Saturday, June 14, 2014

Winter Bound

As I promised, here's my Captain America: The Winter Soldier fan fiction! 
My editor (a.k.a. my mom) apologizes for taking a while to read over it and make corrections. Really, I'm surprised. It's not as though she wasn't planning a birthday party or making sure we didn't starve...
Anyway, I'm about to be off on my mission trip!! Which, coincidentally means that Chapter Nine won't be up for another couple weeks. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Winter Bound!
WARNING: if you have NOT seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, do NOT read this!!! Spoilers!! (Bonus points to you if you read that in River Song's voice!)
Also, I do not own the characters of Steve Rogers/Captain America, Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D or HYDRA. Those belong to the creators of the Marvel comics.
Have a fantastic weekend! 

“Remember that time I made you ride the Cyclone at Coney Island?” I asked my childhood friend, Steve, as I stared across the gorge separating us from the train tracks on the side of the opposite mountain.
“Yeah, and I threw up?” he replied, squinting against the howling icy wind that gusted in our faces.
My eyes followed the thin wire, our rather treacherous course across the gap, to the tracks once more. “This isn’t payback, is it?” I folded my arms, tucking my hands under my shoulder and hoping that he didn’t notice how badly they shook.
But he grinned and glanced to his men positioned on the ledge behind us. “Now why would I do that?”
Because you’re an idiot, I shook my head and laughed, half from amusement and half from nerves.
My best friend, Steve was more my brother than a friend, who, thanks to the Super Soldier Serum, was now bigger than me. A lot bigger. Even though the stupidly brave, skinny guy I knew back home who couldn’t run away from a fight had changed on the outside, he remained Steve. And I was thankful for that. On another note, that also meant that he would continue to seize any opportunity to completely embarrass and otherwise make me as uncomfortable as possible.
I opened my mouth to tell him what I’d been holding in since he found me in Schmidt’s base, that I was terrified and broken, when Gabe Jones interrupted.
“We were right.” His dark hands pressed a pair of headphones to his ears as he translated what he heard from the radio in German to English for the rest of us. “Dr. Zola’s on the train. HYDRA dispatcher just gave him permission to open up the throttle.”
Steve and I turned around and considered the rest of the Howling Commandos. They were ready and waiting for Steve to give the signal.
“Wherever he’s going, they must need him bad,” Jones added.
Falsworth, his scarlet felt cap like a cardinal in the snow, put down his binoculars and announced, “Then let’s get going because they’re moving like the devil.”
Steve, Jones, and I lined up on one side of the zip line. My knees turned to rubber and I stood, paralyzed, and watched as Steve took a handle from Jacques Dernier and fastened it to the cable. Jacques then handed one to me and Jones as well.
As I clipped it on, my heart pounded and my rapid breaths froze in the air.
I had never been fond of heights before, but ever since my recent run-in with HYDRA, I wasn’t just uncomfortable around them. Constantly fearful, I felt my confidence daily slipping away. Even my morality seemed lacking when I discovered I no longer felt guilty each time I pulled the trigger and ended another life. What did they do to me? The question had crossed my mind many times before, but always, it remained unanswered.
Then Steve shouted, “We only got about a ten second window. You miss that window, we’re bugs on a windshield.”
I swallowed and tried to keep down the bile that slowly rose in my throat.
The train was in sight now, a black, speeding bullet through the mountains. My hands trembled violently and I squeezed the handles, the only thing that would keep me from plunging into the canyon. Steve put his toes on the snowy edge of the cliff and looking over his shoulder, he smiled at me.
I smiled back, though it was really more of a grimace. He didn’t know I was scared. He couldn’t.
“Mind the gap!” Falsworth yelled against the wind.
Behind us, Timothy Dugan added, “Better get moving, bugs!”
Wonderful, I grumbled internally. Because that’s exactly the thing I need right now. Images of insects spattered on the ground and glass of an automobile flashed before my eyes and I pushed them away. For what I needed to do, I had to be in complete control.
Jacques shouted something in French, and Steve’s feet left the ledge. Shifting my wobbly legs to the edge of the cliff, I focused on Steve yards before me and when Jacques spoke again, I leaned forward and felt gravity suck me from the safety of the hard ground. My stomach dropped and I held on for dear life as the momentum increased, pulling me away. We approached the train at lightning speed, it was almost below us.
Then Steve let go and dropped onto the slippery roof. I saw the steel below my boots before I closed my eyes, held my breath, and opened my fingers. Though brief, the sensation of falling remained long after I landed on the roof. The thud behind me let me know that Jones, too, successfully made the drop.
Ahead, Steve stood and walked quickly across the top of the speeding train. I inhaled deeply, rose, and cautiously followed his perilous path along the roof and down a ladder to one of the outer doors. According to plan, Jones remained on the roof and continued our mission from above.
Steve slid the door open effortlessly, and we slipped inside the car.
It was empty except for the shelves housing dozens of black cases that lined the walls and center of the oblong room. Reaching to my back, I withdrew my submachine gun. Steve armed himself with his handgun and hastily led the way to the opposite door.
Curiosity probed at me, and turning aside, I lingered to examine one of the cases. More than likely, it held HYDRA weapons. But of what kind?
Too late, I realized I made a severe error when the door separating me from Steve slid shut, trapping us on opposite sides. I ran to the door and almost reached it when I heard a noise behind me.
Raising my gun, I wheeled about and fired at the HYDRA Nazi trying to sneak up behind me. Another behind him fired, and I ducked behind a stack of cases as bullets flew over my head.
