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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 Alienscar

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Re: The Embers of the Past : Oath of the Betrayer - Scene I - 1/28 Update
« Reply #200 on: January 28, 2021, 11:11:23 AM »
My feedback wouldn’t fit in one post, so here is the remainder:

Quote
He reclaimed his sword and joined his father by the stairwell.

So he had thrown it away then!

Quote
Kendal knelt to better hear her, but all that he had gleamed from their brief conversation was the comforting look his mother gave him a final time.

Gleamed means to shine brightly, so I think you meant to write gleaned.

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Kendal made to open his mouth in the same moment her strength fled, and her eyes lulled.

Lulled is the wrong word. It has a couple of meanings, but none of them refers to closing your eyes as you die. It means to calm or send someone to sleep, typically with soothing sounds or movements; make someone feel deceptively secure or confident.

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Kendal attempted to process everything that had just happened on a whim and failed. 'Wait a moment...' 

The word whim refers to a sudden wish or idea and not something that 'happened'

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His father cut through the fog of uncertain grief plaguing his son's mind.

Why would Kendal's grief be described as uncertain? Uncertain means not knowing what to do or believe, or not able to decide about something. Surely Kendal would have no second thoughts about grieving for his mother!   

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Rynath smirked, about as pleased an expression as anyone was likely to get out of him. 'A faithful steed unto the end.

I would suggest that smirked isn't the correct word for this situation as smirked means, smile in an irritatingly smug, conceited, or silly way.

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They rushed through the entrance of the Grand Foyer and out into the burning winter landscape of a battlefield where only one army had fought.

I am not entirely sure what you mean by 'where only one army had fought' At face value if only one army fought then they must have been fighting themselves.

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The Lioness he had encountered at the ambushed caravan pushed her way to the fore of the crowd. She spoke in the fluent tongue of the Halish folk.

This is the wrong use of the word fluent, as fluent means able to express oneself easily and articulately. It would be better to write, She spoke fluently in Halish.
 
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Rynath looked to Ishali, who continued to watch Kendal and him with the peeled eyes of a hawk even as her ranks scrambled to meet the charge.

As explained previously this is an incorrect use of the idiom keep your eyes peeled.
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Honestly Alienscar, we get it... you dont like painting!

Offline Myen'Tal

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Oooh, lots of feedback to get into. Will definitely look into this list, Alienscar. Thanks!
« Last Edit: January 28, 2021, 11:03:26 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 All That Remain: Oath of the Betrayer - Scene I - 1/28 Update
« Reply #202 on: January 30, 2021, 12:33:01 AM »
Oooh, lots of feedback to get into. Will definitely look into this list, Alienscar. Thanks!

Changes reflecting latest feedback for A Crimson Blizzard - Scene II is finished. I've replaced the scene - so the latest version is still in that previous post where the original text was kept.
“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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Dusk’s crimson light vanished amid night’s spreading darkness. After crossing through the mountain pass of Reaper’s Lantern, the Old Myrian armies splintered throughout the mountain valley at Lord Zakarian’s command. No point of entry on the western banks of the Alabaster remained unfortified against the encroaching threat of the Dominion. 

Wooden palisades guarded the Alabaster’s riverbanks across the entire Crescent Valley. Behind the barricades, man-made hills of compacted dirt created a high ground for the Dusk Sentinels to better defend the Old Myrian lines. A single trench encircled the entire defensive position used by the Old Myrian forces.   

Any Carthite would need to surmount the trench, then break through the palisades to meet the defenders of the Ardent Vigil. If the Dominion’s legions could endure such a grueling trial, their forces would face Khalnar’s fortifications – the Dusk Sentinels already withdrawn and redeployed to reinforce the township’s garrison before it would come to that. 

Aslan stood by his father’s side to oversee Khalnar township’s defense. He considered the defense overall, and knew that they were more than nothing, but less than ideal. 

He watched the infantry begin to break into their respective bands, spacing themselves in multiple layers of an interlocking defense. 

A wailing horn sounded from somewhere in a night absent of guiding stars. An anxious breath became caught in Aslan's lungs, deafening silence falling over the Old Myrian defenses arrayed on Khalnar’s riverside outskirts. He gazed across the Alabaster, shrouded behind a dark veil lingering over all of Khios. 

Against the encroaching shadow, only Khalnar and all the Crescent Valley continued to blaze against the night. 

His father's voice shattered the bewitching stillness fallen over his forces. 'Does the sound of Carthite horns frighten you!? Does the threat of invasion against your families in their own homes make your blood run cold, warriors of the Autumn Realms!? It should! For when the last time those horns sounded on the banks of the Alabaster - the whole river flowed a dark crimson with all the blood spilled from ceaseless battle! 

'Remember the oaths you swore before the Autumn Queen herself! Remember the courage of your ancestors, who have laid the Dominion and their God King's ambition quite low in wars long forgotten! We are the first into the fray against the Dominion - this is our chance! 

'Tell this God King that he is no divine god - he is no master of Old Myria! Annahir and the Autumn Realms, forever!'

Echoes of Azat's war cry rippled across the formations until the same words echoed far into the abyssal dark. The Immortals of Annahir were the first to draw their swords, raising them high so that they glinted in the firelight. Every man and woman who served in either the Ardent Vigil or the Dusk Sentinels repeated the gesture until one thousand swords glimmered like an endless tide of light. 

Aslan spied small groupings of warriors scattered amongst the ranks raising the half-and-half raven black and amber banners of the Old Myrian heraldry across the defenses. He looked on into the shadowy depths of the Alabaster, a fierce pride stoked within his chest. 

The wailing horn sounded once again but could not quell the defiance of the Dominion's foes so easily a second time. Another shrill cry echoed after the first lengthened note, followed by two more, then several others until it seemed that scores of horns were guiding something massive toward the Old Myrian side of the Alabaster. 

Aslan blew out an anxious breath and looked to his father. 'You should not have left Ara behind. He would have loved to be here, standing beside us.' 

Azat disagreed with a grim shake of his head. 'I won't risk both of my sons in the same battle. You're ready, Aslan, and that alone is why you're here. Ara is not - not yet. I am uncertain if he'll ever be.' 

Aslan cuffed his hands and waited patiently by his father's side, his stance as regal as that of the Immortals. 'A conversation for another time, father. Tonight, I am here to slay as many Carthites as I possibly can.'

'Good.'Azat nodded. He studied Aslan acutely, his smile flashing when his eldest son took notice. 'You do not know how long I've waited for this moment. That we draw our swords and stand shoulder-to-shoulder. No matter what happens, know that you have my pride now and forever, my Lion.' 

Aslan nodded, not quite able to conceal his enthusiasm. 

Azat lifted his chin to point toward the first lights drifting through the crushing black shrouding the Alabaster River. He placed a firm grip on Aslan's shoulder and shook it once. 'The Dominion has arrived on Old Myrian soil. Let us see the armies that they believe worthy of her total conquest.' 

Gargantuan sea-faring vessels, from lowly Quinqueremes to the grand Polyremes - of which the slave warriors of the Zar'qin guard arrayed themselves on their decks in numbers anywhere between one hundred and a few thousand. Elaborate standards of crimson and gold framing the image of the Solar God seated on a throne of fire - a spear of radiant light gripped in his sword arm – waved in the cool breeze. Countless thousands of oars cycled in and out of the dark waters, synchronous with the chanting dirge that the slave legions of Carth had taken up to quell the flames of the Old Myrian spirits. 

As the Dominion's armada gradually emerged out of the night - Aslan swept his gaze across the assembly of sheer marshal strength. Hundreds of ships ranging across the full spectrum of shape and scale were slowly drifting into plain sight. 

Aslan beheld the divine might of the Carth Dominion and sneered out of disgust. 

Azat shattered his reverie, his tone calmer than the waters of the Alabaster itself. 'How far do you think those first outlying ships are? The ones nearest the riverbanks and our defenses?'

Aslan arched his brow. 'I'm not certain, they certainly seem close enough for an archer...' Realization dawned on him. 

Azat grinned, wolfish. He lifted his voice so that it bellowed over the Dominion's dirge and Old Myria's defiant cries. 'Hovan, my faithful second in command!'

A warrior with a single scar running down the length of his face emerged from out of the lines of Dusk Sentinels. 'Lord Zakarian, your command is my will! Give me an order and I'll see it done!' 

Azat gestured toward the first wave of oncoming vessels. 'Give them a warning volley! Tell them to turn tail and flee back to the Dominion!' 

Hovan slammed a mailed fist against his laminar armor. He turned back to the formations, relaying Lord Zakarian’s orders through the chain of command.

Moments later, the four hundred men and women of the Dusk Sentinels lifted their bows - each arrow pulled taut on their strings alight with a burning flame. 

Aslan shrugged, watching the volley loosed into the first outlying Carthite vessels. The volley fell shy of each ship by only a few feet, hundreds of dispensed arrows snuffing themselves out amidst the Alabaster's cold waters. 

He looked to Azat. 'I don't understand. That would never deter a force this size from crossing the river.' 

Azat mirrored his uncaring shrug. 'It is merely a courtesy - a warning of the doom that they're approaching.' 

Azat relayed another set of orders to his Second. 'Hovan! Give them a more dire warning! Do not spare the ammunition of any of Khalnar's fortifications. The bombardment does not cease until this battle is lost or won. From sunrise to sunset, choke the Alabaster with their ruin!' 

Aslan listened intently to the commands being relayed throughout the defenses arrayed along the riverbank. He did not discern much, but one line echoed above the rest. 

Hovan's own words stirred his brethren to eager action. 'Sentinels of Dusk, loose at will! Unleash the fusillade!'

The ballista and scorpion turrets arrayed along Khalnar's riverside defenses unleashed their wrath. Aslan heard the whistling of their punishing salvos, their dispensed ammunition near impossible to glean across the night sky. The Dusk Sentinels commenced their never-ending volley, loosing hail after flaming hail of arrows toward the dim light of the moon. The trebuchets were the final distanced response to the Carthite invaders, their ammunition taking on the form of great oil filled canisters rather than massive boulders. 

The Dominion's first wave of hulking vessels stood little chance. Oversized bolts punctured gaping wounds in the hulls of every ship, ending the lives of scores of oarsmen. A rapid hail of scorpion bolts peppered the Zar'qin aboard their decks and though Aslan could not witness their deaths for himself, the wailing chorus of their final cries was enough to satisfy him. 

An endless rain of flaming arrows further thinned out the ranks of the first warriors attempting to ford the river. As flames began to take hold across each sea-faring vessel, the Old Myrians took up a great cheer as several minor fires blossomed into all-consuming infernos from the impact of oil spilled amid the hungry flames. 

Azat commanded suddenly over the resounding cheers. 'Lock shields and raise them! Use whatever defense you can - remain standing in the face of whatever wrath!' 

Aslan heard the whistling of a coming rain of arrows before they descended upon the Old Myrians. The warriors of the Ardent Vigil heard the dreadful sound as well, lifting their shields in loose synchronicity. Here and there among the ranks, warriors fell in heaps, feathered shafts embedded through their armor and deep into flesh. 

Azat steadied Aslan with a firm hand on the broad of his back, though his elder son knew that he did not need it. 

His father looked to Aslan and spoke over the cries of the horribly wounded and dying. 'Aslan, when the foe eventually fords the Alabaster and storm our defenses - I want you to hold back - until you find an enemy worthy of you. I want you to find one of the Children of the Sun - be they Exalted, Champion, or unit leader... strike them down and let Carth tremble before the might of the Lion.' 

Aslan vigorously nodded. 'I shall do as you command, Lord Zakarian. I shall strike down their greatest leader in Hazan's name.' 

Azat inclined his head in appreciation. 'You're a great warrior... I would see you become legend before long. So, we wait for the enemy to land and the real combat shall be had. Be patient and not overbold, your time shall come and soon.' 

Aslan folded his arms out of patience, watching endless arrow hails exchanged between either army. 

His time as a Lion of War had come. 
« Last Edit: February 4, 2021, 11:57:53 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 Dominion of the Mind - Revision 2.0 - Scene I
« Reply #204 on: February 5, 2021, 12:21:55 AM »
Oath of the Betrayer scene is updated again to revision 3.0 - took a little while to get it to where I want it lol. The new version is in the previous post.

Also, in this scene, I do understand there is some repetition in the name of the characters being used in particular. I did a quick run through and lessened the problem, but I will need to go back and do some variation after I complete the manuscript.

Without further ado:

A Dominion of the Mind – Scene I

The scorched dunes of the Southern Wastes stretched across the horizon like an ocean of sand frozen in time. T As a miserable summer heat came bearing down from the heights of heaven, Sirius scoured the dune sea until it simmered in a haze. In the arid wastes, there existed no comfort of civilization in the distance. No oases dotted the landscape for the doomed to find another day’s deliverance.   

The Kingdom of Sukhan was never a haven for either the adventurer or the legions of the Carth Dominion. Or - Nishan mused in silence, perhaps nothing of the sort existed to the untrained eye. 

The Scarred One intentionally distanced himself from the fawning women of the Dominion’s Zar – their slave caste. They fanned an empty palanquin cloaked in the shade of a pavilion in preparation for his coming. All the while the summer heat mercilessly beat down on him. He could have accepted the offered palanquin for some relief from the Southern Wastes, but he would always refuse the Dominion's hospitality. He endured his suffering and sweltered beneath the light of the midday sun unattended. 

He stared out across the dunes on the horizon, reminiscent. He finally glanced over his shoulder at the leader of all the Carth Dominion. 'You remember, don't you, God King? Of all who have forgotten the terrible collapse of the Carth Republic - you remember those times quite well, correct?'

Nishan stood in the presence of a Carthite King. A Sun-Caller from the ancient city of Tu'shik - named after the grand canals that had transformed the arid heartland into a paradise. As all the Children of the Sun were, this supposed King was of tarnished skin the shade of bronze. His hair was but a single braid running along the scalp of his skull, raven black and lustrous, decorated with a snake's tail of emeralds, opals, and onyx. His eyes were the deep amber found beneath the waves of a sparkling coast. 

He could not help but notice this Carthite’s sheer physicality. Heavily toned muscle burst from every inch of him, crafted by the eyes of the Gods, perhaps - and not of mortal breeding. A flowing brilliant white robe cloaked him from the waist down to the ankles of his bare feet. From the waist up was a billowing shirt parted down the centerline of his body - as brilliant a white as the rest of his clothes. 

Erasyl of Tu'shik. Firstborn of Mankind. Sun-Caller King of the Children of the Sun. God King of the Carth Dominion. 

Erasyl folded his arms out of patience, lifting his chin in acknowledgement. 'A hero you were in those days, Nishan. You rightly deserved your title as the Republic's greatest champion - and the Scarred Child of Ak'shan. You were unyielding in those days, my old nemesis, and stirred an entire civilization to defiance.'

Memories of the glorious past came rushing back to the Scarred One. He flicked his eyes close with a pang of regret. 'Have you heard the saying that what we do in this life shall echo into eternity?' He waited for Erasyl to affirm him. ‘Do you ever realize that saying only ever applies to the victor? I was the Republic's champion in those days, that is true. I defied the Dominion's will for nigh a decade, bringing ruin to countless of your armies. I laid waste to the city of Sh'myr and burned Ak'shan to the ground to reclaim it all for the beginning of a new era.

'The Republic's rebirth was to be the end of the Children of the Sun. A time of peace for all the liberated nations under your yoke of oppression. Do you understand how much history and culture we lost within that time span? Ancient cities - built from the hands of countless generations were razed to the ground over the course of years and not the centuries needed to see them rebuilt. All our wonders, some of our brightest civilizations in the Republic, our government, and our way of life... annihilated by one man's ambition.'

