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Main => Art & Fiction => Topic started by: Myen'Tal on October 30, 2019, 11:41:08 AM

Title: The Embers of the Past : Penance
Post by: Myen'Tal on October 30, 2019, 11:41:08 AM
Latest iteration of my Original Work.

I think I'm on to something here with the improvements ;)
Feel free to give criticism if you disagree :)

Qi Burns & Fades


Sirius, the Baleful Eye of the Heavens, scoured the Valley of Carrion with its feverish heat.
Shimmering rays coalesced from the crystal skies overhead, gathering on the barren oasis before him. Aslan felt the kiss of the desert wind, a brief and unreliable reprieve from the blistering warmth on his bronze skin.

Aslan felt as if he would burst into flames, draped in shimmering robes of cream and crimson with glinting chainmail showing underneath. He stayed by the oasis, anchored beside the barren crater by the presence of his brotherhood, eagerly awaiting his command.

“Pity,” Aslan’s voice rumbled like disquiet thunder in his throat. “You see my warriors?” He gestured toward the nearest of the broken Qi warriors, bound on his knees before the edge of the dried oasis. “We merely sought to test our mettle against worthy foes… Do you see me, Qi?”

Bloodied, battered, and a hair’s breadth away from mortally wounded, the Qi being addressed could scarcely lift his head to look Aslan in the eye. It was all that he could do but glance toward Aslan’s feet and hurl a wade of phlegm at them.

“Your first sin was the pride of thinking yourselves of our caliber.” Aslan sneered. He gave the command to dispose of his prisoners with one cutting gesture.

The single rank of Zarquin Guard, a score in number, hacked their unsheathed blades into the necks of each of their assigned charges. For each single stroke, one kill was made. As blood seeped into the arid sands, the Qarthites planted their boots on the backs of their foes and kicked with mighty force.

Aslan shook his head as he watched the bodies topple into the oasis unceremoniously.

“Unthinkable,” A rough, mocking tongue struck Aslan where it thought he’d be weakest. “You’ve stolen their honor as well as their lives. Whatever could these men hope for in the afterlife now, brother?”

“What do the defeated ever want in death, Azat?” Aslan shrugged. “As far as I know, it is nothing.”

“Careful,” Azat chuckled, making light of the massacre before them. “That old fool Ibrahim might come barking at you if he heard such scornful mocking of the higher powers.”

“I do not speak of gods or Ibrahim’s… elder myths.” Aslan frowned in distaste. “It is regrettable that Qarth must be built off of the broken backs of the helpless. Qi does not hope to stand against the might of the Dominion.”

“Ehh,” Azat dismissed him with a sigh, climbing to sit upon a boulder splattered in gore. “Let the dead know their rest. Let the vanquished have their toil. It is simply the way of things. It’s a cycle you see, one that shall repeat until Qarth too is toppled when we’ve become too weak and frail to stand upright.”

Aslan glanced up from the corpse-littered oasis to stare Azat in the eye. “Things must be truly dire if even Ibrahim can say that you doom and gloom too much. Don’t speak such words amongst the ranks.”

Azat cocked his head to one side and shrugged. “Is there any use in fleeing our inevitable doom? What our hands struggle to build, is never meant to last. How much more ferocious would all of Qarth be if they lived by such words?”

“Enough, wayward brother,” Aslan smiled in spite of himself. “This valley burns, and the Qi Tribes are reduced to ashes. Qarth rises from the embers, as it has done so again and again.”

“Very well,” Azat agreed. “Bones cannot be sown in a land of peace, neither can blood flow in streams into the rivers. Salt cannot be sown without hate or prejudice. The conquered cannot be bent by anything lighter than an iron fist and sharpened blades.”

“Good,” Aslan gestured for the Zarquin to fall into formation and resume their march. “My Zarquin are the finest warriors to ever grace Qarthite soil. You think them ravenous wolves, but they are proud lions to a man and woman. I’m entrusting their lives to you, you understand? Don’t test my patience or my judgement.”

Azat heaved with scornful laughter. “I’ve never relied on either of those, Aslan, and never will. I shall see our mission done. I won’t make promises for warriors who’ve sworn that each day would be their last, if need be.”

Aslan frowned, but hid his emotions cautiously. “If such a time comes nearer too quickly, you know my signal.” A vicious smile graced his scarred features. “Remember, your life is not worth more than any one of them.”

“Just be certain you achieve things on your end.” Azat shot back. He gazed out over the horizon with cold, raven black eyes. “Be swift and remove yourself from here. Come dawn, blood shall come flowing back into the canals of Tu’shik.”

“It is only one head, Azat.” Aslan folded his arms and made to join the departing throng of Qarth warriors. “You need not risk everything to steal it off someone’s shoulders.”

“Arpiar!” Azat beckoned to the score of Zarquin lingering by the oasis. Each of them was marked with several lavender bands tied around their blade-arms. Warriors gifted from Aslan’s own retinue to serve Azat and his mission. “Swifter than wind, is there any man who could glide farther than you across the sands?”

“Your command is my sworn oath.” A lean warrior with raven hair that flowed down in straight locks rushed to kneel down before Azat’s boulder. He cupped one fist in his palm and bowed his head. “What would you have of me?”

“Look to the east.” Azat pointed past the steep slope of the oasis into the valley proper. He paused until Arpiar craned his head in the direction of several settlements dotting the landscape. “You see those Qi settlements? Take this…” Azat produced a pristine scroll of bundled parchment, written over with neat and tiny scrawl. “Go deliver this to the chieftains who dwell there. If none deign to reply to the words written in this missive… well, you may slay them.”

Arpiar inclined his head in agreement. “I shall do ask you ask. If they dare return the missive to me, I shall come back with each of their heads. Of this I swear.”

“I trust in your oaths of loyalty.” Azat waved him away. “Go now and do not return until you have succeeded.”

Azat watched Arpiar stalk away in silence, fetch the nearest horse held in wait for him by one of the attendants, and quickly depart.

Azat beckoned toward the Zarquin once again. “Nishan, you may approach. You have something to say?”

Warily, a heavily scarred brute with short locks of auburn hair stepped forward out of the score of warriors. He knelt on the bloodied sand without hesitation, one fist held in the palm of his hand.

“Azat?” Nishan lifted his head to stare Azat directly in the eye with his one good emerald eye. The other stared into the back of Nishan’s skull, only milky white color staring back. “I only regret you’ve chosen Arpiar to venture forth alone. The Qi shall grow bold when they see only one warrior making demands of them.”

“There is nothing to regret.” Azat shrugged. “Arpiar shall return by nightfall, three chieftain heads his gift to me. I would not ask that you venture forth with him. I have other plans for the Scarred Child, you see?”

“Name your demand.” Nishan’s emerald eye glinted with ferocious bloodlust. “By Qarth, I’ll see it done.”

“Look to the east.” Azat pointed beyond the oasis, in the direction of three settlements. “You see those Qi settlements? Take five warriors and raze each of them to the ground. Torch anything defiant enough to stand before you, and let your swords spare nothing they can cleave through.”

“I understand.” Nishan grimaced, but did not seem hesitant. “Blood and ashes will be all that remain.”

“Good.” Azat waved him away as he did Arpiar. “You’re not as swift as Arpiar. That is why I sent him out first. Now go and do not return until you have succeeded.”

Azat watched Nishan bow once out of respect, then shout out five names, answered by five of the Zarquin Guard. Together, they retrieved their horses held in wait for them, and set out across the dunes.

“The rest of you!” Azat beckoned to the thirteen warriors still lingering by the oasis. “Come gather round this mighty boulder and hear my words!”

The Zarquin formed a loose circle around the boulder. They did not bow, but respectfully inclined their heads. Together they intoned, “Your brothers listen!”

“Listen well, then.” Azat replied. “Qi burns, and Qarth rises from the embers. Oaths you have all sworn, and others we’ve sworn again to see through before dawn’s next light.

“All of you are survivors of great wars… Aslan could count each of you among the first generations to march from the Gardens of Tu’shik, sword and shield in hand, to sacrifice your lives for something far greater than glory or fame.

“Sadly, none of us are so young anymore, are we?” Azat grinned wolfishly and earned rumbling laughter from the stoic veterans. “But good men must sacrifice what little they have, so that great men may build better futures. Courage, iron, and steel are the weapons of good men. Prosperity, equality, and quality of life… these are the weapons of great leaders, tyrants and kings.

“Without the former, there is no latter. So, we wield our weapons against foes that stay the hands of great men, so that they shall continue to wield their weapons unencumbered. I ask each of you, right now, who or what do you swear your oaths to? Shall you sacrifice what you promised for Qarth? What say you?”

“Qi fades!” The thirteen chanted. “Qarth rises from the embers!”

“Good!” Azat thundered suddenly. “When I am brought the heads of three chieftains, their villages ablaze in a storm of smoke and ash—I anticipate warriors of legend, an infamous retinue shall come riding out of Reaper’s Lantern. We have our orders to see them all dead before dawn’s next light. Before the fate of this valley is sealed for centuries to come.

“I need not warriors, I require butchers of steely nerves and iron resolve. For certainly even with the fourteen of us, it shall be no easy prey we hunt. Prepare yourselves for carnage and battle, and a dreary demise if the fates are not with you. May the sun rise for all of you tomorrow.

“Dismissed!”

Title: Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Iteration III)
Post by: Myen'Tal on November 6, 2019, 10:01:20 AM
~***~
 
     Long hours passed since Azat had spoken with the two men he had sent forth. Dusk faded into night. An impregnable darkness crept into the chiseled mountain pass of Reaper’s Lantern. Azat and his entourage of thirteen Qarthite warriors waited till the sun vanished and the stars shimmered in the sky.
   
     They waited out the cold desert night in silence. Only a smoldering flame was allowed at the campfire, but the Zarquin huddled around its warmth as if they would freeze in its absence.
   
     Azat felt the kiss of boredom shift toward a drowsy sleep, but each breeze of frozen air bit him back into wakefulness. The wind bit and bit, until the clatter of hooves on craggy rock finally greeted the Zarquin at the mouth of the mountain pass.
   
     Azat and others craned their heads toward the sound, hands readied on the hilts of their weapons. Cheers erupted from the party instead as a familiar face rode mounted into the mountain pass to greet them. His garb was splattered with blood and his chainmail was battered and rent. In one hand, a blazing torch ate away at the shadows that clung to his face.
 
      The rider tugged on the reigns of his warhorse until the mighty beast reared up to a halt. Arpair dropped the reigns of his mount to tear away a long length of bloodied rope from his back. Azat gazed upon the length of rope that Arpair held up to him so triumphantly, the fearsome heads and matted hair of three chieftains entangled in its bind.

“Arpair, my swiftest herald, what do you return to me?” Azat bellowed with hearty laughter.
“Three chieftains as I had asked? Or did you steal away the heads from unfortunate farmers?”

“My Lord, for you!” Arpair threw the heads at Azat’s feet, his expression victorious. He pointed toward the three settlements on the horizon. “Gaze upon your work, completed!”

Azat casually glanced toward the east, where three infernos blazed into the night like great comets fallen to the earth.

“You do the Lion honor.” Azat acknowledged him with an inclination of his head. A gesture scarcely seen in the darkness of night. He pointed toward the severed heads. “Are you still worthy to fight?”

Arpair grinned through untamed, matted hair. “I fought from midday to dusk, my lord. My armor is damaged as surely as my sword and shield. But they are yours, if you need me.”

“No.” Azat dismissed him with a wave. “You’ve done enough, my swiftest. Ride forth into the night and rejoin with Aslan’s retinue. You will not want to be here when the time comes for battle.”

“As you say.” Arpair hid his skepticism well, but seemed to know well enough not to second guess his commander. “May the sun rise for all of you tomorrow.”

Azat and the others did not watch Arpair depart, but their exhalations spurred him on into the night.

“Douse the flames,” Azat commanded his warriors. “And welcome the embrace of the shadows. We lie in wait for our quarry for the rest of the night. Stay near one another, the cold’s bite will be sharp.”


~***~
   
     “Qi fades…” Nishan recited the mantra to himself, basking by the great inferno his five men weaved across the Qi village. “Qarth rises from the embers…”
 
       Five warriors on horseback galloped through blood-slick roads. They rode in separate directions, their torches setting fire to any unblemished structure from one end of the village to the next. By the time they had ridden to the settlement’s end, the fires had taken root long enough that the Qi warriors hidden amongst them were forced to flee out into the open.
 
      Nishan sighed with great relief that many of the common folk had fled weeks prior. He would not have hesitated, but his desire to slake his bloodlust with that of the unworthy was non-existent.
 
      Nishan watched scores of Qi warriors amass amidst the flames of their burning homes. As was their want, they garbed themselves in the hides of exemplary beasts of the wilds and laced their skin with piercings of their bones.
 
       The Scarred Child gazed upon them and saw no fearful men amongst their number. They barked ferocious war cries and hoisted their weapons high. Nishan watched them from a safe distance, noticed their wrathful gazes studying him in return.
 
       “Warriors of the Qi!?” Nishan thundered. “Have we stolen your spines!? Will you not fight for what blazes around you!?”
 
      The Qi stood their ground, but did not answer him.
 
      “Fine,” Nishan snorted derisively to himself, then bellowed like thunder in a clear sky. “Zarquin, attend your master’s command! Let their blood wet the sands!”
 
      Nishan did not wait for confirmation from his men, but spurred his horse toward the Qi with frightening speed. He unsheathed the wicked sword bouncing on his hip with a shrill cry and held his buckler tight across his chest.
 
       An uproarious wave of cries erupted from the Qi as Nishan bellowed a ferocious war cry. In the corner of his one eye, he caught the silhouette of another horse charging into the Qi from the opposite flank. He spurred his horse to the quickest speed, readying himself to trample men underfoot.
 
      The Qi scattered at the last moment to let the other rider through. Nishan realized too late that it was headed on a collision course.
 
      “Magar!? Hovan!? Avedis!? Change your course!” Nishan commanded. He lifted his hand to announce himself as a comrade, but froze at the sight of a corpse, without either limbs or head, galloping toward him.
 
      The collision slammed Nishan with force enough to throw his own mount into the blackened dirt. His warhorse toppled on top of him with a sickening crunch of shattered bone and twisted muscle. A primal scream tore itself from out of Nishan’s throat, the world before him nothing but a blur of motion.
   
    Several bursts of sudden, agonizing pain lanced into his gut and chest in rapid succession.
           Then the world shifted into hues of permanent black.

~***~
 
      “Nishan!?” Magar screamed in defiance. He flicked his wrist and a Qi’s sword hand toppled away from the wrist. Before the mounted warrior could ride past him, Magar smashed the rim of his shield across the back of his foe’s head and sent him toppling into the dirt after his severed hand. “Where in all the hells could he be!?”
 
      Another Qi hidden behind the facial mask of a fearsome beast rode up to strike Magar down from behind. Magar pulled hard on the reigns to turn, but knew he was too slow. Hovan charged past him at full gallop and unseated the masked warrior with a well-placed thrust of his spear through the Qi’s vulnerable neck.
 
      Blood lashed out to slather Magar’s face, but he saw clearly enough to parry a strike from another passerby.
   
     “Death from afar!” Avedis cried from the shadows. An arrow darted into the back of the rider seeking Magar out. The Qi galloped several paces onward before he fell away into the arid dirt.
 
      “Magar, Nishan’s likely dead!” Hovan cast the torch in his offhand so that the flames exploded into ashes and embers in the face of another foe, interrupting their charge. He rode past the blinded warrior and cut him across the throat. “He was at the other end of the village last we saw! A score of men I saw him charge into! We should fall back while we can! The mission is done!”
 
       “I won’t flee while there’s Qi blood yet to be spilled!” Magar parried a powerful strike from a wooden club, splinters and shards flying from his shield. “Do you hear me!? Your masks do not frighten me!”
   
     “Enough, Magar!” Hovan circled around Magar, his spear warding off a dozen foes closing in for the kill and slaying another pair of the masked riders. “Come, let’s ride! I won't linger to see if you’re still at our backs!”

        “I’ll cover the both of you!’ Avedis loosed volley after volley into the masked Qi. Several warriors were forced to limp out of the fight back toward their blazing village. A handful of others laid sprawled on the earth from his attacks. “Get your hides out of there!”
 
       “Your backs shall break building our cities!” Magar spat defiantly. He wheeled his warhorse around to trail Hovan’s retreat toward Avedis. “Remember these words!”

~***~
Title: Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Iteration III)
Post by: Myen'Tal on November 7, 2019, 09:10:05 PM

   “Azat!”
       
      “Azat!”
   
      “Azat!” 
 
 
  A singular cry rolled over the craggy rocks of Reaper’s Lantern. The sound crept behind the unturned stones and echoed into the frozen breeze, before it vanished somewhere deep within the impregnable darkness.
 
      A sickening feeling welled from deep within Azat at the sudden taunt. The thirteen Zarquin clustered tightly around him like a living bulwark of flesh, iron, and steel. As their master remained appraising and silent in response to the challenger, so did the Zarquin refrain from ushering even a loud breath.
 
      “Come forth, son of Qarth!” The champion thundered from shadows. “I have brought you a gift fit for kings!”
   
     Suddenly, a lonesome torch blazed into life in the very heart of the mountain pass. Where shadows once clung, a warrior three heads over the tallest men stood, his stance challenging. His form was lean, but rippling with whip-chord, heavily scarred muscle. Swirling patterns of obsidian circles flowed over his trousers.

The stitched together hides of a pair of Lantern Tigers draped the otherwise bare upper body. The hides were crafted in such a way that either tiger head graced both of his shoulders.

In one fist, the freakish warrior lifted a lengthy rope entangled with three bloodied heads. Azat instantly recognized the casualties: Nishan, the Scarred Child stood starkest amongst them. Yervant, one of the five warriors he had sent with Nishan. Arpair, who Azat had incidentally sent to his doom.

The nauseous feeling churning within Azat’s stomach stoked and burned until it became a ferocious fury.

“You say that your gift is worthy of kings?” Azat countered from the shadows. “But you bring only three heads instead of the six that ventured from here. Did the other half elude you somehow?”
The Giant of a man heaved with vicious laughter, his tone brutally short, and his accent barbaric in its coarseness.

“Your fourth head!” The Giant ripped free another loop of rope dangling from his waist. Azat counted the head of another Zarquin entangled in its bind. Azat did not recognize it. “But this is unfit for either of us! You hide in the shadows while I stand out in the open like a fool… unveil yourself, let us speak warrior to warrior.” 

“Azat,” One of the Zarquin tilted his head towards him and whispered. “Tell him to unveil his army first, the deceiving bastard!”

“No,” Azat smirked. “This is not how things will play out… all of you remain where you stand. If I cannot strike down this brute with my own sword… fall back to Aslan and relay what happened.
“And before you fret at your command, I’ll demand your safe passage in return for my head to this brute.”

A chorus of whispered disagreements and denials assailed Azat’s shrinking back as he pushed forward to meet with the giant. The Zarquin cursed themselves, but did not dare disobey their orders.

Azat made a point to clamber loudly over the rocks of Reaper’s Lantern as he drew nearer to his challenger. To his credit, the giant merely held his ground and waited in patience for a silhouette to emerge from the dark.

“Here I am, mighty Qi.” Azat waved his hand and stepped into the torchlight. “You have found me… How do you know of me?” He looked respectfully up and down. “You do not fit your legend very well. None of them mentioned you were a half-giant.”

“Kin and foe alike call me Baal.” The half-giant grinned, showing surprisingly pearl white teeth, too chipped to be perfect. “And I am merely an emissary, sent on behalf of my people to be Qi’s champion.”

“Qi’s champion?” Azat scoffed, then barked with laughter. “Why would you do such a thing?”
“Because Qi fades,” Baal gritted his teeth and rasped. “And Qarth rises from the embers. You threaten to break all of our backs upon the foundations of your empire.”

The laughter stifled in Azat’s throat as he considered Baal’s words. “You speak of an alliance between your people and the Qi? Your honesty baffles me… why would you say this to your enemy?”

“Why does it matter?” Baal grinned again. “When I’ll shatter your spine across my knee and claim your head as my own?”

“Personal combat, then?” Azat asked, then nodded in agreement. “If you should slay me, then allow my men safe passage to fight another day. If I slay you… your men will break anyway. Qi fades, after all.”

“Not for much longer.” Baal frowned. “But I’ve heard your terms and accept none-the-less. Before dawn breaks, the Tribes of the Qi and the Clans of Khanar shall celebrate over your broken corpse.”

A hundred cries, so close in proximity that Azat froze from the abrupt blast of their combined voices, shook the earth with defiant battle cries.

“Qi remains! Qi remains! Qi remains!”

“Shall we begin?” Baal asked. “No point in shirking from the inevitable.”

Azat smiled with that wolfish, confident smirk he had. He spun on his heel and turned his back to
Baal without a word and stalked away. He heard Baal bristle with soft, rough laughter and called for a choosing of several weapons to be brought to him. On the other side of the mountain pass, the Zarquin Guard waited with bated breath.

“Nishan and his retinue? Aripiar too?” One of the Zarquin questioned Azat as he approached.

“Dead.” Azat quipped. “Most of them. Magar, Hovan, and Avedis may still be alive.”

“Aslan would lay this giant low without even blinking.” One of the Qarthites spoke up. “You shall do it in his place, Azat, of that we are certain. Bring honor to the names of the fallen.”

“What do the dead care of honor or any of those things?” Azat countered. “Rather we not bother them with demands to follow the living. Let the dead have their rest… Be prepared for any fate.”

Azat turned his back on the Zarquin Guard and proceeded into the no man’s land between them and the opposing Qi forces. In the center of that empty space, Baal waited for him with a patience born of surety and confidence. Strapped upon the half-giant’s back were several javelins and a shield, a sword sheathed on his hip, and a two-handed great axe gripped in both of his gnarled hands.

Azat unsheathed the wicked sword sheathed on his waist and locked his shield tight across his chest. He approached with caution, until Baal’s misty breath breezed over his raven hair.
 
      Torches once hidden behind invisible men were brought out of the masses of the Qi horde. Practiced in the tradition of blood feuds, the Qi hand picked to bear the blazing lights marched around the combatants until they encircled them in one sphere. Azat noticed their perfect spacing. He witnessed the way they held their torches up high to reveal their stoic faces, scarcely concealing their untamed bloodlust.
 
       In the limelight of the torches, Azat could barely make out the Zarquin Guard clustered together just outside of the arenas bounds. Their silhouettes were unmoving as if they were built from stone instead of flesh. He knew they watched the duelists with expectant eyes.
 
       In the limelight, Baal loomed over Azat, his stature even more apparent than it was before. The Half-Giant gazed off in the direction of the Zarquin Guard, then slowly crept his gaze back to Azat.
 
       “If this were another day and time,” Baal flashed a vicious grin. “I would regale myself with tales of your exploits. Some of your warriors are men of legend. Legends hacked apart under my axe. Know that I acknowledge their sacrifice and honor their courage.”
 
       Azat lifted his gaze to look Baal in the pit of his ocean blue eyes. His eyes reflected a similar admiration. “May the gods call you with the next sunrise. If that is your fate.”
 
       “Have you made peace with your past?” Baal asked. “For I am eager to spill blood and proclaim myself victor.”
 
       Azat tightened his fingers around the handle of his moderate buckler. Obsidian, his wicked sword, gleamed in the flickering flames of the torchlight.
 
       A confident smirk crept its way into Azat’s stoic expression. “Do your worst, son of Kharan.”

        Baal screamed with such concussive force that Azat’s hearing was drowned beneath the whistling tune of deafness in an instant. The sheer shock quickened his scattering footfalls and cleared him away from the first decapitating strike.

Baal pounced forward, his stance like that of a primal tiger. The single-headed axe whirled around the half-giant’s head before lashing out in a great arc. Azat dug his feet in and cut to the left of the rightward swing. The axehead bit deep into the wooden shell of his buckler, raised overhead. Splinters and shards sprayed both combatants.

Azat pushed under the axe and answered Baal with one keening cut. Obsidian glimmered briefly like light glancing over a vein of quicksilver. Baal cried out, the sound more ferocious roar than pained. An arc of blood spurted after Obsidian’s exit from Baal’s flank.

A vicious elbow thrust toward Azat, but he slid across the sands to a safe distance. Baal followed into the movement with a downward chop, then ended the sequence with a low sweep. Azat slipped away from the downward arc without effort, but the end of the sequence off-footed him enough that he tripped over himself.

Azat followed his descent into the sand with a fluid roll. Baal’s crushing boot landed with enough force where he had fallen a moment ago that cracks ran in rivulets in the rock below. Azat pushed himself back onto his feet, but Baal was upon him and sent him flying with a mighty kick to his midriff.
 
      The night sky raged in a blur of motion, but Azat sketched out Baal rushing toward him full tilt. Baal ran him down in the span of a breath and brought his axe down in one momentous blow meant to cleave him apart.
 
      Azat ripped Obsidian free of his own bloodied skin and cut with the reckless precision of a blinded serpent. The blade whipped out toward Baal’s dwarfing silhouette and smacked some part of him with a meaty thwack. The sound was followed by a singing cut that drew an infuriated scream from Baal.
 
       The axe impacted into Azat’s right shoulder, but Obsidian had stolen much of the force out of the blow. Azat still cried out in pain, blood spraying from the rent chainmail and splashing Baal in his neatly wounded face.
 
       A mighty fist clenched Azat by the throat, lifted him partially into the air, then slammed him back into the rock and sand with a loud thud. Azat answered with a strong sweep of his buckler into Baal’s stony jaw.
 
          Baal took the blow in stride and picked himself out of the arid sands of the arena. Fingers clenched around Azat’s throat, he found himself pulled onto his feet with the half-giant.
 
       “Do you see me, Zarquin?” Baal spat flecks of blood through battered teeth. His face was cut and battered to hell, but he smiled as if he had just experienced all the joy in the world. A joy that he could only find in the chaos of battle. “You’ve met your match…”
 
       The Qi watching from the arena outskirts chanted in unison. They called for Azat’s sacrifice. They called for his blood. They called for an end to all that he had wrought.
 
       Azat cut with obsidian with all of his strength, but Baal accepted the ragged wound carved into his ribs as if he hadn’t felt it at all.
 
       “I never told you,” Baal heaved with grim laughter. “Baal is my name, because I am a demon of battle! I finish my foes by crushing their throats with my bare fist, and removing their heads with brutal force… this is sacrifice enough for the Qi.”
 
      Azat tried to spit in Baal’s face, but the leaden force pushing his throat in sapped him of strength and concentration. Blood rushed to his head. His lungs struggled to breathe. The world began to shift into non-distinct hues. His hearing began to degenerate into nothing but chaos…
 
          “For the Twelve Tyrants of Qarth!”
 
        A thick spray of blood slathered Azat and immediately, Baal’s crushing grip slackened into nothing. Azat collapsed upon himself into the blood slick sand. As clarity quickly came back into focus, he made out Baal’s headless corpse half buried in the sand.
 
       “My Lord, for you!” Azat sucked in gaping mouthfuls of air between wretched fits of coughing. Hand on his throat, he looked up to the mounted figure gazing down upon him, sword pointed toward Azat in salute.

“Magar!?” Azat managed a ragged word between heaved breaths.

Magar did not pause to see to Azat’s person, but instead pointed his sword to Avedis and Hovan charging past him at full tilt.

“Tear their ranks asunder!” Magar bellowed to the moon itself. “Litter the valley with their bones!”

Hovan crashed into the ring of Qi, who now fled for their lives. Several men vanished beneath the hooves of his stallion, crushed into the sand. His spear struck like a serpent’s kiss, again and again into any Qi brave enough to stand before him.

Avedis swept in from the left, but kept a short distance. He answered the nearest Qi with a volley of arrows. Goaded by the sudden attack, the Qi sounded their war horns and countered charged blindly into the night. One hundred men clambered relentlessly into Reaper’s Lantern until it seemed as if a living wall were going to drown the Zarquin in a tide of death.

Azat recovered himself quickly and readied obsidian and his shield. Rushing footsteps from behind betrayed the presence of the thirteen warriors who came to reinforce him. He did not have to give the command. The Zarquin Guard locked their shields together, formed a bulwark, and braced to receive the charge.

“Always one to fight on your own, brother!” A wrathful voice that could only belong to Aslan seemed to thunder over even the war cries of one hundred Qi. “But Qarth was never built on the sacrifice of one man alone!”

A dirge of a warhorn sounded behind Azat at the mouth of the mountain pass. The night sky, once dim and ominous, brightened with the light of a thousand flaming arrows descending from it. The tide of Qi writhed and shrank as they were showered by flaming death. The few who remained amongst the hale and healthy in that horde shattered in an instant before the army approaching them from the other end of the pass.

“I’m aware that I did not forbid your death.” Aslan clapped Azat hard across the back as he approached from behind. “But I thought it went without saying.”

Azat managed to grin through his exasperated, bloodied, and bruised features. “I’m still here, aren’t I?”

“Where are all of my men?” Aslan made a point to count each and every living Zarquin with lavender bands tied around their wrists. “You’re missing some.”

“I made no promises,” Azat grimaced. He cleaned the blood out of his eyes with the sleeve of his robe. “Remember?”

“Of all of them, you lost the Scarred Child and Arpriar?” Aslan frowned deeply. “A shame, that…”

“I won’t dwell on those about to perish here today.” Azat countered. “You wouldn’t have come with…” Azat gestured to the seemingly endless column of warriors marching into the mountain pass. “Such an army unless the Qi have come in greater numbers.”

“Worse than that,” Aslan folded his arms and watched the remaining Qi scamper out of the mountain pass. “There’s a detachment of Kharan Half-Giants headed straight for Reaper’s Lantern. I think you met their emissary?” He gazed down upon the headless corpse at his feet. “Quite the diplomats, eh?”

“Hah!” Azat barked. “You could say that.” He sobered. “What would you have of me, brother? You’ve always been Erasyl’s chosen. I’ll lend you my sword.”

“Erasyl executes the defense of the Gorgon dunes.” Aslan informed him. “Select several units from my forces and rendezvous with him. The Qi and the Kharan will be bringing the brunt of their force into that wasteland. They know where we are weakest.”

“And here I thought we’d finally draw swords together.” Azat finally replied after considering his orders. “A shame, truly.”

“Why?” Aslan shrugged. “Erasyl himself shall arrive soon to lead the counterattack from your defense. You’ll fight beside the most exalted of us all. And you know he’d have it no other way.”

“If it must be so, then let it be.” Azat sketched a mocking bow before he turned to depart. “Zarquin Guard, attend your master! I have other business to attend to…”

“My Lord,” Amidst the countless thousands now crammed into Reaper’s Lantern, Magar saluted Azat the moment he turned to face him. “Four worthy kills shall I reap in your name! Each in retribution for the men who died in your service! The dead would sing your praises for avenging them!”

“The dead are reciting the myth of how Magar slew the half-giant at Reaper’s Lantern.” Azat dismissed him with a flick of his wrist. “They care not for the man that nearly had his head ripped off by the giant himself.”

Azat did not glance behind him as the Zarquin Guard chanted his, Aslan’s, and Magar’s name and vanished into the endless throngs of warriors.


~***~

Well, if you've discovered this post, there's a good chance that you've finished reading the first the chapter of Born of Ashes and Embers!!! You've my admiration and gratitude for coming so far! It's been an arduous journey, but I think I've produced a first chapter and story foundation that I'm really quite fond of.

All the criticisms and advice (Mainly from you, Alienscar ;)), and others, I think have really helped me progress. I say that like I've received a lot of feedback from this third iteration :P ;), but what I've received so far, has been positive.

There is no comment or suggestion that I would not hear so long as it's made objectively and fairly. So I am open to all ears.

Special thanks to the lurkers who are still reading ;D. Special rare thanks to those who lent their expertise to aid me further.

If you could not already guess, I shall not be making any additions beyond the first chapter here on the 40k forums or anywhere else.

I'm making good strides in the story's continuation. I'm already through much of the third chapter! Here's to forging more stories! I hope people view all the issues I've chronicled with my writing and learned somethings. There is no greater reward for me than hearing I may have inspired others with a passing interest to stop and think, "That might be cool." Much like I was back in the day ;D...
Title: Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Ver. III, Chapter I Completed)
Post by: Dread on November 9, 2019, 01:09:37 AM
I really enjoyed the read. Good job! Would love to see minis of them.
Title: Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Ver. III, Chapter I Completed)
Post by: Myen'Tal on November 9, 2019, 10:46:11 AM
I really enjoyed the read. Good job! Would love to see minis of them.

I appreciate the compliment, Dread ;D! Thanks!

Mini versions of the characters would be interesting!
Title: Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Ver. III, Chapter I Completed)
Post by: Sir_Godspeed on November 13, 2019, 11:45:13 AM
It's been a while since I dipped my feet in writing and feedback, but your persistence deserves attention.

First off - thanks for the enjoyable story. While it's the first chapters of presumably several, it does feel like somewhat of a finished arc - though I did grasp for some additional context at times. Even if the conflict was fairly clear, the barrage of names made it a bit difficult to keep it all in order at times.

Speaking of context, I see you called this an original story, but I think I recognized the name Qarth from A Song of Ice And Fire? Is it set in that universe, or did you just borrow the name?


I hope you don't mind me listing a few suggestion below.


Quote
“Sadly, none of us are so young anymore, are we?” Azat grinned wolfishly and earned rumbling laughter from the stoic veterans. But good men must sacrifice what little they have, so that great men may build better futures. Courage, iron, and steel are the weapons of good men. Prosperity, equality, and quality of life… these are the weapons of great leaders, tyrants and kings.

The above paragraph has a second part (from "But good men..." and onwards) that seem like it should be in dialogue marks, since it does not fit with the tone of the narrative voice of the rest of the text. The narrator in the story is mostly very direct and to the point, whereas this line seems a lot more poetic, which felt jarring.

Quote
Then they continued to wait in the cold desert night in silence. Only a smoldering flame was allowed at the campfire, but the Zarquin huddled around its warmth as if they would freeze in its absence.

This might just be a pet peeve of mine, but new paragraphs should generally start with new thoughts, events, etc. "Then" is a narrative conjunction of sort, tying the new thought together with the previous thought, signifying continuity. I would slot with paragraph together with the last paragraph to make it flow more easily.

Quote
“I’ll cover the both of you!’ Avedis loosed volley after volley into the masked Qi. Several warriors were forced to limp out of the fight back toward their blazing village. A handful of others laid sprawled on the earth from his attacks. “Get your hides out of there!”

The first of several minor technicalities, but I believe a "volley" refers to several arrows or missiles being fired. As Avendis is just one person, presumably just letting loose one arrow or javelin at a time (I forgot which - does it mention?) it would not really be a volley.


Quote
“Worse than that,” Aslan folded his arms and watched the remaining key scamper out of the mountain pass. “There’s a detachment of Kharan Half-Giants headed straight for Reaper’s Lantern. I think you met their emissary?” He gazed down upon the headless corpse at his feet. “Quite the diplomats, eh?”

I think "remaining key" is a misspelling, right? Did you mean to put "remaining Qi"?

Quote
The stitched together hides of a pair of Lantern Tigers draped the otherwise bare upper body. The hides were crafted in such a way that either tiger head graced both of his shoulders. Their lolling tongues slid down his arms and their eyes gazed off in opposite directions.

This is another technicality, and I might be wrong in this, but I can't imagine a properly flayed animal skin keeping the tongues in. For one thing, tongues are good food, and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they are wet tissue, which rots quickly, especially in a desert/hot environment. Generally, pelts like these will be completely devoid of wet tissue. That being said, maybe there is some cultural statement going on here that I'm unaware of - although other readers would be so too.

As you can see, my critique is mostly fitting together some of the minor joints at this point, since the story itself as a satisfying rise and end. The characters, while very much in the "epic" tradition (larger-than-life speaking patterns, philosophical discussions, etc.) feel interesting and show some of their personalities through interaction with each other. I can only hope they'll continue to be fleshed out as the stories go on.

Cheers!
Title: Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Ver. III, Chapter I Completed)
Post by: Myen'Tal on November 13, 2019, 02:39:39 PM
Quote
It's been a while since I dipped my feet in writing and feedback, but your persistence deserves attention.

Hi Sir_Godspeed,

I appreciate you stopping by! That sentence alone means a lot ;D.

Quote
First off - thanks for the enjoyable story. While it's the first chapters of presumably several, it does feel like somewhat of a finished arc - though I did grasp for some additional context at times. Even if the conflict was fairly clear, the barrage of names made it a bit difficult to keep it all in order at times.

Thanks! I'm glad that you enjoyed the chapter overall.

As for the barrage of names, I figured that was going to be something that'd crop up at some-point. But I kind of wanted to experiment with it. I wasn't too happy with the previous iterations of the Zarquin Guard, because I felt that they had become an army of *red-shirts*, rather than something that any of the main characters would care about.

I figured lending out names and personalities to notable figures within the Zarquin Guard, and having them actually play roles in throughout the chapters, would give them more of the warrior brotherhood vibe that I envisioned.

However, the point you raise is a valid one. I did cram several names in the a small space, not even if you include the likes of Qarth and Qi. What would be your advice on trying to balance too-many-names as opposed to no-name-red-shirts? Perhaps I could have introduced them a bit more piecemeal or made them more distinct somehow.

Quote
Speaking of context, I see you called this an original story, but I think I recognized the name Qarth from A Song of Ice And Fire? Is it set in that universe, or did you just borrow the name?

This is a universe that I've created, which is why I called it an original story. That said, and I know this is blasphemy, but I haven't read too much of the ASOIAF series. I did do a quick google search on it and I do realize now that Qarth is a Port City in Essos.

I can definitely see where the puzzlement is coming from ;) :P. The Dominion of Qarth, where this story is set in, was unintentionally given the same name as this Port City in ASOIAF.

I actually came up with the name due to inspiration from Classical, maritime Empire of Carthage :).

Quote
I hope you don't mind me listing a few suggestion below.

Certainly, I've looked over your suggestions and criticisms, and I certainly agree / have learned from them. I'll be making some corrections soon in reflection of this feedback.

Quote
As you can see, my critique is mostly fitting together some of the minor joints at this point, since the story itself as a satisfying rise and end. The characters, while very much in the "epic" tradition (larger-than-life speaking patterns, philosophical discussions, etc.) feel interesting and show some of their personalities through interaction with each other. I can only hope they'll continue to be fleshed out as the stories go on.

Cheers!

I appreciate your critique, Godspeed! It's good to hear that you think I'm on the right path with these iterations!

I know I mentioned that I wouldn't be sharing any further progress on this story.
However, I might share the prologue for further opinions. I'd be curious to know what others think about it.  ;D
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Ver. III, Chapter I Completed)
Post by: Myen'Tal on November 16, 2019, 11:54:02 AM
I've now posted the most updated version of this chapter, which now reflects the feedback that has been given. I read through the entire piece again, and made subtler changes, additions, and deletions that I hope make the read feel even smoother.  :)


Alright, one last, sneak peak, that has been snipped out of the chronological order. I did this so that I could show some other aspects of the story off.

~***~


        Tabia lifted her hood so that it fell over her eyes and tread gently across the limestone bricks that paved the Grand Canals’ dockyards. A gilded framework surrounded each kilometer length of brickwork, chiseled by generations of the finest artisans so that they worked like a living map, pointing to any nearby dockyard, ferry, storage facility, or administrative headquarters.

   Usually bustling with maritime life, the endless hordes of Qarthite sailors, merchants, and foreign emissary delegations waned into the smallest of trickles as the evening progressed toward midnight.

   Warriors of the Zarquin Guard clustered around the dockyard of a particular ship Tabia rapidly neared. A short man with a vicious voice barked at a group of Kharan Half-Giants nearly twice his size. Tabia gleamed enough of the conversation without trying. She gingerly passed the great Quinquereme by as one of the Kharanites revealed an axe and neatly cleaved the short man’s head almost completely off his shoulders.
   
       The other Zarquin Guard did not lift their swords. Tabia still heard foreign screams as hidden archers shot the Khanites into the crystal cyan waters of the canal. She heard swords being drawn in the distance and a command to storm the ship before she slipped out of sight.
   
       A stranger’s voice greeted Tabia from scant feet away.

       “Jumanah’s light on your path, stranger.” A youthful woman’s cheery voice struck Tabia like a lightning bolt. Tabia gently turned her head toward a wooden bench, where a woman with hair of both rosy red and burnished chestnut watched her with a broad smile.

       “You tread softly,” The woman mentioned with a mirthful smirk. “But you’ll never avoid every eye out here in the canals, understand? Best to tread loudly with a caravan of armed soldiers, if you truly wish to be left alone.”

       “You speak in truths, young lady.” Tabia lifted the hood off her shoulders, a sign of acknowledgement. “But where are your guardians? They’ve vanished in the dark of their own shadows, as far as I can see.”

       “My kin call me Shoushan.” The woman reclined further onto the wooden bench. In the wane moonlight, Tabia noticed the soft glimmer of chain-mail beneath her flowing robes of crimson and cream. “My warriors are taking care of the dispute you just witnessed on that Quinquereme you passed by earlier.”

       “You’re Zarquin?” Tabia felt her heart skip a beat. “Forgive me, sister, I’d not mean to come off as beguiling.”

       “It matters little,” Shoushan lifted a hand in a gesture for calm. When she spoke, Tabia was reminded of the warmth of the hearthfire. Her smile could melt the ice off blackened hearts. “I was only curious about the hooded woman sneaking around my Grand Canal. My only suggestion is that you do not cause trouble in these late hours. My Zarquin can be more forgiving when the heat beats us all into lazy indifference. But at this hour, ill things could betide many a stranger who rouses their wrath.”

       “I am…” Tabia bit her tongue sharply before she uttered the rest of her retort. “I am on my way into the Great City. I am headed for the ferryman.”

       “You were going to say you aren’t afraid.” Shoushan gracefully rose to her feet in spite of her armor. Tabia spied several wicked scars that marred her skin, but only added to the untamed flame of her natural beauty.

       “Curious,” Shoushan encircled Tabia until she eventually came to rest directly before her. “Why aren’t you?”

        “Remove yourself from my path,” Tabia suddenly commanded. “I have the God-King’s authority.”

        Shoushan arched her brow and considered Tabia with a long, cool look. Her bright expression quickly transformed into something stony and sinister. The Zarquin Commander’s hand rested intently upon the hilt of her sword.

        “I won’t hear such lies in the Throne City!” Shoushan hissed. “You have one chance to show me proof. If I judge you a liar, I shall cleave your head off of yours shoulders with one blow.”

         “Calm yourself, Shoushan!” A familiar voice interrupted the argument. Tabia craned her head in surprise at the source. Faki cast the door into the Zarquin barracks aside with a thunderous clamor. “If Adofo heard such threats against the God-King’s--”

        “Adofo is dead.” Shoushan reminded. “Because of this dumb be-atch, if she’s spoken the truth. How could you ask for calm when a dozen of your brothers are dead in the caverns?”

        “Enough, enough!” Faki stepped between Shoushan and Tabia, a torch blazing in his hand. “You should slake that sword of yours on some Kharanites, if you’ve such an impulse to murder.”

        “The Kharanites are our friend now,” Shoushan smiled grimly. “After they learn to submit to our laws, of course. In either case, I won’t stand here and let this woman step a foot inside of Tu’shik. Not over my corpse, she shall not pass!”

        Tabia gestured for Faki to step aside with a dismissive wave of her hand. Faki hesitated, then looked back to Shoushan, who made the same gesture.

        “If this must be settled with blood.” Faki grimaced. “Then just fight to the first cut. There’s already been enough murdered brothers and sisters today.” He cautiously retreated back toward the wooden bench. 

        “Show me your symbol of authority,” Shoushan unsheathed the wicked sword on her hip with a cry that cut through the foggy night air.

        “Are you deaf?” Tabia accused. “Did you hear a word Faki mentioned? Of course I no longer have it! We all fought for our lives down in the caverns!

        “If you do not proof of your authority,” A vicious smile crept onto Shoushan’s lips. “Then no one should be able to validate your untimely demise.”

        Shoushan lunged forward with a powerful thrust, aimed to run Tabia through in the span of a quick breath. Faki’s sword intercepted the blow, but Shoushan feinted and parried in such a way that Faki was thrown over her lowered shoulder and into the cyan waters of the canal.

        Tabia did not pause for either of them to recover. She sketched intricate symbols in the air while Shoushan was momentarily distracted. She uttered the practiced mantra that came to mind and her fingertips suddenly blazed bubbling, liquid fire. Driblets cascaded off of her fingers and left miniature, scorched craters where they hit the limestone.

        “Come,” Shoushan noticed Tabia, recovered her footing, and ran full-tilt toward her opponent. “For the Firstborn! Glory to the Tyrants of Qarth!”

        Shoushan thrust once more, a hair’s breadth away from tackling Tabia to the dockyard floor. Tabia winced heavily from sudden, fresh pain. Blood streamed from the deep cut carved across the length of her right cheek. The Zarquin Commander meant to channel strength into the blow, to turn her graze into a decapitating strike.     

        Shoushan twisted around to fulfill her tactic, but Tabia reached out and planted the palm of her flaming hand squarely on the Zarquin’s chest. The searing heat earned a gasp out of Shoushan, the liquid flame quickly eating through cloth and armor.

        Tabia thundered the trigger word at the forefront of her mind. The miniature flames on her fingertips ignited into a roaring stream of liquid fire. Panic seized Shoushan first, then her feeble screams as the flames took hold became loud enough to be heard across the canal. Her arms, once poised for battle, flailed wildly as she was reduced to cinders.

       The scorched carcass clattered in a heap upon the ground. It was serenely lifeless and silent in contrast to what it had been before.

       “Seven hells!” Faki cried out as he climbed out of the canal. He looked to Tabia with wild eyes. “Have you gone completely mad!?”

      “Be grateful that you’ll continue to breath, Faki.” Tabia lifted her hood so that if fell over her eyes. She continued her hastened walk toward the ferryman’s boat. “Gods keep you breathing till you’re too old to breath, old friend.”

      From the Quinquereme in the distance, shouts of alarm followed in the wake of Shoushan’s sudden death. The sounds of battle echoing from that lone ship still continued well into the night.                                 
Title: World Building 1 - on - 1: Portent of the Wanderer, Ver. I
Post by: Myen'Tal on November 27, 2019, 03:30:12 PM

Portent of the Wanderer, Ver. I


        An eerie cawing of crows carried over the thunderous surging of waves. Veridia’s crystalline blue eyes snapped open to the brilliance of wicked lightning falling from heaven to earth. The skies that bristled with the clamor of Tarithinon’s wrath, were the all-consuming black of raven’s feathers.

   Starless. Absent of the guidance of the celestial bodies. Void of the heavens and the gods that kept them afixed in the firmament.

   The waxing of the tide suddenly crashed over Veridia with beguiling, gentle force. She realized that she had awoken in another of her veiled dreams. Fully self-aware, she felt the wet sand beneath her shift and cave as the coastal waters set in. The call of seagulls circling over the craggy rocks in the distance stoked a sense of placid calm enough to drown her panicked confusion.

   “Bazariah,” The name escaped Veridia’s lips in a faint, mist-wracked breath. “I know of you, creature.”

   An ethereal voice made distinct by a mother’s gentle love, a siren’s luring lullaby, and the enigmatic instruction of a divine touched soul, answered Veridia.

        “You’re becoming adept at our games, Veridia.” The disembodied voice spoke from a distance, as if lost amidst the crashing waves. When it did so, Veridia could not help but feel like an observant eye was glaring upon her from a great height. “The Goddess of Dire Misfortune chose well when she settled her gaze upon you. My pride would swell until this mighty heart would burst in my chest, if you were my disciple.”

       Another waxing of the tide crashed over Veridia and submerged her beneath the waves. She instinctively made to shut her eyes against the impact, but Bazariah’s mere utterance kept them fixed open, entrancing her.

       Waters surged around Veridia in multi-faceted hues of color; deep sapphires and glittering emeralds, inky violets and burning magenta, dark crimson and sunburst yellows. As quickly as the tide had arrived, did it wane and recede once more.

       Suddenly animated, Veridia jerked upright and burst from out of the rainbow waters with a gulping gasp for air.

      A bubbling laughter of the kind that had never graced Veridia’s ears before manifested at her back. Elegant fingers weaved through the golden locks hanging down over her right shoulder.
Bazariah waltzed around her back until she could lean in close to stare Veridia in the eye.

     “Does Nihali know that she has a prodigal daughter?” A thin sliver of tongue the color of dark blood lolled from out of her maw of jutting teeth that curved like the perfect points of a ram's horns. The grounded roots of each tooth gleamed in the darkness, fading into burnished brows toward the center and then into oily blacks at the very tips. They were small enough not to alter her facial features, a reminiscent blend of Elf and Human as if she had been borne from such a crossing.

