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Author Topic: The Embers of the Past : The Lantern's Flame - Scene I - Revised  (Read 12382 times)

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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : End of Thread Announcement
« Reply #140 on: November 11, 2020, 12:28:24 PM »
However, I feel like the last several months, I've just been getting torn down repeatedly with little or no positive things to take away from it.

Well, as the person that has left the majority of the feedback, I have to say sorry that I have made you feel that way. I have said many a time I wish I that I could have helped you more and that is still true.

More of it's my fault than it is yours. I shouldn't have placed so much responsibility for bettering myself off of your feedback. I feel like that put you in a position you didn't necessarily want or have the time to be in. No hard feelings :), but I realize that Embers needs some more development time in the background as opposed to the spotlight.

Sorry I never said anything before, I didn't want to alienate anyone, which I suppose I ended up doing anyway. So apologies should be on my end, not yours.

I do hope to share some stuff closer to the manuscript's completion.

Appreciate you, Alienscar.   
“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: The Embers of the Past : Apology for Alienscar & Latest Version of Offering
« Reply #141 on: November 18, 2020, 09:28:32 PM »
@alienscar: Realized that I probably came off as a big jerk in the last few post and wanted to apologize for that. I think it may have been uncalled for the way I vented my frustrations like that - and I think I was being slightly irrational with how I was looking at the situation.

So, I want to formerly apologize to you. Because no one has put forth more effort to help in this thread than you (though Dread and all readers are appreciated!).

Also, it's my fault with definitely with not being consistent in the quality of the posts. I'm going to try to be better about that.

Just thought I'd leave this here, in case  you still wanted to review it. It's the latest version of what I have for Offering. Hoping you find it better than the last version I posted. Stay honest about your opinion, as you've always have :).

I'm actually prepping for a small beta readers test that'll feature the first three chapters in order pretty soon.

Alienscar, if you'd like to be a part of this beta reader test, let me know and I'll send you a pm.

Dread, same for you  :).

I've got about four or five readers enlisted at this point, so you guys are definitely welcome.



Offering - Complete

A fell wind howled from out of the depths beneath the Southern Wastes. Voshki caught the scent of spilt blood and decay upon its current. She heard underground rivers course through ancient caverns - choked by mankind’s refuse. Beneath the surface world in the Royal Den of Vipers, sunlight seemed nothing more than a distant dream.
 
She would often navigate the treacherous routes through notorious criminal dens. All for the chance to rest in the long-forgotten caves that channeled the underground rivers.
   
Time was an obscurity this far beneath the surface. Voshki would watch what precious sunlight crept into the caverns from what she imagined was dawn to dusk. The illumined rays refracted and reflected amidst the streams. It was exceedingly little, but the dancing light on the earthen walls brought some small measure of solace.

A time of reflection that had come to an end.

Voshki caught the dancing lights in the corner of her eye as she hurried by her favorite spot beside the underground river. She contemplated on how her day had began with such tranquility only to descend into urgent peril. She had played a henchman of the Obsidian

Vipers for a fool in a skewed game of dice.
Her reward was the offering of her first contract. To commit murder against an unfamiliar name from a rival den – by the lethality of a newly concocted poison.

Of course, she had not tampered with the dice. She did not need to seize triumph from defeat. Voshki had already received a counter-contract from said rival den. She had already tested the lethality of this new poison dubbed ‘the Black Rot’ on several pitchers of wine scattered around the Vipers’ Den.

The lackey she had played the odds against had wretched, vomited, and writhed from the midday bell and expired in precisely within the span of an hour. What Voshki had not planned for was the feast the Obsidian Vipers had hosted to celebrate another ‘Blood Debt’ – a notorious rite of passage for their new recruits.

Thirty more Vipers had died that very hour.

The Vipers thirsted for vengeance and marched out of their dens in force. Their numbers continued to swell until it seemed hundreds had taken on the task of scouring their territories in search of the vermin that had bitten them.

They hacked through their own flea-bitten serfs first. Uncaring of who was dragged out of their hovels, the criminal syndicate acted with brutal efficiency. The tortured screams of the dying scattered the meek and terrified like an inferno that uproots all life in a forest.

It was only a matter of time before they had sped ahead of her to spring their ambush…

~***~

‘Oh amphetamine parrot.’ Voshki wheezed, exhausted from the constant pursuit. ‘amphetamine parrot - amphetamine parrot - amphetamine parrot!’

She fled heedlessly, hurling herself through every cracked open door into impoverished homes. She tossed their dining tables and leveled decrepit bookcases to stall her pursuers for but only a moment. Then she leapt through the gaping holes in their walls, back into the twisted maze of the Royal Den of Vipers.

Voshki had no choices left. She had no leads, save only a direction. She had no solace of a definite safe card to draw and play. If she were shunned and turned away from the only refuge, she would be fed directly into the hands of the V-

A rickety wooden door not even several steps away from her burst open with such force, she had to slide under the slab of termite infested wood as it flew off its hinges.

A lean figure of dark caramel skin emerged - garbed in black leathers and fiery robes emblazoned with gold. He stormed down the stairs toward her even as she ground to a screeching halt in the muddy grime.

The Obsidian Viper rattled with furious laughter as he reached out to seize her.
She twisted in his reckless grip on the scuff of her collar, tearing the fabric of her rough spun clothes. A glimmer of steel cut across the damp and oppressive atmosphere. Rolling into her captor, the dagger hidden in her clothes tore a bloody slice across the Viper from cheek to the tip of his ear.

The street thug reeled from an explosion of pain; one hand cradled over his right eye. Voshki pounced and buried the blood slick dagger to the hilt in the Viper’s throat and twisted for good measure before resuming her flight.

Several voices ushered into earshot - so near their breathing echoed through the cavern as she hurtled into the depths. The sound of their footfalls giving urgent pursuit hastened her to the height of her limits.

Voshki descended farther into the oppressive darkness until it became impregnable like an abyss - void of any glimmer of sun or moon. She reached out with bloodied, grasping fingers for any purchase so that she could find her way forward.
The Vipers hounded her in their relentless chase and somehow gained on their prey. Her pursuers chortled and screamed constant, blood-curdling threats. How did they find their way in the dark so easily?

A spark ignited in the darkness. An intense fiery glow that caught nearby shadows aflame.
An incredibly brief flicker near enough that she could reach out and grasp its warmth. As swiftly as the candle of light burst into brilliant life was it snuffed by an invisible force. She tried to arrest her loping speed, instead she slipped and slid through the unstable mud flows coursing through the earthen caverns.The spark ignited once again, combusting into a flood of flame born light. She raised her hands in pitiful defense of being reduced to cinders as the flames crashed over her body.

An explosion without warmth to the fire whipped and lashed but could not scorch her. The surprised screams of her pursuers - born from sudden terror rather than actual death - became snuffed out of existence as quickly as the flame born explosion withered into nothing.

She did not realize that her eyes were shut until the roaring in her ears dissipated. Quivering hands removed themselves from where they latched onto her face as a makeshift shield.

Her eyes flicked open, then shut again from the acrid smoke wafting from braziers burning on an ancient vine coated wall of slick and weathered stone. Crystalline waters streamed through ornate drains near to overfull. The drains followed cobblestone paths that wound into the dark. Her eyes followed the dimly lit road straight to a great set of doors carved from onyx. Ancient calligraphy, drawn and crafted from pure silver, was inlaid across the polished stone.

A clattering of armored footfalls approached her hesitantly from behind. The confidence in their striding steps was challenged by fear of the unknown.

‘Encircle her.’ One of them commanded.  'Don’t stand so idly! Do your damn jobs!’
The Obsidian Vipers scurried to obey their master, but their eyes continued to steal glances around their enigmatic surroundings.

‘Don’t just gawk at her, fools!’ Their commander encouraged them. ‘Seize her!’

An armored boot kicked the girl across the temple and sent her clattering to the stonework with a sharp yelp. Another several kicks forced her to double over on her side in pain. Scarred, mutilated hands seized her by the arms and pinned them behind her back. She felt the heated burn of rough rope being pulled tight across her wrists.

A morose voice like that of a widow in mourning crept out of the dark behind the gang of thugs. ‘What’s happening out here?'

The Viper nearest the source of sound scrambled forward with an open palm raised.
‘Halt!’ He screamed, furious, but she detected a note of superstitious terror behind his bluster. ‘Return back the way you came, hag! This doesn’t involve you.’

