In Preparation for NaNoWrimo: Part 1

As I said, I’ve been pushing myself to shake loose some mental cobwebs and start writing. I’ve come to like using Google Docs for one reason: I can access it anywhere. There’s even an app, letting me write – however awkwardly, using my phone.

One of the corporate sponsors of NaNoWriMo is Yarny, which I believe is still in beta. It’s very similar to GDocs, pushing the idea of writing to The Cloud. Except it gives you some interesting options – tags, color indexing sections for easy reference, etc.

Yet while I’d love to give it a shot, the fact that GDocs has an app really makes it unbeatable (there’s also the communal sharing thing, but that doesn’t matter in this context). I don’t know how viable an option that’d be for Yarny (it would be an interesting feat of programming), but I’ll keep an eye on them just in case.

Moving on, I decided that I’d post some of my writing here. That way it’s public and I can’t be tempted to use it for NaNoWriMo. Below the cut is the first 2,000 words of a short story I’ve been working on. Though it’s mostly been written in spare moments here and there, what’s kind of sad is that’s barely over a day’s work at NaNo pacing, but it’s taken me about two weeks to get this far. It’s fantasy, which is the genre that comes to me most naturally, and I hope to keep expanding it over the next couple of weeks. Maybe even finish it.

To that end I present what, for now, is titled: Over The Cliff.

 

Standing on the edge of the cliff, nothing but rain-slicked black rock between him and the vast oblivion of night, Rory grimaced as the ropes binding him strained against the force of the wind. His thin cotton shirt and wool pants, as soaked as they were, gave little protection from the bite of the rough cording bound in loops about his waist. His back to the cliff, Rory inched his way to the edge, judging his footing more by feel than anything else. The frequent lightning slashing through the sky above did more harm than good – the blinding brilliance studding his vision with spots while the deafening roar of thunder disorientated.
“Soon,” he thought. “The edge soon. Take it slowly.” He stepped back, letting another few inches of rope slide in his grip. His arms and legs were starting to scream from fighting against the gale winds; even the thick hide gloves were barely enough to keep his hands from being shredded by the rope. Another step. Then another. Then… his toe scuffed stone but his heel hung over emptiness. The edge.
Rory braced himself against the rope, lowering himself down until he was on his hands and knees. The cable, anchored by one of the few trees atop the bluff, pulled tight against Rory’s chest as his position shifted and he had to be careful not to catch his face on the rough fibers. Taking a deep breath, Rory began creeping backwards until he hung precipitously over the cliff from the waist down. His feet scrambled for purchase against the slick rock.

At the edge, the cliffs dropped at almost right angle. While the black stone clifftop was weathered smooth, the face of the cliff was nothing but sharp, jagged teeth, digging painfully into his legs. Rory could feel the fabric of his pants catching and tearing as the wind shifted him around.
Slipping a thick piece of leather under the rope, Rory eased himself farther over the edge, finally taking a deep breath before putting his weight fully on the rope and, using a knee for momentary leverage, standing on the cliffface. Now staring up at the sky, the winds from the sea below pressing forcefully against his back, Rory marveled at his own calm. Glancing back at the edge, he made sure the leather pad was firmly in place. Hopefully it would keep the rocks from slicing through his lifeline.
Gripping the rope tight, he took his first step backwards. Downwards. Finding a purchase proved interesting – the slickness of the wet stone vying against the multitude of tiny edges that dug for purchase in the thick soles of his shoes. He shifted his weight, taking another step and sliding a few more inches of rope around his waist.
Rory had purposefully picked this spot for two reasons. The first had been the ancient trunk serving as his anchor. The second was that this was one of the lower sections of cliff, only standing a few hundred feet above the beach and sea below. But he knew that that distance, covered in minutes if he had been strolling down the street, would take him almost an hour to cover here. Bracing against both the wind and rope, Rory began his slow decent.

There was really only one reason anyone would take the risks Rory now was. Money. Rare jewels scattered the black sands stretched between the cliffs and sea. Rory had once heard that the gems, formed when lightning struck the mineral-rich sea, floated in during violent storms. Though rare, their presence had once ensured that the surrounding villages and farms had flourished. But that time had ended nearly a hundred years ago, in the time of Rory’s parents’ parents. When the iron giants had woken.

***

The stories say that they’d always been there – hulking statues scattered for miles up and down the beach. No one knew how old they were or where they’d come from, but most believed them some long forgotten art piece from the time of the Mad Kings. Rory’s grandfather remembered climbing atop them as a lad, recalling the coolness of the dull metal shell despite spending the entire day in the baking summer sun. Each was distinctive and most of them had become beloved landmarks, from Horned Henry near Eastbrook, to Red Rover, who was buried to the waste in a farmer’s field, to Dorrin of the Black Coast, perched atop the cliff, glaring out at the sea.

And then a storm had blown in – the kind that only appears once in a hundred years. Torrential rains and roaring winds had destroyed houses and farmsteads for miles. The damage was so substantial that a week had passed before someone noticed the statues were gone. Iron men that had stood unmoved for decades were now missing, no trace left behind.

And then one night they had returned.

As often happened after a storm, thick fog rolled miles inland from the sea. Veilport, the largest community, had been named for it. Sitting at the southern end of the tapering cliffwall, the town sat atop the only road entering the region, serving as port, market, and center of government. While mostly fishermen, the population also had it’s fair share of merchants and tradesmen, but no one had really escaped the storm unscathed.

