Here is a small section from a novel I’ve been working on for quite some time now. A novel that I hope, one day, I will see published. I’m looking for some feedback on this passage, so please tell me what you thought. Any comments would be much appreciated. Thanks.
“Anything else?” the plump woman asked from behind her wooden stall. Her round, red face was eager to make another sale. “Perhaps something for your wife back home,” she suggested, using a stubby finger to draw the man’s attention to a rack of elaborately designed headpieces.
“I’m not so sure,” the middle-aged trader replied as he quickly examined the hats, which looked far too lavish for any sort of practical use. He was soft spoken, however, and his voice was lost in all the noise that came from the bustling crowd behind him. The market of Camborne was always extremely busy, one of the largest trading hubs in the entire province of Keloria.
“Go ahead, they’re rather inexpensive,” the woman urged, either not hearing his response or just choosing to ignore it. “I made them myself,” she told him, picking a particularly gaudy one off its hanger. “It’s constructed from materials that come from right here, in Northern Keloria.” She pointed to a star-shaped, metal cut-out sewn onto the front of the hat. “That star is made from iron that comes from Camborne’s own Steelwood Mine.”
“Looks too nice to be simple iron,” the man said politely, even though he thought the hat was horrendous. “However, I think-”
“Oh, you’re too kind,” she said, dropping the hat on her counter. She wiped a bead of sweat off her exposed forehead. It was a hot day, the sun beating down on the town of Camborne. It hung high in the air above the mountains, which were not too far from the edge of town. The mountain range marked the end of the province Keloria, serving as a natural border with Keloria’s northern neighbours, the provinces of Avalon and Sombria, the latter being one of four provinces that make up the Talon Empire.
“Those are real eagle feathers, too,” the woman went on, stroking one with a chubby hand.
The trader looked at her with disbelief. “They look a little small to be eagle feathers,” the man told her, guessing that they probably came from a hawk.
The greedy smile faded from the rotund woman’s face, but only for a moment. “You’ve never seen a Kelorian eagle before, have you?” she said, making up a new species of bird. It would be impossible, though, for the trader to know that there was no such thing as a Kelorian eagle.
“Apparently not,” he said with discretion. “I really thank you, ma’am, but I think I’m fine just with the scarf.”
The woman took a breath and wiped more sweat off her face that continued to redden. “They’re very unique though,” she protested. “Quite popular here, I assure you. And if you bring this back to your wife, she’ll be the only woman in all Estoria to have one.” Estoria was the province east of Keloria. Most of the out-of-province merchants in Camborne came from Estoria. “Actually, she’ll be the only woman in all Demonria to have one – save for, well of course, Keloria. But that’ll just make her love it even more. I give you my guarantee both as a woman and a wife.”
The man took another look at the garish hat and cringed a little. “Oh all right,” he said with a sigh. “I hope she likes it.”
“Any woman will love it,” the seller said excitedly as her smile grew.
Before she could say anymore, a young boy came charging through the sea of people, pushing the trader aside as he dashed away. “Hey now,” shouted the trader, dropping his coin purse to the ground. “Watch where you’re going!” He barely finished his sentence when two more boys zoomed past, one using the fat lady’s merchandise stall to push himself into the air in hopes of overtaking the other two.
“Stupid boys,” the woman screeched as several scarves fell to the ground and the ugly hat fell off the counter and onto its buyer’s head.
The trader couldn’t rip the hat off his head faster, a disgusted look on his scruffy face. “Children! Where are there parents? They need some discipline!” Many similar comments followed the three boys as they tore through the rest of the merchants, exploding out of the throng of people that was the market place.
The three boys chased after each other all the way down the street, which changed from shops, storefronts and merchant stalls, to houses. The houses were mostly wooden, some of the oldest ones made out of large logs with leather roofs. This was, though, the oldest part of Camborne. Some of the first houses in all of northern Keloria stood here.
Camborne had begun, long ago, as a settlement of travelers and merchants from the South wishing to set up a trading post. While the trading post was successful for many generations, mostly because it attracted out-of-province attention, it only became a town after iron was discovered in abundance in the ground around the post, all the way into the mountains. As the Steelwood Mine grew so, too, did the village of Camborne into the town it is today.