The Scarred One recalled those times and cackled with embittered laughter. 'I guess it matters little what some do in this life. I struggled against what seemed like destiny itself. After all, I was the republic’s final hope before the end. Nowadays, everyone has forgotten the fate of countless thousands. All the warriors of Carth – true loyalists - died alone and forgotten with their families - buried in the ashes of time.'

His laughter faded, replaced with a dour scowl. 'What a comedy life can be, should the Gods hate mortal men so much. You not only had to humiliate your kindred nations – but stole from out of the hands of all who thrived in those once fairest lands. Contol was never enough, you wanted only absolute power.’

Erasyl considered Nishan's musings even as the Scarred Child turned to face the God King. Nishan saw nothing more than a man, who had chosen to suffer in the desert heat like he did. 

Nishan did little to conceal his seething hatred. 'Do you think your actions empathetic? You eke out your life for but a moment to speak with me, then you'll return to Tu'shik and live like the divine king you are.'

The God King countered with a measured voice, burdened with centuries of wisdom and the experience of countless lifetimes. 

The God King smiled at Nishan. 'You always knew that you'd become an unsung hero. There is little point in fussing about the sacrifices made. You stood for your beliefs and all the civilizations within the heartland in that fateful war. Humans may forget - they always do, such is their failing. However, destiny shall always remember the sacrifices of those who embrace it of their own volition. That alone is no easy task. I would have you recall, Nishan, that destiny is a tool of the gods. They alone are all that need remember the souls of all who perished in that terrible conflict. 

'The dead shall always have their deeds sung in the echoes between space and time, where they celebrate and war on still into the eternities with the Gods themselves.' 

Nishan cackled softly with laughter, skeptical. ‘An old war hound like me can care no longer for living forever – glorious or inhumane. One life of hellish misery in an exchange for another one that'll last forever. The only difference is that I’ll not feel a thing anymore as those celestial battles continue rage ever onward.' 

He turned back toward the horizon. He waited for the God King to come stand beside him. 'What do you desire in this life, Scarred Pme? All that you aspired to in the past has turned to ash. So, what drives you now? Why continue living when you are bereft of all that is good in this world? You are tired, exhausted from the battlefield. So why continue to wade through them with the strength of your younger self?'

Nishan considered the God King's question and shrugged. He answered after a brief pause. 'An old wolf like me cannot die for simply nothing. I am uncertain how to answer your question, Sun-Caller... maybe it's vengeance.' 

Erasyl cocked his head, amused. 'Against me, perhaps?'

The Scarred One thought briefly about lying in the God King's face, but one glance into Erasyl's amber eyes made him understand that the God King knew far more about Nishan than perhaps even himself. 

Nishan smirked, the faint gesture quickly breaking into a relieving smile. 'Yes, against you. I swore eternal war on you the day you betrayed the Republic. An eternal war has no end until a victor is established. I can see with this one good eye of mine, that you and I are still breathing.' 

Erasyl nodded, taken back slightly, but pleasantly surprised. 'I can appreciate the candor. Don't you have other arch-betrayers who should pay with their lives?'

Nishan shook his head. 'A quarrel between brothers is only that. Perhaps I made a grave mistake against Azat Zakarian - and I know he would strike me down onsite. In the end, however, I am glad that he continues to live with those bratty sons of his.' He looked Erasyl directly in the eye and held his gaze. 'I'm certain I'll redeem myself somehow and return into his good graces. Yet for now, I am content with doing what I can here in Sukhan - to see your agenda undermined.' 

Erasyl chuckled, amused. 'Are you curious how events here in the Southern Wastes shall play out? I shall indulge you and explain:

'I shall venture to the city of Suannir - the Den of Vipers - and attend our conclave with your enigmatic master - Shoushan, was it? I shall make my demands on behalf of the Carth Dominion - she will reject them and any potential alliance with the Dominion. I shall return to this very encampment behind us and will dispatch a messenger to deliver a declaration of open war and the Dominion's terms - my terms to this Master of Assassins. 

'Shoushan will need a champion to lead Sukhan's defenses, for I'm certain she will have other elements of her clandestine operations to tend to. She will likely grant command of her armies here in Sukhan to you. Then, Scarred Child of Ak'shan - you shall make the decision that you'll make. The fate of Sukhan shall be decided upon any choice you're given.'

Nishan held Erasyl's boring stare through his soul. 'I shall make the right decision with pride. If all that you said is truth, then I look forward to crossing our blades on the battlefield again.'

Erasyl nodded. 'Fine. Go ahead and pull down an entire kingdom in the flames of your rebellion. You have already brought the greatest republic known to man onto its knees with your failures. It was a simple task to cleave the head from the beast - and eradicate every Heavenly Sage that dared to raise their finger against me. The Children of Sun could never live under such weakness. We were always meant to rule, to blaze on this world with an eternal flame. Not to fade into the night as nothing more than embers of our forgotten pasts.' 

Nishan did not bat an eyelash at the God King's verbal onslaught. 'Upon a day, the brothers that I still have in this world and I shall stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the implacable wrath of your slave legions. I shall leave this world laughing when I bury my sword in your chest. If I achieve this - I shall gladly depart this world absent a care... and all of Khios shall celebrate your ignoble passing. All the meek and innocent shall know that it was the Scarred Child who delivered them from out of the hands of tyranny. 

'And all of those souls of the Carth Republic that continue their eternal war amidst the heavens - shall laugh at your death and chant my name till the end of days.' 

Erasyl nodded, accepting the challenge. 'You should take your leave, why you have the chance. I am an honorable king; I shall not have you struck down here of all places. Yet my patience has its limits... just know that I'm also looking forward to the day we cross blades on the battlefield.' 

Nishan deigned not to respond but marched off into the dunes beyond the heat haze. To Erasyl - he looked as if he were walking into death itself - but Nishan knew the hidden nooks of Sukhan that he'd never understand in another lifetime. 

He departed that loathsome encampment - and as he left that shade within the pavilion and the comfortable palanquin behind - he wished for some graceful wind to come bearing down on him. 
“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 - Revision 2.0 - Scene I
« Reply #205 on: February 8, 2021, 08:14:49 AM »
Oath of the Betrayer Scene I, Revision 3.0

Here is a bit of feedback for Betrayer Scene I

Quote
Dusk’s crimson light vanished amid night’s spreading darkness. After crossing through the mountain pass of Reaper’s Lantern, the Old Myrian armies splintered throughout the mountain valley at Lord Zakarian’s command. No point of entry on the western banks of the Alabaster remained unfortified against the encroaching threat of the Dominion.

The second sentence of this paragraph does not follow on from the first sentence in any way, and as such it breaks the flow of the whole paragraph. To be honest I find each of the three sentences of this paragraph too seperate from each other and they don't really tell me a coherent message. You could easily drop one or more of these sentences and the scene's narrative would not change.

Splintered is the wrong word as it means; to break into small parts/groups with divergent views.

Quote
Wooden palisades guarded the Alabaster’s riverbanks across the entire Crescent Valley.

This is difficult to imagine. A valley is a low stretch of land between hills/mountains, especially one that has a river flowing through it. As such I picture something very long, and it is therefore difficult to imagine the whole length of a river being guarded by wooden pallisades as you have described.

Quote
Behind the barricades, man-made hills of compacted dirt created a high ground for the Dusk Sentinels to better defend the Old Myrian lines. A single trench encircled the entire defensive position used by the Old Myrian forces.   

Any Carthite would need to surmount the trench, then break through the palisades to meet the defenders of the Ardent Vigil.

If the trench is in front of the pallisades and the pallisades follow the riverbanks then it is hard to understand how the trench can encircle the defensive positions.

Quote
If the Dominion’s legions could endure such a grueling trial, their forces would face Khalnar’s fortifications – the Dusk Sentinels already withdrawn and redeployed to reinforce the township’s garrison before it would come to that.

As it has now become plain that they are defending one township the very first paragraph of this scene is not really required as it just dilutes the content too much. Why mention the rest of the valley when you are just in one place?


Quote
'Tell this God King that he is no divine god - he is no master of Old Myria! Annahir and the Autumn Realms, forever!'

Tell this God-king that he is no divine god forever.

Tell this god-king he is no master of Old Myria forever.
 
Neither of these make any sense to me.

Quote
Aslan cuffed his hands and waited patiently by his father's side, his stance as regal as that of the Immortals. 'A conversation for another time, father. Tonight, I am here to slay as many Carthites as I possibly can.'

Cuffed is the wrong word and I think you meant cupped. Among other things cuffed means to hit someone.


Quote
Gargantuan sea-faring vessels, from lowly Quinqueremes to the grand Polyremes - of which the slave warriors of the Zar'qin guard arrayed themselves on their decks in numbers anywhere between one hundred and a few thousand.

A few thousand! This is hard to realistically envision to be honest. The HMS Victoria was the largest wooden ship in the world at one point and only had a complement of 1000.


Quote
Azat shattered his reverie, his tone calmer than the waters of the Alabaster itself. 'How far do you think those first outlying ships are? The ones nearest the riverbanks and our defenses?'

Aslan arched his brow. 'I'm not certain, they certainly seem close enough for an archer...' Realization dawned on him.

Being close enough for an archer would put them within 400-600 yards. This is too close to fit with your description of the area.

Quote
Azat grinned, wolfish. He lifted his voice so that it bellowed over the Dominion's dirge and Old Myria's defiant cries. 'Hovan, my faithful second in command!'

There is really no need for the 'my faithful second in comand' bit.

Quote
A warrior with a single scar running down the length of his face emerged from out of the lines of Dusk Sentinels. 'Lord Zakarian, your command is my will! Give me an order and I'll see it done!'

Similar to the above I would say there is no need for the your command is my will line. They are about to be attacked, so I would suggest that your words should be less flowery and provide a sense of urgency.

Your wish is my command, or your will is my command would be better. Writing it the way you have doesn't quite make sense. He is essentially saying your command is something he wants to happen.

Quote
He looked to Azat. 'I don't understand. That would never deter a force this size from crossing the river.'

Crossing the river would imply moving from one side of the  river to the other. That is not what seems to happening here, so, for me, this sentence confuses the  focus of the scene as a whole.

Quote
Azat relayed another set of orders to his Second. 'Hovan! Give them a more dire warning! Do not spare the ammunition of any of Khalnar's fortifications. The bombardment does not cease until this battle is lost or won. From sunrise to sunset, choke the Alabaster with their ruin!'

The whole 'do you think the ships are in arrow range' now seems totally redundant. Why waste arrows when he could fire the artillery? Missing with the arrows is not much of a warning.

Quote
Aslan listened intently to the commands being relayed throughout the defenses arrayed along the riverbank. He did not discern much, but one line echoed above the rest.

I think these sentences could easily be removed. I say this because I do not understand what it is you are trying to achieve with them.

Quote
The ballista and scorpion turrets arrayed along Khalnar's riverside defenses unleashed their wrath. Aslan heard the whistling of their punishing salvos, their dispensed ammunition near impossible to glean across the night sky.

Dispensed means to give or deal out; distribute. I think the word released would be better.

Quote
The trebuchets were the final distanced response to the Carthite invaders, their ammunition taking on the form of great oil filled canisters rather than massive boulders.

I think I have mentioned before that you sometimes let modern day thinking into your writing, and I would say that your use of oil here is another example of that. Back in medieval times oil was animal or plant based, and these wouldn't burn as readily as you are describing. There was something called Greek fire which would burn on water and was incredibly difficult to put out. When you write oil filled canisters I can't help but think that you are referring to crude oil which didn't exist back then.

Quote
An endless rain of flaming arrows further thinned out the ranks of the first warriors attempting to ford the river.

I find that this sentence muddies your mindscape a bit for me. One the one hand you have gargantuan ships floating in the river, but on the other hand you are now describing the river as being shallow enough for people to wade across it.
   
Quote
Azat commanded suddenly over the resounding cheers. 'Lock shields and raise them! Use whatever defense you can - remain standing in the face of whatever wrath!'

Wrath means extreme anger, so your sentence reads as an incomplete thought. That is, your sentence essentially says 'remain standing in the face of whatever anger!' As you can see this doesn't quite work.

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Aslan heard the whistling of a coming rain of arrows before they descended upon the Old Myrians.

More of a technicality than an issue with your writing, but arrows do not whistle.

Quote
His father looked to Aslan and spoke over the cries of the horribly wounded and dying. 'Aslan, when the foe eventually fords the Alabaster and storm our defenses - I want you to hold back - until you find an enemy worthy of you. I want you to find one of the Children of the Sun - be they Exalted, Champion, or unit leader... strike them down and let Carth tremble before the might of the Lion.'

I don't know if this is just me, but this little chat seems horribly out of place compared to the line about the cries of the horibly wounded and dying. For me the tone of the speech does not match the tone of the surrounding action.

Also Aslan’s acceptance that their defences are going to be stormed seems at odds with his previous, 'Give them a warning volley! Tell them to turn tail and flee back to the Dominion!'

I personally find that it means the tone of the scene as a whole is too variable.

Additionally this little speech from Azat seems largely contradictory to the previous, 'Tonight, I am here to slay as many Carthites as I possibly can.' and Azat’s, 'That we draw our swords and stand shoulder-to-shoulder.'
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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of The Past: A Dominion of the Mind - Revision 2.0 - Scene I
« Reply #206 on: February 8, 2021, 10:05:50 AM »
Hi Alienscar,

Quote
A few thousand! This is hard to realistically envision to be honest. The HMS Victoria was the largest wooden ship in the world at one point and only had a complement of 1000.

Actually, if you google http://www.hellenicaworld.com's  Giant Hellenistic warships with more than 7000 crew members, it's not unrealistic at all. There were actual historical ships used throughout the classical era that supported thousands of warriors in addition to sailors.

Quote
Tell this God-king that he is no divine god forever.

Tell this god-king he is no master of Old Myria forever.

Neither of these make any sense to me.

I'm not certain why you added forever onto these two sentences. Forever is only on the end of the third sentence, Annahir and the Autumn Realms, forever!

Quote
Crossing the river would imply moving from one side of the  river to the other. That is not what seems to happening here, so, for me, this sentence confuses the  focus of the scene as a whole.

Will probably have to change the nature of the geography depicted in this scene - maybe position around the Black Sea instead. I think that would make the Dominion's approach a bit more realistic?

Quote
I don't know if this is just me, but this little chat seems horribly out of place compared to the line about the cries of the horibly wounded and dying. For me the tone of the speech does not match the tone of the surrounding action.

Also Aslan’s acceptance that their defences are going to be stormed seems at odds with his previous, 'Give them a warning volley! Tell them to turn tail and flee back to the Dominion!'

I personally find that it means the tone of the scene as a whole is too variable.

Additionally this little speech from Azat seems largely contradictory to the previous, 'Tonight, I am here to slay as many Carthites as I possibly can.' and Azat’s, 'That we draw our swords and stand shoulder-to-shoulder.'

Some of the dialogue you've pointed out isn't Azat speaking, but Aslan. Both of them are going to have differing perspectives on how they're viewing the battle. Especially Aslan, who currently lacks a lot of experience his father does.

Quote
I don't know if this is just me, but this little chat seems horribly out of place compared to the line about the cries of the horibly wounded and dying. For me the tone of the speech does not match the tone of the surrounding action.

So, Azat should be teaching Aslan nothing? Azat is in command of the forces here, I think remaining stoic and calm whilst the battle rages on is not out completely out of the realm of realism. Neither do I think that Azat commanding Aslan to find an enemy leader to take out is outside of that realm either.

