This year’s NaNoWriMo project features the first installment of Saga of the Elagabal: The Loyalty of Severus. That’s right, the first book has a title now. Chuck Wendig asked readers to share a thousand words of their project, so I thought now is a good opportunity to do just that.
In this scene, Varius, the heir of the ostracized House Severus, has both his mind and combat skills tested by the Imperial General Caracalla. This is Varius’ “put your hand in the box” moment (if you remember Dune, you’ll get it).
Anyway, enjoy this scene from draft one:
Varius waited as Caracalla paced around the room, examining him from every angle. The young man wasn’t sure if he liked the attention or not, especially coming from a general.
“I have only a single test remaining for my evaluation,” Caracalla said, collecting the spear laying on the floor. He signaled a third centurion to approach, this one offering a pistol. “Before that, Mitchell, Kell, kill Varius Severus.”
The pair of centurions lifted their shields and moved to flank the young man. Both lowered their spears into an attack position.
“Young Severus,” Caracalla said. “Do you know the fundamental reason why humanity began using weapons reminiscent of the pre-firearms era when fighting the Nihl?”
A spear thrust came from Varius’ right. He turned sideways, only to reflexively hop back when the second centurion attacked.
“It’s not a taunt, young Severus. I expect an answer.”
Varius knew he couldn’t keep moving away from the duo. Eventually, the wall would block his escape.
The centurions thrust at him again, sweeping to the sides to scatter his options—aside from the wall.
“Standard firearms don’t work against the Nihl,” Varius said. He glanced around the room, noticing the guarded doors. Without windows, they were the only way in or out.
“We have beam weapons, like this pistol,” Caracalla said, holding up the weapon in his hand. “Why don’t we use those?”
“They don’t deal enough damage fast enough.”
One of the centurions rushed forward, thrusting not with a spear, but with the large shield. Varius spun on one heel, rolling his body against the shield and its bearer. When he shifted behind the centurion, the young man pushed the soldier forward while hooking his shoe in front of the man’s foot.
Caracalla walked around the edge of the room. “We could always bear more gun against the aliens, but that didn’t work either.”
A centurion landed on the floor, just as his comrade thrust his spear forward.
Varius caught the weapon, intending to whip it away from the centurion—exactly as the soldier intended. The young man fell, even though he’d taken the weapon away.
The centurion drew a gladius and shifted into a more aggressive stance. The centurion on the floor stood up again, still carrying his initial implements.
“Young Severus. Answer me or I will order another of my men to kill you. What is the real reason why we didn’t use weapons invented by our own species?”
A spear thrust toward Varius, which he parried. The other centurion thrust with the gladius, cutting the back of the young man’s hand.
He wished one of the greater swords was on the rack, so he could keep his distance from the centurions and destroy their weapons.
“The Nihl had better technology.” Varius moved to his right, making occasional thrusts with the spear to keep the soldiers away. “We stole what we could and used it against them.”
“Excellent answer,” Caracalla said, “once you pieced it together. Why is this fight still going on?”
“Because they haven’t killed me.”
“Yes, but you haven’t killed them.”
The centurions used their shields to block their bodies, closing the space defended.
Gripping the base of the spear with both hands, Varius slammed the weapon into one of the shields, piercing the metal plate.
Dropping the shield, the centurion turned his spear in a defensive position.
The gladius thrust in at Varius again as the young man dashed toward the shieldless soldier grabbing the spear with both hands. The spear’s owner began to wrestle the weapon back, but Varius punched the shaft with the base of his palm. Blood poured on the floor, but the spear broke, toppling the centurion backward.
Running toward the weapon rack, Varius grabbed the first weapon he could reach, swinging it toward his opponents. The long staff warded back a centurion before it struck the floor. The shielded soldier slammed a foot on the weapon, pinning it down.
Varius turned, pulling away the short sword fast enough to knock down the entire rack. He jerked on the staff, swept down with the sword, cleaving the shaft in two.
“Messy,” Caracalla said. “And poor form. Did your father teach you that? Is that why he’s dead?”
Sextus’ heir blasted forward, using the cleaved staff to parry incoming blows, while closing the distance. Varius saw the centurion’s sword, but imagined the Twelfth Quantum Sword. Under the finned helmet, the Usurper mocked the young man’s life on the edge of the Empire.
The young man thrust his sword under the edge of the helmet, driving it into whatever flesh he could find. As the centurion collapsed, the shieldless soldier approached, drawing a sword with his free hand.
“Answer me,” Caracalla said. “Why is your father dead?”
When the soldier attacked with a spear thrust, Varius kicked the weapon away. The young man parried the centurion’s gladius with the short sword, lunging forward with the cleaved staff, jabbing the shaft in the soldier’s neck.
Varius turned toward the general as the centurion collapsed. “I don’t know why. I wasn’t there.”
“Not good enough.”
“It’s the truth.” He dropped the short sword on the floor. “I don’t care if it’s good enough.” Varius walked toward the door that would lead him out.
A blast struck the floor in front of the young man’s feet. He glanced back at the general.
Caracalla lowered his pistol. “I did not give you permission to leave.”
Varius closed his fists, feeling the blood drip from his wounds. Quietly, he said, “If I had his sword, I wouldn’t need your permission.”
Nodding, the general said, “Think on that. I suspect you’ll find the answer within.” Caracalla nodded at the centurions by the door. “We will speak again, young Severus.”
Shaking his head, Varius said, “Animal,” and left.