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Chosen - Chapter 25

by fbtoast 

Posted: 19 September 2009
Word Count: 1149
Summary: transition too abrupt from the last chapter? Neve and Efa turning up a bit implausible?

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It took him three days to get within striking distance of the town of Passach, where he hoped to pick up a train to the north. From his vantage point on the nearby hillside, he could see the point where the road emerged from thick woods to begin the descent into Passach. High above him, a bird wheeled in the sky, too high to be identified – a kestrel perhaps? He slithered down the slope and found a path that would take him down through the woods to meet the road.

Rounding a bend, he came across four men cooking a rabbit on a stick over a fire and drinking brown ale from a bottle that they passed between them. They were all dressed the same, in a uniform of greenish-brownish cloth, with peaked caps, and shiny black boots. They didn’t look much older than him.

Hex tried to slip by unnoticed. He had seen too many of their kind not to recognise trouble when he saw it, but one of them spotted him and hailed him over.

‘What brings you to the Gamble, lad? You’re up to no good, I’ll be bound!’

At any rate, they seemed quite good-humoured. They turned out to be a local Terroir squad returning to their quarters in Passach and Hex found himself pressed into walking along with them, once they had finished their meal.

He was growing more uneasy, for they kept passing the bottle around as they walked and when that bottle was empty, another was produced, then another. By now the conversation had turned to boasts of former conquests and the girls of easy virtue that apparently awaited them in Passach.

‘Warblay there, his girl’s so old, she’s half-blind and lame,’ mocked one of the band, a short thick-necked fellow, whom they called Bulldog. ‘That’s the only way he’d get anyone to give him a tumble!’

The others roared with laughter. Warblay, who was rather tall and thin, with a prominent Adam’s apple and large protuberant ears, defended himself, ‘I like a woman of experience, that’s all! You gormless stooks don’t know what you’re missing.’

This was met with a round of drunken jeers. ‘Experience!’ repeated Bulldog. ‘I’ll have no near-death experiences, thank you! Give me a fresh young piece any time! The younger, the better.’

‘Too young to know any better, you mean,’ said another of the Terrori.

Bulldog nudged him, ‘Watch this. Let’s have some fun.’ He nodded at the path ahead of them. Hex looked ahead. Oh, no. In the dappled path ahead were two young girls. They were engrossed in picking roots from the mossy bank by the side of the path and only looked up at the sound of the men’s voices. When they did, their eyes widened, first with shock, then with recognition.

Hex, who was near the front of the squad with Bulldog, took a closer look and now he froze in earnest. He knew those girls – they were Neve and Efa, Anver’s younger sisters. What in the name of all the gods were they doing there, so far from Lisle? And where was the rest of their family? Where was Anver? He gave an infinitesimal shake of his head, urging them with his eyes not to show that they knew him.

‘Hullo, my pretties,’ said Bulldog, swaggering up to them. ‘You here alone? Don’t you know no decent girl goes out in the Gamble without her kin?’

‘Leave them alone,’ said Hex. ‘They’re only kids. Come on, they’re not worth your while. Let’s get down to Passach, find some real women.’

Bulldog shook off Hex’s restraining hand. ‘Keep out of this, milksop! I’m just having some fun. Come on, my lovely,’ he continued to Neve. ‘What about a little kiss, eh? A kiss for one of our fine soldiery? You know you like it, you Wilder tramps are all the same.’

He grabbed Neve and pulled her towards him. The other Terrori were laughing and urging him on. Efa had started to cry, hanging on to her sister’s skirts. Neve gave a shriek of terror at Bulldog’s touch and threw out her hands. Flame leapt from her fingertips and Bulldog jumped back. The air filled with the smell of singed hair. The Terrori roared with rage at Neve’s accidental magical display.

‘Little witch!’ shouted Bulldog. ‘You’d use your magic against the Terroir, would you?’ Something flashed in his hand – he had drawn his knife from his belt. ‘I’ll cut your pretty face for you.’

He lunged at Neve, who ducked, screaming. At the same time, Hex leapt on his back, tumbling him forward onto his face. ‘Run, Neve, Efa!’ he yelled. ‘Get out of here! Go!’

The girls were already pelting down the path. The other three Terrori fell on Hex hugger-mugger. He managed to wriggle out and scrambled up to face them, his fists raised.

Bulldog jumped to his feet. ‘So!’ he snarled. ‘You’re looking for a fight, are you? Come on then, you yellow dog. We drink with you, we call you friend – and this is how you repay us? Siding with Wilder trollops against your own kind?’ He spat on the ground. ‘Your sort make me sick!’

Hex took a step backwards, his eyes darting from one Terrori to another. They all had their knives in their hands now. Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed a branch lying by the side of the track. He dived for it and regained his feet, this time with his back to a large solid beech. The Terrori closed in on him, sweating, grinning at each other, close enough for him to smell the ale on their breath.

