Short Fiction Excerpt: Titan Quest Fan-fiction

(c) 2011 by Michael L. Utley

(Author’s note: This is an excerpt from an untitled, unfinished fan-fiction story I began in 2011 based on the PC game Titan Quest. I was a moderator at the leading Titan Quest forum at that time, and we had a thriving fan-fiction community filled with tales of valor and humor and destruction…and it was glorious! Anyway, I thought I’d share this as a change-of-pace to my usual poetry posts. Perhaps someday I’ll return to this piece and finish it.)

…..

The blade slipped quietly from the man’s sweaty grasp, taking soundless ages to hit the earth with a thud so faint not even the carrion birds took notice. It lay in the dust, stained with crimson and gore, like some ancient and eldritch dragon’s tooth, testament to the day’s labors…to his life’s labors. The westering sun turned the blade to fire for a time and then took refuge behind a scud of clouds, dimming the world and all in it.

The small battlefield stretched out before him, an abattoir, an open grave that proffered no dignity to the dead or the living. The fact that the man was the only one standing gave him no solace; he was alive and all else was dead and that’s the way it had always been for as long as he could remember. He no longer consciously contemplated such things as this. Perhaps, long ago, he agonized over this fate, this blessing, this curse, but now his mind was dulled, emptied of thought and conscience, his only refuge in a world of death and more death.

Acrid smoke burned his lungs and sweat stung his eyes. He squinted to better take in the carnage but didn’t bother counting corpses. There was no point in body counts. The dead were dead and the animals would take care of them—the vultures were already busy and other scavengers would soon appear to complete the indignity of violent slaughter. He looked to the sky where the late evening sun hid prey-like among the clouds, as if it would be next to taste his blade.

He reached down to retrieve his long sword and his entire body screamed in pain. This delayed onset of sensation after battle had fascinated him in his early years, his system so loaded with adrenaline that aches were a mere whisper and pain wasn’t even in the conversation. Then, several minutes after a battle had ended, everything arrived at once and with vengeance. Arms and shoulders would burn as if his very bones were filled with fire, tremors would find his legs, sometimes forcing him to the ground as cramps seized his hamstrings and turned them into knots of agony. His head would swim and blood would pound in his ears like drums of war. It made him feel weak and shameful and his only consolation was that there was usually no one else alive to see it happen. He used to believe that this post-battle reaction reinforced his own humanity, but that notion was long since forgotten, abandoned. It had been ages since he had felt anything near to being human.

The sword was heavy as he held it before him, its blade fouled with the blood of the dozen or so men lying in pieces in the glade, their bodies steaming in the evening chill. The blade had been a gift from…he couldn’t remember. Had it been a gift? Had he picked it up along the way in some forgotten skirmish years ago? Had he stolen it? It didn’t matter. It belonged to him and he belonged to it. He wasn’t the type to name his weapons like warriors from his former life had been wont to do. He shuddered at any thought of imbuing human traits onto this entity of destruction. The truth was, he feared this blade, but it was all he knew, and there was an almost lunatic dread at the thought of parting with it. The blade itself was nondescript save for a few notches here and there, and for the dark stains he could never remove no matter how he tried. The only thing of note was a single emerald in the pommel of the grip. It wasn’t pure enough or of the proper cut to be worth anything, but it did set the weapon apart. He hefted it, his arms and shoulders still shuddering from fatigue, and tried vainly to wipe the gore from the blade. He decided to clean it later; exhaustion was setting in and he wanted to put some distance between him and this mess before full dark fell.

Yet he lingered still, feeling the sweat beginning to dry on his body and the pain in his muscles settling down into a low, steady hum. The setting sun slipped from its cover and lay bare what had once been a small human encampment in a meadow near a copse of trees and was now a tableau of the grotesque. A small, distant part of his mind told him he had done the right thing, these men were enemies, murderers, vile beings no better than the animals which even now feasted on their broken corpses, who deserved what he had visited upon them, but even that part of his mind sounded less vital and less truthful as battle after battle piled up over time. And a smaller, nearly faded part of his mind trembled in fear that perhaps he had been wrong all along.

6 thoughts on “Short Fiction Excerpt: Titan Quest Fan-fiction

  1. I could see this being a great start to a novel if you decide to go on. I have some short stories on my other blog and I can see the potential for more with them, but never get there. I think I’m better at starting stories than ever finishing them. What about you?

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  2. You nailed it–I have a few unfinished short stories that I keep thinking I need to revisit–there may be some promise to them–but I can get overwhelmed thinking about it. Having depression really screws with a person’s concentration and motivation. Whenever I’d make any sort of plan or outline for a story, that would immediately kill it. I have copious notes for a novel I wanted to write in my 20s but the more notes I compiled, the more research I did, the more suffocated I felt. It became too huge in my head and I couldn’t move forward with it. My best writing always occurred when I’d sit down with a blank page in my typewriter and a single image in my mind and just started typing. I never knew where the story would take me–I was along for the ride–and while I have a bunch of completed stories using that method, it’s just too hit-and-miss. Too many times I’d stumble onto dead-ends and since I had no roadmap to follow, I had no idea where to go next. So, yeah, lots of unfinished stories. Poetry is different for me. I can complete pieces by just letting the words take me where they wish. That’s a big reason I stopped writing prose years ago. But man, I miss it…

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  3. I’m not familiar with Titan Quest (tragically born without that gamer gene) but the story was self-contained enough that I didn’t feel I was missing out by not having been exposed to the source material. I have to agree with the other commenter that this tidbit seems ripe for expansion, and if a novel is a bridge too far, perhaps a novella? In any event, job well done!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. I have 7,800 word written for this that are currently languishing in a Stories folder on my hard drive. When I was working on this in ’11, I had plans for a novel-length piece (very loose plans–no outlines, not too many notes, a couple of maps for reference) and I was rolling along with it until I hit that wall… As for the game, it’s an ARPG (action role-playing game) set in ancient times and various mythological settings provide the background (Greek, Egyptian, Persian, Asian). My story was tied to the game setting/plot in only the most remote manner–I was going for something quite different than the game, essentially a sort of epilogue. I don’t feel like the story is dead yet. Maybe there’s more work to be done on it at some point (I hope so, at least–I was certainly enjoying myself while working on it). Thanks for the encouragement. Much appreciated. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re preaching to the choir, Mike. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool pantser and I’ll hop into a story feet first, armed with only a character, a patch of dialogue, or an idea as thin as gossamer, with no clue where I’m headed, and yes, sometimes I pay the price by hitting a wall but then I bullet point my way through possible scenarios and set it aside for a bit to come back at it with a pair of fresh eyes.

        I wish you nothing but the best of luck fleshing this out to a novel. Keep me posted.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Brotherhood of Pantsers unite! 😀 It’s so good to know I’m not the only one who writes this way. Your advice makes so much sense. Fresh eyes and bullet-points. Re-orienting to the horizon again. Finding the corners to slip around rather than banging my head against the wall. Thanks for this, Rhyan. I appreciate the encouragement. And I’ll most certainly keep you posted should more ground be broken in this tale.

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