When the bullets ceased momentarily, I peeked over the top of the stack and fired before ducking behind the cases once more. I did this at least two more times before the trigger elicited an empty click. Discarding the submachine gun on the floor, I pulled out my handgun, cocked it, and then rose. My target in sight, I pulled the trigger as many times as possible while moving from one side of the car to the other, finding momentary refuge between the corner of the room and the end of one of the shelves.
They sent a steady line of lethal rain past me, and I in turn popped around the side of the shelf just long enough to fire. This exchange went on for several heartbeats. But then I pulled the trigger, my handgun clicked, and no bullet appeared.
I pressed myself against the wall and squeezed my eyes shut. My heart pounded in my ears as I heard the HYDRA soldiers draw closer, their guns firing rapidly. A few seconds more and I wouldn’t be alive at all.
Then beside me the door slid open a fraction and Steve’s gloved hand appeared around the side. Clenched in his fingers was his gun, which he tossed to me. Gratefully, I caught it. We made brief eye contact, and I nodded.
The remaining HYDRA Nazi hid behind the center shelf. The other I killed moments before in the crossfire.
Steve forced the door open, darted forward, and hit a long case with his shield. The heavy box slid across the smooth surface of the shelf and toward the Nazi. When he jumped into the open to avoid the projectile, I was ready and fired.
“I had him on the ropes,” I said, breathless, as the enemy fell to the ground.
“I know you did.”
The high-pitched whine of a HYDRA gun filled the air from the doorway behind us.
Before I could react, Steve pulled me behind him and shouted, “Get down!”
The entire car filled with pale blue light as the energy beam exploded from the barrel of the high-powered gun. The beam ricocheted off the curved metal of Steve’s shield and blew a monstrous, gaping hole in the side of the train.
Steve was propelled into the opposite wall from the blast, but his shield skidded across the floor and stopped near my boots.
Wary of the spacious hole to my right, I reached for the shield with trembling hands, fervently hoping it would somehow bestow upon me the courage and bravery of Captain America.
It didn’t. Even so, I held it before me and fired at the Nazi. My bullets did nothing against the heavy black armor he wore.
Again, the intensive whine filled the air and the energy beam shot out, this time at me. The pulsing light struck the shield with a force I could not handle. It swept me off my feet and for one terrifying moment, I was weightless until the force sucked me back and out of the train. It was as though someone punched me in the stomach, a sensation I was all too familiar with, except intensified. Worse. Much worse. My body slammed into the debris that had once been the wall, slowing my ejection long enough for me to grab hold of a long handrail.
I clung to the handle and tried not to look at the ground several hundred feet below my boots. The tracks rushed by directly below my feet, and beyond that, the ground dropped off hundreds of feet. Near the center of the gorge, a river snaked along, a dark crack in the white abyss.
I flailed in the icy wind that stung my face and numbed the rest of my body and I fought to keep my grip on the pole. The train jolted suddenly, propelling me against the cold steel of the train. At the same moment, my left shoulder was wrenched from its socket and I cried out in both pain and fear.
 “Bucky!” Steve leaned around the side of the gaping hole in the wall of the train and began to slide around the outside. “Hang on!” he yelled.
When he reached the end of the rail, he reached out to me. “Grab my hand!”
The next few seconds seemed to slow down. My hands slid across the handle, gradually nearing Steve’s outstretched hand. The metal creaked and began to detach itself from the train.
“No!” Steve cried.
This is it, I thought, terrified. This is the end of the line.
As if to confirm my fearful suspicions, the handle groaned, and then snapped.
Reaching out for him, I screamed and plummeted into the icy canyon. I released the pole and waived my arms about wildly in a mad attempt to catch a hold of anything to stop my rapid descent. Then my left hand grasped something hard; stable, in the millisecond I had contact with it. Instinctively, my fingers closed around it.
That was a mistake.
Searing pain unlike anything I’d ever experienced shot up from my shoulder, but at first I was too disoriented and alarmed to understand what happened.
The wind rushed past me as I continued to fall, the rocky cliff-side a foreign, dark blur beside me.
Closing my eyes, I prepared myself for the sudden end to my fall and my life.
When I hit the snow, I heard the crack and felt many bones in my body shatter. Not all, but enough that I thought my body broke into a thousand pieces. Agony consumed me. I couldn’t breathe. The little air I retained during my fall had been violently expelled from my lungs the minute I hit the ground. Gasping, I stared at the pale gray sky.
Snow fell in gentle flakes from the endless clouds. It would have been beautiful, save for the excruciating pain I was enduring.
Suddenly like a lightning bolt, it hit me. Why am I still alive? How…?
In the distance a dog barked, and faintly I heard men shouting in German.
Nazis! I panicked. But then a darker name entered my mind. A name I feared with every fiber of my being. HYDRA.
I struggled to rise and find shelter in which to hide myself, and that was when I realized that something was catastrophically wrong. I couldn’t move or feel my left arm at all. Believing I dislocated it when I fell, I raised my head with much difficulty.
At the sight of the scarlet snow and the bloody stump that had once been my shoulder, I retched and then choked. Wracking spasms seized me, and I lay violently convulsing in the crimson snow. Unable to control my movements. Unable to breathe. Darkness crept in around the edges of my vision; I was losing too much blood.
The frequent barks and yips of the dogs drew ever nearer, though they sounded like they were miles away. The last thing I saw before I succumbed to the consuming and inviting blackness were the vague outlines of two men carrying large guns.