‘Are you jesting?’ Another Viper arched his brow. ‘Skewer her and let us move on.’ He hawked and spat in the direction of the mysterious voice.

Their commander began to issue orders. ‘Faris, guard the girl! The rest of you, encircle our hero here. Silence her protests.’

The Obsidian Vipers unsheathed their weapons in unison, all manner of wicked blades laced with dark crimson venom. They stormed forward as one unit to corner the patch of outlying darkness where torchlight could not so easily reach.

‘Offerings for the Lady of Misery and Sorrow.’ The voice proclaimed in low undertones.
‘Join the Black Descent then, cowards.’

The mere mention of the Black Descent threatened to snuff the flame of the braziers for the briefest moment. Voshki jumped as any nearby traces of light wavered momentarily. To their credit, the Obsidian Vipers seemed resolute in their confidence.

‘Enough…’ The grizzled viper commanding the rabble pointed in the direction of a hazed outline of a woman eclipsed in the shadow. ‘Break her limb by limb. Bring me the head when you’re done.'

One thug charged in to cave the skull of the insubstantial figure. A brutal hack from his club withered the illusion into shades of wet mist. None of them had noticed their leader's severed head tumble from his shoulders until it smacked the ground with a wet thump.

The remaining vipers swiveled around and regarded the corpse with a begrudged disbelief. A frozen chill breezed into them as they readied their weapons for another assault.

A pair of the Vipers charged again, war cries on their lips as they closed distance with the shadow in their midst. The woman neatly lifted her slender blade and parried a reckless hack of a nicked, tarnished weapon. Her physical form seemed to meld into the
shadows as she stepped around the vicious swing of her other attacker.

The spiked club gripped in both hands cleaved harmlessly through the insubstantial mist. Instead, the reckless blow caved in the teeth of the comrade who had charged in with him.

The brutality of the blow obliterated the Viper’s jaw and knocked him out of consciousness the moment he collapsed onto the cobblestone path. One of his comrades mercifully ushered him from the mortal plane.

‘Thrice-cursed shall each of your deaths become.' The woman coalesced between the remaining assailants and answered with an effortless flurry of fatal cuts.

Another victim's weapon clattered to the ground, an urgent hand over the ruptured wound where his heart rested. The bruiser with the gore-slick club staggered and wheezed out a long, agonized scream as his torso began to fall apart.

‘Begone from this place.' The woman demanded of the three remaining souls frozen in place, seized by horror. ‘The Black Descent has claimed more than its share.''

The Vipers heard her command and scrambled to obey. The Obsidian Viper by the name of Faris considered the adolescent girl in his grasp. He relinquished her and vanished into the shadows after his brethren.

‘And what manner of stray has wandered into my domain?’ Her mysterious savior cooed from out of the gentle dark. ‘Another troublesome adolescent fleeing the venomous bite of the viper. You are fortunate that the Lady of Misery and Sorrow has her eye on you. The sacrifices made in your name are worthy of her dark blessing.

‘Tell me, who are you?’ A woman emerged from out of the shadow, garbed in quilted leather armor the color of dark storm clouds. Polished steel plates reinforced the quilted suit of armor in the form of gauntlets, greaves, and pauldrons.

Her braided hair was that of rose and chestnut entwined, shifting into hues of raven black where slim lockets fell over her temples. Four old scars - a form of ritual scarification was etched with precision over the left emerald eye. Her other eye shone a dark silver in the dim firelight.

Voshki slipped out of her hastily bound restraints. She quickly picked herself off the blood-slick stone, her rough spun clothes caked in grime and splattered gore. She bowed her head in submission and knelt amidst the dead offerings claimed by the Goddess of the Underworld.

‘I am nameless.’ She eked out as the adrenaline began to subside. ‘I am nothing more than a passing shadow. I would devote myself to the knowledge of the Black Descent and the ways of its guardians…’

‘An aspirant? Amusing…’ The enigmatic woman considered the young girl before her. ‘But truly? We shall see how bad you truly wish for that.’ She snapped her fingers once and the burning braziers on the stone walls had their flames snuffed in an instant. 

‘My name is Shoushan.’ The shadow melding woman called out from nearby. ‘Do you fear what dwells in the night? Does your heart shiver in terror at the thought of death? Does your mind become your enemy, when faced with a threat that you cannot trace with mortal eyes?’

Voshki felt her heart still within her chest. ‘Of course not.’

Shoushan filled the abyss with echoes of amused laughter. An oppressive silence filled the emptiness it left behind.

‘There may be potential within you. To what degree, we indeed shall see. Arise and I shall welcome you… my only rule for the time being is that you never betray hidden knowledge… and that you avoid death - no matter its guises.

Somewhere in the gloom, Shoushan snapped her fingers once again. The dormant braziers on the stone walls ignited once more. She stood patiently by the mysterious door blocking the path further into the depths. ‘So, arise and welcome, Voshki of the Ashen Circle. Come, step into these hallowed halls… we’ll see if the clandestine arts were always meant for you.’

~***~


« Last Edit: November 19, 2020, 07:08:28 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: The Embers of the Past : Apology for Alienscar & Latest Version of Offering
« Reply #142 on: November 19, 2020, 10:22:54 AM »
@alienscar: Realized that I probably came off as a big jerk in the last few post and wanted to apologize for that. I think it may have been uncalled for the way I vented my frustrations like that - and I think I was being slightly irrational with how I was looking at the situation.

So, I want to formerly apologize to you. Because no one has put forth more effort to help in this thread than you (though Dread and all readers are appreciated!).

There is no need for you to apologise Myen'Tal, and you definitely have not come across as a jerk. If my feedback has caused you frustration then you are well within your rights to vent at me as much as you like.

My feedback is only my opinion based on 'feelings' I get reading your story, so it has no actual merit. As I have said before I have no editorial experience, so if you ever think that my feedback is crap then you must tell me (and that is true for anyone reading this)

Just thought I'd leave this here, in case  you still wanted to review it. It's the latest version of what I have for Offering. Hoping you find it better than the last version I posted. Stay honest about your opinion, as you've always have :).

I will certainly try to continue my feedback, but it won't be for some time.

I'm actually prepping for a small beta readers test that'll feature the first three chapters in order pretty soon.

Alienscar, if you'd like to be a part of this beta reader test, let me know and I'll send you a pm.

I will have to say no to that offer Myen'Tal as lately my works shift patterns don't leave me much free time at home.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2020, 10:24:43 AM by Alienscar »
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Honestly Alienscar, we get it... you dont like painting!

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : Apology for Alienscar & Latest Version of Offering
« Reply #143 on: November 19, 2020, 04:32:45 PM »
Quote
There is no need for you to apologise Myen'Tal, and you definitely have not come across as a jerk. If my feedback has caused you frustration then you are well within your rights to vent at me as much as you like.

My feedback is only my opinion based on 'feelings' I get reading your story, so it has no actual merit. As I have said before I have no editorial experience, so if you ever think that my feedback is crap then you must tell me (and that is true for anyone reading this)

Yeah I need to improve communication on my end, so I'll definitely give some thoughts on any feedback I may disagree with / have questions about.

Quote
I will certainly try to continue my feedback, but it won't be for some time.

No problem! It'll still be here when you get around to it.

Quote
I will have to say no to that offer Myen'Tal as lately my works shift patterns don't leave me much free time at home.

No worries, I know you're busy. Just thought I'd throw that out there.
“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: The Embers of the Past : Some Backstory and World Building
« Reply #144 on: November 23, 2020, 09:00:41 PM »
Working on the backstory behind the scenes. This first scene is something I've written up and might integrate into a prologue that introduces the first book's antagonist:

The Khiosian Pantheon has long abandoned the realms of Mankind on Khios Continent. On the dawn of man's first empires and civilizations - a Pact of Black Sin would forever seal the fate of each and every generation sired throughout the Eastern Realms. A Sun-Caller King - last of his proud lineage - had made an alliance with Alastrine - Lady of Hell and Queen of the Underworld. Immortal Life in exchange for the souls of every man, woman, and child cursed with life on Khios - a harsh realm of fickle and zealous gods where their children must already endure lives of constant struggle.

Once blessed by the Gods of Khios - they in turn shunned and abhorred the creation of this new God-King. When Eraysl of the Children of the Sun betrayed all the souls on the world of Ios onto the Demon Queen of the Underworld, so disgusted had the gods become that their presence on the mortal plane waned until only the slightest sliver of divinity remained within the hearts of mankind.

