Caligo

Discussion in 'Original Works' started by K_Simulacra, Jul 16, 2018.

  1. K_Simulacra

    K_Simulacra New Member

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    This is a rather short story on a schizophrenic human who thinks a master needs him to obduct a highborn lady in Huskany. It would be awesome to hear some thoughts on this. I'm a bit insecure because I never wrote such a deranged character. I hope it comes accross. Anyway, here are the first couple of chapters :)

    ___________

    237 a.d. 12th month - On the Road

    “Need to find…” The tall man walked the lonely road leisurely. “What is it?” He mumbled to himself with his croaky voice, bracing himself heavily on a wooden staff. He looked very much like an old wizard. Being slim in build, his size made him look fragile. The staff made him look old. His eyes were surrounded by what looked like coal tar. It wasn’t, though. It was his essence trying to leave his body. Imagine how far adrift your soul has to be to scare off your very essence. It was a curse. In the literal sense. A mission gone horribly wrong. But that is another story.
    The tar around his eyes gave him a weird look. “Need to find.” Not that he wasn’t obviously weird anyways, mumbling about his needs out loud with nobody present to share them with. “Need to… need to FIND!” The volume of his croaking voice rose to light singing. “Need - me needs - need to find.”
    He didn’t actually know what he needed to find. He had exactly zero coins for food and the only city in a week’s proximity was where he came from. Travelling by foot wasn’t the wisest of ideas either. All that didn’t bother him. He had a purpose. Well, it was more of a vague feeling that his master would need him soon. A feeling that had never betrayed him. For now, he was a tramp, a wanderer, a weirdo. And he had been called those names before. Nobody calls me names twice, though.
    His long leather robe was as black as the tar around his eyes, though streaked with orpiment threads. A hat. I need a wizard hat. “Find, find, find. Find iiiit.” He didn’t even know where he was going. He was coming from Rothal, the capital city of Yalit. That was all he knew. “Need to fi-”
    The tall man stopped in the middle of his voice-jam. He had spotted a carriage. Friends. I need walk no more. He straightened himself and approached the strangers, now in a busy stroll. The stuff was no longer needed to brace him.
    “Ah, fellow travellers.” His voice was full of croaky love. “What are you doing out here without no horse?” Dumb travellers. But at least a ride. The one who had spoken was fairly fat. He led their horse by the bridles. Dressed all in mud. His companion was a young female, dressed in the same colours. Probably his daughter, though it was unlikely that his ugly genes had produced such a fair creature. The only resemblance was their nose. Was it possible the human had mated with a pig and the daughter had her good looks from the pig side? I knew they were experimenting in the far corners of Huskany, but with pigs…? The two of them stopped in front of their unlikely encounter, looking up to him. “I ain’t got no horse.” The cold void that was his eyes met the sceptical gaze of the traveller. “Need company?” The man looked as though he tried to read him. “I’ll work for food. I can sell on a market or do farmer’s work.” He looked deep into the eyes of his shorter counterpart. “I guess we could use some help… but selling won’t do it. You’ll have to get those hands dirty. Lookin’ fragile on that stick.” Stick?! He almost lost his cool there. “Wanna arm wrestle me?”
    Five minutes later, the tall weirdo was leaned against the back of the carriage. He had to walk no more. He hadn’t even asked the direction they were going. “Where d’you come from?” Nosey bastard. “Rothal.” It wasn’t even a lie. “That’s where we’re headed. We’re coming from Temerit, had some good trade going.” So he had some coin on him. That was good to know. “Name’s Isak. And that’s my daughter Flynna. What a name. His face remained still as a tomb. “What’s your name?” Nosey bastard. “Caligo.” What good was it to lie? “You sure you don’t mind going back the same way, Caligo?” He started to get tired of the meaningless small talk. “I go where’s work.”
    That was when he felt the calling. A craving from within. A longing. A need. He needs me. His sudden enthusiasm must’ve shown instantly. The daughter spoke for the first time. “Why are you smiling like that? Dad, I… he… there’s something wrong here.” Caligo smiled at her. “To the contrary, stupid girl. To the contrary.” He looked about the carriage. Ah. A knife was fixated at the side. He reached out, drew it from its sheath - it was a fancy knife. Much too valuable for some poor farmers. With a shrug, he slid it through the throat of the farmer. “Thanks for the ride, Isak.” Flynna screamed as tears started to roll down her cheeks in streams. But she didn’t move. She seemed paralysed with terror. Isak made some gurgling sounds as he breathed his life juices and ended like a slaughtered pig. His body fell to the side, which led the horse to run in circles.
    It was a beautiful day. Not too cold for the time of the year, no snow, no rain, no heavy wind. A good day to start working. “I will surely be punished for killing such a sweat flower. One day…” These words finally released the child from her shock-induced paralysis. She took up his staff, just in time to knock the charging weapon out of his hands. She jumped off the carriage and ran. Run, little girl. And maybe you will live to see another day. He climbed to the front of the carriage, took up the bridles and let the horse pursue the girl in a lazy trot. He would deal with her before turning around and travelling to his newly discovered destination. Buntium.

    238 a.d. First Month, Buntium


    No animals were to be seen around the city. Up in the north of Huskany, winters were tough and all life would leave for the cold season. It was on this cold but dry winter morning, that the man with the leather robe entered Buntium. He had no plan as to what he was going to do here. But he had faith that his master would show him the way. Some ale will be a good start.

