October 15th, 2012

Critique - Soulsong Ch5 Pt 3

Hey there!

First things first, I love that things are being explained to us across this section. It's really helping me to understand the plot and the world you've built, which is something I always enjoy when reading fantasy. Now, the POV jumps here feel a bit unnecessary and I think it would actually be enhanced if we experienced the whole thing from Jane's POV. That way, you could leave Troubere's thoughts/intentions a mysery and use them afterwards; give him some abiguity as to his true agenda. You could get rid of some parts and insert others, maybe have Jane try to decipher Troubere's body language so we are pointed in one direction -the right or the wrong one even. Otherwise, great job! I'm getting a clearer picture of things now
:)

“Volunteering?” she snorted.  “I think I missed that opportunity when I was brought here.”  Troubere looked down.  She got him on that one.  But she didn’t like to see his discomfort so took pity on him.  “Yes. I’ll do it.”  It’s good to finally know my purpose here. 

----- 

Troubere let out a breath of relief.  His respect for Jane increased ten-fold at her willingness to help.  His feelings of shame increased ten-fold as well.  After what happened to Tambour, Jane deserved to know exactly what she was getting into; that a creature called a Mordant is lurking out there somewhere, waiting.  But he dare not tell her the whole truth.  If she knew, she surely would refuse to help them.  Who in their right mind wouldn’t?  He felt ashamed of his omission, but his need to protect his guild and everyone in it overrode his sense of obligation to her. To assuage his feelings of guilt, he decided that, when the time came, he would do what he could to protect her. (I feel this could offer the reader a great bit of mystery regarding Troubere’s intentions and his true character, which is why I think you should not clarify his thoughts on the matter but rather leave it up to the reader to find out what he’s really up to.)

He watched her as she sat thinking.  Who is this woman with such generosity of spirit?  Such talent in music?  Jane is exactly what Tambour had said she would be; perfect.  He was completely unprepared for how perfect.  He was going to have to be careful. (I’m not quite sure she’s demonstrated this perfection of hers… so maybe ley the story unfold so Troubere can come to that conclusion afterwards and, perhaps, even the readers too.)

“Miss Picardy, thank you,” he said finally.  “You will be a very competent and capable teacher, I am sure.”  He paused.  “There is another matter.” 

“What’s that?”

“You will have the singular title of both teacher and student,” he said.  Jane looked puzzled.  “There has never been a student at our music guild who was also a teacher, yet it must be.  You must first learn control.” (I like this part, it alludes to how special Jane is without taking it over the edge just yet) Troubere rubbed his backside.  “I am feeling the effects of your handiwork from yesterday.”  Jane suppressed a smile and Troubere responded with a begrudging half smile of his own.

“You’re right about that,” she said.  “I really have no idea how I did that to you.”

“I suspect much of the responsibility lies with the baton itself,” Troubere replied.  “As I said before, it is capable of gathering its own energy, which is half of the battle when conducting vibrations.  However, the other half was purely you.  No one explained it.  You seemed to know instinctively how to manipulate the baton to your will.” (Another excellent part)

“You know, I’m completely overwhelmed by all this…,” she flung her hands up at a loss for words, “…magic. Before yesterday, I would have told you there’s no such–.”

“Just a moment,” Troubere interrupted.  “What we do here is not magic.  That we leave to stage performers doing card tricks and slight of hand.  What we teach is real – a viable, workable power.” 

“Fair enough. So, having never witnessed this… power before, sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind.  I mean, everyone has fantasies of being able to make things happen by a simple wave of the hand.  But that’s all they were.  Fantasies.” 

“This is no fantasy.”  He hummed and swirled his finger, and a sheet of manuscript paper floated in the air doing lazy somersaults and twirls before landing gently back to its spot on the table.

“I’ll never get used to that,” she said, shaking her head.  “So, when do I start?”

“Almost immediately.  I will call for a convocation to introduce you to the students and inform them of your position here.”  He pursed his lips, thinking.  After what happened to Tambour the other night, there was really no time to spare.  Now that a Mordant had made itself known, they would need to begin without delay.  “I wonder… Jane, would you consent to performing for us?  It would give the students a suggestion of the power you hold.”

