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The Left-handed Sword (Excerpt)

This is an excerpt from my upcoming fantasy novel entitled "The Left-handed Sword".

This excerpt is a companion to my youtube video on how to make a diorama from the scene of a novel.

 

 

Here is the excerpt:

CHAPTER FOUR

The Testing

" The biggest challenger a man faces is himself "
The book of Varheit

They wound their way through the woods and the light brush turned to thick fauna. Their progress was taking them to lower ground. It was a slow and leisurely sloping down, and the further down they went the thicker the flora got. The gentle forest they had been walking through turned into a jungle and their progress slowed.

After a few hours Rimner, who was leading, stopped and announced that they had arrived. Storm looked around. They were standing in front of a stone entrance into the earth. Two slabs of granite lay on the ground about six feet apart and between them was a stone staircase that led down. It was tangled with a mass of vines and undergrowth but still passable.

Ty removed his pack, took some torches out, and striking some flint he lit the torches and handed one to each of them. They moved down the staircase and into the earth without a word.

They were in a tunnel that slowly graded downward and after a few steps they were through the vines and undergrowth and were walking on bare stone.

It was some kind of underground complex. The walls, ceiling, and floor were all stone and every ten paces was an iron holder on the wall - probably for torches. They crossed several intersecting corridors but they maintained their straight-ahead path and after only a short period of time they entered a large room where their torches cast only dim shadows a short distance into the darkness. The air felt different and the sounds of their footsteps hinted that the room was very large. Storm raised his torch and looked around. He couldn't make out the ceiling of the room. It might have been just out of reach of the torchlight or it might be considerably further off. He could make out the vague images of the walls of the room. Vague hints of vertical columns lined both the left and the right. It felt like he was in a church with marble columns along the right and left. And standing where the altar should be was a large object.

As they moved further into the room. Storm looked at the large object in the place of an altar. It was a large boulder and about the size of an elephant. It rested on a pedestal of granite about six feet across and a foot high. They walked over to it and Storm touched it. Its surface was pebbly and it looked as if someone took tens of thousands of pebbles and squeezed them together until they stuck, creating a large boulder in the rough shape of a human heart -sort of spherical but not quite. Rimner watched Storm inspecting it and explained a little to him. "This is called the testing stone, but it has many names. Because of its shape it is also called the heart of the mother. Many, many generations ago, possibly even before the time of man it was placed here in this very spot by sheets of ice that slowly moved across the world. It was a time of great coldness. In time the earth warmed and the coldness receded to only the far north and far south of the world. But the things they brought remained. This is one of them. It has remained perched on this very spot since that time, and this complex was built around it."

While he listened to Bherin's story Ty and Rimner busied themselves. They took off their packs and removed a dozen more torches and as each torch was lit Ty carried it to a section of the room and placed it in a torch holder against what were now clearly the walls of the room. As the room lit Storm gained a clear picture of it. It really was like a church. A dozen marble columns lined the walls to the left and the right and on each one of these now burned a torch. The columns climbed up to reveal a second level to the room and on the second level there were dark spaces between the columns that appeared to be alcoves or maybe open doorways.

After the torches had all been placed Ty and his father sat down together in front of the Testing stone. The orange torchlight cast flickering ghosts on them and on it. Rimner took hold of Storm's shoulder and led him ten paces back toward where they had entered the room."We will sit here." He motioned toward the ground and both he and Storm sat down and faced Ty and Bherin who sat cross-legged on the floor facing each other, their foreheads touching as they whispered back and forth. After a few minutes of this Bherin placed one hand on the back of Ty's neck and with an affectionate tone said "You are ready."

The two of them stood up and Bherin took several steps away from the Testing stone while Ty approached it and turning around he placed his back against it and with his legs started to push against it.

To Storm it seemed like an impossible task. The stone was very large and must weigh several tons, unless it was delicately balanced one man would never be able to move it. He looked at Rimner and Rimner, enjoying the role of guide, gave him an explanation. "There are two strengths that every man possesses. An internal strength and an external strength." Storm furrowed his brows not understanding what this meant so Rimner continued. "External strength comes from those around you. If you are born into a family and a community that is filled with love and a bond of the blood that is true then your strength is combined with the strength of others.

This strength is formidable and from it can be derived the determination to weather the many obstacles in a man's life. Internal strength is different than this. It flows out of a man. Only he knows the true depth of it. And the intensity of the first strength can fuel the fires of the second if a man is pure. The Stone tests the first strength. If the blood that runs through Ty is pure and those that he followed are pure of heart they will help him to accomplish this part of the testing." Rimner fell quiet and Bherin began to speak to the room in general."

" This here is my son. He has come to make the testing. I proclaim that I have taught him the ways of truth and strength to the best I am capable. He is at the moment just a boy but he wishes to take the steps necessary to become a man and we ask for your help."

Ty continued to strain against the massive stone. And it appeared to Storm that it was about the same as leaning your back up against an elephant's leg and trying to push it over. The elephant stone didn't budge in the least. It didn't even feel the push but Ty continued to push. His face turned red and beads of sweat rolled off his forehead, down his face and neck. His effort was substantial and his desire was earnest. But the stone did not relent in the least.

Tension increased in the room. Storm could feel it. Something was either going to happen or it wasn't. He looked at Rimner and saw the tension in his face. Bherin with his arms by his sides and his palms facing out was imploring something to happen and Ty continued to push against the stone as the atmosphere changed. A slight hint of cool air brushed against Storm's face. He looked at Rimner who was now smiling and looking up to the second floor of the room. Storm followed his gaze toward one of the black areas between the columns and something moved.

A man stepped forward out of the darkness then stepped off the ledge on the second floor and drifted down to their level. He was wearing a leather tunic and Storm started at the fact that he could see right through the man. He was a ghost and he shimmered as he moved. Storm watched transfixed as he walked over to Bherin and said in a hollow voice "Hello son." Bherin fought back tears and replied. "Hello father." It appeared to Storm that Bherin was fighting back the urge to clasp his arms around his father in a mighty bear hug of warmth.

The ghost looked over at Ty who struggled against the stone and he smiled. Then on feet that didn't really touch the ground yet still mimicked the fluid motion of walking it pressed its hands against the stone and began to push.

Bherin continued to look up toward the second floor of the room and a second ghost appeared in another dark alcove. This one too came down to their level, approached Bherin and spoke. "Greetings Grandson." Bherin replied to this one as well. "Greetings Grandfather. Thank you for coming." This ghost smiled at Ty and also approached the stone and began to push. This procession continued and more ghosts came out of the darkness -each one an earlier generation. Each one greeted Bherin and then pushed against the stone. After six generations of ghosts were pushing against the stone the weight in the room began to noticeably shift and the stone rolled forward a quarter revolution.

It revealed a small shaft in the ground about the size of a small doorway. Ty stopped his pushing against the stone and climbed down into the shaft. Bherin grabbed a torch from the wall and followed him down. Rimner clapped Storm on the back and grabbing two torches from the wall he gave one to Storm and climbed down in after Bherin. Storm, alone for a moment looked at the ghosts who continued to hold the stone away from the shaft then climbed in. . .