For generations have the children of Khios endured and dwelled in a world where their Gods remain nothing more than echoes of remembered glories. Almost four thousand years of unknowingly stumbling farther into damnation - nearly every soul that walks the world of Ios is branded with the mark of hell - fated for an eternity in the Palace of Misery and Sorrow.

As the third millennium begins to draw to a close - something seems amiss on Khios in these dark times. Centuries old Empires prepare for a continent spanning war. Entire civilizations are put to the sword and their great works crumbled to their foundations. No realm can escape the endless tides of destruction.

Only a handful of souls -bound for greatness- seem to stand between Khios and the dark fate that has ensnared it since the beginning of mankind's fledgling steps. As the entire world seems poised to tear itself apart, the Goddess of the Underworld seems to only grow more ambitious and wrathful.

In these dark times where the Palace of Misery and Sorrow should be overfull with the souls of the cursed - Alastrine strikes fear in the hearts of the Damned with screams of anguish.

In these dark times - the Palace of Misery and Sorrow is now emptied for reasons unknown. Alastrine unleashes her greatest champions - Zesiro and Amunet - into the mortal world to investigate not only where the souls within her palace are vanishing to - but to discover who is stealing out from under her in both the mortal plane and the divine realms.


This second piece is some backstory that I've created for a character soon to enter The Embers of the Past proper.

A Child of Sun and Moon

Born in the Province of Mist Hollow, Kendal is a unique individual - his father of the Qimbri Elves - Of the Genesis of Durwaith Clan - of the Celithorn Empire and his mother an immediate relative of the Autumn Queen of Old Myria. Both figures of royalty among their respective houses - having fled from the Isles of Remorse off the coast of the Old Myrian Empire - where the Celithorn Empire hosts its embassy on Khios. Having chose a life of minor nobility after situating themselves in the courts of the Kingdom of Hallorn, Kendal was raised as an only child.

Borne under the Light of the West - a star associated with the Goddess Nihali of the Ishalnan Elves and that of Jumanah in the Old Myrian Pantheon - Kendal has always been associated with wisdom, prophecy, and faith since the earliest days of his childhood. A child of scholarly pursuits - Kendal commenced his studies in arcane and religious lore, and also that of the histories.

His unnatural gifts - abilities to commune with the divine through visions and wield the Heavenly Flame - never became apparent until his adolescent years. Plagued by harrowing visions throughout his younger years, Kendal continued to grow into a hale young man. His affinity with fire magic -while a great contrast with his stoic and measured nature - continued to influence his desire to turn his talents to a more martial path.

On the eve of his eighteenth birthday and coming of age - Kendal beheld a sign of Divine Favor by the Royal Evergreen on the farmland his parents owned. During the midst of a winter storm was a single-tailed comet sailing across the atmosphere. The comet was borne aloft on wings of celestial fire, burning in a rainbow of shades. The flaming tip of the comet appeared as a Goddess' flaming sword, proceeded by the music of an angelic choir.
During the comet's passing, the winter storm began to break and not even an hour later had passed on. God rays cascaded through the gaping wounds in the ashen skies till sunlight suddenly cleared the clouds away.

Kendal took the vision as a sign of divine omen - and departed from his parent's farmland to travel to the city of Raven's Croft and pledged himself to the Grand Temple of Hanneth to become a Priest and Disciple of the Goddess of Heaven.

Kendal of Mist Hollow happened upon his mentor - who took an interest in the young man after the other Devoted Priests and Priestesses of the Temple shunned him for his twin-heritage.

His mentor introduced himself as Vindiaccos of the Titan's Hand - A Sworn Warrior of the Raven Veil Vigil - and Disciple of Hanneth. A grizzled veteran of many wars of faith - and one with a sense of humor - Vindiaccos took an interest in Kendal's unusually reserved and stoic nature.

Kendal studied and trained under Vindiaccos' leadership - thought not for the priestly role he initially expected or wanted. In the following years, Kendal found his calling as a warrior-priest and paladin of the Raven Veil. He quickly earned a reputation for the grace of his swordsmanship and his innate might when commanding the Heavenly Flame. After two years of constant arduous labor, Vindiaccos knighted him as a member of the Brotherhood.

Though Kendal earned a revered reputation as a Vigilant of the Raven Veil - many of his colleagues saw him as an enigma - someone they cannot relate to or the tenants of his personal faith - which mismatch theirs. Despite his more isolated role within the Temple of Hanneth, Kendal continued to gain fame and popularity with the local masses.

Kendal's story begins when messengers from a distant land arrive in the port of Raven's Croft. News of the foreign agents spreads like wildfire throughout the city, and naturally many of Kendal's faithful see an uncanny resemblance between him and these strange emissaries. Many of Kendal's peers within the Temple question Kendal's origins and if they're as humble as he believes they are. After several tensed or violent encounters with small groups of these emissaries, a handful of the more zealous clergy demand Kendal's resignation from the Raven Veil Vigil.

Vindiaccos, curious of these foreign emissaries, implores Kendal to return home to his farmstead and speak with his mother about a potential revelation about Kendal's past. Haunted by what these foreign emissaries are hunting for - Kendal attempts to depart from the Grand Temple of Hanneth - but is cut off by a band of zealots who covet his death - and also claim to know the truth about him.

Kendal draws his blade and cuts down his attackers - leaving them for dead. Unable to return to the Grand Temple once the deaths have been discovered, Kendal imposes self-exile upon himself and returns home. He returns to find his mother and father, and the emissaries from the distant land of Old Myria.

Kendal's mother, Ankine, reveals that she is a member of the Royal Family of the Old Myrian Empire - an immediate relative to the Autumn Queen Hazan. She has been commanded to return home, and she intends to do so with her son - who shares her heritage as royalty.

Kendal of Mist Hollow has journeyed from the distant shores of Western Ios - from the continent of Tambria et Nossos - to the eastern realms of Khios. His efforts to reach the Autumn Throne in capital city of Annahir is the culmination of a decade of labor.
“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: The Embers of the Past : Some Backstory and World Building
« Reply #145 on: November 25, 2020, 07:29:09 AM »
Offering - Complete

It is not everything, but here are a few of my thoughts on the Offering.

Quote
A fell wind howled from out of the depths beneath the Southern Wastes. Voshki caught the scent of spilt blood and decay upon its current. She heard underground rivers course through ancient caverns - choked by mankind’s refuse. Beneath the surface world in the Royal Den of Vipers, sunlight seemed nothing more than a distant dream.

Winds don't blow from out of caves.

'depths' & 'beneath' essentially mean the same thing, so I think it would be best to drop one of these words.

The word 'spilt' seems an unnecessary embellishment as well and I think the sentence would flow better without it.

The second sentence is too separate from the first and on its own doesn't work as a sentence.

'In the caverns beneath the Southern Wastes Voshki caught the scent of blood and decay on the air...' is a bit punchier I think.

Quote
She would often navigate the treacherous routes through notorious criminal dens. All for the chance to rest in the long-forgotten caves that channeled the underground rivers.

I can't determine where Voshki is standing. The first paragraph would seem to be describing Voshki standing outside listening to underground rivers, but the paragraph below descibes her being underground.

Quote
Time was an obscurity this far beneath the surface. Voshki would watch what precious sunlight crept into the caverns from what she imagined was dawn to dusk. The illumined rays refracted and reflected amidst the streams. It was exceedingly little, but the dancing light on the earthen walls brought some small measure of solace. A time of reflection that had come to an end.

Reading the whole scene I struggle to see how the first twelve paragraphs link with the rest of the story. Voshki goes from quite reflection by the side of a river to running for her life, and for me there is no link between them.

Quote
Voshki caught the dancing lights in the corner of her eye as she hurried by her favorite spot beside the underground river. She contemplated on how her day had began with such tranquility only to descend into urgent peril. She had played a henchman of the Obsidian Vipers for a fool in a skewed game of dice.

She murdered him rather than play him for a fool and the game wasn't skewed as far as I can tell.
 
I find the mindscape that you are trying to create very confusing. You mention underground rivers, so this gives a sense of being deep underground. On the other hand reflected light is still being seen, so this would indicate that Voshki is near an entrance and the surface. I feel that the romanticised use of underground rivers has led to most of this confusion.

Quote
Her reward was the offering of her first contract. To commit murder against an unfamiliar name from a rival den – by the lethality of a newly concocted poison.

To be honest I am finding this difficult to follow. Her reward for what?