     Yet, there was an otherworldliness that bled into that pristine face of what Veridia would have otherwise thought divine. Oppressive eyes of oily crimson and viper’s slits seemed to bubble and writhe from within as if blood was boiling underneath. Long streams of raven hair cascaded down her crown of four curving horns that could rival a minotaur’s.

     Beneath her arms were another set of limbs lined with whipcord muscle. Bazariah held them cupped in a way that sketched a strange symbol with the intricate positioning of her fingers.

   An elegant chiton of deep sapphire, laced with the brilliant filigree of ruby, sufficiently concealed a figure half-crossed between lithe and broad, every portion of her nothing but soft, underlying muscle.

   “Of course,” Bazariah’s bubbling laughter continued. “You do not even struggle. You’ve never had the chance to know the meaning of such, have you? I’ve seen many a lost soul dragged away in those waters. They do not seem to want you, Veridia.”

   Veridia glowered back at Bazariah in defiance. She hawked and spat into the serpentine smile on the strange entity’s lips. The wade of saliva seemed to vanish into thin air before it hit Bazariah.

   “Defiant.” Bazariah erected herself, her caress stealing Veridia from out of the sands. She planted Veridia onto her feet with a slight, disapproving glint in her eyes. “I have to admire your zeal. But you’re far too young to raising your hand against your elders, aren’t you?”

   Veridia craned her head skyward simply to look the creature in the eyes. A knowing smile gently crept onto Bazariah’s features.

   “Your heart burns with the fury of the Phoenix.” Bazariah cooed. “Do you desire to pit your strength against mine? Go ahead, extinguish that inferno ablaze in the pit of your soul.

   “Show me what you’ve learned from under Qaris’ shadow.”

   Veridia exhaled an ancient mantra surfacing from the back of her mind. She shut her eyes and her heart skipped one, then several beats. A gust of flames suddenly enveloped her from the feet to the crown of her head. Even Bazariah gasped as the flames scolded her clutching fingers and forced her to relinquish her grip.

   Veridia’s eyes snapped open from where she stood, leagues now between her and Bazariah. A confident grin flashed on her lips. She pointed her fingers in her enemy’s direction.

   An omniscient laughter seemed to roll in from the dunes on the horizon. It surged over the crashing of the tide upon the shoreline. It descended from the skies like thunder in a storm-wracked sky.

   “Yes, little one. Test me.”

   Veridia hurled her open hands as if she were skipping stones across a lake’s waters. As she made the fluid movements, great fistfulls of scorching flames were cast from her fingertips instead. The fireballs hurtled toward Bazariah’s stagnant form like meteors streaking across the sky.

   They descended upon Bazariah with the impact of Rynithian mortar shells. Brilliant, blossoming explosions of sand and flames enveloped Bazariah’s shadowy form.

   “You continue to impress me,” Bazariah’s voice crept up from behind her. “But that is not enough.”

   Veridia rapidly shifted in the sands and hurled another flaming blast toward Bazariah’s vulnerable face. The creature lifted the first of her right arms, the palm open and extended toward the flaming ball of death. Where it had not existed before, a great, forbidden tome forced open between her beckoning fingers manifested. The forbidden text etched upon the pages flashed once and consumed the spell entirely.

   Veridia followed her previous counter with a fluid reversal of her hand. A whip of searing flames lashed out and struck Bazariah diagonally across the face.

   Bazariah cried out in a moment of forgetfulness, a trail of blackened flesh left imprinted from right eye down to the lower corner of the left side of her jaw.

   “Enough!” Bazariah’s command quaked the earth like the laughter of some buried, earthen deity. “Back from whence you came, Veridia. The phoenix burns too hot, but I shall see your wings molt and your flames gutter.”

   Confident, Veridia made to hurtle a lance of liquid fire through Bazariah’s heart. No sooner had she started the gesture, did a force as immovable as mountains seize her by both arms. With her lower arms, Bazariah lifted Veridia’s own limbs until they hung uselessly in the air.

   “You do not have to be my enemy, you understand?” Bazariah’s serpentine smile returned. “You’ll have to forgive me in time for this one!”

   Bazariah flicked her wrist across Veridia’s throat, the ethereal image of a ghost blade forming in the span of the quickest breath. Blood erupted from the wound, and Bazariah gently took the severed head of her body into the palm of her hand.

   Bazariah muttered to the severed head. “See you on the eve of the next dawn, my prodigal daughter.”
Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Portent of the Wanderer, Ver. I)
Post by: Myen'Tal on November 30, 2019, 11:08:17 AM
So, people are likely wondering why I changed the name of this thread. You guys may also wonder why I added another scene to this thread. I decided that I'm going to add a few random scenes here from time to time, but not too random. They'll all be related to this world that I'm building, hence why I called it a World Building thread.

I should have posted this up with the Portents of the Wanderer Scene, but decided not to as I wanted this post to have it's own slot.

So, thanks! ;D
Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Chains That Break)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 4, 2020, 01:01:24 AM
The first scene in Chapter Chains that Break! If you want to learn some more about Azat, then here you go!

Chains that Break


   “I never told you,” Baal’s grim laughter echoed in Azat’s skull like the knell of a bell. “My kin call me Baal, because I am a demon of battle!”

   Azat could feel the iron clasp of the half-giant’s fingers slowly crushing his throat. Death never felt so near, so patient in its inevitability. Baal met his own death instead by far swifter means.

   A jangling of leaden chains disturbed the war tent. Azat flicked his raven eyes wide open, immediately heightened with awareness. He flinched, pure horror in his heart, at the sight of Baal’s grisly, severed head dangling overhead. The discarded skull swayed so near that droplets of blood dripped from where a chain had been roughly inserted into the stump of the severed neck and onto Azat’s clothes.

   “Are you frightened?” Aslan leaned in to loom over Azat’s bedroll. A grim smile cracked his stoic facade. “It is a gift. A commemoration to your efforts in Qarth’s victory.”

   “Seven hells,” Azat shot back. He jumped to his feet so quickly that Aslan hurtled backward to avoid being tackled. “You think that a jest!?”

   “Hells, my apology.” Aslan quickly lowered the grisly war trophy. “Your nightmares slipped my thoughts for the briefest moment. I wonder what you did to anger the gods, to have all the souls you’ve slain trail you in your dreams?”

   “What does it matter?” Azat snarled, his body language intense and animated. “I’ve learned many moons ago that their presence cannot simply be cleansed or forgotten.”

   “Calm yourself,” Aslan raised Baal’s severed head once more, this time more deliberately slow. “Gaze upon what’s left of him. Baal’s not coming back for you. Magar made certain of that.”

   Azat paused and drew in a deep breath. He flicked beads of sweat off of his brow. He gazed into Baal’s own lifeless eyes, rolled back into the half-giant’s slackened head so that only milk-white lenses glared back. A rattling chuckle emitted out of his throat as relief crept back into his tense muscles.

   “I’ve never lost a personal combat against any foe.” Azat clasped a hand over his eyes, his left eye peering through the crack of his fingers back to Aslan. “Never thought I’d meet my match those several nights ago. Fighting for my life in the desert night, limbs numb and aching from the cold.

   “Struggling not to become crushed under that demon’s boots… Knowing that I hadn’t a chance in hell of even halting his advance.”

   Aslan lifted his chin a fraction, his expression knowing. “Nothing is meant to last, you said that yourself. You’re not the young swashbuckler you used to be, brother. And yet you live, while Baal toast to your victory in the afterlife. I hear the Kharan Giants do not hold many grudges.”

   “Should I be grateful?” Azat pried his skull out of his hand. “I’m certain the few that aren’t rotting in the valley are waiting to regale me of how they stood against us.”

   Aslan grinned. “A couple of them are waiting to hear from you and I. They were the ones who plucked this rotting skull out of the sands. It is their way of acknowledging our strength and initiating their parley.

   “I think they’d rather hear of your stories.” Aslan shrugged. “Get dressed. We’re to negotiate the surrender of the Kharan Clans. Seems they’ve lost their battlelust all at once.”

   “What time is it?” Azat groaned defiantly. He reached for the nearest jug of wine hidden in bundles of animal hides.

   “Don’t touch it,” Aslan commanded. He did not wait to see if Azat would defy the order and slipped out of the tent. His departing words faded into the desert. “I swear before the Gods, that’s half the reason they’ve cursed you to begin with.”

   Azat rolled his eyes, and shifted the aim of his clutches toward his armor and gear laid out on the floor of the tent. He quickly dressed, briefly imagining of the dead oasis where he had nearly lost his life. He imagined that its pure waters were still there for him to bathe in.
Azat rushed out of the warmth of his war tent and onto the hellish sands of the Scouring. A haze instantly struck his eyes and cloaked the mountains on the horizon under a mirage that made them seem half real. The sand beneath his boots gently seared his feet and the sun baked his skin as if he had stepped into a furnace.

“Seven hells,” Azat cursed. Beads of falling sweat swelled into cascading trails that fell in glistening arcs.

“I think they’ve bid us enter without asking.” Magar craned his head from where he lingered beside Azat’s war tent. “I trust you’ve rested well, Lord. The road ahead of us shall be a vicious one.”

Azat spared Magar the most imperceptible nod and cast his gaze around the Qarthite camp. The aftermath of battle swept through the labyrinth of pavilions and war tents sprawled across the great hills that overlooked the empty wastes of the Scouring below.

Zarquin Warriors scoured endless fields of the slain for grisly trophies and discarded weapons. They had started from yesterday’s sunrise, but Azat could still spy the thrust of spears into the wounded uncovered in their makeshift graves. He swept across the endless ranks of the dead, counted warriors of the Zarquin among the vanquished in numbers he had scarcely seen before.

Hundreds of Qi survivors knelt in organized columns amidst the viscera of the battlefield. Great iron chains clasped their hands behind their backs and linked them together. Zarquin guarding the convoy of the enslaved kept a silent, begrudging vigil as their charges knelt in defeated silence.

A cacophony of cawing drew Azat’s attention to the skies above, where carrion circled overhead with great forces of their own, ready to besiege the ruin that Qarth would be leaving behind.

“How long have you been watching my tent?” Azat called out, but his gaze fell upon no one in particular.

“Since you fell asleep, Lord.” Magar answered. “You had drunk too much and some of us… were worried you’d fall on your sword by mistake.”

Azat shifted around to stare Magar in the eye, a murderous spark glinting in them. “Count yourself fortunate that you saved yourself from death and me along with you. You have my irritable ire, but to hell with it.”

“If you wanted my head, Lord,” Magar smiled wolfishly. “You may take it, but I’d haunt your dreams too. I think you have more than enough foes restless in the afterlife.”

“Aslan cannot keep his mouth shut.” Azat grimaced. “Where are the others?”

Magar pointed with his chin toward a pair of Zarquin huddled over a campfire, of all things to do in the desert morning. They cooked some foul liquid on the fire that they poured into cups.

“Eh, fine.” Azat shrugged. “Are you taking me to the command tent?”
Magar nodded. Once statuesque, his movements became animated as he waded through the thick of the fallen. He bid Azat to follow his lead with a beckoning gesture.

Azat sighed and waded into the scrap and gore after him.

“A shame that I could not fight by your side in the Gorgon Dunes.” Magar shouted over the bustle of the encampment. “I know you would have evened our score. And you watched the King of Men take to the field. I bet his martial might was a site to behold.”

Azat smirked, pointing from behind Magar. “A hurricane in clear skies, as always. Where is he anyway?”

“Departed for Zu’rik, the Citadel of the Enslaved.” Magar answered, treading down a winding path cleared from ruin and decay. “A king has no time to swelter in heat.”

“Already?” Azat folded his arms. “Erasyl swore that he’d never abandon the field till the Qi were subjugated once and forevermore. The Valley of Carrion truly lies under his rule now.”

“You were too lost in your nightmares, lord.” Magar shifted to glance in Azat’s direction.

“Celebrations that lasted seven nights and days marked the end of Qi. The Kharan Giants brought us the heads of the last resistance fighters. Briefly after, the Qi realized they were betrayed and their great horde disintegrated into ashes and embers.”

“Qi burns and fades.” Azat considered Magar’s words. “But what of the Kharan Clans? I do not trust any of these giants.”

“Listen to Aslan’s council, lord.” Magar insisted. “You are right to never place trust in sellswords, but fighting them… it’d be decades before a resolution came about.”

“Nothing we haven’t done before.” Azat dismissed him. “I’m surprised that you of all, Magar, would rather live in some semblance of peace. Hovan and Avedis said you were the last man to flee from the site of Nishan’s demise.”

“I hope the Scarred One drinks to my bravery from beyond the veil.” Magar replied with a swift, proud nod. “Nishan was a good man. He only wanted to see Arpiar through.”

Azat considered Magar’s words. “Do you blame my orders for his death?”

Magar paused in his footsteps before the highest hill overlooking the Scouring. He considered
Azat for a long moment. “Complicated answers, cannot spring forth from sudden questions.

“We’ve arrived,” Magar pointed toward a great pavilion on the hilltop. A palisade ringed around the general’s tent, in turn shielded by barricades of sharpened stakes. “You should ascend alone. Watch yourself in the shadow of the Kharan Giants, lord.”

“You need not remind me.” Azat reached out and grasped Magar’s extended forearm in a parting salute. “Upon a day, I would hear your answer to my sudden question.”

Azat lifted his grip and tread up the lonesome path toward the crest of the hill. Regal standards of chestnut and cream billowed on the breeze. Emblazoned upon the fabric were chiseled, statuesque faces of hollowed, empty eyes. They wept tears of crimson blood. Their melancholy was framed within silver filigree.

The Zarquin standing vigil beneath the billowing standards lifted their weapons to unbar the path. Azat inclined his head in greeting and stormed past them. As he reached out a hand to pull back the folds of silk shrouding the entrance, a woman’s enchanting voice rang out like a soft song in the countryside.

“Azat.” Her voice, languid and warm like dawn’s radiance before midday, crashed over Azat like gentle, surging waves. “Aslan has not yet come. Neither have the emissaries of Kharan.”

   “Aiman.” Azat considered the bundle of silk in his fist and relinquished it with a pleasant smile. “Have the coastal shores become as black as their namesake? For surely the light of the west has travelled much further east in recent years.”

A youthful Qarthite woman of average height and slender of build considered Azat’s flattery with a coy puzzlement. A cloak of amethyst shades, trimmed with the filigree of interwoven scripture, draped an emerald robe of fluttering trails that fell just shy of her sandals.

She noticeably lacked any extravagant, bejeweled crown upon her straightened streams of chestnut hair. A handful of black freckles graced smooth skin the shade of warm, desert sands. In fact, the only artifact of luxury Azat could spy on Aiman’s person was a medallion shaped in the form of an obsidian sphere. Locked away in the dark medallion, a great heart of amber glistened from its chiseled out surface.

“Flattery does not suit an elderly rogue.” Aiman graced Azat with an elegant smile, but she did not bow. “Neither shall it suit the Kharan Chieftains. In either case, I’ve waited patiently for your arrival.”

“Let’s get this over with.” Azat’s pleasant smile soured at the mentioning of the Kharan. “I’d sooner cut the head off every half-giant in this valley, but if Aslan only gave the command.”

Aiman smirked, her interest piqued. “You’d do better not to step foot in that tent at all, if that is your concern. I know why they ail you, so, Azat. I heard a peculiar ‘Baal’ nearly retired you into an early grave.”

“Baal is of no consequence,” Azat countered sharply. He pondered the meaning of Aiman’s words.
“Did Aslan send you to intercept me? He is always keen to waste my time.”

“Of course,” Aiman bubbled with soft laughter. “Aslan simply wants you on your feet. You’re a champion of the Zarquin Guard, stand as if you’re so.”

“Bah, I’ve always been proud of heart and iron of will.” Azat folded his arms and shrugged. “I need not straighten to make it obvious. I need not bend to show my loyalty to the Firstborn.”

“Vain of mind and reckless in your courage.” Aiman corrected. “At least, that is what your retinue at Reaper’s Pass mentioned of you.”

“Did they now?” Azat quipped.

“You knowingly sent Nishan to his death.” Aiman replied. “Others too, had they not proven resourceful enough to escape the trap. Arpiar too died of a needless miscalculation in your strategy.

“Tell me, was Baal’s death truly worth the cost you paid?”

Azat considered Aiman’s rebuke with an irritated expression, tempered by a sudden realization. “It has always been Aslan’s way to throw obstacles in my path. He has never stopped testing me since we were children. This is what all of this is? Another test?”

“To any Lord,” Aiman admitted. “The trial you faced was trivial, nothing more. But you know Aslan, his retinue is worth more than the precious blood you share between the two of you. You lost three of his sworn-brothers, when in reality, you should have forsaken your orders the moment things turned against you.

“You gained nothing from slaying Baal. Baal had everything to gain from slaying you, convinced that he would have marked one of Qarth’s martial leadership for death before the battle that sealed the fate of everything. You should have denied him the opportunity.”

“Aslan does not understand,” Azat shrugged. “I’ve never concerned myself with his brotherhood. He did me some honor with lending his men to my command, so I did what I could to fulfill what he desired. I told him upfront, I won’t make promises for warriors who’ve sworn that each day would be their last, if need be.”

Aiman shook her head in disagreement. “Aslan will keep denying that the Azat he knows can never become something greater than himself. You’ll never lift a finger to help any man or woman, unless your own glory is at stake. Neither is any sacrifice too sacred to commit to, so long as it is not your own.

“You’re no longer so youthful, Azat. Is this all you’re ever going to be? A cutthroat sellsword enraptured by his own image, until the day you’re too weak to continue to fight?”

“Must you always ask?” Azat’s raven stare simmered with passion. He gestured about the Scouring with a broad sweep of his hand. “Gaze around you. Stare into the eyes of the vanquished. I swear that you can still see the horror etched in their lifeless eyes.

“Aslan desires I become something greater than this? That I sacrifice myself to something grander than this glorious heap of carnage and decay? I am already spent, Aiman. What would he possibly have of me?”

“That is not the question I’d be asking yourself.” Aiman stared into the pit of his eyes, unwavering. A sense of admiration pulsed through him. “You are a great warrior, Azat. But some men require that greatness border on perfection. You’ve not realized it, but eyes have been ever at your back now for many years.

“You’ve labored for many years in the darkness of the east.” A knowing smile suddenly brightened
Aiman’s statuesque features. In spite of himself, Azat could feel the iron clasp on his heart slackening piece by piece. “A journey with the light of the west by your side may do you some good.

Have you ever seen the placid waters of the Void Sea? Ever glimpsed the wonders of the Isles of Four Crowns?”

“I hear the shores are black with storms.” Azat grimaced. “With carrion birds that circle over a coast of shipwrecks. I hear that the winds howl like tortured screams as the waves thunder and crash upon the beaches.”

“You’ve read too many legends of old.” Aiman quipped. “You understand that I’m giving you a chance to rest that sword of yours. What would you say if I asked?”

“I’d say, ‘are you really asking’?” Azat felt a spark of mirth underneath his puzzled expression. “Do you really think the west would ‘change anything’?”

“Would you rather remain,” Aiman gestured over the battlefield in the way Azat had done moments before. “Among all of this? Is there really so much here that chains you to this world of endless war, carnage, and tyranny?”

Azat paused for a brief moment. “Before any son and daughter of the Zarquin, I’d not answer that question. Before you, I’ll gladly say that my chains run far deeper than they’d know… Who asked you to come hand me such an offer?”

“What does it matter?” Aiman smirked. “You’d not refuse if you knew.”

“Erasyl would never ask me to leave.” Azat retorted. “And I could think of no one else. Prove my words, wrong, and I’ll consider your own.”

“Honored is the First of man,” Aiman intoned. “But the Autumn Queen has given me a great purpose and in truth, I am in need of a great bodyguard. Aslan said that there would be no other he’d consider sparing. You will force his hand to drastic action, if you refuse and remain here, where you are neither accepted or respected.

“I will not beg for you to see reason, old friend or not.”

“Autumn Queen,” Azat thought aloud. “I’ve not heard the name Hazan in many moons. The Autumn Queen that exists now must be some sheltered daughter of hers. No chance that the one I served so many moons ago is still alive.”

“Your allegiances were much different then.” Aiman reminded him. “No need to wonder why you waste beneath this scorching sun, when you were always born of moon and shadow.”

“The shadows of home soothe me still.” Azat recalled the mantra. “Why do you need a guard?”
Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Chains That Break)
Post by: Dread on January 4, 2020, 05:32:44 PM
Why? Indeed. This is getting good. What adventure is our unwilling hero about to embark on? Can't wait to find out. I enjoyed this immensely, great image projection, I can see your vision.
Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Chains That Break)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 4, 2020, 06:39:44 PM
Why? Indeed. This is getting good. What adventure is our unwilling hero about to embark on? Can't wait to find out. I enjoyed this immensely, great image projection, I can see your vision.

Thanks Dread, I appreciate the compliment! I'm particularly happy that you liked this scene, as I was concerned that others would have found it a bit boring, since there's really only conversations happening here. However, I did try to make it more engaging by having some character development and potential plot lines evolve over the course of the scene!
Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Chains That Break)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 6, 2020, 10:36:04 PM

Azat strode across the desert sands upon the back of a great ebony stallion. Mustaphen, Aiman called him, a horse more than capable of breaking through a shield wall. Weighed down by Azat’s equipment and mass as well as its own scaled barding, Mustaphen did not seem to mind the additional company as he trotted across the hell-blemished lands of the Scouring.

   Sirius had arisen in the east. Aiman and the caravan she had led from the west resumed their voyage back home. Mustaphen trotted gently in the dusty wake of the caravan, and kept on further still until the sun began to wane in the desert sky. As the day came and went, Azat felt a resurgence of peace and reflection as he left the Zarquin encampment and the battlefield of the Valley of Carrion behind.

   “I cannot believe that you did not want to say goodbye.” Aiman’s mount trotted gently alongside Mustaphen, a white horse of brilliance and grace, that she called Moonsilver. “You might live the rest of your life and never see Aslan again.”

   “Aslan disowned me,” Azat quipped. “Now I know this with undeniable certainty. How could I possibly look him in the eye? The brother who told me to get out of his sight without even saying as much.”

   “If you were seeking answers from him,” Aiman shook her head. “All the more reason that you should have spoken your last words to him.”

   “Are you certain that it would’ve been our last?” Azat soured, but his irritable anguish hid it well. “Is what you’re needing me for so dire with peril? I’ve already nearly met mother death once, I’m not keen on dying in my late thirties. That is why I left with you, after all.”

   “That cannot be the only reason.” Aiman aimed a wicked glance and smile in his direction. “I’ll be the first to confess, I don’t know why Aslan asked me to take you. This much, however, I do know: you’ll never conquer your nightmares if you don’t reconcile your past, Azat.”

   “What do my nightmares mean to you, Aiman?” Azat replied. “They are my burden, not yours. Do not weigh yourself down with my guilt. Don’t stain your soul with my sins.”

   Aiman studied Azat for an incredibly long time. “Are you so eager to bare such a weight on your shoulders? You are strong of heart and resilient of mind, Azat, but it'll wear you down over the course of time. It will grind you mercilessly, until you’re nothing more than embers blown upon the hot desert wind.”

Azat considered Aiman’s words. “Do you not think me destined for such an end? Us Qarthites, we live by the sword and perish when our enemies come back to run us through for vengeance. All of the men and women that I have cut down, would it not be right to slake the thirst of the damned with my own head?”

“Do you think battle is a balanced conception of judgement?” Aiman countered. “Whether voluntary or conscriptive in nature, warriors are trained to murder… it is in their nature, because that is their purpose. For what reason they’re called to murder, does not matter. If you had not slain all that you have slain, would your death by their hands be any different than what you’ve given to them in reality?

“Would they weep for your forgiveness? Would they be haunted in their own dreams by your reflection? Perhaps, but I guarantee you that they’ll continue on with their lives. That is why they would not have hesitated to strike you down. Because they’d like to keep living, like you do.

“I wonder, is it more an insult to them that you’re haunted by their deaths, than it is an honor? Maybe that is why they haunt you still?”

“You’re saying that they’d want me to what?” Azat considered Aiman with a puzzled, searching look. “Forgive myself? I’ve had many hours to think that I’ve lacked for years. You’re asking me not only to bend, but to break my warrior spirit. You ask me to turn back on the entire life that I’ve ever known.

“I do not know how to give you what you seek, let alone myself.”

A genuine smile graced Aiman’s stoic features. “Perhaps you’ve already begun? Gaze around you, Azat, there’s nothing but open desert for miles on end. There’s no battlefield to wade into. You’ve already chosen to walk away from such things. I am certain that the answers will come in time, if you only searched for it.”

Azat boasted with cruel laughter. “You’ve hired a guardian for the sole purpose of defending your person. Do you think I’ll never use this sword again, Aiman? I shall until I’m too decrepit to swing it.”

“If you must kill,” Aiman countered sharply. “Then turn your blade to a higher purpose. Strike down the tyrants. Crush the enslavers. Cleanse any injustice. That is always what the warriors of Sh’myr have practiced since their inception. That is what Queen Hazan has always educated.

“Hazan would burst from her grave if you ever neared, Azat, for I’m certain she’d have many words for her rogue champion. Do you remember nothing of your past life?”

“Before the God-King crushed it?” Azat quipped. “Erasyl cast Hazan into that grave, and all of my dreams with it. He shattered me like no man could ever hope for, not even Baal would argue against it, if he had known. What brotherhood do I know now since he waltzed through the Hundred Temples, except that of the only one he deigned to spare?”

“Aslan has forgotten too, because there is nothing to remember, save for ashes and embers of all that used to be.”

“That is Erasyl’s way,” Aiman nodded. “It is the way of the Dominion of Qarth. It is a cruel, untoward fate, to become a pale reflection of what of what we once were. A reflection doomed to spiral downward into the gaping abyss, because though we serve Qarth with our strength, we know that we ultimately have nothing to live for in the end. Nothing, but the desire to regain our pasts.

“You surprise me, Azat.” Aiman confessed. “Of the endless hordes that form Qarth’s armies, the Firstborn had always favored you. I thought speaking to you would be an uphill battle and convincing you, well I did not want to think about it.”

“Who is the Autumn Queen?” Azat suddenly changed the subject. “The new one. I thought Hazan had no heirs before Erasyl claimed her as a concubine and puppet of his schemes. The old Hazan would rather have died--well, did die before she let Erasyl put his own heir on her throne.”

“Her name is Minkah.” Aiman answered. “There are few men and women who can still recall Hazan in any significant detail. Almost all of them seem convinced that she is your child.”

“What did you say?” Azat burst into another fit of laughter. “Gods be kind, but do you take me for an utter fool? Who would possibly claim such a thing?”

“Sahak the Elder Sage, is chief amongst them.” Aiman stated and smirked as Azat froze. “Voshki the Ashen Cobra and Vahe of Old Myria.”

“Gods,” Azat quivered slightly. “Sahak, that ancient bastard is older than many tombs in Sh’myr. How does that old man cling to life the way he does? He was old before Sh’’myr even collapsed.”

“You had a relationship with Hazan did you not?” Aiman pondered aloud. “This caravan does not care about your infidelity with the Queen. Rather, we rejoice in your reckless, amoral ventures. Without you, Minkah would not exist and we’d have no heir to rally behind.”

“Sahak would have known that.” Azat nodded, realization dawning upon him. “And he would have told you, because he has ever served Hazan. Only he would have cared enough to risk his own neck to drag me back to Sh’myr.”

“I was sent by his command,” Aiman smiled. “He said you’d wouldn’t refuse once you learned the truth. He understood that you’d come back, no matter the odds.”

“You have no need of a bodyguard, do you?” Azat concluded. “As far as I know, you’ve told me nothing about what is happening in Sh’myr. Except that I may have a daughter that I’ve never known. Why does Minkah suddenly need me, now? Or Sahak?”

“Strange question,” Aiman replied. “But I understand that your thoughts must be heavy and clouded. Let us halt the caravan for the night. Think about what I’ve told you. Then come ask me another question in the morning.”

Azat sighed with resignation. He knew there would be no arguing with Aiman when she became unmoving. Aiman gave the command for the caravan to halt. Immediately, attendants and laborers took it upon themselves to begin setting up an encampment for the night.
Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (The Road to Old Myria)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 8, 2020, 11:20:31 PM
I'm just somewhat skipping around in the novel's narrative arc. This is another chapter that I'll soon be working on after another called, Descent Into Fire & Ruin. So far I've really only shared Azat's timeline and not so much of Tabia's, just a lonesome scene. Have to keep some secrets, ha-ha!

Interlude I


Tendrils of shadow snaked acros the obsidian brickwork. Azat danced betwixt the crumbling arches, fading in and out of corporeal vision as he did so. Shadows fought to consume him wholly, but he moved too quickly for the all-consuming dark to take its hold on him. Obsidian, his wicked-edged sword, lashed out like slivers of brilliance too bright to repress.

Azat slid around the pinpoint thrust of a dagger meant to cut open his throat. Obsidian cleaved through a blue-white shimmer of steel held aloft in front of him with a keen cry.

From the ashen clouds roiling across the evening sky, barbs of forked-tongue lightning made their rapid descent to earth. Echoes of thunder crashed over the limestone dunes of Myria. It impacted the earth with such force that the earth beneath his boots trembled in violent protest.

Yet it was a deluge of the most frozen rain that came pouring through the shattered ribbed vault ceilings of the Myrian palace. Icy rain fanned the crimson blood hidden in the crevices of the Great Hall. Fleeting, winter rain made the corpses grow pallid and goaded the wounded to pitiful, shivering cries.

Rivulets of crimson ran down the length of Obsidian’s honed edge, but the rain cleansed away the blatant traces of death and violence from it. A sensation of numbing cold tempered Azat’s adrenaline with an inexplicable sense of serenity.

The winter rain crept into the gaps of Azat’s chainmail and soaked his clothes through. It made his movements somewhat more cumbersome. But if his movements had become more impaired, then these wretches before him moved with all the grace of slaves chained by their ankles with iron shackles.

   Obsidian hurtled past the blade-less hilt lifted in pitiful defense and neatly cut into the soft lilac and ebony silk clinging to a young woman’s slender form. Her voice, pure and light as sunlight reflected off of gentle waves, cried out into the hollow emptiness of the shattered Myrian Palace.

   Where blood once coursed in rivulets, now it streamed down the length of Obsidian’s blade, warm to the touch. The assassin hurtled backward into a clutch of her compatriots. One of them paused in their relentless pursuit of Azat, only to gently lay their mortally wounded comrade to rest upon the Myrian brickwork. 

“Qarth rises,” A lithe man garbed in leathers the color of night, hissed from the shadows. “Myria burns to ruin amidst the phoenix’s flames!”

“Enough,” Azat juked to the left of a poisoned dagger’s vicious thrust. He skid to a halt along the assassin’s flank, even as the hired killer fainted his next attack and slunk away from the vengeful strike that followed next. “No man unborn of moon and shadow shall grace the Pinnacle. No man blessed with immortality would slink in the dark behind hired cravens, while they flail their blades like children!”

Azat caught the male assassin with a vicious impact of his elbow to the chest. The blow struck true, knocking the wind out of the assassin’s lungs. Obsidian sang as it made the final, fatal cut. The assassin’s rhetoric ended abruptly as blood gushed from out of his sliced open throat instead.

The assassin clamped a quivering hand onto the open wound, vainly attempting to stem the blood. Azat violently seized the figure by said hand and commandeered the assassin as a living shield. A flurry of poisoned knives slunk into the dying man’s back. The shield spasmed and foamed and gasped his last in choked, guttered inhalations.

Azat allowed the corpse to slip out of his blood-slick fingers and collapse upon in a heap upon the Myrian brickwork.

“My, my,” A woman with a serpentine wisdom to her voice greeted Azat. She stood poised over the corpses of her dead compatriots. “Aren’t we skilled for a lowborn nobody? I’m almost afeared to try my hand next at killing you.”

Azat grinned in spite of himself. A glint of admiration shined in his eye. “You’ll not cower in the face of imminent death. I can respect such courage, it magnifies the flame of your defiance.”

“You’ll find that I have a repertoire of death to match!” The woman, incredibly lithe even beyond an assassin’s standards, hissed as she faded into the dark with a few bounding leaps backwards. “The God-King would see the potential in a sword hand as true as yours, Azat.”

 “Tell your God to come himself and beg for it!” Azat shouted into the shadows shifting behind the arches. “He is a craven king that lords from the height of his untouchable throne, built off the back of stolen lands. You won’t break me by mere mention of him.”

“But Azat, think about your own fortunes,” She sighed from the places untouched even by the lightning’s radiance. “You could live like a king for the rest of your days… Sire princes and ladies worthy of the world’s envy. You would be as the jewel encrusted in the center of a crown; everlasting, beauteous, glorious in your radiance and rarity.  You could be the greatest sword ever wielded upon the earth…”

 “Hah!” Azat bounded forward with two steps. Obsidian lashed out, an illuminated blur that clashed against the curved edge of a wicked sword.

Azat drew back a step. Obsidian cut to the left and right of his own shadow. Each strike was masterfully parried without effort. The assassin weaved beneath a horizontal sweep meant to cleave through her. The curved blade in her hands nicked both of Azat’s calves as she dove low. Azat stumbled backward, his footwork interrupted. He flowed with his reversed momentum, forging an ordered retreat for more distance.

The assassin gracefully danced in tune with each hesitant step that Azat placed behind him. Azat finally pushed pushed forward and leaped over a fluid sweep of the assassin’s blade as it swept once more toward his ankles. Obsidian cut downward with a keen cry, but only nicked the assassin’s left cheek as she tilted away from the blade’s trajectory.

“Good night, then.” The assassin did not flinch from the graze. She cooed gently before raking her fingernails across Azat’s right cheek in a vicious slap.

Azat realized what had just happened. His blade-dance came a jarring halt. Instantly, his vision blurred with flaring severity. The give gashes cut neatly into his cheek burned as if scorched with melting acid. He felt his body jerk violently once, then quiver relentlessly for a moment until his muscles could no longer keep him upright.

Azat tumbled face-first onto the obsidian brickwork of the Myrian Palace.

“No challenge!” The assassin proclaimed, triumphant. “What a waste of—”

The meaty impact of an arrow scoring a wound echoed across the dead silence of the palace corridors. The assassin had no time to cry out. Azat did not see the assassin fall, but could vividly imagine the hired killer gazing down upon herself, hand over the arrow that pierced her heart.

Azat heard another corpse tumble onto the brickwork beside him.

“Clean this mess up, Zulfiqar.” Another woman’s voice, steady and placid like an oasis, surged into the empty, dilapidated corridors like an oncoming wave. “You’ve always been a wonderful marks-woman, Aiman. A pity I never trained you for proper service.”

“Nightbane,” The voice of tranquility whispered soothingly into Azat’s ear. A comforting hand steadied him and sat him up right. “It stills the muscles gradually, but quick enough that it can incapacitate even the toughest warrior. It is a quick death and a relatively painless one at that. “Hold him!”

The hazy shadow of a woman giving commands gestured to a small clutch of shadows kept a respectful distance. They immediately came forward to fulfill her bidding.

“Get him to drink this,” The voice of serenity commanded them. “It shall undo that witch’s poison!”

Azat could no longer cling onto the world or reality. He slipped into the unending abyss of unconsciousness.


~***~
Title: Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Iteration III)
Post by: Alienscar on January 10, 2020, 05:33:53 AM
All the criticisms and advice (Mainly from you, Alienscar ;)), and others, I think have really helped me progress.

Real life is kicking me in the nuts right now and that is why I have not had the time to keep up with my feedback on your writing. If things improve I will definitely start my feedback again.

One quick thing whilst I am here. You are writing about Azat and Aiman, but I have already read about their deaths. I find the whole thing a bit confusing.
Title: Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Iteration III)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 10, 2020, 08:49:07 AM
Real life is kicking me in the nuts right now and that is why I have not had the time to keep up with my feedback on your writing. If things improve I will definitely start my feedback again.

One quick thing whilst I am here. You are writing about Azat and Aiman, but I have already read about their deaths. I find the whole thing a bit confusing.

Hi Alienscar, that's not a problem! Real life kicks us all down from time to time!

As for your comment, toss out what you know about Tapestries of Faith and the Old Ashes and Embers, those were iterations that built up to this. I actually came to the conclusion that I was not happy with the overall plot of Tapestries of Faith or the first iterations of Ashes and Embers.

I wanted my three antagonists: Aslan, Aiman, and Azat, to not just be side-characters chained to Erasyl. I think they have so much more potential than that as main characters, and so that's why I've set out to 're imagine' the entire plot of this tale. It's no longer about the "Children of the Old Gods". Vindiaccos is no longer an element in this story either, as this re-imagining noow takes place fully in the Dominion of Qarth.

Erasyl himself, has been elevated into a character that we'll hear about often, but won't actually see as he'll be ruling his entire kingdom from this throne.

So yeah, different plot, re-imagined story :).
Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Interlude)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 13, 2020, 06:26:45 AM
Interlude II

Before Azat, a fortress-city built by what could only be the hands of the Gods defied gravity as it threatened to pierce the night clouds overhead. It was a grand citadel. An amalgamation of hundreds of lesser fortresses and castles that Azat knew well. Once upon a time, he had been dragged through the Dragon’s maw chiseled into the granite gates that barred the city shut.

In that time, he was nothing more than a slave. A broken man. Before Erasyl himself descended upon that cursed place and pieced Azat back together into some pale resemblance of his former self.

Zar’Bau. The Citadel of the Enslaved. A lavish palace of dreams for the nobility and the Tyrant of Zarna that ruled there. A most formidable prison and soul-crushing labyrinth for the hundreds of thousands that labored ceaselessly in the caverns and mines beneath the Fortress.

Azat gazed upon the unconquerable bulwark, the Fortress of Everlasting Time itself. He watched it blaze and burn from one end of the horizon to the next. He watched centuries-old Watchtowers crumble until they toppled upon themselves with catastrophic force. Fountains of blood seeped from battlements overfull with the slain.

The Banners of the Zarquin Guard, the Hollow-Eyed Widow that wept for her lost sons, were broken and burning across many pockets of Zar’Bau’s lesser bastions. Yet in the heart of the Grand Citadel, her cruel fate still billowed defiantly in the breeze.

Accustomed to the sight of tens of thousands of the enslaved teeming through Zar’Bau’s streets, Azat could almost not comprehend the chaotic fighting that now raged through her formidable roads and checkpoints.

Warriors of the Brotherhood marched into Zar’bau’s streets in their thousands, covered beneath a constant hail of flaming arrows. They had formed shield walls where the formation would be strongest. Yet the conquered they fought to repress were beyond number, and surged forth from out of the underground from perceivably every direction.

Both factions clashed across the breadth of the Gates that led into the inner keep. Countless died upon the Zarquin’s wall of shields, but as the fighting raged onward, the formations eventually devolved into chaotic melees where man could scarcely tell friend from foe.
Battle raged, till crimson rivers surged from out of the streets to cascade down the stairwells and storm drains of Zar’bau’s ruins.

Struck by the sight like a spear through his heart, memories of constant bloodshed and violence surged through Azat as never before. The fragile semblance of peace that Aiman had crafted within him, shattered into a million shards.

Yet Azat remained where he stood outside of Zar’bau’s gates. A sickening feeling of confusion borne from where he actually stood in the midst of this conflict welled within his gut. He felt only outrage, that his Zarquin Brothers were being butchered. Yet he felt empathy and kinship with the ragged and torn horde that dared to defy Erasyl’s will with open hatred.

Abruptly, the world beneath Azat’s feet seemed to shift out from under him. Zar’bau visibly shrunk into the distance, until the horizon he witnessed vanished from sight. The ashen sands of the Gorgon Dunes gradually shifted into the arid deserts of the Carrion Valley. Azat recognized the mountain pass of Reaper’s Lantern forming around him, and the scattered Qi villages that he had scorched into ruin.

Once again, Reaper’s Lantern quaked to the march of ten thousand Warriors of the Brotherhood. Ten Thousand nameless faces waded through the thick of the dead left from the previous battle, picked clean by hordes of passing carrion birds.

At their head rode the only man that Azat knew as familiar. The only man that he had once called a true brother. In that moment, realization dawned upon him, and he knew that the fate of thousands was nigh to be decided.

Aslan himself marched in the direction of Zar’bau to crush the insurrection before it truly began.

Once more, the Qi lands shifted and shrunk as Azat was hurled across the world’s length of his dreamscape. Reaper’s Lantern withered until it became only a speck on the horizon from the Dominion’s Heartlands. The labyrinthine architecture of the Capital, Tu’shik, the City of Canals, rapidly materialized until spread like a great swathe of civilization.

The Grand Canals of Tu’shik seemed quiet in the midst of night. Yet the metropolis clustered along its length seemed unsettled. Fires did not blaze behind its manned battlements. The skies were not filled with the myriad screams of the dying and frightened.

   Yet the clamor and chaos of open battle raged on all the same. Azat attempted to read the events happening behind Tu’shik’s walls, but could vaguely sketch out any details as the night sky began to fade into endless, all-consuming black.
   Yet one light blazed bright in the darkness. A light that radiated from the heart of the great palace that overlooked the rest of the city. Azat knew who this brilliance belonged to.

   As Azat awoke within his in the cold dark of his tent, a cold feeling of abandonment seized him. He had sacrificed so much for a chance to earn back some form of his previous life. He had labored so arduously, even when vengeance was nothing more than an afterthought locked away in the back of his mind.

   A thought surfaced to the forefront of Azat’s mind. He would not abandon his brother Aslan, when he was needed most. For once, he would serve a purpose greater than his own needs.

   Cast the thought of vengeance aside, Azat thought, he would drag Aslan from out death’s clutches by his skin of his ankles, if he must.

Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Descension Into Fire and Ruin - Scene I)
Post by: Alienscar on January 14, 2020, 11:07:55 AM
Just some quick thoughts, so I don't fall too far behind with my feedback  :)

Azat awakened to the ceaseless clamor of open warfare unleashed upon his own dreamscape.

Awakened is past tense, so it trips me up when I read this passage. I also get the idea that you actually mean 'became aware'.

His amber eyes flicked open to unveil a crystalline night sky, tarnished with acrid grayish clouds that shone black in the hour of night.

You have established that it is night time, so the 'hour of the night' part of this sentence is redundant.

Azat awakened to the ceaseless clamor of open warfare unleashed upon his own dreamscape. His amber eyes flicked open to unveil a crystalline night sky, tarnished with acrid grayish clouds that shone black in the hour of night.

Clouds borne from an inferno painted the horizon in hues of orange and crimson. Sprawled in the soft, ashen dune-sand of the Gorgon Dunes, Azat picked himself up.


Two paragraphs to describe Azat getting up is one too many and I feel there is a chance that neither is required.

Azat awakened to the ceaseless clamor of open warfare unleashed upon his own dreamscape. His amber eyes flicked open to unveil a crystalline night sky, tarnished with acrid grayish clouds that shone black in the hour of night.

Is Azat awake, or is he in a trance? The way you have fashioned this sentence makes me think that Azat is awake, but later in the story it is obvious that he is still sleeping.

He quickly gathered his surroundings,

'Took in' his surroundings, not 'gathered'

and yet the horror etched into his eyes, he could not easily lift.

'Lift' does not have the correct meaning for what you are trying to say. 'Erase' or 'forget' would work better.

Descension into Fire and Ruin

I am really not sure about your use of the noun 'descension'. I can't make my mind up if it works or not. Being a noun it describes a thing rather than an action, so I wonder if you really meant  descent or descending.
Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Interlude)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 14, 2020, 11:24:29 AM
Hey Alienscar, thanks for the feedback!

Quote
I am really not sure about your use of the noun 'descension'. I can't make my mind up if it works or not. Being a noun it describes a thing rather than an action, so I wonder if you really meant  descent or descending.

I actually thought the same thing, ha-ha. I've decided that Azat's 'dreams' and 'memories' are not going to be associated with any chapter, but they'll now be their own 'interludes' and titled as such :). Tell me what you think!

Quote
Is Azat awake, or is he in a trance? The way you have fashioned this sentence makes me think that Azat is awake, but later in the story it is obvious that he is still sleeping.

Azat is actually in a dream-like trance, while he is asleep. Your critique here makes a lot of since! I will make sure to have this changed :).

Quote
'Lift' does not have the correct meaning for what you are trying to say. 'Erase' or 'forget' would work better.

I somewhat meant that he could not hide / remove the horrified expression etched on his face. I think you're right though, lift is a weird word to use here.

Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Dread on January 14, 2020, 11:13:22 PM
I was having a bit of trouble keeping up with this part as well but with the few explanations has fixed that in my head. I am really getting evolved with the story.

I do need to ask, I need a description of their race, human, orkish, sub human, dwarvish? Skin tone?

When I read, I visualize. So this would deepen my experience not to see visions of Conan in Azat's place. Thanks and keep it coming.
Title: Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 14, 2020, 11:34:23 PM
Edits made!

I was having a bit of trouble keeping up with this part as well but with the few explanations has fixed that in my head. I am really getting evolved with the story.

I do need to ask, I need a description of their race, human, orkish, sub human, dwarvish? Skin tone?

When I read, I visualize. So this would deepen my experience not to see visions of Conan in Azat's place. Thanks and keep it coming.

You want a description of the Qarthites? Or the Slaves? I haven't detailed that yet because we haven't seen *too* many of the different ethnicities in Qarth.

So basically, there are twelve different kingdoms on Khios. The dominion is established over each of them, with the Qi being the last kingdom to fall. The only free lands that we know of are the lands of Kharan, the Half-Giants.

Twelve Tyrants of Qarth are the puppet kings, tyrants, and scholar-priests that rule each kingdom. From all of these kingdoms, slaves are acquired constantly from a myriad of reasons.

All of these slaves are then processed within 'Zar'Bau' the Citadel of the Enslaved, and either labor endlessly in the caverns beneath the bulwark, or, if they're fortunate, sent off to the other realms of the Empire to replenish stock.

Qarthites: Black, auburn, gray, or brunette of hair. Bronze, Caramel, or tan of skin-tone. Raven, black, grey, or amber of eyes. Also they are regular humans inspired by persian / other middle-eastern aspects.

Thanks ;D.

Also the first Portent of the Wanderer Scene, should not have been posted, since it is not the actual scene that made it into the story, ha-ha ;).
Title: Re: A Kingdom of Ravens (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 16, 2020, 07:33:40 AM
I'm kind of thinking that I should reorganize this thread. I feel like the random scenes might be confusing people. Not certain how to proceed about it though.

@Alienscar and @Dread, I sent both of you a PM for some advice :). If you guys are into the idea of some chronological reorganization, let me know!

This scene is the prologue of the entire story. I thought I'd reverse the clock a bit and introduce another important character :).


Black Pacts

Leagues beneath the Garden Palaces of Tu’shik, underneath the subterranean crypts of the Royal Tombs, Tabia felt an unsettling sense of uncertainty. An oppressive darkness cloaked the tunnel walls and the sand beneath her feet. Only a dozen torches scattered further down the caravan’s length, now smoldering from extended use, could hold back the darkness with their flickering flames.

   “Tabia,” Adofo waved his torch from several leagues ahead, a dim light in the darkness. “Come quick, I’ve found something!”

   “Out of the way,” Tabia hurried to his side and shouldered the burly warrior from out of her path. “Don’t touch anything.”

   “Seven hells,” Adofo shrugged, Tabia could sense his sneer aimed at her back. “What is this?”

   Tabia inspected the great stone slab of a door blocking the path forward. She quickly ran her torch over the dusty surface, unveiling ancient scripture and symbols chiseled into the stone until they became recesses in a greater framework.
Tabia did not spare Adofo a glance. “Warriors of the Zarquin Guard do not ask such questions. Just keep your sword ready.”

   “You’re expecting something behind this door?” Adofo stared at the scripture in amazement. “What could possibly be living down here, giant rats?”

   “Found it!” Tabia placed her gloved fingers on a hidden lever and forced it down until it clicked softly into place. “I would advise, Adofo, that you keep your torches nearby. The God-King has commanded us to enter, but not even he has entered this place for many decades.”

   The grinding noise of stone ground upon stone deafened Tabia’s ears. Adofo planted one step back and readied his hand on the hilt of his sheathed sword. A quiet chorus of hesitant murmurs and disagreements rumbled from the caravan behind them.

   “Silence!” Adofo commanded. “Zarquin, attend your charge!”

   “Yes, yes,” Faki, one of Adofo’s lieutenants, spurred his warriors on. “Make sure these archaeologists don’t fall on their scrolls and ink feathers!”