    ***

    Caligo enjoyed the stink of the crowd. Sweat was rolling down his arms and forehead as he sought the touch with his peers. Ah, company. He had arrived with perfect timing. The king was to arrive today. Surely, his task had something to do with that. He couldn’t wait to figure it out. “Nice, sweet, sweaty.” He moved through the crowd to have a better sight over the approaching convoy. That’s when he spotted a foreign object in the crowd of familiar poverty. It was the way she moved. A woman, young as far as he could tell from her backside. Nobility. Her movements displayed the arrogance of money and power. Instinctively, he knew this was his clue. The woman left the main road toward a narrow alley. Caligo followed at snail’s pace. Just when he turned into the road, the woman came flying down the roof. Always right, Master. Always right. She didn’t strike him as particularly noticeable. Brown hair, fairly short, slim. Nothing special about her at all. On the surface. He increased his pace to keep her in sight. The tall man was curious. What may be her role in his mission? “Beautiful stranger. We shall meet. Shall we mate? No, no, no.” His tongue just briefly touched the left corner of his lips. He followed her up to the castle.
    Good girl. She had taken a servant’s entrance. Caligo could slip in behind her without risking discovery because the guard was taking a piss right on the castle walls.
    One would assume that a man of his size was noticed. But the servant’s were all busy preparing for the king’s arrival. He had landed right in the kitchens. “Nice, nice nice. Have myself some food.”

    ***

    Caligo pressed himself tightly to the backside of the girl, sniffing at her hair intensely. “Mmh, flowers. Freshly flowered, flower girl?” Her tears rolled over the hand that held her mute. “You are of service to the master today.” Her body was shaking uncontrollable. The girl was huge. Much larger than Caligo himself. Elfish size. He didn’t have particular sentiments toward elves. But her never-ending and yet slim legs certainly played for this maiden. He took another deep breath. That was weirdly arousing. It wasn’t like Caligo enjoyed torturing people. He just liked being close to them. A sentiment nobody ever seemed to share. “Pssht! Don’t you scream, flower girl. Don’t you scream.” His prolonged finger slipped across her throat and ended the juvenile horror. “Don’t you scream. Will be discovered. Serve, serve, you serve the master now.” Her flawless face relaxed as her white dress soaked up her life juice. There was a sort of heroic beauty even in this sight. Caligo took yet another deep breath. “No more flowers, flower girl.”

    ***

    The tall maiden had changed her dress and waited eagerly for the king to arrive, carefully staying in the castle’s shadow. She stood there, broad legged, looking about curiously. That was weird. And it did cause some of the other queen’s maidens to eye her up in bewilderment. What was she doing? Maidens were supposed to look sweet and fertile. The tall girl usually had that elfish grace that made them look elegant despite their height. What was wrong with her today? Maybe she was nervous because she was about to meet the king.
    The young daughter of Lord Thormund Zakari ran up just in time to see the king ride through the gate. “There you are.” Her mother sounded annoyed. But it was a welcome distraction. The royal man was clad all in gold. “Beautiful, friends.” That caused some more bewildered glances. The elfish girl decided it was better to not speak anymore. Sonja Zakari. Nice, nice. The young woman was not impressed by her mother’s chiding voice.“I’m in time, no?” Unruly. We’ll see, we’ll see… And then, everybody focused on smiling at his grace, King Ismaïl. Some court official stepped forward to great the king, but he was cut short. “We meet tomorrow at dawn. In my solar. Dismissed.” The tall maiden smiled broadly. “I like this king.” The maiden took a deep breath, relishing the sweet flowery fragrance of her newly washed hair. “Mmh.” Suddenly, it all went really fast. The king had already disappeared with his wife, so all the maidens followed and the young elf couldn’t watch Sonja Zakari any longer. Lord Thormund approached his daughter - and then the gate barred the sight.