“Power?  I don’t hold any power.” 

“If you learn nothing else here with us Jane, you must learn that music is power,” he said, “and from what I have witnessed, you know music.” 

 -----

  He was right.  If Jane knew anything, she knew music.  She had spent her life pursuing it.  These people have no idea the music that will be coming in the near future.  She, however, did know, and she was going to knock their socks off! (Nicely done here!)

“I think I see what you are getting at,” she said.  “Yes, I’ll do it.” 

“Most gracious of you.  Might you be prepared as soon as tomorrow?”    

“Uh, yes, I believe so,” she replied, suddenly unsure.  She had no idea what to perform.  It wasn’t that she didn’t have any piano pieces in her memory to choose from, quite the opposite.  She had a rather large repertoire at her fingertips due to an almost photographic memory.  She had only to see something a few times before it was imprinted in her brain.  She could still play most of the music she had ever performed in her life.  The problem was that she could not decide which one, out of the myriad she had to choose from, she should play.  Should it be something slow and romantic; a Chopin Nocturne maybe?  Or, perhaps something fast and energetic, like a Rachmaninoff sonata? (Well, I’m not against giving her a privileged memory, but it sounds too convenient and I believe you could pull more from this section if, instead, you referenced the pieces she’s most familiar with. By learning what she’s practiced more, or even what she prefers to play, we could learn about her personality as well, since right now it sounds like she could play virtually anything.)

“I will be your accompanist,” Troubere said.  “However, you will have to write out something for me to play as I am sure you will perform a piece unknown to me.”  

Jane looked confused.  “You would rather I sing?” 

“Oh–  I simply assumed…  You mean there is even more to you Miss Picardy?”  Troubere looked pleasantly surprised.  “I know you can sing.  What else can you do?”

“Well, I am a pianist… er…  I mean, I am quite accomplished at the pianoforte,” she said. 

“I see.” he said, becoming more animated.  “I have a few students who are well on their way to becoming skilled at the pianoforte, but none can say they are accomplished.”  Troubere looked pleased.  “You have a pianoforte piece you could play for us?” he asked.  “Something never heard before?”  Troubere was truly excited now.  Then he seemed to have a sudden idea.  “Jane, perhaps I should be your first pupil.  Then, together we could teach the students what you know.”

Jane’s brow furrowed.  Troubere’s eagerness to learn the secrets of the future suddenly had her feeling uneasy about divulging them.  She had read enough sci-fi and watched enough episodes of Star Trek to realize that changing too much in the past would, in all probability, change the future.  What would be the ramifications of teaching these people music that had yet to be composed? (Hmm I like it but do be extra careful when dealing with possible time paradoxes. They’re excellent if properly managed but can easily make a mess of things.)

 -----

Troubere began to worry as he sat watching Jane think.  He mistook her reticence as an aversion to him personally.   She doesn’t want to be my teacher.  (Seems like an odd thought for Troubere to have.) Surprisingly, the thought cut deeply.  But he shrugged it off.  Tis of no consequence.  But will she still teach the students?  Or is she going to change her mind now?  Troubere’s mind raced and his concern grew with every moment that passed without a response from Jane.  Finally, he could stand it no longer.

“Have I said something to offend?”  Jane flinched when he spoke, as if she had forgotten he was in the room. 

“Oh, sorry.  No.” 

“Is everything all right?” he asked, his anxiety growing. 

“Yes, everything is fine.”  

She is telling me a falsehood.

“I’m just not sure it’s me who should be teaching. I mean, I’ve never been a teacher before.  I–

“Perhaps I have been too hasty,” he said, waving his hand as if to dissipate Jane’s uncertainty.  “I prefer that you concentrate your efforts on the students.  It is right that you should begin with them first.  If time allows, I will come and observe your classes.” 

Though his tone was nonchalant, inwardly he barely kept his distress contained.  He knew Jane was beginning to change her mind, and he berated himself for suggesting she teach him.  The guild desperately needed her so he tried to mend the bridge he almost destroyed.  Since she had already committed herself  he would draw on her sense of honor and integrity to convince her that she could not back out now.  He would do everything in his power to encourage her to help them. 