   A dozen men garbed in robes of cream and crimson, chainmail glistening softly in the flickering light, approached the schism opening between the stone slabs barring the path. They held their bucklers tight across their chests. They readied their swords so that they could cleave through even passing shadows.

   Adofo nodded approvingly as they formed a wall of flesh and steel before the chasm yawning open before them.

   “You first,” Adofo gestured to Tabia as the granite slabs jarred to a sudden halt. “I don’t think we’ll be using our blades, but we remain ever at your back.”

   “Step carefully,” Tabia sneered at Adofo’s confident grin before she stepped into the abyss beyond. “Gods know what’s become of this sacred sanctum.”

   “Crumbling artifacts,” Faki hawked and spat, quickly dogging Tabia’s footsteps. “Toppled ruins. That is all that remains here.”

   Tabia waved her torch back and forth across the widening chamber that they had entered into. Faki had spoken the truth, she realized, as the remnants of a great reliquary became unveiled before the cautious caravan.

   Thousands of Qarthite warriors, hewn from stone, bronze, and clay, lined many of the open spaces beneath half-collapsed arch-ways. They stood in silent vigil over the stranger monuments that loomed over them. Tabia attempted to near them, but could only make out the tell-tale signs of the many limbs that decorated each statue before Adofo tugged her back toward the safety of the caravan.

   “Can you read any of this?” Adofo flicked his torch over scripture-etched walls of dusty obsidian. “This is not Qarthite. It almost hurts my eyes to read it.”

   “A dead language, Adofo.” Tabia dismissed. “Nothing more.”

   Adofo’s irritable sighing betrayed his mounting impatience. “Will you tell me at least what you’re searching for?”

“Something forbidden,” Tabia confessed. “Trust me, Adofo, you’d be best not remembering a thing about what you’ve seen here today. For I shall remember.”

“Corpses often fall short on memories.” Adofo forced through clenched teeth.
Tabia whirled around on him, torch leveled directly in front of his eyes. “I carry the manifestation of the Tyrants’ will with me. Strike me down, and the seven hells you keep speaking of shall swallow you whole!”

“Seven… eh, enough,” Adofo cursed. “Find what you’re searching for and let’s be done with this crumbling heap of stone! The blasphemies hidden in these depths make my skin crawl.”

“Adofo…” Faki cautioned. “Let’s just see this through. Then we can toast to the God King’s generous reward, eh?”

Tabia’s laughter lilted from several meters ahead. “Your friend has the right mind for this sort of thing. Turn back if you’re frightened, Adofo, and give your friend the commander’s badge.”

“Don’t just shy there, Zarquin!” Adofo snapped. “After her. If something happens to Tabia, we’ll be swaying from our necks outside the gates of Tu’shik!”

The Zarquin Guard quickly jostled forward, a caravan of scribes and scholars scrambling not to fall out of their shadow. Tabia glanced behind her, but pressed on all the same. She tread a path interrupted with toppled over statues, all of them of ancient Qarthite origin, and waded through the thick of their ruin.

A spark of light in the near distance made Tabia jump with fright the moment she realized its presence. Hesitant, she drew nearer to the light source until she realized that the light of her torch reflected off something glassine in material.

   A soft disturbance crept from further down the chamber halls as Tabia caught her own reflection in a mirror the color of red wine. Gentler than the most imperceptible sighing, within the silent chambers of the reliquary, there was no warrior of the Zarquin Guard or Palace Attendant who did not freeze at the luring sound.

   “Weapons ready,” Adofo whistled sharply, suddenly beside Tabia once again. “Approach with caution. Remember, stay together and fight as one.”

   “Are you certain this is a danger?” Tabia’s murmur felt like it resonated off the reliquary’s walls. “There’s no cause for alarm, yet.”

   “I am not paid to take chances.” Adofo gestured for Tabia to fall back into his shadow. “Faki, let us combine our eyes and ears, brother. We lead from the front.”

   “Your command is my oath.” Faki acknowledged and made to stand beside his superior. “I’ll keep my torch primed for you, better that you hand yours to a scribe.”

   “Here,” Adofo spun round and shoved the torch in his hand into Tabia’s embrace. “Keep your scribes in line, Tabia. No one flees, on the God-King’s command.”

   “Stop stalling and move out already!” Tabia made a brief whistle.

   Adofo gestured with a point of his chin for Faki to take the lead. Adofo dogged his footsteps, eyes peeled in any direction that Faki did not directly focus on. The other members of the Zarquin Guard formed a tight phalanx around the caravan and marched in the shadows of their superiors.

   Tabia marched behind the safety of the phalanx, surrounded by a gaggle of superstitious and fearful scribes. As the caravan pressed forward in ominous silence, the artifacts and relics crafted by Qarthite artisans seemed to wane in number and scale, until all that remained before them was only the way forward. Statues of strange beasts of mythology gazed upon their progress with lustful eyes, spaced between seemingly endless archways that delved off into the reliquary’s most decrepit corners.

   “amphetamine parrot,” Faki’s voice shattered the suffocating silence ensnaring the caravan. A forceful impact punctuated his distasteful language. “Another doorway, Tabia! This… this one is scrawled with some diabolic scribbling… I cannot read it.”

The phalanx parted to allow Tabia closer inspection. She stepped forward to join Adofo and Faki before a massive slab of alabaster marble inset with the same glassine, wine red material that she had glimpsed in the mirror before. Painstakingly chiseled into the mirror’s surface, were hollowed recesses in the form of more sinister hieroglyphics and scripture.

Tabia gently lifted her torch to better see in the light, but found her hand quickly seized in Adofo’s own snare.

“I hope you know what you’re doing.” Adofo cautioned, but slackened his grip so that Tabia could achieve her work.

“This door is sealed by rite of blood.” Tabia scrolled her fingers across dimly-lit hieroglyphs.

“It cannot be opened without sacrifice. I-I do not understand. I am not certain how to proceed.”

“No soul was ever meant to understand how, Tabia.” A disembodied voice crept through the under-dark like a gentle breeze. It was a sinistrous amalgamation of several feminine voices speaking roughly in chorus. “This world is too brief already without prying eyes gleaming such, treasured knowledge..

“Woeful, have the times grown, that your master now sends gaggles of slavering attendants in his stead. Has he grown so vain? Does his courageous heart wither with fear? Or is it desperation that drives him into the shadows?”

“Your blasphemy shall reap his wrath,” Tabia shouted, torch held out for any sign of the creature. “He would certainly cast you back into the shadow of the Seven Hells!”

“Enough,” Adofo interrupted. “Find it and bring me the severed wretch’s head!”

“You need not look far, little man.” The enigmatic voice surged over them like a wind from the passage behind them. “I shall not shirk from your gaze.”

A thin sliver of tongue the color of dark blood lolled from out of the shadows and into the flickering warmth of the torchlight. A maw of teeth that curved like the perfect points of a ram’s horns followed suite. The grounded roots of each tooth gleamed in the darkness, fading into burnished browns toward the center and then to oily blacks at the very tips.

They were small enough not to alter the creature’s facial features, a blend reminiscent of elf and human as if she been borne from such a crossing.

Yet, an other-worldliness bled into those pristine features, that Tabia would have otherwise thought divine. Oppressive eyes of oily crimson and viper’s slits seemed to bubble and writhe from within as if blood boiled from underneath. Lengthy streams of raven hair cascaded down her crown of four curving horns that could rival a Minotaur's.

Beneath her arms were another set of limbs lined with whipcord muscle. She held them cupped in a way that sketched a strange symbol with the intricate positioning of her fingers.

A simple colchis of deep sapphire laced with filigree of ruby garbed the creature’s deceptively towering height. Tabia figured it stood four heads over the tallest man in the caravan.
The caravan looked on in horror for the briefest moment, before the first terrified scream sent most of attendants flying in a panic.

The Forbidden One fixated her gaze upon Tabia, a coy smile on her lips, before it laid into the discordant horde attempting to fly past it. The creature scarcely seemed to move either of her four arms, but she caught two scribes by the crown of their heads.

She tracked her upper arms back and forth, an effort that seemed near effortless to Tabia. Bodies flew through the dusty passage. Dull, sickening crunches echoed through the lonesome cavern as corpses impacted against the monuments gazing ever onward.

The Forbidden One tore the two attendants still in her snare messily into halves with a violent pull of her arms.

In the span of a shallow breath, the caravan in Tabia’s charge had been gruesomely murdered.

“Seven hells,” Adofo cursed from out a mouth too slackened with shock to be considered intimidating.

Tabia craned her head to stare Adofo directly in the eyes. “What are you doing?” She insisted.
“Defend us!”

Adofo considered Tabia for a long moment, his skepticism slowly eradicated by an expression of grim determination.

“Brothers,” Adofo addressed the thirteen warriors huddled in front of him like a bulwark of flesh and steel. “Our very lives depend on the severing of this blasphemy’s head. Fight well, and may the sun rise for you tomorrow! Charge!”

The Zarquin thundered their war cries and broke ranks in unison. Tabia watched the first and bravest amongst them make a vicious cut at the Forbidden One’s midriff. The creature flicked her wrist at the grizzled warrior and slit his throat with the same gesture.

A second Qarthite leapt over the back of his wounded comrade, but Tabia blinked and in the next moment, his arms were hewed from his body.

“Together, you imbeciles!” Adofo encouraged them. “Encircle her! Strike from every angle!”
From the right flank, three of the Zarquin guard charged forward together, their shields held out before them with their swords readied for a sure thrust. On the left, Adofo, Faki, and another warrior pushed their advantage at the same time.

The Forbidden One backpedaled, the ghosting image of swords manifesting between her fingers vanishing and reappearing as she tracked her arms back and forth. A fountain of blood arced from the formation on the left flank, a skull cleaved from someone’s shoulders.

On the right, Adofo parried one of the ghosting blades with a mighty clamor of steel on ethereal steel. Faki sprinted at full tilt, sliding into the Forbidden One’s guard and making a vicious cut behind the creature’s kneecap.

A keening howl of agony tore through the Zarquin ranks like a sudden gust of wind, but they held firm. More war cries burst from out of the shadows as other Zarquin emerged behind the Forbidden One.

The Forbidden One whirled backward, her movements more akin to a dance than any battle maneuver. Her arms cut across one another like a labyrinth of blades, some finding their mark and hewing down more of the guard. Others were successfully parried by the trained and practiced eyes of Adofo’s most experienced warriors. 

The clamor of battle reverberated through the reliquary. The screams of the dying punctuated every several clashes of steel on steel. Diabolic screams were torn from the Forbidden One’s throat as the Zarquin steadily landed a true blow here and there.

Tabia quickly realized that she stood alone by the doorway blocking the clearest route to safety. Only a sprawl of dead warriors and scribes and thick slathers of blood left in the sand between them was her only protection.

“Faki!” Adofo shouted over the cries of the last Zarquin Guard to fall on the forbidden one’s blades. “Save yourself, brothe--” Adofo’s sudden gasp of surprise was torn out of his lungs, impaled on the length of two blades.

Defiant, Adofo could scarcely lift his hand, as if he made to strike the Forbidden One one last time. Unceremoniously, the Forbidden One cast his corpse into the shadows with a ferocious kick.
Tabia froze in horror, Faki’s shadow receding as he fled back toward the surface as quickly as he could manage. She wanted to call out to him, but whatever desire she had to was quickly robbed by the Forbidden One’s unsettling gaze fixated on her.

The creature, credit to the Zarquin Guard’s martial prowess, knelt unsteadily upon one mightily wounded knee. A thousand cuts marred her once unblemished skin, a few large bruises the tell-tale signs of shields leaving their mark on her.

Beads of sweat and blood dripped down her unnatural body, her hair matted and sticky with blood and viscera of her foes.

In spite of her condition, the Forbidden One lifted her head skyward and laughed in skeptical disbelief.

“That, was not how I was expecting this fight to go.” The Forbidden One shifted around to gaze at Tabia once more. “But I’d rather them defiant, than meek and soft. Which one would you be, Tabia?”

“Who are you?” Tabia eked out a murmur under her breath. “How do you know of me?”

“Such trivial questions,” The Forbidden One answered. “What need of you of their answers? What need of you of concern, when you’re nothing more than meat strung up on strings, like a puppet? You’ll dance to my tune, won’t you, Tabia? You’ve searched my eyes, and found your own soul wailing back in them.

“What need of you such incorporeal beauty? Better that it belongs to me in the end.”

   Tabia could avert her gaze from the Forbidden One no longer. Lost in the creature’s eyes, she felt her spiritual defenses crumbling in great heaps. Her defiance guttered. Her faith withered enough to fall from her mind like a rotting fruit from a dead tree.

   Tabia glimpsed the Forbidden One’s eyes and felt content in her sudden, new enthrallment. A faint spark in the darkest corner of her mind, instantly recognized that only this creature could ever undo the curse she had woven over her.

   “Are you listening, Tabia?” The Forbidden One turned away from her to gaze in the direction that Faki had departed.

   “What?” Tabia quipped impulsively, her sentience returning in foggy, gradual waves. “Gods, but what is your will?”

   “I said that I have need of you.” The Forbidden One beckoned her forward with a curl of her talon-like finger. She spared a intentful glance and haunting smile in Tabia’s direction. “It shall be a monumental one. Are you still listening in that thick skull of yours?”

   Tabia sank to her knees in the blood slick sand and prostrated herself, knowing that anything less would spell her demise.

   Tabia did not attempt to hide the shame in her words. “I-I swear, nothing but death would keep me from it.”

   “Very well,” The creature cooed. “Then listen intently…”.
Title: Re: A Kingdom of Ravens (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Alienscar on January 16, 2020, 10:21:09 AM
@Alienscar and @Dread, I sent both of you a PM for some advice :). If you guys are into the idea of some chronological reorganization, let me know!

Well I have got a PM that is addressed to Dread, so I guess you mean that one.  :D

I would agree that some sort of order to your story is required as the scenes by themselves do not tell a story.

Settling on a title would help.  ;D


Black Pacts

Leagues beneath the Garden Palaces of Tu’shik, underneath the subterranean crypts of the Royal Tombs,

“Tabia,” Adofo waved his torch from several leagues ahead, a dim light in the darkness. “Come quick, I’ve found something!”


A land league is three miles long. Adofo must have a really loud voice if he can be heard over six miles away.
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 16, 2020, 11:54:33 AM
You are correct here, Alienscar, but Adofo is not yelling ;D. He is waving his torch, still what you say is still true!
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Alienscar on January 16, 2020, 12:19:17 PM
You are correct here, Alienscar, but Adofo is not yelling ;D. He is waving his torch, still what you say is still true!

Not yelling! Well now I am confused.

“Tabia,” Adofo waved his torch from several leagues ahead, a dim light in the darkness. “Come quick, I’ve found something!”[/font]

Don't the speech marks indicate that Adofo is calling out to Tabia?
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 16, 2020, 12:29:11 PM
Never mind, I'm stupid :P ;)
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Sir_Godspeed on January 23, 2020, 07:24:41 PM
I've read up a bit, so here's some feedback on the following texts (labelled as best I could). Hopefully more will follow at some point, but you know how it is with finding time to read (or write, for that matter).

Out-of-Chronology Passage

Quote
Tabia gleamed enough of the conversation without trying.


It seems a bit pointless to tell the reader that Tabia hears the convo without telling the reader what it is she's gleaning (not gleaming - but I have not gone through with with the intent to correct minor grammar or spelling mistakes so this will probably be the only instance of such a correction - not that there are many to begin with).

Quote
The other Zarquin Guard did not lift their swords. Tabia still heard foreign screams as hidden archers shot the Khanites into the crystal cyan waters of the canal. She heard swords being drawn in the distance and a command to storm the ship before she slipped out of sight.

"The other Zarquin Guard" sounds immediately to be singular to me, then the reader is given the plural possessive "their", so I assume it refers to a group. May I suggest saying something like "The other guardsmen"?

Quote
A stranger’s voice greeted Tabia from scant feet away.

“Jumanah’s light on your path, stranger.” A youthful woman’s cheery voice struck Tabia like a lightning bolt. Tabia gently turned her head toward a wooden bench, where a woman with hair of both rosy red and burnished chestnut watched her with a broad smile.

We've got three instances of "Tabia" in fairly rapid succession, it would be good to vary it.

Quote
      “Adofo is dead.” Shoushan reminded. “Because of this dumb be-atch, if she’s spoken the truth. How could you ask for calm when a dozen of your brothers are dead in the caverns?”

        “Enough, enough!” Faki stepped between Shoushan and Tabia, a torch blazing in his hand. “You should slake that sword of yours on some Kharanites, if you’ve such an impulse to murder.”

        “The Kharanites are our friend now,” Shoushan smiled grimly. “After they learn to submit to our laws, of course. In either case, I won’t stand here and let this woman step a foot inside of Tu’shik. Not over my corpse, she shall not pass!”

I was a bit confused over why this escalated to so quickly to where apparently mortal combat was inevitable and neither party attempted to deescalate. It doesn't come off as clear in the text.


Portent of the Wanderer, Ver. I

Quote
        An eerie cawing of crows carried over the thunderous surging of waves. Veridia’s crystalline blue eyes snapped open to the brilliance of wicked lightning falling from heaven to earth. The skies that bristled with the clamor of Tarithinon’s wrath, were the all-consuming black of raven’s feathers.

I assumed Tarithinon's wrath is a poetic term for thunder or lightning, but this is not presented clearly in the text. I can't tell what you've told the reader prior to this since this is an excerpt, but it would be good to clarify.

Quote
   An ethereal voice made distinct by a mother’s gentle love, a siren’s luring lullaby, and the enigmatic instruction of a divine touched soul, answered Veridia.

There's a danger to over-describe with overly specific yet vague descriptor. This sentence is poetic and flows nicely - but what on earth does a voice like this actually sound like? I doubt a reader would be able to actually imagine it, at least I can't.

Quote
Veridia exhaled an ancient mantra surfacing from the back of her mind. She shut her eyes and her heart skipped one, then several beats.

It would probably be better to say "She shut her eyes, and her eye skipped a one beat, then several." - but others might disagree.

Chains that Break


Quote
“Autumn Queen,” Azat thought aloud. “I’ve not heard the name Hazan in many moons. The Autumn Queen that exists now must be some sheltered daughter of hers. No chance that the one I served so many moons ago is still alive.”

A moon is a poetic term for a month. He is essentially saying that he served someone many months ago, which in my mind basically equates to a few years. So my mind immediately asked "why does he assume someone he served a few years ago is dead - was she THAT old?"


Quote
   Aiman studied Azat for an incredibly long time. “Are you so eager to bare such a weight on your shoulders? You are strong of heart and resilient of mind, Azat, but it'll wear you down over the course of time. It will grind you mercilessly, until you’re nothing more than embers blown upon the hot desert wind.”

"incredibly" sounds a bit misplaced here. It conjures the image of her looking at him silently for several minutes, which is a bit odd. While replacing it with some other term works, dropping it and just saying "Aiman studied Azat for a long time" works just fine too.

Quote
“Before the God-King crushed it?” Azat quipped. “Erasyl cast Hazan into that grave, and all of my dreams with it. He shattered me like no man could ever hope for, not even Baal would argue against it, if he had known. What brotherhood do I know now since he waltzed through the Hundred Temples, except that of the only one he deigned to spare?”

So in this passge the reader finds out that Hazan is definitely dead, and Azat knows so - so the whole wondering about about Hazan being alive in the earlier paragraph seems very odd in retrospect.

-----

Overall I want to say I enjoyed the Chains that Break chapter the most, as it was interesting to get some more in-depth character development of Azat. The dialogue also flowed very well here, with natural-feeling back and forth banter which adds a lot of flow and ease to reading. The revelations of the background and natural introductions of new characters - specifically Aiman - was also interesting. The others aren't bad either, but naturally this has more meat on it for someone who is only following this thread. :)

Looking forward to read more!

(Also, as always, these are just my opinions.)
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 23, 2020, 07:58:09 PM
Thank you for the critique and feedback, Godspeed! I'm stoked that you guys like Chains that Break. I was really uncertain about that one, I thought I may have went overboard with it.

I shall take an in-dept look at your suggestions. The feedback will be reflected when I post the scenes up again in the chronological timeline thread.

Speaking of that, we have a chapter that we've only delved one scene into so far... can you guess ;)?
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Sir_Godspeed on January 31, 2020, 11:38:48 AM
So, I read more, and have some more feedback if you're interested. The first I struggled somewhat to follow, although it was tense, but the second interlude I felt flowed very well and I greatly enjoyed reading.

I want to make it clear that these are my subjective impressions and suggestions, not some kind of objective writing clues. I've also focused on trying to not get bogged down in too minor details (misspelling, etc.), but instead focus on issues of narration and sentence structure - as I think this is the most valuable feedback to give from a reader.

Interlude 1

Quote
Tendrils of shadow snaked acros the obsidian brickwork. Azat danced betwixt the crumbling arches, fading in and out of corporeal vision as he did so. Shadows fought to consume him wholly, but he moved too quickly for the all-consuming dark to take its hold on him. Obsidian, his wicked-edged sword, lashed out like slivers of brilliance too bright to repress.
So, there are a few things here that touch on the issue of wordiness I mentioned i a previous feedback post:
- I feel like the word "corporeal" is superfluous here, since vision is by default, well, relating to corporeal things. I understand wanting to do poetic descriptions, but they can get in the way of clear narration if overdone or done at the wrong time, in my opinion.
- The whole deal about shadows fighting to consume Azat, and him being too quick is a bit too much for me. Partly because it's giving too much space to what is essentially just a metaphor (I think?), but also, since this is a fantasy story, you might trick readers into thinking that the shadows are literally fighting to consume him - which was my first impression. If the term shadows are just another term for the assassins, then it's not made clear, at least not to me.

Quote
Azat slid around the pinpoint thrust of a dagger meant to cut open his throat. Obsidian cleaved through a blue-white shimmer of steel held aloft in front of him with a keen cry.
This sentence makes it seem like the steel was held aloft in front of him with a keen cry. I assume that it's rather the cleave that's making the keen cry. I'd suggest something like "With a keen cry, Obsidian cleaved through a blue-white shimmer held aloft in front of him." This is less ambiguous, imho.

Quote
From the ashen clouds roiling across the evening sky, barbs of forked-tongue lightning made their rapid descent to earth. Echoes of thunder crashed over the limestone dunes of Myria. It impacted the earth with such force that the earth beneath his boots trembled in violent protest.
This paragraph uses the term earth three times. Varying with, for example "ground" or what have you, at least once, makes it flow better.

Quote
The winter rain crept into the gaps of Azat’s chainmail and soaked his clothes through. It made his movements somewhat more cumbersome. But if his movements had become more impaired, then these wretches before him moved with all the grace of slaves chained by their ankles with iron shackles.
A bit more about the wordiness thing. These long descriptions can clash with the intent of creating a tense, fast-paced action scene. In my experience, shorter sentences with less flourish can help get across speed better. This is just a general point. Putting in a few longer, descriptive sentences every now and then can help punctuate that, adding more weight to them.
More specifically for this paragraph, I don't think there's any need to specify that they move like slaves chained by their ankles with iron shackles. Saying that they move like chained slaves, or iron-shackled slaves is a more succinct way of getting the point across and fits the tenseness of the scene more, in my opinion. Others might disagree.

Quote
The assassin clamped a quivering hand onto the open wound, vainly attempting to stem the blood. Azat violently seized the figure by said hand and commandeered the assassin as a living shield. A flurry of poisoned knives slunk into the dying man’s back. The shield spasmed and foamed and gasped his last in choked, guttered inhalations.
"Said hand" is a bit of a dry phrase I'm not sure fits in an epic narrative style, but is more of a letter or essay style thing, I think. Perhaps saying "seized the figure by the covering hand" or something feels more natural, others might disagree.
This is followed by a run-on sentence: "spasmed and foamed and gasped". I'd suggest cutting at least one of those, especially since readers are informed later on said inhalations were "choked, guttered" as well, so it's really covered twice.

Quote
“My, my,” A woman with a serpentine wisdom to her voice greeted Azat. She stood poised over the corpses of her dead compatriots. “Aren’t we skilled for a lowborn nobody? I’m almost afeared to try my hand next at killing you.”
Another one of those things that sound good when writing, but might not make a lot of sense when reading: how does one identify "serpentine wisdom" in someone's voice? I'd suggest using the term "hissing" or "sibilant" if you are trying to get across an auditory quality, and replacing "wisdom" with something that's more interpretable from tone, like "confidence", "smugness", "playfulness" or something else you can think of.

Quote
Azat tumbled face-first onto the obsidian brickwork of the Myrian Palace.
I believe the term "Myrian Palace" is used three or four times in the passage. I suggest dropping the qualifiers after the second time, and just write "palace floor" or "ruined palace brickwork" or something like that. By now the readers should know where they are.

Interlude 2.

Quote
Cast the thought of vengeance aside, Azat thought, he would drag Aslan from out death’s clutches by his skin of his ankles, if he must.

"his skin of his ankles" should probably be *the* skin of his ankles. This is a very minor mistake. I've probably made worse in my own reply post right here.

Interlude 2 works a lot better for me. Azat is given a static observational role, so the descriptive sentences feel a lot more natural, whereas in Interlude 1 they feel more confusing and intrusive to me. Interlude 2 also has more character information, which I always like and which ground the character. We get some in Interlude 1 as well, but that's pretty late. It does improve once the dialogue starts though, in my opinion.

I hope this was valuable.






Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Myen'Tal on January 31, 2020, 11:49:47 AM
EDIT: Edited this post! Lol!

Quote
I hope this was valuable.

Always is :), thank you for the feedback, Godspeed!!!

Quote
I want to make it clear that these are my subjective impressions and suggestions, not some kind of objective writing clues. I've also focused on trying to not get bogged down in too minor details (misspelling, etc.), but instead focus on issues of narration and sentence structure - as I think this is the most valuable feedback to give from a reader.

That is perfectly fine, Godspeed. I tend to give an in-depth look into constructive criticisms, though I might accidentally come off as over-analyzing a bit. In the end though, I know that there's a reason that readers bring feedback up, because there was something I wrote that made them want to voice their concerns they want to speak about.

So I always think it's worth it to consider everyone's opinions and critiques, and attempt to address these concerns.

I'm not taking them as 'writing clues' per se, but as readers, your guys opinions definitely help me improve and better myself as a writer. So I'm always eager to look through the lenses of the reader and their feedback and learn something :).

By the way, the Chronological Version of this thread follows how all these scenes are intended flow together. There's quite a bit of new stuff jammed into the Portents of the Wanderer and more stuff coming for Chains That Break in the near future ;).
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Interlude IV - Remembrances of Autumn)
Post by: Myen'Tal on February 1, 2020, 08:45:05 PM
Interlude IV - Remembrances of Autumn

   Azat flicked open his eyes for the first time in what felt like a century. His hawked-eyed gaze already searched for contextual clues even as they did so. Lavender curtains billowed from a fell wind coming in through the open doors of a marble balcony. Suffocated in silence and isolated in the abyssal dark of night, Azat searched and searched the resplendent chamber someone had entombed him in.

   He caught glimmers of moonlight through the roiling clouds journeying across the night sky. His instinctual sense of panic relented at the mere sight of Old Myria’s holy symbol. His exasperated lungs calmed until he struggled no more to breathe. His aching limbs still refused to move much at all, but he no longer fought to dominate his will upon them.

   “Still yourself, my love.” A smooth, placid voice reminiscent of a gentle tide surged over Azat. “Your struggle will only worsen the night-bane's damage on your physical health.”

   Azat somehow managed to crane his head toward the chamber doorway. He could scarcely make out the hazed shadow leaning upon one of the colonnades.

   “You almost died by the hands of an assassin.” The shadow detached itself from the colonnade and melded into the night. “Do you remember? Once you are able to feel your scars again, I’m certain that you’ll recall everything.”

   “Autumn Queen,” The words tumbled from out of Azat’s mouth in an awkward manner. “Where are we? Have we truly stepped through the Gates of Myr? Everything is unfamiliar… this is not the Palace of Ruin and Blood that I remember.”

   “Our forces abandoned Myria, Azat.” Hazan emerged from out of the dark, her beauteous – nigh immaculate features were cast in the moon’s light.

        Her fair skin shone like the coastal sands of the shore. Fiery crimson dyed locks danced in the wind’s current and became polished onyx the nearer they came to the crown of her head. Her raven eyes were cold and aloof, and seemed to stare into and through the core of Azat’s immortal soul.

   Azat noticed above all, that melancholy and lamentation seemed to have taken their tole on the Queen of Old Myria.

   “Voshki and Vahe commanded our armies at the Pinnacle Gate against Qarth’s inexorable advance. We held the Gate for seven days and nights until a glimmer of victory seemed to be within our grasp. But Erasyl’s carrion birds have infested even our fairest land.

   “Seven nights of ravaging plagues. Seven nights of chaos and bloodletting when long-hidden traitors unveiled themselves in the streets of my great city. Seven nights of defiance that have heralded the beginning of long defeat.”

   “Hmm,” Azat considered Hazan’s words even as the Autumn Queen came and sat down upon his bed. Her fingers weaved gracefully through Azat’s raven strands, matted with sweat and still some flakes of coagulated blood. “Voshki and Vahe… what were their fates? Where are we?”

   “They’re alive and with us still.” Hazan took up Azat’s hand into both of her own. “Our armies are trapped within the One Hundred Temples of Sh’myr. A citadel in their own right, but only garrisoned by armies of Priests, Sages, and Scholars before we arrived.”

   “Seven Hells,” Azat suddenly felt his muscles stir once again from adrenaline. “How could they have pushed our lines so far back? Our kingdom practically rests in the Dominion’s hands!”

   “My Kingdom,” Hazan corrected. “You would not enjoy the burden of Old Myria’s conquest and demise. Of that, I can assure you. Lay that burden upon my shoulders and think of a better life after this all blows over.”

   “Autumn Queen,” Azat suddenly forced himself to sit up with a new found strength, though his body heavily protested. “Loss of land is never as important as maintaining loyal hearts and minds for the Kingdom’s cause. The Wailing Widow may billow over our cities and fields, but the fires of our defiance shall never settle while the Autumn Throne remains stolen.”

   Hazan watched him struggle with a distant look on her face. A pleased smile graced her lips when Azat forced himself to sit upright.

   “Always have I trusted in your judgment, Azat.” A faint reminiscence claimed her for a moment. “Even though Sahak threatened and many would-be suitors rebelled against your presence outright within the Myrian Court. ‘Cast him into the fire,’ Sahak demanded before all of the court more than once. If only any man had the courage to face my legendary guardian.”

   “Aslan would crush me without effort,” Azat wheezed with laughter. “If we were not brothers and he actually cared for politics. Any of those preening cravens that call themselves members of the Hundred Families?” He contemplated, and then shrugged. “One or two of them could give me actual competition, but I silenced them on the day I silenced all three of the assassins that dared a coup against the Autumn Throne.”

   Hazan echoed his laughter. “And many of them have paid us the great fortune of already being dead… It is you, Voshki, Vahe, and myself, and all the Knights of Old Myria that we could gather from the remnants of a score of battles.

   “If this is how things must end for us… I would have it no other way. Commanders of proven loyalty should be able to fight without the threat of betrayal from every entitled head of nobility for a few promises and a cache of silver.”

   “Hmm,” Azat nodded, and for a moment he thought he would faint back into unconsciousness. “I’d rather spend the rest of my days by your side, my Queen. And if I must cross through the Gates of Myr to do so, then I shall volunteer myself to be thrown on the length of my foes’ swords.”

   “An unfamiliar sensation, isn’t it?” Hazan managed to wipe the distant stare off of her features and replace them with a curious arch of her brow and expectant stare. “To not know if your tomorrow maybe the end of everything? I would spend my last days in this land of long night, unaware of when I must uncork this bottle of night-bane. Any moment now…”

   Azat gently graced Hazan’s shoulder with the back of his knuckles.

   “Don’t uncork it,” Azat cautioned. “Until you have no other choice. The situation maybe dire, but I am holding out on hope that Rum or Kharan may intervene before long.”

   That distant look came over Hazan once more as she turned to watch the moonlight through the balcony window.

   “No one shall come.” Hazan’s answer found its mark straight into Azat’s heart. “All fear the Wailing Widow Banner and Qarth now that it has come into ascendancy. As the ruler of Old Myria, and her chief defender in times of war, my own advisers and myself merely play our parts. For it is the way of things.”

   “The Royal Game,” Azat inclined his head. “Only a fool would come up with so much amphetamine parrot.” He lifted a hand and grazed the scars etched onto his cheek with half-numb fingers. “Seven Hells, that assassin struck me like a banshee…”

   Realization suddenly dawned upon Azat. “Where in all the hells is Aiman?”

   “Young Aiman?” Hazan arched her brow. “She is not present. Sahak and her travel back to Myria.”

   “Into the teeth of our enemy?” Azat scoffed. “A bold method of suicide.”

   “Diplomatic negotiations between Qarth’s ambassadors and my own.” Hazan replied. “Old Myria shall surrender in the wake of my death. Our kingdom shall take on the name of the One Hundred Temples, Sh’myr. Any further details,  I have entrusted with Sahak. He shall keep my own interest in mind for Old Myria… even after I’ve long fled this world.”

   To that, Azat found nothing worthwhile to say. Instead, he made to climb out of his bed on shaky limbs. Hazan stood, but did not intervene. She fixated him with that distant stare that made his heart run cold.

   Azat planted his feet upon the polished tiled floor of the Temple Chamber. No sooner did he attempt to stand did Hazan reach out and steady him in an effort to keep him from falling.

   “Azat,” Hazan leaned in and whispered in his ear. “You do not have share this cruel fate of mine. Take our finest horse and ride ever east, into the free lands. You are no man of nobility… our fate does not have to be your own.”

   “Always have I served the Autumn Queen.” Azat suddenly erected his posture and gestured for Hazan to cease her coddling. “I need not straighten to make it obvious. I need not bend to show my loyalty. But a warrior cannot flee from what binds him into service. Or else he may as well be dead already. No Lord, Tyrant, or King, be they free of will and independent in thought, would accept such an exile.

   “There is no place I’d rather be than here, my Queen. When the end comes, you’ll understand that I speak in truths.”

   “Are you one of my Sages now?” Hazan chuckled in spite of herself. “Truly, an envy for even Qarth’s Disciples of Heaven. What would I do without my greatest treasure to stow away with me into the afterlife?”

   Azat grinned in turn. “For you, my Queen, may I remain ever so till the end of time.”

Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Interlude - Scene I)
Post by: Alienscar on February 3, 2020, 10:17:07 AM
Interlude 2.
Quote
Cast the thought of vengeance aside, Azat thought, he would drag Aslan from out death’s clutches by his skin of his ankles, if he must.

"his skin of his ankles" should probably be *the* skin of his ankles.


Sir_Godspeed's feedback makes me feel a bit better about leaving feedback as he has highlighted everything that I was going to mention. And, to be honest, he has written it in a better way than I would have.

One thing he touched on that I have a different view about is the line 'the skin of his ankles'.

Whilst he is right that your original version of the line contains a solecism I would go further and say that the phrase does not really work.

Why by the ankles? Are we to presume Aslan is lying on the floor. Why by the skin and not a whole limb?

'Cast the thought of vengeance aside, Azat thought, he would drag Aslan from out death’s clutches by his skin of his ankles, if he must.'

I think this would work better if you simply wrote '...death's clutches whatever the cost.'

I think part of the issue is that your line is very close to the common idiom 'by the skin of your teeth' and for me this confuses the meaning of your line.
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Interlude IV - Remembrances of Autumn)
Post by: Myen'Tal on February 3, 2020, 10:47:22 AM
Thank you for the feedback, both of you. I am now aware that Interlude 1 requires many changes, which have now been translated into the chronological thread.

While I didn't realize the mistakes scattered through this scene, I did feel like there was something off about it. I should have taken a harder look.

Also I will change that sentence.
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on February 19, 2020, 11:23:06 AM
So I thought I'd provide an update on this.

-I've completed the first draft for this story. I initially was aiming for quite a large word count target. However, the more I progressed in the story itself, I realized that it was unnecessary. The story has come to a natural conclusion at around 60,000 words and I am fine with this.

-I've began the slow and arduous process of editing: sentence refinement, word choice, *some* grammar mistakes. Not many of you will know this, but I'm scheming to work with a well-renowned editor to iron out all the kinks this manuscript has so far. NOTE: It'll take a good amount of time before the gears finish moving on this  :).

-I'm already coming up with ideas for a continuation in a proper sequel :).

Hopefully after everything is properly edited, etc. I can post a sample of one of the scenes already in this thread and we can discuss the differences. It'll be a learning experience for me and hopefully others as well!
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Alienscar on February 20, 2020, 10:45:40 AM
Well that all sounds very promising especially the bit about getting a renowned editor to have a look at your work.

I look forward to comparing one of your previously posted scenes to one that has been scrutinised by an editor.
Title: Re: Ashes and Embers (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Dread on February 21, 2020, 09:58:24 AM
I can't wait to read it myself. Good look with the author.
Title: Re: Chains That Break (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on March 6, 2020, 09:18:45 PM
So, I have finished the first chapter of the Soul Spires of Osphinx... and was not able to find a way to naturally add in some intense action sequences. It's funny because I think I've crafted another 'Chains That Break' chapter. There isn't much in the way of swords, famine, and war in this chapter. Yet there is a lot of character interaction going on between the main cast.

The only exception is that instead of Azat, this Chapter focuses on Aslan and his retinue.

Just wanted some opinions on what you guys would think about a chapter like that becoming the first chapter. Of course, there'll be plenty of action in the prologue, but I haven't quite gotten around to it  ;).
Title: Re: Chains That Break (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Dread on March 11, 2020, 11:45:25 PM
I think it could be a good idea but get Azat in somewhere in the end to make it whole. That's just me. 8)
Title: Re: Chains That Break (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on March 12, 2020, 02:03:19 AM
I think it could be a good idea but get Azat in somewhere in the end to make it whole. That's just me. 8)

Azat and what he's been up to after the end events of Chains That Break will be covered in the prologue :). Him and Aslan are actually in two different locations at the moment!

I'm much into the idea of cycling the focus of different chapters onto different characters, so long as they play a large role in the overall story arc.  It's not just about Azat's own redemption, all of the characters in the story are equally chained to Erasyl for reasons of their own. Some of them, will come to the conclusions that Azat has gone through and seek to break their chains. Others will also choose the opposing antagonist for what they perceive as a better destiny for either themselves or the world that they live in.

Still waiting to work within the editor's schedule. Patience is a virtue :).
Title: Re: Chains That Break (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Dread on March 12, 2020, 07:24:16 PM
I'm anxious to read anything you put up. Always enjoyable.
Title: Re: A Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on March 25, 2020, 11:05:52 PM
Can I get some opinion on some book names, all are relevant to the themes of each book.

Book 1

A Dominion of Tyrants
Remembrance of Embers
Chains that Break


(Personally leaning toward a Dominion of Tyrants myself)

Book 2

The Soul Spires of Osphinx
An Opal and Crystalline Sea
Title: Re: A Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Dread on March 26, 2020, 12:57:29 AM
Yes on book 1.

Soul spires for 2
Title: Re: A Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on March 26, 2020, 10:19:26 AM
Thanks, Dread  :).

For Book 2, I'm also thinking of:

Autumn's End
Title: Re: A Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Alienscar on March 26, 2020, 10:36:13 AM
1. Chains That Break

A dominion of tyrants does not work for me. Think of the word dominion as a synonym for control and you will see why it doesn't quite work

Embers are the dying remains of a coal or wood fire, so I'm not sure what there is to remember.

2. An Opal and Crystalline Sea

Soul spires confuses me as I am not sure if you are reffering to a spire made of souls or a structure that contains, or emits souls. To be honest you might be aware that I am anti reference to souls as real things, so feel free to ignore this.

Autumn's End is nice, but I feel the 'opal' title fits what I have read so far. Autumn's End is a bit romantic.
Title: Re: A Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on March 26, 2020, 11:03:42 AM
1. Chains That Break

A dominion of tyrants does not work for me. Think of the word dominion as a synonym for control and you will see why it doesn't quite work

Embers are the dying remains of a coal or wood fire, so I'm not sure what there is to remember.

2. An Opal and Crystalline Sea

Soul spires confuses me as I am not sure if you are reffering to a spire made of souls or a structure that contains, or emits souls. To be honest you might be aware that I am anti reference to souls as real things, so feel free to ignore this.

Autumn's End is nice, but I feel the 'opal' title fits what I have read so far. Autumn's End is a bit romantic.

Thanks, Alienscar :).

I was using the word dominion as term for an established kingdom or empire, like the Dominion of Qarth. But I do see your point and that makes total sense. The control of tyrants is somewhat redundant ;D.

I used the term embers because the characters are remembering fragments of their past lives, so dying remains of their previous lives that have been burned into cinders.

I see where the confusion of the Soul-Spires is coming from, so I will rethink that one. :)
Title: Re: A Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Alienscar on March 26, 2020, 12:36:29 PM
I was using the word dominion as term for an established kingdom or empire, like the Dominion of Qarth.

I got that that was your intent, but 'dominion' is a rarely used word nowadays and I think not that well understood.

The Dominion of Tyrants would work I think. But I believe that would then be referring to a territory or piece of land made of tyrants. It could also refer to the control that tyrants have over their subjects. It works for Qarth because Quarth is a place and not a person. You wouldn't write 'A Dominion of Quarth' would you!

I used the term embers because the characters are remembering fragments of their past lives, so dying remains of their previous lives that have been burned into cinders.

I understood that that was your intent, but by using two nouns you have created an incomplete sentence. Without any other defining context the word ember only refers to a glowing piece of coal or wood.
Title: Re: The Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on March 26, 2020, 12:55:32 PM
Alright, I understand your point better now. Remembrance of Embers doesn't work as is, so I'll probably just scrap that one. That was my least favorite one in either case. I'm not certain how to add more context to the title without making it cumbersome and overly long, haha.

I like The Dominion of Tyrants, and I agree that it works better and is correct.

Quote
It could also refer to the control that tyrants have over their subjects.

This is what I was going for!
Title: Re: The Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Alienscar on March 27, 2020, 10:52:26 AM
Alright, I understand your point better now. Remembrance of Embers doesn't work as is, so I'll probably just scrap that one. That was my least favorite one in either case. I'm not certain how to add more context to the title without making it cumbersome and overly long, haha.

Yeah I was trying to come up with something, but everything I could think of sounded more like a documentary than a story.

'My Life in the Ashes of Time.' that sort of thing.


What about 'The Embers of my Past'
Title: Re: The Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on March 27, 2020, 11:05:18 AM
Yeah I was trying to come up with something, but everything I could think of sounded more like a documentary than a story.

'My Life in the Ashes of Time.' that sort of thing.


What about 'The Embers of my Past'

Hmm, I feel like that encompasses only the protagonist and not the world he endures in.

How about In the Chains of Tyrants or In the Chains of the Tyrant
Title: Re: A Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Alienscar on March 27, 2020, 11:27:35 AM
I used the term embers because the characters are remembering fragments of their past lives, so dying remains of their previous lives that have been burned into cinders.

Hmm, I feel like that encompasses only the protagonist and not the world he endures in.

How about In the Chains of Tyrants or In the Chains of the Tyrant

As titles they are okay, but they don’t really capture any of what you said previously.
Title: Re: The Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on March 27, 2020, 12:46:52 PM
Well, maybe I misspoke, we can certainly have titles themed around the protagonist.

Hmm, The Embers of My Past... the more I think I think about it, the more I like it.

In the Hands of the Tyrant

In the Chains of the Tyrant

Honestly, think you maybe onto something Alienscar. Naming books is like the most frustrating part of writing for me, lol. Well, perhaps the most stressful, it's something I should consider practicing more often.

Just a side note, but I've always been planning on calling the third book Firstborn, Sun-Caller, and God-King. It's the three infamous titles that our antagonist, Erasyl, is often addressed as his endless legions of subjects. They're also associated with more important meanings, but I won't spoil those  :). What do you guys think?




Title: Re: The Dominion of Tyrants (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Alienscar on March 28, 2020, 06:04:11 AM
Hmm, The Embers of My Past... the more I think I think about it, the more I like it.

Thinking about it myself, I suppose 'Embers of The Past' would be better.

Just a side note, but I've always been planning on calling the third book Firstborn, Sun-Caller, and God-King. It's the three infamous titles that our antagonist, Erasyl, is often addressed as his endless legions of subjects. They're also associated with more important meanings, but I won't spoil those  :). What do you guys think?

I like it
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Plans for the Future!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on April 18, 2020, 10:09:57 PM
Just an update on what I'm working on at the moment.

An Opal and Crystalline Sea has reached approximately 20,000 words and is going strong. Really loving the character driven narrative in this one. Since the setting and the beginning story arc are established in the first iteration, just have to dive right in!

I've secured a place on the schedule of the editor I'd like to work with for the end of May for a manuscript critique. Follow up in July for a proofread.

Also, now I'm beginning to shift my attention to other necessities for The Embers of the Past.

This includes 3 Priorities:

1) Cover Art + Marketing Materials
2) Website
3) A illustration of a semi-detailed map of the continent of Khios.

The website I may end up trying to build myself.

I've looked at a lot of pre-made cover art and have decided that I do not really want that option.

There is a cover designer called Jeff Brown Graphics, that makes beautiful, hand drawn, and custom cover art + marketing materials.

Jeff also does Map illustrations as well, so the odds are looking great that we may coordinate on something.

It'll be a bit more expensive, but I think it'll definitely help the book stand out.

Just keeping you guys up to date. Wouldn't want anyone to think I've abandoned the project :).

Anyone have any ideas for cover art?

I am kind of thinking about the art portraying the remains of a battlefield, using drab hues of white and grey to kind of create an ash effect. Azat would be depicted standing on this battlefield in his trademark armor and robes, shackled with broken chains that are swaying in the wind.

If possible, I'd thrown in the Banner of the Wailing Widow, Carth Dominion's Banner.

I also think it may be a cool idea to contact Jeff a couple of times in the future and acquire some more art depicting characters and events in the world. Then they could be used to add further flare to the website.

Also, I believe I'll call the Trilogy series itself Dominion's End.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Even More Talk About The Future!!)
Post by: Dread on April 18, 2020, 10:17:53 PM
Give me a few days. I'm gonna reread everything and see if I can hit on the high points for cover art ideas. I am an artist, tattooed for over 23 years. I might be able to help, if you'd like.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Even More Talk About The Future!!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on April 18, 2020, 10:20:57 PM
Give me a few days. I'm gonna reread everything and see if I can hit on the high points for cover art ideas. I am an artist, tattooed for over 23 years. I might be able to help, if you'd like.

Hi Dread! That would be awesome and I'd appreciate that :).

Thanks!

Edit: Hey Dread, I sent you a PM :).

Also, I haven't stopped running my eyes over the manuscript for The Embers of The Past. I know it hasn't undergone the official editing process yet, but I've been working to make it as clean as I possibly can before then.

I will post some already shared scenes and you guys can tell me if you see any improvement in the second draft.

Also, I removed Interlude One from the story completely. I kept your guys criticisms and suggestions in mind, and in the end I determined there just wasn't enough story there and that those elements could be better introduced into the story.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Even More Talk About The Future!!)
Post by: Myen'Tal on April 20, 2020, 11:08:47 PM
Interlude I – Divination of Domination

Azat stood before a fortress built by what he could only define as architecture defying all logic and reason. A fused together amalgamation of lesser strongholds and castles once built in the defense of the Grand Kingdom of Zarna. Infamous for the Dragon’s Maw portcullis chiseled and carved from burnished bronze and granite, the myriad forges that blazed behind the curtain walls lent it the impression of an actual smoke-belching dragon.

Conquest delivered by the God-King of Carth’s own hand had seen the Zarna of Old lost in the annals of the histories many years ago. The Seven Libraries of the State were razed to the very last stone. Grand palaces of unimaginable opulence were ransacked and pillaged, and left in nothing less than a permanent state of ruin. All that remained of Zarna since her golden ages of yore, were the dilapidated remains of Labyrinthine Maze.

Of course, the Dominion of Carth remolded what was once thought lost in their own image.

Zar’bau.

An Everlasting Fortress.

A Citadel of the Enslaved.

Azat rekindled his fragile memories and re-imagined the fateful night he was dragged through the Dragon’s Maw Gate. He was nothing more than a broken man. A shackled slave granted mercy solely by the God-King’s own hand.

Erasyl himself descended upon that cursed place and pieced Azat back together into some resemblance of his former self. Yet the changes instructed upon him by the hand of God and his legion of sadistic minions—was irrevocable.

