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Author Topic: WHITE STAG  (Read 2403 times)
Pandean
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Panic in human form


« on: October 08, 2016, 07:43:45 PM »

So I realized that while I have the updated chapter of White Stag on Wattpad, I never let you guys see it and most of you don't have Wattpad accounts. Perhaps I'm doing this to feed my ego (and because I really want you guys to see how much it's improved since The Beginning of Time) but I thought it'd be nostolgic to post it here. Hope no one gets angry at me for doing that.  embarrassed




Chapter One:

Masquerade

The first thing I learned as a hunter was how to hide. To disappear into the trees like the wind, to merge with the river and stones. Most humans didn't think the masquerade was as important as the kill. Most humans ended up paying for it dearly.

Here, as the only human in a hall of monsters, I was very glad that I was not most humans.

I kept my steps silent and back straight as I passed beneath the white marble pillars. My eyes flickered around me every so often, counting hallways, retracing my steps so I could escape in a moment's notice. Every so often, my fingers twitched, aching for my bow. I'd left it at entrance of the Erlking's palace, as was custom. For such vicious and malevolent creatures, goblins were very keen on following custom; it was one of the two things you could always expect from them.

Behind me, a gurgling sound suggested someone was choking. When the subtle whoosh of power going from one body to another filled the air, I knew I was correct.

That was the second thing you could always expect from goblins: even custom won't keep them from murdering you when they got bored.

Yes, here among the monsters, I might've looked like I was the hunter, but I was very much the prey.

From beside me, Soren examined his king's palace with the usual contempt. He wore his scowl so often that I sometimes forgot he was capable of other expressions. He didn't even smile when he was killing things; as far as goblins went that was a symptom of chronic depression.

It wasn't like the Erlking's palace was a happy place for me either, but I had a feeling Soren's contempt had more to do with the décor than the countless human deaths it took to build it.

"Don't look so excited, someone might get the wrong idea."

He raised a fine, white eyebrow at me. "I don't look excited. I'm scowling."

I resisted the urge to sigh. "It's sarcasm."

"I've told you before, I don't understand it," he said.

"None of your kind understand it," I said. "In another hundred years I'm going to lose my understanding completely."

Another hundred years. It hadn't hit me yet, not until I said it out loud. Another hundred years. It had been a hundred years since my village was slaughtered, a hundred years since I'd become a plaything, then a slave, a hundred years in Soren's service. Well, ninety-nine years and eight months, anyway. The scars on my chest ached. The hollow spot where my right breast should have been burned. The four months where I'd belonged to another were not something I liked to think about. I swallowed as my throat went dry. But Soren isn't Lydian.

"You look tense," Soren said, breaking me out of my thoughts. I'd crossed my arms over my chest. Not good. A movement like that was a sign of weakness. It was obvious to everyone that I was the weakest being here but showing it would do me no good.

"I'm fine," I said. "I just don't like this place."

"Hn." Soren's eyes scanned the white marble palace with contempt again. At least this, we could agree on.

By now we were coming to the great hall where the reception was held. Every hundred years, the goblins were required to visit the Erlking and swear loyalty. Of course, their loyalty only extended to him as long as he was the most powerful—goblins weren't the type of creature to follow someone who was weaker than them. They had a pretty good way of detecting when the king became weak, too.

The palace, for what it was worth, was much grander than the rest of the goblin's domain. Soren's manor was all wood, stone, and ice, permanently freezing. Nothing grew—I knew because I tried multiple times to start a garden—but the roots never took to the Permafrost. Here it was warm, though not warm enough that I couldn't feel the aching chill deep in my bones. The walls were made of pure white marble with intricate designs far above what a goblin was capable of. The art was definitely a human's work. Probably a slave's. And I'd bet ten to one that they probably weren't still alive.

Soren's lip curled as we passed under a canopy of ice. "I feel like I need to vomit," he said.

I stopped in my tracks. "Really?"

He glanced at me, a playful light in his lilac eyes. "Sarcasm? Did I do it right?"

"No. Sarcasm would be when you use irony to show your contempt."