    ***

    The tall maiden stuck around the entrance hall, trying to stay unnoticed. That was quite the task given that she was towering over literally everybody else in sight. Come, come my lord, come to your beautiful little maiden. Finally, Lord Thormund lead his wife into the hall. The daughter had not followed. Instinctively, the maiden moved toward them. Come on little lord, do something interesting. Come, come, come on. “Why have you come so early?” Husband and wife were catching up. Come, come, entertain me. Come, little lord, come, come. “Daqin… the situation has become a little more complex. We need to organise a defence, just in case.” The fair maiden made a snorting sound of boredom. That attracted Lady Zakari’s attention. “Enea, come with us and brush my hair.” For an instant, the tall maiden was confused. She touched her left breast impetuously, as she tried to make a sign clarifying whether or not the lady was speaking to her. Lady Thalissa glanced at her breasts for an instant, following the gesture with her eyes. She frowned at the unusual behaviour. “Do you see another Enea?” The girl shook her head. “Come on, then.” Come on, come on, sweet lady, come on.
    It was a lucky coincidence that she seemed to be Lady Thalissa’s handmaiden. The trio climbed the stairs leading up to the chambers of the lords and ladies whose standing allowed them to reside in close proximity of the king. They entered the chamber. Lady Thalissa approached a chair right away. Comb, comb that hair, flower hair, mmh. The maiden looked about the chamber. So personal. It was intriguing. “Enea!” The girl looked at her mistress. “Over there!” She pointed to a mahogany desk. “Yes, m’lady.” The girl strolled over, picked up the comb, strolled back, and finally started doing her job. “Autsch! Enea!” The girl had forgotten to hold her lady’s hair while combing. “Sorry.”
    She felt Lord Thormund’s penetrating glance on her. He seemed to have notice something was odd. Or maybe he just liked the sight of the fair young flesh? Flesh, flesh, flesh. Ultimately, they went back to their conversation. “…and there is Sonja’s task.” She was clearly not happy about that. “Can that not wait…” But a short, cruel laugh stopped her. “Wait? She’s 20. If we wait any longer there will be no more need for a task.” She lowered her gaze for a moment, seemingly conceding the discussion. Weak, weak. Flower lady. Weak, weak. “Tell me…”
    Lord Thormund’s face was a prime example for sternness. He did not seem to enjoy being reunited with his wife. A player, no piece, little lord. Strong, dangerous. She would have to wait until the royal treasurer left the city to snatch his daughter. “There have been raids to and from some village south of Temerit. She will resolve the issue. Just some band of outlaws, nothing more.” His wife lifted her gaze again. “Just some band? Let her figure out some alley stabbing here in Buntium. But sending her to the corner of three countries, investigating raids… while there could be a war - isn’t that dangerous?” Lord Thormund seemed lost in thoughts for a moment. He then replied. “Less dangerous than wrestling a bear!” His wife touched the soft fur of her coat. Black bear. As strong as he looks. Strong lord, have me, savour me. Look, look - I’m a precious flower! The girl gasped in quiet excitement and a strand of straw blond hair fell in her face. She could feel Lord Thormund’s gaze upon her as she slid it back in place. But the flirty gesture was clumsily executed. She lost his attention. Damn. “How many - autsch! Enea!” The girl’s attention had slipped and so she had pulled heavily on her mistress’ hair. “My apologies, m’lady.” Lady Thalissa shook her head but the conversation at hand was more important to her than scolding her handmaiden. “How many guards?” Her husband was quick to answer. “No guards… a squad. She will share the task with Viktor Gallina.” This time it was Lady Thalissa who made an awkward head movement. She yelped as the comb tore on her hair once again. But she didn’t care. “Gallina? Are you mad?” There was anger in her voice, even disgust. Don’t like Gallina, flower lady? “Zaligas will accompany her.” She didn’t care. “He’s an old man! He cannot protect her. Autsch, Enea!” The maiden’s attention had slipped again. She did a terrible job. “I’m sorry, m’lady.”
    He was not impressed. “She has to protect herself! Enough of this. There will be the two kids, their advisers, and two more companions.” But she didn’t think of leaving it at this. She shook her maiden off her hair, stood up gracefully, and approached her husband. “They need at least two score soldiers!” She said, now in a soft voice. The maiden was impressed by her smoothness. Her hip was swinging to the side provocatively with each step she took. Both the maiden and the husband were staring at her lustily. “Do you want her to lose her status?” Lord Thormund had regained his composure quickly. That made the maiden look up as well. Impressive. Stern lord, lord flower. She compulsively started playing with her hair.
    Lady Thalissa continued in a voice as sweet as lemon cake. “Ten, give her ten men at least.” She placed his hands on her hip. It finally started to work on him. “Ten in total. Two kids, two advisers, six companions.” He had lowered his voice to a whisper. “No-”
    “That is my last word.” His arms had wandered to her backside. “I will arrange it with lord Gregorz and have Zaligas pick the companions.” The moment was magical. The maiden could not resist but move closer, closer - until she could smell Lady Thalissa’s hair again. She breathed in appreciatively. A little too appreciatively. “Enea, for beauty’s sake! What are you doing?” She was in some sort of trance. Could not resist taking another deep breath. Mmh. “Sorry”, she whispered, her cheeks had turned red from excitement. “Did you just smell my hair?” The anger relieved the maiden of her trance. “No. Maybe…” She lowered her head submissively. “You are released from my service. Go. Go!” The young maiden hurried out of their sight.
     
  2. TirelessSeven

    TirelessSeven Active Member

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    Okay, I've read it over a few times. Since it's long, I'll critique it by chapter and I'll leave more general comment on each afterward. My first thoughts were, it's accomplished, but maybe a little confused in places. Let's have another look. If you have any questions regarding format (or anything else) please ask. Also, all suggestions and opinions are just that, I'm not trying to tell you how to rewrite your story.

    Good opening chapter. The character Caligo is well written. You convey his madness/depravity well, especially with clever use of internal dialogue - very nice.

    My main criticism would be the ambiguity of (some of) the dialogue. As a reader, I don't want to be reading two or three times to work out who's saying what. That needs a little work, in my opinion.

    Let me know if this was what you were after, or if you have any questions. Always happy to elaborate or expand upon any of the comments. There's not always room to do so in the critique. Also, if you have any concerns about specific things; things you feel I haven't addressed, I'd be happy to discuss those as well.

    I'll go over the next chapter soon.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2018
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  3. TirelessSeven

    TirelessSeven Active Member

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    So, same as before. I'll be as constructive and honest as I can with any criticism. Please ask for clarification if any of my comments don't make sense to you. I'm always willing to discuss/explain any of my suggestions/opinions.

