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Author Topic: The Embers of The Past: A Crimson Blizzard - Scene 1 - Post Writing Circle FB  (Read 17241 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

 


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