The boys dashed past the old, wooden houses, running through Mrs. Crane’s garden as they did. She would be furious once she discovered the broken bean plants and trampled chives. The boys, however, fuelled by an unhealthy combination of immaturity and adrenaline, took no notice to the small, yet annoying, path of destruction they were leaving behind them.
As they were nearing the edge of town, and the final house on the lane was fast approaching, the blonde boy in the lead turned his head to see how close his pursuers were. A large, smug smile stretched across his face as he shouted, “Told you I’m the fastest!” While speed was on his side, perhaps agility was not because, at that moment, he stepped on a shovel lying in someone’s front garden. The shovel shot into the air, as did the boy’s feet. He landed hard on his back, the smile wiped off his face.
The last of the three boys had enough time to veer off in a different direction and slow down, but his friend was not that lucky. The brown haired boy who was closest behind the first saw what happened, but his legs were faster than his reaction. Just moments after the blonde boy had fallen his friend was tripping over his body. The brown haired boy fell and rolled a few times before landing face first into the next garden, breaking several stakes and even more plants. Immediately he was crying out in pain and clutching at his stomach.
The third boy who had avoided danger ran to the blonde boy first. “Are you okay, Jerome?” he asked, panting. His was shorter than his two friends, with a long face and dirty blonde hair. He crouched down to make sure Jerome was not hurt.
“I think the shovel got hurt more than me, Etienne,” Jerome replied in a squeaky voice as he brushed dirt off his face. He jumped up and pointed to their brown haired companion. “I hope Kyle’s okay!”
Kyle, still lying in the dirt, was crying. “Come on, Kyle,” Jerome urged, standing over him. “Don’t be such a baby.” But then Jerome’s eyes went wide as he noticed a tear in Kyle’s now bloodstained sleeve. “We need help,” Jerome said, horror stricken.
“After I’m done with you, you’ll need a lot of help!” The ugly, elderly woman who came out of the house was glaring at the boys who were standing – and lying – in her half-destroyed garden.
Jerome swallowed hard and heard Etienne gasp. He hadn’t realized it before, but he had now. They were at the last house on the lane – the house that belonged to Helga. To make it worse, they had just wrecked her garden.
“Stupid children,” Helga snapped, the loose skin on her neck shaking furiously. Her slender arms and frail hands were squeezing the air in front of her as she moved across her garden. “Helga told you not to play in the garden!” Her brown apron, as usual, was wrapped tightly around her lean body and her grey, wavy hair, was attempting to stay tied up behind her head.
Helga was the least liked member of the community, known for causing trouble and frightening children. Many called her crazy, others labelled her a witch, and there were those who were even afraid when they saw her walking about. She usually kept to her house and garden, but every so often Helga would cause a scene, screeching about darkness, evil, the Gods and the supernatural. No one believed her, and most of them wished she would just leave them all alone.
Helga, though, did not. She had lived in Camborne longer than anyone else, having outlived all of her peers. It had provided the other residents more than enough time to circulate rumours of necromancy and witchcraft, while also making Helga the monster in all the children’s nightmares. And, although Helga had never been caught doing any such of the claims, nor had she ever been arrested for anything other than disruption of peace, it was easier to keep the fires fuelled. After all, when anything unexpected happens, there will always be someone to blame.
“Kyle, get up,” Jerome begged, fear overtaking him. “She’s coming, Kyle!”
Etienne was already backing away though, a look of pure horror on his face. “This is all your fault,” he whispered quickly as he continued to back up.
“Don’t try and run away, you!” Helga snapped as she hobbled closer, her face growing angrier as she saw the extent of the damage the boys had caused. “You’ve ruined nearly-” but then she stopped in the middle of her sentence, noticing the blood on Kyle’s shirt and hearing his whimpering. “Oh my,” Helga said with a gasp, her sunken eyes opening wide with shock. “Just a moment,” she called, hurrying over until she was standing next to Jerome. They were nearly the same height.
Jerome was shaking now, not sure what to do. He looked back at Etienne, whose mutual expression was of no comfort. “We didn’t mean anything,” Jerome said quickly, turning back to face Helga.
She was, however, occupied. In one hand she was clutching a small flask. Her other hand was deep inside her apron pocket, digging for something. Jerome watched her in horror as she pulled out a small vile, probably poison, and added a drop to the flask. She crouched down and tried to get Kyle to sit up.