    I know I said I'd do this in two parts, but I think I'll wait until you reply before continuing with the second half of Chapter 2. If I'm going to read on, I need to know exactly how Caligo is getting away with this disguise, otherwise it's going to be all I think about. I'm keen to hear your thoughts.
     
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  4. K_Simulacra

    K_Simulacra New Member

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    First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to do this! I appreciate it! Also, I apologise for taking so long to answer.

    This is extremely helpful for me. Especially your criticism of my dialogue. I did not realise it was so hard to follow but your comments opened my eyes to it. I will definitely try to put new speakers on new lines. Thank you for the input.

    To your second comment. The woman jumping off the roof is a reference to a former story. I will adjust it so it's clear. The "prolonged finger" is certainly a mistake. It is the first hint that he actually wears a weapon that turns his finger into a sort of claw. Would elongate work better? I will certainly change the paragraph to make it clearer it's not the same girl.

    I intended to have Caligo talk to himself in the scene when the king arrives. But I see how that is confusing, so I cut it out and only let him have his thoughts. Is it clearer the following way?

    __________

    The tall maiden had changed her dress and waited eagerly for the king to arrive, carefully staying in the castle’s shadow. She stood there, broad legged, looking about curiously. That was weird. And it did cause some of the other maidens to eye her up in bewilderment. What was she doing? Maidens were supposed to look sweet and fertile. The tall girl usually had that elfish grace that made them look elegant despite their height. What was wrong with her today? Maybe she was nervous because she was about to meet the king.
    Caligo saw the young daughter of Lord Thormund Zakari run up just in time to see the king ride through the gate. “There you are.” Even from his position in the castle’s shadow, he could hear that her mother was annoyed. It was a welcome distraction. The young woman was not impressed by her mother’s chiding voice.“I’m in time, no?” Nice, Sonja Zakari. Nice, nice. Unruly… We’ll see, we’ll see…
    And then, everybody focused on smiling at his grace, King Ismaïl. The royal man was clad all in gold. Some court official stepped forward to great the king, but he was cut short. “We meet tomorrow at dawn. In my solar. Dismissed.” The tall maiden smiled broadly. I like this king. The maiden took a deep breath, relishing the sweet flowery fragrance of her newly washed hair. “Mmh.” Suddenly, it all went really fast. The king had already disappeared with his wife, so all the maidens followed and the young elf couldn’t stay to watch Sonja Zakari any longer. Lord Thormund approached his daughter - and then the gate barred the sight.

    _________

    Now, to the real issue. Caligo is actually a human shapeshifter. His black eyes are from a curse that limits his ability to alter his appearance. The man that is introduced is his "true" form. After the scene witht the elfish servant, he appears in her shape. That is why he is careful to stay in the shadow. Later in the story, it is made very clear that he can change at will, but I wanted to confuse the reader for a while before it becomes clear. Maybe it is a little too much? :)
     
  5. Keyser Sushi

    Keyser Sushi Verbal Carp

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    Hi @K_Simulacra, would you be interested in my thoughts? I don’t want to butt in, but I’ve been following this thread and I do have a few things to offer if you’re interested. Of course I don’t want to get in the way, and knowing TirelessSeven, he’s going to have lots of great input for you anyway, so I may be entirely superfluous here anyway.

    But let me know.
     
  6. TirelessSeven

    TirelessSeven Active Member

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    No problem. On both counts.

    So it's not the same woman that leads him into the alley? Let's see if the revision clears it up.

    In that case, I think elongated works better, but you could perhaps look at adding another adjective to make it clearer, if you wanted to. I'd suggest tapered or cuspated.

    Yeah, won't take much.

    Definitely clearer now and you still have his thoughts punctuating the description pretty regularly so he's still very present.

    Fair enough. As long as it's resolved at some point. I'd suggest making it clearer that (movements/posture/behaviour aside), she looks the same. Know what I mean?

    Thanks for the response. I'll look at the final part in the next day or so.

    I'd definitely be interested to hear your thoughts.
     
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  7. K_Simulacra

    K_Simulacra New Member

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    I am happy to hear your thoughts! In fact, I am happy to hear as many thoughts as possible.



    It's the same woman, but she climbes a ladder first. So I'll add that.

    I will try to make these images stronger when I go over the whole thing again. The impressions of Caligo in other shapes as well. Probably something like pairing an elfish movement with one of his thoughts.
     
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  8. Keyser Sushi

    Keyser Sushi Verbal Carp

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    Fat-fingered earlier on my phone. Sorry about the accidental downvote. :oops: Fixed it now!

    Tireless gives great detailed feedback, and I don't think I can add much on that level, so I’m going to talk about my overall impressions. But I do want to say that I have no idea of your overall experience level as a writer, so if I make any wrong assumptions, etc, I apologize in advance.

    I think you have a good thing going here, and I think Caligo's madness comes off very effectively. I think you're very talented, and that you have all the tools you need and it looks to me like you're experimenting with those tools, being creative, being artistic. And I dig that. I'm an art guy, art and English Lit, and as is evidenced in some of the workshopping posts on this forum, I do that stuff too, with mixed results.