Thanks for the feedback.  :)
« Last Edit: February 8, 2021, 02:17:32 PM by Myen'Tal »
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Offline Alienscar

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Re: The Embers of The Past: A Dominion of the Mind - Revision 2.0 - Scene I
« Reply #207 on: February 8, 2021, 05:24:12 PM »
Hi Alienscar,

Quote
A few thousand! This is hard to realistically envision to be honest. The HMS Victoria was the largest wooden ship in the world at one point and only had a complement of 1000.

Actually, if you google http://www.hellenicaworld.com's  Giant Hellenistic warships with more than 7000 crew members, it's not unrealistic at all. There were actual historical ships used throughout the classical era that supported this many warriors in addition to sailors.

Not really. 'Hellenistic warships with more than 7000 crew' is referring to the tessarakonteres built by Ptolemy IV. This ship was actually a cattarman and was built as a prestige vessel rather than an effective warship. You can read more about the Tesarakonteres here if you want. The 7000 crew is made up of 4000 rowers, 400 crew and 2850 marines

The Quinqueremes that you mention in your scene could hold 120 marines, and from what I have read some of the larger and usable Hellenistic warships could hold up to 850-1200 marines.

The thing is these ships were warships and regardless of the number of marines they held they carried out their duties at sea. That is, the marines were onboard to carry out boarding actions after they had rammed other ships and not to carry out land duties.

Also being warships I can't imagine the larger ships having a shallow enough draught that would let the marines get off and wade to shore. Even at Dunkirk the soldiers had to wade out in shoulder deep water to let smaller boats transfer them to the larger ships.

Actually I am also now wondering why you have used Greek words to describe your ships.

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Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Embers of The Past: A Dominion of the Mind - Revision 2.0 - Scene I
« Reply #208 on: February 8, 2021, 06:08:22 PM »
Hi Alienscar,

Not really. 'Hellenistic warships with more than 7000 crew' is referring to the tessarakonteres built by Ptolemy IV. This ship was actually a cattarman and was built as a prestige vessel rather than an effective warship. You can read more about the Tesarakonteres here if you want. The 7000 crew is made up of 4000 rowers, 400 crew and 2850 marines

The Quinqueremes that you mention in your scene could hold 120 marines, and from what I have read some of the larger and usable Hellenistic warships could hold up to 850-1200 marines.

The thing is these ships were warships and regardless of the number of marines they held they carried out their duties at sea. That is, the marines were onboard to carry out boarding actions after they had rammed other ships and not to carry out land duties.

Also being warships I can't imagine the larger ships having a shallow enough draught that would let the marines get off and wade to shore. Even at Dunkirk the soldiers had to wade out in shoulder deep water to let smaller boats transfer them to the larger ships.

Actually I am also now wondering why you have used Greek words to describe your ships.

Fair enough, I'll adjust the numbers accordingly. I honestly haven't thought too much about ship vessel classes in this universe - so I guess you can consider them placeholder. I still have a lot of time to change those - along with other similar issues that should be addressed as well. I am wanting to complete the manuscript first, then tackle those issues. 

Will look over the feedback and compile some changes to reflect the feedback you've given.

Thanks again.
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Re: The Embers of The Past: A Dominion of the Mind - Revision 2.0 - Scene I
« Reply #209 on: February 9, 2021, 07:12:05 AM »
Fair enough, I'll adjust the numbers accordingly. I honestly haven't thought too much about ship vessel classes in this universe - so I guess you can consider them placeholder. I still have a lot of time to change those - along with other similar issues that should be addressed as well.

For me it is not just the number of marines that confuses my mindscape of the scene, but the number of ships and the logistics for getting the marines from the ships to the shore.

One hundred ships are going to take up a lot of space and I am struggling to picture how this scenario is supposed to play out.

The Quinquereme that you mention was 148ft long and its deck was 9ft above the waterline. How are you imagining the marines geting off the ship and onto the shore. Don’t forget that these warships did not carry rowing boats.

The tessarakonteres was 426ft long and its gunwales were 72ft above the waterline. It is estimated that this ship needed 20ft of water to stop it grounding.

At the back of my mind is any soldier/marine wading through even waist high water for any length of time is going to be an easy target for an archer.

A lot of my issues could be alleviated by a dock, but a dock wouldn't allow your hundreds of ships to dock all at once, and again I would imagine it would put the attackers at a bit of a disadvantage if the soldiers had to disembark via a gangplank.

Having read some of the information in the link that you provided historians believe that none of the giant ships of eleven and over were used in battle and were just for exhibition use. I think it might be cool if you had a sort of pirate raiding force.

Triremes and Quadrireme were, for the time, very quick ships and from what I can make out had a draught of 4ft or less. The trireme in particular was capable of being beached by its crew.

I could imagine a number of these ships being deliberately run aground and the marines jumping off similar to modern landing craft.

At a push a Trir could carry 40 marines and a Quad 75 marines.
« Last Edit: February 9, 2021, 02:38:42 PM by Alienscar »
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Re: The Embers of The Past: A Dominion of the Mind - Revision 2.0 - Scene I
« Reply #210 on: February 9, 2021, 08:37:53 PM »

F
Quote
or me it is not just the number of marines that confuses my mindscape of the scene, but the number of ships and the logistics for getting the marines from the ships to the shore.

One hundred ships are going to take up a lot of space and I am struggling to picture how this scenario is supposed to play out.

The Quinquereme that you mention was 148ft long and its deck was 9ft above the waterline. How are you imagining the marines geting off the ship and onto the shore. Don’t forget that these warships did not carry rowing boats.

The tessarakonteres was 426ft long and its gunwales were 72ft above the waterline. It is estimated that this ship needed 20ft of water to stop it grounding.

At the back of my mind is any soldier/marine wading through even waist high water for any length of time is going to be an easy target for an archer.

A lot of my issues could be alleviated by a dock, but a dock wouldn't allow your hundreds of ships to dock all at once, and again I would imagine it would put the attackers at a bit of a disadvantage if the soldiers had to disembark via a gangplank.

Having read some of the information in the link that you provided historians believe that none of the giant ships of eleven and over were used in battle and were just for exhibition use. I think it might be cool if you had a sort of pirate raiding force.

Triremes and Quadrireme were, for the time, very quick ships and from what I can make out had a draught of 4ft or less. The trireme in particular was capable of being beached by its crew.

I could imagine a number of these ships being deliberately run aground and the marines jumping off similar to modern landing craft.

At a push a Trir could carry 40 marines and a Quad 75 marines.

Cool, thanks for all the pointers. I'll take a deeper dive into that article. Will probably need to reconstruct a good chunk of the chapter, but fortunately, I didn't get too far into it. I'll get to work on this.
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Offline Myen'Tal

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The Embers of The Past: Misery & Sorrow - An Act III: Chains That Break Scene
« Reply #211 on: February 11, 2021, 07:13:19 PM »
Warning: Might be too much in the spoiler zone for some, as this is an Act III scene... I did my best not to hand out too many details, but I'm sure some dots could be connected. However, as Oath of the Betrayer is going under reconstruction, I thought I'd give you guys something in the final 30,000 words I aim to write in the final act of Chains That Break.


Misery and Sorrow


Brooding skies began to transition into the faded hues of the night over the city of Tu'shik – Grand City of Canals. Voshki lifted her gaze to watch the Celestial bodies anchored among vivid nebulae begin to manifest throughout the void - their orbiting moons and barren meteors too becoming visible in the emptiness between the stars.

The Hanging Gardens of the God-King's Royal Palace bathed in the full moon. A summer wind coursed through the garden-paradise until every leaf and branch stirred into beautiful life - an eruption of nature's song unfamiliar to her ears.

All the natural and engineered beauty of the City of Canals seemed so unfamiliar. It was an experience she had never known before. It was a shade of life she had never lived. She remembered Erasyl's story about the Valley of Carrion - about the Children of the Sun's generations' long effort to build the first Grand Canals that would forever alter the wasteland into some semblance of an arid paradise.

Tu-shik was born in the generations after all their ancestors' labor and toil. A shining city of golden lights that seemed to glimmer beneath Sirius' gaze, but blazed against the encroaching darkness when night began to settle.

Shoushan leaned heavily on a shrouded colonnade enveloped by shadow. In the faint orange glow of a brazier's obscured flames, she shrugged. She spoke. 'For all of their high-minded beliefs and emphasis on science to conquer ignorance - the Children of the Sun remain a superstitious civilization. All of them fear the absence of Sirius in the night sky - and the wicked dangers that can arise after their god has fallen underneath the horizon.

'... Are you having second thoughts?' Shoushan watched her apprentice like a hawk. She studied Voshki for the revelation buried in her expression and came to a melancholic realization. 'Are you thinking of Zagir and how she must have asked you that very question?'

'No.' A faint smile creased Voshki's lips. 'I am only thinking of the God-King's final hour and how he'll suffer against our blades.'

She imagined Erasyl's final death throes and the Children of the Sun's doom. A brief glimmer of Zagir's face unveiled from her death mask rushed through her mind. She stood nearer to vengeance and true freedom for her Sukhanite kindred than ever before. His death would become a liberation for what precious little remained of her civilization.

'Mm.' Shoushan agreed. 'His fated death shall echo into the eternities and free all the generations that will come afterward.' She continued to bore into Voshki with her observant stare. 'Truth be told, Erasyl is my anathema - my nemisis. There is little need to be here in the moment that him and I match our blades against one another. He maybe a God... no ordinary soul and a masterful opponent. It was always my intention to confront him alone and end his madness.'

Voshki's smile withered into a reluctant frown. 'I was never one for turning my back on kin. You've always been there when I needed rescue from one dire circumstance or another -

Shoushan scoffed. 'Oh, Voshki... my daughter-not-of-blood, if you only knew how deep my betrayal of your trust descends.'

Voshki shook her head. 'I cannot care anymore for what happened in the past.

‘All that you did to deliver me from Tu'shik into the depths of Suannir... You did damn me to that hell. You also delivered me from certain death and offered me another life beyond nothing. You watched over me from childhood into the years of my prime... Gave me my first family - I care not for their dark origins or their black hearts. Faris, Anoush, Zagir... you and all the Ashen Circle. I cannot imagine trading any of the life I lived for one room in the solitary tower of a grand palace.'

Voshki considered her next words. 'You're the only kindred that I still have in this world. Our immortal fate is a shared one. I shall follow you into that ending and not look back.'

Shoushan stood in the obscured light in silence before she gently replied. 'I am surprised to hear that you care so much. Do you believe dying with me is worth more than being with Ara? Erasyl could spill all your blood in but a few moments. Is that worth more than living the rest of your life with your lover? You'd rather die beside me than grow old together in the Zakarian family with him?'

Voshki sighed. She lowered her gaze for a brief pause only to gaze into Shoushan's eyes again. 'I want Ara to continue living above all else. He cannot do that if Carth's God-King decimates Old Myria to its crumbled foundation.'

Shoushan shut her eyes against the wind and sighed with resignation. Some small measure of pride made her smile in the face of their greatest challenge. She answered. 'I should be honored. I did argue that you leave Tu'shik... but I am pleased. I gaze into the immortal soul lurking behind your emerald eyes... and I can see that you've discovered peace - both in mind and in life.

'You are ready. We shall face Erasyl as Daughter and Mother. As Children of the Gods. Only remember, that once we are committed, you will not be able to return from the threshold that we'll cross. As the Ashen Circle has always fought against their myriad foes - we grant death to our mark or we perish in the attempt.'

Voshki nodded.

A challenge from a familiar and authoritative voice carried on the wind's current to every corner of the Hanging Gardens.

Erasyl announced himself. 'Should I languish where I stand until dawn breaks and your haven of shadow crumbles? Come forth and meet this challenger, assassin. You need not become afeared. I am one man that has come alone before you. End your charade and come before me where we can speak eye-to-eye.'

Shoushan craned her head and answered. She continued to lean on her colonnade. 'God King. I thought that perhaps you had begun to grow fearful of Alastrine's judgement. The Goddess of the Underworld has decreed that your soul is marked for damnation and torment. You are destined for the Palace of Misery and Sorrow - never to return to the mortal realms of Khios.'

The God King intentionally did not answer Shoushan. Voshki reasoned that he would not mince words with an enemy hidden from immediate sight.

Shoushan extended Voshki a brief nod, stepping out from under the colonnade’s shadow, emerging into the light of braziers arrayed along the main walkway. She cautiously made herself completely visible to the God King until Erasyl noticed her standing in the moonlight.

Erasyl's stony expression brightened in pleasant surprise. 'Shoushan. The Grand Master of the Ashen Circle honors the Royal Palace with her attentions. Have you finally come to claim this ancient head of mine? I am surprised - I began to think that your allegiances were changing. Shall this be a celebration or a lamentable reunion?'

Shoushan smirked in the blinding orange glow of the fires. 'A lamentable reunion was this always fated to be. All the endless woes of Khios burden our shoulders... I would unshackle them from constant suffering and sacrifice.'

Erasyl arched his brow, impressed. 'Shoushan...' He lifted one finger as he asked. 'Are those words of repentance on your lips? You'll not find mercy in the comfort of Alastrine's shadow - only more anguish and torment in your own failures. That is what brought you here, isn't it?

'Your dark lust for murder and control. The constant cycle of betrayal that has ended the Kingdom you came to rule and seen them enslaved. Your shunning of the Children of the Sun and manipulation of the Children of the Gods to fulfill your own agenda. All the while you merely watched the Dominion achieve my bidding.

'Do you honestly believe that Alastrine loves you for your apathetic devotion? Do you think that claiming my head to bring her as a gift is going to deliver you from the dark fate that awaits you in the afterlife?'

A dark smile spread on Shoushan's lips; her silver eye boring through Erasyl as her emerald one held his glare. 'Alastrine may be wrathful about my failings, but what is a mother who cannot forgive a wayward child? But what would you know about Alastrine's immortal love? You've hidden from her all of your immortal years out of the fear of the pact you betrayed.'

Eraysl arched his brow. 'But you've assumed, Shoushan, that I've betrayed anyone. You've always presumed that you were chosen as a Guardian of the Dark. You continue to presume that Alastrine has favored you - when I believe that she has cursed you for the black sins that stain your soul.'

Shoushan's confidence seemed to waver like the flickering of a dying flame.

Voshki would not withhold her presence anymore. She emerged out of the shadow to stand beside Shoushan.

Eraysl's verbal barrage lulled when he finally noticed her standby her master's side.

Realization dawned on the God-King. His welcoming smile broadened. 'Voshki. What is this? You've continued to slip through my fingers for two decades and some odd years - only to come before me voluntarily in the Hanging Gardens of my own palace?'

Voshki sneered at him, disgusted.

Erasyl folded his arms out of patience. 'I am not in the habit of extending mercy to those who continually spit on my generosity. You could have reclaimed your glorious place among the Children of the Sun... but you've crossed the limits of my forgiveness. What you have failed to freely offer - I shall simply claim by force. I can clearly see that you'll not be dissuaded.

'Tabia shall have to make do with mourning your sacrifice.'

Shoushan nodded in agreement. 'She shall have to make do with that if worse comes to worst. Are we done with the pleasantries? Shall you draw your sword or bludgeon me with your words come dawn?'

Erasyl inclined his head. 'A Child of the Sun does not shirk from the threat of death nor any foe worthy of him.'

A crown of ethereal light burst into brilliance around the God King's skull like a laurel of light. Voshki shirked from the acute burst of blazing light into her eyes. Shoushan did not so much as flinch. As the summer wind began lash about the Hanging Garden - surging into her and her master with increased strength - an aura of bright radiance began to exude from the God King's mortal shell.

