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Vale of Tears: Chapter One

edited November 2014 in SotA Stories
VERSION 1:

Sharon was exhausted. She had been running and hiding for two days and nights now - ever since those abominations had emerged and began terrorising the southern Vale. She was unarmed, and had not eaten since she fled her farm.

An hour ago she had sought shelter at her cousin Adam’s property, only to find his decapitated body in front of the smouldering remains of his house. Her last hope was a vague memory she retained from her childhood.
Somewhere in the nearby hills was a cave, and that cave was rumoured to lead to a vast underground network. Her sister had wanted to explore it then, but Sharon had been too timid. Perhaps now it could take her to safety.
It seemed like a reasonable plan, given that she had no other options. Sharon headed south, guided only by distant memories and a strong will to survive.

It took some searching, but eventually she recognised the oddly shaped rocky overhang that looked a bit like a nose, and squeezed into the small cave entrance hidden behind some shrubs.
Turning the first corner, Sharon was plunged into darkness and paused while her eyes adjusted. Moss covered parts of the tunnel walls, emitting a soft luminescence, and gradually she began to make out her surroundings. Navigation was difficult but not impossible. Cautiously she crept further into the cave.

After a few more turns the tunnel branched, and Sharon was faced with a choice. She had always been deliberate and methodical, a trait that her sister Rachel found annoying. She missed her sister, more so now than ever. Figuring that there would be many such choices, Sharon decided to always take the leftmost branch, and if that didn’t work out, track back and try the next.

The scratching of claws on rock made Sharon freeze in her tracks. Slowly inching forward, she saw that the tunnel opened up into a large cavern with several exits.

The source of the sound was a Kobold. It had apparently been prospecting, and was now loading iron ore samples onto a small cart. After a short while the creature tossed his pick on top of the samples and headed off into one of the exits, pushing the cart in front of him.

Sharon feared becoming lost in these endless tunnels even more than she feared the Kobold, so she decided to follow him at a discreet distance.
Maintaining that distance proved surprisingly easy, as the Kobold’s cart made quite a racket. Keeping track of his location was not difficult.
Well, for a while that is. Until there was a loud crashing sound, followed by deathly silence.

A couple of turns later and Sharon found what remained of the Kobold’s cart.
It lay in splinters, with rock samples scattered everywhere. All that remained of the Kobold were dark stains on the tunnel walls and a steady drip of blood falling from a large hole in the roof of the tunnel.

With her eyes fixed on the hole, Sharon crept past and continued on.

Sharon was starting to feel faint from hunger now, and thirst was a constant preoccupation.
The violent death of the Kobold had been unsettling, and she began to wonder if she had made the right choice in entering the cave system.

Her sister would have said “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and pressed on. Sharon was now forcing herself to be more like her sister simply to survive, and the strain was beginning to show.
In fact, it seemed she had begun to hallucinate. Sharon swore she could smell fried onions. Wasn’t that a stroke symptom? Or was that burnt toast?

Following her nose, she broke her rule and turned right at the next junction. A gentle upward slope took her through a couple of turns and then a blinding light marked an opening through which she could see blue sky.
Sharon forced herself not to run as she passed through the opening and found herself on a narrow ledge. Immediately below was a small cottage, from which the inviting smell of fried onions came.
Sharon half fell, half slid down the rocky slope to the base of the cliff.
Picking herself up she crept over to the window and peered inside. An old man was cooking a meal, and looked up as he noticed her at the window.
“Goodness me, you look exhausted. Please, come inside and rest.”

A few minutes later Sharon was recalling her harrowing experiences between mouthfuls of food as she eagerly devoured the shared meal.
The old man listened intently, and his brow furrowed as Sharon recounted the creatures that she had witnessed in the southern Vale, and the fate of her cousin.

“You have been lucky,” he said, “but I also detect a strength and resourcefulness that few possess. The kind of attributes that mark a good mage.
I am retired now, but in my day I made quite the name for myself.
I am happy to share that knowledge with you if you are interested. That is, unless you have somewhere better to go.”

Sharon nodded, and decided to stay.

The author hereby grants permission for Portalarium to use this work in any way they see fit without compensation.

