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Author Topic: The Embers of The Past: Progress Update & Oath of Brotherhood, Scene III  (Read 18799 times)

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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : A Child of Sun & Moon
« Reply #160 on: December 13, 2020, 04:59:02 PM »
A Child of Sun & Moon

Kendal knew that he was in a lucid dream - a waking vision that he was unable to cast himself out of. He awoke stranded on a beach that glowed in the moonlight like so much limestone dust.

Sea waves hurled themselves onto the shore - crashing in an endless rain of frothing white mist and clear precipitation. A full moon anchored so close to the earth that it seemed enormous, shined down on an endless bed of sparkling waters. It was like the eye of a deity staring down from the heights of heaven - watching on Kendal.

The sea itself seemed burning with a riot of color. The deeper waters glowed in various shades of sapphire and ultramarine, turquoise, and cerulean. The waves crashed over the shore and broke just shy of Kendal's feet. The waters shifted to every shade and hue within the spectrum of color found in a rainbow.

What was this holy place? Where he could reflect on the beauty of his Goddess in solitude? Where he could feel her constant vigil upon him? Deity and devoted were transfixed by some beautiful emotion they shared - but neither seemed willing to place.

From the night sky - ablaze with the brilliance of countless stars - Kendal could hear her gentle lullaby steal away all that he was.

'You'll always be my beloved. My devoted...

'A Child of sun and moon...

'You are the bridge that arches over the chasms of darkness...

''And the evening star sighted between dusk and night.

'Your devotion is the promise of a loyal oath…

'Languish on these shores for all your nights...

'And await the coming of the dawn...

'Where we shall become one soul...

'Sun and moon...

Kendal heard the intimate words and felt himself slipping free of his dream state. The shores of this Opal and Crystalline Sea began to fade into hues of black - until only the brilliance of the stars and moon became lights in an impregnable dark...


Kendal snapped back into reality and found himself in the comfort of his chambers.  He laid in his bed for a brief period, paralyzed while his mind raced for clarity and an explanation for his dreams. His heart began to hammer in his chest out of a sense of urgency.

Kendal could not necessarily explain his sudden sense of anxiety and imminent danger. Yet he felt something divine had reached out to him in his dreams - and had tried to extend a sending onto him. He realized how mad the notion sounded.

Yet he knew he would never be able to shake the feeling of that moment of divinity. He recalled the intimate lullaby of his dreams, then began to remember the lyrics of several more he had heard in earlier visions.

'Remember the echoes of sanctuary. Rekindle memories of refuge.'

'Cherished devoted…'


Kendal recalled the massacre that had happened not two moons ago. Emissaries from the fabled eastern lands had arrived in Raven’s Croft. A sudden surprise for the western settlement and not the welcomed one Kendal had imagined.

A group of Halish rabble rousers had massacred a group of the Old Myrian Emissaries for some reason or another. It haunted him - the murders of foreign folk that Kendal bore some relation and so - some resemblance to. He had never heard what manner of misunderstanding had taken place that culminated into the massacre.

The consequences became clear in time, however, and now the entire city was on edge. Kendal was caught in the intricate web of unrest woven over Raven’s Croft. He should have listened to Master Vindiaccos and returned to his parent’s homestead far earlier. He could not understand his own fears, but he needed a couple of months away from the Grand Temple of Hanneth.

'A sacrifice of fire and blood I shall accept for you, my beloved.'

Kendal rolled out of bed and began to pace across his chambers - dressing himself in the battle attire of the Raven’s Vale Knights. Soon he was garbed in quilted armor the color of midnight and clasped in reinforced half-plate of sapphire veined steel.  Tucked between them was a vermilion silk robe emblazoned with the likeness of an angelic warrior maiden.

Hanneth - Goddess of Heaven and Fire. Patron Goddess and Protector of the Kingdom of Hallorn.

Kendal approached his mirror in search of imperfections in his wardrobe. He paused - his dark onyx eyes looking over a lithe figure. Born of the Ishalnan Elves of his father Rynath’s blood - he shared their pale complexion - made a light shade of caramel from his mother Ankine’s Old Myrian heritage.

Even to himself there was an otherworldly quality to him - something that transcended human limitations. Elegance and nobility. Strength and agility. Each was a superior gift in his hands compared to any average man or woman because of his Half-Blood descent.

A child of sun and moon.

Kendal hurried about his chambers to pack his most precious belongings. He added them into an indiscreet bag, then glanced about his chambers one last time. He remembered himself and grabbed an elegant long sword - sheathed in the scabbard - from its display case and fixed it to his belt.

He nudged open the door to his chamber and ducked into the quiet hall of his dormitory. He stepped out into the candlelight that smoldered in the nooks of Hanneth’s Temple. His footsteps echoed across the tiles of an orangish- almost metallic stone so polished that his mirror image shone back at him as he walked.

He descended the ornate stairwell leading into the public areas of Hanneth’s Temple. He would come to miss the vaulted ceilings and the way it made him question his pride. He always felt small enough beneath them that his own vanity seemed inconsequential before his Goddess.

Hushed voices echoed throughout hallowed corridors. Kendal paid them no heed and knew no one had a reason to halt him – or so he thought.

He passed by a grand mural of Hanneth and her legion of angelic maidens’ descent from the heavens onto the earth. An end of the mortal races’ reign over Khios and Ios - when Hanneth brought the bounties of heaven onto the world. Other works depicted legions of crusaders charging into the midst of battle. The Heavenly Flame wreathed their weapons and sunlight cascaded from the heights of heaven.

Kendal fell under the shadow of an ancient painting that depicted the Goddess herself.  One could search all their lives for a resemblance in such beauty and never find it in all the world. Celestial flames wreathed her armor - sunlight cascaded all around her like a cloak of radiance.

Kendal remembered his vision from earlier. A woman's intimate words whispered in his ear while he rested by that Opal and Crystalline Sea. He wondered if it truly had been some form of divine sending. Could a goddess have such affection for him? Could he truly call that affection what it felt like to him - love?

It seemed nothing short of madness to accept the vision for reality. Kendal could not deny his heart, however, for something about his vision seemed too lucid. It seemed so tangible that he could almost shut his eyes and relapse back into his dream state. He was certain that when he did, he would return onto that tranquil place. It seemed real enough that Hanneth herself would answer him if he could only speak out.

Kendal could not deny the truth - he was haunted. By whom or what manner of deity or creature - he remained uncertain on the matter. He forced the thoughts out of his mind and continued to descend the maze of the Grand Temple of Hanneth. He pressed onward, farther, and farther into the bellies of cathedrals and lesser shrines.

The orangish stone that created the tiles never changed. Yet the architecture continued to transform around him. He strode past elaborate pulpits with cushioned pews for the nobility to revere Hanneth over the common folk. He hurried through lavish cathedrals of satin vermilion carpet showered with shed rose petals. Altars crafted from gold and trimmed with filigree made from precious stones sat in the heart of those temples. Grand stages for angelic choirs to perform renditions of ancient music separated the priesthood further from the masses.

Kendal often chuckled at such luxurious displays of worship - for all of it meant nothing to him or the Hanneth he had always known in his heart and mind. Hanneth’s Temple and the quarters of the Raven’s Vale Knights seemed two worlds apart despite their proximity within the same infrastructure. Tonight, he held a different opinion and confessed to himself that he would miss the familiar sight of such splendor.

Kendal continued his descent until the corridor narrowed into a single staircase that spiraled down into the dark depths beneath the temple. As he forged ahead, the luxury of light became a rare and finite resource. He rapidly approached the hidden stable that would take him into the streets of Raven’s Croft.

Kendal reached a single heavy oak door that blocked the path to the stables. A point of no return once he crossed through it. Maybe the unrest would never spiral out of control as he feared? Could there be another alternative than fleeing his life as a devoted crusader of Hanneth?

Kendal bit back a sigh of resignation and cast his thoughts of doubt aside. He could not take that chance. He pried open the heavy oak door and stepped through into the dark. The soft neighing of horses gathered in the hidden stable nearby caught his attention. He detected the sound of hushed voices hidden amongst them - and the not-so-subtle notes of drunken laughter from the streets beyond the temple grounds.

Kendal craned his head in the direction of the stables. A woman in similar attire stood vigilant before him. Arms folded even as she leaned heavily on a stone colonnade, the young woman pitched her braid of fiery hair over her shoulder to fixate Kendal with a look of mild surprise.

Kendal followed the dried blood splattered down the length of her leather gauntlets. Her boots were also layered in gore. He instantly realized where she had been the entire day.

The ginger haired Knight of the Raven's Vale cooed at him. Her hand clutched at the hilt of her long sword. ‘Gracefully silent in your daring escape, aren’t we, Kendal? Credit where credit is due, you are the only one capable of sneaking around the patrols I’ve had set in motion for you. Shouldn’t have expected less from a Half-Blood.’

Kendal shook his head and sighed. ‘Faife of Tannenburg. It’s too beautiful a night for the clashing of swords, even if in my defense...

'There should never be a need for our brethren to turn against the masses. Even should they make their point about unwanted foreigners and half-bloods. A higher purpose elevates us above such barbarism.'

‘I’ve always understood that.’ Faife hawked and spat on the ground at her feet. ‘Keeping you safe is my oath, not blind loyalty to ignorance. Vindiaccos mentioned that you were home bound. Keep a low profile, Kendal, you’re too good to get trampled beneath some common boots.’

Kendal inclined his head in gratitude. ‘Your task and sentiment are appreciated. I would much rather stay here in Hanneth’s Temple. But from the look of your blood-soaked armor - I should set off for more peaceful shores. At least you won’t need to crack open anymore skulls on my behalf.’

Faife chuckled. ‘Merely another chore. Get out of here before more zealots show up screaming for murder and blood.' She paused. 'You’ll be missed, Half-Blood. Just answer me one question…’

‘I am guilty.’ Kendal confessed. ‘I’ve committed murder in my own defense. Any Warden would have the right to take me.’