"Irony?" He shook his head, his long white hair falling into his face.

"Saying one thing when you mean the other, dramatically."

"This is beneath me," he muttered.

"Whatever you say," I said.

In the hall, the gazes on the back of my neck were sharp as knives. I kept my head straight, trying my hardest not to pay attention to the wolfish faces of the other attenders. The figures dressed in hunting leathers, long and lean, would only seek to torment me if I paid them any attention. As the only human who wasn't in fetters, I was a curiosity. More than that: I was a challenge to their supposed supremeness. Both could very easily get me killed and I wasn't planning on dying anytime soon.

We finally crossed the floor to where the Erlking sat. Like Soren, the Goblin King's hair was long. But unlike Soren, whose hair was whiter than the snow, his hair was brown. Not my brown, the color of fallen leaves and underbrush, but murky, muddy brown. It was the color of bog mud that sucks down both humans and animals alike. He was the strongest of all goblins and I hated him for it. I also feared him—I was smart enough for that—but the fear was drowned out by the blood rushing in my ears as I locked eyes with Soren's King.

Soren turned to me. "Stay." His eyes turned hard, the glimmer of light leaving them. Whatever softness he had before drained away until what was left was the hard, cold killer that he was known to be and with it went the last shreds of warmth in his voice. "Until I tell you otherwise." Subtly, he jerked his pointer finger at the ground in a wordless warning.

I bowed my head. "Yes, master."

Soren went to one knee. "My king."

I eyed Soren. His hands were clenched to fists at his sides. He must've sensed something from the Erlking, from the other goblins, something. Whatever it was, it wasn't good. Cautiously, I peeked through the curtain of my hair. This close, the Erlking's eyes were dark in his shriveled husk of skin, he was a shade too pale even for a goblin, and there was a tinge of sickness in the air as he breathed his raspy breaths. His eyes flickered up to meet mine and I bowed my head again. Don't attract attention.

Soren spat out the vows required of him. He paused every so often, like he was waiting for when he would be free to drive his hand through his king's chest.

The tension around the room grew. Somehow, like dogs sniffing out blood, they all knew the king was weak. Beautiful she-goblins and terrifying goblin brutes were all standing there waiting until it was legal to kill him.

Besides the weakened king's throne, a white stag rested on a pile of rushes. Its eyes were closed, its breath slow. Its skin and antlers shone with youth, but the ancient power it leaked pressed heavy against my shoulders. The power it wielded was older than anything else in the world.

Goblins were, before all things, hunters. It was only fitting that the symbol of their king's ultimate power should be the submission of their prey. Until it runs
I didn't want to think about what happened after that.

Soren was still saying his vows. The guttural language was like ice shards to my ears and I shuddered. Catching myself about to fidget, I dug my fingers into my thigh. "Control yourself, Janneke," I said to myself. "If they can do it, you can."

A soft voice whispered in my ear. "Is that you, Janneka?" His breath tickled the back of my neck and every muscle in my body immediately locked.

Don't pay attention to him. He'll go away.

"I know you can hear me, Sweetling."

Yes, I could hear him and the sound of his voice made me want to vomit.

Slowly, I turned towards Lydian. Disappointment briefly flashed through me. He looked the same as he had a hundred years ago. Long, golden hair, slender muscled with a lazy look in his dark green eyes, like they were seeing past me, past the Erlking, past everything, skin the color of milk, unblemished and unmarred. High cheekbones, an aquiline nose, and the haughty look I'd so often seen on his nephew graced his features. Goblin males might've been called 'brutes' but his looks were anything but. And that made me sick inside.

"How is your calf?" I asked, letting hostility seep into my voice.

He shifted his weight so it was equal on both legs. "It seems that civil conversation is still not your strong suit."

My fingers twitched with the ache to hurt the man before me. "And I suppose you know all about civil conversations? Where I come from, raping someone half to death doesn't count as 'civil'."