Voshki could not bring herself to behold his divinity - his brilliance too searing for her eyes.

Shoushan's hand on her apprentice's shoulder steadied Voshki. She smirked. 'Do not be afraid. He is no more divine than either of us.'

Voshki countered her growing fear with the rhythmic breathing Zagir had taught her so many years ago. A dark emotion pulsed alongside her heartbeat until she no longer felt doubt or fear - not even self-loathing. Familiar sensations came bubbling up to the surface of her psyche. An impulse to lapse into a murderous hatred and apathetic disdain for any life. 

Her forbidden desire crashed against the barrier to her mind - ravenously pursuing an entry it desperately sought. 

Voshki continued to inhale and exhale - concentrating on the chains she had broken to defeat fate and deny a Goddess' desire of her immortal soul. Destiny attempted to enslave her beneath the weight of chains once more, but not even the whims of a Goddess could bind her anymore. 

Voshki nodded. 'I am ready, Shoushan.' She fell into a combat stance with the Crowned Prince readied for the mortal blow. 

A dark miasma began to manifest around Shoushan the moment she planted a step forward. Writhing tendrils of shadow coalesced on the miasma's indistinct fringes. Each tentacle of darkness snapped and writhed even as more continued to ensnare Shoushan until she had become swallowed whole within the shadow mists itself.

Voshki did not wait for Shoushan - she burst into a darting run toward the luminous God King. She ascended the negligible stairs between Erasyl and her in one bounding leap. The Crowned Prince lashed out like a rearing serpent striking to deliver the fatal bite of its fangs.

Erasyl weaved around the blow at the last moment like he had anticipated the assault before it had begun. Sun-Caller lifted overhead - the hammer's head ignited with white-hot flames - Erasyl parried her thrust in a backwash of roaring fire that beat against her skin with an intense heat. The strength of his counter sent the Crowned Prine clattering to the ground - her grip on the haft lost.'

Voshki feigned to her right and kept herself rooted in place - Sun-Caller crushing through the empty summer air where he had anticipated her. As Erasyl committed into his move - she revealed a pair of wicked and crimson laced daggers hidden in her armor. She pounced toward the God King and buried one of her daggers in his chest.

The God King could only wince from the slight burst of pain lanced through his chest. Voshki made to swipe her other blade across his throat, but Erasyl blocked her attempt with a shielding arm. He leaned into the effort of his savage knee into Voshki's torso. He connected with enough force to cast her down the stairs she had climbed to face him.

As Voshki tumbled back down onto the Hanging Garden's main walkway - she caught a burst of shadow coalesce behind the God-King. Shoushan slipped out of her dark dimension - her slender blade poised to sever his head in one blow. A blinding eruption of light and force threw Shoushan back, but her master managed to keep on her feet in the face of such momentum.

Erasyl charged and swept into Shoushan from her left flank. His naked fist connected upon her temple and sent her flying backward further still. Shoushan slid backward with the momentum of his strike. As the God King pressed his advantage to overwhelm and strike her down - she halted him with but a flicker of movement. She lashed out with a pinpoint thrust that punctured a shallow wound in the tyrant's throat.

He relented only a fraction of ground and swatted her long sword out of his throat with a flick of his wrist. Sun-Caller hurtled by Shoushan - a fanning flame lashing out in the hammer's wake to shield him from her offensive.

Voshki ignored the aching in her bruised muscles and staggered back onto her feet. She willed herself back into the combat and raced back up the stairs. She pushed each burst of pain in her mortal shell aside.

Shoushan reeled from the fiery tongues that caught her in mid-retreat. She cried out from the flames searing kiss on her skin, searing minor marks on her facial features. Erasyl was already upon her by the time she could recover. Sun-Caller came crashing down on her long sword, but she managed to block his strike with her blade on the hammer's haft. She weaved around the weapon's flaming head before it could crush her skull into pieces.

The Grand Master of the Ashen Circle ripped her blade free and made a graceful diagonal cut across Erasyl's chest. The God King staggered slightly from the force even as he watched his blood fly from him in an arc. Shoushan followed into her cut as he lifted Sun-Caller in his defense. She leaned into a rapid thrust – her slender blade piercing clean through his right shoulder.

Erasyl swept Shoushan's feet out from under her with the hooked end of his hammer. Voshki cried out as she charged into him from behind. As her master collapsed in a heap at the tyrant's feet - Voshki brought the Crowned Prince down for the mortal blow.

Her venom-laced glaive cleaved through a blazing avatar of celestial sunlight. Where Erasyl's head should have rolled clean off his shoulders - Voshki felt her weapon connect with nothing more than air.

Something seized Voshki by the core of her chest. An invisible force that made her heart struggle to beat and her lungs labor for oxygen. Her vision of the Hanging Garden darkened until she could see nothing but the light-less abyss. She could feel nothing - save the sensation of entering free fall.

She only heard the God King's voice thunder across the void as if from every perceivable direction.

'Your defiance has blazed against Carth for long enough! Your misguided convictions are only matched by your ignorance... Why do you even struggle, Voshki? I was not the one who murdered your kin. And those who remained defied my mercy and forced my hand. You've spent all your years in a dark chasm so absent of light - that you willingly became something less than human in exchange for something reminiscent of the merest glimmer.

'What is it that you continue to seek through my death? Your wayward and wicked kindred-not-of-blood? 

'I shall grant you but one chance to achieve your insatiable desire to mend the mistakes of the past. Defeat me and deliver all the lost souls of your kin from the Gates of Her Palace. Claim my head before Alastrine herself - and present it as a gift to her for the centuries of error that I've created. 

'Let us see if your chains to the Goddess of the Underworld have truly shattered...' 

Voshki felt her consciousness spiral into the crushing weight of the abyss. Her inhalations came in choked gasps until she could no longer breath. Every moment of thought struggled against an overwhelming tide of terror. As she descended into oblivion's depths - she felt her consciousness fragment into grains of lost awareness. 

Voshki faded into the crushing black. Her mind disintegrated and dispersed into oblivion. An endless sea of night was all that marked her passing. 


**To Be Continued...**
“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 II - Expanded Content
« Reply #212 on: February 23, 2021, 04:18:09 PM »
So I've been researching and delving into some Writer's Circle for the first time. It's a surprisingly cool, but somewhat nerve wracking experience jumping into one for the first time, haha ;D. I've received one in-line review so far, and I've already learned some of the basic grammatical mistakes I'm making. I am glad though, that the reviewer's opinion was overall very positive  :).

It was the first scene from A Crimson Blizzard, and I appreciate Alienscar's help in correcting a lot of those mistakes in those scenes previously.

I'm hoping to get some more critiques over the next week, as I lean back into providing feedback myself.

Here is another scene from Dominion of the Mind that I've expanded on and continued to refine beyond the original posting.

~***~

Far beneath the sands of the Southern Wastes - Shoushan watched the outside world beyond the 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 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 Blades 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. Her gaze never left the sight of the outside world beyond her window. 

Somberly, Shoushan declared. '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 Blades - 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 smiled. '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... 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 head 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 the lightless void of the Black Descent? In exchange for moments of agony, Sirius now bears witness to the light of their immortal souls amid the abyss that has swallowed them whole. 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 stepped 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 surprise as the Disciple's fingertips bubbled 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 as 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 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 kept her silence and listened.

Erasyl smiled in that patient way that he had. 'You must absolve Tabia of her transgressions. As a Disciple of Heaven - she is used to the Solar God's constant cleansing of what 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 to 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 frowned and knew her façade was flawed somehow. She understood that Erasyl could see through the history of her past. 

Shoushan shrugged, then confessed. ‘Decades have come and gone since someone last called me a Child of the Sun. I can faintly recall my life during that time. All that remain are grains of faded memories, spilling through a cracked open hourglass. God King, do you know 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? 

‘The feeling is only ever fleeting sensations of pleasure, followed by long hours of existential dread. 

Shoushan flicked her eyes over Erasyl's stoic mask. '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 began 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 God’s judgement. Speak to me as one kindred spirit would to another.'

Shoushan desired to confess before the God King. His reaction would speak volumes about his beliefs and intentions.

She replied. ‘I am no different now than I was back then. A disciple of Alastrine - Goddess of Death & Sorrow - in all her myriad aspects, 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 shunned 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 – a promise of retribution in return for her defiance. Shoushan's smirk widened - a silent challenge for Erasyl to attempt to 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 Erasyl 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. But you should be able to recall the memories of Voshki’s abduction… you did steal her away under the dim of night with your fellow assassins.'

Shoushan’s frown deepened. ‘How strange of a God King, to wait for years after the fact to rescue a stolen child from her abductors. You’ve known this entire time of Voshki’s truest origins? That she is a Child of the Sun? Why suddenly begin to care now?’ 

Erasyl’s fatherly smile remained unwavering. ‘She has changed in these last several years, has she not? Once she was only a fragile and unwanted child of the Royal Den – you created that fate for her. Another duality in the end of all of this, that you extended her the hope of another life. An illusion of freedom and true, breathtaking life… things she should have had since the day she was born in the halls of Tu’shik’s Royal Palace.’ 

Shoushan inclined her head. ‘All of that is true. I decided that she would never become your sacrificial puppet. After all these years, 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. Alastrine has marked her soul for that of a daughter – she is a Child of the Sun no longer.’

Erasyl inclined his head in acknowledgement but disagreed. 'Not even a deity can change the nature of the soul once created, Shoushan. Voshki is still of the Children of the Sun. She is a Child of the Gods. As both of us remain from birth to this moment. You too have sworn your soul to Alastrine for the purpose of rebuking my ambition… another futile gesture and another foolish duality – selling your soul does not change the God that fathered you.'

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

The God King of the Carth Dominion looked to Shoushan. ‘Decades and more have passed since the last time you called me by that word. I am saddened, Shoushan, that your opinion remains unchanged about all your kindred in the Dominion. You remain ungrateful even as I left you alone to your whims for so long.

‘As your father, I should have rebuked you the moment you stole out from under me and fled into the Southern Wastes. I should have done what any good parent would have and instilled some discipline in you against your… deviant desires for death and control.’

‘Control?’ Shoushan scoffed. ‘That is more your realm than it is mine. This is the beauty of Sukhan and the Southern Wastes, Erasyl. None here have very much, but there are none in all this world that live freer lives than we do.’ 

Erasyl shook his head. ‘A shame that Voshki cannot have that luxury. She will never be free without knowledge of the entire truth. You cannot hide her from such revelations forever. You bound her with so many chains – only yourself could hope to help her unbind all of them, my daughter.’

Shoushan changed the subject. ‘Is Voshki the only reason you’ve come all this way into the Southern Wastes to assail me about?’

Erasyl confessed. 'We shall continue our discussion of Voshki 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?'

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 will not have you murdered in my own chambers. 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.

‘Just tell me one thing, my divine father. Tabia is Voshki’s true mother. Does that make you her father-by-blood? Is she my… younger sibling?’
“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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‘Remember, my son, that any journey shall lead back to familiar roads. Your faith is always worth holding onto, even when you find only ashes of what used to be…’

Kendal Giram Qallin watched snow bury what remained of the Dawn Fields. A fell wind sliced through the dusk wolf cloak draping his quilted armor—dyed black and reinforced with extra padding. His breathing frosted around his lips and an aching cold oozed into the marrow of his bones. He felt the scabbard of his long sword jostle with every sudden quiver.   

His storm grey stallion, Qenroth, shuffled restlessly in the snow. Kendal reached downward to stroke his mount’s mane. He sifted his fingers through the combed, pallid strands of horsehair. 

Kendal had seen only his sixteenth summer when he had fled this land. His journey had been a long, winding road ever since—only now coming full circle back to the Mist Hollow. Several years had come and gone like the seasons, and the world he knew had changed forever.

Unceasing snowfall continued to fall over the Kingdom of Hallorn. 

Qenroth waded deeper into the luminous white blanketing the Mist Hollow. Kendal tried to remember the same stretch of golden fields on the fringes of the Deep Woods. He searched for the homely farmsteads and burgeoning villages. He looked for anything left to salvage from the destruction.

Scattered debris was all that remained of the homesteads - charred to ash from the fires of war. The once-prosperous villagers were nothing more than skeletal remains, corpses picked clean of flesh hung high from the roofs of their homes. The frozen remains of countless others lay buried amid the ruin.

Kendal beheld the death of the Dawn Fields—his childhood no longer existed—burned to ashes. Only his current self remained. Dark veined eyes of silver glimpsed every detail of his surroundings. His pallid complexion—gifted from his father Rynath’s elven bloodline—had become a lighter shade of caramel over the years from his mother Ankine’s Old Myrian heritage. Combed strands of raven black hair—powdered with fresh snow—fell in combed and wavy patterns around his slightly elongated ears. 

Kendal shivered underneath his armor, then glanced over his shoulder toward his mentor Vindiaccos. Melancholy burdened his words. ‘I used to play in these fields often in my childhood. The Dawn Fields were my second home away from my manor deeper in the Mist Hollow’s heart. I never knew anything about the world beyond these outskirts—not till I fled from home for greater civilization.’ 

Vindiaccos steered his mount to Kendal’s side. ‘Don’t surrender to despair. Your manor may have avoided the destruction thus far. Our foe is swifter than wind—and all-consuming like an inferno. Only days have passed since the first signs of an incurring raid—now death haunts the region.’

Fear weighed heavily on Kendal’s heart, but he banished his concern behind a stoic mask. 

A firm hand on Kendal’s shoulder reinforced his mentor’s presence. Vindiaccos absorbed the details of the grizzly scene before them. He asked. ‘Are you certain you don’t need me to come with you?  I’ve a hundred of my finest veterans at your beck and call.’

He gestured toward the deafening disturbance of armor jostling and war dirges sung through the howling winds. Kendal glanced over his shoulder to see a lengthened column of mounted raven-clad knights—midnight black against the snow laden landscape—forging a trail through the white fields. A score of banners woven from grey, black, and silver thread marked the elite cavalcade - heraldry of the Raven perched upon a chalice fluttering in the breeze. 

Kendal considered the small detachment, then glanced back at Vindiaccos. He answered him with a grim shake of his head.

‘No.’ He answered. ‘I’ll be fine. Our brethren are needed to protect the surrounding villages—my home rests in the heart of the woods—isolated from anything within half-a-day’s reach. You will only slow me down on the forest paths that will take me to the Emerald Road. It should be a short journey from there.’

His mentor inclined his head in agreement. He replied. ‘Your decision, Kendal. Which means we will need to part ways here at the Dawn Fields. I’ll lead my detachment down the Cobalt Way—we’ll follow the Vale River and check on any villages in the area. 

‘If we cannot find the source of this destruction, then it’ll be me who will come galloping to you. Promise me that you’ll do the same?’

Kendal nodded. ‘Should I encounter any warbands emerging out of the snow, I shall come galloping for you. Once I find my parents and get them to safety, I will do the same.

Vindiaccos’ countenance brightened out of nowhere and he punched his apprentice in the shoulder. ‘I’ve only met your parents on occasion, and I know we’re nothing more than acquaintances. Yet I believe that they will feel at home in the City of Raven’s Croft. It’s another chance to achieve their dreams, of which they’ve possessed since they settled in Hallorn with you.’ 

Kendal felt a reminiscing smile overcome him for a moment before concern wearied him again. ‘Akine and Rynath are my inspiration for becoming a Devoted of Hanneth. They believe I have a gift for sharing her teachings with the world.’ 