Faife spat on the ground again. ‘I can sympathize… long as Vindiaccos continues to vouch for you, then you struck your foe down with righteous conviction. Your brethren understand and know all too well. Be gone from here, Kendal, before I have to put some Wardens in the cold earth next.’

‘Farewell, then.’  Kendal nodded and made his way over to a familiar stable where his mount waited.  ‘I’m on my way back home to Mist Hollow.’
« Last Edit: January 10, 2021, 01:39:25 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 : A Child of Sun & Moon - Scene II
« Reply #161 on: December 15, 2020, 05:22:46 PM »
Kendal leaned over the Iridescent Mermaid's bronze railing. Head propped up on an open palm, he watched the pearlescent waters of the Void Sea shift into hues of midnight. Sunlight faded over the evening's course till the skies had bled all vibrancy and color.

Sirius fell beneath the horizon and night descended.

As a crescent moon crested over the Black Sea, Kendal thought it the closed eye of a slumbering god. Memories of his fated birth beneath the Light of the West - Evening Star of the Ishalnan Elves and their Goddess Nihali - resurfaced through the old stories his parents used to whisper to him as a child.

A grand comedy, that his Ishalnan father was born a Prince of the Genesis of Durwaith. Moreover, that his mother was a member of the Old Myrian nobility. He considered Akine’s storied origins and wondered if it was all more truth than fiction. 

Kendal contemplated on his fate and how he could change things. He wondered - what had led him onto this path? What led him away from the safety of certainty? Born beneath the Light of the West, his personality was something decided for him at birth.

He became the scholar in his youth and studied the matters of arcane magic and faith. Solitude and reflection were constant allies. He had little faith in humankind, so placed his trust in the strange and aloof deities of this world.

'Hanneth.' Kendal uttered into the sea breeze. He let the misty spray from waves broken on the hull soak him through. 'Am I still worthy to bear the light of your truth?'

A somber voice answered him. It was the tone of a mentor reminding an apprentice of his worth. 'A foolish question. A band of zealots cornered you on your family homestead and tried their utmost to murder you, absent thought, or remorse. Their thoughts were as impure as their souls, Kendal of Mist Hollow.

'You had every right to cleanse them from her sacred ground. I'm more surprised that you exonerated them by your forgiveness. You offered them pardon through death, because you gave them an excuse to have their bones buried in the temple.'

Kendal frowned at Vindiaccos, who joined him by the rails. 'I never knew a wiseman to speak such cruel words. The words themselves are not wicked and deserved, but what good would it have done to leave their corpses out in the fields? It only would have made matters worse, Vindiaccos.'

'Master Vindiaccos, Kendal.' The elder knight combed scarred fingers through falls of his golden blonde hair. He smiled - though Kendal knew the scar carved over his lips always made the gesture painful. 'Not every righteous course of action is going to make life easier for the righteous themselves. Sometimes tribulations are needed - if anything - I believe your unwillingness to punish those who raised their swords against you a crucial lack of self-faith.'

Kendal shook his head. His laughter was like the toll of a funeral bell. 'Unwillingness to punish. All of their lives are forfeit now - ended on the edge of my sword.'

Vindiaccos clapped his apprentice hard on the shoulder. 'Self-assurance does not have to mean arrogance or misplaced conviction, Kendal. You say you murdered those zealots - I say they forfeited their lives before Hanneth and merely gave themselves onto a true and righteous soul that guided them into her light.'

Vindiaccos glanced up toward the crescent moon. The frail light touched upon his scarred and pale skin until it shone with an otherworldly quality. 'Your self-imposed exile is a difficult decision to swallow already. Don't force me to believe the deaths of your would-be butchers is blood on your hands too.'

Kendal sighed out of resignation. 'It matters little what the correct course of action was. The consequences are still the same and will not change. The entire city of Raven's Croft is hunting for me right about now. All the Kingdom of Hallorn shall spit on my charitable deeds and abhor everything that I have ever taught about Hanneth - even if it was different from the official tenants of our religion.

'I know all of this because you felt like you had to come with me on this voyage overseas from Ios continent to these far-flung realms of Khios. If the situation were any better than you would have convinced me to come back rather than set sail with me. Then once I arrive in Old Myria -'

Vindiaccos smirked out of the corner of his mouth - though for some reason Kendal did not find the gesture mocking but comforting. 'I remember when you were only eighteen years old the night you journeyed from your homestead to the enormous city of Raven's Croft.'

Vindiaccos wagged a finger at Kendal as he continued. 'You were so lost - the Half-Blood with an eastern complexion lost in a western world. Hanneth’s temple was the only location you knew of. When you told the clergy, you wanted to become a disciple - they shunned you because of your unfamiliar heritage. Every priest and priestess avoided you like shamed dogs with their tails tucked between their legs.

'But I remember that day well, Kendal. Though I know you think I have forgotten what made you a special case. You said you wanted to become a Priest of Hanneth... a Goddess of the fire-tempered, hot-headed, and zealous. You did not fit the countenance very well. But that is what I found interesting about you.

'Always reserved. Tempered and measured like a splendid work of steel and artisanship - only forged by the hands of the gods and not of men. Your compassion is difficult for your peers to match. Your rhetoric is as honed as your steel. It is the reason the Raven's Vale has begun to favor you as of late. Until this crisis began out of nowhere.

'You also had promise for mastering the sword. A much rarer opportunity for an old mentor like me to chance upon than you may think. All of that to say, Kendal, is that this new situation you find yourself in is no different.

'You are going to land in Old Myria - about as lost as you were on the day you arrived at the gates of Raven's Croft. You have only one place in mind that you know where you are going. Ember Hearth Palace in the Capital City of Annahir. 

'This Autumn Queen shall smile at you I imagine and bid you welcome. Then she shall find you another mentor - one who will not fail you in your darkest hours. Then you shall learn all over again. About your past. About your new home. About the mysteries of your very future.

'You'll not need an old man like me to teach you anything anymore. You will soon find that you never needed me. You only ever needed Hanneth's light in your eyes and the brilliance of her enlightened truth.

'Perhaps I have taught you the way of the sword, but you can learn that from a hundred men who've survived a hundred battles...'

Kendal inclined his head in agreement. 'Then I'll lose my greatest teacher. I don’t know which is worse... never being able to enter another temple of Hanneth - she is not worshipped in these distant lands. Not being able to speak with you again. Or never being able to return home to my parent’s homestead. Of course, I may never see them again either.'

Vindiaccos sighed. 'You need only the strength to say that you'll return one day. No one shall come running to throw a noose over your neck - so long as you are careful. You shall find your parents again. How you choose to do so lies squarely on your shoulders.

'As for the fact that these realms in the east endure without Hanneth's light... I have heard Khios is a far harsher land than the temperate realms of Ios. Hold onto your faith, Kendal. But swear an oath that you will do all that you can to strike down tyranny - and cut down the wolves at the gates of the innocent. That you will never lose your bond with Hanneth and that you will always fight to correct any injustice.

'I promise you that the fight on Khios shall be a hard one, but you'll be the first disciple of Hanneth to ever step foot on these fabled lands.

'She shall be watching your progress as always - now more than ever. Perhaps, there will be many who would have use of her truths and light in the eastern realms? Maybe you’ll become more influential than you ever imagined? But if you cannot swear before even the Goddess of Heaven... at least swear it to me.'

Kendal considered his mentor, then shifted his gaze back toward the Crescent moon in the night sky. 'On the honor of Mist Hollow and my entire family line... you have my oath, Master Vindiaccos. And I swear that I shall never break it.'

Vindiaccos inclined his head once in acceptance, then whirled on his heel to march back into the vessel’s hold.

Kendal inclined his head with a grateful smile. 'Good night, Vindiaccos. May the fire of Hanneth's truth continue to lend us purpose in these dark times.'
« Last Edit: January 8, 2021, 09:03:31 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 : Star Crossed
« Reply #162 on: December 20, 2020, 05:05:40 PM »
Decided to share the re-imagining of a chapter that Dread did make some rightful complaints about lol.



~***~

Ara quietly nudged aside the heavy oak door into the abandoned cabin. Warmth from the hearth’s flames breezed through his clothes, shattering the spell woven over him by the autumn cold. He stood for a moment in front of the open door – lost in contemplation on whether he should leave Voshki in solitude for the night.

He stood in a pocket of space caught between two worlds. He felt comfort from the cabin’s warmth in one plane. A wintry night of silent reflection in an empty barn existed in the other.

He searched the cabin from where he stood and found no sign of Voshki.

Ara entered, shutting the door behind him with a stiff shoulder. Had the assassin already fled the moment he had turned from her? A foolish decision to leave her to her own schemes throughout the day. She would be leagues ahead of him in any direction if she had escaped.

Voshki’s voice softened over the crackling of the hearth fire. ‘Are you frightened? You search this cabin as if you’ve lost something.’

Ara realized how exhausted he had become after carrying a young venison on his shoulders from noon to dusk. He could no longer bear the burden of weight on him. He softened the grip of his fingers on the deer’s cringing haunch, then inhaled until his entire frame relaxed.

Ara scoffed. ‘You could have escaped the Autumn Realms after I had left. You would have made it into the Dominion of Carth and no one would have tried to stop you. I’m the last weapon of the Queen that can hold you to justice.’

Ara found Voshki curled into herself in an obscure corner beside the hearth. She softly snickered and mocked him. ‘You’re only another pawn she has thrown to the wolves. She is more naïve than you if she decided to hold me accountable by your effort alone.

‘I could have followed you into the woods whilst you scrounged for supplies with any merchant you could find. I could have cut you down before you had even realized – and have fled while leaving behind no trace of my passing. Your death would have been mercifully brief. An Disciple of the Ashen Circle would have committed the act – absent second thought.

