Baynes climb book i of t.., p.1
Bayne's Climb: Book I of The Sword of Bayne, p.1Ty Johnston
Book I of The Sword of Bayne
by Ty Johnston
Copyright 2010 L.M. Press
for Vance and Norton
Thank you for taking the time, and shelling out some change, to read this novella. Bayne’s Climb is the first part of a three-part series of novella’s collectively titled The Sword of Bayne. The second part is A Thousand Wounds, and the third Under the Mountain, all available in e-book format.
This series is somewhat experimental, utilizing and mixing together allegorical fiction, epic fantasy, Sword & Sorcery and a touch here and there of literary fiction. I hope this mixture works. You the reader are the final judge.
Also, for those of you familiar with The Kobalos Trilogy and the adventures of my Kron Darkbow character, The Sword of Bayne takes place in the same world, but nearly two thousand years before the events of The Kobalos Trilogy.
22 years After Ashal (A.A.)
Chapter I: The Foot
The mountain stood before him, and he stood before the mountain. They were alike in many regards, the mountain and the man, it broad at its base with crags rising up along its ridges, he broad at the shoulders with muscles growing like rugged hills along his arms. Even their heads were similar, his pale and bare beneath the morning sun, the mountain’s encrusted with the white of snow. Glints of bronze and steel winked where his sword hung on his back and an armless chain shirt enveloped his chest; the mountain, too, spotted sparks of brightness, these from the morning dew resting high along its peaks and even higher among ice and snow.
At the base of the mountain rested a village that was not quite a village. Only four leaning houses of aged logs with muddy straw stuffed between were the place, a strand of black smoke snaking its way up from a hole in the roof above one of the shelters.
Bayne drew his gaze from the shadowed heights and stared at this village that was not a village. Behind him for miles stretched the dark green of forest broken only by the trail of a brick road cracked and crumbling in places like the broken bones of some ancient, long-dead wyrm.
There was nothing else before him. Just the mountain and the village that was not a village.
Bayne sighed and strode forward, his booted feet following the remains of the collapsing road that soon disappeared beneath his steps and was replaced with earth packed by years of wagon wheels and hooves and feet.
The path narrowed and wound between two of the houses which faced one another across the way. Doors were closed and windows shuttered, and all was quiet, but there was a sense of the human element. A small clay pot modeled flowers on a stoop. A scent of baking bread wafted through cracks between shutters. Ahead, that black smoke continued to rise up and up from one of the further buildings, the largest of the four.
Bayne walked on, between the first two houses, continuing as the way wove around toward the next two, which also faced one another across the path. The house on the left was the biggest one and it was this structure belching the smoke.
Sitting on the stone porch of this dwelling was an old man, one leg tucked beneath him on a step and the other stretched out into the dirt. Beneath brows the color of frost he watched the big man approach with wide, heavy steps. When Bayne finally came to a halt in front of him, the old man removed the red wooden pipe from between his cracked lips and blew out a circle of pale smoke which floated up and up to eventually mingle with the smolder from the house’s chimney.
“Good day to you,” the old man said with a nod.
Bayne eyed the man from the toes of his simple, worn moccasins, then his pallid muslin breeches to his plain, soft leather doublet. The big man shifted the sword on his back from one side to the other.
“Not the talkative sort?” the old man asked.
The old man puffed on his pipe and chuckled. “He said that, that you didn’t talk much.”
“Who?” Bayne asked.
The old man used his pipe to point further along the dirt road. The path stretched around a bend between tall bushes at the base of the mountain that rose directly above as if some ancient, hunkered god ready to pass judgment upon those of the village that was not a village.
“He passed through a couple of days ago,” the old man said. “Said he would make rich any man who would kill you.”
Here the old man grinned, showing most of his teeth were missing.
Bayne did not return the smile. He merely stared, his eyes hard as black iron.
The old man’s grin faded. “ ’Course I’m too old for such foolishness myself.”
“All the better for you,” Bayne said.
The old man puffed on his pipe. “And I’m no fool,” he went on. “I know you.”
The chain-clad warrior raised an eyebrow.
“You are Bayne,” the old man said, “the one they call the wandering warrior.”
“What makes you think thus?”
The old man chuckled again, but it quickly turned into a cackle which turned into a cough. He thrumbed at his chest with a flat hand, eventually able to breath once more, and spat yellow phlegm into the dust at his outstretched foot.
Bayne stood there the while waiting for a response to his question.
The old man flipped his pipe upside down and stamped on the bottom with the very hand that had patted his chest moments earlier. Ash and flakes of charred weed sprinkled the ground next to the steps.
Bayne remained patient.