Azat gazed upon the unconquerable bulwark, the Fortress of Everlasting Time itself. He watched it blaze and burn from the height of a mountain summit. He watched centuries-old Watchtowers crumble until they toppled upon themselves with catastrophic force. Fountains of blood seeped from battlements overfull with the slain.

The Banners of the Zarquin Guard, the Hollow-Eyed Widow that wept for her lost sons, were broken and burning across many pockets of Zar’Bau’s lesser bastions. Yet in the heart of the Grand Citadel, her cruel fate still billowed defiantly in the breeze.

Warriors of the Brotherhood marched into Zar’bau’s streets in their thousands, covered beneath a constant hail of flaming arrows. They had formed shield walls where the formation would be strongest. Yet the conquered they fought to repress were beyond number, and surged forth from out of the underground from perceptibly every direction.

Both factions clashed across the breadth of the Gates that led into the inner keep. Countless died upon the Zarquin’s wall of shields, but as the fighting raged onward, the formations eventually devolved into chaotic melees where man could scarcely tell friend from foe.

Battle raged, till crimson rivers surged from out of the streets to cascade down the stairwells and storm drains of Zar’bau’s ruins.

Struck by the sight like a spear through his heart, memories of constant bloodshed and violence surged through Azat as never before. The fragile semblance of peace that Aiman had crafted within him, shattered into a million shards.

Yet Azat remained where he stood outside of Zar’bau’s gates. A sickening feeling of confusion borne from where he actually stood in the midst of this conflict welled within his gut. He felt only outrage, that his Zarquin Brothers were being butchered. Yet he felt empathy and kinship with the ragged and torn horde that dared to defy Erasyl’s will with open hatred.

Abruptly, the world beneath Azat’s feet seemed to shift out from under him. Zar’bau visibly shrunk into the distance, until the horizon he witnessed vanished from sight. The ashen sands of the Gorgon Dunes gradually shifted into the arid deserts of the Carrion Valley. Azat recognized the mountain pass of Reaper’s Lantern forming around him, and the scattered Qi villages that he had scorched into ruin.

Once again, Reaper’s Lantern quaked to the march of ten thousand Warriors of the Brotherhood. Ten Thousand nameless faces waded through the thick of the dead left from the previous battle, picked clean by hordes of passing carrion birds.

At their head rode the only man that Azat knew as familiar. The only man that he had once called a true brother. In that moment, realization dawned upon him, and he knew that the fate of thousands was nigh to be decided.

Aslan himself marched in the direction of Zar’bau to crush the insurrection before it truly began.

Once more, the Qi lands shifted and shrunk as Azat was hurled across the world’s length of his dreamscape. Reaper’s Lantern withered until it became only a speck on the horizon from the Dominion’s Heartlands. The labyrinthine architecture of the Capital, Tu’shik, the City of Canals, rapidly materialized until it spread across the breadth of the Seventh River.

The Grand Canals of Tu’shik seemed quiet in the midst of night. Yet the metropolis clustered along its length seemed unsettled. Fires did not blaze behind its manned battlements. The skies were not filled with the myriad screams of the dying and frightened.

   Yet the clamor and chaos of open battle raged on all the same. Azat attempted to read the events happening behind Tu’shik’s walls, but could vaguely sketch out any details as the night sky began to fade into endless, all-consuming black.

   Yet one light blazed bright in the darkness. A light that radiated from the heart of the great palace that overlooked the rest of the city. Azat knew who this brilliance belonged to.
   
       As Azat awoke within the cold dark of his tent, a cold feeling of abandonment seized him. He had sacrificed so much for a chance to earn back some form of his previous life. He had labored so arduously, even when vengeance was nothing more than an afterthought locked away in the back of his mind.

   A thought surfaced to the forefront of Azat’s mind. He would not abandon his brother Aslan, when he was needed most. For once, he would serve a purpose greater than his own needs.

   Cast the thought of vengeance aside, Azat thought, he would drag Aslan from out death’s clutches by his skin of his ankles, if he must.[/i] [/font]

~******~


Post Merge: April 20, 2020, 11:09:10 PM
In the future, please use the modify button. Double posting is against the forum rules, and for that reason, the system merged your posts.

Black Pacts
Leagues beneath the Garden Palaces of Tu’shik, below the subterranean crypts of the Royal Tombs, Tabia felt an unsettling sense of uncertainty. An oppressive dark cloaked the tunnel walls and the sand beneath her feet. A dozen torches scattered farther down the caravan’s length, now smoldering from extended use, held back the darkness with their flickering flames.
   
“Tabia.” Adofo waved his torch ahead of the caravan, a dim light in the darkness. “Come quick, I’ve found something!”

   “Out of the way.” Tabia hurried to his side and shouldered the burly warrior from her path. “Don’t touch anything.”

   “Sorrows of hell.” Adofo shrugged. Tabia could envision the sneer on his lips. “What is this?”

   Tabia inspected the great stone slab of a door blocking the path forward. She quickly ran her torch over the dusty surface, unveiling ancient scripture and symbols chiseled into the stone until they became recesses in a greater framework.
Tabia deigned not spare Adofo a glance. “Warriors of the Zarquin Guard do not ask such questions. Just keep your sword ready.”

   “You’re expecting something behind this door?” Adofo stared at the scripture in amazement. “What could possibly be living down here. Giant rats?”

   “Found it!” Tabia placed her gloved fingers on a hidden lever and forced it down until it clicked softly into place. “I would advise, Adofo, that you keep your torches nearby. The God-King has commanded us to enter, but not even he has entered this place for many decades.”

   The grinding noise of stone ground upon stone deafened Tabia’s ears. Adofo planted one step back and readied his hand on the hilt of his sheathed sword. A quiet chorus of hesitant murmurs and disagreements rumbled from the caravan behind them.

   “Silence!” Adofo commanded. “Zarquin, attend your charge!”

   “Yes, yes.” Faki, one of Adofo’s lieutenants, spurred his warriors on. “Make sure these archaeologists don’t fall on their scrolls and ink feathers!”

   A dozen men garbed in robes of cream and crimson, chain-mail glistening softly in the flickering light, approached the schism opening between the stone slabs barring the path. They held their bucklers tight across their chests. They readied their swords to cleave through even passing shadows.

   Adofo nodded approvingly as they formed a wall of flesh and steel before the chasm yawning open before them.

   “You first.” Adofo gestured to Tabia as the granite slabs jarred to a sudden halt. “I don’t think we’ll be using our blades, but we remain ever at your back.”

   “Step carefully.” Tabia sneered at Adofo’s confident grin before she stepped into the abyss. “Gods know what’s become of this sacred sanctum.”

   “Crumbling artifacts.” Faki hawked and spat, quickly dogging Tabia’s footsteps. “Toppled ruins. That is all that remains here.”

   Tabia waved her torch back and forth across the widening chamber into which they had entered. Faki had spoken the truth, she realized, as the remnants of a great reliquary became unveiled before the cautious caravan.

   Thousands of Carthite warriors, hewn from stone, bronze, and clay, lined many of the open spaces beneath half-collapsed archways. They stood in silent vigil over stranger monuments that watched over them. Tabia attempted to near them, but could only make out the telltale signs of the many limbs that decorated each statue before Adofo tugged her back toward the safety of the caravan.

   “Can you read any of this?” Adofo flicked his torch over scripture-etched walls of dusty obsidian. “This is not Carthite. It almost hurts my eyes to read it.”

   “A dead language, Adofo.” Tabia whispered. “Nothing more.”

   Adofo’s irritable sighing betrayed his mounting impatience. “Will you tell me at least what you’re searching for?”

“Something forbidden.” Tabia confessed. “Trust me, Adofo, you’d be better off not remembering a thing about what you’ve seen here today. For I shall remember.”

“Corpses often fall short on memories.” Adofo forced through clenched teeth.

Tabia whirled around on him, her torch leveled directly in front of his eyes. “I carry the manifestation of the Tyrants’ will with me. Strike me down, and the sorrowful hell you speak of shall swallow you whole!”

“Hell… eh, enough.” Adofo cursed. “Find what you’re searching for and let’s be done with this crumbling heap of stone! The blasphemies hidden in these depths make my skin crawl.”

“Adofo…” Faki cautioned. “Let’s just see this through. Then we can toast to the God King’s generous reward, eh?”

Tabia’s laughter lilted from several meters ahead. “Your friend has the right mind for this sort of thing. Turn back if you’re frightened, Adofo, and give Faki the commander’s badge.”

“Don’t just shy there, Zarquin!” Adofo snapped. “After her. If something happens to Tabia, we’ll be swaying from our necks outside the gates of Tu’shik!”

The Zarquin Guard jostled forward, a caravan of scribes and scholars scrambling not to fall out of their shadow. Tabia glanced behind her, but pressed on all the same. She trod a path interrupted by toppled over statues, all of them of ancient Carthite origin, and waded through the thick of their ruin.

A spark of light in the near distance made Tabia jump with fright the moment she realized its presence. Hesitant, she drew nearer to the light source until she realized that the light of her torch reflected off something glassine in material.

   A soft disturbance crept from farther down the chamber halls as Tabia caught her own reflection in a mirror the color of red wine. Gentler than the most imperceptible sighing, within the silent chambers of the reliquary, there was no warrior of the Zarquin Guard or palace attendant who did not freeze at the luring sound.

   “Weapons ready.” Adofo whistled sharply, suddenly beside Tabia once again. “Approach with caution. Remember, stay together and fight as one.”

   “Are you certain this is a danger?” Tabia’s murmur felt like it resonated off of the reliquary’s walls. “There’s no cause for alarm, yet.”

   “I am not paid to take chances.” Adofo gestured for Tabia to fall back into his shadow. “Faki, let us combine our eyes and ears, brother. We lead from the front.”

   “Your command is my oath.” Faki acknowledged and made to stand beside his superior. “I’ll keep my torch primed for you. Better that you hand yours to a scribe.”

   “Here.” Adofo spun round and shoved the torch into Tabia’s embrace. “Keep your scribes in line, Tabia. No one flees, on the God-King’s command.”

   “Stop stalling and move out already!” Tabia made a brief whistle.

   Adofo gestured with a point of his chin for Faki to take the lead. He dogged Faki’s footsteps, eyes peeled in any direction that Faki did not directly focus on. The other members of the Zarquin Guard formed a tight phalanx around the caravan and marched in the shadow of their superiors.

   Tabia marched behind the safety of the phalanx, surrounded by a gaggle of superstitious and fearful scribes. The caravan pressed forward in ominous silence. Artifacts and relics crafted by Carthite artisans seemed to wane in number and scale, until all that remained before them was only the way forward. Statues of strange mythological beasts gazed upon their progress with lustful eyes. They were spaced evenly through a hall of seemingly endless archways delving off into the reliquary’s most decrepit corners.

   “amphetamine parrot!” Faki’s voice shattered the suffocating silence ensnaring the caravan. A forceful impact punctuated his distasteful language. “Another doorway, Tabia! This… this one is scrawled with some scribbling… I cannot read it.”

The phalanx parted to allow Tabia closer inspection. She stepped forward to join Adofo and Faki before a massive slab of alabaster marble inset with the same glassine, wine red material she had glimpsed before. Painstakingly chiseled into the mirror’s surface were hollowed recesses forming more sinister hieroglyphics and scripture.

Tabia gently lifted her torch to better see in the light, but found her hand quickly seized in Adofo’s snare.

“I hope you know what you’re doing.” Adofo cautioned. He slackened his grip so that Tabia could achieve her work.

“This door is sealed by rite of blood.” Tabia scrolled her fingers across dimly-lit hieroglyphs. “It cannot be opened without sacrifice. I-I do not understand. I am not certain how to proceed.”

“No soul was ever meant to understand how, Tabia.” A sighing voice crept through the darkness. It was a sinistrous amalgamation of three feminine voices speaking in chorus. “This world is too brief already without prying eyes gleaming such treasured knowledge.

“Woeful have the times grown, that your master now sends gaggles of slavering attendants in his stead. Has he grown so vain? Does his courageous heart wither with fear? Or is it desperation that drives him into the shadows?”

“Your blasphemy shall reap his wrath.” Tabia shouted, torch held out for any sign of the creature. “He would certainly cast you back into the shadow of Hell’s chasms!”

“Enough.” Adofo interrupted. “Find it and bring me the severed wretch’s head!”

“You need not look far, little man.” The enigmatic voice surged over them like a wind from the passage behind them. “I shall not shirk from your gaze.”

A thin sliver of tongue the color of dark blood lolled from out of the shadows and into the flickering warmth of the torchlight. A maw of teeth that curved like the perfect points of a ram’s horns followed suite. The grounded roots of each tooth gleamed in the darkness, fading into burnished browns toward the center and then to oily blacks at the very tips.

They were small enough not to alter the creature’s facial features. A blend reminiscent of an elven crossing with a human maiden.

Yet, an other-worldliness bled into those pristine features that Tabia would have otherwise thought divine. Oppressive eyes of oily crimson and viper’s slits seemed to bubble and writhe from within as if blood boiled from underneath. Lengthy streams of raven hair cascaded from a crown of four curving horns that could rival a Minotaur's.

Beneath her arms were another set of limbs lined with whipcord muscle. She held them cupped in a way that sketched a strange symbol with the intricate positioning of her fingers.

A simple Colchis of deep sapphire laced with filigree of ruby garbed the creature’s deceptively towering height. Tabia figured it stood four heads over the tallest man in the caravan.
The caravan looked on in horror for the briefest moment, before the first terrified scream sent most of the attendants flying in a panic.

The Forbidden One fixated her gaze on Tabi. A coy smiled played on its lips before it laid into the discordant horde attempting to fly past it. The creature scarcely seemed to move either of her four arms, but she caught two scribes by the crown of their heads.

She tracked her upper arms back and forth, an effort that seemed near effortless to Tabia. Bodies flew through the dusty passage. Dull, sickening crunches echoed through the lonesome cavern as corpses impacted against the monuments gazing ever onward.

The Forbidden One tore the two attendants still in her snare messily into halves with a violent pull of her arms.

In the span of a shallow breath, the caravan in Tabia’s charge had been gruesomely murdered.

“Infernal fires.” Adofo cursed from out a mouth too slackened with shock to be considered intimidating.

Tabia craned her head to stare Adofo directly in the eyes. “What are you doing?” She insisted.
“Defend us!”

Adofo considered Tabia for a long moment, his skepticism slowly eradicated by an expression of grim determination.

“Brothers!” Adofo addressed the thirteen warriors huddled in front of him like a bulwark of flesh and steel. “Our very lives depend on the severing of this blasphemy’s head. Fight well, and may the sun rise for you tomorrow! Charge!”

The Zarquin thundered their war cries and broke ranks in unison. Tabia watched the first and bravest among them cut viciously toward the Forbidden One’s midriff. The creature flicked her wrist at the grizzled warrior and slit his throat with the same gesture.

A second Carthite leapt over the back of his wounded comrade, but Tabia blinked and in the next moment, his arms were hewed from his body.

“Together, you imbeciles!” Adofo encouraged them. “Encircle her! Strike from every angle!”

From the right flank, three of the Zarquin guard charged forward together. They held their shields out before them with their swords readied for a sure thrust. On the left, Adofo, Faki, and another warrior pushed their advantage at the same time.

The Forbidden One backpedaled, the ghosting image of swords manifesting between her fingers vanishing and reappearing as she tracked her arms back and forth. A fountain of blood arced from the formation on the left flank. A skull cleaved from someone’s shoulders.

On the right, Adofo parried one of the ghosting blades with a mighty clamor of steel on ethereal steel. Faki sprinted at full tilt and slid into the Forbidden One’s guard. He made a vicious cut behind the creature’s knee.

A keening howl of agony tore through the Zarquin ranks like a sudden gust of wind, but they held firm. More war cries burst from out of the shadows as other Zarquin emerged behind the Forbidden One.

The Forbidden One whirled backward. Her movements were more akin to dance than any battle maneuver. Her arms cut across one another like a labyrinth of blades. Some found their mark and hewing down more of the guard. Others were successfully parried by the trained and practiced eyes of Adofo’s most experienced warriors. 

The clamor of battle resonated through the reliquary. The screams of the dying punctuated every several clashes of steel on steel. Diabolic screams were torn from the Forbidden One’s throat as the Zarquin steadily landed a true blow here and there.

Tabia quickly realized that she stood alone by the doorway blocking the clearest route to safety. Only a sprawl of dead warriors, scribes, and thick slathers of blood left in the sand between her and them her only protection.

“Faki!” Adofo shouted over the cries of the last Zarquin Guard to fall on the Forbidden One’s blades. “Save yourself, brothe--” Adofo’s sudden gasp of surprise was torn out of his lungs, impaled on the length of two blades.

Defiant, Adofo scarcely lifted his head as if he made to strike the Forbidden One one last time. Unceremoniously, the Forbidden One cast his corpse into the shadows with a ferocious kick.

Tabia froze in horror. Faki’s shadow receded into the dark as he fled back toward the surface as quickly as he could manage. She wanted to call out to him, but whatever desire she had was quickly robbed by the Forbidden One’s unsettling gaze fixated on her.

The creature, credit to the Zarquin Guard’s martial prowess, knelt unsteadily upon one mightily wounded knee. A thousand cuts marred her once unblemished skin, a few large bruises the tell-tale signs of shields leaving their mark on her.

Beads of sweat and blood dripped down her unnatural body. Her hair was matted and sticky with the blood and viscera of her foes.

In spite of her condition, the Forbidden One lifted her head skyward and laughed in skeptical disbelief.

“That, was not how I expected this fight to go.” The Forbidden One shifted around to gaze at Tabia once more. “But I’d rather them defiant, than meek and soft. Which one would you be, Tabia?”

“Who are you?” Tabia eked out a murmur under her breath. “How do you know of me?”

“Such trivial questions.” The Forbidden One answered. “What need of you of their answers? What need have you of concern? You’re nothing more than meat strung up on strings, like a puppet. You’ll dance to my tune, won’t you, Tabia? You’ve searched my eyes and found your own soul
wailing back in them.

“What need of you such incorporeal beauty? Better that it belongs to me in the end.”

   Tabia could avert her gaze from the Forbidden One no longer. Lost in the creature’s eyes, she felt her spiritual defenses crumbling in great heaps. Her defiance guttered. Her faith withered enough to fall from her mind like a rotting fruit from a dead tree.

   Tabia glimpsed the Forbidden One’s eyes and felt content in her sudden new enthrallment. A faint spark ignited in the darkest corner of her mind. She understood then that only this creature could ever undo the curse she had woven over her.

   “Are you listening, Tabia?” The Forbidden One turned away from her to gaze in the direction that Faki had departed.

   “What?” Tabia quipped, impulsive. She felt her sentience returning in foggy, gradual waves. “Gods, what have you done to me?”

   “I said that I have need of you.” The Forbidden One beckoned her forward with a curl of her talon-like finger. She spared an intentful glance and haunting smile in Tabia’s direction. “It shall be a monumental task. Are you still listening in that thick skull of yours?”

   Tabia sank to her knees in the blood slick sand and prostrated herself, knowing that anything less would spell her demise.

   Tabia did not attempt to hide the begrudged loathing embedded in her words. “I swear, nothing but death would keep me from it.”

   “Very well.” The creature cooed, oblivious. “Then listen intently…”

Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Interlude I & Black Pacts, 2nd Draft, Pre-Official Edit)
Post by: Myen'Tal on April 22, 2020, 07:10:08 PM
I realized that while I've shared a good amount of this story, probably more than I should have. I appreciate everyone's continued interest in this particular tale... and I realize that I've never shared anything past Act 1 for this story.

So, here is a piece that happens much nearer to the story's climatic  events!

Mustaphen trail blazed down the volcanic sands toward the heart of the battle. Azat stared straight ahead, Obsidian whirling overhead as a wordless battle cry roared from out of the core of his lungs. He did not spare a glance behind him at the two thousand Qi Raiders charging ever at his back. Their terrifying war cries filled the air with keen shrieks and throaty bellows.

   By his right side, Val kept pace upon his own horse. The Kharan Half-Giant’s furious bellows heralded the coming storm headed for the Slave Legions and Old Myrian Knights. On his left flank, Avedis shouted words of encouragement and war cries Azat had forgotten in his time away from the brotherhood.

   As the Qi mercenaries rapidly closed the distance between them and their foes, resounding cheers from the beleaguered Carthite forces greeted them before they had even entered the fray.

   War horns sounded. Raven-clad ranks reformed swiftly in an attempt to brace themselves against the charge. Azat realized that most of the Old Myrian Knights had lost their mounts and fought on foot. Perhaps mounted on their armored steeds, they would have blunted the charge of Avedis’ horsemen.

   “Firstborn, Sun Caller, God-King!” Avedis thundered over the deafening stampede of the cavalcade. “For the Tyrants of Carth! Crush them underfoot!”

   Azat realized that he could not feel anything in his black heart. Not even when the Old Myrians were close enough that he could make out their eyes behind the demonic masks they wore. He felt no thought of remorse. Hesitance held no shackles upon him. Fear seemed an anathema to him.

   He cared not for who dared stand between him and his brother Aslan. Neither kin, slave, or Carthite would halt his advance back to the Lion’s side.

   Mustaphen collided into the reformed ranks of Old Myria with the strength of a grand bombard’s explosive shell. The first Old Myrian to strike out at Azat was cast into the dune sand like a broken ragdoll. The next several men that sought to take their comrade’s place were battered into the earth and trampled onto death for their efforts.

   Val lashed out with the irresistible might of the Kharanites. His great axe struck with the speed of lightning and the force of Mustaphen’s charge. Wherever his axe was swung, fresh skulls rolled off the heads of their masters in gruesome fashion. Each weighted blow shattered scale mail armor and crushed open the demonic masks of his foes.

   Avedis broke through the initial ranks that sought to hold him back. He cast javelin after javelin into the midst of the foe. His accuracy was unerring as it had ever been. Several Knights were cast into the ground, ran through upon shattered throwing spears.

   The Qi Raiders rushed in behind their exemplary commanders and into the gaps initially punched through the Old Myrian ranks. As the enemy lines buckled and dissolved from the punishing charge, the remainder of Carthite survivors that fought for Aslan still threw themselves back into the chaos with renewed vigor.

   The forces of Carth found their second wind even as the Knights of Old Myria—pinned as they were—struggled on to the death with no chance of escape.

   “My name is Val!” Val screamed over the clamor of men dying in their hundreds and many more locked in mortal combat. “My sword-arm is my pride and Kharan my heart! Stand before me and prove your strength! I shall cut down every man who bars the path of my brother!”

   “Your Kharanite friend is rather zealous!” Avedis shouted at Azat even as another javelin was thrown out of his hand. The Old Myrian he aimed for was struck through the small of his back and crumpled into the arid sands. “I know not how you managed to have one swear a blood oath for you, but I hope you can trust him, brother!”

   “Worry about yourself!” Azat countered. Mustaphen reared up on his back legs and struck another Knight square in the chest. Azat bellowed with laughter as the Knight slunk away with a broken sternum. Mustaphen rode onward and by the stricken knight, but not before Obsidian was rammed through the back of his neck.

   Azat tore the sword free and parried a strike from a morning star. He kicked the helm off of the weapon’s wielder and cut him neatly across the throat. He followed into the attack with a sharp kick to Mustaphen’s flanks. The mighty warhorse kicked out with his hind legs and cast another pair of foes into the ashen sands.

   Mustaphen whirled around once restlessly, and Azat cleaved and thrust with Obsidian’s honed edge again and again into any Myrian who dared to stray too near. Blood arced from each strike of his wicked blade. Men screamed in horror. They fell and writhed in their own death throes until they were trampled under Mustaphen’s hooves.

   “You have not changed, brother!” Avedis gazed and marveled in Azat’s direction. “Ever the bane of men! Foe-slayer! Sun’s Caller’s Reaper!”

   Azat seized up from the remark as if he had forgotten himself. Remembrances both distant and forlorn seemed to drift to the forefront of his thoughts. In the span of a mere breath, memories of Queen Hazan and her last command struck him into limbo.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (A Further Glimpse...)
Post by: Dread on April 23, 2020, 08:36:06 PM
That is really good and has a good glimpse into the ending. Good stuff.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (A Further Glimpse...)
Post by: Myen'Tal on April 24, 2020, 03:36:03 PM
That is really good and has a good glimpse into the ending. Good stuff.

Thanks, Dread!

I'm certain you'll never guess the later events of the story till you read it! ;D


EDIT:

Alright, so I've started a final edit for The Embers of the Past before it goes to the editor toward the end of May. This edit is going to focus on clarity, World building, and story cohesion.

I've already went through and made some sweeping changes to the first scene for Qi Burns and Fades... enjoy! Lots of new descriptions here and more build up to how the actual story is unfolding in future chapters and titles.


Qi Burns and Fades - Scene I

Sirius, the Baleful Eye of the Heavens, scoured the Valley of Carrion with its feverish heat. Shimmering rays coalesced from crystal skies overhead, gathering over a barren oasis chiseled into the flank of a windswept mountain pass. Azat felt the kiss of the desert wind. A brief and unreliable reprieve from the blistering heat beating down on his bronze skin.

He felt as if he would burst into flames. Draped in shimmering robes of cream and crimson, the chainmail glinting underneath only added further to the infernal heat. He shifted worn and rugged leather boots in the arid and craggy earth. Unconsciously, he anxiously checked his laced vambraces once again and the dirtied bandages wrapped snugly around his hands.

Azat remained anchored by the barren crater alongside the Warriors of the Brotherhood, who eagerly eagerly awaited their commander’s order.

Yet when their commander did finally speak, they found that he did not address them. 

“A pity.” Aslan’s voice rumbled like disquiet thunder in his throat. “You see my warriors?” He gestured toward the nearest of the broken warriors bound by the wrist and forced on their knees before the dead oasis. “We merely sought to test our mettle against worthy foes… Do you see me, Qi?”

Bloodied, battered, and a hair’s breadth away from death, the Qi being addressed scarcely lifted his head to look Aslan in the eye. It was all that he could do but glance toward Aslan’s feet and hurl a wade of phlegm at them.

“Your first sin.” Aslan lifted his voice to address each prisoner of war. He sneered. “Your misguided pride of thinking yourselves of our caliber.”
Aslan made one cutting gesture. A silent command to have his prisoners disposed of.

A score of Zar’qin Guard -indentured warrior slaves- arrayed in a single rank hacked their unsheathed blades into the necks of their assigned charges. For every stroke, one kill was made. Blood seeped into the arid sands. The Zar’qin planted their boots on the backs of their foes and kicked their corpses into the chasm.

Aslan shook his head as he watched the bodies topple into the oasis unceremoniously.


“Unthinkable.” Azat commented in his rough, mocking tongue. “You’ve stolen the honor of the Qi as well as their lives. What could these men ever hope for in the afterlife now, blood brother?”

Aslan shrugged. “What do the defeated ever want in death, Azat? As far as I know, it is nothing.”

“Do Children of the Sun shirk from Sirius’ glories?” Azat cackled aloud. “You nearly fooled me into thinking that you speak in truths. You’re more devoted to the God of the Sun than any Carthite I know.”

“That is true.” Aslan offered his younger sibling a brief nod. A surprised smile graced his stoic features. “Warriors of Carth do not shirk from the light of the sun. If only you could embrace the light of truth, Azat. I feel like the Gods would not hound you so often.”

“Eh.” Azat sighed, dismissive. He approached a nearby boulder half-buried amidst the craggy, arid earth. He quickly ascended onto the height of the boulder, worn ragged with myriad holes carved by time itself.  He gazed down upon Aslan even as his brother stared at him in askance. “If I’ve accepted any truth, brother, then it is this: Let the dead know their rest. Let the vanquished have their toil. It is simply the way of things. It’s a cycle, you see. One that shall repeat until Carth too is toppled when we’ve become too weak and frail to stand upright and defend her.”

Aslan’s pleasant smile faded, replaced by his usual stony expression. He scoffed. “You’ve always been the grim child, Azat. Always have you been the lone wolf. You’re too proud to hunt with the rest of the pack.

“Shall there ever be a time when you accept your gift and fate? Shall there ever be a time when you’ll come to accept your offered seat within the Brotherhood?”

Azat cocked his head to one side. “A Brotherhood of Slaves? I understand that I’m one of them too, Aslan. And no, I am all too aware that this fate was offered out of genoristy and not cruelty.

“Yet I cannot understand where you are coming from. You stand so proud and defiant for the Dominion, though you slay her enemies -who are no different than us.”

“Be honest, Azat.” Aslan shrugged. “When have you ever cared for those you’ve slain? I’ve never known you a compassionate rogue. You’re a bane of men and a destroyer of kingdoms as are we all. You’ll never outrun that one simple truth. It matters not how swift the wolf takes flight.”

“I’m not running from any truth, brother.” Azat shook his head. “All of this conquest for the Dominion’s sake… it only seems pointless is all.”

Aslan considered Azat for a brief moment, then grinned again. “Perhaps, you could do with some more responsibilities within the Brotherhood itself. Our God-King would have you be nothing more than a glorified duelist. A fancier version of a pit fighter, I’d say, ha-ha.

“I’d say that you a worthier of much grander titles.” Aslan nodded to himself in thought. “Why don’t you take command of some of my finest men… warriors from my inner circle. All of them shall be known to you by the lavender bands they wear around their wrists.

“Here, from the height of Reaper’s Lantern, you can see Qi settlements scattered across the Valley of Carrion. Rid the Dominion of these enemies. Claim the head of the champion that commands them in this region. The destruction of these villages shall certainly lure him to you.”

“You’d trust me with so many of your sworn brothers?” Azat hesitated, then banished the thought.
“Very well. Bones cannot be sown in a land of peace. Neither does blood run in rivers within cities spared from the ravages of war. The conquered cannot be bent by anything lighter than an iron fist and sharpened blades.

“A shame, that is has come to this.”

Aslan ignored Azat’s last quip. “Good. My Zar’qin are the finest warriors to ever grace Carthite soil. Ours is a Brotherhood of Steel. You may think them ravenous wolves, but they are proud lions to a man. I’m entrusting their lives to you, you understand?”

Azat heaved with scornful laughter. “I’ve never relied on either of those, Aslan, and never will. I shall see our mission done. I won’t make promises for warriors who’ve sworn that each day would
be their last if need be.”

“If such a time draws nearer too quickly… you know my signal.” Aslan answered. “Remember, Azat, that your life is not worth more than any one of them.”

Azat sighed with resignation. “Just be certain that you’re prepared for the consequences. Be swift and remove yourself from here. Don’t you have a battlefield to be marching toward?”

“You are not wrong.” Aslan nodded. Before Azat could think to say anything further, his brother began to thunder commands. He ordered his warriors to fall into formation and resume their march out of Reaper’s Lantern and into the Valley of Carrion beyond.

Aslan’s words of departure faded as he began to shrink into the distance. “It is only one head,
Azat. You need not risk everything to steal it off someone’s shoulders. I know you shall do well in this task. Good fortune and greater hunting!”

Soon, only a score of warriors with lavender bands tied around their wrists remained in Reaper’s Lantern.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Clarity & World Cohesion Edit - Pre Editor)
Post by: Myen'Tal on May 11, 2020, 09:16:46 PM
The Embers of The Past is officially submitted to my editor! The official manuscript critique begins two weeks from today!

Once it's over, I'll give you guys an update on how things will progress moving forward.

I also have a proofread scheduled in July, after which I'll be sharing some of the finalized scenes that I've labored over and edited on my behalf by my talented editor.

Excited!
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Clarity & World Cohesion Edit - Pre Editor)
Post by: Dread on May 11, 2020, 11:48:16 PM
This is great! Glad to hear,  can't wait to see how it all turns out. Good luck!
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Clarity & World Cohesion Edit - Pre Editor)
Post by: Myen'Tal on May 12, 2020, 09:40:39 AM
This is great! Glad to hear,  can't wait to see how it all turns out. Good luck!

Thank you for the good wishes, Dread, and your continued support!

It means a lot!
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Clarity & World Cohesion Edit - Pre Editor)
Post by: Alienscar on May 13, 2020, 10:02:27 AM
The Embers of The Past is officially submitted to my editor! The official manuscript critique begins two weeks from today!

That is fantastic news Myen'Tal, and I look forward to your update
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Clarity & World Cohesion Edit - Pre Editor)
Post by: Myen'Tal on May 13, 2020, 02:02:55 PM
Thanks, Alienscar! And thank you for your continued support and guidance as well!
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Clarity & World Cohesion Edit - Pre Editor)
Post by: Myen'Tal on May 19, 2020, 09:03:40 AM
"Contract is signed! I'm excited to announce that I've just booked author John Malone for a proofread on his novel "The Embers of the Past" in August. 🙌🏻

I'm set to begin the manuscript critique on his book next Monday, and he's already on my schedule for a secondary follow-up service. Fabulous! I love how new clients have such faith in me. 🥰"

-Kristen Corrects Inc. on her facebook page

I am stoked!

So, I'll be sharing a general overview of any changes that may need to happen to the manuscript and how Kristen feels about the manuscript as a whole. I may speak about some initial threads in the story arc that have yet to be discussed and how they may change. Or I may not, I wouldn't want to spoil you guys anymore on the story details!

The proofread will happen a month later than I anticipated, but that was my fault for not scheduling that ahead of time. Oh well, gives me more time to get this coverart thing situated.

I'll keep you guys updated! Everything kicks off in less than a week! It's going to be a hell of a ride from here on out I feel!
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Clarity & World Cohesion Edit - Pre Editor)
Post by: Alienscar on May 21, 2020, 08:16:10 AM
I am stoked!

And so you should be. I can't imagine what it must feel like to be on course to getting a book published.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past (Clarity & World Cohesion Edit - Pre Editor)
Post by: Myen'Tal on May 21, 2020, 08:44:13 AM
For me, personally, it's a good amount of excitement tempered with no small amount of anticipation, nervousness, and anxiety lol ;). But I'm still confident the end result will be worth all of the toil! Got to say that a lot of the feedback I've received here has really aided me in the progression of this whole process.

A lot of the lessons I've learned here, although many came with harsh realizations, have really given me the confidence to commit and give this whole thing 100% all of my creativity and passion.

Thanks guys 8) ;D, wouldn't know where I'd be right now without your guys support!
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past - Manuscript Critique Returned!!!
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 6, 2020, 04:29:33 PM
Well, update time everyone.

I have received my manuscript critique back from the editor!

In short: the manuscript is going to need much more love than I anticipated. But you know what, that is perfectly fine and actually a good thing ;D. Having a professional editor analyze and pick out everything that's wrong with the manuscript has shown me that I have rushed through some areas, that it'll need more time investment to correct, and that the second draft should be much stronger if I decide to heed all of my editor's advice (which I will!)

Manuscript's strength highlighted by the editor:

Dialogue
Point of View (POV)
Writing Style - "Voice"

Got praised a lot in these three categories, which I'm proud of ;D.

Manuscript's weaknesses highlighted by the editor:
Characters
Settings and Locales
Plot / Story Structure

In short, characters, settings, and locales are considered underdeveloped. Which in turn affects everything related to the plot and story structure.

So... changes!

I'm starting with the more easily digestible stuff first. I'm going to read over the entire manuscript and the feedback left throughout it, then make any corrections / additions if that section will not involve a good amount of reorganization or revisions.

Next, there will have to be a much greater focus on the character arcs. I realized that I mismanaged this, because I've been trying to scatter these details throughout what I'm planning to be a trilogy and really need to condense all of that into the first book!

This will likely translate into a much greater word count in the form of additional chapters. I'm not certain where I'm going to begin on this... there's a lot to plan out and organize, but I'm confident that I'll be able to get this arranged into something I can progress with soon.

Next, settings and locales. I've already begun working on this issue. My editor found much of the setting really vague and unexplained, and I realized that my mindset caused that definitely. I am combing over my chapters for any reference to locations and names that will likely need to be elaborated on in further detail. I also need to expand on helping the reader understand the setting and the world building material, so I will be investing in making further additions to that as well.

There's quite a bit more, but I think you guys get the gist of it. This will be a long term investment, definitely! And of course, I'll still be here sharing updates and changes!

In fact, I've been chipping away at the prologue first and will likely share some of the changes I made within it. Look forward to your opinions on that, guys :).
 
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Home & Hearth
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 9, 2020, 09:33:10 AM
The Embers of the Past 2.0 Revision

Chapter I: Home and Hearth

   “Azat, have you ever wished that you could see the light of the sun?”

   Azat watched the hearth fire’s flames crackle and smolder against an ocean of stars scattered across the midnight horizon. Embers scattered on the cold desert wind stung him as they danced around the bright light of the hearth. An endless rain of leaves drifted and danced about the flames from the heightened sprawl of an autumn woodland. 

       Azat perched himself on a lone palanquin beside the hearth. Amidst the clearing hidden somewhere in the heart of the woods, the firmament’s guiding light extended him some semblance of comfort.

   Azat watched the hearth burn with hesitance but found that he could not turn his gaze away. Each crack and fizzling pop of incinerated firewood and the gouts of flame sprung from its combustion became reminiscent of bones being broken and flesh burnt beyond recognition. As the wind continued to howl, remembrances of the fallen who had given their lives on the field of battle too wailed within his mind.

   Azat blinked once and dispelled his own nightmarish illusion. In wordless silence, he felt himself become petrified until his entire body seemed chained to the warmth of the hearth fire. He managed to shift himself by the merest fraction so that he could gaze upon the only perfection he had ever sought in life.

   Hazan’s unblemished skin shone like the beige crystalline dune-sea on the coast of the Opal and Crystalline Sea -a paradisiacal wilderness created from the hands of mythical gods – if one could believe in such childish legends. Spiraling locks of her crimson dyed hair breezed in the gust, shifting into lustrous hues of onyx the nearer they approached the crown of her head. Her eyes were that of the raven, cold and aloof to about any man longing to find more within them.

   Azat had only to merely glance upon Hazan to see those same obsidian spheres sparkle with mirth and warmth.

   Azat banished his nightmares and felt himself smile genuinely for the dozenth time since Hazan had met him in secret in the Autumn Gardens – Hazan’s personal reclusive haven beyond the palace grounds.

   He considered his Queen’s question in silence.

   Azat feigned disinterest with a careless shrug. “What need does our benighted kingdom of Old Myria have of the sun? Sirius is only a star, my Queen. Countless thousands exist in the firmament.” He chuckled at his own wittiness. “The Children of the Sun may keep her if they’ve become so enthralled with the blinding light of dawn.”

   Hazan arched her brow increasingly from where she lounged upon a palanquin draped in semi-translucent bundles of lavender silk. Her amused smile broadened with every syllable Azat cast out of his mouth.

   Hazan clucked her tongue, her bubbling chuckles like the soft music of nature’s song. “Are you so content with your bright hearth fires and gentle starlight to guide your way? Use your intellect and think upon the matter, Azat… Somewhere beyond our enchanted lands, a mythical sphere shall always crest the eastern horizon and ignite every nook and crevice of our continent Khios in the flaming light of dawn.

   She goaded him playfully. “You remain ever the fool to dwell in darkness forever.”

   Azat desired to share Hazan’s amused laughter, but within his heart he found an embittered somberness too steep to overcome.

   Despite himself, he spared Hazan his most charming smile. “Perhaps you speak in truths, my Queen. I’ve borne witness to the light of Sirius before… it is nothing more than a strange paradox to myself. Us Myrites, we were always borne of moon and shadow… and so we worship the beauty of the firmament in gloom and solitude.

   “Sirius is no more beautiful than our moon Jumanah’s light… and yet every corner of the world becomes transformed by his blinding glare. As if an inevitable doom never haunted every home and hearth from one end of Khios to the next. As if this world of ours was always a place of enlightenment and prosperity, and not the grave of innocence itself.  As if the gods were truly tangible beings that once tread this earth or the firmament.”

   Hazan’s amusement faded like a candle snuffed of its comforting light. Her elegant smile withered into a frown of sharp concern. “What made you change your mind on all of this, my love?”

   Azat sighed with a slight smirk of resignation. “Because I blinked and dispelled my own illusion. I gazed ever onward and witnessed what had become of the Children of the Sun. Ancient legends of an age long forgotten in the annals of history… corrupted by their own lusts for limitless power.”

   Azat scoffed in bitter distaste. “All-conquerors and enlightened saviors now reduced to barbaric zealotry, fanaticism, and mass enslavement… who is this deluded King that has conquered our Carthite cousins in mind, body, and soul so thoroughly that they cannot even consider the thought of overthrowing him?”

   Hazan lifted her chin a mere fraction to acknowledge Azat’s question. “Sages say that he is the Firstborn of Mankind. That he can call upon the fires of the sun and harness its celestial force. These Sages also proclaim him the God-King of the newly established Dominion of Carth and that his dominance cannot be resisted or conquered.”

   Hazan observed Azat’s increasingly irritated expression and tense kneading of his own fingers. She banished his wrathful thoughts with a shrill of pleasant laughter.

   His Queen shrugged. “Mere fariy tales to be certain my love. I’ll be the first to confess that perhaps this God-King of the Dominion of Carth remains undefeated after the conquest of Rum…

“Yet he has never battled the Knights of Old Myria. He has never fought your elder brother and our Lion of War, Aslan, who is an undefeated commander in his own right. Emissaries from our nearest neighbors have already rode forth to declare their alliance with Old Myria…
 
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Hearthfire - Completed Scene
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 11, 2020, 08:56:57 AM
 So - changes!

Azat -> Ara. Azat's name has been officially converted over to Ara.
Scene 1: Hearthfire -> WIP -> roughly complete, probably still some kinks to iron out.

Enjoy!
     
~***~

        “Ara, have you ever wished that you could see the light of the sun?”

   Ara watched the hearth flames crackle and smolder against an ocean of stars scattered across the midnight horizon. Embers scattered on the cold desert wind stung him as they danced around the bright light of the hearth. An endless rain of leaves drifted and danced about the flames from the heightened sprawl of an autumn woodland. 

   He perched himself on a lone palanquin beside the fire. Amidst the clearing hidden somewhere in the heart of the woods, the firmament’s guiding light extended him some semblance of comfort.

   Moonlight cascaded from the heights of heaven in shimmering rays that reflected off of his silken raven black robe with a bright sheen. An unadorned crimson sash fell from over his left shoulder blade and wrapped itself snuggly around his midriff like a comfortable belt. Comfortable storm gray breeches crafted from fine silks graced the lower half of his torso.

   Beneath the billowing shroud of his garments, a masculine physique sculpted into a whipcord and beguilingly lithe frame rested casually. He was of a soft caramel skin tone, blemished only by the scars he had earned throughout the course of several campaigns. His raven hair cascaded down the temples of his skull and rested around his jawline in short bundles of lustrous strands. 

   Ara watched the hearth burn with hesitant eyes of amber-gold, but found that he could not pry his gaze away. Each crack and fizzling pop of incinerated firewood and the gouts of flame sprung from its combustion became reminiscent of bones being broken and flesh burnt beyond recognition. As the wind continued to howl, remembrances of the fallen who had given their lives on the field of battle too wailed within his mind.

   Ara blinked once and dispelled his own nightmarish illusion. In wordless silence, he felt himself become petrified until his entire body seemed chained to the warmth of the hearth fire. He managed to shift himself by the merest fraction so that he could gaze upon the only perfection he had ever sought in life.

   Hazan’s unblemished skin shone like the beige crystalline dune-sea on the coast of the Opal and Crystalline Sea -a paradisiacal wilderness created from the hands of mythical gods – if one could believe in such childish legends. Spiraling locks of her crimson dyed hair breezed in the gust, shifting into lustrous hues of onyx the nearer they approached the crown of her head. Her eyes were that of the raven, cold and aloof to about any man longing to find more within them.

   Ara had only to merely glance upon Hazan to see those same obsidian spheres sparkle with mirth and warmth.

   Ara banished his nightmares and felt himself smile genuinely for the dozenth time since Hazan had met him in secret in the Autumn Gardens – Hazan’s personal reclusive haven beyond the Palace of Ember Hearth.

   He considered his Queen’s question in silence.

   Ara feigned disinterest with a careless shrug. “What need does our benighted kingdom of Old Myria have of the sun? Sirius is only a star, my Queen. Countless thousands exist in the firmament.” He chuckled at his own wittiness. “The Children of the Sun may keep her if they’ve become so enthralled with the blinding light of dawn.”

   Hazan arched her brow increasingly from where she lounged upon a palanquin draped in semi-translucent bundles of lavender silk. Her amused smile broadened with every syllable Ara cast out of his mouth.

   Hazan clucked her tongue, her bubbling chuckles like the soft music of nature’s song. “Are you so content with your bright hearth fires and gentle starlight to guide your way? Use your intellect and think upon the matter, Ara… Somewhere beyond our enchanted lands, a mythical sphere shall always crest the eastern horizon and ignite every nook and crevice of our continent Khios in the flaming light of dawn.

   She goaded him playfully. “You remain ever the fool to dwell in darkness forever.”

   Ara desired to share Hazan’s amused laughter, but within his heart he found an embittered somberness too steep to overcome.

   Despite himself, he spared Hazan his most charming smile. “Perhaps you speak in truths, my Queen. I’ve borne witness to the light of Sirius before… it is nothing more than a strange paradox to myself. Us Myrites, we were always borne of moon and shadow… and so we worship the beauty of the firmament in gloom and solitude.

   “Sirius is no more beautiful than our moon Jumanah’s light… and yet every corner of the world becomes transformed by his blinding glare. As if an inevitable doom never haunted every home and hearth. As if this world of ours was always a place of enlightenment and prosperity, and not the grave of innocence itself.  As if the gods were truly tangible beings that once tread this earth or the firmament.”

   Hazan’s amusement faded like a candle snuffed of its comforting light. Her elegant smile withered into a frown of sharp concern. “What made you change your mind on all of this, my love?”

   Ara sighed with a slight smirk of resignation. “Because I blinked and dispelled my own illusion. I gazed ever onward and witnessed what had become of the Children of the Sun. Descendants of ancient heroes of an age long forgotten in the annals of history… corrupted by their own lusts for limitless power.”

   Ara scoffed in bitter distaste. “All-conquerors and enlightened saviors now reduced to barbaric zealotry, fanaticism, and mass enslavement… who is this deluded King that has conquered our Carthite cousins in mind, body, and soul so thoroughly that they cannot even consider the thought of overthrowing him?”

   Hazan lifted her chin a mere fraction to acknowledge Ara’s question. “Sages say that he is the Firstborn of Mankind. That he can call upon the fires of the sun and harness the celestial. They proclaim him the God-King of the newly established Dominion of Carth and that his dominance cannot be resisted or conquered.”

   Hazan observed Ara’s increasingly irritated expression and tense kneading of his own fingers. She banished his wrathful thoughts with a pleasant laughter.

   His Queen shrugged. “Mere fariy tales to be certain. I’ll be the first to confess that perhaps this God-King of the Dominion of Carth remains undefeated after the conquest of Rum…

“Yet he has never battled the Knights of Old Myria. He has never fought your elder brother and our Lion of War, Aslan, who is an undefeated commander in his own right. Emissaries from our nearest neighbors have already rode forth to declare their participation in the Summer Sea Coalition.

“Kalandar has pledged entire Circles of the Grand Convocation. Learned scholars of Celestial magics who have devastated entire battlefields with their forbidden knowledge. Zarna has dedicated hundreds of regiments of their Shield Bearers of the Ashen Torch to the protection of our grand noble houses of the One Hundred Families of Old Myria.

“Barbarian hordes from the Greater Qi Steppes have also sworn several great tribes in their entirety until the war against the Dominion of Carth is won. Only the Half-Giants of the Kharan Clans have expressed their reluctance to flock into our coalition.”

“Hazan.” Ara silenced her with a mere whispering of her name. He smiled when her speech withered in her throat. “Is this what you came out into the Autumn Gardens to speak with me about?”

“Of course not.” Hazan studied him with the eyes of a curious raven, enraptured by his sudden assertion. “You know the reasons that I’m here. I thought a casual conversation would take your mind away from your harrowing concerns for but a moment… you were so enthralled with the flames of the hearth only a moment ago that you could hardly spare a glance for Your Eminence.”

   His amber eyes lingered on Hazan for a moment longer, though he knew how flustered he must have seemed in that moment. He did not bother to hide his uneasiness.

   Ara shifted around to face the hearth fire. “Can you blame me for my distraction? Khios continent is on the brink of open war. Can you blame me for being unable to think of love in this moment?”