‘Have I become soft, Ara? Old Myria has taught me many things throughout my time here. I’ve collected souls for Alastrine for nigh my entire life in return for her to grant me one of my own. Only for me to come to the realization that perhaps I’ve only cheated myself of so many things…’

Ara smirked, shaking his head in disagreement. ‘You’ve spent too many nights speaking with that Half-Blooded priest. Kendal is someone who speaks of a promised haven in the afterlife – only to succumb to his self-doubt about his own existential fears during the night. He does not understand what haunts him either. He does little to instill any faith from me through his words.’

Ara considered Voshki as she searched his gaze with her own. She cornered him with the look of a dormant predator only beginning to awaken. He could tell that she wanted to argue against his point.

A faint smirk spread on the corner of Voshki’s lips. ‘Azat is a renowned warrior of legend. An enduring survivor of all Khios’ hardships. But something can be said for Kendal’s own faith. I can almost feel his Goddess comfort him whenever he doubts – reminding him of his worth and strength. Hanneth rewards him with an indescribable might gifted when his faith becomes indomitable.

‘There’s something to be said for Ara Zarkarian as well. Kendal and you are of the same mind on more matters than you would believe. You’ve peered into the darkness that lingers within the soul – and the esoteric creatures that feed upon it. You could simply walk away from it all and live a life of comfort in the Halls of Ember Hearth. You’ve chosen to stand against this ancient evil as a mere mortal bereft of the Gods’ light.

‘So, who is more the hero of this legend?’

Ara knelt and laid his venison on the cabin floor with due reverence. ‘Heroes are an illusion woven over the eyes of the weak and innocent. A false hope that there shall always be a better tomorrow. Who have you met on this journey that has committed an act of self-sacrifice for the greater good?

‘In truth, you alone should bear the mantle of that legend. You’ve sacrificed more than anyone I’ve ever seen. Your comrades in the Black Bane Kindred. Your dark origins and haunted past. Your insatiable thirst for retribution. Each is a chain broken to free yourself of a fate worse than death.’

Voshki cracked a faint smirk. ‘Am I a reborn and righteous soul now? Do the Gods instruct me on deliverance? I’d cast myself into the Black Descent and break open the Gates of Her Palace – and let all the kindred there ascend out of that infernal plane. Sometimes I wish that I were so divine – and not the mere hypocrite that I’ve become.’

Ara considered the dead venison sprawled out across the floor and shrugged. He glanced down to his numbed fingers, quivering from the burden they had carried from the Cairn Wood. An aching oozed into the bones beneath his caramel skin, turned ruddy from the effort of carrying his burden.

He pretended not to notice Voshki’s emerald gaze search him. He no longer cared for concealing his physical vulnerabilities – not even his missing arm. He could feel her hawkeyes touch on each weak point on him. A simple game it would be for the assassin to kill him where he knelt beside the hearth fire.

Voshki’s placid demeanor made Ara aware that his concerns were for naught – at least for the night.

Ara realized. ‘Perhaps all of us are of the same mind on that matter – end all of this madness with but a snap of our fingers. Cleanse Khios of the insidious influences that continue to plague her children. A Divine Comedy – if the Gods never returned to this world and granted humanity the strength to blaze against the encroaching dark.’

He took a seat in front of the hearth, distanced from Voshki as he had become used to since their journeys together. ‘Winter shall be ferocious this year. Autumn has not passed, and the northern winds already cut through to the bone. Kendal did forewarn that it would come – so I guess there is that to say for him.

‘Do you think his Goddess loves him?’

Voshki pitched her head back and laughed. ‘Something guides the Half-Blood into destiny… that much I can tell. I do not know why I’m compelled, but my consciousness wants to follow him to the end of his journey. He searches for answers to questions that humankind has long cast into the forbidden pits of ignorance. I wonder if he’ll find even one answer.’

Ara gazed off into the hearth’s flames, concentrated on the embers dying amidst the cold. ‘… Do you care for the priest? I’m surprised - Kendal would never have been my first guess.’

Voshki shrugged. ‘Are you disappointed?’

Ara shrugged, absent of caring. ‘… He may be strange and a foreigner from the western shores, but perhaps you could have chosen much worse. Even I can see he is a… compassionate and kind individual. You could use more of that kind of light in your life.’

An absolute silence descended on their conversation. Ara watched the hearth fire for a moment longer until he realized Voshki had become quiet. He searched for her over his shoulder and found the assassin still curled up beside the hearth.

Voshki searched his eyes, dancing flames reflected in her emerald ones. She made to say something, but a hesitance born of uncertainty caught the words in her throat. Ara did not need to hear her speak the words. He understood each silent syllable she created through the movement of her mouth.

‘Are you disappointed that I chose you?’

Ara pretended to play coy. He gazed back into the leaping flames of the hearth. ‘Did you mean to say something? I cannot interpret silence as you can, Voshki.’

He heard a sigh from the other end of the room. Ara did not turn back to her but continued to watch the flames fan amidst the hearth. A shadow briefly fell over him as Voshki approached and took a seat beside him amidst the fine fur rugs laid around the hearth.

Ara glanced in her direction the moment she curled into him, her silken raven black clothes and dark caramel skin pressed firmly onto his own. She rested her head on the shoulder of his dead arm, her breath breezing past his collar and onto his chest. He realized that she had sat so far from the hearth that she felt cold to the touch.

A dagger beneath his ribs would seal his fate. Ara could not find it in him to care anymore. Voshki lifted her head to look him in the eyes. He became transfixed on the emerald dream that was her stare and found himself lost amid the clouds.

Voshki asked. ‘Don’t have anything to say?’

Ara tried to restrain himself from grinning and managed a faint smile. ‘I’d like to hear what you were going to tell me earlier. I want to hear the words.’

A subtle blush lit Voshki’s cheeks, but her expression remained that of the dormant predator.

She replied, her brow arched. ‘Are you disappointed that I chose you?’

Ara shrugged, a genuine grin shattering his façade of apathy. ‘I remember when you threatened a horrible death upon all my family, when Azat still had you locked away in the Ember Hearth dungeons… even moments before you confessed to thinking of slitting my throat and that I’d never realize. Does that piece of you still linger in the back of your mind?’

Voshki considered her answer. ‘One plunge of the dagger beneath your ribs would seal your fate. So, what do you think?’

Ara laughed. ‘That I could care less about your past – should you wish to cast it into the abyss of your own volition. I’ve come to care for you more than anything in the world. Despite the odds and that you’re clearly a Sukhanite… I must confess that I’ve chosen you too.’

Voshki’s lips creased into a hint of a smile. ‘What happened to your arm? One moment you’re gone for several nights and in the next you come back crippled?’

Ara pondered on his explanation briefly, then shrugged. ‘Someone taught me an important lesson to remember him by. He meant to crush my skull into dust, but my elder brother came to my rescue. A God King shattered my arm in one mighty blow, all the bones there pulverized into splintered fragments. The Healers had no choice but to sever the limb from the rest of me.

‘I had lost consciousness for seven cycles of sun and moon. I’d awaken on occasion – plagued by constant suffering. Every moment of awareness seemed like a constant haze – fragments of a dream that I could barely piece together.’

Ara felt his mood sour and his boundless contentment deflate a little. ‘So, that is the end of that particular tale. Only a man stays – his shield arm severed, and his pride trampled into the earth. His time as a warrior has ended before he could even begin.’

A sharp tremor of agony raced through the shoulder of his missing limb from Voshki resting her head there.

Voshki banished her concealed thoughts behind an uncaring smile – Ara could tell from the hesitant glint in her eye. She replied. ‘What if the Gods have always favored you, Ara? You should count your blessings. Erasyl has endured on Khios for hundreds of centuries – slain many folds more people during that time. You should be dead. I’ve never heard of any mortal ever facing a warrior of such caliber and escape with their life.

‘You could have awoken in the Palace of Misery and Sorrow rather than beside your brother here in Old Myria. A lesser man would have succumbed to their fate and perished from the face of this world – forever.’

Ara sighed. ‘I’ve no more time or reason to spare them anything. I’ve never been one for divine communion with any deity. None of them have spared me much fortune before… Just another cruel twist of fate I am fated to bear for the rest of my days. Their constant demand for sacrifice seems to be their only constant in this world. Of course, it must always be someone of noble intention and innocent of heart that must be laid on that altar.’ 

‘In the end, everyone of us is but sacrificial souls. Nothing other than currency exchanged in the great divide between the Heavens and Underworld. Our souls are collected for the purpose of eternal torment and oblivion. Our souls too are expended for the next coming sunrise.’

Voshki shook her head. ‘I’m not concerned by the Gods’ schemes. I’ve sacrificed enough in their name. I’ve gained enough scars from my devotion to Her.’ She laid a hand on his chest and felt his heartbeat from within. ‘I know how I’d like to spend the brief moments we have on this world… And I know how I’d like to spend tonight. Either of those dreams include you, Ara.’

An intense warmth began to pulse from the core of Ara’s chest where Voshki’s hand rested. She finally blushed in the way he had often dreamed of. She leaned nearer into him. Her stoic nature began to crumble, replaced by a searching desire that she found somewhere within Ara himself.

Voshki lunged into him, lips meshed onto his own and her tongue softly probing his.
Her stoic facade crumbled all at once. Suddenly, the coyness in her eyes had vanished, replaced by a searching longing she had finally found within Ara himself. She lunged into him without warning, her lips meshed onto his own, and her tongue probing his softly.

Ara broke away for only a moment to address her again. ‘I’ve been told that it is a great challenge to love a woman with only one arm.’

Voshki snickered at him, then tackled him onto the pelt-rugs of feline beasts. She held herself over him with a single arm pinned against his chest. Ara noticed, perhaps for the first time, the chiseled and toned physicality of her frame hidden beneath her loose silk wardrobe. He traced briefly over an intricate tapestry of healed scars etched over her limbs – some form of ritual scarification. Her wounds vanished behind the black veil of her clothes.