When I awoke, yellow lights flickered in the ceiling above me, casting the sickly color on the grungy walls. There were no windows at all, leading me to believe I was being held underground or near the center of an extensive building. Either case, I was in deep trouble.
My head ached, as did my entire body, the muscles of my arms and legs stiff and unused. I sat in some kind of chair; thick metal bands bound my arms to the armrests. As far as I could tell, I was the only person in the room.
Waiting whatever was to come, I wiggled my fingers in an attempt to bring feeling and motion into the rest of my body. Suddenly I stopped. I moved first the fingers of my right hand, and then tentatively did the same to those belonging to my left.
I lost my arm. I lost my arm. I mulled over possible explanations and could find no valid conclusion. Was it a hallucination? But here I was, strapped to a chair, very much alive with two arms.
The muscles in my neck bulged and constricted when I lifted my head, like I hadn’t used them in quite some time.
  Fearful of what I might see, I looked first at my right arm. It was intact, the flesh pale, but healthy, and the rippling muscle beneath it strong. I sucked in a large amount of air and held my breath as I turned my head to the left.
I stared transfixed at the bands of silver metal that had been fitted perfectly together to form my left arm. From what I could tell, I controlled it as flawlessly as I did my own. But it was cold and foreign. At the place where metal and flesh met, a network of livid red scars began where my captors or my saviors melded the arm to my flesh and ran several inches across my chest and probably my back.
I was conscious when they attached it to what remained of my left shoulder. Vaguely, I recalled the procedure, the experiments, and the unbearable agony I suffered to attain such a thing. The memories weren’t something I would have preferred to retain; I wanted them to disappear, to bury themselves deep into the recesses of my mind and never resurface again. But like so many other memories of torture, I knew they would float just beneath the surface waiting to catch me off-guard with the horrors.
 Just then the iron cage door swung open and in stepped a slender, clean-shaven man wearing circular glasses and a pristine white lab coat. Accompanying him were four other men and women I assumed to be scientists and doctors judging by their apparel.
“Ah, you are awake,” the main doctor said in a heavy Russian accent.
The words would not come when I opened my mouth, nor did my thick tongue comply with my request.
Meanwhile the man crossed the room and stuck a needle in the soft skin of my inner elbow. Deep red blood filled the container at the top of the syringe. A female doctor scribbled something down in a notepad and the others busied themselves with chemicals and test tubes, and numerous filing cabinets in the corners of the room.
“Speaking may be difficult. You have been asleep…” he chuckled, though I didn’t understand the joke, “for a long time.”
I shook my head, my only form of communication with him until my tongue and mouth loosened. Long, unkempt locks of brown hair fell over my eyes with the motion.
Just how long was I asleep for my hair, my mouth twitched and I felt the stiff beginnings of a beard on my chin and upper lip. And beard! To grow like this?
There was something he wasn’t telling me just yet. I was determined to discover what secret he kept hidden from me.
“Consider yourself lucky,” he continued, filling another small tube with my blood. “Any other man would’ve died; whatever he pumped into you saved you when you fell.”
I swallowed and managed to rasp, “Who?”
“Doctor Zola. True, you may have lost one arm, but this,” he tapped the cold metal of my prosthetic limb. “This is far superior. I must congratulate him on his success…” his voice trailed off.
I flexed every muscle in my body I could, and the bonds tightened around my forearms and biceps. Names and faces flicked through my head, some pleasant and some that caused my blood to boil. Zola. Schmidt. HYDRA. Soldier. Steve.
“Where is he?” I demanded, my eyes boring holes into the doctor’s.
“Who?” the doctor inquired.
“Steve. Steven Rogers.”
“Who is that?” he asked.
Exasperated, I lay my head back against the headrest and whispered in a voice dry and cracked, “Captain America.”
A spark of recognition flickered though his sharp eyes. “Captain America?” he scoffed. “He died almost a decade ago stopping HYDRA’s German division from conquering the world.”
 His words struck me like a thunderclap and I sunk into a foggy silence. A conscious coma from which I did not want to wake.
Steve was dead. He died ten years ago.
“How long was I asleep?” I finally asked, my voice soft and broken.
The doctor sat on a stool and glanced at the ceiling, calculating something in his head.
“When Schmidt’s men found you shortly after your plunge from the train, you had lost a lot of blood from your injury- too much, in fact. They couldn’t risk losing you, more importantly, what you could become. So they put you to sleep until they could transport you to one of HYDRA’s technology labs where you, ah, acquired this not too long ago under Zola’s supervision,” he tapped my arm. “You have been in our cryogenics lab until recently when recent events in our Cold War with the Americans demanded the need of your… experience and, shall we say, capabilities.
“I want to run tests. Stand, please,” he pressed a button and the rings around my arms sprung open soundlessly. I raised my hands and examined them side-by-side.
Faster than I ever recalled moving before, I leapt up from the chair and swung the metal arm in a swift arc toward his head. His skull cracked loudly and caved in where the lethal fist connected with tender flesh and soft bone.
A woman screamed as he crumpled to the ground with a moan and lay in a dismantled heap on the cement floor. Blood welled around his head from the wound I inflicted and his eyes, which had rolled back into his head, were white. He was dead.
The room erupted into instantaneous chaos; the remaining doctors tripped and stumbled over each other in an attempt to run from me. Ignoring them, I ran for the door and yanked at the bars with every ounce of strength I possessed, but it remained locked tight, trapping me in the cage.
Alarms sounded, blaring loudly over speakers, and two dozen soldiers filled the hall, their guns pointed at my chest. They were dressed like the HYDRA agents I encountered years ago, only different. Better.
I froze and slowly raised my hands above my head in reluctant submission. The people behind me quieted and I heard their movements stop.
A man walked casually into the center of the hallway. He ordered something in Russian, and his men stood down. The man, obviously their leader, was well-dressed in an expensive black suit, with his fair hair combed back neatly. His demeanor was relaxed, critical, and controlling. I hated him.
As he drew nearer, he smiled cruelly. “Please sit.”
Realizing I could no nothing else and that escape was impossible, I reluctantly obeyed and returned to the chair.
My eyes never left the Russian as he entered a code into the outside key pad and swung open the creaking door. Stepping aside, he waited until all his men had filed into the room before entering himself.
“Dear me, Sergeant Barnes.”
At the sound of my name, my eyes widened in surprise.
“Yes,” he nodded. “I know who you are. You were upset; I understand but really, was it necessary to kill Dr. Kozlov?” he eyed the body lying in the scarlet pool on the cold floor.
“I wouldn’t have killed him if it hadn’t been for the metal arm you gave me. Oh, and thank you for that,” I retorted dryly. “How do you know me?”
“Why,” he stood over me, the wolf before the prey, “Aside from your maniacal shouting of your name and serial number, I recognized you from films taken during World War II. Sergeant James Buchannan Barnes, part of Captain America’s Howling Commandos and Captain America’s second in command,” he applauded in a tone of mock admiration.
When he mentioned Steve my heart turned to lead, sinking lower than before. Something in my expression must have changed enough for him to notice, for he bent closer and said, “I see Dr. Kozlov told you about his heroic death. That must have been upsetting.” He flipped several switches and again, the bonds closed over my arms and I was their prisoner once more.
   Something whirred to life behind me, and a helmet-like contraption began its slow descent to my head. As it drew ever closer, my heart began to beat uncontrollably. Every muscle in my body tensed and my chest heaved rapidly with each ragged breath.
“Don’t be frightened,” I heard him whisper when the thing sealed over my cranium and half of my face. I barely caught him add, “In a few moments you won’t remember this ordeal, or any for that matter.
“Wipe him. He must leave everything and everyone behind.”
Then blue electric pulses spider-webbed across my vision and pain unlike I had ever experienced before, far worse than losing an arm, shot into my brain like a thousand knives. Automatically I screamed, “Sergeant James Buchannan Barnes. 32557-” but then something hard was shoved in my mouth, almost gagging me and with a strangled cry, I fell silent.
I writhed and strained, twisted in the chair, kicking anything and anyone I could in a mad attempt to break free.
Memories flooded my mind in a tidal wave of the images I held most dear and those I dreaded.
I was walking with Steve, stupidly brave, skinny Steve, out of an alley behind a movie theater. Then he faded and I was walking alone. What I was doing in the alley, I had no idea. Then I was in the HYDRA lab, beaten and tortured. Without hope. Without friends. The prisoners rioted, and somehow I managed to escape. I was on the outside of the train, hanging on. Trying desperately to climb back inside. I reached out, but there was no one to help me. Then the inevitable happened and I fell with no one to catch me. No one to care if I died.
This is the end of the line, Pal, jeered a mocking voice inside my head.
An extreme sense of longing, heartache, and intense sorrow erupted from the pit of my heart and flowed like molten lava in my veins.
I let loose one final bellow of desperation and anguish, then everything went black.