“Your bald dome gave you away,” the old man finally said. “That and the lack of gear you carry. Just a sword and that chain hauberk above enough clothes to barely cover a man. And winter coming along soon, too. One might think you were simple.”
Bayne said nothing.
The old man grinned again. “ ’Course I know better. A man like you couldn’t be simple and have survived wading through all that blood and guts the Trodans put you through in Pursia.”
Bayne’s head raised as if he had lost interest in the old man. He scanned his surroundings, the four buildings and the road that lead up into the mountain. “Am I no longer in Pursia?”
“Nope.” The old man shook his head and slid his still-warm pipe into a pocket. “If you’ve been on foot the whole while, you’ve been in southern Ursia at least three days.”
Bayne’s steel eyes lowered upon the old man again. “You still have not told me how you come to know me.”
“Soldiers pass through from time to time,” the old man explained. “Usually just a passing rider on his way to deliver some message or other to one of those fancy Trodan generals, but sometimes there’s a whole pile of ’em, lined up like wooden soldiers straight out of a box of children’s toys. They know who you are.”
“Do they search for me?”
“They do not,” the old man said. “They pass along your name as if a fable of the ancients. They speak of you as if with awe, barely above whispers.”
The old man watched the warrior’s face with interest then, as if he expected some kind of response. Perhaps a smile, the usual warrior’s glee for the renown of his feats of arms.
The old man was left disappointed.
Bayne’s face remained blank.
“Then came the other one,” the old man said. “Just a couple of days ago.”
“The one who wanted me killed.”
“Tall man?” Bayne asked. “Black cloak?”
“And long, dark hair,” the old man continued the description. “Had a band of white running back through that hair, too. Unnatural fellow. Unpleasant, though not rude. Just … it’s difficult to describe.”
“Exactly!” The old man slapped a patched knee. “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
“He followed the road into the mountain?” Bayne asked.
The old man nodded again. “He meant to climb high, he said. I advised against it. Told him it was better to ride around.”
“He did not heed your words.”
“No,” the old man said. “He said he meant to lure you into the mountains. He meant to lure you into your death.”
A shadow of a smirk showed Bayne’s first emotion of the day.
“But you are not so easy to kill,” the old man said. “This is a known thing. Still, this mountain holds strange mysteries, things often better left unknown by man. Things often better not discovered.”
The old man’s eyebrows had lowered, giving him a visage nearly as sharp and heavy as that of the bulky warrior standing before him. Warning stood out in those eyes.
A dark cloud spread its shadow over the two men and brought about a chill wind that played at the edges of each man’s garb. Bayne appeared not to notice. He glanced up at the mountain, at its highest peak straddling the sky itself and ringed by blanched clouds.
“What is it you seek, Bayne?” the old man asked, his voice now barely above a whisper. “What do you believe you will find along those ridges and heights?”
“My own self,” was the answer.
The cloud overhead slid away upon the breeze.
The old man stared at the dirt beneath his feet and shook his head. “You seek that which is most frightening to many a man,” he said. “Beware, Bayne, for sometimes madness and worse lies at the very root of a man, especially a man such as yourself.”
“And what kind of man am I?” the warrior asked.
“The boldest of men, the hardiest,” the old man said. “But you are also a man who has forded through the blood of others, who has drifted along the rivers of clashing strife. Even your name, Bayne, means death in the old tongue of the Zarroc.
“What will it do for you to look into the depths of that?”
The slight smirk slid away from Bayne’s lips. “I have no choice but to follow the one I seek. He alone holds the keys to my true identity.”
For the third time that day, the old man shook his head, this time in sorrow. “It is a sad thing for a man to not know himself.”
The old man looked up into the warrior’s eyes, each gaze holding the other. “It can also be a boon. Beware the mountain, Bayne. Its path is a long and winding one. Along its trail you will find dreams and nightmares of the worst sort. No man to my knowledge has climbed to the very top and come away alive and sane.”
Bayne shifted his stare to the road once more. “Can you tell what I will find?”
“There is another village a day or so up the path,” the old man said. “Beyond that, I have no particulars. Many times the young warriors marching through will take to the path, but none return. Sometimes a traveler, perhaps a merchant or a pilgrim, will follow the mountain trail. I have never witnessed them again.”
Bayne nodded. “I thank you, old man, for your knowledge and for your advice.”
“You will still take the path?”
“Ashal be with you, then,” the old man said.
Bayne nodded once more. Then he turned and strode away from the village that was not a village.
Only once, near the bend that would take the four buildings out of his sight, did the warrior glance over his shoulder.
The old man was gone. His pipe sat on the stoop, a ghost of smoke rising from it.
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