keeping to my promise finally, i'm revising the early chapters of TLOW (while procrastinating on university LOL)
The Legend of Weinwyr: Fire and Ice
The seaside village of Farthia was generally a sleepy town. Not many ships came into the ports since the war between Cleddtân and Duriâ began. Cleddtân and Duriâ were two large empires in the east and west, and in the middle of the two warring states was the isthmus country of Goedwren. The small country was a key territory to either of the empires; Cleddtân's rocky, desert climate had little resources, and Goedwren provided a tactical advantage in battle for both of the rival countries. Battles frequently occurred between Duriân and Cleddtânian forces as they passed through the smaller country, but fights had lessened to some degree in recent years due to an uneasy armistice between Goedwren, Duriâ, and Cleddtân. If only for a while, the people of Goedwren could breathe easy.
Lying in the late afternoon sun, a boy of seventeen was resting quietly under a tree on a hill overlooking his family's wheat fields. He had silver hair, cool grey eyes, and bronzed skin. His name was Weinwyr.
"It's so nice today," he mused, stretching his arms and yawning as he sat up. Weinwyr figured his older, adoptive brother, Calren, was searching high and low for him; after all, it was his turn to chop firewood, and he opted to enjoy the pleasant midsummer afternoon. It wasn't often that Weinwyr could spend a moment to himself between his chores and helping his father with work.
A pair of hands clapped over Weinwyr's eyes and he yelped in surprise. "I found you, lazy-bones!" a girl's voice said jokingly. Weinwyr grabbed her hands and whipped around to glare at his attacker.
"Medren! You scared me!" he scolded, trying to look as stern as possible. He couldn't keep up the façade as Medren laughed. She had light brown hair and equally light brown eyes. She was younger than Weinwyr by two years, but she was determined to work as hard as her two older brothers, even if she was their father's precious daughter.
"What are you doing up here, Wei?" asked Medren, smiling innocently as she took a seat next to him, hugging her knees to her chest.
"Just enjoying the weather, and don't call me 'Wei'. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
Ignoring Weinwyr's complaint, Medren's expression changed from innocent to sly when she noted, "If I recall, you were supposed to chop firewood today, weren't you?" She poked Weinwyr's cheek and he swatted her hand away.
"Splitting wood is so boring. Calren is more suited for that. My poor hands are too delicate for such barbaric work," Weinwyr said, a pitiful look on his face while he rubbed his hands. Medren laughed again, so Weinwyr huffed and flopped on his back, a pout on his face.
"You're so dramatic, Wei." Pausing to take a deep breath of the crisp, somewhat salty air, Medren agreed, "The weather really is nice. I suppose I can't blame you for stopping to enjoy it." The stillness of the afternoon was interrupted by a shout emanating from the bottom of the hill, and Weinwyr sat bolt upright as a figure stormed up towards him at an alarmingly fast pace.
Weinwyr swore, "Damn, he found me," before scrambling to his feet. He glanced at Medren for some kind of support, but she simply shrugged and offered him a look that said, 'You're on your own.'
"Weinwyr! Don't you dare run from me!" thundered the figure, and a burly, scruffy man seemed to fly through the air before tackling Weinwyr to the ground. They wrestled, trampling the grass underfoot as Medren watched on, rolling her eyes.
As hard as Weinwyr tried to get away, he was eventually pinned down under his brother's weight, an arm wrenched behind his back. Slapping the ground as hard as he could, he cried out, "Uncle, uncle! I give!"
Calren was nineteen and already a skilled craftsman. He had long, light brown hair like his sister tied back in a messy bun, but he had his mother's green eyes. His worn shirt was embroidered with the symbol of Goedwren, a tree with long spindly, bare branches, across the back.
Normally, Calren wore a cheerful expression on his face, but upon finding and securing his lazy brother, his brows were knitted in annoyance. He released Weinwyr from his hold, pulled the smaller boy to his feet, and scolded, "What in Pren's name are you doing up here, Weinwyr?" Calren crossed his arms, glaring daggers at his brother.
"Can't I enjoy the afternoon without having my arm torn off?" Weinwyr grumbled. He gripped his poor aching shoulder, gingerly rotating it for emphasis. He figured he should be used to Calren's fighting style by now, but that hold was a new move. Weinwyr would have to keep that in mind next time.
"Cut it. You didn't chop the firewood like I asked you, Weinwyr," Calren retorted icily. He sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose. "If you can't do simple tasks like this, how do you expect to work in dad's shop next year?"
Weinwyr rolled his eyes and asked, "Maybe I don't want to work there. Did that ever cross your mind, or do you have too much wood shavings in your head?"
Calren started to advance on Weinwyr, ready to knock some sense into his brother, when Medren grabbed his ear in a vice-like grip. A smug look crossed Weinwyr's face briefly before his ear was clamped as well. "That's enough, you two," Medren snapped, glaring at both of the brazen brothers. "Clearly I can't let you solve your problems without someone getting punched."