Quote
Of course, she had not tampered with the dice. She did not need to seize triumph from defeat. Voshki had already received a counter-contract from said rival den. She had already tested the lethality of this new poison dubbed ‘the Black Rot’ on several pitchers of wine scattered around the Vipers’ Den.

'seize triumph from defeat'! In the context of its paragraph I do not understand this sentence.

A 'counter-contract' would imply that the Vipers knew what was going on and who was going to attack them.

If she has already tested the poison then the Den should have been littered with people writhing in agony before the dice game, unless no one was drinking. If that was the case then it wasn't much of a test.

Quote
The lackey she had played the odds against had wretched, vomited, and writhed from the midday bell and expired in precisely within the span of an hour. What Voshki had not planned for was the feast the Obsidian Vipers had hosted to celebrate another ‘Blood Debt’ – a notorious rite of passage for their new recruits.

Surely the feast was already in motion before she carried out her attack.

Quote
A lean figure of dark caramel skin emerged - garbed in black leathers and fiery robes emblazoned with gold. He stormed down the stairs toward her even as she ground to a screeching halt in the muddy grime.

I find this a bit cartoonish in its premise. It is hard to make a screeching sound in mud.
 
Quote
Rolling into her captor, the dagger hidden in her clothes tore a bloody slice across the Viper from cheek to the tip of his ear.

I am no knife fighter, but I find this hard to imagine. If someone is rolling over I would picture them  head down, so this then makes it  hard to picture someone with a knife held high enough to strike someone's cheek.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2020, 07:42:02 AM by Alienscar »
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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : Some Backstory and World Building
« Reply #146 on: November 25, 2020, 01:12:21 PM »
Hey Alienscar.

So I've made some changes and clarifications to reflect your feedback (which are good points), but I haven't posted them yet. I'll wait till I receive your feedback for the whole chapter before I post anything up - that way I can make changes across the board if necessary.

I do agree with your point in particular about the first 12 paragraphs. I didn't remove them entirely but instead removed a good bit - did some rewriting to better the merge the scenes into a more seamless experience. 

“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: The Embers of the Past : A Promise Relinquished
« Reply #147 on: November 26, 2020, 10:56:11 PM »
‘My disciple. Pleased I am with your timeliness. Come, you may enter.’

Shoushan’s voice drifted through the sigil etched door Voshki found herself in front of. In the higher echelons of the Ashen Circle - she stood in the midst of an inconspicuous hall. Weathered onyx stone lined the ancient walls of the corridor. Braziers burned on colonnades that filled the spaces between door after door - what lied beyond  them all remained unknown.

Voshki spied no guardians hidden in the shadows. Neither could she detect any assassins in the dark. It was moments like these that Voshki had come to fear the most. To tread in a place of death where a threat may lay hidden where she could not see.

Voshki fought to calm her rapidly beating heart. She fluttered her eyes shut, then reached out toward the sigil emblazoned on the smooth oak surface.

‘Where there is no light, I find a haven.

‘Where there is darkness and shadow, I draw my strength.

‘Where there lies misery and all the sorrows therein, I am called to Faith.

‘May the Lady of the Palace open the way.’


Voshki flicked her eyes open. The calligraphic symbol etched upon the doorway blazed with violet flames before vanishing in a scatter of embers. The door slid backward from the subtle force of her palm on the faded runic etchings.

Voshki peeled her hawk eyes and gazed into the windswept room of granite beyond. Hesitantly, she took one step forward and entered. Her bare feet touched upon fine rugs - tanned from the hides of several different predators in particular - each of them feline in origin.

A bellow of flames from the hearth’s fire took her by surprise. A pleasant laughter reacted that sounded uncharacteristicall y amused.

Shoushan stood on the height of a dozen stone stairs. The elevation separated her personal office near the arched window from the rest of her bedroom. Voshki swiveled her head in the direction of her master, who gazed casually beyond the light of her window. She kept her back turned to Voshki - simply achieving the impossible by gazing out into… dazzling sunlight?

Shoushan snapped her fingers once, then gestured behind her back for Voshki to become seated at her office desk.

Compelled by her oath of obedience, Voshki wordlessly approached her desk and took a seat in the nicest leather chair she had ever seen.

Shoushan continued to watch the world through her window. ‘Curious, isn’t it? That a subterranean labyrinth can hold a view of the outside world? It is one of the many hidden routes that venture into the world beyond that of Suannir - the Den of Vipers.

‘It was ironic, your unintentional discovery all those many nights ago when you fled the Vipers. If you only knew the correct phrase, you could have opened the way before you and have been on the surface before the next sunrise.

‘You’d have starved or worse in the harsh deserts of the Southern Wastes. But you’d have died a free woman.’

Shoushan finally pivoted on her heel to face Voshki. Her endless veil of raven black hair whipped back behind her shoulder. A rare moment, when Voshki’s master unveiled herself in a way that seemed more human than shadow.’

‘Fortune always did have a way of favoring you.’ A faint smile appeared on her face. Shoushan seemed to glow in the light of the hearth’s fire. ‘Destiny never allows you to misstep, does it? Despite the odds, it brought you before me. Fate has elevated you from a homeless urchin into an Assassin of the Ashen Circle.’

Voshki inclined her head in gratitude. ‘My mother always did say that I was born with a lucky star over my cradle. Before she passed that is.’

‘Mhm.’ Shoushan agreed. ‘Fortune is a bitter-sweet notion, isn’t it? For someone to win by the Goddess of favor, there must always be many more who shall lose. It is simply one of life’s myriad little games, but a test none-the-less.

‘Take your role as an assassin as an example.' Shoushan pointed out. ‘Should you wish to even continue breathing, every contract is a matter of life and death. It requires a mastery over who shall live and die by the words written upon it. One mistake and you have sealed your own fate. Another mistake still and someone meant to perish on the end of a blade and have their soul collected… may yet live.

‘The factors that spring forth from these events are never-ending. No matter which way the game of fortune plays out. All one can do is continue to see to their own success… or to the way that they shall leave this world.’

Voshki arched her brow. ‘Is that why I’m here, Shoushan? Because I’ve made a mistake that’s sealed my fate?’

Shoushan shrugged. ‘Mistakes can be an issue of perspective, Voshki. Do you believe that I’ve called you here from the Dominion of Carth because you failed me in some way?’

Voshki considered Shoushan’s remark. ‘... I know that Zagir has always been your favorite. She earned your love as a daughter would from her mother. She earned my respect as a friend and comrade.

‘Zagir is dead.’ Voshki uttered with grim finality. ‘Because I could have done better. I believe that’s why you called me back.’

Shoushan studied Voshki’s blank expression with a studious glint in her eye. She cocked her head at her, then shook it in disagreement. ‘I do not confide in many of my pupils, as you often know, because of the nature of the business that we coordinate.

‘Zagir was like a daughter to me, that much is true.’ Shoushan answered. ‘She was fated to perish that night. Nothing you could have done would have delivered her from death. Her time had come long before I sent both of you into the Heartlands of Khios.

‘I do not grieve her death. In truth, I do not grieve over the loss of any of my disciples… not even you when you eventually fail and lose your game with Lady Fortune. It is simply the nature of the immortal cycle… It is the reason that we cling onto our faith in the Goddess of Misery and Sorrow.

‘All of the Ashen Circle is united in death in the end.’

Voshki arched her brow, surprised. ‘Then why call me back to Suannir at all? I could have continued and finished the contract.’

‘Because it is null, Voshki.’ Shoushan quipped. ‘Due to circumstances beyond your ken, there is no longer a need for the contract’s fulfillment. I called you back to Suannir so that I could employ your talents elsewhere.’

Voshki arched her brow. ‘Are you jesting? Zagir and I endured hell and back crawling through that crumbling empire! We had spilt our blood and those of countless others for over two years! Who nullified the contract?’

Shoushan shrugged. ‘Who do you think? And Zagir served her purpose in death. She would have done the same willingly, even if she had known. She would have always chosen death so long as it was by my command. I need you - not her - for the mission that lies ahead.’
Voshki deigned not to reply, shocked into silence.

‘Enough about what happened.’ Shoushan changed the subject. ‘You’ve been coming and going from the surface for several years now. How do you find it up there?’

‘Surreal.’ Voshki blinked, giving an honest answer without thought. ‘It’s beautiful, beyond anything that I’ve ever imagined as an urchin in the Royal Den. I’m surprised, you never asked me before in all of these years.’

There was that pleasant laughter again.