    With that said, I do overall have a few concerns. I think the biggest thing I want to say is the old architect’s adage, that “form follows function." When I started reading Caligo, I assumed the sense of confusion and disorientation I felt was an intentional device to put me inside that guy's warped headspace. And used that way, it's fantastic. However, I'd warn against trying to confuse us when we're not seeing the world through Caligo's deeply disturbed eyes. I feel like there needs to be a big difference between the madman's perception and that of literally everyone else.

    You can use misdirection, but that's different than confusing us. What I mean is, say we don't know that Caligo attacks the girl and THEN we cut to the girl behaving strangely and we don't know why. That might be interesting. It makes us ask some questions but it doesn't make us question you, and then you get to reveal the shape-shifting later. But if you do that, you have to hold back a little; you can't let us in on the fact that it isn't still her when the scene starts.

    And stuff like the dialogue: I know Tireless said this but I'm going to say it too, because it's a big deal: Always start a new paragraph when a new speaker speaks. Always. That's the form, that's just how it's done. You have leeway in how you designate speakers. Some people believe you should always use "said," and nothing else. Keyser said, Tireless said, like that. Some people say that's BS and you should try to avoid using said, but I think the problem with avoiding said is that people tend to go nuts with the thesaurus trying to find synonyms for "said" and that's a bad look. Then of course there's the time-tested method of using minimal signifiers. Once I know how many speakers there are, and who's going first, you don't have to tag every one of them when they speak. So, like I said, you have lots of leeway. But the para break thing is standard and I definitely recommend observing that no matter what.

    As my old creative writing professor, Otis Douglas, used to always say, "Faulkner got to break the rules, but if you want to know why, the question is 'where does an eight-hundred pound gorilla sleep?' Anywhere it wants." What Otis was saying was, you have to prove you know the rules before you break them. So while I assumed that the dialogue thing may have been a creative choice, I began to question that assumption by the time the lady mysteriously went up the roof and it seemed like Caligo was just wearing a dress and nobody noticed he wasn't the Elf-maiden.

    You're the conductor on this ride, man. You're taking us wherever you want, but we get to climb off whenever we feel like it, and that's the hell of it. You have to make us want to stay onboard. So you have to balance between doing cool experimental stuff, and giving us a reason to stay on the ride. I know you said you'd fix the dialogue sections, and that's good, because I think that will go a long way toward building your readers' confidence, and showing that Caligo's confusion is a great artistic choice. And that's exactly what you need.

    So, bottom line, I think Tireless is on point like he seemingly always is; and I'm glad you're listening to him. My advice is simply, as you do your revisions and as you move forward on this project, think about Tireless's critiques through the filter I just gave you, and I suspect it will serve you well.

    And to reiterate: I like what you're doing and I think you should keep doing it, so please don't take all that stuff up there as me disliking it, because it's not. I just feel like I recognize in your work some of the things I do or have done, particularly in my earlier work, and that seemed worth commenting on. Hope any of this is helpful.

    Also feel free to comment on my stuff if you like, I have material posted on these boards and like you, I welcome all possible feedback.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2018
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  9. K_Simulacra

    K_Simulacra New Member

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    Thank you very much! I appreciate this. I am fairly new to writing fantasy and I think there are some stylistic things that I need to sort out. That is, I need to find my style between experimental stuff and what is generally accepted.

    The paragraphs are certainly among them. I feel like the feedback I've gotten so far has already helped me a lot. I will definitely try to fix these things and keep them in mind for when I write the next story.

    The input of balancing the artistic influence and what the reader perceives is awesome! When I wrote this, I was just hoping it would be understandable. But the paragraph thing and an active approach to my deceiving the reader can already make quite the difference. Thanks a lot to both of you!

    I will try to return the favour and comment on your/others' work as well, though this month is quite bad in terms of time. But I certainly will at some point :)
     
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  10. TirelessSeven

    TirelessSeven Active Member

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    Some excellent comment and response there.

    Okay, so I'll take a look at the second half of Chapter 2 now. I won't mention the confusing dialogue - you know there's an issue there and have already expressed your understanding and willingness to fix - and you've addressed my concerns about Caligo's disguise. I think you could perhaps look to making his situation a little clearer for the reader, especially the black eyes and the shape-shifting, but having not read the whole story it's difficult to say whether or not later exposition would resolve the issues for these early chapters.

    So aside from the ambiguous dialogue, I didn't find too many issues with that. I'd definitely look at being more generous with the timing of your exposition. I'm definitely a proponent of the less is more adage, but there is a very fine balance you have to strike - particularly with fantasy - between trusting your reader's intelligence and making them feel stupid. This is a strange land with strange magic and customs - if you don't open the door for the reader, you make it difficult for them to engage fully with the story. That being said, there was more than enough to enjoy here. The characters are good and clearing the dialogue up will only enhance them. My feeling is that if you spend the time tidying this up and making it clearer for the reader, you'll have a very good story.
     
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  11. K_Simulacra

    K_Simulacra New Member

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    Thanks a lot! I will do the tidying as soon as I can. This is intended as part of a series of stories in the same location. I think that's why I originally left some details out. But you're absolutely right, I'll make the backgrond more graspable. If you'd like it, I'll upload it once I'm done.
     
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  12. TirelessSeven

    TirelessSeven Active Member

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    I'll be happy to read over any revisions you care to post.
     