Comments

  • edited November 2014
    You are being so productive lately.. keep it up!  It's going to take me a while to get through the two chapters... here's the first installment.
    She had been running and hiding for two days and nights now - ever since those abominations had emerged and began terrorising the southern Vale.
    First you need a dash here instead of a hyphen.  Plus, I'm not sure that a dash is the best punctuation since it usually marks a more dramatic element.  But it's not a hard and fast rule.  I think a comma would do.
    Somewhere in the nearby hills was a cave, and that cave was rumoured to lead to a vast underground network.
    Why not simply use a "that" after "cave" and take out the repetition?  "was a cave that was rumoured..."  Or is it a stylistic point?
    Her sister had wanted to explore it then, but Sharon had been too timid. Perhaps now it could take her to safety.
    The then you refer to is when?  At some point in their childhood?  The reference is too vague as to what point in time you mean.  I don't think you need it.
    Navigation was difficult but not impossible.
    Since she doesn't know where exactly she is, I'm wondering about the word choice.  What was difficult... movement? or actually planning a way forward?
    She missed her sister, more so now than ever. Figuring that there would be many such choices, Sharon decided to always take the leftmost branch, and if that didn’t work out, track back and try the next.
    The sound of the parallel between to take and track back... would it be better if you said to track back?
    Until there was a loud crashing sound, followed by deathly silence.
    Until is a subordinating conjunction which can't be detached from it's main clause which is the previous sentence.  It simply doesn't make sense as a subordinate clause to "followed by deathly silence."  I would reword the "followed" part into it's own sentence.
    A couple of turns later and Sharon found what remained of the Kobold’s cart.
    I think the and is a little cumbersome.  Really, the first part it a phrase modifying found. Maybe use a comma instead of the and?
    All that remained of the Kobold were dark stains on the tunnel walls and a steady drip of blood falling from a large hole in the roof of the tunnel.
    All that remained of the Kobold WAS. For all as a subject, the verb is singular or plural depending on what follows the "of".  It sounds odd though because the remains are listed as plural. Perhaps, "Nothing remained of the Kobold but dark stains..."
    With her eyes fixed on the hole, Sharon crept past and continued on.
    Although it's not a crime to end a sentence with a preposition, "is it necessary?" is the question to ask.
    In fact, it seemed she had begun to hallucinate. Sharon swore she could smell fried onions. Wasn’t that a stroke symptom? Or was that burnt toast?
    This is fine, but it would seem more stylistically appropriate to put the second question first because the Or is linked to the smell of onions.  Perhaps you are just wanting to show how muddled her mind had become!
    A gentle upward slope took her through a couple of turns and then a blinding light marked an opening through which she could see blue sky.
    If the light was blinding, how could she see blue sky?
    Picking herself up she crept over to the window and peered inside.
    A
    few minutes later Sharon was recalling her harrowing experiences
    between mouthfuls of food as she eagerly devoured the shared meal.

    Commas after up and later would be appropriate.
    Sharon nodded, and decided to stay.
    The mage asks "Unless you have somewhere better to go." Wouldn't she shake her head in the negative indicated that she didn't have somewhere better to go?

  • edited November 2014
    Thanks Vyrin, you really are good at picking up my mistakes. As usual, I've highlighted the changes.

    VERSION 2:

    Sharon was exhausted. She had been running and hiding for two days and nights now, ever since those abominations had emerged and began terrorising settlements along the Eylo River. She was unarmed, and had not eaten since she fled her farm.

    An hour ago she had sought shelter at her cousin Adam’s property, only to find his decapitated body in front of the smouldering remains of his house. Her last hope was a vague memory she retained from her childhood.
    Somewhere in the Spectral Peaks was a cave that was rumoured to lead to a vast underground network. Her sister had wanted to explore it, but Sharon had been too timid. Perhaps now it could take her to safety.
    It seemed like a reasonable plan, given that she had no other options. Sharon headed south, guided only by distant memories and a strong will to survive.

    It took some searching, but eventually she recognised the oddly shaped rocky overhang that looked a bit like a nose, and squeezed into the small cave entrance hidden behind some shrubs.
    Turning the first corner, Sharon was plunged into darkness and paused while her eyes adjusted. Moss covered parts of the tunnel walls, emitting a soft luminescence, and gradually she began to make out her surroundings. Finding her way was difficult but not impossible. Cautiously she crept further into the cave.