   “You need not remind me of my responsibilities.” Hazan shot Ara an irritable glare and shook her head. “Of the defense of Old Myria and the kingdoms that have sworn oaths to serve beneath our banners.” Disdain simmered on her features for a moment. “Tens of thousands shall perish in the conflict. Cities shall burn until they come toppling down upon their foundations. If there is no decisive victor, then there can be no triumph for anyone.

   “So, please make some casual conversation with me to take our minds away from the monumental task that lies before us.”

   Ara watched the hearth fire and considered his Queen’s rebuke before making to speak again. A smile of pleasant surprise graced his lips in spite of her chastisement.

   “Your answer is welcome in these uncertain times.” His amber eyes wandered back in the direction of a lounging Hazan. “It is good that you are confident of the Summer Sea Coalition’s triumph over the Dominion of Carth. As a grand queen of your caliber always ought to be. Apologies, if you mistake my concerns for doubt of your command and judgment.”

   Hazan’s haughty expression relaxed back into something akin to calm and collected. Ara recognized that he had overstayed his welcome in the Queen’s personal garden and climbed onto his feet. He brushed the autumn leaves from out of his clothes and made to execute an elegant bow to signal his exit.

   His Queen snapped her fingers in his direction before he made his silent departure.

   “Before you leave.” Hazan cooed. “You should know that Aslan asked after you. Vahe of Grand Damira asked after you. Voshki the Ashen Cobra asked after you as well…”

   “Gods.” Ara barked out a rough laugh. “Could you name any more famous commanders in the Old Myrian Court? For what purpose would any of them ask after me? Each of them knows my stance when it comes to commanding men in the prosecutions of warfare.”

   Hazan answered him with an undeniable truth. “Our coalition shall require every able swordsmen scattered across our distant lands. Each veteran recruited into our cause spells the doom of ten Carthite warriors. Each Knight sworn into our service is worth a hundred lesser men. You meet either qualification and with victories and laurels to spare.

   “Are you so surprised that someone thought your reputation and experience could be of use? Many conversations have surfaced in the war council. Some are interested in grooming you for command upon a day.” She considered Ara’s expression of pure skepticism. “I thought you’d be honored to hear such news.”

   Ara scoffed in the face of her temptations. “Aslan has always known that I never cared for commanding anyone in the face of death. You understand more than most, Hazan, that I have enough ‘concerns’ on my mind than the fate of thousands. Let them bare that burden, but I am not some pawn to be maneuvered on a chessboard.”

   “Too late for such references.” Hazan’s bubbling laughter returned in spades. “You’ve become my knight. Your Queen’s steadfast defender. For I have already maneuvered you into place for my own defense.

“You shall accompany my Honor Guard and myself when we journey with the coalition forces to meet the armies of the Dominion on the Crescent Fields.” She dismissed him with a snap of her fingers before he could announce his disapproval. “You have my leave to depart and my undying love.” She smiled coyly. “You have my heart and my cherished devotion. So please don’t question your queen’s command, for certainly one should never be without her greatest guardian and treasure.”

Ara searched Hazan’s face for but a moment before he sighed with resignation. He executed an elegant bow and turned on his heel to venture into the labyrinth of the Autumn Wood in the direction of the Ember Hearth.


~***~


Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Hearthfire - Completed Scene
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 14, 2020, 06:11:58 PM
Hearthfire 3.0
 
     “Ara, have you ever wished that you could see the light of the sun?”

   Ara watched the hearth flames crackle and smolder against an ocean of stars scattered across the midnight horizon. Embers scattered on the cold desert wind stung him as they danced around the bright light of the hearth. An endless rain of leaves drifted and danced about the flames from the heightened sprawl of an autumn woodland. 

   He perched himself on a lone palanquin beside the fire. Amidst the clearing hidden somewhere in the heart of the woods, the firmament’s guiding light extended him some semblance of comfort.

   Moonlight cascaded from the heights of heaven in shimmering rays that reflected off of his silken raven black robe with a bright sheen. An unadorned crimson sash fell from over his left shoulder blade and wrapped itself snuggly around his midriff like a comfortable belt. Comfortable storm gray breeches crafted from fine silks graced the lower half of his torso.

   Beneath the billowing shroud of his garments, a masculine physique sculpted into a whipcord and beguilingly lithe frame rested casually. He was of a soft caramel skin tone, blemished only by the scars he had earned throughout the course of several campaigns. His raven hair cascaded down the temples of his skull and rested around his jawline in short bundles of lustrous strands. 

   Ara watched the hearth burn with hesitant eyes of amber-gold, but found that he could not pry his gaze away. Each crack and fizzling pop of incinerated firewood and the gouts of flame sprung from its combustion became reminiscent of bones being broken and flesh burnt beyond recognition. As the wind continued to howl, remembrances of the fallen who had given their lives on the field of battle too wailed within his mind.

   Ara blinked once and dispelled his own nightmarish illusion. In wordless silence, he felt himself become petrified until his entire body seemed chained to the warmth of the hearth fire. He managed to shift himself by the merest fraction so that he could gaze upon the only perfection he had ever sought in life.

   Hazan’s unblemished skin shone like the beige crystalline dune-sea on the coast of the Opal and Crystalline Sea -a paradisiacal wilderness created from the hands of mythical gods – if one could believe in such childish legends. Spiraling locks of her crimson dyed hair breezed in the gust, shifting into lustrous hues of onyx the nearer they approached the crown of her head. Her eyes were that of the raven, cold and aloof to about any man longing to find more within them.

   Ara had only to merely glance upon Hazan to see those same obsidian spheres sparkle with mirth and warmth.

   Ara banished his nightmares and felt himself smile genuinely for the dozenth time since Hazan had met him in secret in the Autumn Gardens – Hazan’s personal reclusive haven beyond the Palace of Ember Hearth.

   He considered his Queen’s question in silence.

   Ara feigned disinterest with a careless shrug. “What need does our benighted kingdom of Old Myria have of the sun? Sirius is only a star, my Queen. Countless thousands exist in the firmament.” He chuckled at his own wittiness. “The Children of the Sun may keep her if they’ve become so enthralled with the blinding light of dawn.”

   Hazan arched her brow increasingly from where she lounged upon a palanquin draped in semi-translucent bundles of lavender silk. Her amused smile broadened with every syllable Ara cast out of his mouth.

   Hazan clucked her tongue, her bubbling chuckles like the soft music of nature’s song. “Are you so content with your bright hearth fires and gentle starlight to guide your way? Use your intellect and think upon the matter, Ara… Somewhere beyond our enchanted lands, a mythical sphere shall always crest the eastern horizon and ignite every nook and crevice of our continent Khios in the flaming light of dawn.

   She goaded him playfully. “You remain ever the fool to dwell in darkness forever.”

   Ara desired to share Hazan’s amused laughter, but within his heart he found an embittered somberness too steep to overcome.

   Hazan’s amusement faded like a candle snuffed of its comforting light. Her elegant smile withered into a frown of sharp concern. “What has you so sullen, Ara?”

   Ara scoffed in bitter distaste. “All-conquerors and enlightened saviors now reduced to barbaric zealotry, fanaticism, and mass enslavement… who is this deluded King that has conquered our Carthite cousins in mind, body, and soul so thoroughly that they cannot even consider the thought of overthrowing him?”

   Hazan lifted her chin a mere fraction to acknowledge Ara’s question. “Sages say that he is the Firstborn of Mankind. That he can call upon the fires of the sun and harness the celestial. They proclaim him the God-King of the newly established Dominion of Carth and that his dominance cannot be resisted or conquered.”

   Hazan observed Ara’s increasingly irritated expression and tense kneading of his own fingers. She banished his wrathful thoughts with a pleasant laughter.

   She shrugged, non-chalant. “He seems touched by the divine does he not? His achievements are the stuff of mythic fables made reality. I’ll confess that perhaps this God-King of the Dominion of Carth remains undefeated after the conquest of Rum…

   “Yet he has never challenged Old Myria – my kingdom – or any of our neighbors on the western coast of the Khios continent. Emissaries from nearby Kalandar have pledged entire conclaves of their mages to our mission. Nomads from the Greater Qi Steppes have sworn entire tribes to our cause.

   “He has never challenged your brother, Aslan, who remains an undefeated commander himself. Our coalition goes from strength to strength enough to outmatch the Dominion on the field of battle.

“Only the eastern kingdoms hesitate to answer my invitation. A predicted loss, yet an important loss none-the-less.”

“Hazan.” Ara silenced her with a mere whispering of her name. He smiled when her speech withered in her throat. “Is this what you came out into the Autumn Gardens to speak with me about?”

“Of course not.” Hazan studied him with the eyes of a curious raven, enraptured by his sudden assertion. “You know the reasons that I’m here. I thought a casual conversation would take your mind away from your harrowing concerns for but a moment… you were so enthralled with the flames of the hearth only a moment ago that you could hardly spare a glance for Your Eminence.”

   His amber eyes lingered on Hazan for a moment longer, though he knew how flustered he must have seemed in that moment. He did not bother to hide his uneasiness.

   Ara shifted around to face the hearth fire. “Can you blame me for my distraction? Khios continent is on the brink of open war. Can you blame me for being unable to think of love in this moment?”

   “You need not remind me of my responsibilities.” Hazan shot Ara an irritable glare and shook her head. “Of the defense of Old Myria and the kingdoms that have sworn oaths to serve beneath our banners.” Disdain simmered on her features for a moment. “Tens of thousands shall perish in the conflict. Cities shall burn until they come toppling down upon their foundations. If there is no decisive victor then there can be no triumph for anyone.

   “So, please make some casual conversation with me to take our minds away from the monumental task that lies before us.”

   Ara watched the hearth fire and considered his Queen’s rebuke before making to speak again. A smile of pleasant surprise graced his lips in spite of her chastisement.

   “Your answer is welcome in these uncertain times.” His amber eyes wandered back in the direction of a lounging Hazan. “It is good that you are confident of the Summer Sea Coalition’s triumph over the Dominion of Carth. As a grand queen of your caliber always ought to be. Apologies, if you mistake my concerns for doubt of your command and judgment.”

   Hazan’s haughty expression relaxed back into something akin to calm and collected. Ara recognized that he had overstayed his welcome in the Queen’s personal garden and climbed onto his feet. He brushed the autumn leaves from out of his clothes and made to execute an elegant bow to signal his exit.

   His Queen snapped her fingers in his direction before he made his silent departure.

   “Before you leave.” Hazan cooed. “You should know that Aslan asked after you. Vahe of Grand Damira asked after you. Voshki the Ashen Cobra asked after you as well…”

   “Gods.” Ara barked out a rough laugh. “Could you name any more famous commanders in the Old Myrian Court? For what purpose would any of them ask after me? Each of them know my stance when it comes to commanding men in the persecutions of warfare.”

   Hazan answered him with an undeniable truth. “Our coalition shall require every able swordsman scattered across our distant lands. Each veteran recruited into our cause spells the doom of ten Carthite warriors. Each Knight sworn into our service is worth a hundred lesser men. You meet either qualification and with victories and laurels to spare.

   “Are you so surprised that someone thought your reputation and experience could be of use? Many conversations have surfaced in the war council. Some are interested in grooming you for command upon a day.” She considered Ara’s expression of pure skepticism. “I thought you’d be honored to hear such news.”

   Ara scoffed in the face of her temptations. “Aslan has always known that I never cared for commanding anyone in the face of death. You understand more than most, Hazan, that I have enough ‘concerns’ on my mind than the fate of thousands. Let them bare that burden, but I am not some pawn to be maneuvered on a chessboard.”

   “Too late for such references.” Hazan’s bubbling laughter returned in spades. “You’ve become my knight. Your Queen’s steadfast defender. For I have already maneuvered you into place for my own defense.”

   Ara arched his brow in askance. “Your decree stated your intent to remain behind here in Annahir, my Queen. Your commanders can obtain a decisive victory without your presence. All you must do is trust in their judgment.”

   “I understand the words of my own decree and their intent. When the armies of the Summer Sea Coalition march on the Crescent Fields to battle the Dominion, none shall dispute that it shall be the battle of our time.

   “Either the Summer Sea succeeds and drives Carth’s armies back behind their borders and shatter their momentum. Or the coalition forces become shattered and Carth’s entry into Old Myria and Kalandar become unbarred. That route leads to defeat and total surrender… the known world shall collapse and become slaves to tyranny.

   “Summer Sea’s mission is not only to force the God-King’s hand to surrender. Our complete conquest of Carth shall force his removal from the throne and restore our chance to reinstate the Council of Sages and rebuild Carth in the image of the Republic it had once been.”

“You’re a member of my own Honor Guard, Ara. It would be unbecoming of a Queen to attend any battle without her most treasured guardian.” Hazan snapped her fingers, a signal for Ara’s silent dismissal. She softened the harsh blow of his banishment with thoughtful words of intimacy. “You have my leave to depart and my undying love.” She smiled coyly. “You have my heart and my cherished devotion. So please don’t question your queen’s command, for certainly one should never be without her greatest guardian and treasure.”

Ara searched Hazan’s face for but a moment before he sighed with resignation. He executed an elegant bow and turned on his heel to venture into the Autumn Wood in the direction of the Ember Hearth.

~***~
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Hearthfire - Completed Scene
Post by: Alienscar on June 15, 2020, 08:59:32 AM
Hearthfire 3.0


Ara watched the hearth flames crackle and smolder against an ocean of stars scattered across the midnight horizon. Embers scattered on the cold desert wind stung him as they danced around the bright light of the hearth. An endless rain of leaves drifted and danced about the flames from the heightened sprawl of an autumn woodland.   

A hearth refers specifically to the paved floor and extended area of a fixed fireplace. I was confused for a bit reading this passage as your use of the word hearth made me think Ara was sitting in a building. It took me awhile to realise that he was actually sitting outside.

I am also confused by your use of the word heightened. Heightened means more intense than normal, but I get the feeling you are using it incorrectly to refer to the height of the surrounding trees.


Embers scattered on the cold desert wind stung him as they danced around the bright light of the hearth. An endless rain of leaves drifted and danced about the flames from the heightened sprawl of an autumn woodland. 
Amidst the clearing hidden somewhere in the heart of the woods,

I find these sentences to be confusing as well. Woods, autumn woodland and desert wind don't gel together well in my mind.


“Ara, have you ever wished that you could see the light of the sun?”

This might be a bit pedantic of me, but moonlight is just reflected sunlight, so Ara has already seen the light of the sun. If you mean does Ara wish to see the Sun then it is better to keep it simple and say so.


Quote
He perched himself on a lone palanquin beside the fire. Amidst the clearing hidden somewhere in the heart of the woods, the firmament’s guiding light extended him some semblance of comfort.

These two sentences don't seem to be connected and it is not clear why Ara needs to be comforted..

Ara watched the hearth burn with hesitant eyes of amber-gold,

The job of a hearth is to contain a burning fire. If the hearth is burning it isn't doing its job.

I am not sure what you mean by 'hesitant eyes'.

Ara arched his brow in askance.

As before 'askance' does not mean 'to ask'. Askance means to look at or think about someone/something with doubt, or no trust.


Quote

Beneath the billowing shroud of his garments, a masculine physique sculpted into a whipcord and beguilingly lithe frame rested casually.

Beguiling means agreeably or charmingly attractive is that what you meant to say?

Quote
An unadorned crimson sash fell from over his left shoulder blade and wrapped itself snuggly around his midriff like a comfortable belt.
.

The word 'blade' is an unnecessary adornment and its use confuses the visual effect you are trying to create.
 
Quote
“Ara, have you ever wished that you could see the light of the sun?”


This is new! Is Myria supposed to be in perpetual darkness? How is this possible!

Quote
Ara watched the hearth flames crackle and smolder against an ocean of stars scattered across the midnight horizon. Embers scattered on the cold desert wind stung him as they danced around the bright light of the hearth. An endless rain of leaves drifted and danced about the flames from the heightened sprawl of an autumn woodland.


Flames in the hearth, not hearth flames.

Is Ara surrounded by trees in a woodland or not. If he can see the horizon the ‘endless rain of leaves, sprawl of woodland’ and ‘hidden clearing’ don’t add up.

If they have never seen the Sun how can a woodland survive?


Quote
He perched himself on a lone palanquin beside the fire. Amidst the clearing hidden somewhere in the heart of the woods, the firmament’s guiding light extended him some semblance of comfort.


Do you mean empty palanquin? As Hazan is also using a palanquin, Ara’s should not be describes as ‘lone’

‘A clearing’ and not ‘the clearing’

The firmament is just the arc of the sky above you, so I am not sure what guiding light you are referring to.

   
Quote
Ara watched the hearth burn with hesitant eyes of amber-gold, but found that he could not pry his gaze away. Each crack and fizzling pop of incinerated firewood and the gouts of flame sprung from its combustion became reminiscent of bones being broken and flesh burnt beyond recognition. As the wind continued to howl, remembrances of the fallen who had given their lives on the field of battle too wailed within his mind.

‘Incinerating’ and ‘springing’ as the words you have used are past tense.

Howling wind is at odds with the previously mentioned rain of drifting leaves.


Quote
Ara blinked once and dispelled his own nightmarish illusion. In wordless silence, he felt himself become petrified until his entire body seemed chained to the warmth of the hearth fire. He managed to shift himself by the merest fraction so that he could gaze upon the only perfection he had ever sought in life.

‘Silence’ is enough on its own.

‘Warmth of the fire’ would suffice hearth fire isn’t a thing.

Overall this paragraph is too melodramatic for its content.


Quote
Hazan’s unblemished skin shone like the beige crystalline dune-sea on the coast of the Opal and Crystalline Sea -a paradisiacal wilderness created from the hands of mythical gods – if one could believe in such childish legends. Spiraling locks of her crimson dyed hair breezed in the gust, shifting into lustrous hues of onyx the nearer they approached the crown of her head. Her eyes were that of the raven, cold and aloof to about any man longing to find more within them.

‘By the hands’ and not ‘from the hands’

'to about any man' doesn't make any sense.

The line about childish legends is unnecessary in a paragraph that is describing Hazan.


Quote
Ara banished his nightmares and felt himself smile genuinely for the dozenth time since Hazan had met him in secret in the Autumn Gardens

Twelfth maybe, but not dozenth as there is no such denomination.

Quote
He considered his Queen’s question in silence.

Ara feigned disinterest with a careless shrug. “What need does our benighted kingdom of Old Myria have of the sun? Sirius is only a star, my Queen. Countless thousands exist in the firmament.” He chuckled at his own wittiness. “The Children of the Sun may keep her if they’ve become so enthralled with the blinding light of dawn.”

Why is Ara pretending to be disinterested?

Ara seems to have answered a question he hasn’t been asked. He was asked if he missed seeing the Sun, but his reply includes reference to the Children of the Sun. From a reader’s perspective this is confusing as the answer doesn’t suit the question.

Wit, not wittiness. I can’t see the humour in the sentence though.


Quote
Hazan arched her brow increasingly from where she lounged upon a palanquin draped in semi-translucent bundles of lavender silk. Her amused smile broadened with every syllable Ara cast out of his mouth.

There is no need to describe the process of someone arching their brow

Previously you have described Ara’s palanquin as ‘lone’, but now it is apparent that there is more than one.


Quote
Ara… Somewhere beyond our enchanted lands, a mythical sphere shall always crest the eastern horizon and ignite every nook and crevice of our continent Khios in the flaming light of dawn.

Why is the sun mythical when she has already asked if Ara misses it? This implies that it has been seen in the past.

Quote
Ara desired to share Hazan’s amused laughter, but within his heart he found an embittered somberness too steep to overcome.

Sombreness

Quote
Hazan observed Ara’s increasingly irritated expression and tense kneading of his own fingers. She banished his wrathful thoughts with a pleasant laughter.

‘With a pleasant laugh’, or ‘with pleasant laughter (no ‘a’ required)

Quote
She shrugged, non-chalant.

‘Nonchalantly’


Quote
His raven hair cascaded down the temples of his skull and rested around his jawline in short bundles of lustrous strands.

A bundle is a collection of things wrapped together and a strand of hair is usually thought of as a thin thread. So you seem to have described Ara's hair as having lots of really short bunches. Is this your intent?

I read somewhere that a character's hair description should be used to describe the person 'inside'. I think describing Ara's hair as lustrous (shiny) clashes with the warrior/masculine aura I think you are trying to create.

Additionally as you have already described that Ara's hair reaches his jawline then there is no need to describe its length again with the addition of the word 'short'.



Quote
“You need not remind me of my responsibilities.” Hazan shot Ara an irritable glare and shook her head. “Of the defense of Old Myria and the kingdoms that have sworn oaths to serve beneath our banners.” Disdain simmered on her features for a moment.


I feel that the third sentence is too seperate from the first and as such leaves the whole paragraph a little disjointed. The third sentence to my mind reads like an incomplete thought.

I think something like this would work.

Hazan shook her head and an irritable glare flashed across her face. 'You need not remind me of my responsibilities to Old Myria, or her oathsworn allies'.

I don't think the sentence about disdain is required either. Hazan already has an irritable look, so she doesn't need a disdainful one as well. I think irritation suits the situation better than contemptuous.



Quote
Ara searched Hazan’s face for but a moment before he sighed with resignation. He executed an elegant bow and turned on his heel to venture into the Autumn Wood in the direction of the Ember Hearth.


The but in 'but a moment isn't required.

Someone turning on their heel is an idiom that means to suddenly leave. Because Ara has bowed before leaving the use of the idiom is out of place.

Ara searched Hazan’s face for a moment before sighing in resignation. He executed a bow and set off to the Ember Hearth.



This isn't everything, but unfortunately it is all I have time for. There seems to have been  change in your writing since you had your manuscript looked at by a professional, and overall I found this scene easier to read.

Have you read Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey? If you haven't I think you should try reading it. Not for the story (which is good), but for the writing style. I have never read a book that uses so few words to get its message across.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Hearthfire 3.0 Scene
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 15, 2020, 10:54:31 AM
Hi Alienscar! Long time, no see!

Thank you for the feedback. Your suggestions are very helpful so far! I will wait for you to finish your feedback and then apply all the necessary changes afterward.

Thanks!
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Hearthfire 3.0 Scene
Post by: Dread on June 15, 2020, 10:28:29 PM
I can still see it in my head's theatre so that's great.

Did you mean to spell fairy "fariy"? I'm not much on spelling and such but caught that.

It's great to me. As alienscar said, I caught the shoulder blade thing and believe just shoulder would work better.

I can't pin point it but some of the emotion explanation seems a bit unneeded, a few lines can be condensed I think but not sure exactly where.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Hearthfire 3.0 Scene
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 15, 2020, 11:43:04 PM
I can still see it in my head's theatre so that's great.

Did you mean to spell fairy "fariy"? I'm not much on spelling and such but caught that.

It's great to me. As alienscar said, I caught the shoulder blade thing and believe just shoulder would work better.

I can't pin point it but some of the emotion explanation seems a bit unneeded, a few lines can be condensed I think but not sure exactly where.

Hey, Dread, thanks for the input!

Make sure you're reading 3.0 of the Hearthfire scene as I've made a lot of changes from 1.0 and 2.0.

I'm going to post up 4.0 to reflect your guys' feedback.

Don't know if you guys can tell, I'm totally going to take the scene edits much slower and give them a more granular examination and edit process.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Hearthfire 3.0 Scene
Post by: Alienscar on June 16, 2020, 04:41:21 AM
I can't pin point it but some of the emotion explanation seems a bit unneeded, a few lines can be condensed I think but not sure exactly where.

I haven't got around to it yet in my own feedback, but this was something I was going to mention as well. Specifically it shouldn't take ten paragraphs for a question from one of your characters to be answered. If the question is important and has some bearing on the story it should be answered quickly.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Hearthfire 3.0 Scene
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 17, 2020, 09:00:03 PM
Thank you both for the feedback, it'll all be going into the Hearthfire 4.0 (which will need to be renamed lol). Have you done any editorial work. Alienscar? I feel like you have done so. You have a really strong grasp of the english language, which is why I am curious.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Hearthfire 3.0 Scene
Post by: Alienscar on June 18, 2020, 04:43:06 AM
Hey Myen'Tal, no I have never carried out any editorial work, and to be honest I don't think I could. I believe part of an editors role is to offer ideas for improvement which is not something I am very good at.

I have read for as long as I can remember and I find I can read all sorts things. Technical manuals, autobiographies, cook books, comics. You name it and I will read it. The only two books I have ever failed to finish after starting them are the Bible and the Silmarillion. When I was younger I used to read with a dictionary by my side, so that I could immediately look up any words that I didn't understand.

At the moment I am reading Have You Eaten Grandma?, The Dark Between The Stars, The Witcher, Gardeners' World, Web User, What Hi-Fi?, and I am slowly reading all of the Walking Dead trade paperbacks.

A lot of the time when I read things if there is anything wrong it justs stands out and I put this down to reading a lot.

What are you reading at the moment Myen'Tal because I am sure I have read somewhere that it is important for writers to read.

Oh one last thing. I probably don't have any more of an understanding of the English language than anyone else that is reading this, but the difference is that I don't mind offering my opinion. I imagine Wyddr has a far better grasp of language than I have, and I can imagine him twitching and muttering to himself over things I have written.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - An Autumn and Moonlit Land 4.0 Scene
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 18, 2020, 01:16:07 PM
An Autumnal and Moonlit Land 4.0

   “Have you ever wished you could see the sun, Ara?

   Ara watched the flames rising from the fire pit crackle and smolder against an ocean of stars scattered over a small, hidden clearing. Embers on the chill wind stung him as they danced around the blaze of the pit. An endless rain of leaves fell from the outskirts of an autumn wood encroaching upon the clearing from every direction.   

   Amidst the heart of the wood, he perched himself on a palanquin beside the fire.

   Ara fluttered his eyes shut and considered his queen’s question in silence.

His laughter came in soft currents. “Perhaps I’ve imagined the midnight waters of the Black Shore struck by the eastern dawn till the waters glimmered turquoise and sapphire. Or an Opal and Crystalline Sea transformed by the radiance of sunlight and the wonders it would reveal unto us mere mortals.”

   Moonlight cascaded from the heights of heaven in shimmering rays that reflected off his silken raven black robe with a bright sheen. An unadorned crimson sash fell from over his left shoulder and wrapped itself snugly around his midriff like a comfortable belt. Comfortable storm gray breeches crafted from fine silks graced the lower half of his torso.

   “Goddess Jumunah has benighted our kingdom of Old Myria to shroud the Hanging Gardens of Myr, the entrance into the heavens itself, from mortal eyes. Always shall the midnight skies bleed from the celestial realm into the mundane world. There is only the light of the evening dusk waging an eternal war against the night here.”

   Beneath the billowing shroud of his garments, a masculine physique sculpted into a lithely compact frame rested casually. He was of a soft caramel skin tone, blemished only by the scars he had earned throughout the course of several campaigns. A plain braid of raven hair ran along the center of his scalp between either side of his shaven skull. Bone colored laces contained the braid once it began to cascade down the length of his back.

   Ara watched the flames flicker from out of the fire pit with amber-gold eyes. He considered Hazan’s question again and shook his head. “Have you ever thought about how inhospitable this benighted land should be?”

   Hazan quipped. “Celestial winds from the fabled Hanging Gardens and a distant sun seems enough of an answer for the Gods to spare their mortal children.” Hazan’s contemplative sigh was audible. “Maybe the Gods show us merciful bounties because of the blood we have spilled on our sacred ground in their names?”

   Each crack and fizzling pop of incinerated firewood and the gout of flames sprung from its combustion became reminiscent of bones being broken and flesh burnt beyond recognition. As the wind continued to howl, remembrances of the fallen who had given their lives on the field of battle too wailed within his mind.

   Ara blinked once and dispelled his own nightmarish illusion. He shifted himself by so that he could gaze upon the only perfection he had ever sought in life.

   Hazan’s unblemished skin shone like the beige crystalline dune-sea on the coast of the Opal and Crystalline Sea -a paradisaical wilderness created from the hands of mythical gods. Spiraling locks of her crimson dyed hair breezed in the gust, shifting into lustrous hues of onyx the nearer they approached the crown of her head. Her eyes were cold and aloof like that of the raven.

   Ara had only to merely glance upon Hazan to see those same obsidian spheres sparkle with mirth and warmth.

   Ara banished his nightmares and felt himself smile genuinely for the twelfth time since Hazan had met him in secret in the Autumn Gardens – Hazan’s personal reclusive haven beyond the Palace of Ember Hearth.

   Ara scoffed, then shrugged. “You speak of the ways of Sirius—God of the Sun—who remains only a distant star. Countless thousands shine from the heavens. The Children of the Sun may keep him and his endless need for self-sacrifice if they’ve become so enthralled with the blinding light of dawn.”

   Hazan’s brow arched from where she lounged upon a palanquin draped in semi-translucent bundles of lavender silk. Her amused smile broadened with every syllable Ara cast out of his mouth.

   Hazan clucked her tongue, her bubbling chuckles like the soft music of nature’s song. “You don’t seem so content with bright fires and gentle starlight to guide your way either, Ara? I think whoever does would be ever the fool to dwell in darkness forever. Empires are not built off myths and legends, but only by those who would become them for the great deeds they achieved as average mortals.”

   Ara desired to share Hazan’s amused laughter, but within his heart he found an embittered sombreness too steep to overcome.

   Hazan’s amusement faded like a candle snuffed of its comforting light. Her elegant smile withered into a frown of sharp concern. “What has you so sullen, Ara?”

   Ara scoffed in bitter distaste. “All-conquerors and enlightened saviors now reduced to barbaric zealotry, fanaticism, and mass enslavement… who is this deluded King that has conquered our Carthite cousins in mind, body, and soul so thoroughly that they cannot even consider the thought of overthrowing him?”

   Hazan lifted her chin a mere fraction to acknowledge Ara’s question. “Sages say that he is the Firstborn of Mankind. That he can call upon the fires of the sun and harness the celestial. They proclaim him the God-King of the newly established Dominion of Carth and that his dominance cannot be resisted or conquered.”

   Hazan observed Ara’s increasingly irritated expression and tense kneading of his hand. She banished his wrathful thoughts with pleasant laughter.

   She shrugged non-nonchalantly. “He seems touched by the divine, does he not? His achievements are the stuff of mythic fables made reality. I’ll confess that perhaps this God-King of the Dominion of Carth remains undefeated after the conquest of Rum…

   “Yet he has never challenged Old Myria – my kingdom – or any of our neighbors on the western coast of the Khios continent. Emissaries from nearby Kalandar have pledged entire conclaves of their mages to our mission. Nomads from the Greater Qi Steppes have sworn entire tribes to our cause.

   “He has never challenged your brother, Aslan, who remains an undefeated commander himself. Our coalition goes from strength to strength enough to outmatch the Dominion on the field of battle.

“Only the eastern kingdoms hesitate to answer my invitation. A predicted loss, yet an important loss none-the-less.”

“Hazan.” Ara silenced her with a mere whispering of her name. He smiled when her speech withered in her throat. “Is this what you came out into the Autumn Gardens to speak with me about?”

“Of course not.” Hazan studied him with the eyes of a curious raven, enraptured by his sudden assertion. “You know the reasons that I’m here. I thought a casual conversation would take your mind away from your harrowing concerns for but a moment… you were so enthralled with the flames of the hearth only a moment ago that you could hardly spare a glance for Your Eminence.”
   
        His amber eyes lingered on Hazan for a moment longer, though he knew how flustered he must have seemed in that moment. He did not bother to hide his uneasiness.

   Ara shifted around to face the warmth of the blaze. “Can you blame me for my distraction? Khios continent is on the brink of open war. Can you blame me for being unable to think of love in this moment?”

   “You need not remind me of my responsibilities.” Hazan shot Ara an irritable glare and shook her head. “Of the defense of Old Myria and the kingdoms that have sworn oaths to serve beneath our banners.” Disdain simmered on her features for a moment. “Tens of thousands shall perish in the conflict. Cities shall burn until they come toppling down upon their foundations. If there is no decisive victor, then there can be no triumph for anyone.

   “So, please make some casual conversation with me to take our minds away from the monumental task that lies before us.”

   Ara watched the hearth fire and considered his Queen’s rebuke before making to speak again. A smile of pleasant surprise graced his lips in spite of her chastisement.

   “Your answer is welcome in these uncertain times.” His amber eyes wandered back in the direction of a lounging Hazan. “It is good that you are confident of the Summer Sea Coalition’s triumph over the Dominion of Carth. As a grand queen of your caliber always ought to be. Apologies, if you mistake my concerns for doubt of your command and judgment.”

   Hazan’s haughty expression relaxed back into something akin to calm and collected. Ara recognized that he had overstayed his welcome in the Queen’s personal garden and climbed onto his feet. He brushed the autumn leaves from out of his clothes and made to execute an elegant bow to signal his exit.

   His Queen snapped her fingers in his direction before he made his silent departure.

   “Before you leave.” Hazan cooed. “You should know that Aslan asked after you. Vahe of Grand Damira asked after you. Voshki the Ashen Cobra asked after you as well…”

   “Gods.” Ara barked out a rough laugh. “Could you name any more famous commanders in the Old Myrian Court? For what purpose would any of them ask after me? Each of them knows my stance when it comes to commanding men in the persecutions of warfare.”

   Hazan answered him with an undeniable truth. “Our coalition shall require every able swordsman scattered across our distant lands. Each veteran recruited into our cause spells the doom of ten Carthite warriors. Each Knight sworn into our service is worth a hundred lesser men. You meet either qualification and with victories and laurels to spare.

   “Are you so surprised that someone thought your reputation and experience could be of use? Many conversations have surfaced in the war council. Some are interested in grooming you for command upon a day.” She considered Ara’s expression of pure skepticism. “I thought you’d be honored to hear such news.”

   Ara scoffed in the face of her temptations. “Aslan has always known that I never cared for commanding anyone in the face of death. You understand more than most, Hazan, that I have enough ‘concerns’ on my mind than the fate of thousands. Let them bare that burden, but I am not some pawn to be maneuvered on a chessboard.”

   “Too late for such references.” Hazan’s bubbling laughter returned in spades. “You’ve become my knight. Your Queen’s steadfast defender. For I have already maneuvered you into place for my own defense.”

   Ara quizzically arched his brow. “Your decree stated your intent to remain behind here in Annahir, my Queen. Your commanders can obtain a decisive victory without your presence. All you must do is trust in their judgment.”

   Hazan’s ire flared briefly from behind her aloof eyes. “I understand the words of my own decree and their intent. When the armies of the Summer Sea Coalition march on the Crescent Fields to battle the Dominion, none shall dispute that it shall be the battle of our time.

   “Either the Summer Sea succeeds and drives Carth’s armies back behind their borders and shatter their momentum. Or the coalition forces become shattered and Carth’s entry into Old Myria and Kalandar become unbarred. That route leads to defeat and total surrender… the known world shall collapse and become slaves to tyranny.

   “Summer Sea’s mission is not only to force the God-King’s hand to surrender. Our complete conquest of Carth shall force his removal from the throne and restore our chance to reinstate the Council of Sages. Carth shall be rebuilt in the image of the Republic it had once been.”

“You’re a member of my own Honor Guard, Ara. It would be unbecoming of a Queen to attend any battle without her most treasured guardian.” Hazan snapped her fingers, a signal for Ara’s silent dismissal. She softened the harsh blow of his banishment with thoughtful words of intimacy. “You have my leave to depart and my undying love.” She smiled. “You have my heart and my cherished devotion. So please don’t question your queen’s command, for certainly one should never be without her greatest guardian and treasure.”

Ara searched Hazan’s face for but a moment before he sighed with resignation. He executed an elegant bow and turned on his heel to venture into the Autumn Wood in the direction of the Palace of Ember Hearth Palace.


~***~



Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - An Autumn and Moonlit Land 4.0 Scene
Post by: Alienscar on June 18, 2020, 02:53:17 PM

Quote
An Autumn and Moonlit Land 4.0
Autumn is just the name of a season, so 'an autumn' doesn't work. An autumnal and moonlit land would be correct

Quote
   “Have you ever wished for you could behold the light of the sun, Ara?

This comes across as if you have rushed this update. I am interested in how something this obviously wrong made it through your granular examination  :)
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - An Autumn and Moonlit Land 4.0 Scene
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 18, 2020, 03:04:16 PM

Quote
An Autumn and Moonlit Land 4.0
Autumn is just the name of a season, so 'an autumn' doesn't work. An autumnal and moonlit land would be correct

Quote
   

“Have you ever wished for you could behold the light of the sun, Ara?

This comes across as if you have rushed this update. I am interested in how something this obviously wrong made it through your granular examination  :)

Thanks for that! Maybe I should purchase an actual dictionary instead of relying on the interwebs so much, haha ???.

As for the 2nd Line, LOL, I was experimenting with that line so much, I forgot to change it back after I didn't find a more suitable question for Hazan to begin the scene with.

Made some spelling corrections! It would seem that 40k online has a much stronger error detection system than Microsoft Word :P.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - An Autumn and Moonlit Land 4.0 Scene
Post by: Alienscar on June 18, 2020, 04:22:57 PM
An Autumnal and Moonlit Land 4.0

Quote
Ara watched the flames rising from the fire pit crackle and smolder against an ocean of stars scattered over a small, hidden clearing. Embers on the chill wind stung him as they danced around the blaze of the pit. An endless rain of leaves fell from the outskirts of an autumn wood encroaching upon the clearing from every direction.

Encroach means to intrude on, or advance gradually. Neither of these describes the action of leaves falling.

You have established that Ara is in a clearing, and a clearing is something that most people can picture. Therefore there is no need to mention the clearing again. Also 'outskirts' describes the outer parts of something not the inner.

The leaves 'fell on' and not 'from'.


Quote
Amidst the heart of the wood, he perched himself on a palanquin beside the fire.

You have stated that Ara is in a clearing, and this is just repeating that fact.

Quote
Ara fluttered his eyes shut and considered his queen’s question in silence.


Flutter in this context means to move up and down rapidly. I am not sure what you are trying to convey.


Quote
His laughter came in soft currents. “Perhaps I’ve imagined the midnight waters of the Black Shore struck by the eastern dawn till the waters glimmered turquoise and sapphire. Or an Opal and Crystalline Sea transformed by the radiance of sunlight and the wonders it would reveal unto us mere mortals.”

Dawn has its own definition and doesn't need the addition of 'eastern'.

Quote
Moonlight cascaded from the heights of heaven in shimmering rays that reflected off his silken raven black robe with a bright sheen. An unadorned crimson sash fell from over his left shoulder and wrapped itself snugly around his midriff like a comfortable belt. Comfortable storm gray breeches crafted from fine silks graced the lower half of his torso.

This paragraph doesn't seem to serve any purpose, or add any value to the overall scene.

Quote
“Goddess Jumunah has benighted our kingdom of Old Myria to shroud the Hanging Gardens of Myr, the entrance into the heavens itself, from mortal eyes. Always shall the midnight skies bleed from the celestial realm into the mundane world. There is only the light of the evening dusk waging an eternal war against the night here.”

It is not clear to me who is speaking.

An Autumnal and Moonlit Land 4.0 Continued

Quote
An endless rain of leaves fell from the outskirts of an autumn wood encroaching upon the clearing from every direction.
   

The seasons are caused by different parts of the planet receiving  more solar energy than others as it travels around the sun. Without a sun there can be no seasons.

Be careful with powerful magic in a story. If there is magic powerful enough to keep a whole ecosystem alive without the sun then the bad guy in your story had better be awesome. I have read that magic is anathema to drama.


Quote
He was of a soft caramel skin tone, blemished only by the scars he had earned throughout the course of several campaigns. A plain braid of raven hair ran along the center of his scalp between either side of his shaven skull. Bone colored laces contained the braid once it began to cascade down the length of his back.

The word between implies ‘between two things’, so the noun that follows ‘between' should be plural. In your case that would be ‘sides’. As you can see this doesn’t quite work and hopefully you can see that because you have used the word ‘centre’ there is no reason for you to then describe that the centre of Ara’s scalp is between the sides of his skull.

'Once it began' should be 'where it cascaded'. 'Began is unnecessary.

Everyone knows what a back looks like so 'length' is an unnecessary modifier


Quote
Ara watched the flames flicker from out of the fire pit with amber-gold eyes. He considered Hazan’s question again and shook his head. “Have you ever thought about how inhospitable this benighted land should be?”

By using the word ‘from’ you have placed Ara in the fire pit. ‘Ara watched the flames in the fire pit flicker and dance’ would suffice.

Quote
“Goddess Jumunah has benighted our kingdom of Old Myria to shroud the Hanging Gardens of Myr, the entrance into the heavens itself, from mortal eyes. Always shall the midnight skies bleed from the celestial realm into the mundane world. There is only the light of the evening dusk waging an eternal war against the night here.”

Without sunlight there can be no gardens. Plant life cannot survive without light.

The biggest issue I have with this paragraph is that you have used benighted incorrectly. Benighted is an adverb, but you are appearing to be using it as a verb.


'Our benighted kingdom'/'benighted Old Myria' would be correct, but using the word correctly means it doesn't mean what you are trying to say.

Also this doesn’t really help explain how half a planet can be in perpetual darkness whilst presumably the other half is normal. If some part of the world is experiencing day and night how can the moon be seen constantly in Old Myria?


Quote
Each crack and fizzling pop of incinerated firewood and the gout of flames sprung from its combustion became reminiscent of bones being broken and flesh burnt beyond recognition. As the wind continued to howl, remembrances of the fallen who had given their lives on the field of battle too wailed within his mind.


As per my previous feedback ‘incinerated and ‘sprung’ are the wrong tense. Also as per my previous feedback a howling wind is at odds with falling leaves.

Quote
Ara blinked once and dispelled his own nightmarish illusion. He shifted himself by so that he could gaze upon the only perfection he had ever sought in life.


‘He shifted himself by’ is not an expression I understand.

Quote
Hazan’s unblemished skin shone like the beige crystalline dune-sea on the coast of the Opal and Crystalline Sea -a paradisaical wilderness created from the hands of mythical gods. Spiraling locks of her crimson dyed hair breezed in the gust, shifting into lustrous hues of onyx the nearer they approached the crown of her head. Her eyes were cold and aloof like that of the raven.

Paradisiacal/ Spiralling.

‘Shifting’ means changing all the time. It doesn’t equate to a gradual change.



Quote
Ara scoffed, then shrugged. “You speak of the ways of Sirius—God of the Sun—who remains only a distant star. Countless thousands shine from the heavens. The Children of the Sun may keep him and his endless need for self-sacrifice if they’ve become so enthralled with the blinding light of dawn.”

From my point of view this response is confusing because Hazan hasn’t spoken about the ways of Sirius. Also this would appear to be the third time that Ara has answered the question. As each answer is different there is no clear message.

Quote
Hazan clucked her tongue, her bubbling chuckles like the soft music of nature’s song. “You don’t seem so content with bright fires and gentle starlight to guide your way either, Ara? I think whoever does would be ever the fool to dwell in darkness forever. Empires are not built off myths and legends, but only by those who would become them for the great deeds they achieved as average mortals.”

This is far too long winded and it doesn’t read smoothly. The ‘but only by those who would become them’ bit especially does not work.

Quote
She shrugged non-nonchalantly. “He seems touched by the divine, does he not? His achievements are the stuff of mythic fables made reality. I’ll confess that perhaps this God-King of the Dominion of Carth remains undefeated after the conquest of Rum…

Non-nonchalantly would be the opposite of nonchalantly. There is no hypen in nonchalantly.

   
Quote
“You need not remind me of my responsibilities.” Hazan shot Ara an irritable glare and shook her head. “Of the defense of Old Myria and the kingdoms that have sworn oaths to serve beneath our banners.” Disdain simmered on her features for a moment.

As per my previous feedback ‘Of’ and ‘disdain aren’t required/don’t work.

Quote
Ara watched the hearth fire and considered his Queen’s rebuke before making to speak again. A smile of pleasant surprise graced his lips in spite of her chastisement.


‘watched the fire in the hearth’ or just plain ‘watched the fire’. As before a hearth is associated with a brick fireplace.

   
Quote
Hazan’s haughty expression relaxed back into something akin to calm and collected. Ara recognized that he had overstayed his welcome in the Queen’s personal garden and climbed onto his feet. He brushed the autumn leaves from out of his clothes and made to execute an elegant bow to signal his exit.

‘Climbed to his feet. Onto his feet means something else. ‘Got to his feet’/stood to leave might be better.

   
Quote
“Too late for such references.” Hazan’s bubbling laughter returned in spades. “You’ve become my knight. Your Queen’s steadfast defender. For I have already maneuvered you into place for my own defense.”

Too much defence.

‘Your Queen’s steadfast defender’ is an incomplete sentence as it doesn’t contain a verb.

 
   
Quote
“Either the Summer Sea succeeds and drives Carth’s armies back behind their borders and shatter their momentum.

‘Shatters’. The verb must match the subject ‘number’


Quote
“You’re a member of my own Honor Guard, Ara. It would be unbecoming of a Queen to attend any battle without her most treasured guardian.” Hazan snapped her fingers, a signal for Ara’s silent dismissal. She softened the harsh blow of his banishment with thoughtful words of intimacy. “You have my leave to depart and my undying love.” She smiled. “You have my heart and my cherished devotion. So please don’t question your queen’s command, for certainly one should never be without her greatest guardian and treasure.”

You have repeated the phrase ‘never without her greatest guardian’ and this slows the tempo too much.

Quote
Ara searched Hazan’s face for but a moment before he sighed with resignation.

As per my previous feedback the’ but’ in 'but a moment isn't required.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - An Autumn and Moonlit Land 4.0 Scene
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 24, 2020, 09:13:02 AM
Sorry for the delayed response on this guys.

With your feedback in mind, Alienscar, the basis of the first scene may need to changed. So a rewrite of the scene will probably be in order. Thanks for pointing out those mistakes. Perhaps I did rush this update out lol.

I actually found a cool 'tree-graphic' software that I've found useful for converting into outline / storyboard stuff. I've been working away plotting out the details on Embers of the Past 2.0 and some unrelated projects 8).

I've been distracted with work and the fact that I may have a new job lined up sometime in July. We'll see how it goes!

Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - An Autumn and Moonlit Land 4.0 Scene
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 25, 2020, 10:53:31 AM
~***~

So, update time: I've been wanting to share what I'm working on currently and no it's another version of 'An Autumnal and Moonlit Land'  ;). I've found a really great software for outline creation that I actually love using a lot! It's a tad bit expensive to pay the subscription, but whatever, I think it's worth it!

So back to the outline... it's a storyboard / outline hybrid that I am using to help create a general high level overview of the story in its entirety, and will include summaries from which each and every scene I'm planning will derive from.

Be forewarned... it's a little text heavy and the entire outline is like 'wall of text' heavy. But I'm cutting snippets out for you guys so you don't feel like you've entered the literary version of the matrix :P. I could break this down into an actual storyboard... but doing it this way I feel helps me personally a whole lot more than using snippets to create the general overview of the story arc.

Like I said, this is just a general overview of what's happening this specific chapter, which is the third in the story's current organization. It's not an actual scene and will feel more like a quick summary than an actual text.

I hope you guys like this type of update. It may actually help shine some context on things that I've failed to bring to light so far. So definitely let me know what you guys think about it.
~***~


Chapter III:

A Dominion of the Mind

Outline and Summary


Aslan has spent the entirety of the Dominion Forces' march back into the lands of Carth in solitude. Apothecaries come and go in an effort to tend to his wounds as their best efforts will allow. Once they leave, however, he can hear only the sound of the marching drums and the countless thousands of boots that hammer the desert roads in sync to their deep rhythm.

Each night that passes, Aslan becomes more self-aware until he can register the world around him again. For eight cycles of night and day, Aslan lies in his sick bed aboard a supply wagon following in the wake of the Dominion's armies. Until, on the ninth day, the caravan is halted and the apothecaries -attended by a handful of Eternity Guardians- test the extent of his recovery.

Blinded by daylight for the first time in several weeks, Aslan realizes that the Dominion's army has encamped outside the gates of a magnificent city beyond the likes of anything he has ever witnessed. Specifically, the army is encamped on the other side of a series of canals that stretch into and around the grand city.

Aslan is escorted in silence by the Eternity Guardians, who bring him before Erasyl's palanquin. Erasyl greets Aslan and asks him to have a seat beside him on a flattened chair with no back, fanned by several female attendants who seem to be slaves themselves.

Aslan reluctantly sits, but waves the attendants away. He realizes that he is at Erasyl's mercy, and hears him out only begrudgingly. His tone is rude and his temper short, but this does not seem to phase Erasyl in the slightest, who treats Aslan with dignity and honors.

Aslan asks Erasyl why he chose to spare his life and take him as a prisoner of war. A good question to him, for if Erasyl had left him on the field of battle, he may as well have killed Old Myria's finest commander outright. Stolen of their undefeated commander, who would know what would become of the Summer Sea Coalition and the defense of the western lands.