His mentor inclined his head in agreement. ‘Inspiration is good. It is the reason why I chose you as my only apprentice. Always patient in the face of every challenge—no matter the severity. Forged in the fires of temperance like a great work of steel by the Gods themselves.’

Realization dawned on Vindiaccos at his own words. He reminded. ‘You’re much like your father in that regard. Old stoic Rynath – you should hurry on to your manor. Deliver your parents and any you may find back to Raven’s Croft… in case you cannot find me, or I have left this world.’ 

Grimly, Kendal nodded in affirmation. He replied. ‘I understand, master Vindiaccos.’

Kendal spurred Qenroth in the direction of the Deep Woods and home. Over the course of years, the dark forests of Mist Hollow had conquered vast swathes of the fertile farms by neglect alone. On the overgrown outskirts of the Dawn Fields, nature thrived until the last outlying villages were almost in harmony with her presence. 

Qenroth trotted farther into the woods until the gloom between the black earth and forest canopy enveloped him whole. 

Vindiaccos shouted out from behind Kendal, his words encouraging. He spoke. ‘We shall meet again underneath this bleak daylight! Let the Heavenly Flame blaze in your chest and warm you against winter’s onslaught!’ 

 Ancient roots from centuries-old trees twisted down the steep hills and weathered cliff faces that supported their foundations. Hundreds of roots were buried on the hidden forest paths—so deformed and unique—that Kendal passed through them like naturally carved archways. 

Undeterred, he entered the maze. Mist Hollow grew and abounded around him, teetering higher and higher until the snow-laden canopy blotted out the wane light of the sun. He steered Qenroth over wooden bridges, fording half—frozen creeks and placid streams into the thick of nature’s labyrinth.

He peered through the endless veil in search of any signs for the grey elves that committed these barbarous acts. From the heart of the forest, the howling of wolves echoed out of the gloom. Slender shapes darted through the woodland brush. Kendal discerned them as quiet creatures from the way they kept their distance.

Dawn’s wane radiance gradually intensified over the passing hours. As Kendal journeyed onward, the forest canopy became lit through by the cascading rays of the midday sun. Before the noon sun had come to its zenith in the brightened skies, Qenroth had finally emerged onto the Emerald Road – its cobblestones covered with a thick shroud of snow. 

Kendal investigated the thinning fog in search of any nearby presence-either stranded or lying-in ambush—on the roadside. He noticed a hazy shape coalescing into view and craned his head to assess the surrounding terrain for danger. A familiar scent of charred wood and ash lingered on the wintry air. 

He listened to the wind wail, but heard nothing beyond the natural forest life. As Qenroth cautiously approached, Kendal beheld the remains of a travelers’ caravan. Each wagon in plain sight was nothing more than scorched ruins—a score of bodies half-buried in the snow scattered about the massacre site. 

Kendal reigned Qenroth to an abrupt halt on the massacre’s perimeter. A sense of foreboding quickened his heart—one glance toward the tattered banners not yet concealed by the snow—informed Kendal that it was a supply caravan for the Dawn Field Garrison. This garrison hailed from Ulannis village, more than half-a-day’s journey from Kendal’s manor. 

The ambush had befallen the caravan on their journey into the village of Brightmorn—from where Kendal had come. They had chosen the Emerald Road, unsurprisingly, unaware they were venturing directly into the raids burning across the Mist Hollow. 

Kendal cursed. The Lani elves were still on the rampage after all this time. A calculative thoroughness accompanied the carnage they unleashed upon the surrounding Halish lands the likes he had never seen or heard before. Nor could he understand the elves’ motivations—none among the Halish forces dispatched to the Mist Hollow understood either. 

A subtle crack - like the snapping of a tiny twig shattered the uneasy tranquility of the forest.

Kendal made no sign of acknowledging the sound and slipped out of his saddle. His leather boots vanished amid the deep snow. He searched the area for any signs of life, but could not find one soul. After another brief assessment, he trudged through the deep snow to approach the destroyed caravan. 

He stumbled first upon the corpse of a young woman - no more than twenty summers of age. Beneath the layers of animal hides was a silk dress of burgundy and off-white. Kendal knelt next to her and realized she had several slender arrows embedded in her torso. A gruesome and agonizing death, but Kendal knew that she had succumbed to the blizzard's sleep inducing cold. Coagulated blood frosted over had once trickled from her lips and built up behind her teeth.

Kendal grimaced as he gazed upon the distressing sight, transfixed. He whispered to the deceased woman. 'Hanneth's light reveal the hidden paths for you...' He picked himself up and continued to search through the caravan.

The supply wagons were ransacked by whoever had slaughtered their owners and guardians. Scattered across the main road were shattered chests, broken open with force both natural and applied. He uncovered all manner of currencies buried in the blood—stained snow. What Kendal had noticed was the lack of essential supplies needed to survive a journey.

The only mark of the Lani left at the site of the ambush was a forest floor riddled with a hail of spent arrows—broken ones, Kendal realized after picking up several. Of course, they had left behind their victims as well to freeze amidst the Black Blizzard. Several minutes of thorough searching left Kendal with precious little. 

He stood over the carcass of a workhorse slain under a barrage of feathered and steel-tipped shafts and shook his head in resignation.

 As the mist of his own breath evaporated into the snow-wracked air, he noticed another subtle breaking of twigs from behind him. The sound came more forceful this time, followed by the indistinct noise of another footfall pushing something forward into a bounding rush.

Kendal surrendered to instinct, whirling around with a hand on the hilt of his sheathed sword. A dark, hazed figure came rushing toward him through the lightening veil of snow. 

He unsheathed his long sword with a cry—practically ripping it from the scabbard—and parried the overhead thrust from the dim figure’s long spear. A shower of sparks erupted from the collision of their steel—stinging Kendal’s frosted features. His ambusher’s blurred outline hurtled past him after impact; such was the speed of her charge. 

 As the sentient shadow slid into a screeching halt amid the snow—so too did her features become visible in the midday light. She was all lithe muscle and grey skin—greyer than the brooding skies over the Mist Hollow. Raven hair flowed around her, caught in the wind like eels surging through gentle waters. She was clad in dull grey leathers to match her skin and the freshly tanned pelts of slain foxes and wolves. 

The lioness—Kendal could think of no other comparison so apt—slowly came out of her crouched stance, so near that her frosted breath mingled with his own. Her scarred lips were pale and full, spread into a wolfish grin. The only flaw on her features was a nasty crimson wound carved from her forehead down to the bottom of her jaw. He was convinced that if the blood had not coagulated and frosted, her skull would be visible beneath the deep cut. 

She watched Kendal with keen eyes the color of a deep sea. 

Kendal felt himself lift his hands in a non-hostile action, but took in the sight of the massacre around them. He noticed her leather boot planted triumphantly over one of the frozen bodies she had kicked out of the snow from her earlier rush. He noticed too, the brief assessment of her eyes over Kendal and the contentment in her sigh. 

He blinked, and the Lani darted through snow and rubble unhindered. Kendal parried a flash of her spear. She weaved around a counterstroke aimed at her chest, pivoting to push off her left foot. Her elbow crashed into Kendal’s temple. 

Kendal shouted in pain from her cut across his cheekbone. From her intentional graze, she seemed one to toy with her prey. 

The Lioness pounced—her spear thrust aimed for the bone in his right thigh. Kendal widened his stance—the spear passing between his legs—then countered with a swift fist for her face. 

She slunk beyond his immediate reach—coy laughter on her lips. 

Kendal scrambled back for distance as his opponent came for another bout. 

He changed his tact—his retreat shifting to an engagement. He swept his blade in a low cut for her right calf—the lioness dodged him with a graceful vault over his sword. She brought her spearhead up in a sharp uppercut—parried immediately on the length of Kendal’s leather gauntlet. Gripped one-handed, he answered with a flurry of blows from his sword. 

It was a sword dance - an experience that Kendal had never known. Though he struggled for his life - there was something alluring in reading his opponent's moves and playful manner - as she too read into his own struggle to keep up with her. 

Kendal could not tell if he was doomed or if she was too hesitant to try and land the mortal blow. 

Seeing an advantage, Kendal feinted to his left, then brought down a chopping blow to bring the Lioness to heel. 

Charging forward, the Lioness halted Kendal in mid-execution—her elbow pinned against the pit of his supporting limb. Kendal cursed—she created an opening wide enough to see him dead. The elf lunged into him… and meshed her pale lips onto his frosted ones. She gently shut her eyes for the briefest moment, then pulled away.

Kendal could only watch her fade into the wintry gloom—too stunned to halt her—laughing at him all the while. He sneered in disgust after he realized she would not return, more at his own weakness than anything else.

He brushed any thought of the Lioness aside and sprinted back to Qenroth. He climbed back into the saddle and spurred the horse into a full-tilt gallop down the Emerald Road. He wanted to turn back the way he had come—to warn Vindiaccos and rally the Raven Vale Knights to the defense of Qallin Manor. There was no time left—if there had even been to begin with.

Qenroth galloped, swifter than wind, to deliver Kendal to his homestead before all was lost.

~***~
“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: An Idyllic Place - Excerpt
« Reply #214 on: March 8, 2021, 10:12:08 PM »
Update!

Hi guys, been awhile since a post with some status updates.

Some may be pleased to know that The Embers of the Past has officially crossed the 70,000 word mark! That leaves approximately 40,000 words left in total before this version of the manuscript is complete.

Everything is still on track to the finish line.

In case you are curious, here is the revised completion status for Acts 1-3 and the chapters they contain. I'm getting near to wrapping up the second act, and moving on to the big finale!!

Haven't gone too much into the feedback that I received on critiques so far, but the information is compiled for when the manuscript is completed as a whole.



All that being said, without further ado, I thought I'd bring you guys another look at the 2nd Act.

I am still working on Oath of the Betrayer - which has become Oath of Brotherhood. I've done some reorganization on the story line thus far, but still not finalized yet.

Thanks for stopping by!


Excerpt of An Idyllic Place


A sudden beating on the door of Ara's guest chambers roused him from the nightmare. He opened his eyes and beheld the dim lighting of this unfamiliar room. Scented candles scattered across clean desks and empty corners were reduced to pooling wax—their warming light long since snuffed. Where the curtains draped over the windows began to part, cascading rays of the midday sun shined down upon him. 

Ara watched his reflection in a grand mirror—centered on a great dresser across from his bed. He searched the emptiness of his chambers for any presence—and almost made to climb out of bed as if he were going to walk to the balcony like he always did when he lived in the Zakarian manor. 

Each knock on his door became louder and more persistent, but Ara blocked the noise from his mind. He contemplated on the unfamiliar sensation overcoming him on awakening. A cold spell so intense, he half—expected his breathing to frost over.   

Something critical from his dreams had slipped his mind, but he could not place his finger on what had faded back into memory. Ara’s eyes widened—memories of his dreams drifting to the surface of his mind. 

Sighing, he repressed a deep shiver from within. 'Gods, why is it so cold in here?' 

The pounding on his door suddenly ceased. Ara remembered to grant permission, but the door to his chambers fell back on its hinges. His father quietly made his entrance.

Azat called out more to the room around him than to Ara directly. 'Ara? ... Gods, did he go wondering off?' 

Ara scoffed loud enough that Azat heard him. ‘Is this something urgent for you to wake anyone about?’

Azat craned his head toward the bed on the other end of the guest chamber. 'This hour? My son, it is noon. If this were the Zakarian manor, I'd have you laboring with the carpenters. To sleep so late-- it is unbecoming of anyone!' 

Lord Zakarian appeared on high alert as if he lacked the time to chastise Ara. His scolding glare wavered into concern when he swept his eyes over his youngest son for the first time this morning. '... Are you well, Ara? Gods, you look pale and full of fright.' 

Ara scoffed harder than he had before. 'Infernal Fires. It is only so cold in here.’ He swept out of his blankets, rolling off his bed and onto his feet. 'I'll have to ask the servants to start the fireplace this evening.'

Azat arched his brow, skeptical. 'The Island of Irothis is much cooler than Annahir. The northern winters did not bother you before—not this much—and in the heart of spring, no less.' 

Sighing, Ara shrugged. He replied. 'Perhaps I had a bad night's sleep... I cannot remember how long I was awake.' 

His father did not seem satisfied, but accepted the answer. 'Well, I shall have some of our physicians brew you something to help this evening. Go ahead and get dressed, then join us in the kitchen quickly. We don't have much time before you must see the Autumn Queen again.'

Ara perked at the sudden mention of Hazan. He ceased his complaints. 'I shall be there in a moment, give me five minutes.'

Azat cocked his head at Ara. He informed. 'I've had a bath drawn for you...' He folded his arms patiently. 'I remember what happened in the Throne Hall when I first introduced you two... cast any thought of our Autumn Queen from your mind. She is far and above our class. Not if we were nobility—by—blood could that relationship ever happen.' 

Ara shrugged, his head mirroring the cocked angle of his father. 'Impossible, you say? I did not realize that the Zakarian name was considered so lowly here in Annahir?'

Azat drew back, offended. 'You know what I mean, Ara. Watch yourself. Even I can see that Hazan does like you, at least she does, based on first impressions.' His expression softened. 'Believe me, I understand that some things in life aren't fair... but I don't want you becoming entangled in unforeseen consequences. Those consequences could be disastrous for Old Myria as well. 

'Remember, the Zakarian name lies in its storied history of serving and protecting others. It has never been our place to rule.' 

Downcast, Ara could not find the strength to argue further, especially after the realization of his dreams. The biting cold haunted him still. 

He merely nodded to his father, smiling to lessen the guilt Azat had to bear from his forewarning. 

Ara shook his head. 'I understand, father. I'll be in the kitchen before long...'

Azat nodded. He exited through the entrance to Ara’s room, back into the corridor. He replied whilst shutting the door behind him. 'There's plenty of women here in Annahir, my son. All manner of would-be soulmates. Just try to temper your unceasing ambition. You need not climb that ladder so fast. Slow down and appreciate life as it comes.' 

Ara considered the wise words of his father, then approached the windows to let the spring sun into his room. As the glories of Sirius shined bright over him, a melancholic smile spread on his lips when the cold finally began to subside. 

He smiled only because the sun reminded him of Hazan. 


~***~


Ara emerged from the bathhouse out of the cloying steam, stepping out into the bright sun of the northern spring. Ember Hearth Palace sprawled around him like an unending maze of marble corridors and pallid cream colonnades. He dressed himself in raven black robes that billowed in the cool wind, emblazoned with bronze calligraphy of the Irothian wolves. 

Handmaidens offered him their beautiful smiles, waiting on their ladies by the bathhouse’s entrance. Ara returned their interested looks with a faint smile and an elegant bow. He found that it was all that he had within him.   

On the exterior, he was the calm and patient noble presented in the facade he created. In the interior of his soul, however, his mind was a constant storm of thoughts. Regardless, he made his way down the beatific corridors in search of the kitchens. 

Why had he thought of Nishan in his dreams again? How did he relive his dreams the way he did, and in such greater detail than ever before? He often recalled the most pleasant aspects of his childhood when he fell asleep. It was a rare and disturbing thing to remember every death he had witnessed that fateful night. 

A woman’s voice—warm and languid like she had spent all her days under a cool summer sun—called to him out of nowhere.

'Ember Hearth Palace is a place of dreams.' She said. 'You need not look so morose when you pace its hallowed halls.’ 

Taken back—Ara snapped himself out of his thoughts, searching for the source of the heavenly voice. 

As Sirius reached its zenith in the midday skies, gleaming sunlight obscured a young woman standing by the open archways—the city of Annahir spreading over distant hills some leagues beneath them.

