‘The Lament of Ryze’ Prologue (1222 words)

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    DM
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    Hello there,
    Nice to meet you all. I’m looking for any and all feedback on the piece of writing below, to see what people’s initial thoughts are. Specifically I am interested in how well the emotional themes convey (this is something I’m trying to work on).
    Many thanks in advance!

    The Lament of Ryze
    Prologue – Year 1531

    “Look, there! The hero returns!”

    A call rang out from one of the Southern parapets of the city – the owner’s voice strained by the stinging cold of the morning and his recent youth. The volume was sufficient, however, and the words carried well across the scarred battlements of the city wall; the crumbling mortar and worn stone of which glowed a brilliant yellow under the rising sun. The dawn fog had finally receded to leave behind a wet residue, and every exposed surface was slick with water and reflected the now unencumbered light brilliantly, illuminating the entire city gate as though it were a beacon to the solitary man who stumbled doggedly up the path towards it.

    His ragged burlap cloak, as damp as his surroundings, remained tightly drawn around him. His leather boots slipped on the road as he stepped awkwardly, rolling on a cascade of loose stones and sending them flying. Though he kept his footing, it was clear that he trod with difficulty. What little could be seen of the traveller’s face beneath a fine steel helmet was rugged – his expression seemed sombre and grim, almost haunted, and nearly every inch of the man was covered in a darkened shawl of fresh blood.

    As he approached the southern gate of Ryze, the cry took up from atop the walls. The other guards clustered to see – in some cases leaning perilously over the ramparts as they began to shout and yell. The noise grew with tremendous speed, until all individual sound was lost amid the clamour. All that could be heard now was a mighty, roaring cheer: an unending note of triumph sailing loud and clear across the morning still.

    An eager scramble occurred and the massive wooden doors opened with a swiftness they could barely handle, as a tide of soldiers, peasants and nobles alike – each roused by the sudden news into full wakefulness – poured out into the ruins of the lower city. Though the homes here smouldered still, the people cared no longer. They rushed the solitary man en masse with cries of excitement, surrounding him in a mob of well-wishes and weeping gratitude.

    Their hero felt himself lifted by the crowd, hoisted into the air atop a bed of hands and involuntarily paraded towards the gate. Below him on his right, a cobbler sang and cheered with the others. On his left – a man of higher birth than he now carried him upon their shoulder – all people were as equals for perhaps the first time in the city’s history, and all were united in their joy.

    Their passenger caught a glimpse of his sword amid the throng, notched and bloody still and dropped in the surprise of when they first picked him up. Now it was brought along with him by another peasant. This man’s face was filled with what could only be described as a tearful pride, as he held the honoured weapon aloft, thrilled that he had managed to acquire such an important honour during the celebrations.

    As they drew closer to the walls of the inner city, a string of bards emerged and took up a sprightly tune with much aplomb – a resounding drumbeat echoing first throughout the area as the fiddler then played with an excitement that matched the mob. Buoyed by the festivities, the crowd began to sing along – sing the Hero’s name loudly and to the reaches of the city itself…

    “VERNON! VERNON! VERNON!” The crowd bayed in unison – their voices straining at the effort, yet quelling none.

    “All Hail our saviour, Vernon the warrior! “

    “The day is won! Vernon the warrior has returned!”

    No matter the people’s volume, Vernon the warrior could not hear them. He remained closed off – separate from this world – for all intents and purposes. He offered no resistance as they carried him through the gate and into the city proper. He took no notice of the host of people applauding his return, he couldn’t see their ecstatic smiles; the sheer relief displayed upon their faces. Nor did he take comfort in the suggestive words of the beautiful women who now gathered around his feet and proffered themselves to him.

    The revelry only died down when a new call went out:
    “Make way! Make way for the King!”

    A gaggle of royal guard – resplendent in their golden armour and draped in rich, red fabrics – marched importantly through the parting crowd. In their midst strode a man of greying hair and beard, with fair skin and dressed in marvellous finery accentuated by the thick bejewelled crown resting atop his head. The common-folk hushed as he approached, and Vernon’s carriage set him gently to his feet as King Corwain of Ryzeland drew near.

    Without another word, the soldiers formed a circle around the warrior and their liege, facing outwards towards the people as the King smiled warmly and graciously extended his hand for Vernon to kiss. When the Hero made no motion to do so, King Corwain hesitated and his expression faltered but a moment. Instead he deftly raised the hand to grip the warrior’s shoulder, as though it were what he had always intended.

    “It is a glad day indeed to see you returned,” Corwain declared in earnest. “Even more that you have returned victorious – you have saved my daughter and my Kingdom this day!”

    Vernon tilted his head to meet the King’s gaze. The Hero’s face was scratched and cut, and a trickle of fresh blood still dripped from his forehead. But it was his eyes that showed the real damage he had suffered. There was no joy in them, no relief – only a profound sorrow lingered in his soul. To Corwain’s credit, he recognised the grief for what it was, and his face grew kindly.

    “Where…” Vernon gulped, his throat parched and sore. It was the first word he had spoken that morning. “Where is the Princess now?”

    “Xenia is safe – once the town guard saw her on the road they brought her in immediately. She’s at the palace undergoing treatment as we speak, the best healer’s in the city are dealing with her,” Corwain explained assuredly, keeping his voice low so that only the warrior could hear. “The princess told us of your final plan… I suppose that the others-“

    The warrior shook his head, and his lip curled as he dwelt on the loss.
    “They are… gone. They died in the attempt.”

    The King looked solemn. He seemed to understand some minutiae of the burden that his Hero felt. He gave a respectful pause before speaking again.

    “They will be honoured, my friend, in the greatest way – I assure you. Their sacrifice means everything to the people of Ryze. You too, are to be rewarded Vernon… No, I should say: Lord Vernon of Sanston!”

    The King’s voice raised to declare those last words clearly to all within earshot, and the crowd responded tumultuously. They cheered with heartfelt pride as the newly appointed Lord was ceremoniously led towards the palace alongside the King and his retinue. So happily did they all roar, so joyfully did they all applaud: none noticed the single, glistening tear run down Vernon’s cheek.

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