In truth, Erasyl is greatly impressed of the Lion of War's reputation and respects him as a Father who has mastered his craft comes to respect his son who has aspired to take up his trade. The God-King informs Aslan that he chose to spare him because he is curious about the Lion himself.

Erasyl announces that Aslan is indeed his prisoner of war for the foreseeable future and that both of them should take the opportunity to learn from one another and the cultures that they defend and to an extent for Aslan - rule. Erasyl has already passed a decree among the nobles and his military forces that Aslan is never to be shackled as a prisoner, and that the God-King's own Palace Residence is to become his home until further notice.

Erasyl ordains that Aslan may call upon not only his attendants for any need, but may request anything of the God-King himself if he so desired. Of course, within reason and considerate of Erasyl's own judgment.

Erasyl speaks to Aslan and reveals that his end game is to convert Aslan's loyalty to the Dominion and that he desires to adopt him as a true son and heir to his dynasty. He also reveals that he would also want to appoint Aslan as the commander of a new caste of warrior rising in the Dominion.

An army made from those enslaved from the Dominion's many conquest. Zar - The slave caste, uplifted into the vacuum being left in the Qin - warrior caste. This new breed of warrior would be called Zar'qin, and would form the bulwark of the new vanguard. Erasyl makes no attempt to deny or shy away from Aslan's questions, and states that the Dominion has lost far too many sons to civil strife and constant wars to continue to fuel its armies with Carthite blood. Erasyl would see every Carthite son ascend into nobility and glory by the hand of his swift reforms and realm shaping decrees.

Aslan refuses him outright and states 'I've no quarrel with any man, woman, or child forced into chains, but only their masters and the whips they crack at their backs. I'll not lead them to their early graves so that the Dominion's son may be spared the fires of war.'

Erasyl simply nods and states 'My son, never shall you become a true enemy of mine, whether you seek me out in the halls of my palace or on the battlefield. Neither am I the tyrannical force that is a scourge to every servant and attendant you find in the corridors and streets of my capital city. Time shall reveal unto you that I speak in truths and not guises.'

'I invite you to the Hall of the Sunlit Throne, before the entirety of my court. There I shall gather every former philosopher, merchant, and warrior from among the Zar. Warriors of the Sun never shirk from the light of truth. I hope to convince you of the righteousness of the dreams that I have envisioned for the Dominion of Carth and each of her citizens - no matter their castes.'

Aslan scoffs and chortles at Erasyl's words, then states 'I would sooner run myself through on my own sword than serve the Dominion. Carth would be better served with the severing of my head to parade about your streets... I'm not the hero you envision I am, God-King, especially for no man or woman of Carth.

'Can you be so certain? Would you be surprised if I told you that Carth is a Dominion of Minds? A domain for the philosopher, sage, and oracle. You need only search the horizon. Our citizens are not single minded. They recognize grandeur and greatness wherever it may manifest. An undefeated commander must be immaculate in mind, resolute of spirit, and strong in body. I see each of these qualities in you, Aslan. A keen mind gifted in the art of war must also be gifted in the art of statecraft and diplomacy.'

'What do you gaze upon when you stare farther east? Grand canals that connect the Seventh and Weeping River into one central nexus of trade and affluence in abundance. You see the wondrous paradise of a city that has sprung up from the dunes. You understand that such wealth becomes the foundations of civilizations and the bedrock upon which empires are created.'

'So too is my Dominion one that respects the strength of the sword. Countless thousands of Carthite sons sacrificed their lives during the Desolation of Gor'rum until the war was won and the endless hordes of Giants and Qi tribes were driven onto the brink of collapse...Thousand s who endured that anarchic violence and became the veterans of our decrepit Republic were put to the sword soon after during the Dominion's End Decree.

'Do not fool yourself, Aslan... any Carthite son you encounter inside the gates of Tu'shik is a survivor of many great wars. They understand and respect the reputation of the Lion of War. They admire the strength of his sword-arm, and the immaculate intellect of his mind. You're more a hero to them than the great Sages that once reigned in Carth.'

'You'll remain near to my side when the Dominion's armies march through the gates of Tu'shik. You may have some knowledge of warfare, Aslan, but you are ignorant of Carth and the peoples that form her Dominion. You shall need a steady hand and patient words from a mentor of note to learn all you should know about my empire. You shall find much of that in your father.'

Aslan bristles, but sighs with resignation. 'I see you shall not be dissuaded, but I too am difficult of persuasion. Your words have changed nothing between us, Erasyl. Do not mistake my begrudging respect for voluntary acceptance.'

Erasyl's smile broadens and he nods. 'You know my name and yet you do not spit it from your mouth. You know my intention and yet you choose not to mock it, but to listen. Already am I pleased with you, Aslan, my Lion of War. I make it my solemn oath that I shall convince you of the righteousness of our cause. I can see sunlight within your heart. You are of the Children of the Sun and make no mistake.'
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - A Dominion of the Mind - High Level Outline Summay
Post by: Alienscar on June 26, 2020, 05:03:17 AM
To be honest I have no idea what to make of this. It is neither a scene nor a complete overview, so it leaves me a bit nonplussed.

As an outline it seems very detailed and the overall impression I get from this summary is that you are trying to cram a lot of ideas into a small space.


I hope you guys like this type of update. It may actually help shine some context on things that I've failed to bring to light so far. So definitely let me know what you guys think about it.

Personally speaking I would prefer to read a story rather than the idea behind a story.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - A Dominion of the Mind - High Level Outline Summay
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 26, 2020, 08:08:17 AM
Hi Alienscar,

Sorry you're disappointed by this update. I don't have much of any scenes to share because I'm in the outlining process. So I thought I'd share something rather than nothing in this case. Also I just finished outlining Chapter III, which is why this is incomplete.

Quote
As an outline it seems very detailed and the overall impression I get from this summary is that you are trying to cram a lot of ideas into a small space.

Somewhat disagree here. An outline is a creative outlet to simply get one's ideas on paper and makes organizing them easier. Does it really need to be a small space? That's kind of why I call it a storyboard / outline hybrid, it's a fancier version of a word processor, but it can do a lot of unrelated stuff too.

Quote
Personally speaking I would prefer to read a story rather than the idea behind a story.


Understood, thanks for your honesty :). Just know that it maybe a little while before I can share something again. I'd like to make more progress to get ahead of the updates, which will take some time.

I also think some of the confusion we're having with feedback is that there is a subtle language barrier here. English in the USA, as I'm certain you know, is a bit different than that in the UK. Why its so different, cannot really tell you ;D, but some of the mistakes you've pointed out so far do seem to be correct in USA english.

There are still other things you're pointing out that are indeed wrong though, so I'm not complaining or anything. Just wanted to bring that up :).
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - A Dominion of the Mind - High Level Outline Summay
Post by: Alienscar on June 26, 2020, 11:05:34 AM
Hi Alienscar,

Sorry you're disappointed by this update.

Hey now Myen'Tal I never said I was disappointed. I just don't know what to make of this kind of information is all.

Quote
As an outline it seems very detailed and the overall impression I get from this summary is that you are trying to cram a lot of ideas into a small space.

Somewhat disagree here. An outline is a creative outlet to simply get one's ideas on paper and makes organizing them easier. Does it really need to be a small space? That's kind of why I call it a storyboard / outline hybrid, it's a fancier version of a word processor, but it can do a lot of unrelated stuff too.

The small space I was referring to was Chapter 3. Reading your outline for the chapter I just got the impression that there was a lot of information to be expanded on.

I also think some of the confusion we're having with feedback is that there is a subtle language barrier here. English in the USA, as I'm certain you know, is a bit different than that in the UK. Why its so different, cannot really tell you ;D, but some of the mistakes you've pointed out so far do seem to be correct in USA english.

Yeah the language barrier isn't that subtle at times and I can find it hard to ignore the spelling differences between the UK and the USA version of words.

So yeah spiraling/paradisaical are correct in the USA.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - A Dominion of the Mind - High Level Outline Summay
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 26, 2020, 12:35:58 PM
Quote
Hey now Myen'Tal I never said I was disappointed. I just don't know what to make of this kind of information is all.

Quote
The small space I was referring to was Chapter 3. Reading your outline for the chapter I just got the impression that there was a lot of information to be expanded on.

Sorry for the misunderstanding there. There is a bit of a paradox with this kind of update cause as you said it is quite detailed, but is still glancing over a lot of information that will definitely be expanded upon when actually writing it.

Keep in mind that I'm aiming for the average word count for fantasy, which is 100,000 - 120,000 words. So these chapters will naturally be more detailed / fleshed out than what I've previously done.

At the moment, I'm currently planning out the outline in phases. Plan out three chapters and discuss the ideas within my inner circle. Then I'll write out the three chapters, then repeat the process. It's a first draft, so once everything is completed I can always go back and make edits / additions / clarification changes, etc.

So I'm nearly finished with stage 1 of this new process and have almost entered that discussion phase!
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue: Dominion's Rise - 1st Scene
Post by: Myen'Tal on June 29, 2020, 10:07:10 AM
Well I've completed my outline / storyboard for the first three chapters. So I've begun the writing process earlier than I thought I would! Currently working on the first scene, which is detailed below. I consider this the prologue's beginning as these events take place before the main events of the story.

Hope you like it!

Voshki

   
“Tu’shik, the Grand City of Canals.” Voshki gazed out in the direction of the gargantuan cityscape in the distance.

The ancient city of the Sun-Caller Kings shined like a gem encrusted into a monarch’s crown. The light of the waning sun illuminated the paradisiacal labyrinth till it seemed ethereal. The Garden District spiraled high over the dense urban sprawl, chiseled painstakingly into the flanks of a gargantuan mountain at the city’s heart. Fecund and exotic hanging gardens wreathed the inner walls that shielded the estates of the Qar nobility.


Anoush gave Voshki a sidelong look and forced herself to smirk. She lingered on Voshki's translation of the name 'Tu'shik'. "To most Carthites it is known as the City of the Sun, a font of endless wonders. It is a shame that the fate of such a grand city is to be determined by fear.. Imminent annihilation is all that anyone still behind those walls can hope for anymore. Or their king’s surrender.”

Lesser districts collected around those inner walls. They rose and fell in the pattern of much smaller hills spread around the mountain’s foot.

Voshki hawked a wad of saliva over the ornate marble railing into the canal. “Surrender? The Last of the Sun-Caller Kings would shame his ancestry to no end if he committed to such a craven act. If he were a man of wisdom, he would know that Tu’shik would not be spared in either case. The Great Sages have made their decree… the City of the Sun is to end in the flames of war.”

Voshki studied the crystalline canals that coursed through Tu'shik. The emerald waters created natural divisions in the city’s geographic topography. Alabaster marble flanked with inlaid brickwork of pure gold formed the opulent walkways of the maritime districts on either side of the waterway.

“A summary execution.” Anoush sighed. “The Children of the Sun stand no chance.”

An endless stretch of dockyards and seafaring vessels berthed in their harbors was all that remained between Voshki and her impending success. Somewhere behind the ancient sandstone walls of Tu’shik, the Black Bane’s quarry remained hidden. 

Voshki nodded. “I think the endless numbers of the slain would hasten to agree with your opinion on the matter. Dark have the times become, my Second. Make no mistake, this is no longer the honorable republic that we have always remembered. Carth bears no resemblance to the one the Sages fought for only four years ago.”

Voshki pried her gaze away from the Grand City of Canals to absorb her surroundings.

The dockyards were a maze of granite and lumber amalgamated into some semblance of the Carthite keeps on the eastern borders of the republic. She counted a score of watch-towers jutting from out of barracks scattered across the maritime district. Every barrack was fortified behind wooden palisades and death traps crafted from a maze of sharpened stakes.

Anoush nodded in agreement. “When men and women of the nobility become gifted with limitless power and begin to fear for that power and their lives… anarchy shall always reign.”

Voshki glanced once more in the direction of Tu’shik and considered the great contrast between either side of the canal. As she did so, a humid heat haze continued to bare down on the harbors even as the waning sun set the skies aflame. 

“Let them fear then.” Voshki sneered at the thought. “They have a good right to. The right to rule should lie with the true warlords that defended their realm from certain annihilation…” She pointed in the direction of Tu’shik. “I would tell this Sun-Caller King that his death is nothing personal. One must escape this anarchy and madness somehow lest they become consumed in the downward spiral. What better way than reaping untold riches to buy our passage to the distant west? Where you, our Black Bane Kindred, and I shall live like kings and queens for the rest of our days.”

Anoush considered the tragic scene playing out before them and grimaced. Her voice came in hushed tones. “Do you really believe we could escape all of this? All of Khios continent is ending in fire and violence, Voshki."

“No concern for the Black Bane Kindred.” Voshki watched the firestorms sweep across the breadth of Tu’shik’s western districts.
“We shall make good on our contract and leave this forsaken continent behind. Our orders remain clear. Infiltrate Tu’shik, murder a disgraced king, and sever his head to mount onto the Dam’s Gate. Once seen on the breaking of the next dawn, our client will know that our work is done.”

“Easier said than done.” Anoush pointed with her chin toward the myriad of siege engines arrayed against Tu’shik’s defenses. “The siege is reaching the zenith of violence.”

Voshki followed her Second’s gaze and took in the sight of warriors in their hundreds scaling Tu’shik's walls. Whether by ladder or siege tower, scores of the republic’s warriors were already on the battlements, locked in a brutal struggle to overcome the defenders.

Sunset waned into the evening dusk. The siege raged under a constant hail of flaming arrows, piercing ballista bolts, and explosions of flaming ammunition exchanged between trebuchets. 

‘I disagree, Anoush.” Voshki considered Anoush’s statement of doubt.
“To slip into a city on the brink of collapse? A game for children. Have a little faith.”

A constant barrage of screams drifted on a cruel and nigh nonexistent breeze. Voshki felt the earth tremble beneath formations of tens of thousands. The choking odor of scorched flesh mingled with ashen smoke lingered about the dockyards like a spoiled perfume.

“I would, Voshki.” Anoush smiled, the gesture burdened with anxiety. “If our ferryman contact were anywhere in sight. Unless you plan on having us scale the walls and fighting our way through?”

“He will show soon enough.” Voshki assured her. “Doubt shall not reap our reward for us. Gather the Black Bane Kindred.” She commanded. “The hour has come to earn our pay. Otherwise, our headless corpses will end up crucified outside the gates of Tu’shik. Like all of those poor souls piled high in their shallow graves outside of Zar’bau - The Citadel of the Enslaved.”

Anoush slipped away into the long shadows of the maritime district, now silent and abandoned. “Dire are the times we’re enduring… Let us succeed one more time, if only to regale our children that we somehow escaped with our lives and riches untold.”

Voshki shifted back to the besieged city and continued her observations of Tu'shik's western gates sliding into ruin. She considered what would be waiting behind those crumbling walls. She suppressed a shiver of dread. 

She hoped to every god in the Carthite pantheon that the rumors of the king they hunted were untrue.

Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue: Dominion's Rise - Scene II
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 2, 2020, 07:13:55 AM
Made some additional edits to scene one.

EDIT: Made another pass on scene II.

~***~


“Kin of the Black Bane!” Voshki called out to her unit. “Attend your commander’s decree! Spare a moment from preparation and gather around me.”

      Elegant reinforced leather -dyed black- shielded her thighs, shoulders, and the upper limits of her arms. She rested a wicked barbed long spear on her shoulder, whose bladed tip was combined with that of a reverse barbed hook.

Amethyst satin robes cushioned beneath her chainmail billowed in the wake of a sudden squall. Emblazoned on the front of her cuirass was a Royal Cobra depicted with the shavings of precious stones created by the finest artisans great affluence could hire.

    Voshki emerged onto a lone pier of unadorned granite. She cast her gaze down its great length and noticed a solitary standard billowing in the gust.

     A silken standard emblazoned with the statuesque face of a young Sukhanite widow. Voshki peered into the hollowed sockets that wept crimson tears for her lost sons. The widow cradled her face in her own hands, a gesture of mournful despair among the daughters and wives of Sukhan.

The Wailing Widow Standard reminded Voshki of the solemn oaths that bound her always to the Sukhanite children and the Southern Wastes. She found her flaring temper soothed by its mere presence alone.

Anoush’s languid voice surged over the emerald waters of the canals, almost lost to the sound of the standard fluttering in the breeze. “Gather round, my brothers and sisters! The Firstborn would address the unit. Listen with intent!”

Voshki’s amber-gold eyes drifted below the billowing standard and she counted a score-and-a-half of warriors armored and dressed for war. As she had commanded, her Black Bane Kindred had ceased their idling and gathered their weapons.
 
   A chorus of rough and intimidating voices answered their commander. “Your kindred listen!”

    “Kin of the Black Bane!” Voshki addressed them. “Mark these words! Khios burns amidst the flames of unceasing war! Turn your eyes toward the western horizon and watch Tu’shik be reduced to cinders scattered on the wind.”

Amongst their ranks numbered a select few of the Sons of Kharan. The Half-Giants were easily marked from the rest of the unit by their exceptional height and incredibly gaunt physiques of scarred and whipcord musculature.

There were none among the Kharanites’ rare number that was not armed to the teeth. Quivers filled with vicious barbed javelins were slung over their shoulders. Wicked and ruthless blades dangled from sheathes fixated onto the great belts wrapped around their waists. Gripped in their gnarled fists were brutal two handed battle axes capable of splitting stone in twain.

Voshki spared them a word of encouragement. “Kharanite wisdom dictates that the realms must endure by the strength of their sword-arms alone. One does not deserve to dwell within this harsh reality without strength enough to survive on their own two feet. Shall our Half-Giant friends show us their unrivaled strength on the field of battle?”

“Our sword-arms are our pride and Kharan our hearts!” Guttural roars of primal ferocity answered Voshki. She could feel the great pride in their voices crash over her like a tide breaking upon rock.

Voshki too counted several female figures integrated into the Black Bane’s unit. All of them dressed themselves in light and flexible armor when compared to their masculine comrades. Each armed themselves with an assortment of poisoned weapons - daggers, crossbows, and throwing knives. Others carried small glassine flasks, grenades, and a rare gunpowder weapon here and there on their person.

    Sons of Sukhan comprised the rest of the unit. As was custom for the Children of the Southern Wastes, the Black Bane garbed themselves in the dreary colors of the night. Each Sukhanite tattooed calligraphic scrawl over the tarnished bronze skin of their chiseled, clean shaven, and scarred facial features. A detailed  history of their harrowing experiences in life.
 
   “Warriors of Sukhan.” Voshki gestured across all of her mustered warriors with the Crown Prince’s hooked and bladed tip. “And champions of the Serpent-in-Shadow are we all! These seven years have proven quite harrowing for the Black Bane Kindred, haven’t they? We’ve witnessed many great and noble kings become cast into slavery… their once resplendent civilizations crumbled stone by stone into the endless spiral of ruin. So many innocents endure endless miseries and sorrow.”

    Voshki rested the Crown Prince on her shoulder again and balled her free hand into a crushing fist. “The Republic of Carth burns and fades into ashes and embers. The cinders of all that remain gutters… Sukhanite wisdom does not dictate how to survive these anarchic times. Make no mistake, our continued survival hinges on our courage for one another and the kinship created by the proud lineage we share. It also depends on our ability alone to slay the last of the Sun-Caller Kings as our contract demands.”

    “Kin.” She addressed them solemnly. “Allow me the honor of commanding you one final time into the fires of battle. Our unit has survived many fierce conflicts. We’ve stormed many fortifications and left nothing more than ruin upon now abandoned and silent battlefields. The heads we have hunted for our employers? Beyond counting.”

Voshki continued, her voice resolute. “Never have the Black Bane been requested to infiltrate a city under siege before… let alone to slay a king. Trust in the instruction of your commander to see us all through till the end. Once our mission is complete, we shall be rewarded so generously that our passage to the west shall become a trivial fee, where all of us shall live as queens and kings until we become so grey of hair, that we can simply grow no elder and take our leave of this world.

“Sound like a plan worthy of execution?” Voshki swept her gaze across her unit. She noted the grim determination inset in their faces to see their task through to the end. Silent, but eager nods answered her in turn.

  “Gather your weapons and equipment. Our Ferryman seems to have arrived on time.” She pointed farther upstream of the canal at the massive platform of a raft drifting steadily toward the pier.

“Remember, kindred of my own blood, one final time into the maelstrom of battle. Combat any foe as you never have before, for your survival shall be answered with endless reward!”

Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue: Dominion's Rise - Scene II
Post by: Dread on July 2, 2020, 08:08:39 PM
Sorry I haven't responded, actually I did, just forgot to hit send. I have a 3 day weekend so will catch up on it then.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - CH I - Dominion's Rise - Scene III
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 6, 2020, 11:13:47 PM


“Tell me, ferryman.” Voshki spoke in soft undertones. “Did you never think to fortify your raft? We’re headed into the heart of an ongoing siege. This is not one of your romantic tours through the waterways of Tu’shik.”

Voshki craned her head and took in the sight of the simple and unadorned raft beneath her feet. It was large enough to ferry the Black Bane Kindred’s entire unit and their supplies without so much as even a slight submergence from the additional weight. She stamped onto the precisely hewn lumber that made up the floating platform. Such a raft could have easily undergone additional fortification in the form of reinforced palisades.

Hunkered behind the bulwark of the Black Bane sellswords, the ferryman offered Voshki an uncaring smile. He cycled his oar once more and the raft continued its steady drift from one side of the canal to the other.

“Should have hired an engineer instead of a simple ferryman.” The ferryman chortled. “Cease your fretting and let the placid waters soothe your impatience. You need not fear the perils of the night aboard this raft, my daughter.” 

Voshki gazed skyward toward a crescent moon anchored amidst a starlit horizon. She lowered her amber-gold eyes back toward the canal’s waters, now cloaked in darkness. Gentle rays of moonlight cast the resplendent harbors on the outskirts of Tu’shik in a stark silhouette. She considered the infernos ablaze behind Tu’shik’s conquered walls some leagues beyond the harbors.

“Sirius the Solar God would say otherwise, ferryman.” Voshki shrugged. “Your City of Wonders seems to have invoked his wrath. The night’s perils have never been so numerous. Are you not afraid?”

“Terrified.” The ferryman quipped. “Yet I find myself on these open waters for the same reason you hired me. Once I receive my due, I shall feel much safer once -like yourself and your kin- I purchase a ship to the farthest corners of the west. Somewhere that is at peace, like the coasts of the Black Shore.”

Voshki pitched her head back and rattled with laughter. “I hear the coasts of the Black Shore are wracked with storms and littered with ship graveyards. You would do better to find peace at the bottom of this canal than there, my friend.”

“Stories for children.” The ferryman clucked his tongue. “Great trade fleets from the western hemisphere often venture into those seas to trade with the kingdoms there.”

“That would only confirm my theories.” Voshki sobered and shook her head. “All of those ship graveyards remain in that sea because of all the pirates that raid those waters.”

“Voshki.” Anoush approached gingerly within earshot of the conversation. “Forgive me for interrupting…”

“Think nothing of it, Anoush.” Voshki stepped away from the ferryman and clapped a leather gauntlet on Anoush’s shoulder. “How near have we come to making our beach head?”

“Imminent.” Anoush answered, her voice hushed. “We’re quickly approaching the first sentry checkpoints. I’ve studied the lighthouses in the harbors for a handful of hours now. There has been no activity from them, not even simple patrols. Something seems amiss, Voshki.”

“Ferryman.” Voshki craned her head in the elder man’s direction. “No matter what happens from this point onward, keep rowing if you value your meagre life.” She gestured for Anoush to follow and forged a path to the front of the raft. “Black Bane, make room! Step aside, I said!”

Faris, another of Voshki’s Second-in-Commands, greeted her with the gritty steel of his voice the moment she shoved and pushed her way to the fore of the raft.

“Firstborn Voshki.” Faris sighed into the chill breeze besetting the raft. The scarred, but devilishly handsome sellsword pointed across the placid waters of the canal. “The Grand City of Canals would have proven a striking sight right about this hour were it not collapsing into ruin.

“Still.” Faris gestured toward the great peak at the heart of the city. Voshki followed his gaze toward the maze of endless lights that cast the entire Garden District aglow. Even the Hanging Gardens that wreathed Tu’shik’s inner walls bathed in the golden light. “The Garden Quarter glimmers in the light like a city of gold and alabaster onto itself. Wouldn’t you agree, commander?”

Voshki studied the districts of the Qar nobility. She looked to Faris and smiled wolfishly. “Never thought an age of strife and terror would make a romantic out of anyone. Yet I understand why anyone would cling to sights of beauty in a time when they become rare luxuries…”

Her voice took on a grave aspect after she trailed off briefly. “This is not the hour for appreciating the beauty of wonders, however, Faris. This is the hour that we risk all of our lives for the grand prize.

“So enough about the City of the Sun. Point out the sentry checkpoints!”

“Your command is my oath.” Faris answered. He shifted the point of his finger to indicate three lighthouses, each built upon the precipice of lonesome piers isolated from their respective harbor. “West, east, and north is where each of them guard entrance into the harbor respectively. There are many more scattered along the canals, but none of the rest are important to us. These three sentry posts are what stands between us and a successful beachhead.”

Voshki swept her hawk-eyes over the sentry posts and noted the garrison barracks each lighthouse stood vigil over. “Anoush mentioned there was no activity witnessed from any of these sentry posts? You could not spot even a guard or sentry?

“No chance in the infernal realms has the Sun-Caller King’s forces abandoned the maritime district entirely. If the Republic knew of such weakness, they would have passed through the Dam’s Gate and ended this siege several moons ago.”

Anoush chimed in. “There is a saying amongst Tu’shik’s proud nobility. Children of the Sun never turn their backs to a worthy foe, nor do they kneel in submission. Children of the Sun never shirk from the light of truth, nor the threat of death.”

“You’re saying that they await us in ambush. For surrendering the maritime district is to the Children of the Sun the same as turning your back to your enemy.” Faris pondered upon that truth briefly before replying. “A wise saying to live by in times of anarchy. A shame that only the Qar seem to know it. For most of this city has taken flight to more peaceful shores. Tu’shik may have had a chance if they had all stayed and fought.”

The raft continued its course until it passed under the shadow of the sentry checkpoints stationed both east and west of the harbor. Voshki continued to survey her surroundings. Wary of an ambush, she executed a silent command for the Black Bane to raise and interlock their shields in an impregnable wall.

“Can you blame them, Faris?” Voshki knelt on one knee as she continued to listen and watch the harbor for any signs of hostile movement. “To endure a siege is to live every waking hour in uncertainty and terror. The paralyzing fear of never knowing when the walls of your home are breached and the warriors sworn to defend it, slaughtered. Not until it is far too late."

Faris and Anoush knelt beside her.

Faris shook his head. “No, I would never blame anyone who would avoid such a fate… We would all be of the same mind on the matter in fact. Once the grand prize is ours, we shall be following in their wake soon.

“Still, it is a great shame that everything has culminated to this.”

Anoush interrupted their argument with an urgent whisper. “Voshki! On the eastern pier, three dozen paces from the lighthouse!”

Voshki shifted to gaze in the direction of Anoush’s coordinates. She felt her heart skip a beat the moment her eyes clarified a lone figure from the dark that cloaked him. Alone stood a Tu’shik warrior dressed in robes of cream cushioned beneath his chainmail and that of crimson draped over his pristine armor.

He held a moderate buckler tight across his chest in one hand and kept the other snaked around the hilt of a sheathed scimitar. The warrior bore no helm on his shoulders. Voshki looked past the wild and lustrous hair that covered much of the warrior’s face and found the core of his hazel eyes boring straight into her own.

The Child of the Sun made no sudden movements. He did not let out any sharp rebuke or war cry. He did not even let loose a whistle to warn his comrades. He merely stood anchored to his spot on the pier until the raft finally began to pass him by.

The warrior’s gaze never wavered from Voshki’s even as he broke into a deliberate pace to keep stride with the raft.

Faris let loose an irritable growl. “Should I give the command to strike down this brazen cur, Firstborn?”

“No.” Voshki shook her head, her gaze still trained on the lone warrior stalking them. “Whoever commands him sent him out here so that we would see him. They could have answered us with a hail of arrows. His master must desire an exchange of words."

Anoush shot Voshki a skeptical look. “Are you certain they aren’t simply tightening the noose around our necks?”

“We’ve already entered the serpent’s den, Anoush.” Voshki answered. “Our best chance of survival is to sing to the cobra now… music may yet soothe it.”

Faris chuckled aloud. “And if it deigns to spit acid in our eyes?”

“We shall strike first.” Voshki replied. “Let us meet our illustrious enemies and see who is better prepared to weather a fight.”


Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - CH I - Dominion's Rise - Scene III
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 8, 2020, 12:06:32 PM
Did some additional passes across all three scenes and made quite a few subtle edits. Just announcing this in a new post as I'm sure no one would see it buried amidst the three scenes!
Title: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - CH 2- Dominion's Rise - Ara - Scene I
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 13, 2020, 11:46:53 PM
EDIT: Made a few further passes!

Dominion’s Rise - Ara



Beyond the ruined western gate of Tu’shik, Ara found himself on the battlefield. The skies burned in the light of the waning sun. The earth charred and blazed from the touch of hellfire unleashed from Tu’shik’s engines of war. Here on the scorched earth, only the desiccated remains of those slain several months prior marked the age of the siege.

Ara pushed the anarchic melee that raged around him out of his mind. His raven black eyes focused until he peered through the maelstrom of thrashing blades and thrusting spears. For a brief instance, clarity aligned with his perception and honed in on a grizzled warrior garbed in cream robes beneath his suit of chainmail and that of crimson draped over the exterior.

Ara quickly grounded himself and heard the crunch of brittle bones crumbling beneath his boots. He readied his scimitar behind and overhead to cleave the great bear of a Carthite down in one imperceptible blow. He gripped his moderate buckler tight across his chest and prepared to receive the Tuamphetamine parrote’s charge.

A hail of arrows rained down from the evening skies around them. Screams - far louder than those bellowed from the throats of defiant men - deafened him as steel-tipped arrowheads found purchase in callow flesh. A score of warriors fell to their knees around Ara, impaled everywhere from eye sockets to the core of their guts.

The momentary distraction blinded him but for a moment. The grizzled Tuamphetamine parrote fell upon him like a great bear. The warrior whirled his spiked maul around his head and swung into a crushing blow meant for the base of Ara’s skull.

Ara slid through the battlefield’s gore and grime away from the blow. The Tuamphetamine parrote followed in pursuit, the momentum in his maul threatening to crush Ara’s skull still. The Annahir Immortal weaved beneath the cumbersome swing. He deflected the fluid counter-strike with a flick of his shield-arm.

Ara quickly slid into his challenger’s guard. The Tuamphetamine parrote was left defenseless with his arms in the opposite direction. Obsidian, Ara’s scimitar, whispered in the wind with one irresistible cut.

The Child of the Sun staggered where he stood. Blood sprayed from the vicious wound and onto Ara’s raven robes and tarnished scale-mail armor. He respectfully stepped back from his kill. As the corpse fell onto its knees and began to sway, Ara watched impassively as the severed head toppled from the neck.

A Carthite’s ferocious screams roared in Ara’s ear from his right. “For the Twelve Tyrants of Carth!”

Ara sprung back into a combat stance, already locked in a movement to avoid the oncoming assault. A luminescent arc sliced through the rapidly cooling desert air from the same flank. The war cries pouring out of the Tuamphetamine parrote’s mouth culminated into a shriek of desperate agony - cut brutally short.

Ara halted mid-dodge and watched his assailant crumble to the blood-soaked earth. The Carthite clutched with blood-slick fingers at his sliced open torso from right shoulder to the left of his lower rib cage. A warrior of caramel skin and bushels of kempt and well-groomed raven black locks stepped between them. Gripped between his leather gloved fingers was an elegant long-sword that glimmered in the fiery light like a deep vein of sapphire.

Vahe of Grand Damira spared Ara a mirthless smile for the briefest instance. He turned back to the warrior writhing at his feet, every trace of his smile wiped from his grimace. He flipped his blade with practiced fluidity and plunged it straight through the stricken Tuamphetamine parrote’s heart chambers.

Vahe spared Ara another glance, his features suddenly aglow with relief. “Ara, my friend. Remember always that an elegant blade may kill an opponent beautifully. Remember now that a ruthless and merciless blade may not only kill one opponent unceremoniously, but many more and in quick succession.”

Vahe indicated the battlefield in an all-inclusive gesture. He sighed audibly. “This is not the duelist’s circle that we met in several years ago.”

Another hail of arrows descended upon the melee. Vahe visibly flinched from an arrowhead embedding itself in the skull of an Old Myrian Knight, dressed for battle as Ara was. He shook his head once in regret as the knight toppled where he stood.     

Ara frowned as he watched the Immortal spasm once, then grow eerily still. He turned back to Vahe. “You need not remind me. I desire to be here as much as you do, which is not at all, judging from the sorry state of your armor.” He gestured with a point of his chin toward Vahe’s battered, scarred, and partially scorched scalemail.

Ara managed a sliver of a smile. “How do you keep your hair so perfect and your armor so abused?”

Vahe pitched his head back and laughed, and Ara could tell that he hated himself for doing so. “This is not the time for your foolish banter!” He half-chortled, half-bellowed at Ara. “I don’t know, perhaps my foes have come to respect it more than the rest of my person?

“Enough about that, though, Nishan summoned you and I, Ara. He thinks this will be the final push to storm…” Vahe spared a glance over his shoulder and pointed in the direction of Tu’shik’s western gate. Ara followed the point of his finger toward the dust shrouded pile of still crumbling debris where the breach opened in the wall. “Into Tu’shik itself and claim the lower districts scattered around the Qar Garden District.”

Ara glanced around him and found the lingering traces of a battle in sharp decline. As foe after foe was struck down by the combined arms of the Old Myrian Knights and the Carth Republic’s forces, Ara confidently counted a couple hundred out of the thousands of men they had sent into the teeth of the enemy’s fortifications hale enough to continue the fight..

Most of the survivors ranked among the forces of Old Myria.

A ghastly and grizzled voice called out to them from someone who quickly approached. Ara turned on his heel to face the visage of a man irrevocably scarred by war. Great scars criss-crossed from one corner of his face to the next, those in turn deepened with lesser scars far after the original ones had healed over. A gently shut eyelid, crossed over by a roughly healed scar concealed the ruined eye that kept it permanently sealed.

Nishan the Scarred Child lifted his arms in a gesture of greeting. “Ara. Vahe. Victory at last belongs to the Republic and this hellish battlefield is ours to claim. The Children of the Sun are not long for this world. A generous reward for those who would support tyranny and deceit, and desire to collapse our proud republic from within.”

Ara frowned deeply at Nishan’s words. “Slay a tyrant, certainly… but this ceaseless flogging of innocents that do not share this Sun-Caller’s ambition irks me to no end, Nishan. Every warlord we have toppled, their cities and their populaces are not spared the Republic's sword. Every siege is the same and it never changes. Why do the Sages that rule your republic fear their own citizens?”

Nishan scoffed, then grimaced. “If Old Myria even cares, then why doesn’t your Autumn Queen merely force my hand and command an end to all this? From what I remember, the Dominion’s End Decree was partially her idea.”

Ara shrugged. “This is your republic’s war, Nishan. Old Myria is only here to help you secure victory in whichever way you see fit… doesn’t mean we’ll respect your methods when it's all said and done. Truthfully, I find them as distasteful and hideous as your scars, old friend.”

Nishan pitched his head back and chortled. “Well, that doesn’t mean I cannot respect two warriors of legend. Ara of Annahir and Vahe of Grand Damira…” He searched the battlefield as the last traces of war cries fell silent. Something caught his eyes toward the western gate. “Look, Old Myria’s standards billow over Tu’shik’s walls. Her defenses have fallen.

“It is time.” Nishan affirmed them with a nod. “The final assault shall commence and soon. Come, let us retreat to the commander’s tent and share a reprieve… Tu’shik has nowhere else to go in the meantime.”

Before Ara could utter another retort, the Scarred Child took his leave of them and marched in the direction of the sprawling encampment built along the other side of the Seventh River’s banks.

Ara grimaced, then sheathed his weapon and slung his shield. He cast a quick glance in Vahe’s direction and lowered his voice. “Did you hear him speak of tyranny, Vahe? He boasts about the republic’s morals as he buries half of Carth’s entire realm in shallow graves and ruins that crumble to their foundations.”

Vahe sighed with a brief nod. “Only one thing is certain about this war, Ara. The Republic of Carth has entered her final days. I fear the collapse of these warlords shall only hasten her demise. But this is not the place for such talk. Let’s follow Nishan and recuperate a little with the men. Once we have revised our plans for the final assault… we shall make our move under the cover of nightfall.”

Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - CH 2- Dominion's Rise - Ara - Scene II
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 15, 2020, 04:30:39 PM
EDIT: Made some additional passes!

NOTE: Feedback from you guys about everything up to this point for the Embers of the Past 2.0 would be greatly appreciated. Just want to know how the story is looking overall to you guys, and if any major story / structure / organization changes need to happen.

Thanks!

EDIT #2: More additional passes! Throughout scene 3: CH 1 and Scene 1-and-2: CH 2

~***~

Ara listened intently to the wind. He heard Nishan’s gentle dirge before the Carthite had even stepped into sight. Vahe stoked the fire pit with a bushel of kindlewood until it belched embers and roared in his ears. An asynchronous choir of ancient war songs slurred beyond recognition from the throats of drunken men lilted into the night.

Beyond the fragile atmosphere of victorious celebration, he listened to the shrill cries of blades being sharpened on whetstones. The hammers of blacksmiths striking battered and broken armor back into some semblance of former glory. The distant screams of the wounded on their sick beds.

Ara searched the eyes of the warriors scattered around the campfires nearest him. Hidden within their vulgar displays of mirth, he witnessed in each of them the sheer dread of perhaps being the next men called to storm Tu’shik’s defenses. A pang of regret pierced his heart, for he considered their sorry state.

Ara knew all of them would perish in the fires of battle. The sad truth was that they had already defeated themselves. There was no man in sight that seemed capable of even raising a blade in their defense as they were now.

Nishan’s grim laughter drew Ara back into focus as the Scarred Child slipped out of the folds of the commander’s pavilion. The Carthite approached Ara and Vahe from behind, then circled around the fire pit to seat himself across from them.

The Scarred Child’s face was lit aglow like some phantasmal demon in the flickering light of the fire. He seated himself on a flattened chair with no back and considered his comrades with a quizzical look.

Nishan lifted his arms in a grand gesture of askance. “Why the dour faces, my brothers? Has the Sun-Caller King sallied forth and stolen your pride as men? Infernal fires, our campaign is about to culminate in total victory and here the two of you sit as if struck by melancholy?” Nishan answered Ara’s look of piqued ire with a nasty grin. “You would think that perhaps it’s your own city that is on the verge of annihilation."

Vahe laughed without mirth or humor. “It was only four years ago. Until these twelve warlords rose up from the ashes of the Desecration and delivered the western kingdoms from imminent annihilation. If you weren’t so shortsighted, Scarred Child, I’m certain the old coalition in Khios would still be in a time of well earned peace.

“But your sword-arm seems far keener than your mind. You test your mettle on your own people and leave their works in ruin. Is this truly for the republic you’ve sworn yourself to?”

Nishan’s laughter withered in his throat like a fruit grown rotten upon a tree branch. To his credit, the Scarred Child did not shirk from the accusation or hang his head in shame. Instead, he considered Vahe’s rebuke even as his voice grew grave and foreboding.

Nishan did not reveal his displeasure at the accusations, but instead smirked ever so slightly. He heaved his shoulders even as he addressed Vahe’s concerns. “Leave matters of statecraft and diplomacy to the Soothsayers and Wisemen, I say. You’re not speaking to such a man of your own elegance and flourish, Damirite.

“Here before you is only a Child of Carth, irrevocably scarred by the swords of my own kinsmen - the very same you idolize. And loyalty is the reason I am scarred so horrifically. What does it mean to these warlords and tyrants both of you are so quick to honor as heroes of old?”

Nishan gestured toward them with a point of his chin. “Gaze around you. These warlords were quick to spare your own kingdoms from the threat of war on your own soil. Yet none of them were ever so hasteful to deliver Carth from the ravages of the eastern powers. The Republic burned for years before even one of those pretender tyrants received an inkling in their head to rise up and join the fight.”

Vahe gestured toward Ara, though his eyes remained settled on Nishan. “Say, Ara, good friend of mine… Is there ever a time to rise into power when those who still reign remain alive?”

Nishan addressed Vahe again before Ara could signal his friend to hold his tongue. “Heed my words, Damirite, for the Scarred Child earned his name on the Crimson Bluffs. He was the Shield of Shyria in the Kindlestone Mountains. He was the Wrath of Sirius that cut through the Qi Steppes. He too was the Defender of the Republic that fought beside these warlords in Carth’s darkest hour.”

Ara considered Vahe’s question, but made no obvious gesture of agreement. “That alone would stem from many factors. I’d not doubt Nishan’s word, Vahe. I know he was there in the days of the Desecration’s inception.” He signaled for Nishan to continue his tale. “I know because I was there at the Crimson Bluffs on the day you earned your first scars. I too fought at the Kindlestone mountains where you lost your eye, remember? Though I’ll confess that I never set foot upon the Qi Steppes and faced the barbarous tribes that dwell there.”

Vahe became as silent as an abandoned grave.

Nishan’s good eye fluttered from weariness. “I’ll forgive you for such a trivial sin, Ara. Think nothing of it, brother.” Reminiscence stole him away into a past that Ara could not see. “The Desecration soon ran its course, as one of you certainly knows. The war of our time faded into the annals of history. The end.”

Vahe became suddenly animated as he searched the encampment for any who shared his puzzled expression. “Are you so certain this is the end of that tale? All of Carth still seems to burn before my eyes. You did not address my point about not sparing your own citizens the sword in either case.”

Nishan bristled and to his credit, kept himself from verbally flogging Vahe into shame.
“No Child of the Sun is kindred to me or the Republic of Carth. They do not share the ideas of my kin nor their values or traditions. You’ve seen the reaction of these cities, Ara. You know of the answer they gave onto the Republic’s forces when asked to surrender their tyrannical lords.

“Carth has always endured as the bastion of civilization since her fledgling years. A domain of the Sage and Scholar and a realm of free thought and prosperity.

“She is the crown jewel of all Khios. Tu'shik - the Grand City of Canals. The One Hundred Temples of Shyria. The Seven Great Libraries of the State of - now transformed into the horror of the Cursed Labyrinths of Zar'bau. These are all works - aside from the defilement of the great libraries - created by the hands of entire Carthite generations. What kindred of mine would wrench centuries’ old works from out of the hands of the many to call them their own?

“The only brothers and sisters that I see are those who have taken onto the field with me under the Republic’s banners.

“No Vahe.” Nishan suddenly surged onto his feet. His voice became sonorous with impassioned wrath. “You speak of witches and delusioned warrior-priests arising into power from out of the ashes of those who had already sacrificed everything for the sake of victory. You speak of enigmatic cowards that marched through the gates of our greatest cities and seized them for their own ambitions of building empires.

“Their dangerous ideas of dissent and anarchy spread like wild-fires across mountain valleys. Their words of promise and threat strike terror in the hearts of the masses till they celebrate at the madness of proposed tyranny and fanatical worship of their new found saviors.”

Vahe smiled sadly. “Do you think that crushing these misguided souls into the scorched earth shall truly scatter these ideals to the four winds? They shall only take root elsewhere with such tactless disregard for the lives you’re wanting to forever change. Whether that be by ending them or letting them flee to the four corners of the world. Making martyrs of the unfortunates you choose to make examples of shall only exacerbate the Republic’s quandary.”

All of the rage fled from out of Nishan’s chest and he visibly deflated from the rebuke.
Nishan acknowledged Vahe with a begrudged nod. “You impress me with such an elegant counter to my opinion, Damirite. I did not think you had that in you. But your home is famous for such passionate elegance. I would never have expected a warrior of your caliber to sally forth out of its gates.”
 
                Nishan shrugged. “Despite what you have said, all of the wisemen that still reign in these days of our fragile republic have disowned the Children of the Sun, and the Children of Shyria, and all of those poor wretches given over to chains in Zar’bau.

“They think it better to put these dangerous ideas to the sword and harvest them from the very roots of their corruption. So they called upon the Scarred Child, their only champion. So for the fate of the Republic I've always known… I cast down these tyrants, spit on their citizens, and stamp out their incendiary ideals.”

Nishan’s wicked grin returned as he craned his head in the direction of the City of the Sun, and watched the flames continue to rage unabated. He suddenly swiveled back to Ara and Vahe.

“You’ve witnessed the hand of the Sages’ retribution.” Nishan continued. “You’ve witnessed the brilliance of their sword, set aflame with the Solar God’s wrath! The Children of the Sun think themselves righteous of cause and unwavering of mind… see them scattered on the wind as embers spewed from their city’s demise!”

Vahe cursed under his breath and rolled his eyes in resignation. “As my friend, Ara, stated himself: You continue to speak of the Republic’s morals, Nishan, while half of your realm burns by your own hand, their citizens put to death in the shallow graves of their ruined homes. Old Myria only fights with you because the Autumn Queen does not understand the Republic’s intent and insists on granting you aid. Once she hears of what’s happened here at Tu’shik, Shyria, and Zar’bau, there shall be reprimands of great consequences.” Vahe mocked him. “But by all means, go ahead and think of yourself the last righteous savior of the republic.”

Nishan shook his head. “I care not for either of your opinions on the matter. Or I would have had all of you Myrites slain in your beds while you slept for the night. But a commander does not refuse aid for a republic in need.

“Whatever your judgements, Carth abides by the Dominion’s End Decree and so do all of the western kingdoms. Report and complain if you want, I have done no wrong throughout this campaign. 

“Carth shall not abide tyranny, submission, or subjugation. A man who would shackle others to his will, shall be fed only the blade. A woman who would forsake her own people for the promise of power both limitless and sublime, shall be crucified. Any warrior who would swear loyalty to those who forsake their countrymen, shall have their bodies broken on the field of battle…

“That is the way of Carth, my brothers. So, cast your judgements aside or return to your queen with your tails between your legs. Midnight is nearly upon us and the hour that we raze Tu'shik to the ground is at hand. Despite my confidence, I know it shall not be an effortless assault. Ara and Vahe, know that I respect your courage and valor in matters of war… and also the fierce spirit of your hearts. Know that both of you are still my brothers and that I'll be relying on Old Myria to eliminate threats that the Republic’s forces may be inexperienced in dealing with.

“Be forewarned… the Children of the Sun are said to possess fiery mystics among their number, famous for their innate ability to harness Sirius’ wrath. Are you ready?”

Vahe proclaimed. “The Annahir Immortals shall not perish in the fires of war tonight. It is our sworn oath to wither from old age, rather than the blades of our enemies. The Children of the Sun may do their worst. I know I questioned you, Nishan, but know that I am with you in dethroning the tyrants. I only have concerns about your methods. But I’ll let Queen Hazan take that issue to the Council of Sages. For now, we fight ever onward.”

Ara nodded swiftly. “We have a special unit equipped to deal with sorcery in any guise. You need not worry about us, Scarred Child. Just protect that face from becoming uglier.”
Nishan tilted his head back and bellowed with laughter.

Ara nodded, this time with finality. “Let Tu’shik fall tonight, brothers. Let the Children of the Sun grow cold in their hearts at the sound of the wolves howling at their gates!”

Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - CH 2- Dominion's Rise - Ara - Scene 3.5 WIP
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 17, 2020, 11:13:47 PM

    Ara found himself once again on the abandoned battlefield at the foot of Tu'shik's ruined walls. Behind him, the armies of the Carth Republic amassed on the banks of the Seventh River.

Aside from the cries of leaders and their subordinates organizing the ranks into formation, Ara could not help but shiver from the disquiet emanating from the countless slain left on the scorched earth.

The City of the Sun-Caller Kings burned from endless fires. Ara took in the sight of billowing smoke clouds and the tsunami of unchecked infernos spreading across the breadth of an entire district. Were it not for the natural barriers provided by the canals, the ruinous flames would have consumed half of the city by midnight.

Nishan’s voice crept from out of the frozen wind. His presence was preceded by the neighing of his warhorse. “Are you nervous, Ara? The fate of Tu’shik shall be decided on the moment of our commitment. Either the city is razed to the ground or all of us shall perish amidst the flames, I feel.”

Ara folded his arms and craned his head upward to stare Nishan in his good eye. He considered the question and shrugged.

