This week’s Friday Freebits excerpt is a little different from my other posts. Following is from the “eternal novel,” a medieval fantasy I’ve been working on, off and on since the latter years of the past millennium. Sword of Names is a story of truth and lies, mistaken identities and disguises, unlikely alliances, good-guys versus bad-guys, and with a hint of magic.
In this short piece, we meet Tolmer, a boy of 15 from a race of people of little—if any—moral character who have, among their other skills, the ability to make themselves invisible. Nochlan is an aging wizard-type who must rediscover his craft on the fly, and who is also the grandfather of the heroine. He and Elthwen, the deposed king’s daughter, are on the run from unsavory characters at the beck and call of the Main Evil Dude. Prior to this bit, Tolmer has been caught trying to steal Nochlan‘s corrath, Glaer, a crystal with powerful capabilities and her own personality.
“I saw no one, sir!”
The corrath flared red. “If you are lying to me, rogue, your tongue will turn black and choke you with bitter bile!”
“I swear!” Fear flashed across the young villain’s face and his ragged voice broke on the strain.
Nochlan leaned on his staff, Glaer’s intensity cooling. “I accept your word.”
“Thank you, sir.” Choking down a breath, the boy shuddered.
“But I am once again of a mind to change you into a toad…or perhaps a fish…yes, a fish!” He wrinkled his brow in pretended thought, his corrath flickering slowly. “Perhaps your mother would prefer something more useful. A dog is a fine companion that can hunt and fetch and protect her.”
“Please, sir. I beg you. Leave me as I am.”
Nochlan rubbed his chin. “Then again, I fancy you would make a handsome bird. A rooster or a goose…. Oh, unquestionably a goose!” He raised the staff, its stone emitting a blinding light.
“Oh please, sir….” Tolmer cringed, shielding his eyes with his hand from the intensity of the glare. Tears streamed down his face, his lanky form tremulous with cold and distress.
“Very well, then.” The stone’s light dimmed. “For your old, sick mother’s sake, I will spare you this once. But only under one condition.”
“Anything, sir. I will do anything.” He wiped his runny nose with the back of his hand.
Nochlan raised his eyebrows. “Anything?”
He took in the lad from top of his coppery head to his coarse woolen leggings—patched in the knees—to his soft deerskin boots, already short in the toe. He shook his head, his lips pursed. “No, that would never work.” He pondered some more. “No, unacceptable…except perhaps….Yes, that is it!”
“What is it, sir?”
He glanced around quickly and, having spied a small copse of blooming bracklethorne at the forest’s edge, he motioned to it with a tip of his staff. “I will let you go, Tolmer of the Navith Milithos, but only if you surrender your clothes.”