Faintly, Voshki smirked. ‘Second thoughts, already? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Some males are intimidated by a jaguar’s old scars.’

Voshki anticipated an interrogation, Ara could tell from the sudden tenseness in her poise and tone. Ara instead folded his arm behind his head and watched her expectantly.

Ara shrugged, grinning wolfish. ‘You shall have to show me. Tell me about your most important ones as you do. All the ones you’ve never shared with anyone else.’

The Black Wolf and the Jaguar fell into a heated embrace. Both fought to establish dominance over the other, vying for control. The sighs and moans of their eternal struggle lasted from the bleak dark of midnight until the break of the rising dawn.

« Last Edit: December 20, 2020, 05:36:16 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 : The Lantern's Flame - Scene I - Revised
« Reply #163 on: December 22, 2020, 06:58:26 AM »
Quote from: Myen'Tal
I'd still definitely like feedback on issues that definitely stand out as something that needs to be changed or simply wrong, but the more basic stuff can be saved for an editor.

Here is something that stands out to me.


The Lantern’s Flame

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.

When sparring with someone using a sword you would not expect your opponent to grab hold of your sword. By having Aslan 'win' in this manner it gives me the impression that Aslan is untrustworthy. That is, it gives me the impression that Aslan is self centred and would do anything to win even if it disadvantaged those close to him.

Also if Aslan is supposed to be the superior sword fighter why did he have to 'cheat' to win.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2020, 07:29:59 AM by Alienscar »
Quote from: Starrakatt
"Russ, get your work done or you won't see your damn console for the next month!"
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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 : Star Crossed
« Reply #164 on: December 22, 2020, 10:29:32 AM »
Quote from: Myen'Tal
I'd still definitely like feedback on issues that definitely stand out as something that needs to be changed or simply wrong, but the more basic stuff can be saved for an editor.

Here is something that stands out to me.


The Lantern’s Flame

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.

When sparring with someone using a sword you would not expect your opponent to grab hold of your sword. By having Aslan 'win' in this manner it gives me the impression that Aslan is untrustworthy. That is, it gives me the impression that Aslan is self centred and would do anything to win even if it disadvantaged those close to him.

Also if Aslan is supposed to be the superior sword fighter why did he have to 'cheat' to win.


That is a very fair point :). As we both know, sparring is meant to simulate one-on-one combat. In a real combat scenario, while still risky, seizing hold a sword with a protected hand (gauntlets, mittens, etc), it can definitely net you the advantage in that scenario. That being said, you're correct in that in a sparring session, that is likely not considered a fair play.

So I will correct that ;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: The Embers of the Past : Offering - 3rd Revision - Scene I
« Reply #165 on: December 25, 2020, 02:13:41 AM »
Offering – 3rd Revision

   Far beneath the scorched sands of the Southern Wastes – a murmured prayer vanished amid the murky alleys of the Royal Den of Vipers. Voshki absconded in absolute terror through claustrophobic passages and debris strewn roads. She scrambled over toppled pillars and raced onto hidden, off-beaten paths to escape a gruesome death at the hands of the Obsidian Vipers.

   Here and there, a blazing torch would beat back the shadows and unveil the path ahead. She plunged headlong across crumbling underground bridges and into the abandoned ruins of forgotten strongholds.

She traversed shady and forgotten halls – made dangerous by great piles of debris from long ceased sieges. She charged through every cracked open door into cobweb infested rooms and abandoned dungeons. Dusty tables were tossed, and bookcases toppled to stall her pursuers. At the first sight of an escape, she leapt through a gaping hole in the dungeon walls back into the twisted maze of the Den.

Voshki had no choices left. She had not even a lead save only a direction. She had no solace of a safe card to draw from the deck and lay down on the table. She was shunned and denied refuge from the surface world. So, she fled in the only direction available to her to escape the hands of the V-

A half-collapsed door within proximity of her burst open. A lean figure of dark caramel skin appeared - garbed in black leathers and fiery robes emblazoned with gold. Off footed by her own surprise, Voshki slipped and lost her footing amid the scattered debris, tumbling to an abrupt halt.

The Obsidian Viper stormed toward her and reached out the moment he came in arm’s length of Voshki even as she struggled to find her feet. He rattled with dark laughter and caught hold of her by the scuff of her collar.

Voshki twisted in his reckless grip, regaining her footing. She grasped at the hilt of a 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 hearing - 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 the forgotten ruins buried beneath the Den of Vipers. She reached out with bloodied and grasping fingers for any purchase to find her way forward.

The Vipers screamed blood curdling threats as they gained 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 and left only darkness.

An explosion of flames took her by surprise. Voshki lifted her hands in pitiful defense of being reduced to ashes as the flames washed over her. Tongues of fire lashed about – but did not burn 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 choking smoke wafting from braziers embedded on vine-coated walls of weathered stone. Crystalline waters streamed through ornate drains about 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 stare 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 faint voice crept out of the dark behind the syndicate henchmen. ‘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 blades – brutal weapons laced in dark crimson venom. They stormed forward and cornered a 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 grey 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 rogue swept forward, aiming to cave in the hazed outline’s skull. 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 mix 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.’

~***~

Post Merge: December 25, 2020, 02:15:43 AM
In the future, please use the modify button. Double posting is against the forum rules, and for that reason, the system merged your posts.

'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 freezing wind howled out of the Black Solitude Forest to beset 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 keep a vigil from – guarded the Heartlands of the Old Myrian Empire.

Voshki stood alone on the Drake’s Bridge. Constant rain crashed over her, soaking through her midnight cloak and raven-clad leather armor.

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

A moment of silence endured before a stern force pushed the great oak door aside. She caught glimpses of ancient and green stone inside the tower’s interior. Braziers inside the tower blazed so bright, Voshki could no longer stare through the veil – her vision obscured.

Voshki observed a guardian emerge from the tower and 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 and approached his opponent with due reverence.

Burning vases hidden beneath 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 ended on his person.

Voshki searched the calm gaze behind the Immortal’s crimson plumed helm. She lifted her long spear -The Crowned Prince – and fell into a combat stance.

Arshavir charged and quaked the ancient cobblestones beneath his feet. His speed belied his armored bulk as he stormed forth against the storm.

Voshki screamed like a siren and lunged for the Immortal’s heart. The Crowned Prince thrust for Arshavir’s chest to end the duel outright. She lashed out like a serpent with fangs bitten into a defiant threat.

Arshavir parried each of her strikes without effort. His prismatic blade reflected the light of the storm as if a rainbow’s essence were imprisoned in the artifact.

Arshavir side-stepped another rapid thrust, then ducked beneath a haphazard slash. As he made to come back to his feet, Voshki pounced and jammed the length of her spearhead square into Arshavir’s chest.

The Immortal twisted mere moments before the Crowned Prince could punch straight through his Laminar. He managed to tear himself free of the long spear’s hooked blades and pushed further into Voshki’s guard.

Voshki scrambled back for farther distance from her opponent. Arshavir proved himself a relentless warrior, and swiftly closed the distance between him and his foe. Voshki removed a hand off her spear and clutched a dagger sheathed on her left thigh. She countered so quickly her vision only detected a sliver of silvery light streaking across her vision.

Arshavir had anticipated the strike – her movement so predictable that he had already avoided the cut entirely. He replied with a diagonal uppercut of his elbow that smashed Voshki mere inches shy of her temple. She staggered from the force of the blow but refused to cry out in pain and shock.

Voshki corrected the angle of her head to stare Arshavir in the eyes. The Immortal fluidly reversed his elbow into a savage backhand that brought her down on one knee. Dazed, she bared her teeth and smeared the blood trickling down the corner of her lip on her knuckles.

   Arshavir did not request any final words from her but leveled his prismatic sword with the foundation of her neck. He pulled his sword-arm back for the mortal blow - quick enough that he assumed Voshki would fail to react.

   Voshki pounced into a momentous thrust, her aim focused on the spinal cord housed behind the Immortal’s throat. She blinked in the moment before the Crowned Prince slammed home. An arced spray of arterial blood rained across her vision when her eyes snapped open again.

   Arshavir had artfully escaped death another time. Had she received a mortal wound in turn? No, her body had not ejected this crimson spray. Clarity refocused Voshki’s blurred vision and her keen gaze instantly homed in on the familiar figure of dark caramel skin, clad in raven black leathers – impaled on the Crowned Prince’s bladed end.

   She judged from his glassine gaze off into the distance and his slack expression – that he had already died moments before she had run him through.

   ‘Infernal fires!’ Voshki ripped the Crowned Prince free. She shouted at the four raven-clad figures who had ambushed her opponent at the last moment. ‘Encircle him, fools! Strike in unison! Don’t give him a moment to breathe!’

   Arshavir shouldered one of her warriors flat onto his back. The Immortal trampled over him after his sharp impact on the cobblestones to gain distance. The rogue he had toppled fought through the pain and snared Arshavir with an arm coiled around his right calf.
   
Arshavir chortled pitilessly, and then twisted so violently to face his enemies that even Voshki could hear her comrade’s arm fracture in several places. An agonized scream was drawn out of her wounded kin – in turn silenced with a merciful thrust through the throat. He removed the rogue’s head with a clean exit cut from his blade. 

Thwack.

Voshki had heard the distinct clink of a steel-tipped bolt being nocked on a crossbow moments before her comrades had sped to her rescue. She heard the sharp discharge of the bolt sailing free of its prison in the next moment. Arshavir cried out – struck in his right eye by the bolt.

He was flung onto the bridge back-first. A sharp crack punctuated his fall.

The remaining three raven-clad warriors rushed him from every angle. Arshavir frantically tried to find his feet as they approached. A spear thrust into his right thigh pinned him in place. An armored boot stamped firmly on his chest sprawled him back out onto the stone bridge. A wicked blade hacked into the meat and bone of his sword arm.

