Okay, my inner editor wouldn't let me leave the beginning alone until I at least attempted a restructure and edit of the opening section. I realize it still needs work, but, hopefully, I fixed some of the bigger issues that were making it weak. So here it is.
Dominions of Glory: 1 (Revisited)
Baelin sat in the broken room of a crumbling stone cottage, his back against the wall, his knees drawn into his chest while his head hung and tears fell. He knew he shouldn’t cry, his mother had told him so many times not to cry, but he couldn’t help it. In the entire world, nobody knew or cared that he existed, and though the first thaw had come, he knew he wouldn’t survive. His mother hadn’t.
The sky had been crystal and blue, with a high, beaming sun on the morning that Baelin’s mother died. He was seven. She left behind little of value; she’d sold off what she could to buy them food, in hopes they’d last the winter. She’d almost made it until the first thaw before succumbing to starvation and cold, leaving Baelin alone with no prospects and no hopes.
He forced the tears to stop and looked up. Upon the wall in the back room--and there were only two rooms, each equally small--mounted on a termite-eaten piece of black wood, hung a rusted, leaf-shaped blade; a relic of ages past, his mother had told him. The blade caught his eye, and for an instant he imagined it immaculate, gleaming and honed to a razor’s edge. In that instant he could actually believe the blade was something special, as if he were to wield it everything would be different.
His mother’s voice came back to his mind. He could clearly see the gentle twist of her lips as she explained the blade was from the time of Magic and a gift from Baelin’s father before he’d been called away to important duties. He thought of her and smiled a bitter-sweet smile. Her words about the sword played over again in his mind, and he wondered why.
As he continued to stare at the sword another image of his mother came to mind, assuring him repeatedly that he was born of special blood, and that if his father could’ve, he would have stayed. His father had left the sword behind for him, for when he was in need.
But as much as Baelin wanted to believe his mother and the stories she’d told, he knew they were lies. He couldn’t escape the whispers he’d heard when they’d gone into town. People spoke quietly, but only enough as to appear as if they’re trying to be polite as they named his mother a whore, slut, and many other things he did not understand. She had no friends in town. He had no friends, not out on their isolated farm, miles from the road.
So when Baelin’s mother died, he knew nobody was coming to help him. His father was years gone, a story his mother had told him, not even a memory.
And then, as in so many times before, his eyes and thoughts were drawn to the sword. He felt that if he would perhaps just wield it… but no, that was a foolish thought. The sword was a worn-out relic, as useless as the stories of Magic that accompanied it. But still he found he was drawn to the leaf-shaped blade. He considered the impossibility of what he imagined, not just with how the sword might change, but how the whole world around him could change, for once, for the better; how he’d no longer have the gnawing, burning hunger eating away at his insides.
He wanted desperately to believe his problems could be fixed by simply taking up the blade, but he couldn’t convince himself. But then, as quickly as that, he realized he had nothing to lose. So what if he took the blade down and nothing changed? What had he lost?
Baelin stopped day-dreaming and rose to his feet. He walked across the pathetic room towards the sword. The floor boards beneath his feet were rotten to dirt as often as not.
With nothing to lose, he gave up what he knew and put his hope in the sword on the wall. He tentatively stretched out a hand, but the blade was out of reach. Still, he thought he felt something open up inside of him. He searched the room for something to stand on, but there was nothing; his mother had sold the chairs and table, and the few little items they’d had left had been used for firewood.
Despite having only a tattered shirt and pants to cover him, he risked the cold of the morning and went outside to find a stone which he might step upon. The frost of the dirt bit at his feet and his soles burned at the icy touch. Most of the stones he found were stuck in the ground and he could hardly dent the frozen soil. Long after his feet had turned numb he found a large enough stone that was loose and he hauled it inside the broken cottage, into the back room where the beaten old sword rested.
Lacking the strength or energy to lower the stone gently, he dropped it to the floor where it cracked a floorboard. But Baelin didn’t care. He eyed the sword above him hungrily, desperate for the promises he hoped it held.
Carefully placing one frozen foot upon the stone he’d found, he pushed himself up, stretching to his limits. His middle finger just grazed the sword and he felt a tingle of warmth tickling its way through his body, freeing his feet from their numbed pain.
His desire for the sword was feverish now, beyond logical explanation, and he knew as much. Like a starving dog gnawing the last bit of meat off a rotten bone, Baelin stretched up again, this time, with his feeling in his foot, his fingers just reached the blade, enough to knock it off the placard and sent it tumbling to the ground.
With great care he bent over to pick up the sword, worried he might do something wrong, that his vision would erode before him if he were careless.
The handle was dried and cracked leather, and felt as such as he picked it up. He expected... something, but he felt nothing different. There were no bright lights and no miracles to save him.
He collapsed to the ground, letting the leaf-shaped blade fall beside him.
In that moment the last of his hope abandoned him and he cried in a way which only a child can, fully lost, but with a keen maturity of insight into the bleakness of his situation.
And yet, as he gave in to dispare he felt compelled to take up the sword again. With his eyes closed he stretched out his hand. Cold bronze met his finger tips and suddenly he felt as if a flood-gate opened within him. He felt as if, for a moment, he had access to an endless-burning furnace. But furnace door closed, the heat dissipated through his body and he sighed.
He opened his eyes.
Outside, the sky was crystal and blue, sunlight filtered through a sheet of glass far more perfect than Baelin had ever seen. The room was flooded with color, not just the mundane shades of brown of death, and of things dying and dirty.
Beneath him the rotted floorboards were now immaculate and polish oak boards, a table rested in the corner, simple, but sturdy, far nicer than the one his mother had pawned up in the fall. And upon the wall gleamed a black wooden placard with two notches on which to rest a blade. And at his finger-tips he felt the warmth of his gleaming, bronze, leaf-shaped blade. It had a plain bronze cross-guard, a simple handle of formed leather and solid ball of bronze for the pommel.
Baelin sniffed away the last remnants of his crying and stood, wide-eyed, unable to fully comprehend or believe the changes he saw.
In his mind he thought he heard a voice say, I give you this, and you can have so much more.
Baelin nodded as if in response to the voice in the back of his head. He reached out and took up the leaf-shaped blade, a relic of an age where men believed in Magic. A relic made anew by the Magic man had forgotten, which Baelin would use to forage a new world, free of the uncertainty and helplessness he’d felt for so long.