As Yet Unnamed Story

Discussion in 'Original Works' started by Crusader, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    Good evening. About 3 years ago I posted a prologue for a story I had in my head over in the fan fiction section with aspirations to keep writing it. Did I? hell no, but I didn't forget it, it got refined and developed in my mind to a point where I had a reasonable level of detail and enough to write about. Which is what normally happens with me, if I don't write something down, it keeps running circles in my head gathering details.

    Anyway the original prologue is here:

    http://www.thefantasyforum.com/showthread.php?t=12289

    Which I plan to rewrite to fit in more detaisl, a few things will flip around but the basics are the same.

    Anyway over christmas the writing bug hit me in the free time I had, I did something I rarely do with my ideas, I wrote em down, I wrote down notes, an outline of the whole plot, details and all sorts, actually doing this got me back into the world I was creating to the point where I finally, FINALLY sat down and wrote the first chapter. Obviously the first draft and may be updated, but I thought I'd share, get some critical responses to help me develop it. so here we go, chapter one:

    _________________

    Long ago the river Matir was a great border between two warring kingdoms, lands long forgotten by the people who now drove herds through fields that had once been grand cities in ages gone by. This had been the stage for legends and history long past, and would be again in many ages to come. The wide and sinuous river just as strong now as it had been in those days.
    Where the old realm of Tragea, a hard land of rocky earth and high cliffs gave way into rolling plains, the river cascaded over a great set of falls, and there the waters swelled wider than at any point north of the coast. About the high cliffs of the falls and the soft flat lands below was the city of Ascent, heart of the empire and a marvel to behold.
    The peaks of the Catmer hills rose high above the river, hard on its north bank, crowned with high towers and rich stonework where the nobility looked down on the rest of the city from the quiet, ordered bustle of Highmarket and Upper Avara. The streets leading down to the river’s edge becoming less and less ornate as the smell of the river became stronger. There below were the Imperial Docks, the shipyards of Ascent and the Merchants Dock, the beating heart of the city’s commerce, a constant move of ships heading out downriver towards the sea, and others bringing back riches from beyond the horizon. Between the docks and the north wall was Fort Cerac, home of the Imperial Legions stationed at the city, its training grounds alive with raw recruits and old veterans, the sprawling complex dwarfing the neighbouring residences that crowded round the base of the Catmers.
    Far across the wide river the rest of the city was a mix of beauty and squalor. Leading down from the edge of the waterfall the great stone causeway was flanked by shops and taverns, workshops and houses all the way down to the throngs of Lowmarket and the lower city. But just as the houses gave way to the slums of the riverbank and beggar’s alley, among them all were the Standing Gardens, sitting on a stone walled mesa amid the city, the lush and sprawling park was a beacon of green life among the bustle of the city, its silent statues and arches deferring to birdsong and the chirp of crickets even in the middle of the city.
    Ascent; a thousand variations in sight, sound and smell from one quarter to the next, alive with the pulse of the world, and as the morning went on its pace only escalated.