  13. K_Simulacra

    K_Simulacra New Member

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    Finally, there it is. I hope it reads better this way. Thanks for all the inputs.


    237 a.d. Twelfth month - On the Road

    “Need to find…” The tall man walked the lonely road leisurely. “What is it?” He mumbled to himself with his croaky voice, bracing himself heavily on a wooden staff. He looked very much like an old wizard. Being slim in build, his size made him look fragile. The staff made him look old. His eyes were surrounded by what looked like coal-tar. It wasn’t, though. It was his essence trying to leave his body. Imagine how far adrift your soul has to be to scare off your very essence. It was a curse. In the literal sense. A mission gone horribly wrong. But that is another story.
    The tar around his eyes gave him a weird look. “Need to find.” Not that there wasn’t obviously something off about the way he was mumbling about his needs out loud anyway. Especially with nobody present to share them with. “Need to… need to FIND!” The volume of his croaking voice rose to light singing. “Need - me needs - need to find.”
    He didn’t actually know what he needed to find. He had exactly zero coins for food and the only city in a week’s proximity was where he’d come from. Travelling on foot wasn’t the wisest of ideas either. But all that didn’t bother him. He had a purpose. Well, he had a vague feeling that his master would need him soon. A feeling that had never betrayed him. For now, he was a tramp, a vagabond, a stranger. And he had been called those names before. Nobody calls me names twice, though.
    His long leather robe was as black as the tar around his eyes, though streaked with orpiment threads. A hat. I need a wizard hat. “Find, find, find. Find iiiit.” He didn’t even know where he was going. He was coming from Rothal, the capital city of Yalit. That was all he knew. “Need to fi-”
    The tall man stopped in the middle of his rambling. He had spotted a carriage. Friends. I need walk no more. He straightened himself and approached the strangers, now in a busy stroll. The staff was no longer needed to brace him. “Ah, fellow travellers.” His voice was full of croaky love.
    “What are you doing out here without no horse?” Dumb travellers. But at least a ride. The one who had spoken was fairly fat. He led their horse by the bridles. Dressed all in mud. His companion was a young female, dressed in the same colours. Probably his daughter, though it was unlikely that his ugly genes had produced such a fair creature. The only resemblance was their nose. Was it possible the human had mated with a pig and the daughter had her good looks from the pig side? I knew they were experimenting in the far corners of Huskany, but with pigs…? The two of them stopped in front of their unlikely encounter, looking up to him. Their eyes simultaneously widened and shut again.
    “I ain’t got no horse.” The cold void that was his eyes met the sceptical gaze of the traveller. “Need company?” The man studied him. “I’ll work for food. I can sell on a market or do farmer’s work.” He looked deep into the eyes of his shorter counterpart.
    Before the squat man answered, he returned Caligo’s gaze sceptically. “I guess we could use some help… but selling won’t do it. You’ll have to get those hands dirty. You sure lookin’ fragile on that stick.” Stick?! He almost lost his cool there.
    “Wanna arm wrestle me?”

    ***

    Whilst the pudgy man cradled his wrist, the tall vagabond was leaning against the back of the carriage. He had to walk no more. He hadn’t even asked the direction they were going. “Where d’you come from?”
    Nosey bastard. “Rothal.” It wasn’t even a lie.
    “That’s where we’re headed. We’re coming from Temerit, had some good trade going.” So he had some coin on him. That was good to know. “Name’s Isak. And that’s my daughter, Flynna. What a name. His face remained still as a tomb. “What’s your name?”
    Nosey bastard. “Caligo.” What good was it to lie? The fat man and his young daughter were no threat to him. Still, he was in no mood for useless talk.
    But the short man was. “You sure you don’t mind going back the same way, Caligo?” The vagabond closed his eyes for a moment, breathing deeply.
    He started to get tired of the meaningless small talk. But he didn’t want to trouble his ride. “I go where there’s work.”
    That was when he felt the calling. A craving from within. A longing. A need. He needs me. His sudden enthusiasm must’ve shown instantly.
    The daughter spoke for the first time. “Why are you smiling like that? Dad, I… he… there’s something wrong with him.” Caligo grinned at her. “On the contrary, stupid girl. On the contrary.” He looked about the carriage. Ah. A knife was fixed to the side. He reached out and drew it from its sheath - it was a fancy knife, much too valuable for some poor farmers. Caligo shrugged. Before the shorter man could react, he slid the knife through his throat. “Thanks for the ride, Isak.”
    Flynna screamed as tears started to roll down her cheeks in streams. But she didn’t move. She was paralysed with terror. Isak made some gurgling sounds as he gasped for his last breath and ended like a slaughtered pig. His body slumped to the side, which led the horse to run in circles.
    It was a beautiful day. Not too cold for the time of the year, no snow, no rain, no heavy wind. A good day to start working. “I will surely be punished for killing such a sweet flower. One day…” These words finally released the child from her shock-induced paralysis. She took up his staff, just in time to knock the weapon out of his hands. She jumped off the carriage and ran. Run, little girl. And maybe you will live to see another day. He climbed to the front of the carriage, took up the bridles and let the horse pursue the girl in a lazy trot. He would deal with her before turning around and travelling to his newly discovered destination. Buntium.