Weinwyr opened his mouth to protest (after all, it was he who was attacked first), but quickly shut it again when Medren shot him a cold, almost motherly look. Weinwyr shivered. "You've had your break, so go get your chores done," she ordered. She wouldn't release Weinwyr until he grunted out some kind of positive response.
Weinwyr trudged back home with a sore shoulder and throbbing ear, leaving Medren and Calren to sort themselves out. Their home was a quaint, two floored house with a green roof. Attached to the side of their house was the woodshop. Their father, Creffen, was from a long line of famous wood carvers, renowned across Goedwren for their exquisite craftsmanship. At that moment, Weinwyr heard Creffen's knife scraping away at a log and a traditional tune being hummed as accompaniment.
Huffing in annoyance, Weinwyr let himself in through the gate separating their house from the wheat fields. A stack of thick logs and an old axe awaited him. Grumbling several choice words under his breath so his mother wouldn't hear, Weinwyr begrudgingly placed one of the pine logs on the chopping block, picked up the heavy axe, and swung down. With a satisfying crack, the log split.
He didn't like this sort of work. Being smaller in stature than the other boys in Farthia, Weinwyr tended to help with cleaning and cooking as a child. Occasionally, he would accompany his father to markets in surrounding villages and be content with counting money or drawing in customers.
Pausing after only his fourth log, Weinwyr gazed wistfully at the sky. As much as he loved his family and safety within Farthia, he didn't feel as if he belonged. It was no secret that he was adopted, but as he got older, the more estranged he felt.
A cough drew Weinwyr out of his thoughts. "It's strange you're chopping wood this late," his father noted. Creffen was a large, muscular man with thick, shaggy hair and and an even thicker, shaggier beard. It was always surprising to strangers when he spoke in a soft voice, as if expecting him to have the kind of voice that strikes fear into people.
"I wanted to enjoy the weather, so I just got started," Weinwyr explained briefly, setting up another log.
Noticing the grass stains on Weinwyr's clothes and the noticeable hesitation in his shoulder, Creffen guessed, "It seems your brother had something to say about you not doing what he asked." Weinwyr missed the log entirely, burying the axe in the chopping block. Creffen chuckled and said, "You should do what Calren tells you. We'll need all the firewood we can get before winter comes." He easily freed the axe after Weinwyr struggled with it.
"I can take a moment to myself," Weinwyr grumbled, "It's not like we have soldiers on our doorstep, waiting to jump down our throats."
"This is true. There haven't been any threats from either side lately," Creffen said, putting a hand to his bushy beard.
With another log split, Weinwyr said, "Calren doesn't think about stuff like that. All he cares about is the woodshop, and he has this stupid idea that I'm going to work under him." He scoffed and plowed through another log out of frustration. "As if."
Creffen gazed at his adopted son sympathetically. Taking the axe before Weinwyr could smash another log in half, he said, "When you turn eighteen, you can decide what you want to do." Creffen offered a smile under his mess of a beard. "Whether you work in the shop or choose to travel somewhere far away, I'll be proud of you."
Weinwyr stood rooted to the spot with his mouth hanging open dumbly. His father wasn't overly strict, but that was the last thing Weinwyr expected him to say. Chuckling, Creffen ruffled his son's hair. "Come to the meeting tonight, son. I hear we're receiving a messenger from Coedr today. Maybe you can ask him what working for Sir Ydren is like."
Excitement washed over Weinwyr, renewing his energy. "I better get this done first, then," he said, pointing a thumb at the slowly dwindling stack of logs. Creffen nodded and returned to the shop, humming another soothing tune as Weinwyr continued splitting wood until he was called in for dinner.
Later on that evening, Creffen, Calren, and Weinwyr made their way to the great hall of Farthia, Weinwyr and Calren setting aside their differences for the time being. The great hall was where the head of the village met with many of the most important people in Farthia and surrounding villages. A similar meeting was held in the capital, Coedr.
Weinwyr had seen the town hall many times from the outside, but he was never allowed in. The hall was bigger than most buildings of Farthia, with its tall pillars and thatched roof. The crest of Goedwren was emblazoned on the expertly crafted doors and on a gold plate at the top of the door frame. Creffen pushed the doors open and Weinwyr had to gasp in amazement. The interior was decorated with paintings and wood carvings of ancient battles, historical moments in Goedwren's time, and heroes from ages past. The pillars on the inside had the crest of Goedwren painted on them, and an even larger crest was worked into stone on the ground. At the end of the hall were a wooden chair. From a distance, the chair might have looked simple in design, but close up, Weinwyr could see hundreds, if not thousands, of intricate carvings. The chair was rumored to have been made by the ancient Goddess Pren herself.
After the stream of people filing into the great hall had stopped, two men shut the doors and Creffen put a hand up for silence. Immediately, the whole hall quieted. "Greetings, friends," Creffen began in a booming voice, raising both hands as a sign of welcome. "It is wonderful to see you all again after three months."
