Chapter 1 – The Captain and the Storyteller (opening paragraphs)

Hello all,

It has been a while hasn’t it? Unfortunately I have been rather busy with work, and studies, and more importantly a few of my other writing projects lately. But I have been very pleased to see that still see people coming over to look at some of the pieces I have written, I notice that most of the views are tending towards the football articles I have been writing, so I may do a few more of them. I have also been doing a lot of writing for a Creative Writing course I have been doing at Oxford University over the last few months, so I will also look at publishing a few snippets of that on here too.

IN THE MEANTIME, I have been working on a piece of fiction, the opening paragraphs of which I am going to share with you now. I have been working on this project of mine for a while now, and a lot of work has been going into research, world building and plotting out story lines, which is incredibly fun, but also horribly time consuming, and at times a bit tedious. With that said, these opening paragraphs wont really include any of that. So they don’t really give anything away in terms of the story or the plot, but I hope that they do convey a scent of the tone I am aiming for in this work, so without further ado:

The last grey winds of autumn were blowing in from the straits, the nearly full moon had an eerie pale glow in the night sky as dark grey clouds streaked across it, to the north the white crowned mountains stood impassive and resolute guarding against the frozen waste that lay beyond, and to the south the fertile lands of the empire stretched. Banners rippled from the ramparts of the fortress as the cold wind bit into them and sentries crouched forlornly in the parapets, below the sprawling fortifications loomed. The fortress was very old and ruinous, its mighty walls crumbling, its main gate shattered, and many of its towers nothing more than hollowed ruins. The fortress had an outer wall which though high and thick was peppered with breaches, from long forgotten wars and conflicts, which were all in various stages of repair and disrepair. The main keep was in better condition, and here the defences were still strong, lights glimmered and flickered as the nobility toasted their royal visitors within its halls. The sounds of songs and banter echoed outside and carried even past the outer wall and to the south where outside the walls a collection of shacks and houses formed a village where the common people lived, and to the east a large encampment of tents were the royal escort lay encamped for now against the outer wall and somewhat shielded from the bitter wind.

It was from this camp that a lone figure detached itself from the warm glow of the camp fires and began to lounge its way around the outer wall towards the village. He was wrapped in a thick brown woollen cloak, under which he wore a dull grey tunic over which he bore a frayed leather doublet, fastened with a leather belt which sported the scabbard and hilt of an ugly old dirk. His boots were worn and muddy, and his demeanour was plain, his gait was slouched and deceptively nondescript, his feet dragged as he walked as though he was perpetually exhausted, his dull brown eyes had hints of wrinkles around them and dark bags under them, his hair was dark, curly and dishevelled, and he sported a dark stubble laced with flecks of grey on his chin which helped hide, but not completely conceal, that his face was starting to age and the skin once taught around his face had begun to sag.

At first glance he seemed utterly unremarkable, but on closer inspection his gait and slouch betrayed his tall frame, the wrinkles and bags under his eyes concealed their furtive movements as they darted everywhere, observing everything, and his dragging feet and exhausted look complemented by the slightly oversized clothes he wore hid his not inconsiderable strength, his arms were abnormally long, and his shoulders broad. His name was Bran, and he was the Captain of the Grey Guards, the elite company of soldiers who served as personal bodyguards to the royal family.

He continued to slowly walk up the path around the outer walls of the fortress which connected the encampment he had left with the collection of hovels; the moonlight helped him find his steps on the treacherous path and missing cobblestones, there was a hut with a watchmen at the entrance of the village, and he could feel the eyes of the watchman peering through the windows at him although he could not see him, but with so many people coming and going today with the arrival of the Princess and her escort the watchman paid no heed to one more person slipping into the village. Inside the village the cobblestones evened out and there was surer footing, but there were still puddles of water to the sides of the streets, and there was an inescapable stench of burning cooking, wet horses, mixed in with the fumes of burning fires and the unmistakeable aroma of dung and urine that wafted up from every other side street he passed. Most of the people who lived here had turned in for the night, nervously keeping their wives, daughters and loved ones close, always suspicious of the marauding soldiers who had come to the village to get drunk for the night.

On the main street Bran passed the villages biggest in The King and Castle which the officers of the Princesses escort and the local garrison had taken the liberty of taking over as was their privilege, shunning the common soldiers. He turned into one of the side streets looking for his destination, now he crossed rag tag groups of soldiers in various fits of drunkenness as they sang and staggered across the village looking for more taverns to frequent, or simply lounging under overhangs and nooks embroiling with one another in boisterous conversation, blissfully uncaring that feet away from them families were trying to sleep. He pulled up his cloak tighter around his shoulders and tried not to breathe as he walked past two soldiers loudly urinating on someone’s doorstep.

Finally in a dark recess of the village he spotted his destination. A small drinking hole, which barely passed as a tavern, its sign hung from two rusty chains on a post, and it creaked forlornly in the night, The Howling Wolf the joint was called. Bran stopped and hesitated for a moment, he fingered the hilt of the dirk at his belt for a few moments, his brow furrowed in sudden uncertainty. Then the moment passed, and he continued on his irrevocable path.

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