    Slinging his pack over the rail Davian took a moment to look across the city from the deck of the Waverunner, not a stone seemed out of place since he left nearly half a year ago. The sprawling hills covered in buildings set besides the roaring falls, it was only after his time away that he realised that this city was his home, it was a bittersweet thought, tinged in guilt over his old life in Acrona, before...
    Just as he mused on his place in this city, his attention was brought back to the world with a jolt to his scalp from a well aimed pebble. Below him on the dock Markus Wren stood, with arms crossed nonchalantly, his expression the kind of innocence that only a guilty man could fake.
    “Are you expecting me to carry your bag for you while you settle into your new job as a mast? Quit standing around already, we need to be off.” Markus had been all too ready to leave the Waverunner after the long journey upriver, the fact that Davian’s delay was keeping him on the docks was evidently a bother to him.
    Davian sighed as he vaulted over the railing and onto the stone dockside of the Merchant’s Dock, at long last feeling solid ground beneath his feet. Markus quickly picked up Davian’s satchel and pushed it into him in an effort to hasten his pace.
    “The longer we stand around the more likely fat old captain Hadrin will come ashore and spend another week praising Shenn’s arse to us and we’ll be stuck here, Come on, aren’t to eager to see the other’s again?” A mix of excitement and anxiety had taken hold of Markus and made him irritable, a distinct change from his usual sarcastic self.
    In an effort to goad Markus, Davian purposefully took his time about getting ready. “Please spare me; Lhanda is closer than Loamas, Sunder or the Frontier, and half the places Shenn chose to send the others, for all you know we’re the first ones back.”
    Markus sighed. “Spare me he says, first back he says, where’s your head at Dav? You forget the two week journey through Saleisha? Or when we hit the sand bank and spent three days pulling that cursed ship off it only to resume its ponderous crawl, we should have been back a month gone. With any luck we’ll be the last ones back.”
    “I suppose you may be right at that.” Davian gave way begrudgingly, not wanted to argue the point further. Arguing with Markus was something you only attempted when in the mood; it was its own war of attrition.
    “Ah I knew it, this is about Val again isn’t it? Pfft, you’d think you’d have forgotten all that after five months drinking wine and lounging in the sun,”
    “You were the one inspecting the vineyards and sitting about on your arse, I had to put up with the magistrate’s bickering and the gods-forsaken regional economics, and no, it isn’t about Val, I’m just not looking ahead to climbing the Avara way.”
    Markus snorted. “Will be busy at this hour no doubt, but we’ll just take the edge alleys, steeper roads but no damnable merchant wagons in the way. Anyway the roads don’t get shorter or flatter with you standing around like a lemon tree.”
    Just as the two began their first steps towards the Catmer Hills, a roar came from the deck of the Waverunner. Hadrin Edhert, the ship’s portly captain had finally made it up onto the deck after inspecting his cargo, with his first footsteps he was already bellowing orders to slothful sailors and directing the winches over the hold. As Markus took hold of Davian’s sleeve and tried to pull him away at a run, Hadrin turned his iron gaze onto the dockside, catching Davian and Markus. But iron gave way, and the boom of his voice settled down to a sycophantic mumbling.
    “Ah, there you are lads, off so soon? Without as much as a good day to your humble friend Hadrin. I have the men bringing your cases up as we speak, surely you don’t mean to leave them onboard?”
    Markus bit off a curse before it got to Hadrin. “Of course not, we left instructions with the first mate to have them sent to the Citadel as soon as they were off the ship. Despite your evident and assured haste we are behind schedule and need to be away immediately. Or is there some important reason for us to be delayed in delivering your heartfelt praises to the Emperor?”
    At that Hadrin winced, adding a pleading note to his speech. “Of course not, I merely wished to thank you for your patronage young masters, and my best to our beloved Emperor Shenn, bless his hands. I hope you will remember poor old captain Edhert, and put in a good word for me and the entire merchant’s guild.”
    They both knew Hadrin was prone to piling compliments in surplus if he was allowed, and before he could Markus seized the moment, giving him a deep formal bow.
    “Thank you kindly Captain, Go with Grace.”
    Taking Davian by the bicep, Markus marched off before Hadrin could open his bloated lips once more. The two took the nearest street towards the hills and didn’t stop till they were away from the sound of the docks.
    “Gods, I thought we’d never be free of that damnable boat and its sodding captain.”
    Davian frowned. “Ah, he wasn’t so bad.”
    Markus shook his head. “What am I always telling you Davian, people like Hadrin have no courage, too busy living off the backs and praises of others; social parasites. I’ve no patience for his sort.”
    The two men talked as they began the slow march up Avara, tallest of the Catmer hills, and the one that merged into north bank of the great falls. Davian was as tired of Markus’ speeches as much as he was of Hadrin’s.
    “You take too much at face value Markus, certainly Captain Hadrin was a sycophant to us, but you saw him with the crew, he was a different man, he would be yet another man around his friends or his family, of all the Hadrin Edhert’s there are, only one of them spent his time boring us with his praises, and should we expect anything less? Charges of the Imperial Academy, part of the emperor’s damned court, such positions breed the same response from almost everyone.”
    Markus snorted. “Almost everyone, almost, some people have a spine, they measure us by their own standards not the other way round. Would that more people were like that the world would be a more interesting place.”
    “Most people gave up their spines to the Empire, rather than risk the legion’s wrath, can we really expect them to show courage, especially in the presence of members of the Imperial Court?”
    “And what a dull world that leads to eh? Someone should have told them the cost of lasting peace was boredom, ah damn this philosophy, we aren’t even half way back to the Academy and you’re already starting to ponder again.”
    Davian laughed. “It’s a skill.”
    Raising an invisible mug to the air, Markus closed his eyes. “Farewell to the long summer, the good southern wines and the copper beauties, a few more steps and it’s back to philosophical contemplation, swordplay, arithmetic and a dozen other dull pursuits all in the name of learning. Gods, you’d have thought thirteen years would be enough time wasted on this foolishness, but no. Well, off to pondering with you Master Dav, I’m going to the Golden Oak first”
    “But Master Wren, if we delay to the Citadel, how ever will the Emperor hear the humble wishes of Hadrin Edhert?”
    Davian dodged the slow swipe of Markus’ palm, and the two set off back up the hill, this time towards Edgemarket and the Golden Oak; the finest dump of a tavern north of the river.

    On the Hard edge of Avara, where the rocky hill merged into the cliffs of the great falls, the roads and alleys wound up and down the hill, tracing steep and twisting paths from top to bottom, hardly frequented for the steep pace it took to get there. But with the main roads crammed by traffic to and from Highmarket, it was a peaceful route up to the falls. Here and there were a few sights of note, taking advantage of the unobstructed westward view were a few small terraces and plazas, the tiny Edgemarket, which intercepted a good deal of trade going to the richer districts uphill. Somewhere half way up the hill was a stone drum of a building perched on the very edge where hill finally became cliff. In front of its door a battered sign swung in the high winds, the words Golden Oak barely legible above a worn painting of a tree with three hanged men among its branches.

