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Author Topic: The Embers of the Past 2.0 - Prologue: Dominion's Rise - 1st Scene  (Read 5082 times)

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Offline Myen'Tal

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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!”

« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 10:02:00 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Iteration III)
« Reply #1 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!”

~***~
« Last Edit: January 20, 2020, 06:55:39 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Iteration III)
« Reply #2 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...
« Last Edit: January 22, 2020, 07:44:08 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Dread

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Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Ver. III, Chapter I Completed)
« Reply #3 on: November 9, 2019, 01:09:37 AM »
I really enjoyed the read. Good job! Would love to see minis of them.
"Burning thru the universe in search of peace only brings more war. Peace is an illusion, war is reality, that is the way of things"

                            Farseer Gol'Istria of    the Morea Nebula craftword

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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Ver. III, Chapter I Completed)
« Reply #4 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!
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Sir_Godspeed

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Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Ver. III, Chapter I Completed)
« Reply #5 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!

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Ver. III, Chapter I Completed)
« Reply #6 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
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Ashes and Embers (Ver. III, Chapter I Completed)
« Reply #7 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.                                 
« Last Edit: November 19, 2019, 08:36:14 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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World Building 1 - on - 1: Portent of the Wanderer, Ver. I
« Reply #8 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.”
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Portent of the Wanderer, Ver. I)
« Reply #9 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
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Chains That Break)
« Reply #10 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?”
« Last Edit: January 31, 2020, 09:23:02 AM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Dread

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Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Chains That Break)
« Reply #11 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.
"Burning thru the universe in search of peace only brings more war. Peace is an illusion, war is reality, that is the way of things"

                            Farseer Gol'Istria of    the Morea Nebula craftword

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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Chains That Break)
« Reply #12 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!
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Chains That Break)
« Reply #13 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.
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (The Road to Old Myria)
« Reply #14 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.


~***~
« Last Edit: January 14, 2020, 11:36:42 PM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Alienscar

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Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Iteration III)
« Reply #15 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.
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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Born of Ashes and Embers (Iteration III)
« Reply #16 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 :).
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Interlude)
« Reply #17 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.

« Last Edit: January 14, 2020, 11:27:28 PM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Alienscar

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Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Descension Into Fire and Ruin - Scene I)
« Reply #18 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.
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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: World Building 1 - on - 1: (Interlude)
« Reply #19 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.

« Last Edit: January 14, 2020, 12:11:12 PM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

 


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