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Adventure Fantasy Fiction

The sun was scorching as Luthar set foot on dry land. Five days he had been aboard the ship, and two of them were spent vomiting. The captain had set a fast course, and the winds had been kind, but the summer waves seemed intent on rocking Luthar’s guts overboard. Even the limestone dockside seemed to sway under his weight. The only joy he could take from coming ashore was the gentle breeze that licked his face.

Men rushed this way and that, with tightly packed wagons of goods ready for shipping. Customs officials checked paperwork from captains before barking their orders in some strange, harsh language. On the larger piers wooden cranes lifted large and heavy cargo onto dry land, ready for the next leg of its journey. Warehouses with vast wooden doors lined the perimeter of the docks, a constant stream of wagons and carts emerging. A few men-at-arms here and there watched business commence with steely expressions.

‘Come Luthar, you will settle quicker than you believe.’ Lady Akindra ushered him along and into the city proper.

As they passed the enormous warehouses that held everything from cotton and silk to timber and gold, the sheer size of the city began to feel intimidating. Each side of the narrow street there were buildings of five and six stories, casting the two of them into shadow. Luthar followed Lady Akindra closely, afraid that if he lost her, he may never find himself again. The streets criss-crossed at perfect right angles, at the meeting points they opened into small squares where dark-skinned men wearing white linens congregated to flaunt their wares.

Lady Akindra strode on, turning right, then left, then right again. They passed yet more merchants, battling with their neighbour to declare their own wares the greatest. Whorehouses, inns, and dream dens lined the thoroughfares, contributing to the din that assaulted their ears. After another sharp turn, the buildings fell away and Lady Akindra led them into a great square, far larger than any Luthar had seen in a three kingdoms city.

A park sat in the middle of the expanse, strange trees, bushes, and hedgerows lined gravel pathways. Every few yards a bench supported some well-dressed man or woman enjoying the morning sun. Its centrepiece was a large fountain, in the shape of a mermaid, standing at least twenty feet high and spraying water into a clear pool. Lady Akindra paused for a moment to speak to Luthar.

‘This is called Park Square. Over on the north side are the government buildings.’ She pointed to a plain, rectangular building five stories high that stretched along the whole side of the square. ‘On the south side, the temples of sun and moon.’ She pointed again, this time to two totally different buildings that gave the appearance of being stuck together.

On the left, a golden coloured temple, sloping on three sides and at least double the height of the government building. Fires burned in huge baskets to its front and lanterns swung in the breeze at its door. It seemed the very personification of light. Joined to its straight wall was another temple, exactly the same, yet opposite. It had the same three sloping walls, and looked to be identical in height, to the inch. But it was built from stone as black as night, polished to a fierce shine. No fire baskets or lanterns burned, giving it a sinister and unwelcoming appearance.

‘We will find L’Beira in the temple of the sun.’ She finished, before heading off straight across the square.

They approached the golden building, weaving between hundreds of people going about their daily business. Two men in simple white linen gowns and sandals hailed them as they approached the door.

‘Good day to you both! Would you care to make a donation to the giver of life?’ He rattled a small wooden cup at them, implying it wasn’t optional.

‘Of course sir, thank you for your service.’ Lady Akindra dropped a couple of coppers into his cup and beamed her best smile at him. His partner pulled open the wooden door and beckoned them inside with a bow. Luthar couldn’t help but notice the cudgel hung at his waist. Despite his baggy attire, his muscular frame was evident.

The door led them straight into a vast, dark hall. It was cooler in here, soothing Luthar’s delicate stomach. In the centre was a large pool, sunk into the floor some ten feet deep. Directly above, Luthar saw there was no roof, a square of blue sky was visible where the sloped walls ended. Arches ran along the back wall, casting the rear of the room into shadow. Another robed man stepped out of the darkness and approached them.

‘All that lives welcomes you to the temple of the sun. I am L’Beira, child of life.’ He was tall, towering above Luthar and Lady Akindra, but not intimidating. He had an easy manner about him, and a welcoming smile stuck firmly to his face.

‘I am Lady Akindra of the Mage’s Guild. This is Luthar Shoresmith, member of the Warrior’s Guild.’

‘A pleasure to make your acquaintance my lady.’ He bowed smoothly to her, showing the top of his shaven head, before turning to Luthar. ‘And you’re Luthar are you? You still bear your family’s name. Some would call that fortunate.’

‘What do you mean?’ The strange introduction had Luthar baffled.

‘Some boys join the guild without even knowing their father’s name, the guild is the only family they have. Your family name is Shoresmith, meaning you know your family. Do you still visit them?’

‘No. I’ve never seen or heard from them since I joined the guild. The men of the guild are my family now.’

‘So why bear their name? There is still some love there I think.’

