Narcissa's Julian: Chapter One (Back to the Beginning)

Fiction By Anna // 10/4/2010

Chapter One: Back to the Beginning

Julian shivered in the darkling downpour that had cemented his hair to his forehead for the past two days. His tunic, once blue and gold, cleaved to his knees in tatters. All he could wish for that night was a dry place to lie down. Likely to die, he thought, his long eyelashes swiping at the rain in his eyes. Every story ends with—
A patch of mud yanked his trudging feet out from under him. He landed on the side of his face. Strangely, his cheek lay on something coarse and only damp. Checkered cloth swept in front of him, followed by a pair of sandaled feet that were stuck with wet grass.
Julian leaped up and slipped into a kneeling position.
“Grab hold of my stave, lad,” croaked a thick brogue.
Julian groped out and found knobby wood in his hands. When the boy pulled himself to his feet, his face came within inches of another man’s, whose ancient eyes were nearly hidden under craggy, jutting brows and a forehead with wrinkles like a canyon.
Julian’s hands tightened on the head of the polished staff. Under the cliffs of the old man’s eyebrows, his shadowed orbs were pure white.
“Don’t stare,” he said.
“Pardon,” Julian said, taking a careful step back as he released the old one’s staff. “How did you—”
“Know ye’re a lad?” The crevices around the old man’s mouth deepened in a smile. He tapped his hoary head with a thick, curved finger. The veins in his freckled arm were bold blue. “Ye shiver, lad. I can hear it in the shiver.”
“I meant…” Blind. “—well, nothing,” Julian said.
“Do ye want to get out of this rain, lad?” the man asked softly.
“Yes,” Julian said. His candidacy surprised himself, but the old one simply nodded and hobbled away. Julian gasped the cold air and faltered on behind him.
*    *    *
“Sit yerself as ye see fit,” said the blind man in the green-and-yellow checkered robe. In the half-light of the hovel, he seemed just as old as he had in the rainfall, but less disturbing. He was erect and heavyset, but of Julian’s diminutive height. His wispy white beard clung to his chin, resisting the static pull of the frayed edge of his clean but worn clothing.
A fire burned in the center of the room that was part of his low-roofed shed. In the ceiling, a hole let out smoke while somehow obstructing the rain’s path. The old blind man moved with alacrity as he hastened in and out under the curtain of animal skins on the other end of the room. The first time he disappeared around it, he returned with a large copper pot, already full of stew. “Just needs to heat up,” the old one said.
After Julian had feasted, the man brought out a tunic and pants of brown and grey—the commoner’s garb in the land Julian had fled.
Its appearance startled Julian with memories of his distant land and past. How did it come to be here? “How did you—”
“Know these were from yer country?” The man tapped his head again, grinning almost toothlessly. “Ye have an accent. I knew straight-away.”
“That’s not what I…” Julian trailed off. “I thank you,” he said instead.
The blind man bowed, leaning heavily on his stave. “Ye’re a guest and stranger, lad,” he said, as though one could never give other than one’s best—as Julian peeled off the slimy robe, he wondered whether that was because he was a guest, stranger, or lad.
The third time, the old man didn’t return from behind the curtain. Julian, now clad in grey and brown, came to it and hesitated, a thousand cautions racing through his mind. Silently, he brushed the skins aside and slipped around.
Julian marveled to find himself no longer in the hovel. He didn’t realize where he now was until he noticed hollow tubes above his head—branches—and a tapering ceiling climbing far above, all of wood. The trunk was engraved with fantastical creatures interwoven in impossibly exquisite knots. I’m in some sort of hollow tree… carved with a deft hand. My father’s pillars never gloried like this.
Julian smiled.
A corridor ran down the right and left. A sconce lit the left, revealing the same wood as the tree and another skin curtain fluttering invitingly. A snore drifted toward Julian.
Julian removed the heavy torch from the sconce and held it up in the right passage, careful to keep the flame as far from him as possible. The light’s revelation surprised him again.
The right corridor continued in the same designs of knots, griffins, dragons, and other creatures, but was all of stone. His feet turned by themselves and carried him down it. From his bare feet to his aching knees, numbness spread up his pole-like legs, and he cast a wavering shadow in all directions. The passage smelled of faded incense.
Knots and creatures blurred together in Julian’s vision. First he thought he was only growing too weary to continue, and placed a hand on the wall to lean against it. But his fingers could trace the design no farther, for it had melted into smooth grey. Julian blinked and his eyes focused. Plain as a slab of rock could be, a door fitted between the knots, ruthlessly severing their strands.
Julian leaped back, his heart pounding with excitement. He dropped his torch on the floor and studied it: an unelaborated but real door, neither skin nor wood. He put both his small hands on it and thrust experimentally.
It swung inward as if he had hurled a storm against a sapling. On the ground, his torch began spinning in circles; the flame jumped straight up and extinguished in choking smoke. A force threw Julian against the wall; he coughed violently, groping for the way out.
He was seized by the shoulders.
“What have ye done?” came a harsh whisper.
“I only wanted to look inside,” Julian said softly, shaking.
The blind man clutched his arms and squeezed them. Julian cried out with pain as the strong fingers dug in. “Ye opened the door?!”
“I’m sorry,” Julian said, his clarion voice rising in alarm.
The man sank to his knees. Something glittered in his white eyes, but the darkness kept Julian from knowing what.
“My lord,” he said in a choked voice. He clasped Julian against him. “Praise to the Most High God that I should be alive to touch the hand of my lord!” He threw his arms in the air, and a light seemed to radiate from him. “Hail. Hail,” he gasped.
“I have so much to teach ye, lad!” he cried, squeezing Julian’s shoulders warmly. Julian’s mouth opened, and he ripped away backwards into the room. His foot hit a groove in the floor, and he tripped and fell on his tailbone. When he could breathe again, he leaned forward on his hands and felt, rather than read, chiseled in the floor: THE CHOSEN IS HERE.
In the doorway, the old one suddenly lurched forward, coughing blood. “What’s happening?” Julian cried, bolting forward and catching him; but he could barely support him. The boy looked down to see more blood, not his own, upon a spear protruding from the old man’s gut.
Never waiting to meet the spear-bearer or -bearers, Julian pushed away the dead man and bounded farther down the stone hall. A lone pursuer neared enough to spin him by the shoulders, but Julian’s terror tore him away while the adult stumbled. Eventually the tunnel burst out into dark rain, but Julian couldn’t stop. His momentum carried him into a thicket, where he cowered and tried not to sob.
He heard the crash of multiple voices and feet echoing through the tunnel. A voice called something like, “We’ll nab the whelp who opened the door! We’ll never forget his face, not by the blood Sark has spilled!
*    *    *