Sickly yellow lights flickered above me when I awoke. The pale walls, concrete floors, armed soldiers, and the man standing nearby, his arms folded across the chest of his suit, all seemed vaguely familiar.
I was in a chair, bound with thick bands that fitted tightly around my forearms and biceps. One arm was normal and drenched in cold sweat, as were my face and torso. The other arm was silver metal. Somehow, that revelation didn’t bother me, though something deep inside my head told me it should. Though foreign, I couldn’t remember when it had become a part of me; it seemed I possessed it my entire life.
My hair dripped salty sweat into my eyes and it was several seconds before I opened them again and saw the large rusty blood stain on the concrete. Who died? I questioned silently. They killed someone. Am I next? Will they kill me as well?
More shocking than that, I suddenly realized my memories began when I woke up in the chair. Anything prior to that was nonexistent, locked away somewhere deep. I didn’t even know my name.
I stared at the doctors, scientists, and soldiers in the room, not knowing what else to do. Nothing made sense.
The well-dressed man slowly smiled cruelly, and then radioed another person over the communication system.
Shortly afterward, yet another man entered the room, surrounded by twelve armed guards, each dressed in black bulletproof vests, pants and carrying military rifles. This man, like the first, wore a costly suit heavily decorated with medals. The first man saluted him.
The leader’s eyes narrowed as he viewed me with great skepticism.
“Who is he?” he questioned in Russian, and somehow, I understood.
“It is not who he is, or was, that matters, but what he will become that you should concern yourself with.”
Leaning my head back on the hard chair, I delved into the confines of my mind, leaving the room far behind me.
I felt nothing.
No love. No joy.
How could I when I was consumed with such hatred, anger, and longing as that which consumed me?
Even so, I could not ask why. Somehow it was silently understood and accepted that I could ask no question at all. Soon they would assign me to whatever mission they chose.
How I knew that, I couldn't comprehend.
But whatever the mission, no matter the cost, I would fulfill and complete it or die in the attempt.
"Raduysya GIDRA," I mumbled, and cruel smiles crept along both men's faces. Hail HYDRA.