    238 a.d. First Month, Buntium

    No animals were to be seen around the city. Up in the north of Huskany, winters were tough and life was scarce in the cold season. It was on this cold but dry winter morning, that the man in the leather robe entered Buntium. He had no plan as to what he was going to do here. But he had faith that his master would show him the way. Some ale will be a good start.

    ***

    Caligo enjoyed the stink of the crowd. Sweat was rolling down his arms and forehead as he sought the touch of his peers. Ah, company. He had arrived with perfect timing. The king was to arrive today. Surely, his task had something to do with that. He couldn’t wait to figure it out. “Nice, sweet, sweaty.” He moved through the crowd to have a better sight over the approaching convoy.
    That was when he spotted a foreign object in the crowd of familiar poverty. It was the way she moved. A woman, young as far as he could tell from her backside. Nobility. Her movements displayed the arrogance of money and power. Instinctively, he knew this was his clue. The woman left the main road toward a narrow alley. Caligo followed cautiously. He saw her climb up to a roof, using a ladder. He turned into the alleyway, following the shadow of the same building. Just when he considered following up the ladder, the woman came flying down from the roof. Always right, Master. Always right. She didn’t strike him as particularly noteworthy. Brown hair, fairly short, slim. Nothing special about her at all. On the surface. He increased his pace to keep her in sight. The tall man was curious. What may her role be in his mission? “Beautiful stranger. We shall meet. Shall we mate? No, no, no.” His tongue just briefly touched the left corner of his lips. He followed her up to the castle.
    Good girl. She had taken a servant’s entrance. Weird for a highborn lady, but good for him. It allowed Caligo to slip in behind her without risking discovery.
    One would assume that a man of his size would be noticed. But the servants were busy preparing for the king’s arrival. He had landed right in the kitchens. “Nice, nice nice. Have myself some food.”

    ***

    Caligo pressed himself tightly to the backside of the girl, sniffing at her hair intensely. A tapered device on his finger was rested on her throat. “Mmh, flowers. Freshly flowered, flower girl?” Her tears rolled over the hand that held her mute. “You are of service to the master today.” Her body was shaking uncontrollably. The girl was tall. Much larger than Caligo himself. Elfish size. He didn’t have particular sentiments toward elves. But the seemingly never-ending and yet slim legs certainly played for this maiden. He took another deep breath. That was arousing.
    It wasn’t like Caligo enjoyed torturing people. He just liked being close to them. A sentiment nobody ever seemed to share. “Pssht! Don’t you scream, flower girl. Don’t you scream.” His elongated finger slid across her throat and ended the juvenile horror. “Don’t you scream. Will be discovered. Serve, serve, you serve the master now.” Her flawless face went slack as her white dress soaked up her life juice. There was a sort of poetic beauty even in this sight. Caligo took yet another deep breath. “No more flowers, flower girl.”

    Sonja Zakari

    The tall maiden had changed her dress and waited eagerly for the king to arrive, carefully staying in the castle’s shadow. She stood there, broad legged, looking about curiously. That was strange. And it did cause some of the other maidens to gawk at her in bewilderment. What was she doing? Maidens were supposed to look sweet and chaste. The tall girl usually had that elfish grace that made them look elegant despite their height. What was wrong with her today? Perhaps she was nervous because she was about to meet the king.
    Caligo saw the young daughter of Lord Thormund Zakari run up just in time to see the king ride through the gate. “There you are.” Even from his position in the castle’s shadow, he could hear that her mother was annoyed.
    But the young woman wasn’t impressed by her mother’s chiding voice. “I’m in time, no?” Nice, Sonja Zakari. Nice, nice. Unruly… We’ll see, we’ll see…
    And then, everybody focused on smiling beatifically at his grace, King Ismaïl. The royal man was clad all in gold. A court official stepped forward to great the king, but was cut short.
    “We meet tomorrow at dawn. In my solar. Dismissed.” The king had spoken in a gruff baritone, which made the tall maiden smile broadly. I like this king. The maiden took a deep breath, relishing the sweet flowery fragrance of her newly washed hair as she let out a sigh of pleasure.
    The king had swiftly disappeared with his wife, her maidens bustling in tow and the young elf lost sight of Sonja Zakari. Lord Thormund approached his daughter - and then the gate barred her sight.