Kyle, though, started to scream and tried to crawl away. “She’s gonna kill me,” he shouted out, trying to escape. “Help! Jerome, help me!”
“What’s going on here?” a powerful voice asked, louder than the rest of the noise in the garden. “Helga, what are you doing?” His tone was strict and accusative. It belonged to a tall, extremely well-built man with blonde hair and sharp, blue eyes. His stern face was forming a frown at the scene. Another man, slightly smaller and with dark hair, was standing next to him.
“Drake,” Helga said, acknowledging the Camborne guard. “These boys are hurt.”
“She’s trying to poison Kyle,” Etienne shouted quickly, running over to Drake and the other man.
Drake looked down at the child, who was practically half his height. Drake was wearing dark trousers and a tight-fitting tunic. What distinguished him from the other citizens, though, was the sword belted at his waist. Drake is currently serving as Guard Deputy of Camborne, a position he’s held for about three years. “I’m sure it’s not what it looks like,” he said, carefully.
“I think it’s exactly what it looks like,” the dark haired man snapped. By this time, there were several Camborne dwellers that had made their way to the street to see what all the fuss was about.
“Captain,” Helga hissed, standing up straight to demonstrate her respect. “Cyrus, I only wanted to help these children.” Her voice was dry and raspy, and her eyes discounted any sincerity that was in her words.
“Drake, help the boy,” Cyrus ordered quickly, moving towards the garden. He turned to Jerome and held up a stern finger. “I told you boys many times not to play in other peoples’ gardens.”
“I know,” Jerome squeaked, not sure if he should be more afraid of Helga or the Camborne Guard Captain.
“Now go home,” he snapped. “Drake will make sure Kyle is fixed up at the doctor’s.” Cyrus pointed his thick finger at the other boy. “You too, Etienne. You’re old enough to be helping your dad. You three could be doing something useful for a change, not playing your stupid games.”
“That’s what I tried to tell them,” Helga croaked victoriously as Jerome and Etienne ran off and Kyle was lifted out of the dirt and vegetable plants by Drake.
“That’s enough, witch,” Cyrus snapped at Helga. “I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing at, but this town doesn’t like you much. This is not helping your case.”
“I’ve been here longer than any of you,” Helga snapped back, her frail voice cracking as she pushed its volume louder. “Call me a witch if you want, but you know, as well as I do, that there is no such thing as magic.”
Cyrus’ face distorted in rage. “I’ve warned you before, Helga,” he shot back, “to stay out of everyone’s business. Things would be a lot smoother if you just listened.”
“They were in my garden,” she shrieked, her pale face gaining some colour around the edges. She could feel her cheeks heat in anger. “I was minding my own business. They were messing up-”
“It wasn’t too long ago that our neighbours in Morkenia were executing people like you,” Cyrus interrupted her abhorrently. “I suggest you go back in your house and don’t come out for a while.”
“This is madness,” Helga said. “When I am no longer able to contain the darkness, I hope it consumes you first.”
Cyrus held his hand up for her to be silent. “Not another word, Helga.” His voice was strict, with a note of finality to it. “One more outburst like this and you’ll find yourself in the jailhouse. And as for your doomsday rubbish, keep it to yourself.” Cyrus left his threat hanging in the air as he turned around.
Drake was already gone, Kyle’s safety his priority. The people in the streets were still watching, though. They were smiling at Cyrus now, happy to see an angered Helga waddle back into her house, which was probably not much older than herself. Cyrus was right. No one in Camborne liked her.
The sun was beginning to set over Camborne, the signal to the end of the trading day. Most of the stalls and stores – except inns and restaurants – close as night comes, and the travelling merchants return to the roads or their rented rooms. The miners come back to town, but they are usually tired and quick to get to their homes. A few stick around for a drink or two in one of the inns, but Camborne evenings are usually calm and quiet.
On the west end of Camborne, next to Iron Road – which leads directly to the mines – are the stables of the city. A woman in a heavy, brown cloak and a tall man, dressed similarly, were paying the owner of the stables the very small fee it cost to leave their horses there.