Fifty years later, I stand alone on a catwalk-like bridge in a military helicarrier. Several thousand feet below my boots lay the roads of Washington D.C. and the smoking pile of rubble that marked the place where the proud Triskelion, the home of S.H.I.E.L.D., had stood. Save for the breathy whispers of the stealth engines that propel the helicarrier higher into the clouds, the glass dome of the control center is utterly silent. Then he appears on the opposite end of the bridge. 
Tall, strong, uniformed in the colors of his flag and country, and armed with a circular shield, he is by any definition a soldier. But he doesn't possess the stature and manner of a regular soldier; he is far superior to the man I've previously and recently encountered.
I raise my gaze, and our eyes lock, mine display steely determination, and his eyes fill with untold sorrow. As I stare him down, something about him reminds me of something. Someone I lost long ago.
But do I care? No.
I am angry.  
I am confused.
I am broken.
And I am dangerous.
I don’t know who I used to be, but I know what I am now.
I am a ghost. A weapon.
I am the Winter Soldier.
And that man is my mission.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Mark of the King: Chapter Eight

Okay, so it was a little longer than two weeks... my apologies!
The next several chapters are pretty short in comparison to some of the others I've written. They're what you call 'filler chapters,' I suppose. I'm getting kind of nervous because I'm almost finished typing out the chapters in my first notebook and my second notebook has barely seven pages written in it. 
But I'm going on a mission trip in a week and a half so there will be lots of time to write on the bus!
Enough about me and my problems for now. Here's Chapter Eight!

Chapter Eight

Flynn ascended the shadowed staircase in one of the castle turrets. Frustration expanded deep inside him, boiling over into his thoughts, I've dealt with this long enough! Any other man I would have taken care of in an instant but this… this… child! He’s not even of noble birth!
Reaching a locked door, he rapped it sharply. He heard the sound of a key sliding into the lock and the heavy click as the bolt slid away, and the door opened.
“Ah, Flynn,” Lord Joran stood behind the door. Dark eyes stared greedily from beneath long, white hair. They flickered unnaturally in the firelight, Flynn thought, but he said nothing and stepped into the dark chamber. “I assume you have something to report?” continued the nobleman.
“Indeed,” Flynn casually observed the interior of the room. Organized trunks lay open along the wall, each one displaying rolled-up maps and other bits of parchment. One sat unrolled on the hunting table in the corner. Flynn’s trained eyes instantly recognized it to be a map of the castle- all its passages, both known and hidden; its rooms; and its defenses.
Turning aside from it, Flynn lowered his steady gaze to meet the lord’s cruel face. He folded his arms, and announced, “My lord, I wish to entertain the possibility of Edmundson’s relocation.”
“Oh?” Lord Joran ambled to the table and pretended to study the map. “Why?”
“I have no other reason but my own instinct, and the fact that he currently resides with Sir Reuben troubles me. He may begin to consider ideas-options-other than our own.”
“What do your spies say?”
“Nothing,” Lord Joran clucked. “Now, if you and your instinct will go find something with which to make yourself useful, I have work to do!”