Shoushan nodded. ‘I figured as much. The surface world has a certain charm about it compared to the caverns of Suannir. In truth, the next contract that I have lined up for you is about a world and a half away. So distant that you have never heard of it, I would wager.

‘Your destination lies in the farthest reaches of western Khios, on the other end of the continent. Tell me, do you truly know nothing of the Old Myrian Empire?’

‘Nothing.’ Voshki stated, her expression blank. ‘As you said, I’ve never heard of it.’

Shoushan sighed, disappointed. ‘I’d hoped you would prove me wrong. You must journey to this far-flung place. The journey alone shall require a year's time to reach the border, let alone infiltrate it. I do not intend to recall you once you set forth.

‘You’re to act under the guise of a sell sword warband. There is much for you to learn, practice, and execute in this regard. Four hundred men and women - the most elite of the Ashen Circle - shall be yours to command.

‘I hope you understand, Voshki, that you must be more ruthless than ever before should you wish to succeed. You shall spend five years under my direct tutelage in all things related to this mission and the skill set you shall need to master to accomplish it.

‘Understand, that once I set you forth to the lands of Old Myria… never shall I expect you to return - whether in success or failure.’

Voshki cocked her head. ‘What is that supposed to mean? Are you exiling me?’

Shoushan laughed at her. ‘No. I simply mean that when you commence this mission… you shall know everything that I must teach you. You will be your own woman - with your own goals and dreams. Once you complete this contract, you will never be indebted to me again.

‘So be certain to never return - and go your own way.’

‘Shoushan...’ Voshki started but was interrupted.

Shoushan smiled. ‘No one can win against Lady Fortune forever… but you’ll continue to reap reward for many years yet. I know as much. So, Voshki of the Black Bane Kindred Mercenaries. Do you accept the offer of this contract?’

Voshki could not hide the predatory glint in her eye, focused on the sunlight beyond Shoushan’s chambers.

She knew the answer without having to think or hesitate. She spoke the words she had never thought she would be able to after all these years.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2020, 11:00:43 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: The Embers of the Past : A Promise Relinquished
« Reply #148 on: November 27, 2020, 07:19:02 AM »
There are several issues with diction & syntax, but overall I have found this scene a much easier read than your previous scenes. I think the flow and pace are pretty good which helps the overall reading experience.

This might just be me, but when reading the Voshki scenes I am reminded about the Faceless Men from Game of Throne. The theme of a 'nameless' vagabond trained to be a lethal killer is just a bit too familiar for me. As I said this is probably just me though.
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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : A Promise Relinquished
« Reply #149 on: November 27, 2020, 10:35:45 AM »
There are several issues with diction & syntax, but overall I have found this scene a much easier read than your previous scenes. I think the flow and pace are pretty good which helps the overall reading experience.

This might just be me, but when reading the Voshki scenes I am reminded about the Faceless Men from Game of Throne. The theme of a 'nameless' vagabond trained to be a lethal killer is just a bit too familiar for me. As I said this is probably just me though.

Hi Alienscar. Flow and Pace is definitely something I'm working on currently with the manuscript. I've made a *lot* of changes and revisions since I've posted a lot of these scenes, though I know it's probably far from perfect.

I do have some problem spots - Offering in particular is a bit of a thorn at the moment. I actually did do away with those 12 paragraphs as you suggested, as I realized it was just too disconnected from the rest of the chapter. So I'll need to make revisions to the beginning of the scene that happens afterward as well.

This might just be me, but when reading the Voshki scenes I am reminded about the Faceless Men from Game of Throne. The theme of a 'nameless' vagabond trained to be a lethal killer is just a bit too familiar for me. As I said this is probably just me though.

Your opinion about Voshki is understandable and I definitely see the points you've made. I do think, however, that any similar storyline about someone being taken off the street and trained to kill throughout their existence is going to have a similar storyline that can be considered cliché - in the beginning - at least it would depend on the author.

Voshki definitely does have that cliché beginning to her character arc. I do have plans for her to evolve out of that and become something far more unique. She is certainly in the anti-hero / antagonist field at the moment, but should she succeed in her mission and earn her freedom - she'll come to a crossroads as her life will become something more than to eke out a living murdering others. She'll still probably find a reason or two, of course  ;), but things will soon change for her very rapidly - until she becomes one of the protagonist.

So what I think I'm going to do is gradually post the first three chapters in chronological order and see how people feel about them. I'm sure not too many people will come providing feedback, but I have a few second opinions outside the forum and any criticism / advice is appreciated from anyone.

At the moment I'm focused on whether there is enough driving force in the first three chapters. Depending on feedback, I may need to make some adjustments on that front before moving forward.

To give a better idea of what to expect:

Offering - Voshki's POV

The Lantern's Flame - Ara's POV

A Child of Sun and Moon - Kendal's POV

Not many will probably be familiar with Kendal as the last time he was mentioned in any of this material, he was an infant child being sought out by Erasyl and his agents in The Tapestries of Faith. Quite a different storyline we've reached at this point ha-ha.

I thought The Embers of the Past could use some more unique perspectives and make the character cast stand out more with some interesting additions.

A pair of supporting characters will also eventually join the narrative, but I've decided that I cannot give them all origin chapters as I think I've already reached maximum capacity to fit in the first act - 25,000 words and still drive the narrative forward. 
« Last Edit: November 27, 2020, 12:18:09 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 Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : Offering - Revised
« Reply #150 on: November 30, 2020, 07:04:59 PM »
Offering - Revised

‘Oh amphetamine parrot.’ Voshki wheezed, exhausted from constant pursuit. ‘amphetamine parrot - amphetamine parrot - amphetamine parrot!’

Voshki fled for her life through the subterranean city of Suannir - the Den of Vipers to the locals. She fled from the higher echelons of the settlement built across the earthen walls of a nigh endless chasm. Her escape hinged on hidden routes through the old strongholds constructed on the chasm floor.

The urchin navigated forgotten halls made treacherous by crumbled debris. She charged through every cracked open door into cobweb infested rooms and abandoned dungeons of the Den of Vipers. She tossed old dining tables and leveled decrepit bookcases to stall her pursuers. She leapt through the gaping hole in the dungeon walls back into the twisted maze of the Den.

Voshki had no choices left. She had no leads save only a direction. She had no solace of a definite safe card to draw and play. If she were shunned and turned away from the only refuge, she would be fed directly into the hands of the V-

A half-collapsed door within proximity of her burst open. A lean figure of dark caramel skin emerged - garbed in black leathers and fiery robes emblazoned with gold. Off footed by her own surprise, Voshki slipped and lost her footing amidst the  scattered debris, then tumbled to a violent halt.

The Viper rattled with mocking laughter and seized her by the collar.

Voshki twisted in his reckless grip on the scuff of her collar, tearing the fabric of her rough spun clothes. She somehow struggled onto her feet and grasped the dagger hidden in her clothes. She lunged into her captor - a glimmer of steel in her hand thrust upward into her assailant’s throat. She buried the dagger to the hilt in the Viper’s neck and twisted for good measure.

As the Obsidian Viper choked to death on blood and steel - Voshki relinquished the dagger and resumed her flight. Several voices ushered into earshot - so near that their breathing echoed through the cavern. The sound of their footfalls in urgent pursuit hastened her to the height of her limits.

Voshki escaped the claustrophobic confines of the abandoned stronghold through the old dungeons. She descended into the caverns underneath even Suannir’s forgotten and buried ruins. She reached out with bloodied and grasping fingers for any purchase to find her way forward.

The Vipers screamed their blood curdling threats as they continued to gain ground on their quarry. A light flickered in the darkness, so intense that it caught nearby shadows aflame. An invisible force snuffed out the light after a moment.

An explosion of flames took her by surprise. Voshki lifted her hands in pitiful defense of being reduced to cinders as the flames washed over her. Tongues of fire lashed about – but nothing burned her. Her pursuers screamed – more from actual terror than death.

Voshki did not realize that her eyes were shut until her ears ceased ringing. She peered through the acrid smoke wafting from braziers embedded on vine-coated walls of weathered stone. Crystalline waters streamed through ornate drains near to overfull. Onyx doors marked with calligraphic characters stood in front of her.

Armored footfalls approached her from behind – hesitant.

‘Encircle her.’ One of the Vipers commanded.  'Don’t stand so idly! Do your damn jobs!’
The Obsidian Vipers scurried to obey, but their eyes continued to steal glances around their enigmatic surroundings.