    Clumsy Maiden

    The tall maiden stuck around the entrance hall, trying to stay unnoticed. That was quite the task given that she was towering over literally everybody else in sight. Come, come my lord, come to your beautiful little maiden. Finally, Lord Thormund reappeared with his wife. Their daughter had not followed. Instinctively, the maiden moved toward them. Come on little lord, do something interesting. Come, come, come on.
    Lady Thalissa was catching up with her husband. “Why have you come so early?” Come, come, entertain me. Come, little lord, come, come.
    His answer was short, his voice tense. “Daqin… the situation has become a little more complex. We need to organise a defence, just in case.” At that, the fair maiden made a snorting sound of boredom, which attracted Lady Zakari’s attention.
    “Enea, come and brush my hair.” For an instant, the tall maiden was confused. She touched her left breast impetuously, as she tried to make a sign clarifying whether or not the lady was speaking to her. Lady Thalissa glanced at her breasts for an instant, following the gesture with her eyes. She frowned at the unusual behaviour. “Do you see another Enea?” The girl shook her head. “Come on, then.” Come on, come on, sweet lady, come on.
    Finally, she realised that she was Lady Thalissa’s handmaiden, not the queen’s. The master had gotten it right again. The trio climbed the stairs leading up to the chambers of the lords and ladies whose standing allowed them to reside in close proximity of the king. Upon entering the chamber, Lady Thalissa approached a chair next to the fireplace. Comb, comb that hair, flower hair, mhm. The maiden looked about the chamber. So personal. It was intriguing. “Enea!” The girl started and looked at her mistress. “Over there!” She pointed to a mahogany desk.
    Enea answered in the most sugary voice she could muster. “Yes, m’lady.” The girl strolled over, picked up the comb, strolled back, and finally started doing her job.
    Seconds later, Lady Thalissa yelped. “Ouch! Enea!” The girl had forgotten to hold her lady’s hair while combing.
    “Sorry.” She felt Lord Thormund’s penetrating stare on her. He seemed to have noticed something was off. Or maybe he just liked the sight of the fair young flesh? Flesh, flesh, flesh.
    The maiden avoided the lord’s eyes until he went back to his conversation. “…and there is Sonja’s task.”
    His wife was clearly not happy about that. “Can that not wait…” But a short, cruel laugh stopped her.
    “Wait? She’s twenty. If we wait any longer there will be no more need for a task.”
    She lowered her gaze for a moment, seemingly conceding the discussion. Weak, weak. Flower lady. Weak, weak. “Tell me…”
    Lord Thormund’s face was a prime example for sternness. He did not seem to enjoy being reunited with his wife. A player, no piece, little lord. Strong, dangerous. She would have to wait until the royal treasurer left the city until she could snatch his daughter.
    The explanation was to the point, no emotions wasted. “There have been raids to and from some village south of Temerit. She will resolve the issue. Just some band of outlaws, nothing more.”
    His wife lifted her gaze again. “Just some band? Let her figure out some alley stabbing here in Buntium. But sending her to the corner of three countries, investigating raids… while there could be a war - isn’t that dangerous?”
    Lord Thormund seemed lost in thoughts for a moment, a smile curling at his lips. “Less dangerous than wrestling a bear!” Caligo remembered hearing about the Huskan tradition. When they reached a certain age, nobles had to prove themselves in a task to then be judged and given a place in the ranks of the country. No weakling would ever be part of the Huskan government.
    His wife touched the soft fur of her coat. Black bear. As strong as he looks. Strong lord, have me, savour me. Look, look - I’m a precious flower! The girl gasped in quiet excitement and a strand of straw blonde hair fell across her face. She could feel Lord Thormund’s gaze upon her as she slid it back in place. But the flirty gesture was clumsily executed. She lost his attention. Damn.
    Lady Thalissa tried to go on. “How many - ouch! Enea!” The girl’s attention had slipped and so she had tugged heavily on her mistress’ hair.
    She faked remorse again. “My apologies, m’lady.”
    Lady Thalissa shook her head but the conversation at hand was more important to her than scolding her handmaiden. “How many guards will accompany her?” Her husband was quick to answer.
    “No guards… a squad. She will share the task with Viktor Gallina.” This time it was Lady Thalissa who made an awkward head movement.
    “Gallina? Are you mad!?” She yelped as the comb tore on her hair once again. But she didn’t care. There was anger in her voice, even disgust. Don’t like Gallina, flower lady?
    “Zaligas will accompany her.” His off-handed reply was intended to appease her.
    But she didn’t seem to care. “He’s an old man! He cannot protect her. Ouch, Enea!” The maiden’s attention had slipped. Again. She was doing a terrible job.
    “I’m sorry, m’lady.” The couple’s argument helped her get away with it yet again.
    He was not impressed by his wife’s complaints. “She has to learn how to protect herself! Enough of this. There will be the two kids, their advisors, and two more companions.”
    But she didn’t think of leaving it at this. She shook her maiden off her hair, stood up gracefully, and approached her husband. “They need at least two battalions of soldiers.” Her voice was now soft. The maiden was impressed by her smoothness. Her hips were swinging side to side provocatively with each step she took. Both the maiden and the husband were gazing at her lustfully.
    Lord Thormund regained his composure quickly. “Do you want her to lose her status?” That made the maiden look up again. Impressive. Stern lord, lord flower. She compulsively started playing with her hair.
    Lady Thalissa continued in a voice as sweet as lemon cake. “Ten, give her ten men at least.” She placed his hands on her hips, finally starting to win him over. “Ten in total. Two kids, two advisors, six companions.” He had lowered his voice to a whisper.
    She tried to argue with it. “No-”
    “That is my last word.” His arms had wandered to her backside. “I will arrange it with lord Gregorz and have Zaligas pick the companions.” The moment was magical. The maiden could not resist but move closer, closer - until she could smell Lady Thalissa’s hair. She breathed in appreciatively. A little too appreciatively.
    “Enea, for Trunn’s sake! What in the world are you doing?” But the maiden did not seem to be herself anymore.
    She was in some sort of trance. Could not resist taking another deep breath. Mmh. “Sorry”, she whispered, her cheeks turning red from excitement.
    Her mistress was disgusted. “Did you just smell my hair?” The tone relieved the maiden of her trance.
    “No. Maybe…” She lowered her head submissively. But this time, faking remorse didn’t help.
    “You are released from my service. Go. Go!” The young maiden hurried out of their sight.