One of them 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, her adrenaline rush beginning to subside. ‘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 glossy falls of braided obsidian hair appeared 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 enclosed 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! Arshavir locked it behind him somehow. Strange, he carried no key, did he?’

‘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 clucked her tongue and shook her head. ‘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 still are 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 persist 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 sell sword 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 lavish palace in the heart of the northern moorlands.

Voshki sighed. ‘To kill a Queen shall be no simple task…’
« Last Edit: December 25, 2020, 02:15:43 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: The Embers of the Past : Sacrificial Souls - Scene I of Act I Finale
« Reply #166 on: December 28, 2020, 10:26:37 PM »
Wrote about 6,000 words over the last week and I'm nearing the 40,000 word, about 2,000 or less away. The First Act Finale is almost complete - and I thought I'd just share a slice of it for you guys.

Thanks for reading :).

A ferocious storm raged over the city of Gor’rum. Dark thunderhead clouds blotted out both moon and stars, lightning bristling across their formation. Ominous thunder cracked open black skies. An endless torrent of rain came crashing down on ruined streets.

Zagir leaned heavily on a half-collapsed wall of an ancient library. Her death mask reflected each lightning strike with a polished silver sheen. Arms folded patiently; she maintained her vigil over Voshki.

Zagir’s voice came distant and faint over the deafening cries of the storm. ‘Are you frightened?’

Surrounded by a plethora of collapsed shelves and ruined texts buried amidst the rubble, Voshki snapped into focus and returned her mentor's studious glare. Zagir seemed the epitome of calm despite the approach of their fateful hour. She searched Zagir’s hidden face for any hint of fear. She found only an uncaring courage that steeled her against even the gods' wrath.

Voshki emulated Zagir’s disciplined calm, and already the facade began to crack on the surface. A creeping sense of uncertainty had stolen her flame of confidence. She replied. ‘Of course not.’

Zagir’s hidden expression bored into the essence of her soul. ‘Don’t be ashamed. No man or woman can escape basic human emotion. You’ll find that uncertainty shall always be a constant companion for those of our profession. Remember Shoushan’s teachings… once you become committed against a target, your muscle memory shall bring back your confidence.’

Voshki blew out a nervous breath into the frozen rain. 'Were you no different before your first kill? It feels like an iron chain is weighing me down. I don't feel prepared for this.'

Zagir snickered underneath her mask. 'You are prepared. Shoushan trained you for years only for this moment. I found myself in similar circumstances and state of mind on my first mission. It is my purpose for this mission to ensure your success. The first kill is always the most difficult - and should you fail, then all the instruction and training granted to you by the Ashen Circle was for nothing.

'Breath in. Rhythmic and deep breaths. Count to whatever number you hold most sacred. No hesitation when the time to strike arrives. Just throw yourself into the moment. Commit and take advantage of the element of surprise. You can only perish should you hesitate.'

Voshki laughed. 'A bold lie in that statement.'

Zagir shared in her laughter and shrugged. 'Should you hesitate, then your death is as good as certain in either case. You might as well play the odds and give it your best shot.'

Voshki made to open her mouth and utter a retort. The words died in her lungs as Zagir became animated, crouching down as distant voices entered within range. Her mentor motioned for her disciple to approach.

Voshki came to crouch beside her comrade behind the library's shattered wall. Zagir cooed in her student's ear as thunder bellowed across the skies.

'Our mark has arrived.' She quipped. 'Your first murder... remember your training and my advice. You must overcome your self-doubt when we strike. Or I shall perish, and you'll suffer the same fate. You and I against the world in this moment... What we achieve with every successful death on our swords and this mortal life shall echo into the eternities that follow. Are you ready?'

Voshki banished her nerves through the rhythmic breathing her mentor suggested. She lifted her head only a sliver to look over the ruined wall and into the labyrinthine streets of Gor'rum. Through the lashing rain and whipping wind, hazed shadows began to form on the limits of her peripheral vision. Her hands unconsciously snaked onto the hilt of either of her wicked daggers even as she continued to watch the road.

An ear-splitting roar of thunder quaked the ruins beneath their feet. A bruised fork of lightning was hurled from the heavens by the Solar God himself. The bolt struck the heart of Gor'rum with such impact that many dilapidated buildings nearby trembled, their rubble shifting ever so subtly.

A bright orange glow swelled in light and intensity nearby, followed by the sound of panicked and urgent voices.

Zagir commanded. 'Now is the time. May your strikes be swift and without mercy. Kill them all!'

Voshki ripped her daggers free of their sheathes and leapt over the ruin with Zagir. A feeling of numbness touched through her armor and skin. She felt her bones rattle from the chill of the rain crashing down on them. In the moment that she darted for the haven of the shadows; a familiar confidence began to reinforce the purpose in her every movement.

'Good luck...' Zagir's voice faded into the distance as she split off in the opposite direction. 'You understand your task. You only need to follow through.'

The hazed shadows in the distance gradually clarified into a small caravan - no more than a dozen warriors on foot. Voshki continued to watch their approach for every significant detail. A sharp contrast to the drab shades Sukhan warriors often favored - these men garbed themselves in suits of chainmail, draped over with silken robes of cream and crimson. Each warrior carried a moderate sized buckler in their off hand, whilst their sword arms lingered on the hilt of their sheathed swords.

She knew them from the lavender bands tied around each of their wrists.

Slave warriors of the Zar'qin Guard - the backbone of the Carth Dominion's fighting legions.

A nobleman trotted at the fore of the formation on horseback. His appearance made him stand out amidst the wide range of conquered nationalities that served in his retinue. Voshki studied him with a curious glint in her eyes.

His skin was a tarnished bronze from a lifetime spent in the arid heartlands of Khios. He was dressed in a suit of polished scaled armor draped over with satin robes of lavender and off-white. A sash the shade of vivid sapphire informed Voshki of the nobleman's standing in his own society.

An Exalted. A commander in the ranks of the Children of the Sun - the dominant ethnicity and highest caste that reigned in the Carth Dominion.

She had found her target.

Voshki reigned in her eagerness. She hunkered down behind a wall encircling the remnants of a destroyed estate. She waited as the sound of armored footfalls came into range. Cruel and loathsome voices shouted to the heavens only to hear each other. She continued to wait until the gentle trotting of the warhorse came within her proximity. Her target had strayed near enough that she heard the horse's barding jingle with each step it took.

An abrupt explosion toppled the remains of the ancient library Zagir and her had sheltered in some scant feet ahead. Alerted to a sudden threat, the Zar'qin Guard unsheathed their swords and stormed forward to shield their lord. Shouts of alarm further reinforced their eagerness for bloodshed. The ruins of the great library came crashing down on the road before them, blocking their passage farther into the heart of Gor'rum.

Her marked target scarcely batted an eyelash at the destruction. 'Steel your hearts, Zar'qin! Children of the Sun never turn their back on a worthy adversary! You shall fight onto death so long as I stand my ground!'

A familiar phrase - more memory than an actual command - pulsed across her mind.

'Grant them the Viper's fangs. Strike!'
« Last Edit: December 30, 2020, 11:20:29 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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Finished the Finale today! Around 7,000 words in total  :). First Act comes to about 27,500 words. That's where I want to be at the moment, depending on word length. I'm quite happy with the way things have turned out. Didn't share All of Act I with you guys, but I will say that the first three chapters are a BIG part of it.

Thanks for reading!

Voshki surmounted the wall before her with a leap that defied human limitations.

Concealed by the storm's wrath, she darted through frozen rain and howling winds toward an oblivious target. The watchful eyes of the Zar'qin Guard were divided in every direction in search for her. All of them could scarcely find the road in front of them for all the rain and time of night. In the span of several striding footsteps, the Child of the Sun came near enough that she could reach out and embed her daggers straight through him.

Of all things, it was the Carthite's mount that had seen her before anyone else. Frightened by her sudden and foreboding presence, the old warhorse spurred off toward the blockage that sealed off the road ahead. Voshki leapt, daggers raised overhead for a downward thrust, in the same moment the warhorse bolted out of fright.

The Exalted Commander shirked from the sudden revelation of Voshki's presence by his side. He recoiled from her daggers even as his mount bolted and cast him off without a second thought. Her weapons found only storm wracked air as the Carthite collapsed in a heap upon the cobblestones with a sharp crack.

Alerted to her presence - the Zar'qin charged headlong into danger.

Voshki weaved around the first slave warrior to lash out at her. She avoided him and ducked beneath the arced swing of another foe's scimitar. She ducked into the same assailant's guard, her main hand dagger slicing through the chainmail and robes around his midriff. The Zar'qin screamed and staggered back, disemboweled.

Voshki planted one step backwards, twisting to meet the chopping blow of the warrior she had avoided earlier. Both of her daggers parried his attack even as she stepped in and brought her knee up and under his buckler, striking him below the belt. To the slave's credit, he barked out of pain and his skin turned a ruddy color but managed to shove Voshki backward until she hit the roadside back-first.

The Zar'qin that had floored her paused for a moment to recover, but one of his comrades came charging in to run her down. She hurried to find her feet again. She tried to fight through the daze and the storm beating down upon her, but she knew her speed was too slow.

A thin, long shadow hurtled through the air and impaled her aggressor through the gut before he could close the distance between them. The throwing spear snapped in twain on impact. One half clattered to the ground, whilst the other pinned the stricken warrior to the roadside. The slave warrior attempted to remove himself from the rest of the javelin but had become so weak that he merely slid down its length onto the roadside and died without another word.

Zagir came racing out of the shadows with another throwing spear in hand. She hurled another one into the midst of the other nine Zar'qin. She hit her mark - striking another in the small of his back as he turned to aid his Exalted.

Their attention divided between either threat, the Zar'qin naturally divided themselves into two groups. Six warriors diverted their charge to meet Zagir. The other three had chosen to corner Voshki as she found her feet again.

Voshki followed Zagir's example and whirled around on the Zar'qin that had shoved her down. His shield lowered and himself bent over to recover from the blow she had given him, he did not realize she had come back to her feet until it was too late.