    As Davian and Markus stepped through the threshold of the Tavern they were instantly assaulted by the smells of cooked meat, sweat, sour wine and smoke. It was a familiar odour that brought back fond memories of years gone by, drinking with friends. Of all the taverns on Avara, this was their favourite, any further up the hill they became bloated and pretentious, full of nobility sipping iced wine, listening to harp players and other dull and slow means of entertainment. Further down the hill towards the docks the taverns became crowded full of thieves, whores and sailors. Here at the edges of Avara, where there was little traffic, it was quieter, humble and cheap. The common room was practically empty, a few lonely patrons here and there, a group of men clustered in one corner speaking in hushed tones, and round the corner at a table inset into the outer wall, three figures sat talking, each one wearing the deep green coat of the Academy.
    Markus rapped a knuckle against Davian’s arm, nodding to the table, and with the other hand he unfastened his cloak, flinging it over one shoulder in a swooping motion. Then, with all the pretention he could muster, Markus swaggered over like a victorious general, and Davian trailed behind.
    “Good Morning Citizens” Markus announced, mock pompousness thick on his tongue. “You’re humble leader had returned, you may resume your obedience.”
    Alek was the first to respond, having seen them come in, he assumed the same tone of foolery as Markus. “What’s this peasant doing in here? This is a meeting of the Imperial Academy, not some fetid alley-brothel.” His tirade begun to shake towards the end with a growing smile that finally reached his eyes.
    Markus laughed it off and shook Alek’s hand by the wrist. “Fetid alley-brothels? You know I don’t take my business anywhere south of the river.”
    By the time the two were done greeting and laughing it over, Yula and Connid had risen from their seats to greet Davian.
    “It’s good to have you two back.” Yula began. “Alekko was getting insufferable waiting, now there’s only Torik left to return.”
    Davian finished shaking Connid’s hand first, then turned back to Yula. “Where was it he went? Tolm? That’s barely as far as we were.”
    Yula furrowed her brow, nodding. “News coming from the east isn’t good, the bandit problem in the Leffin Forest has gotten worse, most of the lumber camps have been overrun, some are saying its close to an uprising, God’s hope Torik’s alright but even if he is I can’t imaging he’ll be too quick about coming home to face Shenn after that.
    That was dire indeed; there hadn’t been a whiff of dissidence for over a decade until the Leffin problems. It seemed the shadow of the dense forest was the only place that traitors to the Empire could flourish unseen within its borders, Davian hoped Torik was alright.
    The five of them eventually sat back down together, and a maid brought Davian and Markus wine, it was not long before they had settled into their old habits of arguing and laughing in turns. Yula was first to begin bemoaning her time away.
    “Honestly, the whole city stinks to high heaven of fish, the roads aren’t all mud because it never stops raining, and the Governor had me at sea half the time, on patrol ships watching waves and gulls and rutting grain ships all day.”
    Markus nodded, his own disdain for the water evident. “I can’t imagine being on one for that long, me and Dav nearly went mad just coming up from Lhanda.”
    Davian sighed to himself, not wanting to be included de facto in another of Markus’ irrational distastes.
    “Saleisha must have been better though?” Yula Wondered.
    “Ah yes.” Markus took the initiative. “Warm weather, cool breezes and half the vineyards in the Empire in front of you, it was delicious. We started off in Alcien and moved across the country each month, a little longer on Summer bay of course. I think we got the best spot on the map.”
    Shaking his head Davian added in “There was a bit more work than that; lots of accounts and trade manifests going through the capital in summer meant a lot of paperwork for us to do while we were there, I swear even Markus did some.”
    “Lies!” Markus protested. “I’ll have you know I never lifted a finger! I’ll not have my reputation as a timewaster tarnished by these viscous accusations!”
    Connid broke the group laughter after a moment. “Speaking of which; I heard a few good tales of the exploits of Master Wren while I was in Lihra.”
    The look on Markus’ face was an odd mixture of contemplation and worry; in the stricter environs of the Imperial Citadel he still managed a good deal of mischief, so it was hard to imagine what an unsupervised Markus Wren would have been like before the Academy.
    “Who have you been talking to?” Was all he Markus muster, waiting to see what secret of his had been unearthed. Davian made a note of finding out who had the good dirt on Markus.
    Taking his time, Connid smiled wryly before speaking. “Your darling cousin of course, the good queen Alissa.”
    Everybody waiting a moment to see Markus react, his brown eyes narrowed as he ever so slightly turned his head to the side.
    “She tells me.” Connid Resumed. “You had the most unscrupulous habits, especially concerning the palace guards.” The emphasis on the last part seemed to speak volumes to Markus, in a language most of them didn’t know, one that Connid was now fluent in.
    Markus managed a menacing chuckle. “I’m going to throttle that little toad next time I’m back.” He paused. “No, I have a few choice stories of my own that would interest the royal court!”
    “Are we talking about the same person?” Connid interjected. “The Alissa I saw was certainly no toad, all prim and proper. A raven haired goddess was what I found.”
    That certainly phased Markus, he had not been home to Ukoss for almost eight years and even that was only a visit, things had changed and seemingly not to his liking. Connid’s description and the heavy lidded smirk he delivered it with did nothing to ease his tensions.
    For all his bemoaning of his home in Ukoss, Davian knew Markus was more fond of it than he would admit. The way he would talk about times in the palace with his uncles and cousins was always with a smile, when he spoke of Alissa it sounded more like the teasing of an older brother than a distant relative. The notion that so much had changed without him must have hurt deeply.
    Davian tried to imaging his friend’s plight, but that only brought memories of his last visit home. And that was a sadder memory by far, one of rubble and bones.