Ara replied with an honest answer. “I worry for my brother, Aslan. For myself? The Tuamphetamine parrotes shall come to fear the howl of the wolf and the strike of his fangs.  I am not fearful."

Nishan nodded. “Good, for you would fear for nothing then, if that is your only concern. Aslan mirrors many of your qualities, being your twin brother. He remains a Lion of War as you remain the Lone Wolf. That is all that separates the two of you in terms of potential.

"I swear upon the Goddess of Omens - Jumanah and her crescent moon, I’ve never had such prodigious wards to groom into command. You brothers certainly live up to the legend of your namesakes."

Ara continued to watch the crumbled walls of Tu’shik. He knew that Nishan could not see his slight smile under the cover of darkness.

Ara shrugged. “Your praise is appreciated, Scarred Child, but enough about my elder brother and I. The quicker we storm the Qin District, the quicker we can provide him support. Once we meet behind Tu’shik’s walls and combine our forces, Old Myria shall keep her promise and aid you in reaching the Royal Palace.

“Then this Sun-Caller King shall be cast off his throne and his crown sundered. Once we strike him down, the Children of the Sun shall scatter and perish in the fires of their burning city… though I also fear that this whole siege has progressed too effortlessly.”

Nishan rattled with laughter. He pulled on the reins of his horse till it circled around to face the Republic’s armies. He pointed down the length of his ranks, only visible in the torchlight held aloft by one in every ten warriors of the Republic.

The one-eyed warrior bellowed over the cries of his officers. His voice was a booming dirge in the vicious wind. “Warriors of our calibre should never surrender to the likes of dread and terror! These emotions are only weapons of war! Have we not mastered them as immaculately as the sword and spear, shield and bow, horse and rider?

Nishan swiveled his head to stare every warrior in the first rank before him directly in the eye. “What is the matter, Sons of Carth? Have the Tuamphetamine parrotes stolen your spines?” His laughter returned in hearty peals reminiscent of thunder cracking open the skies. “Gaze upon the conquered walls of Tu’shik, my kindred! Gaze and see that it is not us who tremble!"

Nishan’s mount moved restlessly underneath him. He gently stroked the ebony stallion’s stormy mane even as he pointed toward the City of the Sun-Caller Kings.

He continued. “Warriors of Carth, can you not see that you have broken the backs of the Children of the Sun? Do you not see that the strength of your sword arms has overcome your foe and laid them quite low?

“Your enemy does not believe in turning their backs to a worthy foe! Your enemy does not kneel! Your enemy does not submit! Sons of Carth should expect no less, for no quarter or respite was given!"

The Scarred Child beat upon his chest until the gesture began to ripple across the Republic's ranks. “What is there to be frightened of, when you have already outmatched their zealous steel? What more could they hope to punish us with? Death? Is such a reprieve from existence so terrible a fate? Perhaps we may never feast and drink in this world again, but the Gods shun those who shirk the reward of destiny!

“Let them not find us wanting!” Nishan screamed over the deafening barrage of hateful war cries. “Break the traitors on the grinding wheel of total war! Crucify the dead and spare no Tuamphetamine parrote the bite of your swords! The Republic triumphs one last time, and all of this madness comes to an end! For Carth,  sound the horns! One last effort to overwhelm them!”
                   
 A clarion call signaled the charge across the thousands gathered for the purpose of war and conquest. Ara unsheathed his sword and ran headlong in the direction of Tu'shik and her sworn defenders. Around him, the ranks shattered into a momentous charge and the wrath of the Republic was unleashed.


~***~
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - CH 2- Dominion's Rise - Ara - Scene 3.5 WIP
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 19, 2020, 11:30:49 PM
Hey guys, wanted to update you that the round of previews for The Embers of the Past 2.0 is coming to a close until I'm into at least Act 2. Can't share everything, can I ;D? However, let me say that I appreciate every lurker that has continued to come by time again to read the updates. Your views are really the only way to show that there's interest in TEOTP.

I think interest is growing :D. I'll likely share one more scene from Aslan before I start locking the content gates and start doubling down on the writing!

As always, I appreciate the comments from the few of you that do :). I understand that sometimes giving comments can feel like it's discouraging someone if it's critical in nature, I but enjoy reading your guys' feedback regardless, and it helps me continue to strive for bettering myself :).

Cheers, guys, here is the next scene!


Prologue - Aslan


Aslan listened to the crash of a hundred oars cycling in and out of the placid waterways. The sound deafened him like waves broken upon a shoreline's cliffs. Stowed away in the deep holds of the Emerald Siren, the sensation of the cargo vessel swaying upon placid waters made him feel ill at ease.

    An intrusive voice disturbed Aslan’s concentration and returned him to the waking world. He listened intently on the distant murmurings.

Aslan considered the dingy interior of the Emerald Siren and reflected on his life’s decisions. He looked over the slaves chained by their wrists and forced onto their knees in the cargo hold.  Dim candlelight cascaded through the grated ceiling above them, suddenly interrupted by passing shadows. In that precious light, he saw that all of them were young women from Tu’shik’s neighboring cities.

All of them had turned their teary eyes to where he stood vigilant in the cargo hold’s corner at some point or another. He offered them a smile of reassurance, but did nothing more as the cargo vessel continued toward its destination.

Aslan finally offered them some true measure of solace. “It will be alright.”
The voices spiked in volume and proximity the moment the doors into the hold were thrown open with a deafening clang.

“Mark my words, Avedis.” A Tuamphetamine parrote - one of the children of the fabled City of the Sun,
marched down the dozen stairs into the cargo hold. “One of the brothers is stealing supplies and a lot of it for only one man.”

A broad shouldered man, garbed in robes of cream beneath a suit of chainmail and that of crimson layered over it, considered his fellow’s words.

Avedis shrugged as he swaggered into the hold after his comrade. “Are you certain you’re not mismanaging resources? Whether the Council of Sages confesses it or not, there’s a civil war raging in Carth. I’d not be surprised if one merchant or another slighted you of your promised supplies.”
 
  His comrade scoffed, unconvinced. “If any merchant would have slighted me anything, Avedis, it would have been these women.” He recounted the number of slaves locked in the hold with a flick of his eyes. “None of what I requested is missing. No, I’m certain someone aboard the Emerald Siren is stealing out of the mouths of my sailors. You know our mantra…”
 
  Avedis sighed. “Children of the Sun never shun their burdens, nor do they punish their brethren with deceit.”
 
   The nameless Tu’amphetamine parrote who appeared to be the shipmaster, raised a clenched fist at Avedis in frustration. “Whoever is responsible must be crucified once found. Lessons must be learned.”

    Aslan chortled at the statement and rounded the pillar that concealed him. He pointed toward them with his chin the moment both Carthites swiveled their gazes in his direction.

Aslan confessed. “You should prepare your crucifix for me, then, shipmaster. For I too am guilty for murder and espionage.”

The shipmaster unconsciously drew his blade in alarm. He screamed at Avedis even as he unslung the shield protecting his back.

“Infernal fir-”

Aslan watched Avedis seize the shipmaster by the chin, force his head toward the grated ceiling, and ram the length of a drawn dagger straight through the side of his captive’s neck. Avedis twisted the dagger so that he could slice out the rest of the shipmaster’s throat. An arterial spray of blood sprinkled the frightened slaves, who screamed at the brutal display of violence.

Avedis shoved the shipmaster’s corpse face-first into the floorboards. He then looked back to Aslan and executed a graceful bow.

“Well played, Avedis.” Aslan acknowledged. He listened to the urgent cries following the disturbance of the shipmaster’s murder. “I would not linger here a moment longer. Give the signal and unleash the wolves!”

“Your command is my sworn oath, Aslan.” Avedis affirmed. “The signal was already given. We’ll come back and unshackle the chains of these women once we’ve secured the vessel.”
A storm of war cries raged within the Emerald Siren. The Children of the Sun suddenly found themselves assailed and cornered. The clamor of steel on steel echoed through the ship’s every nook and crevice.

Aslan brushed past Avedis, and heard his hurried footsteps follow him up the stairs. A warrior of Carth suddenly barred his path as he climbed the final stair. An arrow whistled from a concealed corner and struck the Carthite in his right temple. Aslan shouldered the corpse aside. He did not pause to watch it sprawl across the blood slick floorboards.
 
  Aslan emerged into an anarchic melee that raged throughout the halls and cabins of the crew quarters. Warriors dressed in the same cream and crimson robes as that of the Children of the Sun, marked themselves as Aslan’s allies by the lavender bands of silk cloth tied around their wrists.
 
  Casualties had already mounted to the point that Aslan waded through the thick of the slain. The dead were sprawled about the hall at odd angles or either slumped against the walls. As Aslan passed the first series of cabins, he noticed the still form of Tuamphetamine parrote warriors slain in their beds.
 
   As quick as the fighting escalated, so too did it fall into a permanent lull of silence. Aslan paused and found himself between either end of the crew quarters. Around him, warriors marked with lavender bands on their wrists waded through the thick of the dead. A few Carthite stragglers lingered in the waking world still, but Aslan did not need to mention them. The Knights of Old Myria put them down with grace and finality.
 
  “Avedis!” Aslan called out into the fragile void of quiet. The heavy footfalls of armored boots answered his call. The Lion turned to look Avedis directly in the eye. “How many do you think are left on the deck?”

    Avedis sighed and made several calculations within the span of a moment. “The alarm was sounded, Aslan. When the crew quarters were considered lost, the Children of the Sun would have chosen to make a last stand on the deck or within the Shipmaster’s quarters. I imagine a dozen souls were already above deck, and those who survived the slaughter here retreated to join them.”
 
  Avedis nodded to affirm his own estimations. “Probably twenty warriors await us up there. Give the command and I’ll see them thrown overboard with swords buried in their chests.”
 
  Aslan shook his head. He gestured toward the corpses strewn about the crew quarters. “No. Select ten men and clean all of this up. I would hate myself to have those women in the cargo hold endure another horrifying sight. I know it’s much to ask of a warrior, but… consider it a favor to be returned.”
 
  Avedis grimaced. “As long as you don’t mind us throwing them through the nearest hole we can find in this rat-infested and unkempt bucket. I’ll do as you expect of me, my Lord.” He considered the absent words Aslan never detailed. “I’ll wrangle you from the afterlife if you fall on a Tuamphetamine parrote’s sword.”
 
   Aslan smirked faintly and struck his chest once in salute. “A lion of war does not fall prey to the hawk.” He called several Old Myrian knights by glance and gesture alone. One by one, each of the lavender-touting warriors rallied around him.

    Aslan turned back to the route before him as Avedis and his retinue set about their grim task. He lifted his voice enough so that each member of his newly organized team heard him. “Immortals of Annahir, you understand what must be done. Once we’re upon the deck, strike first, strike hard, and crush the foe before they even think of lifting a finger in their defense. Fall into formation behind me.”
 
   The seven knights struck their chest once in salute. The combined might of their war cries made the floorboards around them creak and shudder. “For the Autumn Queen, Annahir, and Old Myria!”
 
   Aslan pressed onward in silence through the site of a massacre executed by his own hand. Though he had done so for Avedis, the young prodigal Lion of War could not find it in him to celebrate, let alone even smile at his triumph. He kept his gaze fixated in front of him, but could not stem the sickening feeling that welled within his gut.

    He wanted to bend over, then expel his bowels, then find the nearest port window and repeat the action. Yet Aslan knew that a Lion never shows weakness in the presence of kin, lest they think him weak and attempt to rival against his strength.
 
   The double doors barring the path onto the Emerald Siren’s deck appeared discreet and untampered with. If anyone had survived the ambush in the crew quarters long enough to barge through the cedar wood doors, they had slammed the door shut with no intention of locking it.
 
   Aslan sighed and approached the half dozen stairs that led up to the doorway. He whispered to himself. “Why I am not surprised. The Children of the Sun long for our sacrifices. They would avenge themselves rather than cower in their Shipmaster’s quarters.”
 
  Aslan unslung a broad round shield that hung over the small of his back. A heavy defensive weapon crafted from tempered reinforced wood compacted in several layers, then reinforced with a trimming of bluish-white veined steel. He readied his scimitar, the edge of the blade still pristine and unsullied with either gore or blood.
 
  Without a word, the Old Myrian Knights fell into a compact formation at Aslan’s back. Shields interlocked across their flanks, they grounded themselves for a sudden sprint through the double doors and onto the deck.
 
  Aslan exchanged nods of readiness with all of them, then stepped forward and slammed the bulk of his shield into the door with force enough that anyone above deck would have heard it. A moment of disquiet descended upon the Emerald Siren.
 
    He listened to the crash of the oars upon the waves. He heard the gust of wind billowing from the Valkyr’s Sea in the east. He felt the Emerald Siren rock gently in the wind until he thought that certainly the cargo ship would finally capsize.
 
  Whispers of the Tuamphetamine parrote language were scarcely audible from the deck behind the crew quarter doors. He heard curt phrases that sounded vicious, but Aslan could not make out their meaning.
 
  A fragile disquiet settled on either end of the door. Aslan heard only the faintest, quickest breaths feed the intensity clinging to the breezy sea air.
 
  Aslan spared a glance over his shoulder toward the Myrites positioned at his back. He mouthed a countdown that would spring their assault.
 
   Three… two… one.
 
   “Annahir!” Aslan roared at pique volume, then smashed the unbarred doors above him aside with an irresistible swing of his shield.

    Dazzling rays of the midday sun cascaded through the broken cellar doors. Aslan found himself blinded by the golden radiance of Sirius - the Solar God. He could scarcely perceive the dark shafts hurtling past him even as they impacted against the bulwark of Old Myrian shields. He felt a presence of reassurance pushing him forward until he emerged from out of the dim interiors of the Emerald Siren and into a world of sunlight and misty breezes.

The chants of three hundred oarsmen and the synchronous crash of their oars into the waterway uplifted Aslan’s spirit and granted him an unnerving calm. 
 
   His vision quickly refocused until it clarified the hazy outlines of ten Tuamphetamine parrote warriors interlocked in a shield wall. He lifted his shield and hunkered behind its impregnable protection, then charged forward under a constant hail of javelins. He heard several war cries shouted at his back and the footfalls of his knights overtaking him.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene I
Post by: Alienscar on July 20, 2020, 05:03:37 AM
I understand that sometimes giving comments can feel like it's discouraging someone if it's critical in nature, I but enjoy reading your guys' feedback regardless, and it helps me continue to strive for bettering myself :).

Unfortunately/fortunately (dependant on your point of view) I have been back in work these last few weeks, so I don't have time to comment like I have been.

Hey guys, wanted to update you that the round of previews for The Embers of the Past 2.0 is coming to a close until I'm into at least Act 2. Can't share everything, can I ;D?

NOTE: Feedback from you guys about everything up to this point for the Embers of the Past 2.0 would be greatly appreciated. Just want to know how the story is looking overall to you guys, and if any major story / structure / organization changes need to happen.

So just wondering are you posting this story in chronological order, or are you still just posting random snippets of scenes taken from the chapters? If it is still just snippets then feedback on the structure of your story is impossible.

I haven't got time for my usual line by line feedback, but here are some quick items that stand out.

He shook his head once in regret as the corpse toppled over where it stood.    
Ara frowned as he watched the corpse spasm once, then become lifeless. He turned back to Vahe.

As I have commented on before a corpse by its very definition is lifeless. So a corpse can neither become more lifless nor complete an action.


He gripped his moderate buckler tight across his chest and prepared to receive the Tuamphetamine parrote’s charge.

The grizzled Tuamphetamine parrote fell upon him like a great bear. The warrior whirled his spiked maul around his head and brought it down in one momentous and crushing blow toward the base of Ara’s skull.

The Tuamphetamine parrote followed in pursuit, the momentum in his maul threatening to crush Ara’s skull still.

A luminescent arc sliced through the rapidly cooling desert air from the same flank. The war cries pouring out of the Tuamphetamine parrote’s mouth culminated into a shirek of desperate agony - cut brutally short.

He flipped his blade with practiced fluidity and plunged it straight through the stricken Tuamphetamine parrote’s heart chambers.

Something else I have commented on is that if you are using foul language in your writing then always let this sites filter handle it for those reader's that don't won't to see it. I don't have the filter turned on, so I can only imagine that you have written 'Tuamphetamine parrotte' yourself and for me its use doesn’t work. For one thing I can't pick one word that would work in every situation and for another it seems to be a lot of foul language to use.

Because you have capitalised the 'T' I also get the impression that you might be trying to be funny and have tried to invent a new word based on this sites swear filter.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene I
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 20, 2020, 06:05:30 AM
EDIT: So, I've put up the latest revisions so far, completed yesterday.

- Hi Alienscar. I don't think I've ever tried to be humorous about something like that before. It's actually not a swear word at all. And no, I'm not manipulating the swear word filter. It's doing it automatically each time I refer to the Children of the Sun by the blanket name associating them with the city of Tu'shik.

Tu-shi-te, I have to use the hyphens in order for it not be flagged. But, remove the hyphens and you have the blanket term that I am using. It's no different than the way I refer to each kingdom's people: Myrites, Sukhanites, Carthites, Kharanites, etc.

It is quite irritating though, since people may end up misunderstanding my intent.

- Aside from the prologue, this is the chronological order. The prologue is the actual start of the story and it's not finished yet.

- Each POV takes place from a different aspect of the siege of Tu'shik.

Aslan - infiltrate the city and secure the maritime district.

Voshki - infiltrate the city, rendezvous with Aslsn in the maritime district, forge a path into the royal palace via the Ancestral Catacombs.

Ara - Aid Nishan in the frontal assault, defeat the garrison and cut a path straight through to thr royal palace.

Erasyl - Defend the Garden District of the Qar nobility. Defeat the Republic's forces before Tu'shik is lost.

Act 1 - Dominion's Rise

- Aslan
- Voshki
- Ara
- Erasyl
- end of act 1 (maybe multiple chapters)

That is the current layout.

Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene I
Post by: Alienscar on July 22, 2020, 04:58:11 AM
And no, I'm not manipulating the swear word filter. It's doing it automatically each time I refer to the Children of the Sun by the blanket name associating them with the city of Tu'shik.

Tu-shi-te, I have to use the hyphens in order for it not be flagged. But, remove the hyphens and you have the blanket term that I am using. It's no different than the way I refer to each kingdom's people: Myrites, Sukhanites, Carthites, Kharanites, etc.

Well that is odd as that is not the way I thought this sites auto-censor works. If you write Tuamphetamine parrote (Tu-shi-ite) then I thought those people like me that select the 'leave word uncensored' option would see the word Tuamphetamine parrote.

Because I am seeing what looks like a censored version of a word this led me to think that you must be writing the words yourself, otherwise I would be seeing the correct uncensored word.

Edit: And as I can now see after I have written Tuamphetamine parrote it is displayed as Tuamphetamine parrote and not  Tuamphetamine parrote, so I can't imagine what is going on at your end.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene I
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 22, 2020, 05:05:34 AM
I think I fixed it by turning the 'leave words uncensored' off. So I'll go back and make changes to that. Thanks for pointing that out.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene I
Post by: Alienscar on July 22, 2020, 06:51:04 AM
Just a few more thoughts


Quote
The ancient city of the Sun-Caller Kings shined like a precious gem encrusted into a monarch’s crown. The light of the waning sun illuminated the paradisiacal labyrinth till it glimmered like a city of gold and alabaster.

Bustling crowds created from an endless deluge of citizens exiled from the ruin of their homes choked the harbor walkways till they seemed fit to burst.

Infernos raged behind Tu’shik’s compromised fortifications.

Somewhere behind the besieged and crumbling walls of Tu’shik, their quarry remained hidden.

'Inferno's', 'besieged', 'ruin'. These words/sentences create conflict with the first two sentences and it all creates confused imagery.


Quote
The Grand City of Canals; the City of the Sun; Gods’ Labyrinth.

Two names for one place can make sense, but I think three is one too many and starts to cause reader fatigue.

Quote
A font of endless wonders.

This doesn't need to be a separate sentence and as one does't quite work. The whole sentence would work better if you just wrote; 'To most Carthites it is known as the City of the Sun, a font of endless wonders.'

Quote
A great shame for the fate of an entire city of such grandeur to be determined by the dread of an Elder Council.

This sentence is also difficult to read due to its structure.

I think something like; 'It is a shame that the fate of such a grand city is to be determined by fear.' might be better.

 
Quote
wade of saliva

Wad


Quote
Easier spoken than executed.

Easier said than done is a well known and used phrase. By rewriting it you haven't really gained anything, and it is hard to imagine anyone speaking the phrase that you have used.


Quote
desert skies aflame.

A city of canals, a hilly garden district and a desert sky are hard to picture as existing in the same geographical space. It creates a very confusing landscape.

Quote
Voshki’s echoes surged into the refugees that crashed onto every berthed ship in the harbor. She cut through the endless flood without breaking stride. Disheveled wretches had only to glance in her direction to create a natural path for her to tread.
 
Voshki did not deign to conceal her swaggering stride. Raven black boots of boiled leather intentionally stamped the gold and alabaster walkways so that even those difficult of hearing shuffled from out of her path. Amethyst satin robes cushioned beneath her chainmail billowed in the wake of a sudden squall.
 
Distasteful words followed in her wake. Southern Barbarian. Pit Viper.  Sukhanite whore.
 
Elegant reinforced leather -dyed black- shielded her thighs, shoulders, and the upper limits of her arms. She rested a wicked barbed long spear on her shoulder, whose bladed tip was combined with that of a reverse barbed hook. Emblazoned on the front of her cuirass was a Royal Cobra depicted with the shavings of precious stones created by the finest artisans great affluence could hire.
 
Voshki paid the words of the craven horde no heed. She banished them from out of her path by vicious sneer alone. “Out of my path, disowned wretches. Or I’ll have you put down like the destitute dogs you are!”

This part is far too long to just describe Voshki walking down a walkway, and the last paragraph is essentially a repeat of the first.

Quote
Voshki paid the words of the craven horde no heed. She banished them from out of her path by vicious sneer alone. “Out of my path, disowned wretches. Or I’ll have you put down like the destitute dogs you are!”

As she has spoken she plainly had to use more than just a sneer.



Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 22, 2020, 01:24:46 PM
Hey Alienscar, I'll look over your feedback and start making some changes here before the end of the day. Keep the suggestions coming 8).

EDIT: Feedback Changes made.

Missile after missile impacted on Aegis and shattered from their own momentous force. Aslan lowered the great shield only when the Tuamphetamine parrotes felt so under threat that they unsheathed swords in their defense.

    The Annahir Immortals crashed into the Tuamphetamine parrote shield wall with the force of a battering ram. Aslan smashed the warrior in front of him to the floorboards, Aegis shielding him from retaliation. Around him, the Old Myrian Knights sundered their foe's formation and put the scattered remnants to the sword.

      With a mighty blow, Aslan cleaved his fallen enemy's buckler and shield hand in two. He finished his foe with a vicious cut across his throat.

    A mailed fist lashed out of the melee and struck Aslan on his left temple. The Lion staggered, but quickly ducked under the zealous cleave meant to sever his head. Roaring in frustration, his attacker swept his blade back to strike again.

    Aslan did not attempt to parry the attack, but stepped into the Tuamphetamine parrote’s guard and smashed Aegis into the zealot’s face. He heard the crunch of cartilage, the splatter of blood on Aegis’ studded rivets, and the fracturing of bone. One of the Immortals struck Aslan's assailant through the small of his neck, the spinal cord severed.

  Aslan watched the corpse impact upon the deck with no small amount of surprise. He only realized that the skirmish had ended after several moments of shock. He forced himself to stop reimagining the entire combat in his mind. He looked instead to the Annahir Immortals.
 
   Aslan nodded to himself, pleased, for none of the Immortals were slain in the chaos. He dismissed them with a silent gesture, then went to lean over the railing. Aboard the Emerald Siren, none among the Tuamphetamine parrotes remained in the land of the living.
 
   Aslan gazed out across the serene emerald waters. The grand canal was struck by golden sunlight until it glimmered like an incredible vein of the precious stone itself. He noticed the sight of hundreds of berthed ships - Biremes, Triremes, and even the majestic floating fortresses of Quinqueremes and many more besides.
 
                Galleons, sloops, and hulks from far-flung kingdoms mingled amongst their number. For every anchored ship, Aslan counted another harbor capable of anchoring many more besides.
 
   Aslan expelled the collected breath he didn’t realize he held in his lungs. He witnessed garrison-barracks capable of rivaling many strongholds in the west scattered throughout the endless maze of dockyards. Sentry towers guarded each checkpoint into the death trap of sharpened stakes and wooden palisades that shielded each miniature castle.
 
   Looming over the endless maze of the maritime district, Aslan spied the famous Dam’s Gate that isolated most of the labyrinthine city beyond the already formidable canal-side districts. The great sandstone wall stretched beyond the edge of his peripheral vision, but Aslan knew that the fortification was mere decoration.

The battlements had weathered centuries of seasonal rains to the point that they were compromised in many locations. Instead of repairing the ancient defence, the Tuamphetamine parrotes chose to build great ramparts from their maritime districts to the very heights of the old battlements. This way the maritime district retained access into her neighboring quarters.

Beyond the Dam’s gate, an opulent urban sprawl reminiscent of rolling hills rose into resplendent peaks, only to dip beneath the ancient curtain wall like the mountain valleys of Kindlestone. Aslan gazed upon the mighty settlement and felt dwarfed to the size of a minute insect.

He finally caught sight of a great mountain at the heart of the city. Whether crafted from the hands of men or that of the gods, he could not tell with any certainty. At the foot of the mountain was a great curtain wall of granite, cloaked beneath a fecund and sprawling hanging garden that thrived from the mountain’s foundation all of the way to the very pique of its summit.

The Lion peered closely and made out the architecture of hundreds - perhaps thousands of luxurious Manor-Estates ringed around the mountain in a never-ending spiral that touched the man-made artifice from base to summit. Upon the mountain’s pinnacle was a palace woven from the stuff of the heavens themselves.

Aslan looked upon the city with raven eyes alight with wonder and could not conceal his amazed smile in spite of his slackened jaw. He heard the sound of heavy footfalls approach him from behind. Aslan pried his gaze away for the briefest moment to watch Avedis join him by the railing.

Aslan sobered and killed his sense of wonderment. “I thought I told you to take care of things in the crew quarter?”

Avedis chuckled, then clapped Aslan hard across the broad of his back. “I was until we all heard fighting. I wanted to make sure you hadn’t gotten yourself cornered or worse.” Avedis absorbed the view alongside Aslan. “So we did arrive in the fabled city afterall. Tuamphetamine parrote sailors certainly know their own canals, don’t they?”

Aslan grinned broadly and spread his arms in an all-inclusive gesture. “Tu’shik - the Grand City of the Sun. I’ll confess only to you Avedis, that I never thought we’d really lay eyes on the home of the Sun-Caller Kings. To those who worship Sirius - the Solar God - Tu’shik is holier land than any realm or wilderness in all of Khios continent.”

Avedis chortled. “Would you wish to make an offering to the King of Gods, Aslan? A Lion of War would find much favor beneath his shadow.”

Aslan grimaced in distaste. “Never. You and I, Avedis, have always been children of the moon. That has always been the way of Old Myria. I would not slight Jumanah - the Goddess of Omen in the hour of our victory. Perhaps the victory shall belong to the sons of the Carth Republic. I hope they shall remember that it was Old Myria that stood with them to prevent its collapse. Besides, you know how Tu’shik looks nearer to her western gate. It’s an endless ruin.”

Avedis shrugged. “Several months of constant siege shall do that. That aside, do you know which harbor we’re headed for?”

Aslan shrugged. “The helmsman for the Emerald Siren was born here and is a friend of our enigmatic defector contact. He knows alone where we are headed.”

Avedis shifted to look Aslan in the eye. “Can we trust either of them?”

Aslan shrugged. “Someone with a lot of power in the Carth Republic certainly does. The decision is not mine to make, Avedis. I may be a Lion of War in Old Myria, but to anyone else, I’m a pawn being maneuvered on a chessboard.”

Avedis shook his head. “Learn what you can from the experience. You’ll soon learn everything you need to before Nishan retires you and your brother as his ward. You’ll be your own commander then, maneuvering all of the pawns the Queen grants to your disposal.”

Aslan scoffed. “That is a bleak outlook and make no mistake. I won’t be commanding obedient pawns, Avedis, but men of Old Myria. I’ll never dispose of them unless it’s absolutely necessary and beyond my control.”

Avedis sighed. “You’ll be commanding thousands, Aslan. You cannot save everyone. It’s what you do with the power and lives given to you, that can truly change the future of entire civilizations. But you’ll learn that lesson upon a day. For now, we learn a different type of lesson.”

Aslan’s expression turned stony, but he chose to keep his opinion silent.

Avedis pretended not to notice. He said. “Come, commander, we still have those women to unshackle in the cargo hold. Then we must discuss our strategy for when the Emerald Siren docks. We’ll have to tread carefully once we’re off the ship and in the maritime district.”

Aslan nodded. “Of course… though I only hope our defector friend doesn’t have any second thoughts, and betray us before we’ve even begun.”
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue: Dominion's Rise - 1st Scene
Post by: Alienscar on July 23, 2020, 11:30:23 AM
Quote
Bustling crowds created from an endless deluge of citizens exiled from the ruin of their homes choked the harbor walkways till they seemed fit to burst. Foreign emissaries and their retinues expelled back to their homelands. Affluent nobles of the Qar caste commandeering entire caravans to transport their amassed wealth and luxuries to distant lands. Warriors from across the realms of the Carth Republic amassed to storm the City of the Sun’s walls.

Quote
“Easier said than done.” Anoush pointed with her chin toward the myriad of siege engines arrayed against Tu’shik’s defenses. “The siege is reaching the zenith of violence.”

Voshki followed her Second’s gaze and took in the sight of warriors in their hundreds scaling Tu’shik's walls. Whether by ladder or siege tower, scores of the republic’s warriors were already on the battlements, locked in a brutal struggle to overcome the defenders.

I am struggling with some of the imagery being described in the first scene, and the paragraphs above hopefully show why.

I find the image of a city under siege and 'bustling crowds' to be at odds with each other. That is, the image of a bustling crowd and a busy harbour does not match my image of a city under siege, or even a city at war.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 23, 2020, 03:15:45 PM
I did not depict it very well, but consider Tu'shik's maritime district as a demilitarized zone established within the Republic's foothold within Tu'shik. Refugees that manage to reach the Maritime District are considered defectors by the Republic's armies and granted quarter. This is because the citizens fleeing from their besieged home before it is conquered will have no chance to return, and the Children of the Sun will no longer be considered an established civilization. Or  that is what the Sages who reign in the Republic believe once the survivors are scattered to the four winds.

The maritime district is bustling and full because there is an endless stream of panicked citizens wanting to escape the siege on the nearest ship they can board.

I will work on establishing that connection the next time I'm able to work on this.

Let me know if you have any opinions or additional questions on the above information.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Alienscar on July 23, 2020, 03:54:02 PM
Traditionally once a siege has started the opportunity for besieged inhabitants to leave has passed and this is why I find your imagery slightly at odds with my image of a siege. It is not really much of a siege if people can leave freely whilst the siege is being enacted.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 24, 2020, 08:43:46 AM
Traditionally once a siege has started the opportunity for besieged inhabitants to leave has passed and this is why I find your imagery slightly at odds with my image of a siege. It is not really much of a siege if people can leave freely whilst the siege is being enacted.

I'm thinking you are correct on this. I'll work on these changes as well.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 26, 2020, 12:54:25 AM
So I've made some more passes to further reflect feedback and also made some changes on my end.

So the big thing is that the dockyards of Tu'shik are now depicted as abandoned and silent throughout all of the scenes and their respective chapters now.

Also, I've made changes to reflect that most of the bloodshed and damage from the siege is centered around Tu'shik's western gate and the district there.

Re-worded / simplified some awkward sentences, focused mainly on Aslan's chapter, but changes were made throughout each chapter.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Dread on July 27, 2020, 03:10:23 AM
"Tuamphetamine parrote’" What is this?

I've enjoyed most of the reading and read thru Alienscar's advice. Not understanding if this is what your calling them or a mistake on your writing program.

Also reading this has helped me escape real life for a bit, this I thank you for tremendously.



Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 27, 2020, 08:29:05 AM
Hi Dread, the forum censor is playing havoc with that particular word. If you turn off your forum censor temporarily, you'll see the actual name.

It is Tu-Shi-te, I put the hyphens in there so that the censor does not filter it.

Tu-shi-te is a blanket term that refer to those who hail from Tu'shik. I don't know, starting to think that I may need to change it to something less confusing.

Also I'm glad my writing can provide some bit of respite, Dread :). Appreciate the kind words.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Alienscar on July 28, 2020, 06:41:49 AM
I don't start work until 13:30 today, so I thought I would offer a bit of quick feedback.

Voshki

Quote
“Tu’shik. The Grand City of Canals.”

The description of the city shouldn't be separated from its name because as a separate sentence it does not work. Tu'shik, the Grand City of Canals would be better.

Quote
The ancient city of the Sun-Caller Kings shined like a precious gem encrusted into a monarch’s crown.

'encrusted' and 'into' are opposites so this sentence is hard to read. Encrusted means to cover something with a hard surface layer.

'The ancient city of the Sun-Caller Kings shined like a gem encrusted crown' Note that I dropped 'precious' and 'monarch's' as they are redundant.


Quote
The ancient city of the Sun-Caller Kings shined like a precious gem encrusted into a monarch’s crown. The light of the waning sun illuminated the paradisiacal labyrinth till it glimmered like a city of gold and alabaster. The Garden Districts spiraled high over the dense urban sprawl like the peak of a mountain crafted by the hand of the Gods. Fecund and exotic hanging gardens wreathed the inner walls that shielded the estates of the Qar nobility.

I am not sure about this, but for me there is something off-putting about your constant use of 'similes'. I can't quite put my finger on why, but with three 'similes' in three sentences I get a feeling of deja vu.

Also I feel that as the city is already shining like a gem there is no need for it to glimmer as well as this is essentially a different way of saying the same thing.


Prologue: Dominion's Rise - Scene II

Quote
“Kin of the Black Bane!” Voshki’s clarion call echoed into the haunted emptiness of Tu’shik’s maritime harbors. “Attend your commander’s decree! Spare a moment from preparation and gather around me.”

A clarion call is either a strong request for action, or the sound of a clarion. This is neither.

Also if the harbours are hauntingly empty who is he shouting at?


Dominion's Rise - Scene III

Quote
“Tell me, ferryman.” Voshki listened to the soothing sound of an oar cycling in and out of the canal’s waters. “Did you never think to fortify your raft? We’re headed into the heart of an ongoing siege. This is not one of your romantic tours through the waterways of Tu’shik.”

The sentence 'Voshki listened' is too separate from the rest of the paragraph and it results in conflicting imagery. That is, how can Voshki be listening if he is talking?

Dominion’s Rise - Ara

Quote
Beyond the ruined western gate of Tu’shik, Ara witnessed the nearing end of the Children of the Sun.

This is a bit melodramatic, and doesn't make a lot of sense when taken in context with the rest of the scene. 'Ara witnessed' gives the impression that he is idly observing something, but in the next paragraph it is clear that he is in the middle of a battle.


Quote
Just as the skies burned in the Solar God’s vanishing light, so too were the remains of a centuries' old civilization set aflame till nothing remained. Nothing, but so many embers on the wind.

I have read this a few times, but I still don't understand what it is you are trying to achieve with your simile.

Quote
Ara found himself on the battlefield. He found himself locked in the brutality of total war.

Being on a battlefield implies a war is going on, so these two sentences slow the paragraph as they come across as repeating the same information.

Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5

Quote
Impact after impact battered Aegis, Aslan’s great shield.

An impact is the result of one object coming into contact with another. It is not an action.

'Blow after blow (or missile after missile) impacted on Aegis' would be correct.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 28, 2020, 07:57:02 AM
Changes made to reflect the latest round of feedback.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Dread on July 28, 2020, 07:04:09 PM
Ah, got it.  ;)
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Alienscar on July 30, 2020, 06:24:04 AM
Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5

Quote
Missile after missile impacted on Aegis, Aslan’s great shield. The missiles found no purchase upon its defense and shattered from their own momentous force. Aslan lowered Aegis only when the Tuamphetamine parrotes felt so under threat that they unsheathed swords in their defense.

For several reasons your first paragraph is confused. ‘purchase’ & ‘upon its defence’ don’t really work the way you have tried to use them.

‘Purchase’ means firm contact or grip, so the opposite of what you are trying to imply. That is, why do you want a missile to gain a good grip on a shield? A missile has done done its job if it hits something.

‘Upon’ is just a fancy way of saying ‘on’ and a shield affords its user defence against an attack it doesn’t ‘defence’ itself.


 
Quote
The Annahir Immortals crashed into the Tuamphetamine parrote shield wall with the force of a battering ram. Aslan leaped into the midst of the foe. He pinned all of his weight behind Aegis. tackling the warrior in front of him to the ground.

I find your use of short sentences offers a hesitant reading experience. That is, the sentence that begins ‘Aslan leapt into’ is too separate from the first and reads to me like the battle starts twice. Once when the Immortals crash into the shield wall and again when Aslan leaps into the fray.

Then the third sentence seems at odds with the second and fourth. The second and fourth sentences imply movement, but the third reads as static. That is, ‘Leaping’ & ‘tackling’  imply movement, but ‘pinned’ implies standing still.


   
Quote
Aslan hacked the buckler raised in his enemy’s defense. He cleaved the shield in twain with an irresistible blow of his scimitar. A scream tore itself from out of the Tuamphetamine parrote’s throat the moment his fingers toppled from his hand.

Aslan held the Tuamphetamine parrote in place with an armored boot. He finished his opponent with a vicious cut across the throat.

The overly descriptive account of a scream is unnecessary and slows the pace of the paragraph. Screaming is understood by your readers, so telling them that it came from someone’s throat is a bit redundant.

Again the three sentences of this paragraph offer a disjointed read and more of a flow from one action to the next would be better.

For example:

With a mighty blow of his scimitar Aslan hacked his enemy’s buckler and shield hand in two. His opponent fell to the floor screaming and Aslan silenced him by slitting his throat.


 
Quote
A mailed fist lashed out of the melee. Aslan was struck across his left temple. The Lion staggered, but quickly ducked under the zealous cleave meant to sever his head. The Tuamphetamine parrote bellowed at pique volume, his blade cutting backward in a reverse arc.

Similarly your use of short sentences has broken up this paragraph so that it offers a disjointed experience. Whilst I am guessing the first two sentences are meant to be linked your use of separate sentences means the link isn’t apparent as it should be.

Something like this might work, but apologies for my attempt at creative writing:


A fist lashed out of the melee and struck Aslan on his left temple. He staggered, but managed to duck under a zealous cleave aimed at his head. Roaring in frustration his attacker swept his blade back to strike again.

Quote
The Tuamphetamine parrote bellowed at pique volume, his blade cutting backward in a reverse arc.

As before ‘peak’ & ‘pique’ mean totally different things. Pique is not the correct word in this context.

‘backward’ & ‘reverse’ are two words meaning the same thing. I find repetition like this an odd reading experience.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Myen'Tal on July 30, 2020, 10:42:40 AM
Hi Alienscar!

So I found this feedback particularly educational and very interesting. I've been trying to strike the balance between shorter sentences and those that kind of ramble on for too long. As you likely know, definitely had an issue with the latter. It seems that I drifted to the former side of this scale in this scene. I like your examples, and have tried to put my own spin on them for practice.

I've updated the 1.5 scene for Aslan to reflect your feedback. Let me know what you think of it.

Thanks :).
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue - Dominion's Rise - Aslan - Scene 1.5
Post by: Alienscar on July 31, 2020, 10:00:21 AM
I wish I had more time as sometimes I feel that my lack of comprehensive feedback isn't helping. You might not be aware, but the feedback I provide is never complete as some issues I see are beyond my limited knowledge and would take up too much of my time.

For instance, one thing that has been bugging me is your title. This is because I am fairly certain that 'Dominion's' is not a word, but I don't have the time to determine if I am correct, so I just ignore the problem. I think 'dominion' is an uncountable noun like sheep.

It is the same with some of your sentence construction. I concentrate on the things that are obviously wrong and easily explainable, but leave the things that I think are wrong and can't quickly describe.

A good example of this is the first paragraph from Aslan Scene 1.5

Missile after missile impacted on Aegis and shattered from their own momentous force. Aslan lowered the great shield only when the Tuamphetamine parrotes felt so under threat that they unsheathed swords in their defense.


I have highlighted this paragraph a few times now and would probably not refer to it again, but personally I still think it has issues. I wouldn't mention any perceived issue again though as they are a bit too complex for me to explain.

My issue is related to your phrasing and this is why I struggle to explain what I think I am seeing.

MISSILE AFTER MISSILE IMPACTED ON (SHOULD BE AGAINST) AEGIS AND SHATTERED FROM THEIR OWN MOMENTOUS FORCE

IMO this doesn't quite work and the problem is I am not certain why, but mostly I think my problem stems from the fact that your words and sentence construction don't quite work for the simple idea you are trying to portray.

Using mostly your words I think 'MISSILE AFTER MISSILE IMPACTED AGAINST AEGIS AND SHATTERED UNDER THEIR OWN MOMENTOUS FORCE' would read better, but I still wouldn't be happy. I feel this is better because 'from' is just the wrong word and means the point in time at which a particular process, event, or activity starts.


I think something like 'Missile after missile rained down onto Aslan, but he weathered the storm behind his great shield Aegis' is simpler and easier to understand. Note that this is just an example and I wouldn't consider my own example good enough as I think it is a bit 'flat'

Things need to make sense when you write and for me MOMENTOUS FORCE causes imagery issues. We all know Newton's third law, so if something strikes something else with a 'momentous force' then there has to be a reaction other than, in this case, the missile shattering.

ASLAN LOWERED THE GREAT SHIELD ONLY WHEN THE TUamphetamine parrotES FELT SO UNDER THREAT THAT THEY UNSHEATHED SWORDS IN THEIR DEFENSE.

My issue with this sentence is that mostly it comes across as exaggerated and also redundant. It seems unnecessary and possibly unrealistic for the action to occur in this fashion. Someone running with a shield has no real need to lower or raise a shield as I imagine a shield is always poised for use. It is redundant because I can't see what this sentence adds to the setting as a whole.

I won't be around much next week as I am working 07:30-16:30.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 3.0
Post by: Myen'Tal on August 6, 2020, 06:38:40 PM
Alright guys, The Embers of the Past 3.0 is set to commence soon!

@Alienscar: Sorry for the much delayed reply. I'll be honest, your feedback here was a lot to take in. After having another first chapter critique completed by the editor I worked with last time, your suggestions and concerns seem to be correct, as I always figured they were.

Starting to realize what you're saying about the writing and the language itself... these are issues I need to start working on, and combing back the fanciness. That is part of the reason why I'm moving onto the 3.0 build.

Back to the outline, back to the drawing board.

Goals for the 3.0 build -

Scale back all the background detail.
Character Origins
More streamlined language
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 3.0 - Nishan: Scene I
Post by: Myen'Tal on August 9, 2020, 05:33:09 PM
EDIT One: A handful of small changes made.

So after listening to some counsel, I've decided this will not be a complete story refresh, but I'll be working with what I have and attempt to get that up to standard.

So I've decided that I needed to add another chapter that becomes before the others. Aslan's chapter has been removed, as there are too many characters jammed into the beginning story at the moment.

Voshki will also be removed due to the same issue. Ara's chapter shall stay, however, and I will be working to modify it.

So one should consider this the beginning of Embers, retold.

Nishan

“Gather around me, warriors!” Nishan shouted to the heights of heaven. “Gather around your general and heed my words!”

On the fertile banks of the Seventh River, hundreds of men and women heeded his call. Each performed an about-face to watch the commander’s addressal. Nishan rooted himself on a great hill overlooking his arrayed armies. A midday sun cast his forces out in the verdant fields beyond the Seventh in a shimmering haze.

The Scarred Child bellowed into the gust. “Listen with intent! A warrior always knows his enemy! A warrior always understands himself! A lesson taught to each of us from early childhood! An army that does not understand itself is not an army at all! It is a herd of sheep, doomed to slaughter!

“Do you know yourselves!? For who are we if not the Children of Carth!? Are we not all sons and daughters of the greatest civilization to grace the continent of Khios!? Are we not all brothers and sisters born into a shared manifest destiny!? Has our ancestors' blood not fed these heartlands for centuries?

“Do you know your enemy!?” Nishan cried out in askance. “Pretenders who would claim shared lineage of our honored blood! Gaze across the field and watch them stand against you!”

The general gazed across the fields and spotted hundreds of crimson and gold standards billowing in the wind. The standards were scattered across the forces of the Children of the Sun - thousands strong. In the heat haze, their warriors appeared as a flood of cream, crimson, and steel.

He noted the gargantuan city on the horizon, positioned safely behind his enemies. He considered the fabled realm of Tu’shik and how it seemed more mirage than an actual tangible thing.

By midnight, he would gaze upon Tu’shik for the first time. Then he would command his armies to wipe it from the face of the earth.

Nishan continued. “For too long, have the Children of the Sun been allowed to prosper within Carth’s lands! Once, we would have called them brothers! They were steadfast against the barbarian hordes… they were resolute against kingdoms both rival and upstart!"

The Scarred Child struck his chest like a war drum. His armored fist struck his scalemail cuirass over and over until his brethren began to repeat the gesture. Defiant shouts and war cries rippled across the ranks.  The sound swelled in volume until it became a deafening barrage of noise.

“But what does any of that matter, when loyalty begins to waver!? Should we honor allies that begin to shun our values and traditions!? Should we honor those who would show their backs to their betters!? What sons and daughters of Carth would yield their freedom to a supposed God-King and eke out an existence in tyranny!?

He swept his hand across his chest to point in the direction of the enemy. No sooner did he complete the gesture did the warriors of Carth shift around to face the Children of the Sun once more.

“Warriors of Carth know themselves and their foes, and these so-called Children of the Sun are no kindred! Spare none of them from the bite of your swords! Show them no quarter and grant them no respite!

“Sound the horns!” Nishan commanded. “Take to the field! Seize victory from Tu'shik's ruin!"

The horns sounded and called the Carth Republic to war. The earth itself trembled to the feet of thousands marching onto the battlefield. The Children of the Sun shimmered like an illusion in the haze. Yet Nishan noticed the dark blot sent hurtling into the sky from their archers.

He understood that there would be no turning back. He understood that every warrior under his command knew this too.

“Scarred Child.” A member of Nishan’s command retinue approached from behind. “Shall we answer these fools with Carth’s wrath?”

Nishan lifted his helmet off his shoulders and allowed his unkempt raven hair to breathe a little. He craned his head to look his lieutenant in the eye. To his credit, the subordinate officer did not flinch from Nishan’s grisly and scarred visage. Nor did he look his commander in the left eye, shut by a permanent scar.

He barked out a laugh as he turned from his marching forces. He smacked the lieutenant once across his plated pauldron.

“You might as well, Yervant.” Nishan cackled at his subordinate, who bowed apologetically after glimpsing his face. “Enough bowing, boy, you’re a member of the Scarred Child’s retinue. You bow only before the senate and the standard of Carth. Teach these zealous fanatics a lesson in humility instead!

“They shall learn that their Solar God shall break as any other weakling deity before the barrage of our cannons!”

Yervant erected himself and slammed his chest with a mailed fist. “Your command is my oath!” He turned to the signal bearers on the river bank. In one hand alone, he lifted Carth’s standard for them to see.

Nishan turned his gaze toward the fleet of Cogs anchored on the Seventh’s vast waters. Several minutes after the signal bearers executed their duties, a blistering volley erupted from the fifty bombards arrayed across the fleet’s port side.

The general shifted back toward the beginning battle. A constant hail of arrows was already assailing Carth's vanguard. Pride fanned within Nishan’s chest as his warriors weathered the storm under a bulwark of shields, then broke ranks in a massive charge to shatter the formations arrayed against them.

The whistle of cannon shells hurtling overhead quickly dissipated out of earshot. Before the first ranks of both armies could clash into one another, the earth heaved and erupted beneath Tu’shik’s armies. Nishan could not even wager a guess as to how many Children of the Sun were torn apart from the volley.

What was obvious was that the initial defense of Tu’shik was left in disarray. Remnants of their vanguard met Carth’s wall of blades, but were easily scattered, overcome, and routed.

“Squire!” The Scarred Child called. “Fetch the horses! Yervant, gather my retinue! We shall join the battle!”

“Commander?” Yervant arched his brow. “The battle has only been joined. You would put yourself at great risk.”