She threw the dagger in her off hand and caught her opponent square between his eyes. The warrior spasmed a moment before he toppled over, deceased. With the same hand, she unveiled the handheld crossbow fixed on her belt. Already loaded, she leveled her aim at the nearest Zar'qin rushing toward her. She shifted her sights from him after realizing his shield was raised, toward one of the six warriors closing in on Zagir.

She loosed the bolt loaded in the crossbow and struck one of the oblivious Zar'qin straight through the flank. The bolt buried itself to the end of the shaft. Her victim staggered in mid-run and tripped over himself. He did not stir again after impacting the ground with brutal force.

Voshki caught Zagir in her sights. Her mentor sprinted and rolled beneath the vicious cut of an overzealous opponent. The Zar'qin reacted swiftly and surmounted her with an athletic leap before he could trip over her. She came back onto her feet and rammed the final javelin in her hand through the throat of another foe. She maintained momentum and pushed on the choking corpse in front of her back into his comrades.

Several brutal blows hacked open the corpse to hack Zagir down, but she kept herself pressed behind the bastion provided from his flesh and steel. She finally released the shattered body in her grip. She unsheathed an elegant longsword from its scabbard and cleaved the head of another Zar'qin from his shoulders in the same fluid movement.

Voshki turned back to her combat as blood arced in every direction from the outbreak of violence. She side-stepped the Zar'qin with his shield raised as he attempted to run her down. He lashed out with a swift cut as he pushed past Voshki.

She staggered backward with a sharp cry of pain. She attempted to blink the blood out of her eyes from the grazing cut slicing her from brow to the corner of her lips. Encouraged, the Zar'qin whirled around on his heel for another strike as his other comrade came from the other direction.

'Voshki!' Zagir shouted. Voshki had not seen her approach, but somehow, she had come within reach.

Voshki heard the keen cry of a sword parting through air toward her. She instintively leapt backward, but she knew she would never be able to dodge a blow she could not see.
A splitting of armor and the flesh beneath echoed through the storm. Zagir's voice cried over the frustrated shouts of a Zar'qin deprived of his kill. His cursed tongue was silenced forever after the quiet insertion of a blade impaled clean through armor and flesh.

Granted a moment's reprieve, Voshki swiped a gauntlet across her light wound and managed to clean enough blood from her eyes to see again. Zagir had already removed her longsword from the Zar'qin that had struck out at her, uncaring of the wound carved deep into her shoulder blade and chest. Voshki blinked and that same sword had found a new scabbard within another Zar'qin's left eye.

Voshki mobilized after the last slave warrior, whose sword was raised to split Zagir's skull in twain with one blow. Zagir would never be able to remove herself from his path fast enough. She hurled her last dagger through the wind and rain, the storm altering its trajectory from his right temple and instead stabbing into his hand right behind the knuckles.

The Zar'qin cried out and staggered backward as the knife flew off his bloodied hand. Zagir removed her hands off the long sword still embedded in the fallen slave warrior's eye socket. She pounced upon the shield raised in his defense, bringing it down with her entire weight even as she toppled her foe onto his back. Clutched at an awkward angle, the Zar'qin's scimitar became trapped between his body and shield and cut slightly into his armor.

Voshki snatched up a short-sword sheathed on one of the corpses. She charged in and rammed the blade to the hilt through the side of the Zar'qin's neck. Without remorse, she tore the blade free in a thick spray of blood.

An unnerving quiet settled over the streets of Gor'rum...
“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 : The Lantern's Flame - Scene II
« Reply #168 on: December 31, 2020, 09:39:16 AM »
Here's a few thoughts on things that, for me, stand out in Scene II of Lantern’s Flame

Quote from: Myen'Tal
The hooded figure turned on a heel to relieve his back of the cold granite arch.

Turning on your heel is an idiom that means to turn away from someone in a quick or sudden way. It doesn’t describe an actual way of moving.

Quote
Azat searched for any detail beneath the hood but found only slivers of flesh even in the midday light. The hooded figure raised an open palm, his hand leveled with Azat’s chest

Because you have used the expression 'turned on a heel' this scenario is now a bit confused because if the person has turned on their heel they should now be facing the arch and not Azat.

Quote
Azat’s mind became ablaze with distant memories. Fateful moments as vivid and tangible as if unfolding before him in the present. He suddenly tasted the tang of sundered metal and spilt blood in the air. He heard the tortured moans of the defeated crash over him like a discord.

    A moment of nausea off-footed Azat, but the sensation quickly faded. Like the ebbing of the tide, the memories faded back into the vast depths of his soul. 

Other memories resurfaced. Memories of brotherhood and honor bound oaths for Queen and Kingdom. A constant blur of familiar faces flashed behind his eyes. Old friends and kindred from former days. Some he knew still drew breath whilst others had left for far more sacred shores.


Three paragraphs just to describe Azat remembering Nishan is too many. I think you would be better off trying to condense this section as it slows the tempo of the meeting and this scene.

Quote
Azat barked, leaned in nearer to Nishan to emphasize his threat. The Scarred Child held his brother’s ground and furious gaze. ‘Take the next rat-infested cargo ship back to the mainland. Where your kind belongs.’

What did Azat bark? Without any further description you have literally said that Azat made a sound like a dog.

You hold your own ground not someone else's.

I am not sure I understand your use of 'Where your kind belongs'. It reads like you are having Azat insult Nishan, but I don't have any context to understand the insult.

As Nishan presumably came from the mainland Azat is just telling Nishan to go home,so this is mildy rude rather than insulting. As I say, I don't quite get it.

Quote
Nishan cried out from where the prismatic blade struck his throat, hard enough to draw a constant trickle of blood.

Because the word prismatic has more than one meaning I am not sure what you mean by 'prismatic blade'.

Prismatic means of or pertaining to a prism; having the form of a prism; varied in colour. Do you mean the blade has the form of a prism, or do you mean the blade is colourful? If the blade is colourful why is it so colourful that it has the colours of dispersed light?
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"Russ, get your work done or you won't see your damn console for the next month!"
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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 : Sacrificial Souls - Scene I (Updated Ver.) & PT II
« Reply #169 on: December 31, 2020, 10:09:20 AM »
Hi Alienscar,

Thanks for the feedback!

I'll get these suggestions added on my to-do list!  :)
“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 Dominion of the Mind - Scene I
« Reply #170 on: January 4, 2021, 03:01:35 PM »

A Dominion of the Mind

Scene I

Far beneath the sands of the Southern Wastes - Shoushan watched the outside world beyond the glassine window of her chambers. She peered through the hidden cavern’s mouth into the scorched dune sea beyond. She would often revisit the sight before examining matters of critical importance - it helped to clear her mind of distractions. As Sirius reached its zenith in the midday sky, she considered the fateful moment that would change the face of Khios - forever.

The door to her chambers slid open with a soft sound. The Grand Master of the Ashen Circle knew that the destined hour had arrived.

She inclined her head out of respect for the pair of royalty that represented all the Carth Dominion's leadership but continued to face her window. 

Shoushan declared in somber undertones. 'Erasyl of Tu'shik. Firstborn of Man. Sun-Caller King of the Children of the Sun. God-King of the Carth Dominion. I hear also that Tabia of the Disciples of Heaven has traveled here by your side. I am honored that both of you made the arduous journey to the Ashen Circle's lair - if only for the chance to speak with me.

'I bid you welcome to my humble abode. I only ask that you accept my apologies for your travels through Suannir - the Royal Den of Vipers. I am certain it was no simple task for a monarch to descend into that lair of filth and villainy. I trust that neither of you came to harm from the city's criminal presence?'

Erasyl answered Shoushan with a patient tone that spoke more of wisdom and reason as opposed to absolute control. Shoushan shifted around to face him for the first time, her endless veil of raven black hair subtly obscuring her features. His placid voice belied his frame - crafted by the eye of the Gods and not of mortal breeding. He was the epitome of masculinity and yet his voice seemed well tempered with age and humility.

Erasyl met Shoushan's appraising eyes and offered her a welcome smile. 'Damnation's lure dwells within these blackened depths... I certainly feel Alastrine's presence -distant in the Royal Den of Vipers - finally approach me now that we meet face-to-face. Children of the Sun have nothing to fear from the Goddess of the Underworld nor her Palace of Miseries and Sorrow... and yet I've come to fear for the tainted souls that dwell in Suannir.

'Tabia and her Disciples of Heaven are cleansing the township in the celestial flames of our god. The underground city is ablaze even as our conclave is set to begin. Warriors of the Zar'qin Guard have set about eradicating the criminal syndicates that plague the souls eking out an existence in these forgotten depths. Suannir shall soon be emptied and forgotten to time.'

Shoushan considered the God-King's revelation and scoffed. 'A shame things have come to such a head in Suannir... be careful that you do not overstep in the presence of Alastrine, Sun-Caller. Immortal or not - you may discover there are fates worse than death when my Goddess becomes wrathful. In either case - you've come all of this way to bring your plea before me... see to it that no other settlement in Sukhan suffers from the Children of the Sun's transgressions - and I may remain willing to hear it.'

Tabia executed an elegant bow and apologized. 'Grand Master Shoushan - the fault lies with me alone. I thought the innocent citizens of Suannir deserved some gesture of kindness for their endless woes. I chose to end their suffering.'

Shoushan craned her in Tabia's direction with a sneer of disgust lining her lips. 'So, you simply ended them all without a second thought?'

The Disciple of Heaven made an uncaring shrug. 'Are your meek and faithful truly destined for greatness in Hell's depths? In exchange for moments of agony, Sirius now bears witness to the light of their immortal souls. He shall call him to his throne of Star-fire and grant them their eternal reward.'

Shoushan arched her brow, uttering a morbid curse under her breath. 'First, you claim responsibility for the eradication of my city... then you have the audacity to challenge the divinity of Alastrine to my face?' She shifted back to Erasyl. 'God-King, silence your whore before I end her myself.'