    As morning gave way to noon, the aromas from the kitchen permeated the haze left by pipe smoke and dirt in the air. Davian’s stomach began to growl in unison with those around him, and the five of them took lunch downstairs nearer the kitchen. There the rooms in the golden oak had been sunk into the rocks of Avara, like many of the building on the edge the only room to expand was up or down. In the dining hall there was less draft from the high winds on the streets and the air took on the warmth coming out of the kitchen. Tiny windows near the ceiling here and there brought a little natural light, but the dim room was mostly lit by candles giving it a warm and hospitable vibe. A few other patrons from the common room above had come down for their meals though many would elect to eat above.
    Not wanting the isolation of a private room, Davian and his friends took their meal in the corner below the stairs, nearest the kitchen. Fresh bread and roasted woodhen were brought out with helping of root vegetables and thick gravy. Davian and Markus dig in with the appetite of soldiers, their long voyage on ship’s rations a distant memory. The others ate more slowly but with appetites of their own.
    When the last scrap of meat had been strips from the bird and only a few morsels remained, the group settled back into a lethargic state. Soon enough they would have to return to the Citadel, but until then they would enjoy the last of their freedom.
    Davian decided to break the silence first. “You never said which province you went to Alek?”
    Alekko finished picking a wayward piece of meat from between his teeth before speaking. “That’s because I didn’t go anywhere. I got stuck here in Ascent for the duration. Apparently with my father away the Emperor didn’t want me out of reach.”
    Yula patted Alekko’s cheek in a soft mocking fashion. “There, there, are we still being treated as a hostage, as if you haven’t proven your loyalty by now.” Alekko didn’t seem amused.
    “Pfft, five months in the city, must have been boring sitting around the Citadel all day, what did you do?” Markus said, with only a hint of superiority.
    “Shenn actually kicked me out of the Citadel for almost the whole time, Instead he arranged that I spend time in each part of the City’s infrastructure; the lower districts, each of the guilds, the pillars, the longest time I spent at Fort Cerac with the Legion, overseeing recruitment. But the best part was with the Avaran Brotherhood. “
    Davian almost didn’t believe Alek, but as jovial as the man was, he was not one for boasts like Markus “I thought the brotherhood was a myth? Arent they outlawed?”
    “Ah Dav, I thought you’d read half the books in the library, didn’t you see Astred’s paper on the city gangs? Shenn rewrote the imperial policy based on it. The gangs each have a niche roll in the city politics and economics, they form links between the trade and community as well as help keep public order in their own way. There’s an unwritten understanding that they are allowed to exist as a silent partner in the city, and in turn they respect and enforce imperial law. Some of the gangs on the south bank are a bit unsavoury, but rivalry keeps an internal balance of power between all of them and prevents them having too much pull in the city.”
    “Mercy, I had no idea they were even around.”
    Alekko smiled, tapped two fingered to his left shoulder and then make a strange salute. At first Davian and the others were a little confused until two men across the room returned the gesture to Alek before resuming their meal.
    “The Brotherhood actually does most of its business along the Edge of Avara and on the lanes to the upriver docks; this whole street is full of them.” Alekko then lowered his voice so only those at the table could hear. “judging by the questions I got off Shenn when I got back, he wants to assess their strength in case they get any bolder. He needs them more than he’ll admit, most of the information on dissidents and suspected mages comes from the gangs as few people trust the watch these days.”
    Davian reconsidered the idea that he and Markus had the best post in Saleisha, Markus may have been happy to sit in the sun but the province was largely a oversized farm, sending foodstuff to the capitol and the other provinces, it was all exports. Ascent was the heart of the empire and each of the city’s five hills were worlds apart. The city itself was made up of officials and peoples from across the empire and beyond, it was a storm of differences from one street to the next and Alekko had seen it all.
    “So” Markus finally interjected with a question he had been keeping until now. “Where did Val end up then?”
    “Fort Sunder” Yula was the only one willing to take the question, the silence of everyone else was palpable. “According to her it snowed the whole five months, she nearly lost two fingers to frostbite in the first month.”
    Markus winced. “Eesh! I knew it was bad up north, why isn’t she here keeping warm with you lot then?”
    “Simati has finally taken up swordplay, and Shenn asked her to be her instructor. Plus Val spent most of the time she’s been back swinging her sword in the practice yard, trying to get those fingers back to their old state.” It made sense to Davian, Val had outpaced them all at swordplay, it was all most of them could do to fend her off in practice, it made sense for her to be instructing Simati now that the girl was old enough. Those two had always been like family, even if Davian had no family left, he knew who they had been, Val only knew their country, and Simati knew nothing of her parents, together they made an odd pair of friends, but it was something neither of them had before.
    Davian couldn’t help remembering the last time He’d seen Val before they had parted, in more ways than one. He had been angry then, and perhaps he would have been glad she was sent off to freeze for five months if he had not forgiven her. His time away helped him to reflect and grow, not just for the skills he developed, but for the perspective he gained on him and Val. For some reason Davian couldn’t shake the thought that Shenn had sent them away partly because of him and Val.

    Alekko resumed his tales of Ascent, telling them of the strange practices within the guilds, their rivalries and honour codes. Most of them laughed at the ridiculousness of the private war the bakers guild had with the brewers; two factions at each others throats for warehouse space and rights to grain ships. Eventually each one of them had told their stories of the last five months, laughed and commiserated, before finally they left the Golden Oak, Summer had drawn to a close and it was time to return to the Citadel. Five Abreast they took the main alleys up and away from the edge of Avara towards the cliffs and the Veiled Bridge which lead out across the crest of the falls. There, sat amid the river above the falls was the grandest structure in all the city and the empire combined; the Imperial Citadel. Davian knew going in that this was more than just the end of summer; change was in the wind, but what changes were coming he couldn’t yet know.

    _______________

    that seemed the natural break to me. Bascally we are introducing a set of characters who are prominent in the early chapters, a few will return throughout the story and perhaps in the future. We also get some glimpses into the feeling of the world, the setting etc.

    To reprise the explanation of the story from the other thread, basically Davian et al have reached the end of their time at the academy, at an approaching festival they are all given positions in provinces across the empire, this is outshadowed by an assassination attempt against the emperor as part of the recent uprising, which fails. Davian is tasked to lead the legions against the uprising in the leffin forest, he does and succeeds only to find Luc, one of the only remaining people from his life before the empire, leading the revolt. He takes Luc captive and brings him back to Ascent. on the journey back the two debate the empire, and we learn more about its shady practices. Davian is eventually faced with the choice of being part of the empire, though tyrannical has kept peace for hundreds of years after nothing but war before. or to resist. He decides to free luc, but to stay, only his actions are discovered and he flees the city. Davian and Luc head west trying to evade the empire long enough to make it past its borders to lohridea, a non-imperial city state that had funded the uprising, the empire become aware of this funding and launch an attack on the city lead by markus, the whole thing culminates with lohridea winning the battle, and with support form the west they plan a full scale revolt against the empire.

    A second storyline running parallel to Davian's plotlines show the more mystical elements of the world, as the empire has outlawed all magic and practitioners are killed on sight. We follow as mage from a world beyond the empire accidentally dumped into it, she also has to make a journey across the empire t lohridea for different reason, this whole aspect of the story needs more development, but basically it shows some of the more down to earth elements, since Davian runs in higher circles with political leaders and in grand schemes, the mage has to hide in the alleys so to speak, and we get a different perspective on the empire from this line as well as some on the mystical elements that are involved in the overarching narrative.

    anyway thats all for now, so, thoughts?
     
  2. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    I read through the story this weekend, but keep in mind that I've been focusing almost exclusively on nonfiction for the past 6 months or so.

    While the story's interesting and I'd like to read more, the biggest problems I have currently are:
    1) Flat characters, and 2) Flat dialogue (the latter more than the former, because it's only a few pages are long and you don't have that much room to develop characters within that space). Although there's a lot you could do to work over the descriptions, etc. to make it flow smoother/sound better, I can't help but feel that if you fixed over dialogue, it'd do a lot more.

    Then again, I haven't worked on a "story" since summer, and nonfiction is very much different from fiction writing, so don't ask me.
     