‘Don’t just gawk at her, fools!’ He commanded again. ‘Seize her!’

An armored boot kicked Voshki across the temple and onto the stonework. Several more vicious kicks made her double over on her side in pain. Scarred, mutilated hands seized her by the arms and pinned them behind her back. She felt the heated burn of rough rope being pulled tight across her wrists.

A morose voice crept out of the dark behind the gang of thugs. ‘What’s happening out here?'

The Viper nearest the source scrambled forward with an open palm raised.

‘Halt!’ He screamed, but Voshki detected a note of terror behind all his bluster. ‘Back the way you came, hag! This doesn’t involve you.’

‘Are you jesting?’ Another Viper questioned his comrade. ‘Skewer her and let us move on.’ He spat in the direction of the mysterious voice.

Their commander began to issue orders. ‘Faris, guard the girl! The rest of you, encircle our hero here and silence her protests.’

The Obsidian Vipers unsheathed their weapons, wicked blades laced with dark crimson venom. They stormed forward and cornered the patch of outlying darkness untouched by torchlight.

‘Offerings for the Lady of Misery and Sorrow.’ The voice proclaimed in low undertones.

‘Join the Black Descent then, cowards.’

‘Enough…’ The grizzled viper commanding the rabble pointed toward the hazed outline of a woman eclipsed by shadow. ‘Break her limb by limb. Bring me the head when you’re done.'

One thug charged in to cave the skull of the insubstantial figure. A brutal hack from his club withered the illusion into shades of wet mist. None of them had noticed their leader's severed head tumble from his shoulders until it smacked the ground with a wet thump.

The remaining vipers regarded the corpse with a begrudged disbelief. A fell chill breezed into them as they readied their weapons for another assault.

Two of the henchmen charged with war cries on their lips. The woman neatly lifted her slender blade and parried a reckless hack of a nicked and tarnished weapon. Her physical form seemed to meld into the shadows as she stepped around the vicious swing of her other attacker.

The spiked club gripped in both hands cleaved harmlessly through insubstantial mist. Instead, the reckless blow caved in the teeth of the Viper who had charged in with him. Knocked out of consciousness, one of his comrades mercifully ushered him from the mortal plane.

‘Thrice-cursed will each of your deaths become.' The woman coalesced between her assailants and answered with an effortless flurry of cuts.

One Viper’s weapon clattered to the ground, an urgent hand over the wound gouged into his heart. The bruiser with the gore-slick club staggered and wheezed out an agonized scream as his torso began to fall apart.

‘Begone from this place.' The woman demanded of the three remaining souls seized by horror. ‘The Black Descent has claimed more than its share.''

The Vipers heard her command and scrambled to obey. The one named Faris considered the adolescent girl in his grasp. He relinquished Voshki deliberately, then vanished into the shadows after his brethren.

‘And what manner of stray has wandered into my domain?’ Her mysterious savior cooed from out of the dark. ‘Another troublesome adolescent fleeing the venomous bite of the viper. The Lady of Misery and Sorrow must watch over you. The sacrifices made here are worthy of her dark blessing.

‘Tell me, who are you?’ A woman garbed in quilted armor the shade of dark storm clouds stepped out of the shadow. Polished steel plates reinforced her armor in the form of gauntlets, greaves, and pauldrons.

Endless falls of raven black hair fell to the small of her back and spilled over her shoulders in a mess of serpentine coils. Four similar scars – a form of ritual scarification – were etched over her left emerald eye. In the dim light, her right eye shone as a dark veined silver.

Voshki hastily slipped from out of her bound restraints. She picked herself off the blood-slick stone and ignored the splattered gore caught in her clothes. She bowed her head out of submission, kneeling among the dead offerings claimed by Alastrine, Goddess of the Underworld. 

‘I am nameless.’ Voshki replied in hushed undertones. ‘I am only a passing shadow. I would join the ranks of the Ashen Circle and learn the ways of its warriors.’

‘Amusing, an aspirant?’ Her savior considered the thought. ‘We shall see how bad you truly wish for that.’ She snapped her fingers and the braziers lit on the wall were extinguished.

‘I am Shoushan.’ She called from the shadows. ‘Do you fear what dwells in the night? Does your heart shiver in terror at the thought of death? Does your mind become your enemy, when faced with a threat that you cannot trace with mortal eyes?’

Voshki felt her heart still within her chest. ‘Of course not.’

Shoushan filled the abyss with echoes of amused laughter. An oppressive silence filled the emptiness it left behind.

‘Perhaps there may be some potential there. To what degree we shall need to discover. I bid you welcome, Voshki of the Ashen Circle. Never betray hidden knowledge and avoid death in her every guise. Those are the only rules that you should abide by.’

Shoushan snapped her fingers again. Dormant braziers ignited back into life. Voshki searched the corridor and found her waiting by the onyx doors. ‘Come, Voshki, and step into these hallowed halls. We will see if the clandestine arts are meant for you.’
~***~

Seven Years Later…
Black Solitude Forest
Old Myria Empire

'To kill a queen shall be no simple task…'

Forked tongues of bruised light bristled in the bellies of storm clouds. Thunder cracked open the midnight skies and a deluge descended from the heavens. A cold wind howled out of the Black Solitude Forest to assail Drake's Bridge.

Ceaseless rain flooded the ravines beneath the ancient bridge. A lonesome road wound through the hills over yonder into the moorlands beyond. A solitary tower – more fortress than a token platform to maintain a vigil from – guarded the Heartlands of the Old Myrian Empire.

Constant rain crashed over Voshki and soaked through her black cloak and leather armor. She stood alone on the Drake’s Bridge.

‘Arshavir!’ Voshki challenged. ‘Arshavir, you coward! Come forth and face this challenger!’

The reinforced doors were reverently pushed aside after a moment of silence. She caught glimpses of ancient and moss-covered stone behind the great doors. Lit braziers bathed the tower’s interior in fire born light until everything within the tower became obscured.

Voshki observed a guardian emerge into the storm. His calm stride mirrored a Sage’s patient wisdom. He exuded the confidence of a warrior who knew no peer. He closed the entrance behind him with due reverence and locked it under key. 
Brazier vases hidden under the bridge blazed against the storm – belching smoke and fire.

In the bright light, the Immortal’s laminar armor gleamed like obsidian. Unsullied chainmail filled each perceivable weak point in his armor. Lavender robes fluttered where the chainmail and laminar came to an end on his person.

Voshki met the calm gaze behind the Immortal’s crimson plumed helm. In silence – she pushed a gauntlet through the folds of her cloak. The Crowned Prince – her wicked long spear – was unveiled in the bright light of the fires.

Arshavir unsheathed his scimitar – a weapon that reflected the light of the fires with a prismatic sheen. He ended his calm stride and charged in answer to Voshki’s challenge. She felt his armored footfalls quake the ancient cobblestones beneath her feet. His impressive speed belied his bulk as he stormed forth against the wind and rain.

Voshki lunged into the Immortal to draw first blood, her siren’s scream a sharp contrast to Arshavir’s sonorous shouts. She thrust the Crowned Prince home to punch through and shatter his heart. Each strike in her onslaught was parried without effort on her foe’s prismatic blade.

Voshki avoided each serpentine strike of Arshavir’s wicked sword. She weaved around the broad warrior, his laminar thick enough that the bone cutting thrust into the small of his back only propelled him forward as he hurtled past her.

Arshavir pivoted on his foot and caught the Crowned Prince a mere breath from severing his head. He pushed the long spear aside and stepped into Voshki’s guard for the fatal blow.

Voshki had a preemptive hand on the hilt of a handheld crossbow. She leveled her aim subtly, her weapon hidden under her cloak. She pulled the trigger and heard the bolt loose with a whistle.

Arshavir cried out – struck in his right eye by the bolt and rocked off his feet. He was flung onto the bridge back-first. A sharp crack punctuated his fall.

Four nameless warriors clad in black leathers came out of the shadows. Arshavir frantically attempted to find his feet as they approached him. A spear thrust into his right thigh pinned him in place. A crossbow bolt to the chest sprawled him back out onto the cobblestone bridge. A wicked blade hacked into the meat and bone of his sword arm.

The remaining warrior glanced in Voshki’s direction for an affirmation. She extended him a brief nod. He seized the Immortal by the strands of his plumed helm and made a jagged cut across Arshavir’s throat with a poisoned laced dagger.