Lydian's face was a blank slate, but I could see the crazy beginning to stir beneath the surface. You don't want to anger him. One voice said; one fearful voice that knew exactly what he could and would do. But another voice, strong with hatred, craved to hurt him. Before the Permafrost it never struck me that one could both hate and fear something at the same time, but when it came to Lydian those were the only two emotions I was capable of.

Finally he spoke, his voice sending shivers down my spine. "Well, we're not where you come from, are we?"

"Go eat your young," I spat.

Lydian's head jerked and he shook himself. The faraway look in his green eyes grew cloudy. "It seems you've become even more insolent and ignorant since our last encounter. Perhaps I should teach you a lesson."

Oh no, I've had enough of those. But I kept on the bravado. It'd been many years since I learned backing down from a fight would get me more injured than starting one. In the Permafrost it was better to hide your fear than let it show. "And perhaps you'll end up with iron poisoning again and the Permafrost will be relived of your cancerous presence so it can continue turning like it should."

"Oh, you have no idea." He hissed those last words.

Goblins, like most Permafrost creatures, are stronger and faster than humans. If desired, they could tear through your chest and rip out your heart without so much as batting an eyelid. But I anticipated Lydian's attack from the moment he'd come up to me and so when he raised his hand toward me—fingernails lengthening into claws—I was ready.

Still, they managed to brush against my cheek—almost like a caress—until thin lines of blood trickled from the cuts.

Instinct took over, and I danced backward until I could jump on what must've been some kind of sacrificial table. I went into a crouch, my hands touching something warm and wet. Bile rose in my throat as I looked at the dead, dismembered human beneath me.

Lydian howled. The sound sent pain down my spine and my arms shook at the bloodcurdling, terrifying scream.

That was when the rest of the party took interest. Even the Erlking looked from where he sat on his throne, staring at me, the lowly human on a table, and Lydian, the prestigious hunter who sneered at her. Soren stood, mid-vow, and his eyes caught mine. Be careful. They said. I can't help you. They said. If he beats you I will bring you back to life and murder you myself for the disgrace. They said.

It's good to know I have someone on my side.

I swallowed, trying desperately to push down the fear rising in my throat. Fear dulled the mind and I couldn't allow it, but try as I might, little trickles spread throughout my body, inciting panic.

Without the disadvantage that came with emotions, the goblin brute saw his opening and lunged at me. We toppled to the ground, pain searing through my shoulders as I crashed into the hard floor.

His talons tore at my face, perilously close to my eyes. His teeth were now fangs, snapping at my throat. "Why can't you just listen?" He growled. The feel of his body on mine and those too-familiar words brought back memories seeped in despair. Don't remember. Stop remembering. He cannot take you.

I pushed his face away with my hands, digging my nails into his eyes. Lydian shrieked again and blood trickled from my ears. Sound faded away until all that was left was a dull ringing.

My hands. I need my hands!

Forgetting my fear and replacing it with cold, hard rage, I let go. Blood dripped from his eyes were I dug my fingernails in and he lashed at me again. Hot wetness spread across my chest.

It was now or never. With muscles burning and fueled by hate, I pulled my legs up until they bunched under his chest and I could reach my boots. With my hands free, I dug under the straps, right as he went for the opening in my chest.

I stabbed a bent, iron nail into his shoulder.

The effect was instant. Smoke billowed from his clothes, getting thicker and blacker by the second. His leathers burned away, showing blackened skin underneath. He rolled off, shrieking in pain as he grabbed at the nail imbedded in his shoulder.

I stood up, shakily. Blood dripped from my face, soaked my tunic, creating a wave of red on the floor. The ringing in my ears and pounding in my skull was deafening, almost bringing me back to the ground.

With a racing heart, I looked around at the monsters in the room. They all gazed at me with a fevered light in their eyes and grins that showed their fanged teeth. Lydian's subordinates huddled around him, making a joint effort to pull the nail out of his shoulder. With another ear-splitting howl, the nail was yanked out. The forest colored material of his shirt flaked to the ground, exposing his now-blackened shoulder. Blood dripped from his eyes, but other than the nail, that was the only wound he took. On the other hand, my legs were going to collapse under my weight at any second.

He came forward.