  3. Black Tattoo

    Black Tattoo The Corruptor

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    I agree with Liadan. The story idea itself IS good but personally I feel that fixing the one-dimensional dialogue would help you to develop your characters more. Instead of "describing" them, let their words and the way they "speak" them reveal more of who they are.
     
  4. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    well, was the first draft so I'm making a big note to add topography to characters, thanks guys.
     
  5. Anglobotomy

    Anglobotomy New Member

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    What they said... new writers have a tendency for all their characters to basically be themselves speaking in slightly different ways, and its tough to really become that character.
    When you get there, you'll notice a big difference in the response to your writing.
    Obviously some revision helps - especially if you want a week and revise it.
    My only suggestion is to watch the comma splices. It's easy to pack two sentences into the same thought. I swear, essays written by college students are full of comma splices.
     
  6. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Have you written anything else lately? If you have, send send send! You know my email ;)

    In other news that you might care about, I've sort of been writing a bit of fantasy lately. Not that much compared to the massive amounts of nonfic I generated over break, but enough. It's nothing really serious/dedicated, and in fact it's honestly more of an entertaining writing exercise, but maybe one of these days I'll get back to that huge story I was so interested in telling, once upon a time. ;)
     
  7. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    Well nothing new as yet, work has me pretty busy, I got the last one done over Xmas. At the moment I'm trying to recentre myself writing wise, I did this when I had the time and the desire, but I didn't have enough inspiration to make it as good as I want.

    So in the mean time it'll just be practice, I've had a shot at doing another short rpg over in the guilds section though I've only made one post, until I have the time, desire and inspiration this story will be staying put.
     
  8. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Psh, excuses, excuses.

    Also, I have to admit that I lied about my "not very serious" junk since I just stayed up until 6 AM last night writing. Although that was mostly because of the nap I'd taken earlier.

    But yeah, write more and then send it to me!
     
  9. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    Alright, finsally managed tog et some work done on this, instead of redoing the first chapter, I went back and updated the prologue, ahppy with some parts, others not so much, so feedback is appreciated!!

    -----

    Prologue
    ~Entrants in the Dark~

    Occasionally I am asked by the brash and the unfamiliar to account for the rash steps taken in securing the empire; of the harsh toll paid in its inception. One need only look to history and the blood spilt for all causes great and small; it is the way of all things that progress, advancement and learning are founded on destruction. To make a new future the past must be left behind, old ways must be abandoned so that better ones can be embraced. All creation requires a pound of destruction, a toll of tears, but each and every end begets another beginning.

    -Shenn, Annals of the Fourth Age​

    Valley of Sul, Old Acrona, 346 AE

    Thunder rolled through the black curtain of the night, its terrible roar shaking the roots of the mountains till it seemed they would come crashing down into the valley and bury the rolling hills beneath them. But these lands had seen a great many storms, and the elder mountains had weathered them all. Even as the torrent of rain flowed; the earth resisted.

    Acrona was an old land of hard people, first of the great kingdoms of Rhulle. Its foundations were laid by survivors of the Age of Chaos, its fathers had outlasted the Cataclysm and it had stood unshakable in the Sundering when a hundred nations lived and died in the seemingly endless war. No nation under the sky could rival Acrona’s claim to fortitude, until the unification, until the empire came. The old kingdom now little more than a vassal to a conqueror who had raised no swords against it.

    Luc watched out over the darkened valley, trying to see past the sheets of icy rain into the very heart of the night. Even sound was concealed by the watery veil, echoes lost in the roar of the heavens coming back only as thunder. A flash of lightning brought nothing but the outlines of trees, homesteads scattered across the mountainside.

    The Kingdoms of the south built grand cities to rival one another, high walls and roads paved in marble. Acrona built farms and roads only good for the droving of cattle. Where the south had forgotten the honest labour of the fields, Acrona remembered. Where the south had grown soft and idle in the grasp of the emperor, the hard stones of Acrona remembered its strength.

    As if defying the thunders roar, a whisper came from behind him, its softness a mockery of the raging storm’s clamour. “There will be no birds tonight I fear.” There was warmth also in that voice, near enough to take the chill from the night.

    Luc looked off into the darkness. “No, I fear not, but duty demands I wait nonetheless.” The Lady Anaiya seemed to take little solace in his words.

    “Surely Jorrah or Cain can stand on the parapets imitating statues in your stead, I feel it is much too undignified a task for the Commander of the Guard.”

    “Perhaps it was your husband’s intention that my dignity be tasked; perhaps that is why he left me here to watch over half empty halls while the rest of our nation wages war.” He turned to face her then and took in the sight of her, even huddled under her riding cloak she was beautiful, her green eyes watching with fire as the rest of her shivered in the cold and wet. Forever separated from him, if not by icy sheets of rain, then by the cruel mockery called honour.

    “Am I not worthy of protection? Is the safety of my children too petty a task? You forget you swore your oath to the royal bloodline not my husband alone. Luc, is my company so dreary that even this blasted storm seems warmer?”

    He delayed his response, remembering caution in addressing his betters. Anaiya seemed to take his silence as an answer.

    “When Andric left he took all the men I had known in my household, all the knights I had come to trust and love as part of our family leaving naught but boys. I am guarded by crofters and stablehands while the only soldier among them stands in the rain, watching the night.” She laughed then, a mirthful chuckle meant only for herself. “How safe I feel.”

    Every part of Luc screamed for him to reach out and hold her, to comfort her worries, to take her inside and out of the unending rain and lay her worries to rest. But he remained the statue, bound by his oaths and turned away to watch the rain. “In these dark days safety is hard to find and harder to keep, would that I could set your mind to ease, but word from the north is overdue. I can feel the tension of the night, and it calls me to stand here, waiting for whatever is to come.”

    Anaiya took a moment to shake away her mirth, fixing her emerald gaze on him with appraisal. “Scarcely a month has passed since wayside, the rebellion’s back has been broken, what is left for Andric to do but begin the long march home? What ill do you see in the darkness that can rob us of battles already won?”

