Draft

Below is a draft of the prologue for the next novel.

Does it work as a prologue? Should it be changed? How?

Your opinions are always valuable.

JMac

Prologue

A symphony of clangs echoes along the walls as it carries itself through the cave’s multitude of tunnels. Its source, a pair of clashing armoured warriors. Garbed in burnished bronze and wielding the finest blades forged by human artificers, there was nought to differentiate the two, not even their skill at arms.

Champions of their respective nations, any imperfections had been beaten and tempered from them after two decades of war. They were at the height of human perfection and across the vast realms of Mankind, there would be found no equals. Only those of divine birth would have been their betters.

Thrust, swish, clang, slash, the hectic sounds of battle continue, with neither side weakening or relenting. Both had been blessed by a plethora of Gods, each with a different stake in the war. Such fickle patrons would never allow their champions to parley, to surrender, to live and die peacefully.

Since the moment their respective fathers had allowed them to playfully swing a wooden sword, they had been chosen and destined to be enemies. And now that long foreshadowed moment had come to pass.

Snap. The sound of spear shafts shattering concludes the first act as both combatants fall to their knees, their chests heaving as they gasp for breath. No words are spoken, nor are they needed, for both had come to respect the other. In another, more peaceful age, they would have been friends, or at least friendly rivals.

But despite the far reaching consequences of the battle, there was but one mortal witness, all others having been slain or banished. In the corner, far from the reach of a careless thrust or swing was a young woman, garbed in noble attire.

Though their facial features were hidden by a silk shawl with floral designs, it did little to conceal their obvious nymph-like beauty. But it would have been clear to even a casual observer that they were not here willingly, for they were gagged and their hands and feet bound by thick rope.

Clang, the drum-like drone of shields bashing against each other announces the end of the second act, the two sweat drenched actors staggering back from each other, with their muscular limbs near lifeless after an uncountable barrage of blows.

Knowing the end was near, they raise their swords and stand straight whilst wetting their now dry lips.

For Ares!

For Enyalius!

Roaring the names of their patron deities, the champions surge forward, emptying what little reserves they had remaining, seeking to end the fight with a single strike.

But they had unknowingly called to the same God, who had equally blessed them both, satisfied by whatever the result. As their swords clash in the middle, one bends and warps before shattering, having weakened first despite the care it had been shown by its wielder.

A surprise gasp escapes the lips of one as they watch the shards of bronze scatter in front of them, but it does not last long. Carried by the momentum of the swing, the still whole blade soon finds itself embedded in their chest.

Falling into each other’s embrace, the two champions, one with a plume of white feathers, the other with black, stare into each other’s eyes. With a wry smile on both of their lips, one soon falls to the ground, the look of satisfaction etched onto their face.

Now alone, the victor stands silent, the only movement coming from their eyes as they continue to linger on the fallen. Kneeling, they reach for coins contained within the slain’s garments, placing them atop their now closed eyes and whisper a prayer.

Having performed the victor’s duty, they wrench free their weapon, turn and stagger towards the still bound observer. With a pair of deft swings, they cut them loose before staggering back and slide down the damp cave wall.

Unclasping the straps, they throw aside their black plumed helmet, exposing their sweat drenched face and hair to the cold air. Weary, they turn their bright blue eyes to the woman sat next to them, and wait.

And they continue to wait, but the woman does not move, nor speak, instead remaining silent, staring almost aimlessly at the far cave wall. The warrior reaches out, but the movement causes a gut wrenching pain to form in their side and they begin to cough. A layer of red forms on their fingers as they taste copper.

Fearfully, they look down and notice, finally, the remnants of their foe’s sword which had pierced their side. They had lived their life by the sword and knew the nature of the wound. Choosing not to waste time on pointless treatments, they decide to ask the woman the only question that truly mattered.

“Oh, all knowing Oracle, tell me, did we win?”

As if roused from a dream, the woman turns and reaches out, touching the warrior’s face. The warrior finds their warm touch soothing. Pulling back their veil, the woman allows the warrior to look upon their face for the first time. Mesmerised, the warrior stares into the woman’s glowing golden eyes.

“Not yet.”

As the cryptic whisper leaves their lips, an earth shattering roar is heard in the distance, followed by a series of tremors. As shards of rock and thick slabs fall from the roof and walls of the cave, the warrior pushes the woman away into a hollow. Raising their shield above their head, they shelter the woman from the debris, knowing this would be their final act.

As more and more rocks fall around them, the warrior’s vision grows dark, but before it claims them, they hear a final whisper.

“But we will.”

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