The woman smiled to the stable owner, dropping the couple of coins into his outstretched hand. With that done, the two visitors started walking into town.
The woman had long dark hair and brown eyes. Her face, unlike most women, was not painted or coloured. Even her lips were bare of colouring. She had a kind, wise face with a strong jaw. She looked relatively young, yet her face was weathered which added not only age, but wisdom as well.
The man was thin, with equally thick skin, and had a determination in his eyes. His short, black hair barely reached his ears, and it matched the stubble on his from going several days without shaving.
There were still a few people on the streets, many of them heading home. The two people passed several venders closing up their stalls for the day, slipping their profits into bags, pouches or purses. Even from the center of the market, the tall mountains to the north of the village could be seen. They were very close to Camborne, yet not too many people went to them. With forests all over the place, and the mine in full operation, the woman assumed that most people were not interested in going to the mountains.
The woman nodded to two guards chatting with each other near the center of the market place, in front of a giant marble statue of Pius the Great, a former king of Keloria.
“Good evening,” one of the guards said, recognizing her face as the frequenting outsider to the town. He gave her companion a quizzical look, as he had not seen him around town before. His words were kind ones, but his voice carried a sceptical undertone and the woman couldn’t help but notice how his hand had moved to clutch the hilt of his sheathed sword.
“Beautiful night,” she said with a pleasant tone to her voice. There was no sense in being rude and confirming their pre-conceived opinions of her or her companion. “Too bad summer’s almost at an end.” There was yet to be an exact date set to be the ‘last day of summer’, but no one really needed one. When the air was beginning to get crisp and cold, and the leaves of trees and foliage began to change, summer was over. Life went on as usual, uninterrupted by the change in seasons. Really the only thing that changed was the clothing. Especially in northern areas of the province, like Camborne, where summer was short, autumn shorter and winter charged in like an army of crusaders. Warmer apparel was required, even indoors. The second guard just grunted, and both of them watched the two outsiders until they turned a corner after the market place.
The woman had made routine visits, every couple of weeks, for many years. She always came to Camborne, purchased several foodstuffs and supplies, and then disappeared until her next visit. There were rumours that circulated the town that she belonged to a religious cult, located somewhere in the forest. The rumours were mostly negative, and pinned her as an insane freak.
Her visit this time, though, was different. She had not purchased anything in the market, as she usually does and, this time, a man was with her. The woman could tell that the guards were exceptionally suspicious this evening, and she could only guess as to what they were thinking about her companion.
It wasn’t just the guards, though, that gave her suspicious looks. When she walked the streets, it was always the same. Those who lived in Cambourne and knew her as the ‘outsider’ stared at her as if they expected her to do something outrageous and evil. She often heard whispers as she passed by people, hearing the words ‘cult’ and ‘crazy’ the most. She tried her best to ignore them.
They passed a beautiful, stone church with ten magnificent stain glass windows lining the front – one for each of the ten major gods. Both the woman and the man put their hands together and bowed to the church, showing their respect. While it was their custom, it no doubt did not improve upon their public image.
Close to the church was their destination, an inn called Agatha’s House. It was a tall building, crafted from stone and wood, several storeys high. A large chimney top blew out smoke from the roof, and the sound of many cheerful people having a good time grew louder in the stillness of the evening.
The two front doors to the inn were open, two heavy stones keeping them from closing. A fire place, housing young flames, was at the back wall, opposite the doors. The woman smiled as she walked into a familiar environment. The man, however, had a more sober expression as he gazed about the room. The main floor of the inn was strictly a restaurant, with several tables and benches all over the place. And a full restaurant it was.
“Rosemary!” a woman’s voice called out. “Wayne!”Agatha, proprietor of the inn, saw the woman and man enter and recognized her instantly. She hurried out from behind her counter to take the heavy cloaks from the new arrivals. The finely crafted wood floor made no sound at all as Agatha strolled across it.
“Evening, Agatha,” Rosemary smiled. Underneath her brown cloak, she wore a simple pair of slacks – easiest when riding a horse – and a plane tunic. Wayne was dressed similarly.
Agatha had black hair with speckles of gray throughout, which was done up in a bun behind her head. Her face was wrinkled around the edges, but very joyous, with blue eyes that stood out. She was wearing a long brown skirt and a green blouse, both mostly covered up by a white apron. “Come have a seat and I’ll grab you some dinner,” Agatha said with a motherly voice.