    Luc shrugged. “There was a time when the slaughter of innocents merely grasping for their freedom would have seemed ill enough to you my lady.”

    Her gaze turning to ice beneath her sodden hood, Anaiya took two steps closer to him till the sight of her filled his view. “I no longer care for the blood the empire spills, not while my husband, Your King, fights beneath the imperial standard. Would you have Andric turn against the legions and be killed in a day? Would you have all these fields sown with the dead sons of Acrona? I have seen too many nations put to the sword in my time Luc, to care for those beyond my reach.”

    The fire in her eyes died and she looked away into the night trying to find the horizon. Anaiya, the fabled Iron Duchess of Trage, had been broken by the years, where the emperor’s will did not destroy nations and rulers, it took a different toll; it had eroded her soul, till only apathy remained.

    It was a sentiment Luc had felt from time to time, like a keep besieged they could do naught but watch and wait, hemmed in and broken while the world grew dark around them. But Luc was different, he was a son of the elder mountains, his bones were forged in this very valley, and centuries of blood had written into him one tenet above all others; I will resist.

    Where the mountains shrugged off the tide of rain, he too would weather this outrage and persevere.

    “Forgive me” he said at last. “Old soldiers are often afflicted by such pettiness.” He smiled; an unfamiliar expression on his grizzled face. “I fear when my sword isn’t needed, my wit makes for a poor substitute.” The needs and challenges of battle, while myriad, had an air of simplicity; after all what could be simpler than survival? It made for an outlook that saw the storm of politics and found only a den of snakes. Luc was too old, too long in the tooth to see things the way rulers did. This was why he was more at home on the parapets, manning a watch that wasn’t needed.

    For a long moment the two of them stood there as rain cascaded down from the blackness above, until they could feel a lessening in the torrent, as if the tide had finally been stemmed.

    Beneath her hood a few strands of rain wet hair traced waves down the lady Anaiya’s face, here expression was blank as she looked out into the night once more before finally returning her gaze to him.

    “You are forgiven Luc, as always.” A smile flickered across her milk white face, casting eerie shadows beneath her hood. She turned then, and began descending the stairs to the keep’s postern door.

    Luc turned his gaze from the night to watch her descend. Her wet riding cloak weighing heavy on her shoulders, it was the least among all the trouble’s she bore with her; the fear of a soldier’s wife with a husband at war, of a mother left alone and the duty of ruling an empty nation. As she closed the door behind her the last of the rain slapped against the cold stone walls and the echoes of thunder passed south.

    Tiny lights blossomed in the heavens, the star finally watching out from behind their mask of clouds, and the valley answered back. Rows of light began cresting the western hills, tens, scores, hundreds. An army approached.

    ___

    Even with the storm subsiding the wind still battered the stone fortress, howling past the windows and arrowslits that lined the walls. As Anaiya strode down the hallway the torches in their sconces shook with the tempo of the gales, at once seeming both to dance and to lash out in anger.

    Beside her Luc matched the fast pace with ease, his long strides threatening to break into a charge at any moment.

    “It could be Andric for all you know.” She ventured, knowing the folly that hid behind her frail hopes.

    Luc merely shook his head with a grunt, his eyes still fixed on the end of the corridor. “The king would have sent word, a rider would have come days ago to prepare the way, we would have known long before they reached Sul.”

    “The rebellion then?” Another false protest, another diversion from the terrible truth they both knew.

    “No, their remnants were cornered in Felden by the legion, there’s no way that many could have made it this far without being intercepted on route. It must be the Empire.”

    Anaiya’s heart sank in her chest, the floor suddenly spinning around her, for a moment they stopped in the hallway as the weight of the truth bore down upon them. The Imperial Legion marching in strength across the fields of Acrona. The world seemed to have been bled of colour and only the cold night air remained, cold and oppressive.

    Anaiya paused, then resumed their pace towards the royal quarters. “I cannot believe Shenn would war on us after everything we have done for the empire.”

    Luc’s face was unsurprised and undaunted by their plight. “That man has no allegiance but to his own legend, we are all obstacles to his designs. Perhaps he thinks with the rebellion crushed he has an excuse to cull the fold once more, Acrona was never bled by the Unification, of all the nations of Rhulle, only we are strong. Only we are a threat.”

    “Do we even know he intends battle?”

    Luc’s grey eyes flickered from her to both ends of the corridor. “I can see no other reason for him to march an army into Sul without warning. If not battle then some ill design of his making, it isn’t safe for you or the children here.”

    Panic slowly crept up into her bones, robbing her of her senses. “But Andric, Shenn must have him; if I go I may never see him again.” When had this castle become so cold, so full of malice? Was it some trick of the night?

    Luc paused, his brow furrowed in thought, again he scanned the surrounding corridors. “My lady…” He began, pausing again, the furrows of his brow deepening. “If Shenn marches on Sul, he would not have left King Andric and his forces at his rear.”

    “Don’t” She protested, there was too much truth. “Please, don’t say it.”
    Luc frowned, to others watching it would be a cold gesture, but she knew his heart sank too, Luc had too much of the old blood in him to let emotion show, even when the world was without hope.

    “My Lady, I have made a habit of honesty, I will not abandon it now, no matter how dire the circumstances. Andric is dead, but his blood lives on, if Sul is to be another Gedea I will see that not all is lost.” His eyes went blank for a moment as they proceeded into the atrium. “I will see him suffer for this.”

    Doorways and arches passed by in a blur, the dimly lit castle for all its splendour was nothing but a fog as they passed though it and down to the stables where the last of the castle’s men awaited.

    Just as the two of them left the shelter of the keep a rider hurried into the courtyard from the northern gate, hooded and cloaked, the figure dismounted and rushed over to them.

    “Gerret! What news?” Luc began, the instant he recognised the young man.