    After a few more turns the tunnel branched, and Sharon was faced with a choice. She had always been deliberate and methodical, a trait that her sister Rachel found annoying. She missed her sister, more so now than ever. Figuring that there would be many such choices, Sharon decided to always try the leftmost branch first.

    The scratching of claws on rock made Sharon freeze in her tracks. Slowly inching forward, she saw that the tunnel opened up into a large cavern with several exits.

    The source of the sound was a Kobold. It had apparently been prospecting, and was now loading iron ore samples onto a small cart. After a short while the creature tossed his pick on top of the samples and headed off into one of the exits, pushing the cart in front of him.

    Sharon feared becoming lost in these endless tunnels even more than she feared the Kobold, so she decided to follow him at a discreet distance.
    Maintaining that distance proved surprisingly easy, as the Kobold’s cart made quite a racket. Keeping track of his location was not difficult.
    Well, for a while that is, until there was a loud crashing sound followed by deathly silence.

    A couple of turns later Sharon found what remained of the Kobold’s cart.
    It lay in splinters, with rock samples scattered everywhere. Nothing remained of the Kobold but dark stains on the tunnel walls, and a steady drip of blood falling from a large hole above.

    With her eyes fixed on the hole, Sharon slowly crept past.

    Sharon was starting to feel faint from hunger now, and thirst was a constant preoccupation.
    The violent death of the Kobold had been unsettling, and she began to wonder if she had made the right choice in entering the cave system.

    Her sister would have said “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and pressed on. Sharon was now forcing herself to be more like her sister simply to survive, and the strain was beginning to show.
    In fact, it seemed she had begun to hallucinate. Sharon swore she could smell fried onions. Was that a stroke symptom? 

    Following her nose, she broke her rule and turned right at the next junction. A gentle upward slope took her through a couple of turns and then a blinding light marked an opening. Pausing until her eyes has adjusted, she recognised blue sky.
    Sharon forced herself not to run as she passed through the opening and found herself on a narrow ledge. Immediately below was a small cottage, from which the inviting smell of fried onions came.
    Sharon half fell, half slid down the rocky slope to the base of the cliff.
    Picking herself up, she crept over to the window and peered inside. An old man was cooking a meal, and looked up as he noticed her at the window.
    “Goodness me, you look exhausted. Please, come inside and rest.”

    A few minutes later, Sharon was recalling her harrowing experiences between mouthfuls of food as she eagerly devoured the shared meal.
    The old man listened intently, and his brow furrowed as Sharon recounted the creatures that she had witnessed in the southern Vale, and the fate of her cousin.

    “You have been lucky,” he said, “but I also detect a strength and resourcefulness that few possess. The kind of attributes that mark a good mage.
    I am retired now, but in my day I made quite the name for myself.
    I am happy to share that knowledge with you if you are interested. That is, unless you have somewhere better to go.”

    Sharon shook her head, and decided to stay.

    The author hereby grants permission for Portalarium to use this work in any way they see fit without compensation.

  • edited July 2015
    VERSION 3:

    Sharon was exhausted. She had been running and hiding for two days and nights now, ever since those abominations had appeared and began terrorising settlements along the Eylo River. She was unarmed, and had not eaten since she fled her farm.

    An hour ago she had sought shelter at her cousin Adam’s property, only to find his decapitated body in front of the smouldering remains of his house. Her last hope was a vague memory she retained from her childhood. Somewhere in the Spectral Peaks was a cave that was rumoured to lead to a vast underground network. Her sister had wanted to explore it, but Sharon had been too timid. She wished now that she had listened to her sister - perhaps it could take her to safety. Desperation drove her south, guided only by distant memories and a strong will to survive.

    It took some searching, but eventually she recognised the oddly shaped rocky overhang that looked a bit like a nose, and squeezed into a small cave entrance she rediscovered hidden behind some shrubs.

    Turning the first corner, Sharon was plunged into darkness and paused while her eyes adjusted. Moss covered parts of the tunnel walls, emitting a soft luminescence. Gradually she began to make out her surroundings. Finding her way through the winding cave was difficult, but not impossible, as she cautiously crept further into the darkness.