Rosemary nodded. “Thanks.” She and Wayne sat down at a table against one of the walls – all of which were decorated with fancy candle holders, or beautiful paintings – and Agatha had already brought them two cups each; one of the cups held water, the other was filled with ale. “For flavour,” Agatha said, winking, before hurrying off. Rosemary went for the water first, her throat dry from the trip. She had, of course, packed a flask for water, but her mind had been elsewhere during her ride up, busy talking with Wayne, and she had forgotten all about it.
Rosemary liked eating her supper at Agatha’s House because nearly everyone in the inn was travellers and merchants from other cities and even other provinces. Most of them had not heard about these cult rumours, and if they had, it was extremely rare that they would’ve been able to point out Rosemary as the outsider. Here, at Agatha’s House, she was just like everyone else and didn’t have to try and ignore funny expressions, hushed whispers and even the odd confrontation.
Wayne was indifferent. He was glad to be there, but he was used to a quieter, more intimate atmosphere and not used to being around so many people. It was probably something he would have to learn to get used to.
Agatha returned, carrying two plates that more closely resembled small platters. There were generous helpings of baked potato slices and fresh beans, along with a slab of cooked veal. “You came right at supper time,” Agatha told them. “Everything’s still hot.”
Rosemary and Wayne accepted the platters with childish delight, and didn’t waste time to start digging in, relishing the taste. There was nothing like Agatha’s cooking. It was simply the best. “You work too hard, dear,” Rosemary said as she washed down potato with a gulp of ale.
Agatha checked around the room, making sure no one needed attending, before she sat down across from Rosemary and beside Wayne. “Let’s not waste any time around the edges, here,” Agatha said, rather directly. Her whole demeanor had changed. “It’s far too soon for you to have come back already for more supplies. Besides that, Wayne never comes with you. What’s going on? Has something happened?”
“We need to speak to Drake,” Wayne answered quickly. “It’s very important.”
“He should be here soon,” Rosemary said, scooping up some beans.
Agatha nodded, looking suddenly worried. “That’s right. He always comes here after his shift, which finished nearly fifteen minutes ago.”
As if some uncanny fate was to blame, the door to the inn opened and Drake, Guard Deputy of Camborne, entered. He smiled to Agatha, but when he noticed Wayne and Rosemary were with her, his smiled quickly faded.
“Rose. Wayne.” Drake looked as if he didn’t know what to say. “What an unexpected surprise.”
“As happy as I am to see you again, both of you,” Wayne said, setting down his fork. His face had become very serious. “There are very serious matters to which we must attend.”
Agatha’s face was paling by the second, and she was anticipating the worst of circumstances. “I hope everyone at the temple is safe.” Her voice nearly cracked from the worry that she was feeling.
“It’s about the Kar Krilia,” Rosemary said, her voice dropping to a whisper. “It’s been stolen.”
For the next few moments, Agatha and Drake felt as if the air was sucked out of the room and everything had gone silent. The expressions on their faces mirrored what they felt. “Who stole it?” Drake finally asked.
“It is as we feared,” Wayne said, keeping his voice to a hushed whisper as well. “The Kar Kheq located it and attacked Alistair’s camp.”
“What will happen now?” Agatha finally said, still trying to get over the shock.
“This happened a few weeks ago, but Alistair tried to trail them before returning to us.” Wayne looked a little uncomfortable, but he explained the details nonetheless. “When he lost their trail, he travelled to our temple to tell us what had happened.”
“So what does the Speaker plan to do now?” Drake asked desperately. “We still have not been able to locate the Kar Kheq.”
“Alistair left yesterday, to see if he can find any new leads,” Rosemary informed them. “As for the Speaker, she thinks there is someone who may know more about this. Someone who knows Isaiah.”
“The Speaker wants you to come with Rosemary and myself,” Wayne said, “to find this woman and bring her to see the Speaker.”
Drake looked skeptical, but he figured any chance was better than just blindly searching for the Kar Kheq. “Just who is this woman?”
Rosemary sighed. “You’re not going to like it, Drake. Not one bit.”
So, what did you think? Please let me know.
Thanks for reading!