    Taking off his hood to reveal a willowy face with a wisp of a beard, Gerret bowed his head once to Anaiya before opening his lips. “Twelve hundred men afield not an hours march away, bearing Shenn’s wings on their banners. They’re fanning out to cover as much of the valley as they can. There’s more fires on a few on the hilltops, scouting parties most like and I spotted at least two moonshadows.”

    Luc bit off a curse. “Fliers, damn them, He’s taking no risks, he wants no one escaping, we’ll have to use the forest for cover.”

    “Like as much he’s counting on that captain.” Gerret began.

    Luc shot the boy a steely glare. “There are precious few other options, would that we had more men we could break their lines, only twelve hundred!” Luc did curse this time. “No, we have to run for the mountains and try losing them there, once we’re out of the valleys and we stay ahead of them, the Moonshadows will do no good, and their numbers will count against them for speed, It will take a hundred thousand men to comb the elder mountains!”

    It was all too much. “And what then Luc? Where do we go then? Where is there left to run? The bandit infested northlands? Or do we cross half the world to get beyond the empire’s borders? Or is your plan for us to hide in the mountains like hermits for the rest of our days. No matter where we run he will still come after us. Shenn does not give up.”

    “My plan is to survive, whatever it takes. Nothing else matters.”

    It was all a blur, seconds later Johna appeared from the castle gates dragging a small figure behind him.

    “Davian!” Anaiya cried as her son was brought over to her. She wept as she held him tighter than ever before.

    “I’m too tired to go riding mamma.” Was all he could say from behind heavy lidded eyes.

    Luc was there once more, leading fresh horses loaded with provisions out from the stables gate. He nodded once to Gerret. “Take them east to the woods, avoid all the paths and trace the old stone ruins till you get to the foothills, I’ll try to meet you in two days on the north side of the river out by Calder’s field.”

    “Wait! Luc! What is this? Where are you going, and where is my daughter, we can’t leave without Bethmin!”

    Once again she saw him pause, out of either fear or sorrow, it did not matter, his hesitation was enough to strike fear into her heart. “I will take the girl south, out of the castle by the cisterns. We stand a better chance if we split the royal heirs. My lady, whatever hope we have is slim, if we are to escape with the nation’s future intact, at least one of the children needs to survive.”

    “No!” She screamed, lurching towards the castle to find her baby girl. Even as Gerret thrust out his arms to hold her back she still clawed for the doorway. “NO!”

    Luc stepped closer, took her crying face into his callused hands. “Listen to me Anaiya, By all the blood in my heart I swear I will guard her with my life, but this is the only way. You must go now or we are all doomed!” He turned away then, and began his march back into the castle. “Gerret!” He cried finally.

    “Aye Captain.” The lean boy said.

    Luc turned back then, the last time she would see his face. “Keep her safe, or you’ll answer to me.”

    Gerret Nodded; something close to a bow. “Aye Captain.” Was all he said in return.

    ___

    The winds had long since robbed the sky of its veil of clouds, and once more the moonlight cascaded across the earth. But in the depths of the forest floor, only glimpses of the red sphere could be seen, the intervening moments lost in the shadows of the night.

    Only in her nightmares had the world seemed this dark, even in these times there had been some glimmer of hope however small. But now, now there was nothing but emptiness, the only warmth she could find was in the small embrace of her child, sat in front of her saddle, struggling to sleep.

    “Can’t we stop mamma, Look will be angry if I’m tired at practice again.”

    She kissed the top of his head, holding him tighter as a ward against the dark. “Luc won’t mind sweet-pea, you’ll see, when we reach the river he’ll be nothing but glad to see us again.”

    She shushed him back to slumber and held him tight as they wound their way through the darkness; for all their haste the dense forest made anything but a walking pace dangerous in the depths of the night without torches to light the way.

    Gerret was solemnly quiet, riding at the front and scanning their path, Anaiya knew the hopelessness of their cause; every moment she pictured the empire pouncing from the trees to take them away, she saw so much danger among the shadows she could but turn her gaze away to the bright stars above.

    The moon leapt out from behind the canopy, staring down at them. Anaiya remembered the tales her mother had told her, that she had passed on to Davian and little Bethmin, about the blood of Aestred, god of the earth, that had stained the moon red during the birthing of the world, that the red moon was always a sign of fragile life and bitter death to follow. For the faithful the night ever held death amongst the shadows, and never had it seemed more true than this night.

    Like some terror unfolding form the underworlds, shapes loomed forward out of the darkness and amongst their small party, so alien among the gnarled trees they seemed to claw against their small group. After a time Anaiya’s vision focused to the darkness and saw the ruins of the old temple scattered amongst the trees. At first seeming nothing but rocks, their only difference from the native stone was their peculiar size and shape. As they ventured further into the grounds, the structures that once were appeared again, defying the ages.

    Pillars holding nothing but a single stone lintel wreathed in lichens. Even as the old stone struggled to hold onto the light of civilisation, nature teemed among the mortar, clawing at the brickwork in an age long embrace. Would this be the rest of Sul when they were gone? This ruin has stood long before the empire, but Anaiya knew more ruins would be left behind by Shenn. She thought of the empty honour-houses all across the hills of Gedea; would the names on their walls last longer than the empire? Perhaps that would be the only justice they could hope for. Anaiya reached out to touch the graven stone, wanting for all her heart to write the names of her loved ones upon it.

    A whisper came from among the shadows of the nearest ruin, its tone piercing the utter silence of the night. “Sometimes I feel the night is always a better time to admire a place, free of the eyes of the world, with nothing but silence to dampen the experience. You can almost hear the stones whispering, can’t you?”

    Gerret drew his blade, but remained mounted as the cloaked figure stepped out of the shadows. There was an infinite moment of terror and they all remained still, statues all too intact to be at home among these ruins. After the eternity hands emerged from the cloak to lower its hood.

    His face had the vitality of youth, even though she knew he was older than her by a good many years, short black hair but for a single short braid framing a clean shaven face that smiled for all the world in a way that should have no malice. But in her heart that was all there was in Shenn’s eyes; unbearable, unshakable malice.