Hex brandished his makeshift club in front of him. The Terrori danced just out of reach, laughing, grunting, as they ducked to avoid the branch. ‘Oh, he’s a fine one!’ they called. ‘Don’t mean to go down easy, do he?’

Hex’s flailing branch succeeded in catching one of them with a glancing blow to his face. The trooper staggered back, bleeding.

‘You’re for it now, my lad!’ shouted the tallest of them. He had one of those faces which seemed to be crammed with features, bulging eyes, flaring brows and moustachios, jutting nose and chin. ‘You’d seek a fight with the Terroir, would you, my cock? By all the gods, you’ll hang for your work here today!’

His words were like a signal to his troop who all piled in on top of Hex. He, lashing about with his club, managed to topple one. Another tumbled over on top of him, but the third succeeded in landing a blow. Falling, Hex flung up his arm, which took the weight of a second blow. There were too many of them. He was going down. He saw a flash as a knife plunged towards him and the woods seemed to shudder.

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Comments by other Members

SJ Williamson at 07:26 on 20 September 2009  Report this post
WOW Nicole! I really didn't want this to stop ... where is the rest because I need to know what happens now!!

transition too abrupt from the last chapter?

- I would say definitely not for me ... but see what the others think. I know where he's going, and I don't feel I need to know about every step of his journey. This seems really good to me.

Neve and Efa turning up a bit implausible?

- not at all, it added a little something in the back of my mind "where is Anver? Is he going to turn up and save the day?", so I didn't mind it at all.

It took him three days to get within striking distance of the town of Passach,

- could you say "It took Hex three days..."?

The other three Terrori fell on Hex hugger-mugger.

- wasn't sure about "hugger-mugger". Although it's lovely, in this part of the action, it made me trip up for some reason ... not sure why (sorry, that's not very helpful)!

Absolutely brilliant as always, Nicole. I really can't wait for the next chapter.


fbtoast at 10:29 on 20 September 2009  Report this post

Ha ha! Anver is the bird high in the sky that he sees at the beginning of the chapter! More soon.


SJ Williamson at 11:14 on 20 September 2009  Report this post
I was hoping ... brilliant!!


StephB at 15:09 on 22 September 2009  Report this post

I didn't feel that it was an abrupt transition at all.

As for Neve and Efa; it seems like one of those "small world" moments that you have in real life - I felt as though it was meant to be, rather than it being implausible and it made me think of Anver again which can only be a good thing.

Thrilled with the Kestrel / Anver - even without you saying it, I knew there had to be some significance to the Kestrel - I miss Anver!!

I also stumbled a little on hugger-mugger - I love the phrase but it almost made me smile in an otherwise very serious part.

I do have to complain at how you've left us ; - if I had the book in front of me, its one of those that I'd be reading in bed, saying to myself "just one more chapter" and would be the cause of some rather late nights!!

Steph x

nezelette at 21:12 on 25 September 2009  Report this post
Hi Nicole,

I really loved that chapter, one of your best, I think.

I didn't mind the fast transition and pace: it's in keeping with the rest of the novel so far, so not a problem for me.

Regarding the girls: these unlikely things happen in so many novels, they kind of have to, or it'd be boring (like real life!)

He had one of those faces which seemed to be crammed with features, bulging eyes, flaring brows and moustachios, jutting nose and chin.

Brilliant sentence!

Great stuff

Nancy x

freynolds at 17:35 on 28 September 2009  Report this post
Hi Nicole,

A very action-packed and quick to read chapter. I really enjoyed this. I cannot comment on the transition from the previous chapter to this one as I am so behind on new work but I'm sure you will have had feedback from other member.

One little thing I noticed is that the gang is first mentioned as
and then as Terrori and then back to Terroir.

Most enjoyable and I do hope Anver comes to Hex' rescue.


fbtoast at 05:28 on 07 October 2009  Report this post
Hi Fabienne

Terroir is the name of organisation - like the Stasi. But an individual member or individual members of the organisation would be called Terrori.


Mand245 at 09:49 on 12 October 2009  Report this post
Hi Nicole

So sorry to be so late in looking at this. I thought it was a really good chapter and I certainly wouldn't have said that it was too abrupt a transition from the last chapter. I didn't have a problem with the two girls turning up - it wouldn't even have occured to me to question their appearance if you hadn't asked the question.

I just had two little niggles here.

Hex looked ahead. Oh, no. In the dappled path ahead were two young girls.

The "Oh, no." didn't seem to fit. For me it read like an aside one might use in a tale for very young children, but that's just my opinion.

Like some of the others I stumbled over "hugger-mugger". The term is obsolete in it's more customary meaning of "secrecy" and even more so in its meaning of "confusion" as I guess you intended it. Personally I think it's enough to say that they "fell on Hex." Again, just my opinion.

A great chapter, Nicole. As always I'm looking forward to the next one.


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