‘It’s something I’ve always done. Is this part of my training?’ The line of questioning was making Luthar uncomfortable. The less he had to speak about his family, the happier he would be.

‘Ah yes, your training. Follow me.’

L’Beira led them through a door that was almost invisible in the shadows behind the arches, and into a small room where two more robed men were praying to a stained-glass window depicting the sun. They waited silently at the back of the room for them to finish and rise from their simple wooden benches.

‘Acolyte A’Mad, please escort the lady to our guest rooms, she will be staying with us for some time. Make sure she is comfortable and has everything she needs.’

‘Of course, Master.’ He bowed to L’Beira before approaching Lady Akindra. ‘My lady, please follow me.’

Luthar and L’Beira followed them from the room before turning left and exiting the building through a rear door. Outside, a square had been built from hastily erected fences, almost identical to the one at the guild. Luthar’s face must have shown his confusion as to why a temple would need a sparring square.

‘We train our men fiercely in all manners of combat. We must defend our temple, and our faith, rigorously in times of war. In this world the strong take from the weak, and we cannot be weak in the eyes of life and death.’ He approached the gate and removed his gown, leaving just loose linen trousers underneath. Luthar could see the man was pure muscle, he hoped that would slow him down. ‘Here we fight in our skin. Remove your shirt.’

He pulled off his shirt over his head and left it in a pile with his two swords, other than to sleep this was the first time he’d removed them since leaving the guild. He stepped into the square and stood opposite L’Beira, awaiting his next instruction.

‘In your three kingdoms you fight with swords and shields, here, it is spears. Much more graceful, like a dance.’ As soon as he finished speaking, he kicked sand in the air, showering Luthar and stinging his eyes. When he had regained his vision, L’Beira snatched a spear from the air, then stood to attention, holding it in front of him. ‘Leyton informs me you need to be faster.’

‘He said the same to me. I’m not strong – ‘

Before Luthar had finished speaking L’Beira lunged for him, spear aimed for his heart. He retreated backwards, away from the onslaught. Still, L’Beira pressed him, spear whirling in the air, forcing Luthar against the fence.

‘No, no, no. How do you propose to win a fight by running away?’ He turned and walked back to the centre of the square. ‘You need to fight back, Luthar.’

‘But I have no weapon.’

‘You have your hands, your feet, knees, elbows, head. These are all weapons if you care to use them.’

Before Luthar could think of a response, L’Beira charged him again, spear slashing the air. Not sure he was doing the right thing; Luthar dodged sideways, trying to stay too close for the blade to strike.

‘Good, good.’ L’Beira noted, before lashing out with an elbow into Luthar’s chest, knocking him to the ground.

‘You focus too much on the spear, not what I am doing.’ He offered a hand to Luthar and hauled him to his feet.

A barefoot boy dressed in tattered clothing approached the fence, watching them both intently. He looked gaunt and starved and his eyes were heavily shadowed.

‘Sir, a message from the games master.’ He held out a scrap of paper to L’Beira over the fence.

‘Thank you boy.’ L’Beira took the paper and nodded to him before fishing in his pocket for a copper piece. He tossed the coin to him and turned back to Luthar. He bit his lip as he read quickly. ‘Good news, you fight tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow? But I haven’t even held a spear yet.’

‘Then we have much work to do this evening.’

Luthar drilled through the afternoon and evening. Finishing only when the sun vanished, leaving the square in darkness. His muscles burned in protest at the ferocity of the work, but he felt glad that L’Beira had not seen fit to kick him into the dirt as Leyton often had. As they headed back inside, L’Beira led Luthar through a stone arch, then a door, and into a private bathhouse.

The room was completely made of stone, somewhat darker than the light limestone of the exterior. Torches burned merrily in sconces on the walls, throwing an orange glow over them. A steaming pool of water, at least ten feet at each edge, took up the middle of the floor, with steps leading down into it ahead of them. L’Beira took of his trousers and descended the steps, as naked as the day he was born. Luthar followed suit, the hot water draining the aches from his tired body. The water was not quite clear, a white mist seemed to float under the surface, he scooped a handful out, but could not catch the strange substance.

‘Ocean salts, they’re good for relaxing after a hard day.’ L’Beira’s head bobbed above the surface, the rest of him submerged.

‘I wondered what it was. How do you manage such luxury in a temple of the gods?’

L’Beira laughed, a deep rumbling sound which set his shoulders bouncing up out of the water. ‘It’s funny how people assume a servant of the sun should live in poverty. Our teachings are centred around kindness to others, building friendships and worshipping the giver of life. Nowhere does it state we cannot enjoy this wonderful world which he has created for us.’

Luthar thought he made a valid point. Every religious temple and cathedral in the three kingdoms housed men in simple woollen robes living a life of restraint. Rules stated they could never marry, or drink wine, or even grow their hair. How this could prove they were closer to the gods, he couldn’t fathom.