    All around them in the trees torches began to light by the dozen, framing the ruins in a distant orange glow. There must have been hundreds of soldiers among the trees, penning them in.

    “My lady.” The emperor began, stepping towards them. “It is so good to see you again, it has been far too long. I had hoped to meet you in more hospitable circumstances, but alas; here we are.”

    His words were cut off as Gerret kicked his horse into a charge, taking them all by surprise, his sword was an arc of light in the dark, tracing perfect geometry towards the heart of the emperor.

    Shenn reached out a single hand without breaking his stride, and the world seemed to move so slowly as he took Gerret by the wrist, nimbly avoiding the blade, and pull the youth from his mount single-handedly. Even as the boy fell the emperor snapped the blade from his grasp and pinned Gerret where he struck the ground, all in the blink of an eye.

    None of the others had moved, it seemed as if fear had taken hold of them all, squeezing all thought and sound from their bodies. Anaiya simply stared as the Emperor approached.

    “Do not make this difficult my lady, I had hoped this could be done with as little blood as possible, do not make me reconsider.”

    The claws tearing at her stomach ceased for a moment just long enough for her to give voice to the outrage in her heart. “And Andric? Did he make things difficult? Does he lie rotting upon the earth like so many who chose not to go quietly?” Her hand went to her belt, where the small silver blade her mother had given her on her wedding day sat. She knew there was no way she could harm him.

    For all his youth Gerret had been a trained warrior, dispatched in a single moment by the unarmed emperor like so many others who underestimated the man. The legend went that Shenn had forged the empire with his sword alone, and the first time Anaiya had seen him fight she had thought it just a story, but the truth was just as unbelievable as any tale.

    Even if she couldn’t harm him, she could still try.

    “It pains me to hear you speak so Anaiya. Your husband was given all the funeral rights demanded by Acronan tradition. My men brought his body through the valley to bring it home to the elder mountains, so he may rest at last.”

    Tears traced spidery lines down her face, their soft pat against her son’s head did not wake him, nor did her sobs. “Then why? Why did he die, why do you bring an army with you to this valley, to my home.”

    As Shenn finally came within an arms length of her he raised his hand slowly. Anaiya shied back as if from a snake but the man only placed it upon her horse’s mane. The look in his eyes was that of a man hurt. “Your husband was good friends with the boy Jaerik, my best student, the general that masterminded wayside. In the week following wayside he led a hundred thousand men under his command to battle against those loyal to the empire under the banner of the rebellion. Never before has a single imperial legionary raised arms against another. Of all the treachery in this world, this I cannot abide. Not in thought or practice.”

    “Then strike your own head from atop your neck, you were friends with the boy, half the damned imperial court was. Since when was a poor choice in friendship grounds for execution?”

    Shenn frowned once more, looking into her eyes. “When soldiers who were brothers warred against each other, the men of Acrona stood aside, they neither fought the empire or its enemies, and the rebels made sure to leave them well alone. I care not if your husband conspired with them, but this was another treachery, less profane perhaps, but damning all the same.”

    “I cannot have it that a vassal of the empire refuses to follow the imperial standard, Acrona least of all. It pains me that it comes to this my lady, but the time of the old land is over.” Shenn gave a single nod and without a moments hesitation a chorus of twangs sounded from the forest. Each and every soldier who guarded her slumped where an arrow sprouted from their necks. In the distant haze of torchlight she could barely see the blood streaking through the air, but she felt every drop fall.

    Her hand rose from beside her waist, the silver blade glimmering under the light of the red moon. Shenn did not move an inch, nothing in the world could strike fear into his heart, but hers had already been eaten away by sorrow and fear and hatred most of all. She did not lift it toward the man; instead she held it aloft above the neck of her sleeping child.

    Shenn’s voice dropped to soothing tones, his hand lifted from her horses mane, inching slowly to the blade clenched in her fist. “Anaiya, hasn’t enough blood been spilt? Put the knife down, please.”

    Her knuckles white, her eyes red, she shut her heavy lids for a moment to shed them of their tears, only to find more spring forth. “So what? So you can take my son and turn him to your ways? Another tool for your dominion, another pawn to spill the blood of the innocent while you keep your hands clean.”

    “We all have hope for the future Anaiya, where else does salvation lie but in the next generation? Are you so eager to see his blood on your hands that you will rob him of his future, whatever it may be? I will not. Put the knife down.”

    Hope, what was left of hope in the world? What future was there but the cold embrace of the empire, the end of sovereignty, the end of a free world. Was death really any worse?

    Her knuckles tightened with conviction, her hand moved. Shenn’s moved faster, it shot out with the weight of the world behind it, diverting the silver point away from her son’s neck and into her own chest. Even as she resisted, Shenn’s unfathomable strength and precision slid the small knife home, where she felt the bite of it take her life away.

    She slumped and toppled, falling from her saddle. Shenn’s armed went out only to catch her stirring son. Shenn stared down without emotion as Anaiya struck the forest floor, not feeling the impact, not feeling the blade in her ribs, feeling nothing but regret as she saw her son’s eyes open at last; waking to a world without hope.
     
  10. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Chris--no idea if you log onto the forums more than once a month, but have you written anything else lately?
     
  11. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    not much more after this, failing to jump start the next chapter. Got plenty of panning done for the story arc and such, just cant seem to get the intro into the main storyline fluid enough.

    Did you like the new prologue?
     
  12. SilverNightPanther

    SilverNightPanther Lover of Feline Nature

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    Wow, thats pretty good, just a few rhythm and typo issues. Much better than my first attempts--but then, I was only 15 when I began :) ~
     
  13. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Sorry I didn't see this post before! But yes, it's much, much better than the old one (very bleak and dramatic ending). I was very pleasantly surprised by the amount of characterization you achieved in the prologue. About the only "criticism" I have to offer is (again) on dialogue and on the exposition in the beginning, but that's also entirely personal preference and not necessarily something you should change if you feel that "ye olde style" is your own personal voice. Looking forward to whatever you write or plan out next!