‘Well done.’ Voshki acknowledged. ‘Black-Bane Kindred, move out!’

‘Tough bastard…’ Faris kicked the Immortal’s corpse onto its stomach. ‘Pompous fool was miserable by the end of all that.’

A young woman of dark chestnut skin and lustrous falls of braided obsidian hair emerged from out of the shadows with the rest of the Black Bane Kindred - Voshki’s infamous band of clandestine sell swords. A belt filled with various flasks and crossbow bolts was slung over her left shoulder. In her right hand was a hand-held crossbow. Her left hand cradled the hilt of a wicked dagger sheathed on her hip.

‘Hey.’ Anoush called out to Faris and snapped her fingers. ‘Show some respect to your enemies. It's an ill omen.'

Faris pitched his head back and rattled a mocking laugh. ‘Truthfully, whenever I wish a woman to rebuke me on matters of war, she’d be more than welcome to prove the bite behind her words.’ 

‘Faris.’ Voshki spared a brief glance over her shoulder from where she stood by the watchtower’s oaken entrance. ‘Goad Anoush again and I’ll have you tossed over this bridge. I am certain you would appreciate such a merciful death over the one that Old Myrian received. You believe the males under my command would follow you? You’d be gravely mistaken after they realize you’d never be able to pay them a silver coin in return for their loyalty.’

Faris spread his arms wide and made a deep bow of surrender. ‘Your command is my oath, Voshki. Anoush understands that I only jest about her abilities. I respect her, yourself commander, and every woman in this unit like they were siblings of my own blood.’

‘Enough.' Voshki rolled her eyes. ‘Get over here and breach this watchtower!’

‘Commander?’ Faris rushed his fingers through his kempt raven hair and sighed. ‘Arshavir has been this bridge’s sole guardian for the last eleven years… despite his ferocious reputation-” Faris gestured to the maimed corpse splayed out on the bridge’s stone brickwork behind them. ‘He has fallen. Never shall another man of his like return for the rest of our days. Let the watchtower stand here abandoned till it collapses in upon itself.’

Voshki dangled a bloodied key from its iron-linked chain. ‘Always decide with certainty, my Second. All I know in this moment is that Arshavir locked the entrance behind him, so that no soul may enter but he. Something tells me that avoiding this tower would be some nuisance for us in the end. I would rather see what lies before us and ensure our lives remain unspent on the break of another dawn.

‘Kindred of the Black-Bane.’ Voshki addressed her unit - no more than two scores in number. ‘Brethren, you know that I am not one for rousing, heroic speeches. What urgent words could I speak that would hasten all of you to inspiration?

‘All of you are children of the Southern Wastes, of the Kingdom of Sukhan. Each of you are the hardened elite of a land filled with constant strife and bloodshed. We have commended our souls to Alastrine - Lady of Misery and Sorrow, Goddess of the Underworld.

‘What is there to fear? An endless fall through the Black Descent? Is such a fate so different from the dark depths of the Royal Den, where all of us eked out a murderous existence?

‘Do as you have always done to persevere and survive. Do this and victory shall be ours to reap! Thieve & murder, till the halls of Ember Hearth Palace run red with Old Myrian blood!’

The Black Bane ushered one deafening cheer and approached the oaken entrance of the solitary tower with axes in hand. Voshki removed herself from their path as her most experienced warriors began to cleave into the doors.

Midnight rapidly approached and the Black-Bane’s work was only beginning tonight. Already a hidden trail of death, cloaked in darkness across half of the Old Myrian Empire was left in the wake of their passing. Of the scores of kin that had fallen behind or separated from the sellsword band, each had claimed their own lives to ensure the concealment of their mission and peers.

Only cold corpses were left behind as minor pieces of a much grander puzzle. Cold corpses, and the Wailing Widow Banners that billowed over sites of particular significance to the Black Bane’s losses and their overwhelming successes. None would understand the origins of the banners, for they hailed from a far distant land.

Only a handful of the Black Bane had endured to this point, but Voshki was determined to spend their lives stubbornly to ensure their swords reached the Autumn Queen of Old Myria, locked away in her opulent palace in the heart of the northern moorlands.

Voshki sighed. ‘To kill a Queen shall be no simple task…’
« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 07:06:39 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: The Embers of the Past : Offering - Revised
« Reply #151 on: December 1, 2020, 02:56:14 PM »
This 'Offering' is much better than the first two and an easier read because it has a more natural flow to it. There are still diction and syntax errors that mar the overall reading experience, but hopefully your editor will help you iron these out.

One thing I want to mention is this:

Voshki fled for her life through the subterranean city of Suannir - the Den of Vipers to the locals. She fled from the higher echelons of the settlement built across the earthen walls of a nigh endless chasm. Her escape hinged on hidden routes through the old strongholds constructed on the chasm floor.

First thing I notice is the incorrect use of the word 'echelon'. The word echelon doesn’t refer to the height of something it refers to ranks within an organisation. That is, 'the upper echelons of management'.

Also I find your 'mindscape' a bit confusing again and I can't quite picture what you are describing. When someone refers to a chasm I picture something like the Grand Canyon, this in turn then makes it difficult to picture a 'settlement built across' a chasm that is also 'subterranean'.
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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : Offering - Revised
« Reply #152 on: December 1, 2020, 03:29:13 PM »
Voshki fled for her life through the subterranean city of Suannir - the Den of Vipers to the locals. She fled from the higher echelons of the settlement built across the earthen walls of a nigh endless chasm. Her escape hinged on hidden routes through the old strongholds constructed on the chasm floor.

First thing I notice is the incorrect use of the word 'echelon'. The word echelon doesn’t refer to the height of something it refers to ranks within an organisation. That is, 'the upper echelons of management'.

Also I find your 'mindscape' a bit confusing again and I can't quite picture what you are describing. When someone refers to a chasm I picture something like the Grand Canyon, this in turn then makes it difficult to picture a 'settlement built across' a chasm that is also 'subterranean'.
Thanks for the feedback, Alienscar. Yeah, echelon is not the word I am looking for. Will change that sometime tonight.

As for the description of Suannir itself - here's what I'm trying to convey. Think of it like a basin - except this one is like a massive hole in the earth that is shaped like a natural well. The city itself is built / integrated into the wall of the well and descends all the way to its base.

I admit that I'm having trouble with the description myself. It's a tricky thing (at least for me) to describe...


Hopefully that made since, haha. If you have any advice on the description, I'd be more than happy to hear it.

Thanks.
“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: The Embers of the Past : Offering - Revised
« Reply #153 on: December 2, 2020, 10:19:48 AM »
As for the description of Suannir itself - here's what I'm trying to convey. Think of it like a basin - except this one is like a massive hole in the earth that is shaped like a natural well. The city itself is built / integrated into the wall of the well and descends all the way to its base.

I admit that I'm having trouble with the description myself. It's a tricky thing (at least for me) to describe...

Hopefully that made since, haha. If you have any advice on the description, I'd be more than happy to hear it.

Thanks.

The devil is in the detail as they say. If you are finding it tricky then I guess that is why I am struggling to understand your vision.

A chasm is a deep fissure in the earth's surface, so I had sort of grasped your concept of Suannir, but the overall feel of the place has been lost in the detail I feel.

Quote
She fled from the higher echelons of the settlement built across the earthen walls of a nigh endless chasm. Her escape hinged on hidden routes through the old strongholds constructed on the chasm floor.

The urchin navigated forgotten halls made treacherous by crumbled debris. She charged through every cracked open door into cobweb infested rooms and abandoned dungeons of the Den of Vipers. She tossed old dining tables and leveled decrepit bookcases to stall her pursuers. She leapt through the gaping hole in the dungeon walls back into the twisted maze of the Den.

The first cause of confusion for me is the word 'across'. When you say something has been built across a chasm I envisage a bridge like structure as across means from one side to the other.

Then you use the word earthen to describe the city walls and this confuses my vision of the city because a 'nigh endless chasm' wouldn't be earthen for its entire depth.

Also the strongholds being built on the floor of the chasm reinforces my vision of the city not being subterranean as a chasm floor is the bit between the walls of the chasm.

As an aside I also feel it odd that Voshki is fleeing to the bottom of a chasm for safety. As the bottom of a chasm is enclosed by the walls of the chasm it feels like Voshki is heading into a dead-end. Imagine being at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and hopefully you can see that essentially you would only have two ways to run and you couldn't get out as a chasm is a hole in the ground. Now that you describe your city as a basin it further reinforces the idea that Voshki is going the wrong way for an escape.

