Saturday, September 10, 2011

Yet Another New Snippet From Young Falcon

Here's a new little snippet from Young Falcon. Enjoy! :)

From the Chapter 'Yaron'

I woke that night to the sound of someone coughing. Listening hard, I finally determined that the noise came from several cells away. I said hoarsely, “Hello? Is anyone there?”
    No one answered me, but I heard something, as if someone had shifted. Frowning, I squinted into the gloom, trying to pick out a person’s shape in the blinding dark, but I could see nothing. I waited a few minutes and then decided that no one was going to answer, if there was anyone there at all.
    I sighed and slowly lowered myself back to the floor. I lay on my back and stared dismally up into the darkness, wishing that I did not feel so alone and cut off from the rest of the world. I was captive in a stone prison in crushing darkness for an unknown reason, and I could do nothing to free myself.
    The realisation suddenly brought a lump to my throat and tears swam across my eyes. I gave a short sigh, blinked away the tears, and sniffed. I did not want to cry, not yet.
    A long while later, I heard another small noise. I sat up, propping myself on one elbow, listening and strained my ears, trying to hear something—anything—else. I realised then that it was because I did not actually want to be so alone as I was feeling—I wanted someone else to suffer through this with me. However selfish that may seem, it would certainly make me feel much better if I knew someone else was going through the same torment I was.
    “Hello?” I said again, softly.
    Again, there was no answer.
    I lay down again, closed my eyes, and let my weariness overtake me. A short while later,    I drifted into a dreamless sleep.

Much later in the night, though not yet dawn, I heard another cough from the person in the cell down from me. It was hard and forceful, and it woke me from my light sleep.
    I propped myself on one elbow again and waited, not saying anything. It was then that I noticed the light. The moonlight shimmered down through a tiny, jagged crack high up the wall, illuminating floating particles of dust, making them look like tiny, buoyant gems. I paused a moment to admire this of glimpse of beauty amid the gloom, the little specks playing aloft. I supposed that the storm had finally passed, else I would have noticed the light before. I sighed, wishing for a large window through which I could see the stars. But the little light with which I was provided was so precious and magical that I did not mind not seeing the stars; the sparkling dust in the dark of that infernal cell was almost as wondrous.
    Then I tried to see through the dark again, squinting. I hoped the light would help, but it did not much. I could faintly make out a shape darker than everything else in a murky corner of the prison, but I was not sure that it was anything more than a shadow. I rolled onto my stomach and went to sleep again.

The next morning, I wakened with a start. I sat up swiftly, unsure what had awakened me. I gazed around the prison with a darting glance, and seeing nothing unusual, I relaxed.
    I absently massaged my right wrist, which was sore from when Gornhelm had shoved me in here and I had thrust my hand out to save myself from a fall. It was slightly purple and ached, but other than that, I was virtually unharmed from his rough push. My other wrist, the one that had been bruised from the fall during my capture, was mostly healed now.
    I heard a small noise, and instantly my eyes found the source. I blinked in surprise.
    A boy was partly concealed in shadows several cells down from me, out of the light. He looked only one or two years younger—if that—than I. He was sitting with his knees pulled up to his chest and his head down, his face obscured from view. His body was wiry and lean, but he looked muscular.
    Baffled as to why a boy so young was locked up in here, I blinked a couple more times. Why on earth …? But he’s so young! Why would he be in here? He’s obviously a captive, too, but … why would they want such a young boy? Surely he can’t be of any use yet.
    I sat against the stone wall and tilted my head back, studying the ceiling. Then I gazed briefly at the small crack and finally back at the boy.
    I started. Even in the dim light of the prison, I could see the boy’s eyes locked on me. With a wildness to them, he looked as if he were a feral animal taken from his home and caged in a lightless world and left there to waste away, and I was his only hope of escape.