An acolyte opened the door and bowed Lady Akindra into the room, resplendent in a green silken robe. She approached the bath and let the robe slip onto the floor, descending the steps clad in only her skin.

Luthar felt the blood in his cheeks rising, he turned his head away until she was just a floating head alongside the two of them. Something stabbed his heart as he thought back to Elisabeth and what she would say if she could see him naked in a bath with her.

When she was seated next to L’Beira on the stone ledge that ran around the perimeter of the bath, she engaged him in conversation. Luthar was too busy enjoying the relaxing water to pay any mind to what they were saying. He leaned his head back on the stone rim and closed his eyes, trying to visualise his fighting stances to rid himself of the painful thoughts of Elisabeth.

‘What do you think Luthar?’ L’Beira asked, bringing him back into the room with a jolt.

 ‘Sorry, I must have dozed off.’ Replied Luthar, slightly embarrassed.

‘I was just telling Lady Akindra that you’re due to fight tomorrow. I’ve got ten of your three kingdoms silver on you to win. You’re going to make me rich; I can feel it!’

‘I’ve only had a day’s training; how can you be so confident?’

‘Leyton speaks very highly of you, and he never rates anyone. Plus, you’re a quick learner, you’ve mastered techniques today that it takes some men months to learn. I’ve a good feeling in my belly!’

‘Some of the gladiators will have been training years, how can I hope to compete with them?’

‘But you have trained for years with a sword. And if you meet me at first light, you’ll have had another half days training!’ L’Beira laughed again, Luthar couldn’t tell how serious he was. But if more training was on offer, he would have to take it.

‘Don’t worry too much Luthar. The people you’ve fought before have always been many years older and more experienced. Trust your abilities.’ Lady Akindra cut in, her calm, reassuring manner soothed his nerves slightly.

‘Thank you, my lady, it’s just a task I never thought I would have to do.’

‘The world often has a funny way of testing you.’ She smiled at him, like a mother to a favourite son. ‘Besides, you’ll never know unless you try.’

March 11, 2022 16:42

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8 comments

Graham Kinross
12:57 Apr 01, 2022

I agree with Barbara Burgess that some more description during transitions would help this but other than that I enjoyed the latest chapter in Luthar’s story. The dialogue is good as always. I’m playing a game called Elex 2 right now that I’m enjoying but the dialogue is awful. It has science fiction and magic but when they talk I have to turn the volume down because it’s so bad. They should have hired writers from Reedsy for it. I think sometimes people can do dialogue or story but not always both. Your characters talk like real people, whi...

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James Grasham
15:50 Apr 01, 2022

Thanks Graham, I actually read a story this week as part of the critique circle recommendations that lacked in the very same area. I pointed it out to the author as a result of my own experience from Barbara and yourself, it's definitely something that I need to work on when changing the setting so dramatically. I know what you mean, sometimes devs are focused on graphics/gameplay that they forget the true art in games is the immersion and the new reality that it needs to create for you. I'd love to do some writing for a game someday, I bet...

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Graham Kinross
23:58 Apr 01, 2022

What kind of games do you play?

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James Grasham
14:19 Apr 04, 2022

Unfortunately I've really fallen out of love with gaming recently. The last game I really got into was Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord. Before that I put in hundreds of hours into Skyrim. Also have played the Witcher a bit. How about you?

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Barbara Burgess
08:56 Mar 17, 2022

I enjoyed your story though found it a bit confusing at times. The opening paragraphs were good with good descriptions but I felt I was coming off a sailing ship into some type of medieval London docks. Then we were in temples. Maybe letting the reader know the story would be about temples nearer the start would help. Or what type of story this is nearer the beginning would help. —as naked as the day he was born. - is a cliche and best avoided - just say - naked and that's fine. In this paragraph It was not clear who did what. ‘In your thre...

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James Grasham
17:45 Mar 17, 2022

Hi Barbara - thank you for reading! I take your point with the opening paragraph and the docks. I was going for a desert city kind of vibe for this city. I'd even looked up what the pyramids were built from, that's why I mentioned limestone. I do see why that on its own wouldn't be enough to describe the scene correctly. As this story is part of a series I'm writing it may have come across better for someone who was familiar with the other stories. I'll try to consider reviewing my stories from a standalone point of view aswell to be more a...

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Barbara Burgess
08:05 Mar 18, 2022

You're welcome. I guess if you had left the story longer and gone over it again at a later date then you may well have noticed these things yourself. But Reedsy take out the 'edit' part after only one week. I know I have found errors in my stories after they have been published but nothing to beat yourself up about. It's all a learning curve.

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James Grasham
08:18 Mar 18, 2022

I agree, the learning curve is pretty steep here as there are some amazing writers in the community. The worst ones are finding a spelling mistake that you can't edit - frustrates the life out of me! :)

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