My advice would be keep the size of the city realistic. A city the whole depth of a chasm is too big to make sense, so make it smaller and just make it an underground city rather than built into a chasm. Make sure that it is built from something other than earth as a city made of soil wouldn't be very deep underground, and would take a huge amount of shoring material for it to survive any length of time. Volcanic rock is a realistic material for an underground city as it is easy to work. Google Derinkuyu, Turkey to see a good example of an underground city.

Maybe think about having your city built into a mountain, or a cliff instead. Google Longmen Grottoes to see what I mean.
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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : The Lantern's Flame - Scene I - Revised
« Reply #154 on: December 3, 2020, 09:56:12 AM »
Thanks for your insight and feedback, Alienscar. I'll definitely start researching the locations you suggested and other examples I can find.

In the meantime, the first scene of chapter II is almost ready for deployment. I'm going to go through it a couple of more times before the official post. Will probably have it up by sometime tonight.


EDIT: Did another pass earlier this afternoon, caught a few things that continued to slip pass me :).

The Lantern’s Flame

Sirius - Golden Sun in the Heavens - had reached a zenith over the Isle of Irothis. A thick mist rolled onto the shore from the Black Sea. An endless cycle of waves came crashing through the thick white mist.

Ara readied himself, his stance poised for combat. His bare feet sifted through granular sands soaked through by the endless tides. He listened to the rhythm of the waves broken on the shoreline.

Golden sunlight gleamed in his eyes, so intense that he needed to rest them behind the shadow of his own shield. He closed them and listened for his opportunity to strike. 

The subtle sound of wet sand crushed underfoot warned Ara of his opponent’s aggression. A wooden sword’s keen cut hurtled through mist and air, close enough that he felt it almost connect upon his skin. He pivoted on his left foot and side-stepped the hacking blow. 

Ara forced his eyes open to the brilliance of the midday light; he parried an aggressive counter on his steadfast shield. He lashed out, a practice sword grazing his opponent on the shoulder.

‘Decent, brother!’ A familiar voice roared with laughter. ‘Better than your last strike!' 

A shadow fell across his peripheral vision.

Ara’s world became a blur of movement from the tackling charge that followed. A city built in the mountain reaches of Irothis came into view briefly before his vision shifted skyward. He landed on his back, his eyes settling over the Black Sea.

Ara squeezed his eyes shut against the blinding light of the sun. When he forced them open again, Aslan stood triumphant over him.

His elder brother’s eyes glinted like dark amber, a mischievous spark there. It was akin to standing before a glassine mirror. Aslan’s coal black hair - a balance between kempt and unkempt, matched his own. 

Aslan loomed over Ara like a lion reared up on its hind legs. He stood poised to strike him down should he try to come back to his feet. 

Ara kicked up a thick spray of sand with the rim of his shield, forcing Aslan backward. He leapt out of his makeshift grave of beach sand to strike the mortal blow. A particularly strong wave crashed upon him in that moment, almost planting him back into the earth again. 

Ara struggled against the foaming waters threatening to pull him under. He somehow kept his feet as the wave receded back into the sea. 

            Aslan recovered from his younger brother’s low cunning, already locked in the motion of striking him square in the neck. 

Ara slid out of range of an aggressive lunge, his elder brother charging in an all-out assault. Ara parried strike after strike with his shield and denied the other blows on his wooden sword. Aslan retracted his arm, a sudden change in his stance and poise. 

Ara pounced in that moment to overwhelm his opponent.

He lunged and thrust the unsharpened edge of his sword toward Aslan’s chest directly where his heart rested. Aslan surprisingly did not shirk from the blow. The moment before the strike hit home, an invisible force seized the practice blade in Ara’s hand and snapped it in twain like a child’s toy. 

Aslan had discarded his own sword to arrest Ara’s winning blow. He had sundered Ara’s practice sword between his fingers. His elder brother’s strength turned Ara’s momentum from him into a curling wave. 

The wave smacked Ara square in the chest, throwing him off his feet. He was dragged beneath the tide for a moment before resurfacing. 

            He did not realize his eyes were screwed shut until the waters had completely receded. He opened them to find himself sprawled out on his back and half-buried in sand. Once more, Aslan stood over him, victorious, but with an apologetic smile on his face. 

            Aslan shrugged, cradling a bruised hand. ‘You just had to leave one opening before you finally struck me down… and of course I must survive to maintain my reputation. Sorry, brother, but I applaud your effort. You came nearer to triumph that time than any other practice bout we’ve had.’ 

            ‘amphetamine parrot…’ Ara sighed and chuckled. ‘My triumph stolen by an uncaring wave.’ 

            Aslan chuckled with him. ‘Face it, brother, you defeated yourself. Like you always do when you are facing me. You overthink fighting me too much.’ 

            Ara pushed himself upright, gentle water splashed his ankles. ‘How does a wolf overthink fighting a Lion? You are indomitable. I’ve never seen any other youth even come near to defeating you.’

            Aslan grinned knowingly. ‘If you cannot find a way brother, there may be no one else that ever will. There must be renowned warriors out there on the mainland… if you cannot find weakness in my form, I would wager they could. I need someone I trust to defeat me on occasion, so I can continue to learn and not become complacent. Lest these foreign challengers defeat and perhaps strike me down where I stand.’ 

            Ara shook his head. ‘I wouldn’t want that for you brother, no matter how much I’d like to see you humbled. I shall match your skill one day; I swear on my honor.’ 

            Aslan nodded. ‘And still, you hold greater skill with sword and shield than a mere rival. You are still my chief competitor despite your record. Keep trying, I know you can do it.’ 

Azat, their father of legend, called out to them for a relevant lesson. He approached his twin sons, his arms wrapped around their shoulders to pull them around him. ‘Ara, my lone wolf. Your elder brother speaks to the truth of the matter.

'Aslan’s strength has always been his martial prowess and unmatched courage. It has always been your strength, Ara, to discern truths from foolish falsehoods. That is equally important in methods of combat, battle, and warfare as much as the skill one wields their weapon of choice. You need only a little more practice to put that to your advantage when you couple both aspects to become a great warrior.’

Ara shook his head. ‘What falsehoods would gain me victory over a lion? It’s an impossible task, father.’ 

Azat cackled, amused, then shook his head. ‘Ara, a warrior can never better himself and become greater by shirking from challenges. You should be honored, my youngest son, for you have the harshest trial of all. Upon a day, I believe that you will exceed even Aslan. You need only awaken that hidden potential, that spark of divinity within you that was granted by your mother…

‘Though Aslan defeats you with impunity, I have only seen you rise, then strike again. You’ve more endurance and perseverance than any youth I have seen. Only Aslan would have more if he did not exert himself to the limits of his ability, mind, and body repeatedly.

‘... but enough of my ramblings. How about one more bout, before we break for a meal?’ 

An unfamiliar voice called out from farther inland, on the outskirts of the great granite sprawl scattered over the mountains. ‘As good of weather as any for the practice of swords and physical strength. Is it not as any of you would say?’

Azat released his sons and all of them turned to the stranger in their midst. Ara searched the outskirts of Irothis for the voice’s source. His hazel eyes halted upon a slim figure, garbed in warrior robes of obsidian, burgundy, and crimson. The nameless warrior waited patiently with his hands behind his back, half leaning on the pillar of a great arch that led farther into the city. His face, obscured as it was by distance, was hidden underneath the shadow of a white cloak. 

Aslan arched his brow. ‘Do you know this one, father?’

Azat shrugged, but his features were locked into a grimace. ‘Ara… Aslan… return home, back to the manor.’ He commanded. ‘Do not fear, I know this man. An old friend from bygone days, but I must speak with him alone if you would.’ 

Aslan clapped Ara hard on the shoulder. ‘Come brother, let father and his acquaintance have their peace… though it will only bring dark tidings, I’d wager.’

Azat rebuked Aslan without so much as a pointed finger. ‘Stop belly-aching and go home. Dark tidings come to us all, Aslan. It matters not the time or day, or the frequency in which they occur. One day you shall understand that for once.’ 

‘Alright, all right!’ Aslan sighed. ‘Ara and I are leaving.’ 

Ara did not protest but left his father alone on the shores of the Black Sea. The brothers raced back to the manor overlooking the Western Straits from the reaches of the Veiled Mountain.

As home drew near, Ara felt that his father had not heard the last of this strange visit.

~***~
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 08:44:03 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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