The following morning, Flynn was late. His absence surprised Skandar, as the knight severely punished tardy behavior.
Skandar stood alone, tossing his sword back and forth between his numb hands.
“Do you wish to learn archery?”
“Pardon?” Skandar dropped the sword, and Eoin caught it before it hit the frosty ground.
“Do you wish to learn archery? Oh, and you’d better keep a tighter hold on your sword.”
“Thank you,” Skandar laughed. “Archery, you say? I never considered it before.”
“Well then, seeing as Flynn has yet to show his stern face, come with me and I’ll teach you.”
Skandar watched closely as the younger man drew an arrow from the leather quiver on his back, knocked it on the string, and drew his hand back to the corner of his mouth. He inhaled deeply; his powerful shoulders flexed with the motion. Both of Eoin’s deep eyes stared fixedly at the red center of the target for an instant before the arrow slipped from his finger tips. It flew across the open space and sank deep into the center of the target. Several archers nearby applauded, and Eoin grinned.
“My da taught me to shoot when I was a young boy. You try.”
He pressed the curved piece of wood into Skandar’s hand along with an arrow. Awkwardly, Skandar placed the arrow on the string, the shaft resting on the side of his forefinger, and drew the bowstring to his cheek. The tension surprised him. It was heavier and harder than Eoin made it look.
When he released, the string twanged and struck his forearm with no small amount of force. The arrow flew wild and snapped when it struck the wall some feet from the target.
“Gah!” Skandar yelped, dropped the bow, and clutched his arm.
“Oh, sorry about that, man.”
Skandar rolled up his sleeve, and Eoin examined the inside of his arm. Already, a tender, red whelp formed from the inside of Skandar’s elbow to his wrist.
“That’ll leave a nasty bruise, I’m afraid.”
“What did you do this time, Eoin?” Cat accused, running over from her target.
“What do you mean, this time?”
Cat fought the urge to roll her eyes, and she eyed the thick red line on Skandar’s arm.
“Put it under cool water,” she advised. “It will ease the pain and keep the swelling down.”
“Thank you, physician Cat,” Eoin mouthed sarcastically.
The princess glared at him, but otherwise let the comment slide. “Hold the bow like this,” she demonstrated. “And don’t open your fingers when loosing the arrow. The string should rest lightly on your fingertips, and you allow it to slide off when it’s ready. You’ll receive a much cleaner release and you won’t hurt yourself. Hopefully.”
“Thank you,” Skandar said with much gratitude, and rolled his sleeve back down to cover the whelp.
“I was about to say that, Cat!” Eoin protested.
“Sorry,” she shrugged and walked away.
Skandar drew the bow again, wary of his throbbing arm, and released the way Catrain instructed. Fortunately, the string cleared his arm, but the arrow fell short and landed on the ground beneath the target.
Skandar frowned.
“Don’t be too discouraged. We all do that at one time or another.”
“Have you?”
Eoin paused. “Eh, no. Can’t say as I have!”
Skandar shook his head, “We all do it, huh?”
Eoin threw his hands in the air in mock annoyance. “Well, not everyone is perfect like me.”
Skandar’s mouth twitched.
“Eoin, give the man a break!” Aidan hollered. “What are you doing anyway?”
“Flynn didn't turn up, that arrogant, cruel-”
“Alright!” Aidan interrupted, and the words ceased flowing from Eoin’s mouth. “I’ll find Oliver. Maybe he can help you.”
He returned shortly with Oliver in tow.
“Do you know where Flynn is?” Skandar asked Oliver.
Oliver squinted and scanned the field. “Can’t say as I do. I haven’t seen him since yesterday. Why? Has something happened?”
“Not yet.”
“Right then. With me, Skandar.”
Finally someone other than Flynn! Skandar silently rejoiced and followed Oliver
Half an hour they practiced, and still, Flynn had not shown himself.
“Take a break, Skandar,” Oliver ordered after he beat the other young man for the third time in a row.
Flustered, Skandar panted, “Why? I’m not tired.” Though he readily welcomed the brief respite, he didn't want Oliver to know.
“Just… wait,” he scampered away, returning seconds later with Muriel.
“Are you ready?” Oliver grinned slyly.
“For what?” scoffed Skandar. “I've fought you all day!”
Oliver rolled his eyes, “I wouldn't call that fighting. You weren't focused at all. You didn't care whether you won or lost- in fact, it appeared you were happy to lose!”
Oh no, Skandar thought, glancing from Oliver to Muriel and then back to Oliver. Oh, please, no; I’ll be humiliated!
“So,” Oliver continued, affirming Skandar's dreaded assumption. “You’re not fighting me. You’re facing her.”
Skandar wished right there he could crawl into a hole. “Muriel? I wouldn't want to hurt her.”
Muriel came forward. “I think you will find me a worthy opponent.” Lightly, she stepped over the ropes and into the ring. “Let’s begin.”
Skandar grimaced at Oliver, who was annoyingly indifferent. His face was stern, reminding Skandar very much of Lord Joran. The expression startled Skandar, and without another thought, he stepped into the ring with Muriel.
Skandar barely readied himself when Muriel attacked, surging forward with a deadly, deliberate motion. The young man stumbled backward to avoid her sword, and sluggishly brought his about to block the blow.
Muriel continued her attack, rapidly jabbing at him in a frenzy of action. Each time Skandar belatedly knocked the blade away- almost too late. Several times the tip came within inches of his vest.
“Come on, Skandar focus!” shouted Oliver. “Keep your blade up!”
Skandar growled and put everything into blocking Muriel’s strikes. Every piece of information he learned from Flynn vacated his mind and he fought blindly. With each movement, his frustration grew, and little by little, his vision grayed.
Then Muriel issues a series of quick, decisive actions and the sword was wrenched from Skandar’s hands, landing in the grass a short distance from his feet.
Muriel tapped the cold tip of her sword to Skandar’s chest, right above his heart. “Dead,” she announced.
The world regained its color as Skandar inhaled deeply and relaxed. He laughed forcefully, “It seems you got the best of me.”
“It seems I have,” Muriel sheathed her sword and stooped to retrieve his own. “Here,” she said, handing it to him.
He muttered a slight ‘thank you,’ as he took it from her and slid it into the leather case. “I have much to learn, I know,” Skandar admitted aloud to Oliver and Muriel.
“All in good time. My father taught me from the time I was a young girl. I may possess a slight advantage over you.”
Oliver’s opinion, on the other hand, proved to be opposite his betrothed’s.
“You lack a purpose, Skandar. You’re lazy, and you don’t care at a-” Oliver stopped and frowned at something behind Skandar.
“Well done. It seems you are even more incompetent than I first believed.”
“Nice of you to show up, Flynn,” Oliver derided.
Ignoring Oliver, Flynn crossed his arms and peered down his sharp nose at Skandar. “As much as I loath to admit it, Edmundson, Oliver’s right.”
Skandar laughed dryly. “Wonderful! You know, this is exactly what I hoped for today! So far, I've been humiliated-twice! - and now my friend and my teacher are calling me incompetent! Let us see how else we can ruin Skandar, shall we?”
“Fine idea,” Flynn agreed smugly. “Back to work, and be absolutely certain I’ll not be so easy.”

