Author's Note: As was stated in the summary, this story is going to be focusing a lot on reviewer input. The first chapter was an idea I got from my boyfriend, and all other chapters will be ideas I get by you, the reviewer. To be clear, you tell me in a review (or a PM - whichever you prefer) what you want see in the story. And since this in fantasy, it can be as magical as you want. Do you want there to be a dragon attack? Fine. Do you want the main character to find a lost Faery civilization. Okay! As long as you're not trolling (no telling me you want the main character to go kill everyone she knows for absolutely no reason) then I will try and incorporate your idea into the story. Therefore, this story will not continue until I get at least one review.
Why I'm Doing This: Because I'm tired of reading stories on here where no one ever pays attention to their reviewers. I also write on FanFiction, and I always made sure to thank each and every person who reviewed my one really popular story. So this time around, I want the story to be ALL ABOUT the reviewers and what you guys want to see. Plus, I think it'll make the story unique and fun. ^_^
General Info: Obviously I might not use ALL the ideas you guys have, and if this story gets really popular, it might not be possible to do a lot of the ideas because I might have too many to choose from. Therefore, in each chapter, I'm forcing myself to only use three reviewer ideas. If I like more ideas than just those three, then I'll use them for the next chapter. Also, to be clear, this will be a chapter-by-chapter thing, so I kind of what chapter-based ideas, not whole-book-based. Unless it's a general thing, like you have an idea about what her main goal should be. Feel free to tell me whatever you want, and I'll try to make it work.
Okay, this Author's Note is huge. Without further ado, here's the first chapter:
As Told by the Reviewer
The chill spring air made Atia shiver that cloudy, grey morning. She was out tilling the field with the other servants of the Sigilis household, getting it ready to be used for new crops. She put a little more effort into digging the hoe into the soil, hoping that the labor would warm her up. She and the others carried on quiet conversations to keep from getting bored with the tedious work until around mid-morning, when they took a break for breakfast.
The Sigilis household was the wealthiest in the village. They were also known for being uncommonly kind to their servants, which mostly meant they didn't starve them or overwork them. It was still hard work, as was expected, but they were treated fairly. They always got at least two meals a day. And for a village like this one, that was a lot of food.
And so, Atia had no reason to complain as she sat off to the side of the field with her bread and cheese and flask of water that morning. Sure, growing up as a slave meant you couldn't live your own life, and you had to do hard work all the time, but she was used to it. The years of manual labor had taken the soft girlish features from her, and left her with tough, tan skin, calloused hands, a weathered face, and an amount of muscles equivalent to a man twice her age.
The only thing that marked her as pretty were her unusual blue-green eyes. In a village where most people had brown eyes, anything other than that was either seen as some sort of curse, or a mark that the gods were watching over you. Atia wondered which of these two options described her. As she finished the last bite of goat cheese and bread, she stood up, took a swig of water, and then decided to save the rest for when the sun was at its highest, and hottest. She wiped her hands off on her pants and went back to work.
This had been the way her life had progressed for years, and she was perfectly happy with it, having known nothing else. However, all things in life are bound to change, and this is where the real story begins.
That night, as Atia lay snuggled within the hay pile that was her bed, she marveled at the orbs of floating lights that wandered aimlessly throughout the village and beyond. People called them Spirit Orbs, and no one knew what they were. If one tried to touch them, one's hand simply went right through. The glowing spheres didn't seem to have any kind of purpose, beyond meandering any which way at any given time. People thought that if one passed through you, it meant you were blessed by the Gods. Some people even thought that these orbs were the spirits of the dead, coming back from the Beyond to wander the places they had been while alive.
No matter what they really were, Atia had always thought that they were quite beautiful. Their glow was golden, prettier than any flame. One of them had gone through the door of the barn, and Atia put her hand out to it, as if greeting an animal. As if alive, the orb began to float towards her, slowly. But right before it touched her outstretched hand, something happened that Atia had never seen before in her life – the glowing golden sphere turned a shade of crimson red, stopped moving for a moment, and then shot up into the air and disappeared through the roof of the barn, as if fleeing from something.
Suddenly, a chill went up Atia's spine. The Spirit Orb's behavior had put her on edge, and she stood up, wiping the hay from her clothes. Something wasn't right. She grabbed her one prized possession – an old hatchet she had found in the back of the barn a few years ago. It had been rusted and useless-looking when she had first come across it, but that night, she had worked on restoring it, using the same rubbing cream for rust removal that she used on all the other tools around the Sigilis Manor. Ever since then, she had kept the hatchet with her. And now she thought that it was a good thing she had, for suddenly the alarm bells throughout her village began ringing.