Nishan wheezed out a laugh. “You have a warm heart to concern yourself with the likes of me, Yervant. I’ve sworn that I’d turn you into a heart of steel. An exemplar leads by example! Come, before we are too late and the Children of the Sun break all at once!”


~***~
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 3.0 - Nishan: Scene I
Post by: Dread on August 9, 2020, 06:40:33 PM
I have to say that this excerpt was rather bracing. I liked the warm explanation of the characters. The short and to the point phrasing. The fact that a word censor was not needed for the names. I could visualise each part and didn't have to force a visual. I enjoyed it but remember I'm not a writer so Alienscar will be better able to tune that part. As for art visual, I saw lots of potential.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 3.0 - Nishan: Scene I
Post by: Myen'Tal on August 9, 2020, 07:07:11 PM
I have to say that this excerpt was rather bracing. I liked the warm explanation of the characters. The short and to the point phrasing. The fact that a word censor was not needed for the names. I could visualise each part and didn't have to force a visual. I enjoyed it but remember I'm not a writer so Alienscar will be better able to tune that part. As for art visual, I saw lots of potential.

Thank you, Dread! Don't worry, I have my pencil stored nearby to take notes from Alienscar :). I'm glad that you found the imagery much more natural. I think I was conveying a lot of detail with too much specifics from how I imagined them specifically. Everyone thinks differently however, and imagines more different still. So I think I was actually frustrating the reader by trying to force an image into their minds. I need to capture that balance where a reader will receive a similar mental image that I want to depict, but give the reader enough room to comfortably imagine things there way.

I don't know if that makes any sense lol and there are many more issues I want to address as well. But I think this maybe a decent start?

Time will tell :).
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 3.0 - Nishan: Scene I
Post by: Alienscar on August 10, 2020, 10:31:58 AM
@Alienscar: Sorry for the much delayed reply. I'll be honest, your feedback here was a lot to take in.

As I have said I am really sorry that I don't know how to help you more. Whilst you think my feedback was a lot to take in it might surprise you that it mostly only concerned the first paragraph from a few of your scenes. If I had more time there would have been more feedback.

Starting to realize what you're saying about the writing and the language itself... these are issues I need to start working on, and combing back the fanciness.

More streamlined language

I hope you don't mind me saying so, but it is not just about streamlining and cutting back the verbosity. Using the correct words, or using words in the correct manner will really improve the enjoyment of your readers. Things like pique instead of peak, from instead of under, impact instead of blow really slow the reading experience.

I could visualise each part and didn't have to force a visual. I enjoyed it but remember I'm not a writer so Alienscar will be better able to tune that part.

I am no writer either Dread. I am just an interfering internet busybody.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 3.0 - Nishan: Scene I
Post by: Myen'Tal on August 10, 2020, 11:11:57 AM
Quote
As I have said I am really sorry that I don't know how to help you more. Whilst you think my feedback was a lot to take in it might surprise you that it mostly only concerned the first paragraph from a few of your scenes. If I had more time there would have been more feedback.

No worries, it's kind enough of you to leave the amount of feedback you've provided already. Not certain how many others would keep doing this lol ;). Also, it's first and foremost my responsibility to correct these issues. I need to do some work on showing me the right way too, which is why I've chosen to work with an editor. Doing this allows me to see the issues in much more detail, and practice on resolving them.

Quote
I hope you don't mind me saying so, but it is not just about streamlining and cutting back the verbosity. Using the correct words, or using words in the correct manner will really improve the enjoyment of your readers. Things like pique instead of peak, from instead of under, impact instead of blow really slow the reading experience.

I am aware. As I mentioned, there are a number of issues that I'm going to start tackling. I just didn't detail every single issue that needs to be addressed.

Quote
I am no writer either Dread. I am just an interfering internet busybody.

Still appreciated :). In the latest scene I posted for Nishan, I have made attempts to not only scale back the amount of verbosity, but using simpler words instead of more complicated ones. Let me know your thoughts when you have time!
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 3.0 - Nishan: Scene I
Post by: Alienscar on August 11, 2020, 12:50:56 PM
“Gather around me, warriors!” Nishan shouted to the heights of heaven. “Gather around your general and heed my words!”

'Gather around me', 'gather around your general' is essentially repetition. The addition of the word general isn't really required.

I would consider something simpler such as:'Gather around (closer?) my warriors and heed my words' Nishan shouted from his vantage point,

On the fertile banks of the Seventh River, hundreds of men and women heeded his call.


I am really not sure about the imagery you are creating here. I have been in a hangar with less than a hundred people and it is hard to hear one person making a speech. In the open standing high on a hill I struggle to see how Nishan could make his voice heard to hundreds.

Each performed an about-face to watch the commander’s addressal.

It is also hard to imagine that every person in a group of people numbering in the hundreds is facing the same way.

Adressal is the wrong word.

You listen to rather than watch a speech.



Nishan rooted himself on a great hill overlooking his arrayed armies.

This is one of things I would normally ignore as too difficult for me to explain, but 'rooted' isn't used like this.

A midday sun cast his forces out in the verdant fields beyond the Seventh in a shimmering haze.

It might just be me, but this sentence doesn't make sense.

The Scarred Child bellowed into the gust. “Listen with intent!

This is the wrong use of the word 'intent'


A warrior always knows his enemy! A warrior always understands himself! A lesson taught to each of us from early childhood! An army that does not understand itself is not an army at all! It is a herd of sheep, doomed to slaughter!


I think you should remove this. A warriors purpose in life is to kill what they are told to. There is no need for the peusdo psychology.

“Do you know yourselves!? For who are we if not the Children of Carth!? Are we not all sons and daughters of the greatest civilization to grace the continent of Khios!? Are we not all brothers and sisters born into a shared manifest destiny!? Has our ancestors' blood not fed these heartlands for centuries?

I feel like this speech could be shorter as overall this part doesn't seem to add much.


“Do you know your enemy!?” Nishan cried out in askance.


As mentioned before this is the wrong use of the word 'askance'.


“Scarred Child.” A member of Nishan’s command retinue approached from behind.


Another thing I would usually ignore as too difficult to explain, but I think you should drop use of Nishan's nickname. With his name being so short I can't imagine anyone wanting to use a longer version. If he were called scarface, or cyclops I could see why, but Scarred Child is a bit of a mouthful

“Shall we answer these fools with Carth’s wrath?”

This question seems more than a bit redundant considering the rousing speech and the fact they are stood on a battlefield.

Gaze across the field and watch them stand against you!”

Telling his troops to look across the battlefield and watch their enemy is a bit 'flat', or anticlimatic I feel. Also I feel that telling his troops to watch gives a sense that Nishan and his troops are somehow separate from the action.

Something like: 'Look across the battlefield and see how they dare to challenge you.' might work if you keep the speech at this length.

The general gazed across the fields and spotted hundreds of crimson and gold standards billowing in the wind.


The use of the word 'spotted' lends an accidental vibe to this sentence. That is, it comes across as Nishan is surprised to see the opposing army standing in front of him.


The standards were scattered across the forces of the Children of the Sun - thousands strong.

I don't think you need two sentences that refer to the banners. Having said that their are hundreds of banners I would take it for granted that they weren't huddled together.


He noted the gargantuan city on the horizon, positioned safely behind his enemies.

I am not sure about this sentence to be honest and normally I would just ignore it. A city is stationary, but saying that it is positioned safely behind his enemies gives the impression that it has a choice. Also as Nishan is just about to attack it seems odd for him to be thinking that the city is safe. The enemy are stood in front of the city would suffice.


Nishan continued. “For too long, have the Children of the Sun been allowed to prosper within Carth’s lands! Once, we would have called them brothers! They were steadfast against the barbarian hordes… they were resolute against kingdoms both rival and upstart!"


You have made the Children sound very helpful here, so it becomes less clear why they are being attacked.

The sound swelled in volume until it became a deafening barrage of noise

“But what does any of that matter, when loyalty begins to waver!?

A deafening barrage of noise that Nishan could be heard over!



Should we honor those who would show their backs to their betters!?

I am not sure about this sentence. Showing your back to your betters is not an expression that means anything to me. It comes across as if you have misused the phrase 'turn your back on'.




“Sound the horns!” Nishan commanded. “Take to the field! Seize victory from Tu'shik's ruin!"

“Scarred Child.” A member of Nishan’s command retinue approached from behind. “Shall we answer these fools with Carth’s wrath?”

Just to clarify why I think the Carth’s wrath question is redundant.



He understood that there would be no turning back. He understood that every warrior under his command knew this too.


Another sentence I am not too sure about as it isn't really clear to me what you are trying to portray. I don't understand why Nishan would be considering turning back.

I think what you are saying is: Nishan knew his order meant the death of many of his men and maybe himself.


Quote from: Myen'Tal
“Warriors of Carth know themselves and their foes, and these so-called Children of the Sun are no kindred!


Previously Nishan was asking if they knew themselves, now he is saying they do. This makes the speech a bit circuitous and somewhat repetitive.


Quote from: Myen'Tal
Nishan lifted his helmet off his shoulders and allowed his unkempt raven hair to breathe a little.


Why has Nishan removed his helmet just as he has commanded his army to take to the field? It gives the impression that Nishan is relaxing rather than preparing to fight.

Quote from: Myen'Tal
He craned his head to look his lieutenant in the eye. To his credit, the subordinate officer did not flinch from Nishan’s grisly and scarred visage. Nor did he look his commander in the left eye, shut by a permanent scar.

I am not sure about this as it causes me to think too much. Is this the first time that Nishan has met the lieutenant? Nish is called the Scarred Child, so how much of a surprise is it that he is scarred?


Quote from: Myen'Tal
“You might as well, Yervant.” Nishan cackled at his subordinate,

This might just be me, but I don't like the use of the word 'cackle' here. Cackle refers to a shrill laugh, or a noise similar to that of a hen laying an egg.




Quote from: Myen'Tal
who bowed apologetically after glimpsing his face. “Enough bowing, boy, you’re a member of the Scarred Child’s retinue. You bow only before the senate and the standard of Carth.


This is a strange reaction and I find the issue you have created concerning Nishan’s scars to be 'odd'. Are people not meant to look at Nishan? Does everyone bow if they accidentally look at him?
 

Quote from: Myen'Tal
Teach these zealous fanatics a lesson in humility instead!


Why do they need to be shown how to be humble? What is that they have done to indicate they are arrogant?

Quote from: Myen'Tal
“They shall learn that their Solar God shall break as any other weakling deity before the barrage of our cannons!”

Something like:'They shall learn that not even their God can save them from our onslaught.' might be simpler and easier to understand.

For their God to break under the barrage it would have to be there.

A weakling deity is unnecessarily descriptive and slightly confusing. By adding the word weakling you have diluted what you were trying to imply. That is, you are implying that the cannons are only good enough against weak things. Do God's have a physical presence in your universe?


Quote from: Myen'Tal
Yervant erected himself and slammed his chest with a mailed fist.


This is not how 'erected' is used. Erect means to lift up, or set upright. 'We erected a flagpole'

Quote from: Myen'Tal
“Your command is my oath!”

Your wish is is my command is a well known and understood phrase. I am not so sure your version is as easy to understand. An oath is just a promise or a statement. 'I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth...' for example. I am not sure that a command can/should be turned into a promise.



Quote from: Myen'Tal
He turned to the signal bearers on the river bank. In one hand alone, he lifted Carth’s standard for them to see.

In one hand alone is unnecessarily descriptive as 'one hand' already describes something singular. I get the impression that you are trying to say that Yervant is strong, but that message doesn't come across clearly enough if that is the case.

Quote from: Myen'Tal
Several minutes after the signal bearers executed their duties, a blistering volley erupted from the fifty bombards arrayed across the fleet’s port side.

I am not sure about your use of the term 'bombards'. You have been calling them cannons up until now, so I don't see a good reason to change to such an archaic term.


Quote from: Myen'Tal
Nishan turned his gaze toward the fleet of Cogs anchored on the Seventh’s vast waters. Several minutes after the signal bearers executed their duties, a blistering volley erupted from the fifty bombards arrayed across the fleet’s port side.


This might just be me overthinking things, but I think you have let your knowledge of modern warfare seep into your writing.

A cog is a particular type of ship that was popular until the 14th century. Cannons firing from the broadside of a ship didn't become popular until the 16th century. Whilst a mortar (bombard) could be used they fired forward rather than broadside and wouldn't be used on a single masted cog.




Quote from: Myen'Tal
The whistle of cannon shells hurtling overhead quickly dissipated out of earshot.


Again this might just be me overthinking things, but the first naval cannon capable of firing explosive shells didn't appear until the 19th century. Also I think this could be another example of modern thinking creeping into your writing as I don't imagine a low velocity cannonball made much of a sound.



Quote from: Myen'Tal
Before the first ranks of both armies could clash into one another, the earth heaved and erupted beneath Tu’shik’s armies. Nishan could not even wager a guess as to how many Children of the Sun were torn apart from the volley.


Shells of a calibre that would make the ground heave and could be launched from a ship definitely didn't exist in medieval times.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 3.0 - Nishan: Scene I
Post by: Myen'Tal on August 19, 2020, 01:44:37 AM
Sorry for the late reply, been working on moving into the new home. I am currently working on this and will hopefully have an update soonish :).
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past 3.0 - Nishan: Scene I
Post by: Dread on August 19, 2020, 11:04:59 PM
Yup. Moving into a new house too. Everything is topsy turvy. Got some of my gamestuff over to the new house tonight.

Haha, yes Alienscar, I understand. If I can see it in my head with no fog, it works. If this was drawing, I'd go nuts with suggestions.
Title: The Embers of the Past: I - Offering
Post by: Myen'Tal on October 2, 2020, 07:30:01 PM
I

Offering

    A ghastly breath of stale wind coursed through the labyrinthine tunnels beneath the Southern Wastes. The nameless girl caught the tell-tale scent of spilt blood and decay carried upon its gentle current from the old mining shafts. Through the half-collapsed entrances into the Emerald Mines, a pleasant rush from hidden underground rivers echoed through the vast, lightless caverns of the Royal Den of Vipers - Surannir to the masters of these barren wastes.

    The nameless girl would often journey on the treacherous routes through notorious criminal dens, simply to come rest by the long-forgotten tunnels near the underground river feeding the underworld haphazardly integrated into the mine that once thrived in this place.

    In silence, she watched what precious sunlight crept this far into the caverns refract against the streams that coursed deeper than even the mines could venture. It was exceedingly little, but the refracted light dancing on the tunnel walls brought some small and merciful measure of solace that was all but void in the depths of the Royal Den.
 
   Before the cleansing waters that she could not reach, a desperate, nameless girl contemplated on how her day had descended into peril on one of her foolish whims. She had played a henchman of the Obsidian Vipers for a fool in a skewed game of dice.
 
   Her prize, several pieces of copper and an offer for less than savory work. His own prize, The nameless girl’s contract to take up less than savory work and slave for the Vipers for the rest of her life in misery and solitude.
 
   Of course, the nameless girl had not tampered with the dice - a game for children who had entered the wrong arena. She had tried her hand to earn the coin and let the Viper win as she expected. It was the roast pieces of meat that he popped into his mouth on occasion through the game’s duration that murdered him.

    The nameless girl had done as she was asked, and sprinkled her employer’s newest created poison -dubbed the Black Rot - across the entire skewed pig. She had poured a goblet of the vile stuff down its gullet too when no one had bothered to even watch over it being cooked.

    The Viper she had played the odds against wretched, vomited, and writhed from the midday bell to the lightless onset of the evening dusk. What the nameless girl had not planned for, was the celebratory feast the Obsidian Vipers hosted for their victory of being the greatest thieves’ den in the Royal Pit. A score of Vipers across various ranks of their family spectrum were slain that night as well.

    Threatened and infuriated, the Vipers thirsted for vengeance and sallied forth to scour the four corners of their territories in search of the vermin that had bitten them.

    They hacked through their own flea-bitten serfs and prostitutes first, uncaring of who they uncovered and dragged out of their hovels, so long as evidence existed of a rat having crawled through the area. The tortured screams of the dying scattered hordes of the meek and terrified like an inferno uprooting all life in a forest.

    What surprised the nameless girl as she heedlessly forged her escape through every cracked open nook and hidden crevice of the Den and that of the Emerald Mines, was the lightning speed the Vipers surged out to corner her. Soon, as she neared the underground rivers where she had always found haven, the frenzied screams of chemical induced rage soon drowned out the pitiful suffering of their victims.

    It was only a matter of time before they had sped ahead of her to spring their ambush…

~***~

   ‘Oh amphetamine parrot.’ The nameless girl wheezed, exhausted from the constant pursuit. ‘amphetamine parrot - amphetamine parrot - amphetamine parrot!’
 
   She charged onward and heedlessly hurled herself through every cracked open door into the homes of the impoverished, only to leap through gaping holes in their walls back into the twisted maze of the Royal Den of Vipers. She had tossed their dining tables and leveled decrepit bookcases to stall her pursuers for the briefest pause.
 
   The nameless girl had no choices left. She had no leads, save only a direction. She had no solace of a definite, safe card to draw and play. If she was shunned and turned away from the only refuge, she would be fed directly into the hands of the V-
 
   A rickety wooden door not even several steps away from her burst open with such force, she had to slide under the slab of termite infested wood as it flew off its hinges.

A lean figure of dark caramel skin, garbed in black leathers and fiery robes emblazoned with gold - stormed down the stairs toward her even as the nameless girl ground to screeching halt in the muddy grime.

The Obsidian Viper rattled with furious laughter as he reached out to seize her.

She twisted in his reckless grip on the scuff of her collar, tearing the fabric of her rough-spun clothes. A glimmer of steel cut across the damp and oppressive atmosphere of the lower depths. Rolling into her captor, the dagger hidden in her clothes tore a bloody slice across the Viper from cheek to the tip of his ear.

The chemically induced street thug reeled from an explosion of pain, one hand cradled over his right eye. The nameless girl pounced and buried the blood slick dagger to the hilt in the Viper’s throat, and twisted for good measure before resuming her flight.

Several voices ushered into earshot - so near their breathing echoed through the cavern she hurtled down at full-tilt. The sound of their footfalls giving urgent pursuit hastened her to the height of her limits. Whistling pierced the murky depths, culminating in the vicious impacts of javelins striking the earthen rock all around her.

The nameless girl descended further into the depths until the oppressive night thickened into a nigh impregnable abyss - void of any glimmer of the sun or moon. She reached out with bloodied, grasping fingers for any purchase so that she could find her way forward.

The Vipers hounded her in their relentless chase, somehow gaining on their prey. Her pursuers chortled and screamed constant, blood-curdling threats, hurling their javelins whenever they were convinced of their aim.
 
   A spark ignited in the darkness. An intense fiery glow that caught the nearby shadows aflame. An incredibly brief flicker, near enough that she could reach out and grasp its warmth. As swiftly as it came, the candle of light was snuffed as if robbed of fuel. The nameless girl tried to arrest her loping speed, instead slipping into a slide through the unstable mud flows on the cavern floor.
 
   The spark ignited once more before combusting into a flood of flameborne light. She raised her hands in pitiful defense of being reduced to cinders as the flames crashed over her body. An explosion without warmth to the flame whipped and lashed, but could not scorch her. The surprised screams of her pursuers, more from sudden terror than actual death, became snuffed out of existence as quickly as the flameborne explosion withered into nothing.
 
   She did not realize that her eyes were shut until the roaring in her ears dissipated. Quivering hands removed themselves from where they latched onto her face as a makeshift shield.

    She flicked open her eyes, then forced them shut from the acrid smoke wafting from burning braziers on ancient vine coated walls of weathered, wet slick stone. Crystalline waters streamed through ornate drains near to overfull from an underground river’s gentle falls. Her eyes followed a cobblestone walkway that ran straight to a great set of doors carved from onyx. Ancient calligraphy, drawn and crafted from pure silver, was inlaid across the polished stone.
 
   A clattering of armored footfalls approached hesitantly from behind, their confidence and surety challenged by fear of the unknown.

    ‘Encircle her.’ One of them commanded.  'The Royal Viper would glimpse this wretch before we put her down. Don’t stand so idly! Do your damn jobs!’
 
   The Obsidian Vipers scurried to obey their master, but their eyes continued to steal glances around their enigmatic surroundings.
 
   ‘Don’t just gawk at her, fools!’ Their commander encouraged. ‘Seize her!’

    An armored boot kicked Voshki across the temple and sent her clattering to the stonework with a sharp yelp. Another several kicks forced her to double over on her side in pain. Scarred, mutilated hands seized her by the arms and pinned them behind her back. She felt the heated burn of rough rope being pulled tight across her wrists.

    A morose voice like that of a sullen widow crept out of the dark behind the gang of Vipers.‘What’s happening out here?'

    The Viper nearest the source of the voice scrambled forward with an open palm raised.
 
   ‘Halt!’ The Viper screamed furiously, but behind the facade, the nameless girl detected a note of superstitious terror. ‘Return back the way you came, hag! This doesn’t involve you..’
 
   ‘Are you jesting?’ Another Viper arched his brow. ‘Skewer this whore and let’s move on.’ He hawked and spat in the direction of the mysterious voice.

    Their commander began to issue orders. ‘Faris, guard the girl! The rest of you, encircle our heroic woman here and silence her protests.’
 
   The Obsidian Vipers unsheathed their weapons in unison, all manner of wicked blades laced with dark crimson venom. They stormed forward as one unit to corner the patch of darkness where the torchlight could not touch.
 
   ‘Offerings for the Lady of Misery and Sorrow.’ The voice proclaimed in low undertones. ‘Join the Black Descent then, cowards.’

    The mere mention of the Black Descent threatened to snuff the flame of the braziers for the briefest moment. The nameless girl jumped as any nearby traces of light wavered momentarily. To their credit, the Obsidian Vipers seemed resolute in their confidence.

    ‘Enough…’ The grizzled viper commanding his band of subordinates gestured toward the hazed outline of a woman eclipsed by shadow. ‘Break this be-atch limb by limb. Bring me the head when you’re done.'
 
    One thug charged and caved in the skull of the insubstantial figure, dispelling the illusion with a brutal hack of his club. None noticed their leader's  severed head tumble from his shoulders until it smacked the ground with a wet thump.
The remaining vipers whirled around and regarded the corpse where it had fallen in place on its knees. A frozen chill breezed by each of them as they readied their weapons for another assault.

Two of the Vipers sprung forward, war cries on their lips as they closed the gap between them and their foe. The woman neatly lifted her slender blade and parried a reckless hack of a nicked, tarnished weapon. Her physical form seemed to meld into the shadows as she stepped around the vicious swing of her other attacker.

The spiked club gripped in both of his gloved hands cleaved harmlessly through the dissipating shadow, only to crush in the teeth of his comrade who had charged in with him. The brutality of the blow obliterated the Viper’s jaw and knocked him out of consciousness the moment he collapsed onto the cobblestone path. One of his comrades mercifully ushered him from the mortal plane.

‘Three souls.’ The woman coalesced between them and answered with two flicks of her wrist.

Another victim's weapon clattered to the ground, an urgent hand over his ruptured wound where his heart rested. The bruiser with the gore-slick club staggered and wheezed out a long, agonized scream as his torso began to fall apart.

‘Begone from this place.' The woman demanded of the three remaining souls standing frozen in place, seized by horror. ‘The Black Descent was not meant for your souls.'

The Vipers heard her command and scrambled to obey. The Obsidian Viper by the name of Faris considered the nameless girl in his grasp. He did not think long before relinquishing her and joining his comrades to vanish into the dark.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past : II - Sacrifice
Post by: Myen'Tal on October 4, 2020, 08:56:37 PM
II

Sacrifice

My Dearest Mentor & Master, Shoushan,

I’ve never ceased counting the days since I’ve escaped the Black Descent and the horrors of Surannir. Dawn shall break within the next several hours and mark the nine-hundred-and-sixty-seventh cycle of sun-and-moon across the horizons of Khios continent that I've seen. I’ve wandered this continent for nearly three years, commandeering a disparate band of mercenaries through the endless wealth funneled from your pockets and into my coffers.

‘Three years of ceaseless strife since I’ve tread this earth with the light of the sun beating down on my skin. The bandit clans have come to live in fear of my Black-Bane Kindred. Innocents are quick to flee with their families toward safer horizons when they see our Wailing Widow Banners billowing in the  distance. I’ve scoured entire battlefields for a scent of my prey, and struck them down before departing without another word or violent blow needlessly.

‘Times have been rough for the Black Bane, Zeroun. No matter how many trials we endure. No matter how many rivals and would-be enemies we leave rotting in these arid sands… stronger enemies rise up and pose new challenges for us to overcome. I know the names of the five hundred who left Surannir behind with me. I still remember the four hundred and twenty four buried in the dirt with the discarded weapons of their foes carved their backs. 

‘The Children of the Sun harried us from the Khoisan Heartland, where the Dominion of Carth reigns over the center of the known world.  In truth I am glad that we were forced away from that place, for it is a war-torn nightmare on the verge of utter collapse as internecine warfare rages unabated between the splinter factions that have arisen there.

‘I now find myself in the northern realm of Old Myria, in the Black Solitude Forests… where the Crescent Bridge leaps the gap over the Drake’s Chasm and terminates before a solitary, forlorn tower.

‘I swear on my oaths that if I survive this one last task… I shall cease aggression and negotiation with all of these foreigners and return home, back to Sukhan and dreaded Surannir. Perhaps it is a pit of royal vipers… but it is the pit that I grew up in. It is home more than any other opulent castle or palace that I’ve ever seen or enjoyed.

    See you soon, Shoushan and bid greetings to your disciples on my behalf,

    Yours into eternity,
    Voshki


~***~
Distant lightning bristled in the bellies of dark thunder clouds on the horizon. A cacophonous crack of thunder sundered the midnight skies and a great deluge descended from the heavens. A howling northern wind coursed out of the Black Solitude Forest Voshki had left behind over the ancient bridge.

Ceaseless rain fell into the Drake's Chasm several kilometers beneath the bridge's arch. On the road to the city of Annahir stood a solitary tower that blocked entry into the highlands beyond.
 
         A shiver crept into Voshki's bones as rainwater began to soak through her hood and black leather armor.
She studied the forlorn tower in front of her. It seemed more a noble's retreat than a token watchpost. She raised her voice in challenge to the tower's guardian.

'Arshavir!' Voshki shouted. ''Arshavir, you coward! Come forth and face this challenger!'

Voshki waited out in the open rain for what seemed like an aeon onto itself. She lifted her head the merest fraction as the oak door that led into the moss-coated stone labyrinth of the old watchtower was pushed aside. Once a thin ring of light shining through the gaps in the door-frame, the torchlight within the watchtower itself became a bright gateway as an unfamiliar figure emerged and stepped out into the storm.

Becalmed and patient as the sage, the lone guardian reverently shut the way into the watchtower and then locked the doors behind him. Voshki peeled her eyes and watched Arshavir pivot on a heel, then stride down the watchtower steps with a confidence that had her green with envy.

She considered the Annahir Immortal as burning pyres hidden along the ancient bridge made his laminar armor shine like polished obsidian. Unsullied chain-mail filled each perceivable weak point in his suit of armor. Lavender silk robes fluttered where the mail and laminar came to an end on his person.

Voshki lifted her gaze to meet the hollow sockets within the Immortal’s crimson plumed helmet. She pushed one leather gloved fist through the folds of her black cloak until the Crowned Prince - her wicked long spear - was unveiled in the smoldering light of the pyres.

In that moment, the Immortal unsheathed a scimitar that glimmered like luminescent sapphire. He broke out of his calm stride and charged heedlessly forward. Voshki could feel his armored footfalls make the ancient and mossy cobblestones beneath her boots quake. His impressive speed belied the bulk he armored himself in. As her combatant stormed forth to answer to her challenge, a thickened damp mist coalesced around them.

Voshki screamed with the effort of her rapid lunge to draw first blood. Crowned Prince thrust home to pierce and shatter the Immortal’s heart, but each of her seven quick paced strikes was answered with an effortless parry of her foe’s scimitar.

Voshki weaved around the broad warrior’s sheer bulk, his laminar so thick that the bone-cutting force of her thrust into the small of his back merely shoved him forward even as he hurtled past her.

The Annahir Immortal pivoted suddenly on the ball on his foot and caught Crowned Prince in the midst of an arced swing meant to lop off his head. He cast the long spear aside and charged in for the fatal blow.

Voshki already had a hand on the hilt of her handheld crossbow. She had leveled her aim so subtly, her hand still hidden behind her cloak. She pulled the trigger and heard the bolt loose with a sharp whistle.

The Immortal cried out - the bolt obliterated his right eye and rocked him off his feet with such force that he was cast backward onto the bridge. A sharp crack punctuated his fall.

Voshki did not have to command any of her own warriors. Four lean men clad in raven black leathers stepped out of the shadows and approached the Immortal even as he tried to desperately find his feet. One spear thrust through his right thigh pinned him in place. Another blade hacked through the meat and bone of the Immortal’s sword arm. A crossbow bolt to the chest sprawled him out upon the blood-slick cobblestones.

The remaining raven-clad warrior glanced briefly in Voshki's direction. He tore away the Immortal’s proud helm, breaking the wooden bolt lodged in the right eye and drawing out a shriek of pain. The rogue seized the immortal by the strands of his hair and cut open his throat with a jagged slice of a poison-laced dagger.

‘Well done.’ Voshki inclined her head in acknowledgment. ‘Black-Bane Kindred, move out!’

‘Tough bastard…’ Faris kicked over the Annahir Immortal’s corpse. He did not smile at the sight of the Immortal sprawled face-first in a pool of crimson rainwater. ‘Pompous bastard was miserable by the end of all that.’

A young woman of dark chestnut skin and lustrous falls of braided obsidian hair emerged from out of the shadows with the rest of the Black Bane Kindred - Voshki’s infamous band of clandestine sell-swords. A belt filled with various flasks and crossbow bolts was slung over her left shoulder. In her right hand was a hand-held crossbow. Her left hand cradled the hilt of a wicked dagger sheathed on her hip.

‘Hey.’ Anoush called out to Faris and snapped her fingers in his direction. ‘Show some respect to your enemies. It's an ill omen.'

Faris pitched his head back and rattled a mocking laugh. ‘Truthfully, whenever I wish a woman to rebuke me on matters of war, she’d be more than welcome to prove the bite behind her words.’ 

‘Faris.’ Voshki spared a brief glance over her shoulder from where she stood by the watchtower’s oaken entrance. ‘Goad Anoush again and I’ll have you tossed over this bridge. I’m certain you’d appreciate such a merciful death over the one that Old Myrian received. You believe the males under my command would follow you? You’d be gravely mistaken after they realize you’d never be able to pay them a silver coin in return for their loyalty.’

Faris spread his arms wide and made a deep bow of surrender. ‘Your command is my oath, Voshki. Anoush understands that I only jest about her abilities. I respect her, yourself commander, and every woman in this unit like they were siblings of my own blood.’

‘Enough.' Voshki rolled her eyes. ‘Get over here and breach this watchtower!’

‘Commander?’ Faris rushed his fingers through his kept raven hair and sighed. ‘Arshavir has been this bridge’s sole guardian for the last eleven years… in spite of his ferocious reputation-” Faris gestured to the maimed corpse splayed out on the bridge’s stone brickwork behind them. ‘He has fallen. Never shall another man of his like return for the rest of our days. Let the watchtower stand here abandoned till it collapses in upon itself.’

Voshki dangled a bloodied key from its iron-linked chain. ‘Always make a decision with certainty, my Second. All I know in this moment is that Arshavir locked the entrance behind him, so that no soul may enter but he. Something tells me that avoiding this tower would be some nuisance for us in the end. I’d rather secure the tower and ensure our lives remain unspent on the break of another dawn.

‘So fall in and let us storm through this place. Do your damned job instead of barking out bad jests! Come on, gather around me! I want this watchtower breached and anyone hidden within put to the sword! No survivors! No witnesses! One simple mistake shall betray us all and ensure our failure! So heed my words!’

The Black Bane readied an assortment of axes and approached the oaken doors of the Forlorn Tower.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past : II - Sacrifice
Post by: Myen'Tal on October 6, 2020, 12:18:55 PM
Just wanted to go ahead and update this as I've realized that I have not yet.

So Chapter I  II - neither are finished yet. I'm kind of experimenting with building blocks in different sections of the story, and it's really helping me put together Voshki's arc as opposed to forcing myself to flesh out the story in a straight line.

I wanted to share these updates so that people are given a feel of where the story as a whole is headed - and to show that this isn't dead by a long shot.

Thanks.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past : II - Sacrifice
Post by: Dread on October 6, 2020, 06:18:06 PM
Glad to hear. Gonna try to read it thru the next few nights.
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past :Descent
Post by: Myen'Tal on October 9, 2020, 11:17:17 PM
Ara watched the fire bleed from the skies as evening began to fade into dusk. Only a golden crown of light lingered over the Autumn Realms of Old Myria, set to fade beneath the horizon briefly afterward. He gazed out over the paradisaical hills and felt abandonment fester in his heart like the creeping shadows of the night.

Mustaphen stood proud on the heights of the Ardent Vigil, reverent in the constant watch he shared with Ara. The Black Wolf of Annahir combed his leather-gloved fingers through the stallion's proud obsidian mane.
Voshki had never returned.

Ara had swallowed his insurmountable pride and confessed to the Black Bane’s commander that he came to care for her more than anything he had ever desired. On that fateful night, curled up with him beside the campfire and isolated from the rest of the world,

Voshki had whispered her love into his ear. Ara remembered. He had smiled genuinely for the first time in the bleak years after his childhood. For once his celestial light seemed to burn brightly for him as opposed to it’s constant eclipse in the light of rivaling stars. He had not only accepted the Ashen Cobra’s lure,but had fallen for something he once thought a charade. Then he shared her love by the fireside.

Voshki had departed in silence on that same night for the Southern Wastes. Her desire to confront the cruel past had forced her back in the direction of more familiar shores. Somewhere in the Southern Wastes, Voshki would find the answers she sought - a collection of keys held in the palm of her enigmatic master’s hand. Shoushan’s concealed truths would unlock the chains that ensnared the Ashen Cobra’s heart.

Ara studied the horizon with a stoic gaze, but grief and concern consumed him from within beneath the surface. He had guessed right. That he was but a pawn in the cruelest of divine comedies. The Gods ever remained fickle and quick to punish his mistakes. They neglected and denied him of his good deeds, all committed in the act of begrudged penance. Perhaps, he considered, that they found him wanting because the penance was not given freely.

Ara could not bring himself to withdraw from the Vigil's flames. He had waited from sunrise to sunset and knew that nothing would change the fate forever sealed for him.

Voshki would not return and Ara found himself abandoned once again.
A soft rhythm of iron-shod hooves clattering along the Fall’s Road greeted Ara from a brief distance. The last rays of the evening dusk withered and the stars began to settle in the night sky. He watched the road ahead of him with peeled eyes, but failed to make out anything through the encroaching dark, but the soft glow of torchlight.

Ara forced a weary greeting out of his mouth, punctuated with a sigh of resignation.
‘Jumanah guide your way traveller.’

A familiar voice pierced the gentle dark, striking Ara through the heart enough to make it skip a beat. ‘And I bid you safe travels by moonlight, stranger. Say, you watch the eastern horizon as if someone you truly cared for has vanished in the lands over yonder, never to return to you?’

A gale of relief whipped through Ara and washed away the dead weight of his guilt. He felt his dark veil of grief suddenly crack and splinter, until hope welled up in the core of his chest. He felt himself smile genuinely again for the second time.

Ara shrugged, visible in the burning light of the Ardent Vigil's eternal flame. ‘Is the thought of my grief truly so incomprehensible? The woman I cared for ventured into that distant horizon, silence being her only parting gift. Do you think it foolish that I came to the first place that we crossed paths, in hopes that she’d be here?’

Voshki considered Ara’s questions in silence, before uttering an answer. ‘Don’t be foolish. I’m certain she believes that you’ve proven the truth of every word shared between the both of you. Perhaps, this woman will turn away from her black fate in the  south, for it is a cruel and unforgiving land that will certainly swallow her whole.’
Ara nodded. ‘Did you speak with your master then?’

Voshki continued her approach until moonsilver came to rest at the foot of the hill Ara kept vigil on. She answered. ‘I could not bring myself to face Shoushan. I could have drawn the Crowned Prince against her, but that would be like striking down my own mother.’

Ara kept an air of stoniness about himself, and fought hard not to sour at the mention of Shoushan’s name. ‘Even though you know of the Black Pacts she’s sworn? Or of the bleak fate she’s handed all of your kindred?’’

Voshki inclined her head in affirmation. ‘Blind vengeance won’t shatter Shoushan’s hold on the Black Descent. She is the Guardian of the Gate, Alastrine’s Hound… Striking her down in the black pits of Surannir would only be like breaking another illusion.’

‘An illusion?’ Ara arched his brow, though he knew Voshki could not see it. ‘How can you be so certain that your master is not truly in the Royal Den, if you never ventured there since you left with the Black Bane so many years ago?’

‘Shoushan is my master, Ara.’ Voshki shook her head, her voice grave. ‘I’ve always glimpsed her hidden truths, even though I never understood them. I know now that I’ve never truly laid eyes upon her. My guess, is that she awaits us in the endless chasm of the Black Descent, where the souls of my kin dwell in purgatory.’

Ara hawked and spat at the thought. ‘I’d normally say that any Sukhanite damned to that place is more than welcome to remain there -’

‘Ara.’ Voshki bristled.

Ara continued. ‘Yet if the gods truly wail for these lost souls… if they point their fingers in rage at the treacherous demon in their midst… should they desire judgment on those who shirk the cycle for limitless power and immortality, then I won’t deny them their chance at absolution. It is a great coincidence that Zesiro delved into that chasm to escape retribution.’

‘Listen, Ara.’ Voshki demanded. ‘Before the schism between my master and I, when I remained her greatest disciple, Shoushan revealed the location of the Black Descent to myself and only myself. You don’t have to follow me into that cursed labyrinth. I won’t ask you to descend onto that house of evil. I remember well that Alastrine marked your soul for greatness. There’s little need for you to risk your immortal fate for a woman who abandoned you for the eastern horizon.’
 
  Ara barked out a laugh. ‘I’d follow her into the blackest depths willingly. To unravel the dark pact that shall doom all of Khios with its fulfillment. Neither shall we descend alone....’
 
   Voshki sighed audibly. ‘Do you think any of those fools will listen to either of us?’
 
   ‘Yes.’ Ara answered. ‘My elder brother shall hear us out. The others already have an idea of what sacrifices must be made to defeat our foes. Zesiro is the nemesis of all of us. We shall decide together where we shall venture to fight her.’
 
   Voshki kicked her mount gently in the flanks. The milk white stallion spurred itself into a gentle trot up the Fall’s Road’s sharp incline to the summit of the Ardent Vigil. Ara watched her approach, till her eyes glimmered like polished emerald in the firelight and her breath brushed over him like a honeyed breeze.
 
   Voshki sighed with a brief shrug.  ‘A conversation for when our merry band of rogues, priests, and wayward warriors assembles once again… Where are you camped?’
 
   Ara gestured further north and west. ‘’On the outskirts beyond Grand Damira’s walls, in the Crescent Fields where the Alabaster River bends further west.’
 
   ‘Where your father was slain?’ Voshki regarded him with a morbid curiosity. ‘You decided to camp on a battlefield?’
 
   Ara brushed aside his own thoughts of mourning and managed a brief smile. ‘Would it frighten you to know that the site of his grave brings me some solace?’

    Voshki scoffed. ‘A hero’s grave should serve as an inspiration for anyone, even more so for his descendants. I thought it would have brought back un-cherished memories. And that is not how you should remember a man like Azat.’
 
   ‘Is it not?’ Ara answered, as grave as the night’s haunting quiet. ‘You did not know him well, but Azat always use to say to Aslan and myself, ‘Never take up the sword my sons, unless you’re prepared to wield it for the rest of your lives.’ I don’t think I ever really understood the meaning behind his warning until now. Decades of ceaseless conflict finally convinced Azat to settle and begin our family, but not even in solitude could he ever find true peace from the horrors that stalked him.

    ‘Aslan and I were his great pride, but I’ve always known that the thought of what we’d become after growing up in the shadow of his legacy, haunted him just the same. I asked him upon a day if he thought that everything he’d sacrifice - for Realm and Queen, was worth the seemingly unbearable weight of the consequences…
 
   Ara’s weakened smile broadened with no small measure of pride. ‘Azat gazed out toward the Crescent Moon and laughed at my ignorance. Yet I could tell that he found great amount of solace in the question I asked him. He merely spoke these words to me:
       
     ‘Blood is the heart and soul of a warrior.
 
  ‘His sword is the manifestation of his wrath.
   
 ‘His armor a bastion of his courage and faith.
   
‘His technique is the honed intellect of his mind.
   
 ‘The command of his master is his sworn oath.

    ‘And a warrior’s oath is his honor in the eyes of the gods.

‘It is by fate’s decree that a warrior shall be asked to offer up all of these aspects of himself.

‘Without this sacrifice, all civilization is but embers to be scattered on the wind of oblivion.

‘You’ll soon learn, Ara, that there is no justice in this world, save for what only the strong care to provide.

‘Your justice shall be meted out on the edge of your sword, and judgment executed by your own will.

‘You shall learn upon a day, my son, but not today..’


Ara barked out sudden laughter, then quickly sobered. ‘I never thought about those words ever again in my life… till I came across the site of his unburied grave, somewhere in the heart of the Crescent Fields. He taught me a lesson that he intentionally never taught me till after his death. That a man should never take up the sword, unless he is prepared to wield it for the rest of his life, lest justice and judgment fail him. It’s a never ending spiral of consequences, isn’t it?’

Voshki inclined her head in agreement. ‘Such is the way of mortals and the lives they eek out upon this earth. Impermanence and violence is our destiny, till the gods decide they’re tired of our amphetamine parrot and rescue us from ourselves. Whether that be by cleansing or salvation, they care not. Our immortal fate is the gentle dark of the void. I think the gods must seldom open their gate for less than a quarter of the foolish souls hurled against them.’

‘Hmm…’ Ara pondered aloud. ‘I wonder if Azat often thought the same. He was never religious either… but even he seemed changed in his middling years. I wonder if you and I shall always think this way till the end of our days?’

Voshki grinned wolfish at him. ‘Show me something worth believing in and perhaps you’ll be surprised.’

‘Come.’ Ara gestured in the direction of his camp. ‘It’s not an ideal location, my camp is on a hill that overlooks most of the battlefield. You shall feel haunted if you watch the field beneath the moonlight. But at least it’s peaceful.’

Moonsilver trotted to join Mustaphen’s brief journey down the Fall’s Road in the direction of the Crescent Fields. Ara lifted his gaze toward the crescent moon glimmering in the night sky and could not help but feel Azat’s strength and fortune shower down on him from the heights of the heavens.

His immortal fate remained uncertain, but it was a damn sight better than the certainty it was before...
Title: Re: The Embers of the Past : Penance
Post by: Myen'Tal on October 14, 2020, 08:18:02 PM

Voshki inhaled a shallow breath before she snapped back into the waking world. Awareness seized hold of her and she sat upright in a satin emerald gown. She was damp with sweat from her own nightmarish dreamscape.

A sudden pain flared in her broken nose where her fingers  grazed the bloodied bandages wrapped there--someone had corrected it. Scars, gashes, and cuts too burned within their stitched over wounds.

Voshki cursed. She desired to hunt Azat down and bleed him. Memories of what had happened last night came rushing back to her mind in fragments. She recalled Faris' ignoble death - his horrifying screams when he was reduced to nothing more than ashes and blackened bone.

Her mind pieced together a recollection of the Black Bane slaughtered with ruthless precision. Of the Annahir Immortals luring them into the heart of their lair to strike the mortal blow and put down the Sukhanite sell-swords once and for all.

Azat had accomplished his mission for the Immortals. For Old Myria.

For the first time in her second life, Voshki had failed Shoushan and the Ashen Cobra. She had failed the Black Bane even further - and now their lives were extinguished. She wondered if their immortal fate would be to join the Black Descent till the end of time.

Voshki swallowed the hard lump in her throat and shook her head. A fate well deserved in exchange for a lifetime of immorality and anarchic violence. The thought still made her heart race with terror, but she forced it out of her mind's eye.

She made to clean the beads of sweat off of her brows when her hand hit an invisible barrier against her own volition. Voshki ripped her arm back toward her person in an effort to break the iron-linked chain clasped around her wrist. The nightstand by her bed squealed as it was dragged on the alabaster marble floor so loudly that any servant or nobleman would scream in fright.

A rough and grizzled voice familiar in the subtleness of its mocking tone announced itself.

A quiet wheeze of cackling laughter betrayed Azat's presence where he lounged on a cushioned chair near the doors to the chamber.

'Don't bother, girl.' Azat suggested. 'You'll break your arm in twain before you before you free yourself.'

A furious rage welled up behind Voshki's hawk-eyed stare. 'Had I a moment longer when we fought, then I would have silenced you forever.'

Azat reclined into his chair and plucked the pipe out of his mouth. A steady stream of acrid smoke streamed out of his lips with a sigh of resignation. 'You should know - that all your Black Bane kin that journeyed here with you are all dead. The Lady of Misery and Sorrow can keep their souls in the infernal chasm she dwells in.'

The Immortal of Annahir waved briefly and servants hidden in the chamber's dark swathes scurried to open the blinds and three balconies afforded to this one room. 'I won't offer half-truths -whether friend or foe… You've not many options left and your time in this world is rather fleeting.'

'Then I shall embrace an honorable self-sacrifice.' Voshki was unable to control the spike in her own volume. 'For the Black Bane mercenaries… Your immortals could not stay my blade that fated night I slit the Autumn Queen's throat.'

Azat regarded Voshki with a grim sneer and shook his head in deliberate motions. 'Oh, did you think it was so simple? You slit someone's throat, of that everyone is certain.
Hazan's own twin is the victim of your attempted regicide.' He shut his eyes as if the thought made his head ache from the implications of the political fallout. 'You can imagine that she is not content that you're here, breathing. Neither are the One Hundred Families. Neither are the Annahir Immortals, who you've bled more than you had any right to.'

Azat considered his own words with a wolfish grin. He spread his arms in a grand gesture that folded back onto himself. 'You live by my grace alone... you're fortunate that I'm honored enough that any of them would listen to an old wolf like myself. Anyone lesser and they would have drawn and quartered you.'

'A great coincidence.' Voshki grimaced. ‘Your sorrow seems borne more from your headache than loss, so perhaps you speak to the truth of the matter. I’d imagine Hazan’s demise would have led to your self-imposed exile otherwise.’

Azat's vicious sneer deepened. 'I've no endless chasm to hide in like the Black Descent. Unlike yourself, when  I am cornered, I simply cut down what stands in front of me. I would not be the commander of the Autumn Queen's personal retinue in either case if your words were even near to truth.

‘Your entire mission is a failure. Your kin died on our swords for nothing. The Queen's sibling  died on the end of your spear for nothing. All of my brothers and sisters in the Immortals that stood against you and died - all for nothing.

'It was a pointless act of terror on a scale I've rarely seen here in Annahir or all of Old Myria. You must've stood to gain some substantial wealth or divine gift for your success, I’m certain. Now you gain nothing in defeat. And I am left with an entire band of dead sellswords - save for one young girl with the heart of a lion and the mind of a wolf...'

Voshki scoffed. 'I've nothing to say to you, Old Myrian. You may as well grant Hazan's wish and strike me down. You'd stand to gain some measure of retribution that way.
Torture me if you'd like. I can tell that it'd haunt you for the rest of your days. That would grant me peace and contentment with what little life I have left in this world.'

Azat leveled a sidelong look in her direction, lost in contemplative thought. After a brief pause, he stood - then made to stride through the chamber door.

'Our servants shall help you choose your wardrobe. Get dressed, then you’ll meet with me somewhere more appropriate and beyond prying ears. They shall guide you onto that place when you are ready. For now I take my leave. In the meanwhile, contemplate and reflect on all that I have said. Once you've truly chosen your next course of action, I shall be able tell if speaking with you was a folly or a good investment of my time.'

Azat crossed through the silver-inlaid oak doors and shut them with a deafening report.

Voshki watched the doors close shut and cursed herself. She'd never give into despair, but she had no desire to stubbornly walk into her gruesome destiny either. Azat seemed so certain that his words would persuade her into betraying hidden knowledge. She knew little of the man and more importantly, his intentions with such information.

Voshki considered her predicament and realized that perhaps the choice Azat had offered was merely an illusion of promise.