Cards on the table-time; this is the first thinking I've done on a long piece of fiction I'm thinking of writing. Something a bit more dramatic than previous things, and better-planned. A family drama, I think it's called; three brothers, two sons, one crown, that sort of tagline. That's not bad, actually. Let me just write that down...
Anyway, there's going to be lions and peacocks being ridden, and bits in the first person, bits in third; it'll be a blast.
Oh, and I've been practising writing in the first person :D
Seft reined his horse in. The moon was high in the sky, almost at its zenith; the horse reeled around in a circle, nickering quietly as he cursed the fates. There was just no time! Digging his heels into the horse’s flanks, he spurred it on into the silver-rimmed darkness.
The sky was grey with morning light when the noise intruded. For miles he had rode with the sounds being the horse’s laboured breathing and the noise of its hooves on the gravel path, but this was different. It was the sound of wings. The messenger hawk had finally been sent, and was overtaking him.
His heart beat faster as he urged the horse on to greater speeds. It was slathered in sweat, and would be totally useless after this, but if he could get there before the hawk it would be worth it.
He fumbled under his robe; his hand found the butt of his pistol crossbow, holstered in the small of his back, and he pulled it out. How many times had they trained for this? How many small balls of fabric, stuffed with flour, had he pinned to the targets? He smiled grimly; here there were no acolytes, sweat dripping from them as they prepared another throw. Just him, the hawk and the crossbow.
The wings were getting closer. He reined the horse in and, as it pulled up short, leapt from its back. Landing in a crouch, he scanned the lightening sky.
There. The small black shape, wings flapping slowly. He didn’t hesitate, aimed, fired. He was winding the small crossbow back to readiness before he realised anything was wrong. The shape didn’t fall to the ground with a strangled trill. It carried on, lazily soaring in the early morning breeze. Then it began to grow.
Seft rose from his crouch, the crossbow hanging limp in one hand. His eyes never left the bird as its silhouette grew larger, and then suddenly he knew, and cursed himself. The wings; how had he heard the sound of them over the horse? And how could it propel itself through the air with such lazy strokes? Grainy exhaustion fought with adrenaline in his head, the urge to run mingling with the desire to lay down and let his tiredness and wounds win where Garan had failed.
The shape was massive now. He could pick out the long feathered tail, the tiny head, the bulge of a rider laying flat on its back.
The horse chose that moment to whinny in agony, then stagger into him. He stumbled as it lurched around, then slumped to the ground. Its lips were rubbery as it blew its last breaths out. Seft smiled grimly. No choice, then.
He shucked off his woollen robe and moved into open ground, bare-chested.
The peacock landed with a massive gust of air, buffeting him and blowing dust into his eyes. He narrowed them to slits and watched as Garan jumped off the back of her mount. It seemed ridiculous that she had found him again, but there it was.
“Couldn’t find anything less ostentatious?” he shouted. The peacock was enormous, its tail dragging along the ground; it put its head down and stared at him.
“Give back what you stole!” Garan shouted. She had her arms hanging loose, no weapons in sight. Interesting.
“I didn’t steal anything, you stupid bitch,” Seft shouted back.
He watched as she frowned, looking at his dying horse. “You’ve been riding hard. You must have it. Where is it?”
“You know what.” Her hand went to her hip; she was wearing light barbed armour made of hard tree-sap, covering only what it had to for modesty’s sake. Why was she suddenly grasping one of the thorns?
“Let’s pretend I’m stupid, Garan. You’re good at that.”
“The Midnight Star, Seft. You stole the Star and now Fander is dying.” She choked the words out and her eyes sparkled with unshed tears. “My husband is dying because the thief shot him. Because YOU shot him.”
Her hand betrayed her, moving upwards a bare inch, but it was enough for him to see the stone blade, cunningly concealed among the armour.
“I didn’t shoot your husband. I didn’t steal your jewel.” He kept his voice steady, slowly widening his stance. His hands came up, placating, pacifying.
For a silent heartbeat her eyes opened onto her mind; empty, afraid, angry and fragile. Then her face twisted into a snarl and she pulled the blade from her armour. A flick of her wrist and the handle telescoped outwards behind her. The peacock hissed and its tail flicked up into a vivid display of aggression.
Seft breathed deeply; the sun was rising behind him, warming his back. He brought one leg behind him, presenting a thinner target for her spear; hands which had been out, open, peaceful, became fists. The peacock shrieked in unison with its rider as Garan sprinted towards him, spear raised.