As his eyes sharpened, he first noticed the combed falls of light russet hair cascading down to the small of her back. An ornate headdress crafted from smelted gold crowned her head. A combination of Mother-of-Pearls and emerald tear drops encased in silver framing, dangled on either end of her headdress’ arched horns.

The young woman wore a thickly woven dress of sapphire silk, the shade so darkly rich that the sun's light seemed to dim upon it. Calligraphic symbols were emblazoned across the fabric, representing mountain peaks adorned with twisting trees, and the wind coursing through them. 

Her eyes were a deep shade of hazel—splashed with a soft crimson tint. Her lips pursed into a smile underneath her veiled features. He opened his mouth to speak even as he beheld her, but silence seemed the only word he was able to mimic. He had no clue who she was or if he was worthy of saying anything at all.

At his slack expression and apparent loss for words, she blushed. She laughed; the pleasant sound reminiscent of gentle tides coming ashore. Her retinue of handmaidens mirrored Ara's silence—born from anticipation as opposed to his mild surprise.

Ara suddenly remembered himself and made an elegant bow. He spoke. 'Your graceful words alone are enough to brighten this soul in these dark times, my lady.' 

A collected breath among the handmaidens drew further attention from the surrounding nobility of the One Hundred Families—Old Myria’s noble caste. 

‘Aiman.' She smiled. ‘It was not my intention to startle you.' 

Ara bowed again. 'Ara Zakar--'

Aiman chuckled softly at his expense. She gracefully interrupted. 'Zakarian. I’ve heard your name spoken in certain circles before. It was only my desire to introduce myself. We shall meet again soon, I’m certain. Queen Hazan and Lord Zakarian have me in their inner council.’

Aiman winked before anyone but Ara noticed. ‘I won’t waste anymore of your time, Ara.’ She rolled the name of her tongue. ‘I hope for a more in—depth conversation in our following conversations.’

Ara straightened himself, his smile genuine. He bowed a final time, and spoke. 'I would very much like that, Lady Aiman.'

Aiman smiled. Ara could tell she was impressed. Her handmaidens placed their hands on their mouths, amused laughter carried on the breeze. 

Ara felt Aiman’s watchful eyes follow him when he resumed his pacing down the corridor. He became grateful after stumbling across a pleasant scent of freshly baked bread, and roasted meat, and all manner of delicious smells between the two coming from a nearby door. Slipping out of the hall and away from prying eyes, did the youngest Zakarian reunite with familiar faces.

One of those faces, however, was unfamiliar to him. 

'Ara!' Azat called. He stood at the other end of a room created entirely from marble. Laid out across the vast amount of space were a dozen tables crafted from finely hewn redwood—the leggings and frame composed from a stone whiter than snow. ‘You’ll need to wolf down your food, but there's more than enough for you here.' 

Azat stood at the head of the table on the far left of the kitchens, by the cooks, who labored arduously to produce some of the finest food Ara had ever seen. Aslan sat beside him, while across the table, Kendal and an unknown individual continued to eat in silence. 

Aslan chuckled at Ara when he approached, seating himself on the other side of his father. He laughed. 'Have a good night's sleep, brother? I hope it was not some beautiful woman that's delayed you.'

Azat quietly rebuked his eldest son. Harshly, he whispered. 'Aslan, enough!'

Ara shrugged, uncaring. 'No.' The way he uttered the word made Kendal and the unfamiliar woman beside him look up. He brightened his tone for everyone. 'I did stumble across the path of a woman so beautiful, that I could barely speak when she called out to me.' He looked to Azat. 'She said that she knew you and the queen, father. Her name was Aiman, she said.' 

Azat nodded in recognition of the name. 'Ah, then your reaction was fairly normal. Her beauty and sharpened wit intimidate many young men her age. The Autumn Queen has often called her 'The Light of the West' - she is training to become one of our emissaries throughout the Autumn Realms. She shall be the voice of all the kingdoms, city-states, and all the myriad of factions that rule them--that Hazan currently rules over and any that maybe added to the empire in the future.

'You've done well to speak to her already. I would have introduced you with time, but would have given you fair warning over her otherworldly nature and overwhelming beauty. Hazan has often said that even she is jealous of Aiman, but the two love each other like siblings—not—of—blood.' 

Ara nodded, then gestured to Kendal and the mysterious stranger sitting beside him. He could not discern anything about her under the columns of hair as she continued to eat in silence. 

'Good morning, Prince Qallin.' Ara acknowledged. He looked back to Azat, and gestured toward the enigmatic woman in their midst. 'Father, are you not going to introduce us?'

Aslan's expression immediately soured. Kendal became tense, but pretended everything was normal. Only Azat seemed fine with the question. 

His father considered his finest choice of words even as Ara arched his brow. He finally answered. 'Ara... this is Voshki. She is a Sukhanite from the Southern Wastes... and she is currently in the custody of the palace guard. You can say that she is under my custody alone.' 

Ara blinked once, then several times as he considered what his father was not saying. None-the-less, he felt his stomach churn and his mood darken like a brooding storm. He shook his head and did not press upon the matter further. He picked out some food and began to eat in silence with everyone else. 

Azat considered the reactions of his sons with a scowl of disapproval. 'None of you have anything to say to our guest?'

Aslan grumbled. 'Who did she murder? Or did she steal out from under someone?'

Azat sighed. 'One more impudent word, Aslan, and you're going to find yourself on the floor. Understand?' 

Ara shrugged. 'Well, why is she alone in your custody? Her crimes must be bleak if you must watch over her personally. The commander of the Queen's bodyguard should have other important matters to attend to.'

His father clapped his hands once. 'I am glad that you have mentioned this, my youngest son. I do have important matters that cannot be avoided. Hazan has delayed your appointment, but hurry up and eat. I'll need you three to continue to watch over our special prisoner here. I only ask Prince Qallin, because I'll know that he'll do right by me.' 

Kendal perked at the mention of his name, and nodded swiftly. 'If you trust her, then I am not opposed to sitting in a room with her.'

The Sukhanite paused in her eating, and glanced up at Kendal, who locked eyes with her for the briefest moment. Ara spied one sparkling emerald eye before she turned back to her food, uncaring for Prince Qallin's compliment.

Aslan inclined his head toward Kendal. ‘I heard that your mentor and father have departed Ember Hearth to return to the shores of Ios, Prince Qallin?’

Not even Kendal could seem to lift his own melancholy today. 'Yes, as they promised they would.'
« Last Edit: March 9, 2021, 08:56:58 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: A Sanctum of Swords - POV Test & Critique!
« Reply #215 on: March 15, 2021, 11:26:50 AM »
So, this scene is an interesting test. I'm practicing the utilization of the 3rd Person Character Limited POV - the goal of this exercise is to remain wholly within the POV the entire scene, which is not what I was doing before.

I've decided to test myself on this, due to a critique I received on the writing circle I joined. That critique in particular was really cool, because it was from an actual editor, who has his own website too! He critiqued the piece I shared as if I had sent it into his agency for review. He also provided a lot of insightful feedback on what editors tend to look for when they are reviewing manuscripts.

I did a lot of things well, but he also listed a number of problem areas that I could use work on. These areas are in POV, punctuation, adverbs, and some instances of telling instead of showing (which is kind of linked to the POV issue). Those were the big three, so I decided it would definitely be beneficial for me to work on these three areas.

So, here we are!

Comments and constructive criticism are welcome!

A Sanctum of Swords


“Drummir runs crimson from ceaseless battle as I had promised.” Nishan spoke. His words echoed into the abyss. “Blood runs in rivers on the battlements. Slain warriors choke the corridors where the fighting is fiercest. This is as it should be. Our Sanctum of Blades has no other purpose than that of ceaseless war, and the Dominion will understand this before long.” 

Underneath the Southern Wastes, the Scarred Child stood before the gates of the underground fortress, known only as the Sanctum of Blades. It would be the second gate that the Dominion looked to conquer, having already forced the fortress above ground into submission. It was Drummir city’s final defense, and would be the death of the stronghold when the Sanctum finally collapsed.   

He could not see anything beyond the cavern ceiling, but instead listened to the distant clamor of ceaseless battle echoing through the dimly lit tunnels. He cast his gaze behind him as the gates into Drummir’s Sanctum of Blades were gradually sealed shut with a deafening bellow. 

Ashen Blade disciples chanted in the dark around him. Every uttered syllable became a malignant shard of a dark incantation to the Goddess Alastrine – the Guardian of the Damned. 

The Scarred Child of Ak’shan did not chant with them—he was not born of the Southern Wastes. He would not become learned of their barbarous ways, and neither would they strive to embody the teachings of the deceased Carth Republic. But the Ashen Blades had learned respect for Nishan the Scarred, as he had learned to respect their own ways of war. 

He listened to the rhythm of the battle—noting which languages were being spoken most through their war cries. He estimated within his mind the increasing or shrinking distance the Sanctum of Blades was from the actual combat. 

Armed with foresight, the Scarred Child of Ak’shan knew that the hour of his final stand had come. 

His legend was a storied one. A lifetime’s history of great battles won, and a myriad of slain foes left in his wake. He had conquered entire civilizations from the Valley of Carrion to the Qi Steppes. Ancient cities raised in the mythical years of mankind’s ascendancy; he had seen toppled with but a whispered command to his generals of old. 

This was not how he imagined the final chapter of his life—deep beneath the surface of the earth itself, distant from the light of the sun. He never imagined that he’d be leading the desperate defense of a desolate kingdom like Sukhan. 

The Scarred Child of Ak’shan considered what were surely his final moments—and how he wasted them lying in wait for the inevitable. He sighed and unsheathed his ancient family heirloom—a prismatic scimitar—forged from Tears of Shymira. He fondly handled the sword in his hands, and briefly recalled the greatest moments of the four decades he had slain and conquered beside it. 

A mischievous grin spread across his lips, one corner to the next. 

He considered this last opportunity a minor blessing. After all, what better a death than one spent slaying the hated traitors of his fallen republic? Nishan supposed he was the last living son of that bygone era. God King Erasyl had butchered the rest in his great betrayal, and reduced even their graves to cinder to warn the world of his new dominion. 

Deep within his chest, he hoped beyond hope that Erasyl would meet with him on the field of battle, before everything came to ruin for the fortress defenders. 

A sudden and cataclysmic force quaked the Sanctum of Blades. Nishan had experienced the earth—shattering sensation before from the ignited essence of rarely used black powder.   

A maelstrom of death and sundered steel spilled into the cavern, before the gates. An implosion of dirt and shattered granite came raining down from the cavern mouth. Nishan saw Obsidian Vipers attempt to scurry to safety, but failed, buried beneath pillars of jagged rock. 

 He somehow managed to remain standing despite the continuing earthquake. Obsidian Vipers toppled around him as loose chunks of stone came rolling down toward the Sanctum of Blades. A choking smog came drifting in from the cavern mouth near the source of the implosion. 

Nishan sneered and lifted his blade so that it gleamed in the dim torchlight. ‘Warriors of Sukhan! Remorseless blackguards are you all! Let your blades maim and reave! Murder them all!’ 

Out of the smog, Sukhanite survivors from the Surface Gate emerged, embattled against the overwhelming momentum of the Dominion’s slave legions. As the Zar’qin Guard began to surge into the cavern in their hundreds, the Surface Gate garrison stumbled over the corpses of countless slain in their forced retreat. 

The Scarred Child of Ak’shan waded into battle. 

Nishan surged through the hundreds of Obsidian Vipers as they hastily picked themselves up to enter the fray. Sumera’s Kiss, his illumined blade, effortlessly cleaved through shield and crimson robes. The blade was halted only by the bone housed in the Zar’qin’s neck. 

He kicked the fallen slave warrior aside. A sliver of crimson—laced steel nicked the Zar’qin turning to face him. The Carthite’s sword clattered to the ground a moment later. His shield followed. Choking on poison, the Zar’qin could only lift a trembling hand to defend himself. Nishan judged his self-defense poor and cleaved him from navel-to-groin with one blow. 

A spear thrust came out of the dark. The Obsidian Viper that had come to Nishan’s defense died from a ruptured gut. The Scarred Child parried the second spear thrust on the length of his chainmail gauntlet. He tossed the spear aside with a flick of his wrist. Nishan lashed out, his grasping fingers grappling with the face of his attacker. 

Nishan pushed his weight into the momentum of his shove—and down the Zar’qin fell, onto his back. Spear lifted in his defense, the Zar’qin lunged recklessly, his desperate thrust finding the chest of another Viper—who parried at the last second. 

Nishan sliced his foe across the throat with an uncaring cut. 

The battle for Drummir raged on, but Nishan knew the fires of battle were already waning for the Sanctum of Blades to come directly under threat… months before it was intended to by its guardians. He did not need a summary of casualties; he knew those numbers ranked in the thousands. Thousands was all he was given in the weeks leading up to the siege. 

Such numbers would always pale in the face of the Dominion’s grinding war machine.

The Zar’qin Guard flooded the caverns before the Sanctum Gate in their hundreds. All of them were marked by the blood of their foes, their interlocked shields scarred and pitted, but intact. The crimson and cream standards that they bore into battle, were sullied with blackened dirt and spilt blood, and yet they waved on the verge of the Dominion’s triumph. 

Obsidian Vipers died without caring about their own survival. Nishan understood that they were aware of their doom, and that it had become inescapable at this point. Every nick of their poison—laced swords condemned another Zar’qin to an agonizing death. Whilst the slave legions of the Zar were disciplined and well trained, the Disciples of Alastrine had survived their entire lives in the darkest pits of humanity. 

The Children of the Southern Wastes outmatched any individual warrior of the Carth Dominion. They danced and flickered like living shadows—coming to life around their enemies—only to slit their throats or stab them through the chest.   

As Nishan strode through the conflict, hewing down Zar’qin after Zar’qin, he counted far more fallen Dominion soldiers than he did Obsidian Vipers. 

He knew that it did not matter. For every death the Dominion suffered—another waited in the legions held in reserve alongside their masters in the Children of the Sun. Another army in and of itself, and far better equipped and trained to eradicate any foe. 

Starving for glory, the Scarred Child only wished he could send a final message to the Children of the Sun and their God King betrayer. If only he could somehow…

Suddenly, the Sanctum Gate was thrown open with a deafening boom. Before anyone realized why, a guttural cacophony of war cries in an unfamiliar tongue quaked the entire cavern again. Nishan rammed the tip of his blade through the bottom of a Carthite’s throat, violently jerking the sword upward to split him open around the neck. He had no time to witness the spectacle.

Finally goaded by the Scarred Child’s brutal display of martial prowess, an entire unit of ten Zar’qin encircled him. They hastily closed the loop to entrap and strike him down without another loss. 

Nishan lost focus. He could no longer concentrate from the alien screams bellowing in his ears. Before he could sluggishly weave around the first nearing blade, a handful of dwarfing, slender figures tackled into the rear of the encirclement. 

Nishan blinked, and then the entire entrapment disintegrated amid cleaving great axes and scarred, half-naked muscle. Pink-skinned warriors with a pale reflection of the human anatomy piled into the combat around Nishan. Any one of their number easily stood four or five heads over the tallest Obsidian Viper. Gaunt were their physical frames. These warriors were so lean of fat, that their physiques were whipcord thin, packed densely with tightly woven muscle. Their hair flowed around them, wild and unkempt, in various shades of blonde, brunette, and fiery auburn.