The road split as it exited the northern side of Veilport, circling the farms and villages that occupied the highlands. As they did every night, watchmen set along the highland roads with lanterns and whistles, moving as isolated glowing globes in the soupy mist between what remained of the storm-ravaged villages. And yet, with the fog dampening the sound and debris still covering some of the roads, no one had worried when the midnight knell was struck and no answering bell was heard from Farmhedge, the northernmost village.

A loud groaning had been the first warning, as the first pier began sloping into the water. Woodrow, the elderly harbormaster, roused by the unearthly sound of groaning wood, stood dockside in his nightgown, staring in disbelief as first one, and then a second platform was sucked into the black waters. The 20 floating platforms that composed each dock, buoyed  atop dozens of  airtight barrels, were moored to pylons sunk meters into the seabed. The design was perfect for Veilport, as the individual platforms could be brought inland to harbor them from rough storms. The quickly restored pair of wharves had proved invaluable to bring supplies and relief from the south after the storm.

A lantern had been hung on each platform to help guide any returning boat in through the fog. Now Woodrow looked on in astonishment as lantern after lantern was extinguished, sucked into the dark salt water. Even through the fog he could see that half the northernmost dock was already missing, and the glow marking the end of the southern one was rapidly shortening. The remaining platforms were now bobbing wildly in the churning splinter-littered waters, and the sounds of groaning wood, straining ropes, and rushing water were now almost deafening.

Standing at the foot of the first pier, Woodrow watched as a pylon ten feet from shore suddenly and violently shook before disappearing. The platforms tied to it fought against their mooring but quickly followed suit, plunging Woodrow in darkness. It took a moment for him to remember the lantern in his hand, and he groped about for the quickstart in the pocket of his gown. The fog behind him was now silver with light as windows across town signaled people woken by the ruckus. Striking the first spark, he started hearing shouting as people headed his way to investigate. As the lantern caught the spark and brightened, a whisper in the back of his mind remarked at being able to hear the shouting over the water-born tumult. It took a few seconds for the rest of him to catch up, realizing that, while he could still hear the violence to the immediate south, the area before him had gone remarkably silent. Raising the lantern, Woodrow inched forward, peering into the fog.

And bumped straight into a wall. Rubbing his nose, he looked up, and found himself staring straight into the burning blue eyes of Dorrin. Small wisps of fog swirled around the giant’s black plating and Woodrow could feel the cold seep through his nightshirt, despite the warm night. Gazing into those merciless eyes, a memory of his childhood came to him. Of a day when, as a young boy, he had accepted a dare to cover Dorrin of the Black Coast in chalk markings. Oh, how he and his friends had laughed at the crude nature of their graffiti. The echoes of that laughter were the last things Woodrow ever heard.

***
It was Rory’s great uncle Gerald had been the first to make it dockside, and he’d only ever related the full tale one time – on his deathbed. A young man from Knotwood, one of the small villages in the eastern highlands, he had dreamed of Veilport and traveling south since he was a small boy. Even at 16, he had been secure in his studies, spending every free hour at the heel of Friar Tull, listening to stories of his pilgrimage and eager to learn. Surrounded by forest and farmland, the youth of of Knotwood typically had better use for the time that an old preacher, so he had taken to Gerald, who had shown an aptitude for figures, and taught him some of the more advanced studies usually reserved for those of higher classes.

After his parents’ death from blacklung the winter before, Gerald had left home to clerk for one of the smaller trading companies doing business in Veilport. Gerald helped run their business out of a small warehouse a block in from the dock and, in exchange, received a salary and was allowed a small room in the back of the trading outpost. Like the rest of the town, he had been suddenly woken by the loud disturbance and made his way to the water. What he saw was unimaginable – like one of the fanciful tales Friar Tull liked to tell the youngest children.

Woodrow, the harbormaster, stood on the stone dockside. While he was a kind man, Woodrow was obviously starting to lose his wits, so others had started picking up duties as he forgot them. Gerald had seen him earlier in the evening, bringing him dinner and having a nice chat about how he reminded Woodrow of his grandchildren. Gerald had lost track of how many times they’d had the same conversation, but there was no harm it and it gave him time to look through the oddities the old man had gathered over the years.

And now there stood the old man – thin and bent in his sleeping gown, his long nightcap trailing down the front of his face, and a lantern held trembling in one hand – staring up into his doom. Before Gerald could even open his mouth, a thick arm swirled down from the fog. It seemed to barely touch Woodrow on it’s way down, but the old man collapsed, a mangled pile of flesh and bloody cloth where he once stood.

And Gerald did not move. He just stood there, his own lantern clattering faintly as he shook. The dark mass shifted. A detached part of his mind wondered at the darkness of it. While it stood out against the fog, he suspected it’d be invisible on a normal night. The dull metal hull wasn’t simply black – it seemed to absorb light. He followed the profile upwards. To a pair of burning blue eyes – it was as if he was staring right into the heart of a great forge. The eyes filled his vision. Filled his mind. The intensity of the gaze was unfathomable.

The sound of his lantern clattering to the ground brought him back. It was only then that Gerald realized he was screaming.

 

 

 

 

 

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