This is a story of a child enslaved, his life destroyed. Melted by the fire of his suffering into a molten lump of his former self, the shape of his new forging will be told only by time. And it will impact the world. This is the story of a Child of Iron.
Heavy chains wrapped hard and cold links around wrists and ankles—rubbing them raw and bloody with every step. The boy stumbled, the weight nearly too much to bear. The weight of his dismal thoughts, however, was heavier still. Every breath was fear. Every sight was grief. He contemplated dropping to the ground, ceasing to move. There was nothing. All had been lost—taken in moments before his very eyes.
In the hazy distance, behind a long winding trail of chained and stumbling children, smoldered a small village under an overcast sky. Prosperous for its time, now reduced to burning timbers and swirling ash. In a small valley amidst rolling hills, it had enjoyed a vista of snow-capped mountains and bubbling icy brooks. Farmers had tilled the land and shepherds had watched their flocks as they grazed vibrant grass that bent under pleasant breezes. A close-knit community of craftsmen had run the village; with merchants visiting frequently on wagons old and new, plain and ornate, to trade their goods.
Not a soul moved down there now—not after They had come. Down from the foothills They had streamed like a dark herald of death. Without hesitation or consideration They had laid waste—killing all that opposed them. With the road littered in death, sobbing women had been crammed into wagons; their never-ending cries sending shivers of dread, even through wooden walls; while nearly every child had been herded together, then bound in chains. Such were the ways of the Soulless: Reavers who lived for destruction, heeding no law and upholding no code. The stories of them had been true, but the truth had been worse.
Small for his age, Gren was barely eleven spring-seasons old. Coddled by parents and secluded in his home, he was timid and awkward—living a sheltered and easy life. No more. His dark brown hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat and grime as he labored forward. Stumbling to the ground as a guard passed, he felt the sting of a whip slice his shoulder with fire.
"Get up, boy!" grated the guard, his accent foreign and his tone terrifying. Dressed and armored in black, he loomed over Gren—only his hooked nose apparent under the shadow of his hood. Wearing a sword buckled at his side, there was little to differentiate the guard from the soldiers that led the column in triumph.
The boy behind Gren stumbled to a stop with Gren frozen in terror upon the path. The guard growled at him too. Kicking at Gren in response, the boy tried to spur him into movement. But all Gren did was tremble—unable to act. Cursing quietly, the boy grabbed up Gren and shoved him forward.
Seemingly satisfied, the guard moved along; seeking another outlet for his whip.
Staggering forward, Gren glanced back—uncertain. But the other child just scowled, "Move!" under his breath, with no hint of compassion.
Dropping his head, Gren hid eyes brimming with tears and struggled on...
The above excerpt is © 2010 Clifton Hill, all rights reserved.
Above was an excerpt from the beginning of my 8900 word short story Child of Iron. I am not yet certain if I will keep it or change it for another portion of the story. But I do not wish to reveal too much; therefore I'm hesitant to share something from later in the story.
So far I have submitted it to SF&F magazine in late 2009 at about 11k words. Recently I returned to revise it down for submission to 8900 words (I'm surprised to say that the cut has actually made it stronger) and have sent it off to Realm of Fantasy. My expectations are low, I know that it can take an author many submissions before one of their stories are finally accepted. I'm hopeful though, and either way it will be a learning experience and an interesting journey. I appreciate any feedback on what I have included. Thanks for reading.