Quickly, she exited the barn and looked around to see what was happening. There were village guards everywhere, handing out weapons and light armor to everyone they came across. Atia sprinted over to the nearest guard, and as he shoved some leather armor into her arms, she said, "What's going on?"
"Raiders," the guard replied. "They're coming for the village. We saw them on the horizon a few minutes ago. They'll be here within ten minutes. Put the armor on. Have you a weapon?"
Atia held up the hatchet, and the guard nodded and went on to the next person. Running quickly back to the barn, she fumbled with the straps of the armor, praying to the Gods she was putting it all on right. She'd never worn armor before, and she had never fought off a raid before. Her heart pounded in anticipation, and already a cold sweat was building at her hairline, trickling down her face.
She heard footsteps approaching the entrance to the barn and spun around, clutching the handle of her hatchet so hard that it turned her knuckles white. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that it was only Servius, one of the slaves who worked with her on the Manor. Over the years, she had come to think of him as a father, seeing that he was about forty years old. That was pretty old where she came from. You were lucky if you lived that long.
He smiled at her without saying anything, and then came over to her and started redoing the straps on her armor. She let out a bark of nervous laughter. "Sorry. Never put on armor before."
"Are you okay, girl?" That's what he had always affectionately called her. Just Girl.
"I…" She paused. "I'm scared."
"Me too," he said, though his voice was calm and his hands did not shake like hers did.
She gave another nervous laugh. "But you can't be scared. You're older than me. More experienced."
"Damn right I can be scared," he replied, looking her in the eye and resting his hands on her shoulders. "Fear is what keeps us alive. Just remember that there's a difference between fear and panic. Fear is healthy. Panic can get you killed. I would be worried for my sanity if I wasn't scared."
Atia opened her mouth to respond, and suddenly came the roaring of a hundred men charging toward her village. She felt tears sting her eyes. Servius squeezed her shoulders and then they left the barn together to face the hell on the outside.
Everywhere, there was chaos. She could hardly tell the raiders from the members of her own village. One of the buildings had somehow caught fire, and the flames were now spreading to the rest of the buildings. She stuck as closely as she could to Servius as they made their way to the fight. Suddenly, an arrow whizzed past Atia's right ear, and she bit her tongue to keep from squeaking in fear. She looked around, wide-eyed, for the person with the bow, and found him a moment later, nocking another arrow and aiming it right at her.
And then Servius had left her side and was slicing his sword across the man's throat. The bowman opened and closed his mouth like a fish as blood gushed from the wound, and then crumped to the ground. Atia gagged at the sight. She had never seen anyone die before. She looked up at Servius, who gave her a tight smile – and suddenly had a sword sticking out of his stomach. His mouth opened, and he tried to make sound, but across the space, Atia heard nothing. It took what seemed like hours for her brain to realize what had happened, and when it finally registered, she screamed. And kept screaming, as she watched the closest person she had to a father jerk as the sword was ripped from his stomach and then fall to his knees. He took one last look at her, barely holding himself up with shaking arms, and kept repeating the same silent word over and over again. Finally, she understood him. Run.
Without thinking, she turned and sprinted back to the only place she could think of – the barn. There was a hayloft up above with a ladder leading up to it that could be pulled up with her once she was safe. When she finally reached the barn, however, she skidded to a halt in horror. The raiders had finally gotten around to the Manor. Or, at least, the barn. One of them – a blonde-haired woman with a scar across her face – turned at the sound, and then grinned and began walking toward her.
Atia spun and began running again, panic welling in her chest when she heard the group chasing after her. Hide, she thought. I have to hide. But where?
She ran in zigzags and in random directions, hoping to confuse her pursuers. She only managed to confuse herself, for it was dark and she was disoriented from panic. She realized with dread that she didn't know where she was, and there was no time to stop to reorient herself. And so she just kept running. She ran until her legs and lungs burned. She ran until she realized that she could no longer hear the sounds of screaming. She ran until the smoke from the burning village no longer caused her to cough and hack. She ran until she heard only her own footsteps. She ran until she could run no more, until she became hopelessly lost in the forest.
And there she collapsed. She crawled forward, to the base of a massive and ancient oak tree, with big protruding roots. She clawed her way beneath the roots, using them as a sort of shelter from the rest of the world. She lay her face in the soil, breathed in the untainted earth, tried desperately to ignore the screaming that echoed in her mind, and fell into a restless sleep, full of fire and shadowy figures that constantly chased her, and the voiceless whispering of the word, Run.