The rest of the day, I avoided looking his way, but the few times I did happen to glance at him, his stormy eyes were always on me. It made me feel uneasy.
    When I did manage to forget about the boy for a while, I became intensely bored. I stayed locked all day in the prison, with nothing to do, nothing different to see, and nothing to eat. I was hungry by noon because of my deprivation of regular, good meals over the past ten days, but no one ever came with any food. As an elf, I could go for almost a week and a half without food, but regardless, I had become ravenous.
    I sighed and absently fingered a rough stone. Coarse and gritty, it provided some distraction from monotony, but I soon got tired of fiddling with it. This heavy dose of boredom was taking its toll on me; to escape it, I even dozed throughout the day several times.

When night came, I reluctantly resigned myself to the hard floor again, wishing fervently for a blanket, at least. As I lay motionless on the cool floor, I wondered about the boy again. He had said nothing the entire, gruelling day, but then, neither had I.
    I felt sort of a connection to him since we were both stuck in this god-forsaken prison with no food or water, and we were both away from our homes. I just wished I knew his name. I sighed and closed my eyes, letting all thoughts empty from my mind.
    “Who are you?”
    The question was barely audible in the silent expanse of our confinement, but I heard it. My eyes flew open, unsure if he had actually spoken, or if I was just imagining it. But I knew I had heard it.
    I supported myself on one elbow as I sat up. “I’m Elysia. What’s your name?”
    A long, deafening stretch of silence followed and then: “Yaron.”
     I looked over at the cell that Yaron was supposedly in, but I could not see anything. Then the boy came into the light. The only emotion displayed on his face was that of wariness and caution. It was like trying to read a stone.
    I came forward until my face was an inch from the steel bars that formed two of the walls of my cell. “What are you doing here?”
     Yaron watched me with suspicious and intelligent brown eyes. Then he answered my question: “I’m locked up here until I’m old enough to join the queen’s army.” He brushed a lock of gold hair from his face. His eyes were wary.
    He gazed at me guardedly. “Because I can fight. I can use a sword better than most people in this troop, but it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to beat them all, and I have. Of course, it’s only thanks to my extra training outside of here that I’ve been getting better. Gornhelm stopped my training here nearly a year ago, but now I can defeat all of the men here … Comundus, Phallax, Eston, Janek, Pyralus, and—”
    I stopped him, confused. “Who’s Pyralus? There’s no one in this troop named Pyralus.”
    Yaron frowned, his dark eyes narrowing and becoming surprisingly flinty. “Yes, there is. He has blue eyes, and he’s friends with that other boy, Veryan. He …” Yaron broke off when he realised that I had no idea whom he was talking about. “But … he was with them when they left.” I could see that the fact that I had never met this Pyralus before had unsettled the boy.
    I wondered who Pyralus was and why I had heard no mention of him from Veryan or any of the men in the troop. The boy seemed so sure he had been with them, and I felt that Veryan would have mentioned him at one time or another.
    When I looked back at Yaron, the boy was sitting again in the corner of his cell, half turned towards me. The moonlight shone on a knotted scar across his lower back. I opened my mouth to speak, but Yaron spoke first: “Do you know how I got here?” His voice was low and emotional, and it struck a chord of pity in my heart.
    “No. Tell me.”
    “I was captured. Right from my home. The troop, with Gornhelm at the head, came to my village to search for new recruits and demanded that I join. I had participated in the trials to qualify, and they all said I was the best they’d seen. But my parents didn’t want me to go, and I didn’t want to either. So Gornhelm pretended to honour our wishes and leave, but that night, they came back and attacked our home. Veryan set it on fire. Pyralus killed my mother and my father, and then they both dragged me out of the house. They left my parents to burn in the house, so there would be no evidence of what they had done. Gornhelm suspected that I would try to leave to avoid being recruited, so he took me then, when I was thirteen …
    “There was a training incident soon after they captured me that convinced Gornhelm that I was not as skilled nor as strong as he thought, so that’s why he keeps me here in the prison. And so I won’t try to leave … Every two months, a man from another troop comes for me and takes me to one of the army camps for two weeks of training, and then I come back here. As I said, if it weren’t for that extra training, I wouldn’t be getting any better. It’s been like this since I came, and so it will be until I’m old enough to become a soldier. This winter, my three years of training will be up, and I’ll be forced to join the army.”
    Yaron was then broodingly silent, and I took that to mean he would say no more on that topic.

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