Troubere shot up, took Jane by the elbow, and led her to the door.  “It is not my wish that you be uncomfortable, Miss Picardy.  You are under no obligation to teach me, however, I am most humbly grateful to you for your willingness to teach the students.”

“What?  No, you misunderstand.  I think maybe…” 

 “Thank you for meeting with me this morning Jane.  You are going to be a vital addition to our society.  I shall see you tomorrow at the convocation, three o’clock sharp.”  He nudged her out into the hallway.  “You can find your own way back?” he asked smiling, then shut the door. 

Jane stared at the door for several seconds.  What just happened?  She realized she had really gotten herself into something.  The old adage of ‘Look before you leap’ came to mind.  However, she felt that, rather than having leapt before she looked, she had been blindfolded and thrown bodily!  How was she supposed to make an informed decision, when nothing like this had ever happened before?  She had nothing to go on to help her.  Not only that, she hadn’t asked to come to the eighteenth century.  She happened to wave a peculiar baton in the air and suddenly found herself here.  Yes, thrown bodily was exactly how she felt. 

Critique - The Bok'Tarong Part 20

Hi!
Interesting buit for sure. It's still suffering from the lack of tension from previous posts, but there is some conflict brewing here. I like that! However, I think these fragments would be better suited for character development, rather than focusing entirely plot. Both groups have met, there is evident tension between Dragana and Raeb but they must somehow agree to form an alliance and discuss a plan. Make them doubt one another -or at least add more hesitation to Dragana's reactions. Aeo is clearly some sort of buffer, so I'd have him act impartially at first then evaluate -use his pragmatism there. It doesn't matter if this section ends up being larger than you originally planned, but since it's one of the most important parts in the story, I'd say it's worth polishing that aspect.


I do not like that blade,
 Aeo told Dragana. There’s something terribly evil about it.

She gripped the Bok’Tarong a little tighter, holding it protectively close. “What is that?”

Raeb’s eyes were glued to the blades. “I’ve nicknamed it Sunray. It reveals magic and the spirit world. It can absorb magic, and unravel enchantments.” He paused for a moment, and behind the admiration in his eyes Aeo caught a deep hatred for the weapon. “With it, I hope to separate the connections of the Hntaña.”

They were silent for a while, all eyes on the dark Sunray. Finally Raeb looked up and caught Dragana’s eye. “The Bok’Tarong is needed to destroy the Hntaña, but without a distraction, something that’ll hurt the Hntaña enough to keep them occupied, you’ll never get close enough to strike. Sunray and I can cause that distraction for you.” (Hmm I want to know more about this system! The Hntaña live in a sort of ‘spirit world’ so why would absorbing magic hurt them? And also, what makes the two so different that only the Bok’Tarong can destroy them but Sunray only hurt them?)

“And if we kill the hive, the individual Hntaña will die as well?”

“Yes.”

“What will happen to the -taken?”

“They’ll be freed.” (Freed in a loose sense of the word, since you’ve mentioned some are kept alive because of their connection to the Hntaña… might be a good idea to clarify)

Dragana stared into Raeb’s eyes, perhaps sensing his brief hesitation before responding. “Are you sure of this?”

Raeb and Saydee shared a look. “No,” Raeb admitted. “But everything I have learned suggests that it will.”

The warrior-woman rubbed her hands against the hilt of the Bok’Tarong. What do you think?she asked Aeo.

The Hntaña obviously aren’t controlling them.

What about their plan? Do you think it would work?

Aeo rolled the details over in his mind. I don’t see anything that I know won’t work. It seems plausible, though it’d be far from easy.

We’re talking about destroying the Hntaña here, Dragana reminded him. Of course it won’t be easy.

Aeo smiled in his mind. I think we should help them.

She paused, glancing discreetly at Raeb and Saydee. They both did their best to look casual and uninterested, though Aeo knew they were anxiously waiting for Dragana’s decision.

I don’t trust them, she said. They’re both keeping a lot of secrets.

We’re all keeping secrets from each other. That’s just the way these kind of things work. Besides, he added, I didn’t say we should trust them. I said we should help them. They want what we want. It makes sense to work together.