That's all for now, folks! Let me know what you think!
As I mentioned earlier, I'm leaving on an eight day mission trip in a week, so Nine won't be up until I get back.
In the meantime, I'm planning on having Winter Bound uploaded for y'all sometime in the middle of next week.
Seeing as I have nothing more to announce, I believe it's time to say "so long" for the time being!

Oh, one more thing! During the mission trip, myself and many of my friends are going into juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters, Salvation Army shelters, and homes for abused children. Please pray that God will open the hearts of the people we're going to witness to and that through us, God will be seen and His love shared to the people there. Thank you so much!
God bless!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

I was tagged in a post by Hazel West of Hazel West's Character Purgatory for a writing process blog tour (as the title of this post implies!). From what I understand, you are given four questions about what you are working on and how you accomplish your writing goals! Then you tag several other writers and ask them the same questions. I think it sounds interesting. Thank you, Hazel! You can read her answers here.

On to my answers:

1.What are you working on?
Currently, I am in the lengthy process of writing a medieval fantasy epic which I have titled The Mark of the King. As to whether it will be a stand-alone novel, or whether I will break it into two or more books is at the moment, unknown. The Mark of the King is set in a world of my own creation, the Four Realms, containing Corrthaine, it's northern neighbor Tir Thuaidh, its western neighbor Tir O Niwl, and its even further western neighbor Talahm Glas.
As plots are concerned, it recounts the tale of Skandar Edmundson, a peasant boy who lived in one of the southern provinces of Corrthaine. Skandar was born unique, with silver eyes. What's unique about that, you ask? Read, wait, and you'll see! Anyway, when Skandar was a young boy, his father was taken by Lord Joran, right hand man to King Fendral, and sentenced to embark upon a perilous quest to find the sword, Bródúil, which was legend to bring the bearer ultimate power over any foe. His father never returned, and Skandar vowed one day he would search for him and either find or avenge him. Many years later, Skandar follows in his father's footsteps and is taken to the Capitol by Lord Joran. There, he meets several other young men and women who eventually help him.
That's all I'm going to say at the moment; I don't want to spoil anything! Though this book brings me such pain as only a writer will understand, I love it and I hope you have as much fun reading it as I do writing it!