Weinwyr stood near Creffen as he spoke, observing the crowd. The air among the various leaders and merchants was amiable as they chatted amongst themselves quietly. He wondered if this was how people behaved in Coedr, as well.
Creffen continued, "For those three months, Cleddtân's and Duriâ's forces have not shown any sign of continuing this pointless war, thank the Gods. However, the threat of battle has not left Goedwren. We need to be prepared for—"
Creffen's speech was cut off when someone pounded on the doors rapidly. The two men who shut the door previously were given a nod from Creffen to open the doors once again. An unfamiliar, cloaked figure ran through the doors. Weinwyr tried to catch a glimpse of them, but he was too far away to see them clearly. The crowd parted to allow the stranger to approach Creffen, eyeing them suspiciously. "Are you the one they call Sir Creffen?" the figure asked breathlessly.
"I am. Are you the messenger we were told about?" Creffen asked.
The figure pulled back his hood, revealing his dog-like ears and sharp eyes. Weinwyr had heard about a race called cidyn before, but he had never met one in person before. Cidyn were half human, half dog-like creatures from the southern island of Gwasmellt. "I bring word from Coedr. The village of Goedwyd has been destroyed by Duriân soldiers!" the cidyn exclaimed. The crowd in the hall burst into rage.
"Why would they do this?"
"This is unbelievable!"
"Does the armistice mean nothing to them?"
Creffen raised his voice and thundered, "Silence!" The hall quieted. "Is this true, messenger?" he asked, attempting to keep his voice from rising any further, clenching his fists.
"Do you really think I would lie about something this serious, human?" the cidyn growled back, "This news comes from Sir Ydren himself."
"What has Ydren decided to do about this?"
The cidyn's ears flattened as he said, "Sir Ydren was told by a Duriân representative that the attack was justified. Goedwyd's leader allegedly harbored Cleddtânian bandits and had to be punished—"
"By destroying an entire village? What sort of flawed logic is that?" Calren suddenly burst out angrily, "If you ask me, we ought to make an army of our own and strike back against those Duriân bastards! They've treated us like dirt for long enough!" Some members of the crowd murmured thoughtfully, as if agreeing with Calren, but Creffen rumbled:
"That's enough, Calren. This is not up to us alone." Calren looked as if he were ready to argue, but one strict glare from his father silenced him. Turning his attention back to the cidyn, Creffen said, "Forgive my son for interrupting. Please tell us what Ydren has in mind."
"Sir Ydren suspects there is corruption within the Duriân army," the cidyn continued thoughtfully, "He proposes that a small diplomatic group lead by myself travel to the capital of Duriâ to speak with the king directly while he handles this incident. It would be a risky move, but seeing as Goedwren is alone in this struggle, it may be the only move we have."
The crowd muttered uncertainly amongst themselves, hesitant to volunteer for such a journey, and Weinwyr had a moment to let everything sink in. This was his chance. He could leave Farthia and see what the world had to offer. He had to try.
"I'll go," Weinwyr said, but he wasn't heard over the chatter. He raised his voice much like his father's and declared, "I'll go!" The great hall went silent once more, and tens of pairs of eyes locked onto him.
Calren said immediately, "No! Weinwyr, you can't go!"
"I'm not asking you for permission," Weinwyr said coolly, "I can handle myself. I'm going."
"You idiot! What if something happens to you? You can't fight an army!" Calren continued furiously, advancing towards Weinwyr. "If anyone should go, it should be me!" Calren shouted, though his eyes gave away how uncertain he was of his own words.
"You don't know the first thing about diplomacy!" Weinwyr snapped, "At least I know how to talk to people without pissing them off!"
Calren shot back, "Oh, so you think you're better than me?" He made a vain attempt to grab Weinwyr by the collar of his vest, but he was kept at bay by their father, Creffen placing a large hand on either boy's chest.
"Enough, both of you," Creffen ordered. He glared at his bickering sons. "Calren, you will remain here." Before the older of the brothers could argue, Creffen continued, "I'm depending on you to keep the shop running smoothly and to take care of your mother and sister. I must visit Ydren in the capital. This situation demands my attention."
Calren hung his head and muttered something in agreement, backing off. Satisfied, Creffen said to Weinwyr, "You should accept this task, Weinwyr. Use everything you have learned to represent Goedwren."
His heart swelling with pride, Weinwyr bowed his head and said, "I'll carry out this mission. I won't fail you, father."
The cidyn, patiently waiting for the family to sort out their conflict, asked, "Will no one else accompany this boy?" He and Creffen scanned the reluctant crowd, and no one stepped forward. Clicking his tongue, the cidyn murmured something in his native tongue before examining Weinwyr with his sharp golden eyes. "A party of two will be more covert, I suppose," he said, a hint of disdain in his words.
Weinwyr himself wasn't sure that only two people would be very effective in swaying the Duriân king, but it would be easier crossing the border with such a small party. "I will collect you at dawn tomorrow, boy," the cidyn said, "Prepare yourself well." Pulling his hood back over his head, the messenger departed from the great hall with a flourish of his cloak.