They wore vibrant, flowing trousers, emblazoned with intricate patterns of brightly woven colors. Thick slabs of chainmail padded their legs, and reinforced their leather gauntlets. Pelts tanned from the hides of great, horrifying looking beasts cloaked their naked shoulders. Their males bared their naked torsos to the foe, gnarled, pitted, and scarred from what appeared to be ceaseless strife and conflict. 

Their women clothed themselves in warrior clothes—thickly woven tunics and flowing skirts, reinforced with animal hides and chainmail. Nishan could hardly tell the genders apart from the way they rent limb from limb with every swing of their mighty weapons. 

Nishan sneered, disgusted. He knew them as the Half—Giants of Kharan. 

A thick slab of a hand was placed on Nishan’s broad shoulder, making him feel like a child in the presence of the giant dwarfing him. He shifted to behold a mightily scarred warrior several heads taller than he. His gnarled skin was the shade of pinkish plumes. 

Obsidian and gold circles flowed over his rough, loose trousers in swirling patterns. A massive leather belt folded in over itself thrice—fold around his slim midriff. A great steel buckle held the belt in place. A crudely stitched together cloak crafted from the twin hides of Lantern Beasts cloaked his shoulders. Whip-like tongues lolled from the upper jaws of their horrifying skulls. 

Straw-blonde hair and a chiseled face chewed up by the blades of countless foes—presumably dead, watched Nishan out of curiosity. 

“You the Scarred Child?” The pinkish giant rasped. His voice was like the bellows of a great forge. He beheld Nishan’s myriad of scars, nodding approvingly. “My kin know me as Baal. You may thank your Grand Master for the arrival of my clan. There’s little time, so be swift and retreat through the escape routes beneath the Sanctum.” 

Nishan arched his brow. He hated the Half—Giants of Kharan nearly as much as the Dominion itself. “Why should I trust anything you say, Kharanite?”

Baal refused to repeat himself. He bellowed to his rampaging kin. “Break their bones beneath your fists! Grind their flesh into the dark earth! Sever their heads and sacrifice the rest…”

A tremor of horror rattled Nishan, for the first time in what must have been decades. He shook his head once, and called for any surviving members of the Obsidian Vipers to fall back and escape their demise. 

Baal. Nishan considered the ferocious warrior. How unlikely to find a savior in such a demon of war…
« Last Edit: March 15, 2021, 11:28:36 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: Kindred Souls - Revision 3.0 - POV
« Reply #216 on: March 27, 2021, 04:02:11 AM »
Voshki listened to the wind come howling through the streets of Gor’rum, immersed in the storm’s calming ambiance. Zagir’s voice cut through the distant thunder, her proximity granting her quiet voice a noticeable presence. Her question came out of nowhere. She asked, “Do you know how proud I am of you, Voshki? You’re like my sister not of blood. I’ve never taught the art of death to a student so talented.”

From the eyrie of a fortress tower, Voshki beheld the ruin of fallen Gor’rum. Lightning fell from the heavens, cruel and wicked. Ruined streets quaked amid the storm’s fury. 

She gazed out across the breadth of the city; a monument of hubris built across the mountain valley it was founded on. Impoverished slums sprawled across the outskirts like a desolate sea. Once formidable strongholds dominated them like the summits of lesser mountains, now reduced into crumbling masses of stone. 

Of what remained of the City of the Cobalt Mountain, was only a shadow of its former glories. 

Voshki considered Zagir’s high praise as she beheld the permanence of Gor’rum’s desecration. She did not bat an eyelash. “I never notice much of anything behind your mask.” She smiled. “I appreciate your praise.”

Of Gor’rum, Voshki considered the ruins of the great city a decaying carcass. Her industrial centers—scattered with armories, blacksmith forges, and all manner of resources and raw goods—were being ransacked by the legions of the Zar’qin Guard. Under the Children of the Sun’s constant observance, so was Gor’rum’s Sarunite populace mercilessly put to the sword. District by bloody district. House by crumbling house. 

Any merchant family with sense enough had long since fled before the siege had begun some two years ago. She recalled the myriad of courageous souls she had fought beside during the city’s gradual slide into destruction. Most faces she remembered from the Sarunite nobles, formidable warriors that had tasked themselves with defiance until their last breath. 

Too proud to abandon their last remaining works, the Sarunite nobility had endured the siege beside their common citizenry. She could still hear an endless chorus of screams drifting from the High Quarter in the heart of Gor’rum. 

She caught Zagir’s death mask boring through her from a sideward, tilted angle. She replied, “Such steel in those words.” She chuckled, “is something bothering you, Voshki? You seem distracted. Did I offend you in some form?”

Voshki shook her head. “I’ve no qualm with you, Zagir. Do you think I’d never mention if we had bad blood between us?’ 

Zagir considered her question in silence. She shrugged, “I remain uncertain on that issue. You’re quite a box of hidden secrets. Sometimes your cryptic messages can be difficult to decipher.”

Voshki swiveled around to face her mentor, flustered from the accusation. “What does that mean?”

Zagir shrugged again. She chuckled, “You deflected my previous question. That is all that I meant. Something is on your mind, young sister. Your emotions and state—of—mind is important to me. It’s been two years since Shoushan assigned us here in the heart of the Carth Dominion and I remain your only confidant in near proximity…” She spread her arms in a welcoming gesture. “You don’t need to hide from an elder sister. I may have some wisdom about life that I can part onto you.”

Voshki contemplated heavily on her choice of words. “It is a great shame is all. Don’t you agree, Zagir?”

Her mentor cocked her head toward Voshki. She seemed puzzled behind the tormented expression of her death mask. Her voice emanated from the mask, smooth like a tranquil river. She asked, “A great shame, you say?” She shrugged again. “Pray tell, what has you brooding in silence so much?” 

Voshki sighed; exhaustion and concern banished any thought of smiling from her mind. She gestured about all Gor’rum with a flick of her wrist. “Us Ashen Blades are death and blood. Misery and all the sorrows therein lie in the wake of our passing shadows. Only a dark fate awaits those marked by our hand. There is not even hope.

“Perhaps I’ve only lived in the shadows, far from the light of the sun, but I’ve found kinship in Gor’rum’s hardships. A dark fate has befallen her citizens and heroic armies… All the hardships I’ve endured, pale in comparison to the sheer scale of this city’s suffering. My existence in the Den of Vipers was harsh, but this reality of life on the surface, laid out in plain view before me—It is a doom that makes me feel fear for the first time since…”

Zagir remained silent, thoughtful of her apprentice’s sudden confession. Again, Zagir shrugged. “Does being a blade in the dark mean that we have become the ultimate evil? Sniveling and craven beasts haunting all that is good and sacred in this world?

“Do you want the truth, Voshki? Fear is not everything that you should feel. Dearest sister, you should not only quiver, but tremble before the forbidden desires of Khios’ innumerable tyrants, pretenders, and regents who continue to persist in this bleak world. I am sorry if that emboldens disappointment with your newfound life on the surface, but I am certain you already understand that life up here can be even more difficult to endure than the Den of Vipers. 

“A greater shame for all the generations of Khios, is to allow concepts like tyranny and madness to continue its reign unchecked. There would never be another dawn for anyone, if people of our mission and caliber did not exist in the Ashen Blades. Our immortal task is to maintain balance on Khios. Perhaps us Ashen Blades are children of a dark creed, but we are a necessary evil. An evil that even the vilest creatures have come to fear. 

“As for Gor’rum, her fate was decided by the shifting tides of battle. Shoushan had granted the Sarunites a fighting chance, but this was never meant to last. Beneath the Dominion’s relentless advance, her fall was all but inevitable. Our mission remains a success. Our marks have suffered death, and none remain to dispute that.

“So, do you feel any better now?”

Saddened by her mentor’s unfiltered revelation about the surface, Voshki resigned herself to contemplation. Eventually, she sighed, “You’ve never been one to blunt your words for anyone, Zagir.” She flashed Zagir a brief smile. “I am burdened by all the familiar faces that have died fighting for our cause. I can do no more for Gor’rum than watch her citizens languish in the hands of the Dominion.”

“You cannot save everyone.” Zagir replied. She removed herself from where she leaned on the crumbling foundation of a light house. She patted Voshki on the shoulder and gracefully stepped around her. “Our time has arrived to leave this place behind—forever. I have news from our Grand Master that you will want to hear.”

Voshki perked at the mention of her departure from Gor’rum. She asked, “Where are we headed?”

Her mentor looked over her shoulder even as she pulled open the eyrie door. She gestured for Voshki to begin the descent back into the ruined roads beneath them. “We are headed back to the Southern Wastes. Our time in the Dominion has ended.

“I suppose I should not have to ask, but what did you think of the Sarunites? You seemed to care for them?”

Voshki descended the spiral staircase, Zagir followed close behind. She replied, “The Sarunites? You mean what do I think of them, certainly?”

Zagir replied. ‘Look around this fallen city, Voshki. Soon, none of them will remain to speak their stories. The children of Gor'rum were the last remnants of those still loyal to the Carth Republic before the Dominion inevitably collapsed it some two decades ago. Now that Gor'rum has fallen, I fear that any voice of dissent within the Carth Dominion itself has fallen into a permanent silence. The list of Carth's rivals and hated enemies continues to grow shorter every several years.'

Voshki shouldered into the cracked open door guarding the stairwell entrance.  She pushed the crumbling frame aside, coming into the temple's inner sanctum. This place of worship was now ravaged, reduced to nothing more than a faint shadow of its former glories.  

An unfamiliar voice answered her mentor. His patient tone lacked the vain glory that the Children of the Sun were known for. 

“It was nothing more than a divine hand righting civilization’s course. Gor’rum was granted her chance to prove the right of its existence—and failed. The gods have deemed her citizens unworthy of the deliverance they have begged for throughout these last few years.”


Voshki gazed beyond the temple doors into the streets of fallen Gor’rum. The sun’s brilliance shimmered upon the crumbling remains from clearing skies, near blinding to behold. 

A lone figure stood in the entrance. His bronze skin gleamed in the luminescence, draped in robes of cream and crimson that billowed in the wind. A sapphire tabard billowed in the wind at his feet, and a cloak of the same vivid shade flowed around him. She squinted into the bombardment of celestial sunlight, and noticed his heavy frame—all toned muscle and not an ounce of weakness.   

A single braid ran along his scalp, a cold black, and woven into form with golden lacing. An intricate mural of the Khiosian Pantheon was tattooed across his bare arms and barrel chest. 

A sudden gust ripped through the abandoned temple. Voshki beheld his brilliance, cascading upon him like dancing curtains of golden light. Her breath became caught in her lungs. Her heart skipped a beat. As realization dawned on the Ashen Blade disciple, icy tendrils of fear twisted around her heart. 

Alone before her stood the God King of the Carth Dominion. 

Zagir’s looming shadow shielded Voshki from his inscrutable gaze as she stepped between the God King and her apprentice. Glaive readied, her mentor fell into a combat stance. Voshki remembered herself and made to stand by Zagir’s side. The death masked assassin intervened. She forced Voshki back into her shadow with a broad sweep of her arm. 

“Hands off your daggers, sister…” She formulated her strategy in the span of several moments. Out of patience, the God King folded his arms. “Conceal yourself behind the sanctum’s altar. Spectate and learn until I’ve dealt with our guest.”

Voshki felt her mouth slacken in disbelief. “Zagir, you’re not going to—” 

“Go, and do as I say.” Zagir dismissed her with a flick of the wrist. 

Voshki retreated behind the temple altar. Leaning on the desecrated shrine, she kept a watchful eye on Zagir, who kept her hollow—eyed gaze fixed on the Carth’s Immortal Son. 
“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: Summary & Roadmap
« Reply #217 on: April 11, 2021, 10:46:16 PM »
Embers of the Past – A Summary

•   Embers of the Past is a High Fantasy Novel set in a classical-era inspired world of tyranny, corruption, and war-torn lands.

•   Khios continent is a harsh land, where tyrants, kings, and regents reign over lands once steeped in glory by their ancestors. Old Myria and her Autumn Realms are the last remaining coalition of free civilization, and have warred for centuries against the kingdoms of Carth situated in the Khiosian heartland.

Once a republic, the lands of Carth have fallen, descending into a civil war that has lasted three decades since their defeat at the hands of Old Myria, and the death of the former Sun Caller King of Tu’shan. Once more, time repeats itself as an ancient people once considered annihilated, have arisen in the Dominion again. These enigmatic ‘Children of the Sun’ aim to conquer all the lands of Khios in the name of their God King Erasyl, to defeat an ancient evil long forgotten by mankind, or so they believe.

As the Dominion begins to consolidate its control of the former Carth Republic, armies of indentured warriors and their masters in the Children of the Sun reach across every corner of Khios. Should heroes of old, whose times of glory have long been put behind them since the republic’s final defeat, be too late to act, then the consequences of the Dominion’s ambition could become irrevocable.
Three fledgling heroes gathered from across distant lands shall find unity and purpose not in their storied bloodlines, but by the grave events that have shaped each of their pasts.

A young prince of the Autumn Realm of Irothis, his family betrayed by a disillusioned hero of bygone wars, swears vengeance after his father forsook it to raise his sons.

A son of an elven prince and a human mother, devoted to his goddess, has his life changed forever after a fateful raid on his parents’ farmstead. When he barely survives and his mother perishes amid the flames, his father reveals revelations about his mother’s heritage that will draw him into the conflict on Khios.

A street urchin, rescued from death at the hands of a criminal syndicate, has her life forever altered by the Grandmaster of a forgotten fortress hidden beneath the underground city she has survived in since birth.

In a world abandoned by its gods, the last living God King sets in motion his ambitious plan to thwart the greatest threat to the race of men. A primordial malevolence that may perhaps predate humanity’s creation…

•   It is the first iteration in a planned trilogy.

•   Embers’ features the perspectives of three main protagonists, backed by a large cast of supporting characters.

•   These characters, including the supportive ones, I’ve labored a long time to make each one unique and standout. This includes personalities, origin stories (some of which predate the main narrative), and the option for expansion later in the series or in novellas & short stories.

•   Embers’ main story takes place on the eastern continent of Khios, a land dominated by two empires of competing ideologies, and lesser kingdoms that surround them on the fringes of much of the continent.

•   The empire of Old Myria & the Autumn Realms is the protagonist empire, where most characters are drawn from in Embers specifically. It is settled in the northwestern section of Khios, her territories isolated by the Veiled Mountains.

•   Old Myria is ruled by the Autumn Queens, a matriarchal monarchy that reigns over multiple, autonomous kingdoms within their empire’s influence. The Autumn Queens rule with a gentle hand on the tiller, and hold conclaves to hear the concerns and look to the future prosperity of all the Autumn Realms.

•   The Dominion of Carth is positioned in the heartland of Khios, surrounded by lesser kingdoms and would be enemies. The Dominion is reigned over by an enigmatic civilization simply called ‘The Children of the Sun’.

•   The Children of the Sun are a theocratic, militarized society, that is steeped in the wealth and prestige earned from the conquests of over a dozen kingdoms and grand city states.

•   They are reigned over by the Sun Caller Kings, a line of immortals that cannot perish from old age, and are unnaturally resistant to physical death. The Sun Caller Kings have always ruled as gods for over a thousand years, but constant turmoil brought by the downfall and ascension of the Children of the Sun over the centuries has seen the ancient line of the Sun Callers reduced to one last living soul.

•   God King Erasyl of Tu’shan is the last living son of the Sun Caller Kings. Currently, he reigns over the Carth Dominion he established after collapsing the Carth Republic thirty years before the main narrative.

•   As for our protagonist characters – as mentioned, there are three.

