Please note, this is not the final version of Chapter 1. The manuscript for Ysbaddaden and the Game of Chess is still in progress, and this is a sample chapter from that manuscript. The final and completed version of Chapter 1 will be available when the book comes out in 2018.
Chapter 1: “Whispers”
The ravens set out. They soared the skies; they listened. They heard the rustling of the summer trees, the young leaves singing as midsummer approached. They heard the voices of nature, the speech of animals and birds. They heard the ceaseless roar and hum of steel beasts, modern man’s chariot. They saw cities where there had once been gentle green. They saw pavement and metal and smoke from unnatural fires. They saw the explosion of humanity and the hidden whispers that were driven into secret places.
They flew over the great Tor, the hill that had once housed the death god. They flew over the town that was nestled there, ancient and holy. They soared to the edges of Dover. They followed the snaking path of the Thames. They spied London from the clouds. They descended into the city. They heard many things. They heard voices. Whispers.
The whispers spoke only one word. Only one name. An inhuman name. A name that had once struck terror but was now almost forgotten by the ears of men. Only the ancient ones remembered now. Only the ancient ones would speak it, and even then, only in whispers. The ravens heard it; they were drawn to it. They sought it out in the alleys and slums of London. They listened as they soared the skies. They followed the whispers. They followed the name.
The half-dwarf followed the ravens. He skulked and crawled and wandered over the earth, hiding in shadows, watching the ravens’ hunt. He kept one bulbous, milky white eye fixed on the black wings that crowded the sky. He followed them. He kept his ear tuned to the earth, heard the rumblings. He passed by the ancient hill in Somerset. He looked out over the white cliffs. He traveled the Thames and entered London in the mist of a June morning. He heard the whispers. He followed the ravens. He listened too.
The name was spoken, and the half-dwarf listened. He followed the voices who spoke the name. He followed the ravens.
And when he had heard enough, and seen enough, he waited. He waited for the wings to disappear. Then he waited again, watching from his crouched and cramped hideaway in the alleys of the city. Waited and watched for the arrival of the witch who commanded the winged army.
She came in the night. She brought with her an owl and a king.
The half-dwarf followed. He followed the ravens, and he followed the witch, and he followed the whispers. Legends were spoken, old myths and stories told by firelight. Shadows remembered. The earth and wet stones of London remembered. Goblin voices murmured it in the night. They whispered it. They spoke the name.
And the dwarf followed.