Back in November I introduced a portion of the prolog to the third fantasy novel of the Dukarian Legacy: The Dragon and the Lion. I said I had trouble making the scenes more vivid. Well, I have done a bit of a revision, but I’m not sure it is enough. Read the following and tell me what you think:
Death lingered over the land. Black withered leaves clung precariously to the twisted limbs of old trees. The ground, littered with decay, struggled to hold on to what little was left of the fading plant life. But it was a fight that would soon be lost. The war of man was over for a season, but the coming winter brought its own battle of death.
Prince Tristan Belanus of Trusca headed home with a feeling of uncertainty. He thought he was on the path to peace, but everything around him looked ugly and violent. A vast army of battle-worn and tired men followed in his wake. Blood and dirt stained their armor and weapons. Gloominess was borne on their faces. Although the soldiers were heading home, war would begin anew in the spring. It seemed the cycle of death would never end. When, Tristan wondered, would the promised peace come?
The cold gray sky brought a bitter wind and a biting chill to his bones. The leather of his gauntlets were stiff with the cold. If, for some reason, his horse decided to break from his slow plodding and bold, Tristan would not be able to grasp the reins to control him. But nothing could bring the horse’s head up from its melancholy saunter any more than it could the soldiers.
Tristan knew King Haban Dukar would not stop until all of Ungal was under his control. This ruler of Lower Ungal rode beside Tristan on a black Hunarian stallion. Even while the rest of the soldiers were dirty and tired, King Haban clothing was immaculate right down to his polished black leather boots, and he sat tall and proud in his saddle. The angular features of his face held a constant scowl. His dark brown hair and trimmed beard framed his face, emphasizing his sharp nose and the dangerous fervor burning in his eyes. Tristan was reminded of a bird of prey on a lethal hunt. But he was no bird. He was a beast, descendant of the ancient Duridian clan of the Dragon.
King Haban was a man to be feared and Tristan greatly feared him. The man was a tyrant with a cruel hand and an infinite greed for power. But fear was not the reason why Tristan had sworn allegiance to him. He was truly interested in the King’s two sons.
Prince Kamil and Lord Jofan not only had their father’s blood of the Dragon; but through their mother, they also carried the blood of the legendary King Mitas Renlo of the Lion clan. These two young men were the sons spoken of in the Prophecy of Peace.
The ancient land will heal
When the blood of Dragon and the blood of Lion freely combine.
Two sons will be born to continue the family line.
Their legacy will live on,
As these descendants of the Duridians grow into power.
The new blood will rule in peace and their kingdom will flower.
Useni, Tristan’s trusted companion, told him the Prophecy of Peace was invoked by the red moon and the eclipse of the sun several years ago. Even though Tristan believed Useni at the time, he was now finding it difficult to keep his faith in this Prophecy. It was hard to believe Prince Kamil and Lord Jofan were the ones it spoke of.
The brutality and bloodshed of the past several moons lingered in Tristan’s thoughts. He reluctantly recalled how he had watched with horror as the two sons ruthlessly slaughtered helpless peasants and even innocent children. Out of simple anger, the brawny Prince Kamil once beat one of his own men to death with his bare hands. The terrible grin he wore on his chubby face at the time made Tristan’s skin crawl.
Lord Jofan was worse. Although physically weaker than his brother, Lord Jofan was truly the stronger of the two. Men did not fear him for his brutality; they feared him for his absolute wickedness. Tristan felt a wave of nausea whenever he looked at him. The young man had the sharp facial features of his father, but his hair was red, his face pale and freckled, and his eyes were full of cunning. Those dark eyes held a deathly darkness even deeper than those of the King’s. Lord Jofan killed just as mercilessly as his elder brother, but he seemed to particularly enjoy torturing his victims before allowing them to die. Tristan shuddered at the memory of the young lord licking the sticky blood from his fingertips after he had butchered his last victim.
Tristan broke from his thoughts as a group of soldiers rode up from the rear. Nothing about their dirty traveling clothes identified them as soldiers or even men of the house of Dukar. But they had the hard, fierce faces of men who knew how to kill.
“My King!” one of the larger, more muscular men in the approaching group called.
Tristan gritted his teeth in revulsion towards this man who spoke. It was Gavin, the King’s most sadistic tool of war; the same man who had tortured and killed Tristan’s father, Prince Nolan Belanus. Horrible scars from fire warped Gavin’s face. One particular scar above his right eyebrow turned a deep red whenever the man was filled with blood-lust, which was much too often. No one deserved to die as much as this man did.
“Gavin,” the King replied. “Did you find him?”
“No, my King,” Gavin responded with a hint reluctance. “I even went into the city of Nagad, but I heard no news of him.”
King Haban’s face turned red with rage but it was Prince Kamil who spoke. “Perhaps if you hadn’t spent all my father’s money carousing at local taverns, you would’ve found out something useful,” he said contemptuously; the pointed nose, out of place on his round face and head, wrinkled into a snarl.. Tristan was actually pleased with the Prince’s tone this time. Perhaps when Prince Kamil took his father’s place, he would rid himself of this dangerous man.
Gavin’s lips curled in a sneer and his eyes glittered darkly. King Haban appeared not to notice but Prince Kamil did. He responded with a smirk, glad that his goading had an effect.
“You are supposed to be a great hunter, Gavin,” King Haban said bitterly. “Surely, if you were as good as you say you are, you would have found some trace or heard some word of him. I don’t pay you to fulfill your own selfish pleasures.”
“I swear, my King. I have spent the entire time looking,” Gavin replied roughly, trying hard to mask the ire from his voice.
“Then why haven’t you found him?” King Haban challenged with a growl, raising his voice as he continued, “Do you have any idea how important it is that you find him? He must be stopped.”
“I am quite aware of how crucial my task is, my King,” Gavin said with a nearly imperious tone. “I will find him. I swear it by my own blood; I will find the boy and I will kill him.”
Even though Tristan did not know whom Gavin and the King spoke of, he heard the conviction in Gavin’s words and it frightened him. Who was this ‘boy’ and why was it so important that he be killed?