As I write I often get inspired to write a rabbit trail that can only be considered world building. When writing for Middle Grade there's a focus on showing and not telling. However, a lot of the detailed world building is just a narrative that just doesn't quite fit. So it goes in this file labeled "the cutting room floor.docx" on my computer. However, every now and then there's a concept that hits my brain that still doesn't fit the story I'm telling right now but is pretty good "showing" from a world building perspective. The following excerpt is content that won't make it into the series, but gives some ancient background on the Horn of Power that's featured in the series. I hope you enjoy.
The tribe had awakened with the dawn and after a quick breakfast had packed and begun to move through the pass they believed would lead them back to their rightful home in the Heathlands. Near noon they crested a rise and then they saw a long straight pass down through a split in the mountain that after about a mile opened up out into the plains.
A few hundred feet over the top of the gorge was an irregular set of rock formations that made the path into more of a tunnel than a pass. But these formations had large holes in them letting sunlight in from above.
Lord Kai’fel called a halt and gathered the warriors. He did not recall this pass on their initial flight into the Iron Hills and wanted to ensure that if they took this path out that there were no surprises on the other side. So he formed up his troops with mounted scouts to the fore, and the rest of his mounted force lagging by a few hundred yards and carefully made their way through the chasm. This left the women, children, elders and boys not yet of fighting age to wait with the baggage and stock animals.
As the scouts approached the end of the chasm, Kai’fel called a halt of the main force of warriors. He did not want to engage his soldiers too quickly if there should be trouble on the other side. He trusted his scouts to identify danger and return. So he and his men waited as the scouts forayed out onto the plain in front of them.
Twenty minutes later the first scout returned to report all is clear and that they could recognize landmarks in the distance. Within another twenty minutes, all scouts had returned with an all clear and provided detail about where to find water and grazing nearby. At this, Lord Kai’fel was genuinely relieved. After all of the pain and anguish of their flight to the iron hills and the hard travel back, to get to this point the good news was almost enough for him to weep.
So he raised his battle horn to signal the rest of the tribe to advance. As he put it to his lips, he felt a drop of water touch his forehead. He looked up; there was not a cloud in the sky, and the sky itself was barely visible from the holes in the rock formation overhead. He dismissed the drop of water and proceeded to blow his horn.
The sound echoed like a mighty wind inside the canyon. The thawing of the remaining ice and snow in the chasm created an echo chamber that caused the sound to build on itself. The first echoes were so unexpected, and loud Kai’fel’s horse leapt in the direction of the rest of the tribe. It was all Kai’fel could do to hold on to the horn and keep his seat on the horse while it galloped up the chasm. Then the sound of the horn was joined by a great cracking sound that also began to echo throughout the gorge.
The loud crack caused the warriors to look up to see the rock formations begin to break apart at the top of the gorge and fall. Chaos ensured as horses and riders all tried to set a direction for safety, only to run into each other and within seconds to be crushed by falling rock and ice. As the rock over the chasm came loose rock and ice from the walls began to sheer off as well. The warriors that were not killed by the first falling rock and ice were taken by the avalanche that ensued.
The rest of the tribe looked on in abject horror as the devastation befell the warriors. Near the end, it looked as if Kai’Fel might make it out of the devastation. His bolting horse had set him out ahead of the avalanche was rolling up behind him. However, as he gained control of the horse and turned it to avoid a large boulder in their path a final shelf of ice from overhead broke free and crushed both man and horse. The force of the impact caused Kai’Fel’s arm to fling the horn free from his grip and forward another 50 feet in front of where the avalanche buried him and his horse.
From Shai’la’s point of view on horseback there was no longer a passageway into freedom, but a wall of ice, snow, and rock. The only trace of her beloved Lord and his warriors was the horn that rang their doom laying on the ground a hundred yards in front of her. There would be no burial for them. The mountain had become their tomb.
Unconsciously she nudged her horse forward as the shock and horror came over her. When she reached the edge of the devastation, she nearly fell to the ground as she dismounted. She composed herself enough to stand on two feet and then slowly kneel in front to the devastation before her. Then the shock and horror of the day’s events hit her in full. She tore her clothes and wept. Great tears streamed down her beautiful face. Behind her, the rest of the tribe fell to their knees and wailed as well.