Tabia emerged out of the dark and into the revealing light of the hearth fire. Despite her immortal years, her body retained the image of a woman who had entered the prime of her life. A golden-yellow cloak fell past her shoulders, resting on the small of her back and kept aloft by her wrists - kept near and around her chest. Beneath her cloak was a robe woven from three layers of vibrant satin fabric - the inner layer crimson, the mid-layer cream, and the exterior layer a lustrous shade of sapphire.

Her deep emerald eyes had a familiar shade and glimmer about them. Shoushan instantly placed the comparison in her memories. She cocked her head slightly at the revelation but remained unspoken on the matter.

Shoushan smirked, and then scoffed at Tabia's meager challenge. 'Should I be impressed that you possess the complexion and attire of a plain woman?'

Tabia lifted her fingers and snapped them once. Shoushan lifted her chin in slight acknowledgment as the Disciple's fingertips began to bubble with liquid fire. She first thought the gesture a simple trick - an illusion. Yet she could tell from the scorched pot marks left burrowed on her smooth granite floor that it was more a trick of the gods than of the mind.'

Tabia scowled at Shoushan. 'One more word and I'll sear the eyes out of your sockets.'

Erasyl rounded Tabia and placed a firm hand on her shoulder. His voice became the aspect of an authoritative father. 'Enough, Tabia. Or would you jeopardize our entire reason for venturing all this way into the Southern Wastes?'

Tabia snapped her fingers again and the bubbling fires dissipated off her fingertips. She bit back a confident smirk. 'We have no need of this craven backstabber, Immortal One. We only need her replacement to swear Sukhan's fealty to the Dominion.'

Erasyl dismissed her as if Tabia had become a nuisance. 'Tabia, do me a favor and take you leave. Wait for this conclave's end outside - by the door.'

Tabia shook her head. 'And leave this Master of Murder alone with you?'

Erasyl became more insistent. 'You have outstayed your welcome in the eyes of our Host. I cannot abide a conclave when tensions and impulsive minds rage like a fanning fire. It would be unwise to force the hand of a Master of Murder in her own home... so take your leave. I shall not ask again, my friend.'

Shoushan smirked intentionally in Tabia's direction, then smiled faintly as the Disciple bit back a snarling retort. She watched Tabia turn on a heel and exit her chambers without another word. Her enchanted door was slammed shut behind the Disciple of Heaven. Shifting her gaze back onto the God-King of the Carth Dominion, Shoushan addressed him with a curt nod of gratitude.

Erasyl executed an apologetic bow - an exceedingly rare gesture to be drawn out of a God-King, Shoushan realized.

She inclined her head in acknowledgement the moment Erasyl straightened to meet her appraising eyes. 'Very well, Erasyl. Your conclave with the Kingdom of Sukhan has begun on unstable cliffs and threatens to plunge straight into the black seas. But they continue to hold together for the moment. Name your request and speak upon your reasoning.'

The God-King gestured for Shoushan to take a seat in her own chair. He graciously seated himself in the same chair that her disciples often claimed whenever they answered her summons. Shoushan bit back an amused grin and humored him. She approached her desk and became seated.

Gesturing toward the enchanted door, Erasyl reversed the conversation's course.

His request seemed more of an indirect demand - one that seemed inevitable in its completion to him. Shoushan found her mood beginning to sour, but she kept her silence and listened.

Erasyl smiled in that patient way that he had. 'You must absolve Tabia or her transgressions. As a Disciple of Heaven - she is used to the Solar God's flames constant cleansing of whatever does not please him. She is a firebrand. Should you be able to look past her zealous nature - then you shall find an alliance that you'll never quite comprehend. You'll claim benefits and rewards in great number from her friendship, but one can never understand the burden and cost of such a pact. Unless Tabia desired that you know.'

Shoushan nodded as she listened to Erasyl's piece of wisdom. 'Are you suggesting that I earn Tabia's trust for further understanding of the Dominion's agenda? Why would you desire an outsider understand anything about your secrets?'

Knowingly, the God-King smiled and held up one finger. 'What is an outsider, Shoushan? Someone born in the bloodline of another people? An aspirant that succeeds in trials to better his understanding and position in a secretive organization? Or an exile that perhaps has already studied each secret of her own culture to better understand their ambitions?'

Shoushan felt her blood run cold and her facade beginning to crack. She understood that one minor fissure in her disguise was enough for Erasyl to see through the illusion.

Shoushan shrugged, then confessed. 'In another life... perhaps some would have known me as a Child of the Sun. I lived as one for an entire generation - I remember that distant life. God-King, you understand what the sensation of absolute power when coupled with self-fulfillment feels like?

'To saunter around an entire harem and beckon with a simple crook of your finger for the night's lover? To never know famine and death even as entire civilizations burn around you? To never experience aging in a mortal lifespan as the generations come and go with the times?

Shoushan flicked her eyes over Erasyl's stoic glare and scoffed. 'Perhaps you do not understand, because you balance yourself between denial and acceptance. Absolute dominion and freedom. Pacifist and warmonger. But you cannot be both of any of these dualities. You're only one man with one mind - and immortality cannot change that.'

Erasyl countered with a countenance of stone - his words weighed with the brutality of experience. 'Shoushan, that is where you are wrong. Do you understand why I asked you any of those questions? Both of us understand that you know the answer to each of them. All of them are burdened with truth... You speak of duality and only being able to select one true path. Who were you in your past life?'

Shoushan became flustered - already begin to see the God-King's point.

Erasyl inclined his head in acknowledgement of her suffering. 'You have not done any worse than any other wayward children of Sirius. I am not your interrogator nor your religious chaplain. I am no bearer of the Gods judgement. Speak to me as one kindred spirit would to another.'

Shoushan winced from her own desire to confess before the God-King. His reaction would speak volumes about his beliefs and intentions.

She replied. 'Honestly? I am no different now than I was back then... Always a true hedonist, but I found myself invested in the art of death and her myriad forms.' A faint smirk creased her lips. 'One of the reasons why I turned my back on my self-righteous kindred. Another reason why I came to Sukhan to find like-minded individuals. Blackguards with blacker hearts. Cruel warriors who know only how to feast on the constant suffering of others. Devout murderers who sacrificed their souls to Alastrine in the hopes that they would slay for the rest of their lives - and relive their lust for violence in the next life as a reward for a brutal death in this mortal one.

Shoushan cocked her head at Erasyl. 'You should never have come to Suannir.' She felt disgust radiate from the God-King of the Carth Dominion. 'And your whore has done enough damage to my city... take all of your slaves with you. Sukhan has no need for the Dominion.'

Shoushan made to stand and depart her own chambers when Erasyl interrupted her.

The God-King commanded. 'Wait.'

Shoushan became frozen with but a word, more from surprise than the weight of his authority.

Erasyl leaned in toward her from the other side of the desk. 'The three questions that I first asked. Please, answer them for me.'

Shoushan scoffed. 'You waste my tim-'

The God-King's patient voice became demanding - promising swift retribution in return for her defiance. Shoushan's smirk widened - a silent challenge for Erasyl to try and strike her down.

Erasyl became unmoving, assessing Shoushan for even the slightest hint of threat. 'You noticed something about Tabia earlier - something you chose to leave unspoken... You know of a woman with the same shade of color in her eyes. You studied her features and recalled someone quite near to your chest...'

Curious, Shoushan lifted her chin to stare Erayl directly in the eye as she replied with another question. '... This woman is your child? The person that I thought similar.... her mother perished in her earlier years. Tabia cannot be her mother. I see no resemblance of her in you either.'

Erasyl shook his head in disagreement. 'Voshki is not my daughter... but she is Tabia's child. How she came to arrive in Suannir is a lengthy story.'

Shoushan shrugged. 'Then she may as well be useless for the purpose you're seeking her for. She is no immortal. She is no descendant of the God-King of the Carth Dominion.'

Erasyl inclined his head in acknowledgement. 'But she is one of the Children of the Sun. She is a Child of the Gods. As both of us remain from birth to this very day.'

Shoushan dismissed him with a crude snort. 'Is Voshki the only reason that you marched through the Southern Wastes to meet with me for?'

Erasyl confessed. 'We shall continue our discussion of Voshki upon another time. To answer your question truthfully, I desired to speak with you about Sukhan's clandestine operations throughout Khios - Old Myria being a significant topic. I do not demand or even ask that you return to the Children of the Sun... Only swear an alliance with the Carth Dominion.

Shoushan muttered a curse beneath her breath. 'Do I have a choice? Or was Suannir only a warning? Are you going to send legions across the Southern Wastes and destroy my entire kingdom?'

Grimacing, the God-King nodded once in answer. 'I cannot leave Sukhan to its own whims and ambitions. Should Old Myria and the Carth Dominion declare war on one another - then your clandestine network could turn the tide of the entire war. I shall not risk the Autumn Queen Hazan offering you a higher price than the Dominion is willing to pay for your loyalty.

'So, instead of bloodshed, enter into the Dominion's coalition. Become a valued ally instead of a hated enemy.'

Shoushan nodded. 'Your coalition. Of course. An alliance of barbaric nations drawn together by the promise of Old Myria's wealth and an endless orgy of violence to drown an empire under. I know well enough that the Half-Giants of Kharan have pledged their axes to your banners. So have the Liche Priestesses of Osphinx.

'You declare that Sukhan has no option but to join the dominion in one sentence. Yet you pleaded for me to even hear you out mere moments before. I see no reason why my kingdom should bend the knee to your empire. You'll have your hands preoccupied in the western lands for generations. Whilst you become embroiled in the next continent spanning war - my own operations could make your war effort quite a hell for the Dominion.'

Amused, Erasyl laughed at Shoushan's naivety. 'If those are your final words... then there is nothing left but to send the Dominion's declaration of war. You shall regret the consequences when Sukhan is eradicated and your people scattered - and you imprisoned beneath the city of Tu'shik.'

