NaNoWriMo Snippet

Here are the first 1,000 words of my WIP.

Heavy snow swirled around Alor as he stood his watch. He wore a heavy woolen cloak over heavier steel plate, but the wind still chilled him to the bone.

You’d think that I’d be used to it after so long. The doors that he guarded were thirty feet tall, long planks of ghostwood banded with dark iron.  Around the doors, the mountain was roughly hewn away, as if a blind man had taken a chisel to it.

“You can hardy call it standing watch if you’re sitting on your ass, Jay.”

At the sound of his voice, a bundle of grey wool shifted in the snow opposite the door from him.  A young man slowly pushed his head out from under his cloak, revealing a pudgy face covered in a patchy red beard and framed by long hair of the same startling shade.  The heavy snow had collected in his hair, making it look like a flame being frozen over.

“You’re watching enough for the both of us,” replied Jay, brushing away the gathering snow.  “Besides, one watchman is more than enough.  The only visitors we ever see are snow, wind, and the occasional gnorr.”

“Even a single gnorr could easily overcome you if you were alone.”

“Ah, but I am not alone, and I can rest easy knowing that I have the mighty Alor standing guard.”

Alor clenched his teeth and turned back to the blizzard, ignoring the movement to his left as Jay settled back into the folds of his cloak.  Jay was the son of some portly Mordani nobleman, training with the Order at his father’s insistence.  He had, of course, done nothing to earn his position, other than irritating his father enough to be sent away.  He had arrived on a day much like this, heavy snow threatening to bury his servants as they hauled his chests up the icy stairs towards the ghostwood door.

Alor was alerted suddenly alerted by a flicker of movement, a blot of black in the monotonous swirl of gray and white.  A slight shadow began to emerge, only a shade darker than the gray that covered the slope of Magemont.  His right hand went to the worn leather hilt of his sword, his left beginning to glow softly.

“Halt,” he called.  “State your business.”

The shadow continued to move forward, and with its approach came clarity.  Taking the final step up the broad staircase and coming to a stop before Alor was a man wrapped in heavy furs and wreathed in frost.  His dark beard was encrusted with ice, and his gaunt face had an unhealthy grey pallor to it.

“I come seeking the Order.”  The man took a shaky step forward.  “I was told they could be found in the shadow of Magemont.”

“Not in the shadow of Magemont,” replied Alor, “but inside the mountain itself.  You have reached the White Doors of the Order.”

“Allow me to lead you inside.”  Jay rose slowly, offering his chubby hand to the messenger.  “Anything to get out of this damned cold.”

Alor cuffed the young man roughly about the head.  “You won’t be doing anything of the sort.”  He turned back to their visitor, hand still resting on the hilt of his sword.  “Why do you seek the Order?”

“I have a message for the Scribe.”  The courier rummaged around in his dark cloak, finally retrieving a crumpled letter, dirty and worn but sealed with a large blot of crimson wax.  Alor’s eyes widened at the sight of the seal.

“Jay, stay here and watch the doors,” he commanded.  “I’ll bring our guest inside.”

“Not fair,” Jay exclaimed as Alor led the messenger past him.  “Why should I have to stay out here while you get to go inside and rest?”

Alor gave him a mocking bow as the massive doors opened slowly behind him.  “On the bright side, Jay, I’ll be able to rest easy knowing that such a mighty warrior as you is standing guard.”

Alor and the messenger were kept waiting for only a few minutes before they were admitted into the Scribe’s rooms.  A young man, cloaked and clutching a gnarled staff whittled with swirling designs, exited.  As the young man motioned for them to enter, Alor saw that he also clutched a lute.           Alor ducked slightly as he made his way through the doorway, knocking on the stone walls to announce his presence.  The cloaked messenger followed just behind him, his hood now down, revealing a man of middle age, white streaks in his beard that Alor had assumed were icicles lending to his tired appearance.

The room they had just entered had a vaulted ceiling adorned with intricate scrollwork.  A large arched window covered the wall to their right from floor to ceiling, allowing a view of the gray sky.  Bookshelves lined the walls, but they didn’t hold the majority of the tomes in the room.  Books and scrolls were strewn all about the room, resting on the floor, on a small bed in the corner, and on the mantle of the hearth on the back wall.  Just in front of the hearth was a massive desk, every inch covered by loose papers, broken quills, and, of course, more books.

Seated at the desk, backlit by the fire smoldering in the hearth, an old, bespectacled man scratched away at a piece of paper with a long black feathered quill.  His white hair was thinning, and his robes hung loosely from his nearly skeletal limbs.  The only thing about him that still seemed alive was his eyes.  They remained bright and sharp, and they glanced shrewdly up at Alor as he entered.

“Who’s your friend?” he asked, looking immediately back down to his work.  “And why are you invading my quarters at this ungodly hour?”

“It’s well past sunrise Caern,” laughed Alor.  “Did you work through the night again?”

The Scribe set down his quill, straightening his spectacles and gazing out the window.  Scowling, he rolled up his scroll and set it aside.

“That’s the problem with these damned mountains.  There’s no change, nothing to break the monotony.  Nothing but gray skies and freezing cold day and night.  It’s liable to drive a man insane.”  He pushed his scroll to the side of his desk, adding to the piles.  “Who’s your friend, Alor?” he asked again.

“He brought a message for you,” explained Alor, stepping forward and handing him the letter.  “It bears the seal of King Agrathor.”

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