”

“What are you talking about old woman?” growled the king, unwilling to admit how shaken he was about the whole thing.

“Nothing my lord, it is merely my humble attempt to answer the queen’s question. Forgive me for speaking out of turn.”

The queen held her hand up to stay the king’s words, and he turned to glower at the fire instead. “Please explain further if you can,” she coaxed. “The fortune of my son is dire and I would like to understand more.”

“In truth, my lady, I can not say more. I only heard your question and tried to answer it. Even if you told me your son’s fortune, I would only be guessing at a meaning. Does he die, become fey or does he meet some other untimely trouble?” The old woman was also quite shaken; that she told the fortune of the royal prince at all was astonishing enough, but that it seemed to be bad, very bad, was quite frightening.

“No, you said that he would loose both of us while he was still young, and then you said that he would become lost himself as well, but that he could ascend the throne and becoming a great king.” Tears had already begun to flow freely though she refused to allow herself to sob openly.

The old woman was heart broken at the sight of the queen’s tears and she truly wished that her words had been different, but when telling these fortunes she did not choose the words that she uttered; she could only hope to help make sense of them. “That is indeed a rocky road for a child to follow, but if he becomes great in the end, what more can a parent ask for.”

The queen found these words comforting, though marginally, and she rose to leave. Her movement caught her husband’s attention and he wrapped her cloak around her shoulders once more, keeping her in the protective circle of his arm until she was safely inside their carriage.

After the king had ushered his wife into the carriage, he turned to the old woman and pressing a full bag of coins into her hand. “You must protect yourself from the events of this night. Should others learn of our being here and what was revealed here, there could be trouble for both of us.”

She knew he was correct; if anyone were to find out that the king and queen had come to her home for any reason, everyone would be hounding her with every little problem and she would be unable to help all of them. If there were too many failures, the villagers would be likely to stone her for her efforts. She would keep the coin and use it only when she had to. There was enough to take care of her for many a year if she was careful.

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I always liked a good prophecy. hahaha

1 comment:

William Kendall said...

It's good, the core of the passage. Like you said, it can use some work- I do notice some repetitiveness, but that's honed down in the process.

It's an intriguing premise!