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
. 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?’