But there was one boy, Refi’Cul who cried no tears and made no cries of loss. Refi’Cul a boy of almost 16 summers, the age of manhood, merely walked forward from the gathered tribe to where Shai’la kneeled near the edge of the avalanche. He looked down at her with disdain, and she didn’t even notice his presence. He walked a few more steps and stopped in front of the horn that had caused so much devastation.
He knelt down next to it and picked it up. He looked at it carefully. It had been intricately carved with images of horsemen with spears riding to battle. This was the tribes battle totem, and it had always given them good fortune in battle. It was the Lord’s badge of rank, and now, it was his.
“Listen here all you mewling women and babes. I Refi’Cul am now Lord of this tribe. You will follow me now I am your Lord. Refi’Cul declared as he held the horn aloft.
This declaration snapped Shai’la out of her horror and grief. She stood up and said “ You insolent pup! How dare you attempt to claim the birthright of my Lord through no combat or great deed. You are not yet even a man. Where is the bear claw you have claimed to give you the right to lead us?”
Refi’Cuil stepped forward and slapped her across the face “You can’t speak to me to me in that tone woman! A moment ago you were on your knees mewling like a babe, and you DARE talk to your Lord that way? I have the horn of leadership. You cannot deny my ANYTHING.”
With that, he stepped forward and grabbed her by the biceps with his left hand and brought back his right hand as if to hit her again. But he was suddenly hit in the back of the head by a fist sized rock. This startled him, and he let go of Shai’La’s arm and turned to see who threw it.
It was Cla’Eece one of the women who had born a deformed child. As he turned back to Shai’La, Ven’Del and Gen’Va the other two women who had birthed unhealthy children had run up and were now standing between Shai’la and Refi’ cul holding their 6-foot walking sticks at the ready for battle.
“What is this? You women think to hurt me? I am Refi’Cul Lord of you all. Did you not see the power this horn had; Do you not understand that Kai’Fel has finally found judgment and justice for his poor leadership and all the pain he has caused the tribe? I have been chosen to lead you, and I have the power.” He yelled as he held the horn up to his mouth.
“Enough! Kradak”: Shai’la shouted.
Shai’la’s horse reared and kicked out with its front hoofs at Refi’Cul. It connected with Refi’Cul’s head, and the youth immediately dropped to the ground with a nasty gash in the back of his skull. He fell face down in the dirt with the horn under his head. The blood from his cut poured over the horn and onto the ground.
Shai’la turned back to the crowd behind her. Her rescuers taking a step behind her.”Our Lord is dead and likely his line with him. One day another will rise worth of Kai’fel’s role as Lord, and he will start a new line, and we will follow the ways of old. Until then, I am your champion, your Warrior Priestess. These three who stood by my side are now my attendant priestesses, and we will lead you as best we can. We four have no children. We will be your warriors until the young have proven themselves.”
Now let us move on from this place of sorrow, back the way we came. There was a pass to the south a day’s journey back. We will take that way and find a place to rest and mourn our loss.
With that, the assembly began to gather their things and turn back the way they came.
That night was the new moon. At it’s darkest point, a figure cloaked in black stood over Refi’Cul’s dead body. Next to the figure was a four-legged beast.
“What a shame, what a shame. Refi’Cul you had so much potential. IF you had waited the summer, you would have been Lord by right of manhood. Now here, dead on the ground what use are you to me in this world. Mayhem, I grow so weary of servants who lack the patience to follow my instructions.” The dark figure said as he reached over and stroked the back of the beast’s head.
"Oh, what is this?” asked the Dark One as he stepped on the horn’s mouthpiece. He then picked up the blood crusted horn and inspected it. The beast sniffed at the horn and then immediately recoiled and took a step away.
“Ahh, now this was a victory after all. Refi’Cul’s blood has sealed the anguish in these hills in the horn for eternity. Yes, yes, there will be another Refi’Cul to do my bidding. But the power in this horn is truly priceless. Wouldn’t you say Mayhem?” The beast took another step away and then crouched on its haunches. Then put it’s paws over its head. “Indeed. The horn even has the power to cower you and your pack.” mused the Dark One as he began to walk on up the pass in the direction the tribe had gone.