•   Ara Zakarian is the youngest twin son of Azat Zakarian, an Old Myrian war hero who fought during the collapse of the Carth Republic and brought peace to the lands after slaying the prior Sun Caller King of Tu’shan, Erasyl’s father.

•   Ara has sworn vengeance on one of his father’s old war comrades, after an arch—betrayal that saw his manor raided and many people he had always known slain several years before the narrative.

•   Kendal Giram Qallin was born on the western continent of Ios, and has lived his first sixteen years on his parents farmstead in the Mist Hollow. When a raid by the Druidic Lani tribes ravages the Mist Hollow, and his mother slain, Kendal’s father—an Ishalnan elf, and a prince of the Celithorn Empire, reveals truths to his son about his mother’s true Old Myrian heritage, and her former status as exiled royalty. When his father reveals that the current Autumn Queen has demanded that Kendal come to live in Old Myria as part of the royal family, his life is forever changed.

•   Voshki begins the story as a vagrant, a street urchin living in the subterranean city of Suann. One day, when Voshki is fleeing for her life from a criminal syndicate known as the Obsidian Vipers, she stumbles across an old, forgotten keep hidden behind an illusion. The Grandmaster of this keep comes to her rescue, and forever alters Voshki’s path to become one of the Ashen Blades, a syndicate of Assassins that secretly fight to keep tyranny and oppression in check across all Khios.
Roadmap:

So, the release portion of the roadmap is not set in stone, but here is what I’m looking to do leading up to release.

1.   Getting a hand drawn, completely custom, digital map made of Khios since the first trilogy is going to be set there.
2.   Getting a hand drawn, completely custom, digital cover book art created for The Embers of the Past – and all the marketing materials needed for soft book, handbook, eBook, and audiobook.
3.   Go through the full editing process for Embers of the Past – which will include a manuscript critique (scheduled for July 2021), line edit, and proofread (both will be scheduled toward the later half of the year).
4.   Establishing a website and social media channels

Post book launch:
1.   Assemble a launch team
2.   Hold a book launch
3.   Maybe get some custom art done for the series to place on the website
4.   Still deciding traditional publishing vs self-publishing (both have pros and cons)
5.   Hire some professional reviewers and try to garner reviews from interested friends.
“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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Under Death's Shadow - Scene III

Suranna Plains

Khios shook underneath Voshki, the Veiled Mountains trembling amid an ominous thunder. A northern stormfront laid siege to the craggy peaks, breaking the brunt of its momentum against Cressa’s Lantern. Inside Azat’s pavilion, she languished in chains, with only the gloom outside to light her surroundings. 

Shackled like imprisoned royalty, Voshki curled into herself by the corner where Azat’s Immortals had originally laid her down. Dawn’s first light had come and gone since she waited, much like the sun’s zenith, until dusk encroached upon the Veiled Mountains. 

Voshki waited in absolute silence for Lord Zakarian’s return. As she waited, the storm’s thunder never seemed to cease. She relished its deafening cries, finding reprieve from the endless solitude of her isolation. 

The storm broke against the ancient mountains, and the deluge came down harder than before. As night descended, she heard the first signs of armed forces on the march. Distant cries, commands from unfamiliar champions, flitted through the void of silence. She waited, until the encampment was revived with the sounds of human civilization. 

She heard hundreds of warriors disarm themselves for the night, throwing their weapons back onto weapon racks and laying their shields back down in their war tents. As the deafening sound of armies marching back into the encampment lessened, cries of agony became louder than the dissipating stormfront. 

Voshki listened to the horrific wails of the wounded, who survived on the battlefield long enough to be relocated to the encampment infirmary. She continued to wait, for anyone, or any sign of intervention, until the night sky glimmered in the eerie light of a full moon. 

As the Old Myrians lifted their voices in ancient war songs, did Lord Zakarian come staggering through the silk—veiled entrance of his pavilion. Surprised, Voshki concealed her initial gasp, blinded by a bright light carried in the Immortal’s hand. 

Azat sat something down on the council table with a loud clatter. Voshki’s vision cleared after a time, discerning Azat from the fading light as he fooled around with the contraption. She blinked the vivid shades of orange, sunburst yellow, and white out of her eyes, listening to the Immortal’s staggered breathing. As her vision returned, she witnessed the blurred image of a man exhausted from an entire day’s battle. 

Gory, crimson blood soaked Azat’s priceless laminar from head to toe, so much that its brilliant white sheen was utterly lost. Thick sword cuts were gouged across his chest plate, and his left shoulder guard was smashed to splinters. 

He smiled through a veil of soaked and matted coal black hair, that failed to conceal several new scars etched on his face. 

“I’m surprised,” Lord Zakarian looked her over once, “I more than half—suspected you’d break your bonds. You’ve waited all day for my return?”

Voshki, too exhausted from faint echoes of hunger, extended him a weak nod. She almost turned from him, when Azat whistled, then tossed her a burgeoning pouch that she caught between her chained wrists. 

“Here,” Lord Zakarian approached, concealing the pained sighs born from his aching body. As he knelt beside her, she caught the scent of perspire, gore, and storm rains that soaked him through. He produced a key in one hand, and beckoned for Voshki to offer her chained wrists in turn. 

Azat twisted the key into the hidden insert of her cuffs, the leaden iron clattering to the ground, useless. His gaze leveled with her own, he looked her in the eyes. “I trust that you’ll not become a danger without these?”

Voshki ignored him, proceeding to tear into the overfull purse he had tossed her after catching the merest whiff of sugar—sprinkled fruits. 

Azat said nothing when she crushed the first few pieces between her teeth. Gradually, he managed to stand. He made to return to his chair at the head of the council chamber. He said, “Gods, I am not as young as I used to be. That is certain. I’m crippled with aches I’ve never experienced in my life.”

Voshki spoke after wolfing down several pieces of fruit. “Are you going to live, old man?”

Azat glanced at her skeptically, then boasted with laughter that made him cringe with regret. He slammed his fist down on the table, and spat out a thick a wad of blood on the strategic map of Cressa’s Lantern. 

Voshki ceased her eating, and almost made to move nearer to him, if that were possible. 

Lord Zakarian lifted a hand to still her concerns. He sighed, “I am not injured. A Zar’qin caught me with a fist full of chainmail earlier in the day. One of my physicians had to remove a tooth. The pain is killing me. He promised me a sedative some hours ago, but considering the hundreds wounded on the field today… I would be unsurprised if he never returned tonight.” 

Voshki could not conceal her curiosity, and asked, “How did the battle go? Did the Old Myrians fare well?”

Azat shrugged, “The battle for Cressa’s Lantern is only beginning. However, our forces achieved our initial goal. The Dominion’s slave hordes were repulsed from Reaper’s Lantern, and the mountain pass has fallen under our direct control. Our forces shall now have access, an entry point, to spearhead into the rest of the valley.”

Voshki sighed, “It sounds like the coming days will be more difficult for Old Myria still. Zar’qin warriors prefer to fight to the last, then dishonor their Immortal God King. Trust me, Sukhan has dealt with their like more often than Old Myria by far.”

“Don’t underestimate our resolve.” Azat suggested, “The common folk of the Ardent Vigil managed to secure us the mountain pass. The fate of Cressa’s Lantern now falls squarely on the shoulders of the Knights of Myr, and their commander, Vahe of Grand Damira…”

Her voice weakened, Voshki chortled, “A wise decision to sit the next battle out. You should be commanding from the backlines in either case. Keep wading into battle like you did today, then I’d wager you won’t have much time left to you.”

Lord Zakarian grinned, “I will heed your advice, for tomorrow. Vahe is a brash commander and prefers great confrontations over tactical and well-organized strategies. There can be a place for both on the battlefield, but one must not dominate the other. 

“I am considering that perhaps… I could break your chains and send you alongside him. To be my eyes and ears, and more importantly, keep Vahe alive and safe.”

Voshki arched her brow. “Do I seem to be in any condition to fight to you?”

Azat nodded, “Give yourself a few days, and I shall make certain you’ll eat well. You act as if years have passed since you’ve left Ember Hearth. It has only been a few weeks, and you’ve barely suffered.” He paused, then acknowledged. “Except in isolation.”

Voshki sighed, “Then you’ll return me back into these chains. Where I’ll sit here until the war is won or lost… and then what?”

“Our war is far from lost, Voshki.” Azat corrected, “but, to address your point… I think you’ve suffered enough. I will allow you sometime tomorrow to walk freely among the encampments. No one here knows of your origins or who you are. You’ll find a practice field hidden behind my pavilion. You may practice alone, should you wish. 

“Agree to accompany Vahe on his mission into Cressa’s Lantern and I’ll vouch for you you before him myself.”

Voshki cocked her head at Azat. “Why not the Autumn Queen?”

“She would not spare you no matter how much I pleaded.” Azat admitted, “you murdered her younger sister, and nothing can change that. However, Grand Damira is Vahe’s court. That is where you are headed to serve the rest of your term. A quick word to him can end your entire plight before Hazan would, or perhaps ever, even find out…”

Voshki chose to remain silent on the matter, careful not to show signs of either denial or acceptance.

“I must ask for your forgiveness, assassin.” Azat confessed, “Old Myria is on the eve of war and terrible battle. I should never have dragged you into this crimson mire. Hazan desires justice for her sister Sirvat, so leaving you alone in Ember Hearth was not an option. You would have been drawn and quartered the moment I departed for the southern Autumn Realms. 

“It was never my attention to have you trapped in this ensuring war. Just wait here patiently, until the battle’s end. Then I’ll think of some further uses for your services, should you remain willing.” 

Voshki perked at his emphasis of ‘willing’. She asked, “How much is an Ashen Blade’s skill worth on the battlefield these days?”

Azat considered her opening for negotiation, and nodded. “To most of my kin, it would be nothing at all. But I can be pragmatic if you volunteer to help us win back Cressa Valley. So, Voshki of the Black Bane Mercenaries, what is that you desire? 

“Gold, perhaps?”

Voshki inclined her head, “Gold would be a reasonable start.”

Azat guessed again, “A warm hearth and a home to return to on gloomy days and cold nights?”

Voshki arched her brow, confused. She would never have thought of that one. “Here? In Old Myria?”

“Where else?” Azat scoffed, then sniggered. “You would return home to the Southern Wastes of your own volition? From what I understand, most Sukhanites youths that have a chance to flee their kingdom, never return. For good reason, too.”

Voshki decided to not outright decline his offer, but not accept it either. “Go on, I’m listening.”

Azat shrugged, pondering, “Would you love to command another band of mercenaries again? Old Myria has many willing swords, who look for prime commanders.”

Voshki could not conceal her smile. Neither could she dispel the burden of grief that came over her. She shook her head, “As kind as that offer would be, I’ve only ever commanded one band of mercenaries. I failed them. I have no right to command others anymore. But you are kind to give me hope of reliving my aspirations again.”

Azat placed an emphasis on his final suggestion. He countered, “Or, perhaps you’re searching for something far rarer and more invaluable. You obviously do not lust for wealth, or you would have accepted my first offer. 

“You reminisced about your old home in the Southern Wastes, and yet you entertained the thought of living here in Old Myria with interest. 

“You say you’ll never command another band of mercenaries, but you still desire to aspire to—something, anything…” Azat trailed off, then picked up again. “It takes an individual of great courage, to admit to someone they may not trust, that they are lost. Perhaps you’re not lost, but merely choose to wander through life, as I believe you’ve always done. 

“You’ve seen the endless beauty of the world and of humanity, as well as the darkest depths to which our kind can descend. You choose not to become either extremity, but to adhere to balance as a way of life. That, Voshki, is the way of the Children of the Moon. It is Jumunah’s path. 

“Those who seek balance, naturally strive to find perfection and a sense of place. So, why not find perfection in what you’ve already devoted your whole life to? Continue training to become a master of blades, but turn your purpose to an even higher cause. If it is a sense of belonging that you seek… you have brothers and sisters right here, ready to stand beside you.”

Voshki snorted. “Like whom?”

Azat placed a hand over his heart. “You have a mentor and a father in myself, so long as I live. You seem to think fondly of Prince Qallin, and he sees many great qualities in you.”

Voshki sighed. “And your sons? Are you going to tell me that they do not despise me?”

Azat flashed a knowing grin. “I believe that you and my sons are far more alike than you could ever imagine. Aslan and Ara, they simply know nothing about you, outside of the mistakes you’ve made. You cannot blame them either, considering your crimes. All that said, I hope Ara comes to know you as I have. I would pray, that you both see each other in the same light that I’ve come to see both of you. 

“I only ask that you not hate my sons for their ignorance… They’ve suffered much at the hands of Sukhanite blades, but that is an entirely different, and lengthy story to delve into.”

Vohski was silent, her head bowed slightly. She spoke after a brief quiet. “I didn’t know.”

Azat shrugged. “You could never have known. It is a black stain on the Zakarian name that we have chosen to keep near to our chests.”

Daring, Voshki asked the question plaguing her thoughts. “I trust that Lord Zakarian avenged himself for house and family? It is the way of Sukhan, and I hold no grudge for those who live by the creed of my kin. Nor those who die by it.”

Lord Zakarian frowned in disapproval, but thought the matter over. He replied, “For the peace of the sons that I still had to raise from childhood to where they are now, I made my decision to forsake vengeance. Hunting down my old war brother would not change what happened, and it could certainly have costed me more than my family has already lost.

“They lost their mother. I decided against being the fool, and stealing from them the presence of their father. Truthfully, I’ve not thought of the Scarred Child since then. I only remember my wife and the life I’ve spent with Ara and Aslan, and her when she still lived.”

Azat sighed. He rubbed his temple with a pair of fingers. “That is the reason why they cannot trust any man or woman from Sukhan. So, now you know. I’ve often told them that their hatred is weakness—”

Voshki pointed out, “You have a similar weakness.”

“A similar mistrust, to be certain.” Azat quipped. “But that is not hatred. Besides, you’ve changed my mind quite some time ago.” 

“I apologize,” Voshki proclaimed. “I believe you were offering me something?”

“Ah,” Azat slammed his fist on the table. “Where was I? If it is a sense of place that you’re searching for, then why not try your hand at becoming one of the Annahir Immortals?”

Voshki cocked her head. “The Autumn Queen’s bodyguard that you command? Why would you have me anywhere near the Autumn Queen, defending her person?”

Azat confessed, “I wouldn’t have you within Ember Hearth at all, truth be told. Yet, there is no reason you cannot operate beyond Annahir and even Old Myria. Prince Qallin and my sons also aspire to join, and Hazan and I have a test in mind worthy of their skills. Without her knowledge, you could take up the trial with them. Prince Qallin will do right by you as a brother. I know Aslan and Ara shall take time to adjust to you, but they will, I’m certain.”

Voshki imagined her return to the Southern Wastes, against Shoushan’s wishes for her to return as an Ashen Blade at all. Her mission in Old Myria was meant to grant her permanent freedom. Independence. Voshki was meant to define herself from then on. 

She was never meant to see Shoushan again. As much as she desired to return only for her, Voshki knew she could never do so considering her failure. She could only fade back into obscurity, and become someone different than the Voshki she had always known. 

She would become the Voshki she always desired to be. From where she stood, Azat and his offer for mentorship in the Annahir Immortals, was likely her best chance at success. 

Voshki looked an exhausted Azat in the eye. She grinned. “Do I also get the gold and home and hearth?”

Despite his miserable pain, Azat smiled in that knowing way he had.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2021, 12:04:17 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: Quick Update!
« Reply #219 on: April 24, 2021, 12:37:34 AM »
Quick update!

Word Count: 98,000

Just need to finish 3 1/2 chapters before I can start the self-edit phase again.

“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

 


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