    After a few more turns the tunnel branched, and Sharon was faced with a choice. She had always been deliberate and methodical, a trait that her sister Rachel found exasperating. She missed her sister, more so now than ever. Figuring that there may be many such choices, Sharon decided to always try the leftmost branch first. Slowly she pressed on, always with her hand touching the cold stone wall, at times shuffling her feet forward when the absence of glowing moss plunged her into total darkness.

    The scratching of claws on rock made Sharon freeze in her tracks. Slowly inching forward, she stopped when she saw that the tunnel she was in opened up into a large, well lit cavern with several exits. 

    The source of both sound and light was a Kobold. It had apparently been prospecting, and was now loading iron ore samples onto a small cart. After a short while the creature tossed his pick on top of the samples, fixed his torch to the front of his cart and headed off into one of the exits, pushing the cart before him.

    Sharon feared becoming lost in these endless tunnels even more than she feared the Kobold, so she decided to follow him at a discreet distance. Maintaining that distance and keeping track of his location proved surprisingly easy, as the Kobold’s cart made quite a racket. Despite the weight of the ore in his wagon the Kobold kept up a brisk pace, and Sharon had to move quickly to keep up. Suddenly there was a loud crashing sound, followed by deathly silence.

    A couple of turns later Sharon found what remained of the Kobold’s cart.
    It lay in splinters, with rock samples scattered everywhere. All that remained of the Kobold were dark stains on the tunnel walls, and a steady drip of blood falling from a large hole above.

    With her eyes fixed on the hole, Sharon slowly crept past.

    She was starting to feel faint from hunger now, and thirst was a constant preoccupation. The violent death of the Kobold had been unsettling, and she began to wonder if she had made the right choice in entering the cave system. Her sister would have said “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and pressed on. Sharon was now forcing herself to be more like her sister simply to survive, and the strain was beginning to show. In fact, it seemed she had begun to hallucinate. Sharon swore she could smell fried onions. Wasn’t that a stroke symptom? 

    Following her nose, she broke her rule and turned right at the next junction. A gentle upward slope took her through a couple of turns and then a blinding light marked an opening. Sharon forced herself to stop until her eyes adjusted. As she waited she could hear faint but familiar forest sounds. Forcing herself through a narrow opening she found herself on a precipitous ledge. Immediately below was a small cottage, from which the inviting smell of fried onions came.

    Sharon half fell, half slid down the rocky slope to the base of the cliff. Picking herself up, she crept over to the window and peered inside. An old man was standing near the window, preparing a meal, and peered back at her. He smiled, and motioned for her to come inside. Greeting her at the front door, he said “Goodness me, you look starved and exhausted. Please, come inside for a meal and a rest.”

    A few minutes later, Sharon was recalling her harrowing experiences between mouthfuls of food as she eagerly devoured the shared meal. The old man listened intently, and his brow furrowed as Sharon recounted the creatures that she had witnessed and the fate of her cousin.

    The old man paused for a while, with a thoughtful expression on his face. Eventually he spoke. “Things are worse than I imagined. If we do nothing then I fear all will soon be lost. You have gone through a terrible ordeal, and yet you managed to keep your wits about you, resulting in your survival. I detect a strength and resourcefulness that few possess. The kind of attributes that mark a good mage. I am retired now, but in my day I made quite the name for myself. I am happy to share that knowledge with you if you are interested. That is, unless you have somewhere better to go.”

    Sharon shook her head, and decided to stay.

  • Wow, I already want to know more about Sharon's future.
  • edited August 2015
    nice story Womby!

    couple things though:
    Vyrin, I'm sorry I have to disagree with you on this particular line:

    In fact, it seemed she had begun to hallucinate. Sharon swore she could smell fried onions. Wasn’t that a stroke symptom? Or was that burnt toast? (from version 1)

    I like it that way, it actually makes more sense to me, and shows a hint of humor at the situation she finds herself in.  I don't like the revised line:

    Sharon swore she could smell fried onions. Wasn’t that a stroke symptom? (version 3)

    now she's just flat-out incorrect

    another good story you have going on, hope to hear more about Sharon's adventures in magery!  :)

  • Sadly, I took this story to re-purpose it for my back story. I shall have to create something new to replace it.
    The Vale of Tears project is currently on the back burner, but I intend to continue it some day. Chapter Two has been completed, and can be found here.

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