That was great. Another layer

That was great. Another layer added to the story....

-Erin (can't comment, but I really really really wanted to:-) and even though I might not seem like the first once this shows up, I was the first to comment!!)

Anonymous | Mon, 10/04/2010

I was almost the first to comment.

Didn't know what to say for a while.  For now, I'll just say that the blind man's death was disturbing.

James | Tue, 10/05/2010

"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

You're finally turning this

You're finally turning this into a story!  Will there be a way to read it after AP closes?

Bridget | Tue, 10/05/2010

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya


I must agree with James, it is slightly disturbing... but I'm excited to know the background and everything behind it all... you have some explaining to do! :) 

Kyleigh | Tue, 10/05/2010


I am aware that this is disturbing, although I don't know how much. Originally the old one died naturally, just keeled over. That didn't seem like good storytelling to me, so I decided to introduce Sark's minions early. As a villain, Sark is more shameless in his murders than anyone I've previously written, and I've tried to write that without being too graphic. If you have any suggestions to that end throughout the story, please let me know!

I don't have any more completed chapters to post, but when I've finished I plan to post it by chapter to the ApricotPie Outpost Mary set up. I hope you join, Bridget!

Anna | Tue, 10/05/2010

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

This was great. I was shocked

This was great. I was shocked at the blind man's death too. I commented anonymous first, but it hasn't shown up yet.......Excellent work.

E | Wed, 10/06/2010

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

Wow! This is a really cool

Wow! This is a really cool beginning. The old man's death was sudden and disturbing in the context of the story--it made me think, "Oh no! What's going on? Who is Sark? How will Julian learn what he needs to know?" But I think you handled the moment quite well, not too gory or freaky.

Heather | Fri, 10/08/2010

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"


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