Writing: prologue to my book The Leader of Souls
Ok, guys here is the prologue to my 96,000 word novel The Leader of Souls. It isn’t fully edited. But read it and feel free to give me constructive criticism. Let me know if you want to read more.
The Leader of Souls by Scott Price Russell
15 years prior… A dark cloaked man moved briskly along the edge of the wall of the citadel. He had an uncanny ability to dart here and there, avoiding the bright moonlight that shone down on this inner part of Dunstan Castle. Dunstan Castle was the Kingdom of Aldhelm’s greatest tribute to architecture. Brilliantly white, the castle reflected the light of a full moon.
This shadowy figure was light yet strong. The black attire, turban wrapped helmet and mask that he wore would indicate that he was indeed a foreigner. But he would have to be identified first. Yet, he was too agile and stealthy to be discovered.
He glided almost effortlessly on the very edge of the tower wall. The night did not favor the guard below. For he knew not what hit him, but with one swift motion the masked raider jumped upon him and snapped the guard’s neck. The action was so quick that the guard himself voiced no sound. Yet a light crack from the snapping bone echoed against the walls of the castle. The raider quietly hid the corpse behind a wooden crate in its shadow.
He stopped, crouched and assessed his location. A frigid wind blew in over the forest-laden mountains watering the eyes of this man of stealth. His eyes were the only portions of his anatomy exposed. Focusing in, he spotted the Royal Crest of Aldhelm on the tallest cylindered tower. He knew that he had almost completed his first objective. He checked inside one of his two cloth pouches strapped over his shoulder. Then he pulled out a tiny jar of liquid and shook it. Everything was ready.
Inside the large cylinder tower, a young chestnut brown haired lady lay with two babies nestled under each of her arms. The bed was filled with fancy pillows and fine silk sheets, along with warm bear skinned covers. A fire whistled in the background providing warmth for the lady and her infants. The plush white stone walled room was adorned with royal plates of gold and purple rugs. The room was a glow with sweet murmurs and baby whispers. As she murmured sweet nothings into their ears, exhaustion dominated her demeanor. She could hardly raise her heavy eyelids, as lassitude had heavily set in.
The young mother was jostled and made alert. A middle-aged nanny was speaking through the door.
“Yes, come in Mardlynn.”
“Me was just thinking it was time for a bit of snoozin for ya. You’ve had a long day. And I will bathe them and bring ‘em back to ya in a few.”
“Yes, that would be nice Mardlynn,” sighed the young lady
Mardlynn reached down and gently picked up one of the babies cushioning him under her right arm and then carefully bending down she took the other infant up into her other arm. Anyone observing could discern that Mardlynn was a veteran of caring for the young.
“Ok my lady, sweet dreams to ya.” Mardlynn turned to walk out the door.
“Good night Mardlynn… Wait… You’ve always shown grace and kindness to me…” The young mother paused to search for the right words. “I mean considering… well…”
She would’ve never dreamed that a commoner like herself would be the mother of the prince’s sons. This moment in her life was both beautiful and bleak. She now had two healthy baby boys, but she knew the prince would never agree to marry a commoner, even if she was their mother.
“Oh my lady, there’s nothin’ more ya’ need to say. You’re a mother now and things are lookin up for ya.”
“Thank you,” sighed the sleepy lady.
“Get to dreamin. I’ll see ya with these two fine young fellas in the morn,” the nanny said as she calmly opened the wooden door to walk out.
Once Mardlynn was outside of the room and closed the door, she leaned her back and head up against the door with a disconcerted look on her face. Tears began to stream down her cheeks. “They promised me that you’d be taken care of,” she whispered to the to young infant boy twins. “Oh… ohh… by the Ancient Wisdom. Please forgive me,” she said looking up at the ceiling. The babies just lay unaware, sleeping in her arms.
Mardlynn then quickly scurried down the hallway trying to make as little noise as possible, which was impossible considering the echoes of her footsteps on the marble floors.
She navigated down two flights of stairs, with the two boys in hand, only to stop at a window that was level with one of the citadel’s walls. She leaned over and glanced down the stair well because she thought that she had heard someone. Indeed she had, two Aldhelmian Castle Guards were just one flight below her coming up her direction.
She looked outside on the wall and saw the shadowy figure just a few yards away dabbing a cloth into the jar of the liquid. He moved toward her as she managed to open the windowpane. The guards were almost on her. It was now or never.
She handed the first baby to the dark man. Just as the hand off was complete, the baby woke and let out an ear-piercing cry. The man quickly placed the cloth over the baby’s mouth and the infant instantly passed out. Now the pace of the footsteps of the guards quickened a bit.
The masked man slid the limp baby boy into the pouch strewn over his shoulder. Mardlynn then started to hand over the other boy. She loudly whispered, “There are guards upon us!” The guards had reached her location and were stunned for a moment not quite sure what to make of the scene before their eyes. But after one look at the man in black, they knew something was amiss.
“Stop!” yelled a guard. The second baby was startled and began to whimper somewhat loudly. The nanny had no time to hand the second infant off. Yet the masked man insisted. She did not follow through. And the other guard drew his sword. In a flash, the dark raider reached into his cloak, pulled out a straw, and blew a dart into the juggler of the guard with the drawn sword. The other guard swung the shield around that was strapped around his back to block any object hurled his direction.
The shadowy man glared at the woman for an instant and then hopped down one story onto another congruent wall with the one baby in his pouch. The guard rushed to the window, shoved the nanny to out of the way onto the marble floor, and screamed, “Intruder!” to the 4 guards on the wall above the black raider. He pointed and yelled again. The shadowy figure darted in and out of the moonlight, as several arrows were launched down towards him. It was almost as if the cloaked man could sense the timing and direction of each projectile. He dodged each arrow with timely agility, some missing him only by inches.
The guard, who first found him with the nanny, grabbed her by the hair and dragged her to the belfry, where he threw her into the corner and then began to ring the warning bell. “You worthless…!” But his rage hindered him from forming cohesive words. The ringing of the bell reverberated throughout the walls and halls of the castle. Guards were hustling to and fro to get into their lookout positions.
The dark figure ran across two guards hustling to their posts. In mid run, with his right hand he threw a shuriken and with his left hand he unsheathed a small dagger that gleamed in the moonlight. Before the first guard could react the shuriken penetrated his right eye. The second guard pulled his sword and swung wildly at the dark intruder. The black raider ducked, as he was running, and stuck the dagger under the guard’s chin. Continuing to sprint forward with the dagger slicing now into the neck, he made a deep yet precise incision from the chin down and through the jugular. Blood spewed out of the guard’s neck.
The intruder reached a corner where two castle walls conjoined. The walled corner was one of the only walls that did not over look the city of Dunstan, but rather rose above a deep river valley forest etched into the Aldhelmian Mountains. Guards were coming from behind in the path of the wall that he had already treaded and others were running toward him on the adjacent wall jetting out to the right in front of him. He jumped up on the edge of the wall corner and bent down to grab the rope ladder from which he had entered the inner part of the walls. The ladder was fastened between the side crenellations on the edges of the castle wall. With both hands he gripped the side ropes acting as flexible rails. He then slid down the rope with only his black leather gloves and leather boots shielding him from the intense friction.
When the guards reached the ladder, they looked down to see smoke smoldering from the makeshift rails of the hundred-foot ladder reaching down into darkness. The black intruder had slipped away unscathed into the darkness of the valley along with the infant twin.