2. How does your work differ from those of its genre?
I'm just going to state this right off the bat- this question is difficult. I sincerely hope it differs, because then it would be memorable in the minds of my faithful readers! As of how, I can honestly only speculate. 
Every author has their own unique writing style and way of setting up the story, creating characters, so on and so forth. Where The Mark of the King is concerned, I have never read anything like it, or at least, I don't remember reading anything like it. And also, I don't ever recall reading any work of fiction where the hero is a guy with red hair. So there's that, if nothing else!
In my writing, I try to place a Christian emphasis toward my characters and address everyday spiritual struggles. I have tried to create characters with different upbringings, situations, families, etc. in order to attempt to connect with people of various backgrounds. I have Catrain, Muriel, Aidan, and Eoin who were born into positions where they were exposed with the word and influence of the True King (God) in their everyday life. Oliver, on the other hand, was born into a family where his father utterly rejects and defies the True King and seeks what the world has to offer. Only by the actions and witness of others did Oliver come to know the True King. Skandar was born into a family where both his parents trusted wholeheartedly in the True King, but his unfortunate circumstances led him to believe that the True King abandoned him, and therefore, he wants nothing to do with Him. Then there's Flynn, who has never really heard or been exposed to the love of the True King. He seeks power among other worldly desires to fill the hole we are all born with. But enough of that for now, I'll address those matters more in my story.
Spiritual aspect aside, as far as a plot line with swords goes, it's a fairly common theme. But I've decided to put a twist on it I hope people will find interesting. But once again, that's all I'm going to say! Spoilers! (If you read that in River Song's voice, bonus points to you!)

3.Why do you love what you write?
As a child of six, my parents gave me a book for Christmas titled Christmas in Camelot by Mary Pope Osborne. By the name of the book, you probably correctly assumed that it was a story about King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and other members of Camelot legend. I remember staying up late reading it, way past my bedtime. Basically, that's how my love of the medieval era was born.
So when I got the inspiration for The Mark of the King, I knew I had to set it in a medieval style world. Also, I've spent the better part of almost two years developing characters that I've grown rather fond of. They're a part of me I wouldn't readily give up.  
4.How does your writing process work?
Since this is the first book I've ever written successfully, my writing process is still a little bumpy. It's been mostly a trial-and-error system, meaning if something doesn't work, then I scrap that and try something else. Basically, it's something like this:
  1. The Idea (coming up with the basic plot, story line. Everything's pretty fluid and flexible at this point).
  2.  Write out a (Very) Rough Outline, as well as basic research on the topic.
  3. Develop Characters. There are multiple character sheets online I've used that have questions that help you get to know the characters. I usually keep their descriptions, as well as the answers to the questions in a separate journal.
  4. Sloppy Copy. I always keep my journal with me, so I can write whatever comes to me. Usually things are far from complete, as the things I write in it are often spur-of-the-moment ideas. Often times, I will write notes to myself on the tops of the pages, whether it's to look something up, include something I've forgotten to make the story flow better, etc. What's written in my journal it what I call the "sloppy copy."
  5. Typing it up (aka the First Draft). This is when I separate chapters, include what I've forgotten, research my topic more thoroughly, you probably get the picture.
  6. Edit (Second Draft). I send my chapters off to my parents and a couple teachers who have taught and graded my writing in the past. Both graciously volunteered to help me edit, a thing for which I am extremely grateful.
  7. Third Draft. Once I've received the input of my four editors, I make the necessary changes to my work, as well as read over it once again. **NOTE: everything here on, I have not actually done yet, but I'm fairly certain these are what I will do in the future.
  8. Fourth Draft and Beyond. When I've completed the seven steps above for each chapter and my story is complete, I'll read over it all, as well as send it off to my editors as a finished novel. Then I'll tear it apart (meaning edit the tiny details, take out any unnecessary elements, rework anything that needs attention).
  9. Post and Publish. I want to format it into either print or ebook form and sell my work. As of right now, I am at a loss as to how this works, but I'm certain I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!
  10. Become a famous author and do it all over again as many times as I have ideas for books!
Well, those are my answers! Now I have to tag people:

Megan McKeel of Rustic Remains
Willow Silver Black of The Call - Friends and Enemies
Darrion Marine of The Call - The Watchman Files
Lysni Keye of Pro Ama De Narratus
Moriah Quint of My Own Little World
Hope Brockway of Stitches of Freedom
Madeline McKeel of The Stars have Fallen

Here are the questions:

  1. What are you working on?
  2. How does your work differ from those of its genre?
  3. Why do you love what you write?
  4. How does your writing process work?
One you complete the questions, be sure to tag others and notify them!!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this! 
On to announcements:
Chapter Eight of The Mark of the King will be up within a day or so! Yay!!
Also, my short story/Captain America: The Winter Soldier fanfic, Winter Bound, is pretty much complete and in the editing process! I'll post it when I'm finished!! I'm super excited about it, even though it has brought me prolonged pain for the past couple months. Ah, well. Being a writer, it is to be expected, I suppose.
Be on the look out for Chapter Eight in the next several days!
Have a wonderful week, and as always, God bless!