What I’m working on…

I’ve got nothing I’m professionally working on in the moment, but in my spare time, I’ve started to write a sword and sorcery story. This is the rough-rough draft of what I wrote last night, though I’ve already changed a lot of stuff so that we don’t get to the action so fast, and I’ve changed the motivation of the character.

The concept of this is “Conan the Barbarian with Dinosaurs.”

The first sun, Rasia as the people of the North call it, the morning star, was lying low on the horizon, far across the vast, shapeless desert. The evening sun, Marta, hung high, beating down on the cracked, desiccated earth. Here and there, large rocks, the size of houses, dotted the landscape but promised no shade, no escape from the evening sun’s cruelty. All seemed lifeless, for what life could possibly survive under the scrutiny of the twin suns, godlike in their presence, demonic in their power?

Varstagh removed the last of the furs he wore as he left the shade of the mountains. He would no longer need them in this land. Though his skin knew the light of the twin suns well, in the North, in the Strahkan Mountains, the air was cool and moist. The heat surprised the Northerner. He had heard stories about the wasteland that lie south of his homeland, but he paid the stories no mind, did not head their warnings. After all, a wasteland is a wasteland, no matter which side of the mountains it was on, and the chill of the Otlant could kill even the strongest man as quickly as the desert’s arduous, unrelenting heat.

Still, as a blast of hot air made its way through the base of the mountainscape, a tremor of doubt echoed in the man’s soul. Perhaps, he thought, I should have stayed in the North.

The creeping doubt left as quickly as it came. Varstagh had grown tired of his life in the North and hoped to see the wonders that the south held. He ventured into the sun, wearing nothing but rags around his waist and his axe on his back. It would be a fresh start in a new, exotic land. He could make his own fortune, and not be tied to the destiny that his father before him, and his father before him had faced.

So lost in thought was Varstagh, contemplating what his future here might hold, that he failed to hear the creature that advanced on him from behind until it was almost too late. At the last moment, he heard one of its talon-like claws scrape the scorched ground, and he wheeled around to face it.

It was like nothing he had ever seen. In the North, he had hunted the mammoths, had fought off hordes of beastly, primitive men who seemed more ape than human, had seen evidence of the mountain giants who threw boulders at their enemies. Compared to those enemies, this thing was a demon. It was covered in scales, and its teeth were as sharp as razors. On each of its feet was a single claw, the size of his own fist. It stood about eight feet tall, and outweighed Varstagh by several hundred pounds. For the second time that day, the barbarian regretted coming South.

He reached back to pull his two-handed battle axe from his back, but the beast was on him, knocking him to the ground. Varstagh rolled as one of the beast’s feet hit the ground by him, its claw pointed downward. The Northerner stumbled to his feet and ran for the nearest rock.

As he ran, he looked back and realized that the creature was much faster than he was, and he would never make it to the rock. Glancing around, it became apparent that there was no refuge in this plain that could protect him. He would have to fight. He turned on one leg and changed direction, charging now towards the beast. He gritted his spittle-covered teeth as he braced himself for impact with this predator.

The lizard leapt into the air, hoping to drive a clawed foot into the man, but Varstagh turned his body, and the claw grazed his bare chest. His shoulder caught the creature in the stomach, and the two of them collapsed to the ground.

It took Varstagh several seconds to catch his breath and regain his bearings. He looked up, the sun nearly blinding him as he scanned around for the beast. It, too, was momentarily stunned and was trying to right itself. The Northerner pulled himself to his feet and took the great axe from his back. He raised it above his head and bounded towards the creature, pure animal fury now coursing through the barbarian’s veins.

Right as he was about to deliver his killing blow, he heard a voice call out “Tawkfa! Twakfa!” He glanced to his left to see a man riding a cart of some sort that was actually being pulled by more of these ferocious lizards. Varstagh looked back at his opponent, who also took notice of the strange rider, and seemed to have lost the fight in it. The lizard pushed itself to its feet and took three steps back, hissing.

The rider approached, guiding the lizards to a stop. He jumped off the cart and shouted something in a strange tongue that the Northerner had never heard before. “I don’t understand,” he said.

The rider, a slender, dark skinned man wearing loose-fitting, white robes, cracked a whip in the direction of Varstagh’s attacker, and the lizard bowed its head and stood still. The man continued to shout at Varstagh, who shrugged and tried to interject. “It attacked me! I was defending myself!”

The man regarded Varstagh for a moment, then laughed. “Ajnab!” he shouted. He looked the Northerner over for a moment, then said, in thickly accented Otlanter, “You are from the North, yes?”

And that’s all I wrote last night. Advice? Comments? All are welcome.

I guess I should add Copyright 2011 J. Robert Novak.

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