Shoushan scoffed. 'We shall see who will emerge victorious... I shall not have you murdered in my own lair. Return to your encampment and muster your forces. Return to the Southern Wastes and assault our strongholds when you are ready... I shall pray for you that our desert lands shall not swallow you whole.' She smirked again. 'Alastrine shall devour your immortal soul in either case…’
“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 : The Lantern's Flame - Scene III
« Reply #171 on: January 5, 2021, 10:40:14 AM »
The Lantern’s Flame Scene III

Just a few things that stand out for me in Scene 3. Sorry I am so far behind you with my feedback.

Quote from: Myen'Tal
Zakarian Manor - Ara’s home - dominated all Irothis from its mountain eyrie. Ara had reached the Mausoleum Gate hidden within the Veiled Mountain’s foundation seconds after Aslan had beaten him to it.

This reads like you have blended two different thoughts together, and it doesn't quite work as you are essentially saying the same thing twice. That is, 'seconds after' and 'beaten him to it' are different ways of saying the same thing.

I think either of the below examples might be better.

'Ara reached the Mausoleum Gate that was hidden within the foundations of the Veiled Mountain seconds after Aslan.'

'Ara reached the Mausoleum Gate hidden within the foundations of the Veiled Mountain to find that Aslan had beaten him to it.'

How is the gate hidden?

Quote
Exhausted, he buckled over and gulped down several mouthfuls of air. Aslan clapped him on the shoulder with one hand and then produced a weighty key in the other. His elder brother unclasped the locks on the entrance - one after the other until nothing barred the way.

Why is Aslan carrying a 'weighty' key to what I guess is an unused entrance to the Manor?

I imagine that Aslan and Ara are returning to the Manor after the events of Scene I. That being the case why have they chosen such a treacherous route as the way home?

Quote
Aslan addressed his brother after a brief period of controlled inhalation, recovering his breath.

Aslan recovering his breath has been confused by the previous paragraph and it is difficult to tell if it is Aslan or Ara catching their breath.

Quote
Do you remember when most of this manor was forbidden to us as children, Ara? You and I spent our days exploring the Eastern Wing. Years had passed – and you and I became young men before we discovered every room in that area.

Why was access to their own home forbidden? I would suggest you drop the forbidden part and just explain that the Manor took all of their childhood to fully explore.

Quote
‘Azat extended us permission into the rest of Zarkarian Manor that day. An entire estate built across the reaches of an entire mountain.

I am struggling with the imagery of the Manor. Is this a singular mountain? Mountains by their very definition are massive and I struggle to picture a building being that extensive it can cover 'the reaches of an entire mountain'.

I can picture a building being built on the shoulder of a mountain, or a peak/pinnacle (aka Game of Thrones' Eyrie) but I can't picture these being joined together in any realistic manner.

Quote
Aslan gestured for Ara to follow a narrow trail of white marble stairs chiseled into the footholds of the Veiled Mountain. Ara tilted his head toward the skies to catch a mere glimpse of the staircase. He began his arduous ascension up the hundreds of steps leading into the mausoleum itself. Aslan closed and barred the path behind them, and quickly followed in his steps.


I am finding the imagery of the mountain/Mausoleum entrance hard to understand.

I thought from your description that the mausoleum gate was set into the foundation's of the mountain, but now it appears that the gate just leads to a set of stairs. Considering this is a mountain we are talking about and we are faced with a steep set of stairs on the side of said mountain it is not clear what the gate is meant to be  attached to.

Quote
As the sun began to set in the western skies over Irothis, Aslan produced another key. He unmade the locks that barred the path, then shouldered the oaken entrance aside.

It might just be me, but I do find it strange that Aslan is carrying so many keys, and for such an unused path.

Quote
Ara ducked into the dark corridors of the Zakarian Mausoleum after his elder brother. Fiery sunlight from the western horizon faded till only a slightly lit corridor remained before them. As Aslan closed the way shut behind them, their environment continued to dim until the path forward became barely visible. 

A scent of dust and bones long stripped of flesh permeated the stagnant air. Ara planted one foot after the other with reverence as he passed the unburied remains of unfamiliar ancestors. Some bodies were still dressed in tattered robes once wealthy and beautiful. Others still had their bones encased in suits of tarnished and decaying armor. 

Aslan forged a path through the dark corridors by heart. He navigated through the maze of several tombs occupied by several bloodlines. When they neared the landmark buried at the heart of the mausoleum – a depiction of the Goddess Jumanah, Lady of Portents, Omen, and Heaven – Aslan signaled for Ara to halt.

Aslan whispered hurriedly. ‘Brother, do you hear that?’ 

I think you should drop most of the first paragraph from this section as for me it slows and disrupts the flow and feel of the scene.

Something like this might be better:

Ara walked into the dark corridors of the mausoleum as his brother secured the door, and he was greeted by the powerful scent of dust and decay that permeated the air.

In the pitch black they moved towards the entrance guided by their childhood memories of the place. They slowly, reverently, made their way past the tombs that held the decaying remnants of the flesh and bone of forgotten ancestors.

Suddenly, as they neared the statue that honoured the Goddess Jumanah in the centre of the mausoleum, Aslan signalled a halt.

'Brother do you hear that?' he whispered in the dark.
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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : A Dominion of the Mind - Scene I
« Reply #172 on: January 5, 2021, 12:06:48 PM »
Quote
Just a few things that stand out for me in Scene 3. Sorry I am so far behind you with my feedback.

Hi Alienscar! No worries at all. I know you post whenever you can and that's appreciated  :).

I'm going to revisit The Lantern's Flame tonight and start pouring over your feedback to make the changes.

I'm blazing a trail across this manuscript at the moment. Finished the First Act's finale - clocking in at about 7,000 words, some of which I posted.

I've created the first two chapters of Act II - Khios in Embers. A Dominion of the Mind has reached about 4500 words, and am a little over 2000 words into Tranquility of the Soul.. I think practicing the revisions across the vast majority of what I've already written is helping me increase the pace. I've learned a lot of lessons when approaching the newest chapters and I think I'm not making as many of them that usually warranted me completely rewriting everything - which begets yet more mistakes.

Still much to learn and do, but I'm inspired to keep going  :).
“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.”
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Offline Dread

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Re: The Embers of the Past : A Dominion of the Mind - Scene I
« Reply #173 on: January 6, 2021, 04:24:43 PM »
Hmm, my earlier response didnt post. Anyway, as much as i enjoy reading your work i have to admit for the first time i kept getting lost. Id have to go back and reread. Ill try to give it another read soon and see if it was just the moment when i was reading. Character development is good as always tho.
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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : A Dominion of the Mind - Scene I
« Reply #174 on: January 6, 2021, 04:41:56 PM »
Hmm, my earlier response didnt post. Anyway, as much as i enjoy reading your work i have to admit for the first time i kept getting lost. Id have to go back and reread. Ill try to give it another read soon and see if it was just the moment when i was reading. Character development is good as always tho.

Hi Dread,

Where precisely are you getting lost? Is it more within the scenes themselves or the chronological order in which everything is happening?

If it's the latter that is for a reason.

So everything is kind of a bit out of order depending on where you started reading. Offering is the 1st Chapter - which is from Voshki's perspective. The Lantern's Flame is the 2nd Chapter - which is Ara's perspective. A Child of Sun and Moon is the 3rd Chapter - and is from Kendal's perspective. These are in chronological order, but take place from the perspective of three different characters.

Everything beyond A Child of Sun and Moon are random scenes I've snipped out for advice on. I didn't want to hit everyone with all of the spoilers lol.

If that is not the reason you're getting lost, feel free to explain in more detail. I'd like to understand  :). Also I maybe able to give you some clarity on what I was trying to achieve in areas you are finding fuzzy.

So right now - the order is as thus:

1st Chapter - 9th Page - The latest version of Offering is on the last page.

-2nd Chapterr - Go back to Page 8 - then read The Lantern's Flame

-3rd Chapter - 9th Page - A Child of Sun and Moon

- The rest are all random scenes taken from other chapters.
« Last Edit: January 6, 2021, 05:03:50 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 Dominion of the Mind - Scene I
« Reply #175 on: January 6, 2021, 06:22:51 PM »
So right now - the order is as thus:

1st Chapter - 9th Page - The latest version of Offering is on the last page.

-2nd Chapterr - Go back to Page 8 - then read The Lantern's Flame

-3rd Chapter - 9th Page - A Child of Sun and Moon

- The rest are all random scenes taken from other chapters.

I think I should point out that this is only the case if everyone's forum profile is the same as yours. For instance, your thread is only four pages long when I look at it and everything you mention above is on page four.
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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of the Past : A Dominion of the Mind - Scene I
« Reply #176 on: January 6, 2021, 06:25:33 PM »
So right now - the order is as thus:

1st Chapter - 9th Page - The latest version of Offering is on the last page.

-2nd Chapterr - Go back to Page 8 - then read The Lantern's Flame

-3rd Chapter - 9th Page - A Child of Sun and Moon

- The rest are all random scenes taken from other chapters.

I think I should point out that this is only the case if everyone's forum profile is the same as yours. For instance, your thread is only four pages long when I look at it and everything you mention above is on page four.

 :o

I never realized that was the case. How is that determined exactly?
“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 Irisado

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Re: The Embers of the Past : A Dominion of the Mind - Scene I
« Reply #177 on: January 6, 2021, 07:01:40 PM »
It depends on how many messages you want to be displayed on each page (check under Profile > Look and Layout t see what I mean).  There is a forum default, but this can, of course, be changed.  This is why it is best to link to individual posts, rather than to use page numbers ;).
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Offline Myen'Tal

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“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: The Embers of the Past : A Dominion of the Mind - Scene I
« Reply #179 on: January 7, 2021, 01:34:18 AM »
I'll give them a read this weekend 8)
"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"

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