And then Soren stepped in front of me. "I think that is enough." The ice in his voice stung.

"Let me at the little bitch!" Lydian's perfect golden hair was in tangled around his face, his expression twisted in rage. "I'll kill you! I'll rip out your intestines and feed them to you! I will end you."

"You will not. She is mine." His voice resonated across the hall. The weight of the power pouring from him did drop me to my knees. When Lydian began to pour his own, the weight pressed my body flat against the ground.

Lydian snarled. "Do you think I mean just her? Both of you, both of you need to die. I'll end both of you for the good of it all!"

Spittle formed at the corners of his mouth and I scrambled backwards. He looked like a madman; ranting and raving about nonsense that he thought would make sense to everyone else. When I'd been his captive, he'd done the same every night; asking inane question over and over again, and then destroying my body bit by bit.

Both of them were throwing their power around so hard black spots danced at the edges of my vision. I knew Soren and his uncle had unspeakable power as predators—power that made them dominant over other goblins—but I'd never been in the same room when both of them wielding it to the full extent at once. The breath was crushed from my lungs and my vision was blackening, but before my eyes the two of them were transforming, looking more and more like actual monsters and not the inhuman terrifying beauty that was their mask.

Not good. This is not good. They'll destroy the building wielding all of that. The ground was shaking and from behind me someone groaned in pain.

But no one would stop them. It was the way of life. If you were challenged, you did not back down, not unless your challenger was defeated. Like wolves, the fight for dominance was ever-going and like wolves, the younger challenged the older in the pack. Soren might've been the youngest lord there'd been in the history of the Permafrost, but he was strong.

As the two goblins were about to attack, three things happened simultaneously. The marble floor split open in a deafening roar, the Erlking fell from his throne, and the Stag stood, shook out his fur, and ran.

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WHITE STAG, an internet phenomenon, has been acquired by St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books for publication in Winter 2019
gckatz
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« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2016, 06:59:55 PM »

Boss. Obviously you don't need my or anyone's help with this chapter. There are maybe two or three minor grammar things (there's no comma in "bent iron nail"), but this really is a clean, polished, dynamic opening scene.
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Pandean
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Panic in human form


« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2016, 07:14:25 PM »

Boss. Obviously you don't need my or anyone's help with this chapter. There are maybe two or three minor grammar things (there's no comma in "bent iron nail"), but this really is a clean, polished, dynamic opening scene.

Thanks! Smiley I was recently looking back at the stuff I wrote when I first joined (Half Breeds and Other Liabilities) this site and I realize how much I've really grown.

No matter how many times I go over it I STILL cannot get all those grammar errors and typos out. It's neverending lol
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WHITE STAG, an internet phenomenon, has been acquired by St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books for publication in Winter 2019
Sarah Ahiers (Falen)
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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2016, 08:32:08 AM »

Boss. Obviously you don't need my or anyone's help with this chapter. There are maybe two or three minor grammar things (there's no comma in "bent iron nail"), but this really is a clean, polished, dynamic opening scene.

Thanks! Smiley I was recently looking back at the stuff I wrote when I first joined (Half Breeds and Other Liabilities) this site and I realize how much I've really grown.

No matter how many times I go over it I STILL cannot get all those grammar errors and typos out. It's neverending lol

That's the best. When you know you've grown and can see the evidence of it
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Pandean
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Panic in human form


« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2016, 10:19:41 AM »

Boss. Obviously you don't need my or anyone's help with this chapter. There are maybe two or three minor grammar things (there's no comma in "bent iron nail"), but this really is a clean, polished, dynamic opening scene.

Thanks! Smiley I was recently looking back at the stuff I wrote when I first joined (Half Breeds and Other Liabilities) this site and I realize how much I've really grown.

No matter how many times I go over it I STILL cannot get all those grammar errors and typos out. It's neverending lol

That's the best. When you know you've grown and can see the evidence of it

I actually cringe sometimes about my old writing. But I like seeing the comparison.
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WHITE STAG, an internet phenomenon, has been acquired by St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books for publication in Winter 2019
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