Dragana nodded. “I can’t walk away from an opportunity to destroy the Hntaña. But I also can’t easily put my trust in two -taken, one of them being the Taronese traitor.” (I’m very much loving the small conflict between Dragana and Aeo here; after all, I still think Aeo agreed too easily.)

She’d kept most of the venom from her tone, but Raeb still flinched when she named him that way.

“You’ll have my help, and that of the Bok’Tarong, as long as I’m sure this isn’t some kind of trick. If you betray our alliance, you will feel the sting of the spirit-blades. I can promise you that.”

Aeo watched their reactions carefully. Raeb and Saydee were both intimidated by her fierce threat, and the knowledge that she wouldn’t hesitate to act on it, but neither showed signs of nervousness or doubt. He had been very good at spotting cheats and traitors in his life, and he didn’t see any hints of that in them. They hadn’t been trying to trap Dragana. They were completely serious about this plan and their alliance.

He conveyed this to Dragana, and she acknowledged by relaxing slightly. Her hand didn’t leave the Bok’Tarong, but she leaned back and relaxed slightly. “Good food.”

The new allies settled into the camp, but talk was limited to necessary questions and uncomfortable, forced chatting. When Dragana finally lay down to sleep, she kept Aeo close by. Watch over me, she said. Make sure they don’t try anything.

Aeo smiled. Dragana might not fully trust him, but she certainly trusted him more than the -taken across the fire. It was a start.

He did his best to soothe her sleep, calming and comforting the lonely young girl who surfaced in her dreams. He touched the tender wounds in her heart and marveled at the beauty of the warrior-woman’s soul.

I’ll keep you safe, Dragana. I’ll always keep you safe.

Critique - Sacrificial Kingdom - 21589 - 22687

Hey!

Great section, as usual. You have a way of keeping everything in just the right proportions: dialogue, descpritions, action... it's simply very well balanced. Not much to comment on this section save for the fact that I thing Rhia managed to surprise them with little effort. These are two experienced fighters, I'd expect maybe Sommir to be harder to trick and even when disarmed, I'm sure they have an ace or two up their sleeves to pose a threat to Rhia. Does that make sense? Otherwise, brilliant!

“Your hands, Lieutenant. Keep them where I can see them” Her eyes were hard, her hand steady.

“Is she doing what I think she’s doing?” Sommir said, voice muffled.

“Shut up.” Makki said.

“Shut up,” said the Princess at the same time. Makki’s head spun. He knew something was happening, but his mind seemed unable to put meaning behind what his eyes saw. But he knew when someone intended to use a blade. “I think this might be a good opportunity for you to answer some questions I have, don’t you lieutenant?”

“Very clever, Your Highness.” He said, raising his hands, wishing he had something metal in one of them; he really ought to start wearing rings. What am I thinking? That’s Princess Rhiharu! I can’t strike her down! “We are unarmed and Meluphotia can’t change form in such a small room.”

“You seem to have a habit of underestimating me. It may yet prove fatal, Makki.”

“From now on then, Princess,” Sommir said. “When we’re all together, you can undress first.” For a wonder, Rhiharu smirked. While he wasn’t looking had someone replaced the Princess with some doppelganger?

“Does he always talk so much?” She asked him.

“Only when he’s not eating.” Makki said.

“Or kissing a beautiful woman.” Sommir added.

“He talks while he kisses the ugly ones.” Makki said. The banter was instinctive, adding to the unreality of it all, as was his assessment of the situation. The window at the rear of the room was too far away, and certainly too small to dive through. The nearest metal was Sommir’s armour, but sewn into the leather it was all but useless as a weapon. He could slap the blade away left handed, roll right, but she had already shown how fleet of foot she could… (Hmm while the Princess is definitely a clever one, I’d say she cornered two experienced fighters way too easily)

“We’ll start with something easy. Who sent you?” Makki frowned, confused, before he realised that not once had he mentioned his orders. The tension in him evaporated, like someone had cut a set of ropes banded across his chest. It all made sense now.

“Of course! My apologies Your Highness for not saying sooner. We were sent by the King to protect and support you.” He said. Rhiharu’s blade didn’t waver.

“Protect and support?” She said. There was something in her tone Makki didn’t like.

“Protect foremost. When His Highness found you had ‘absconded’ yesterday morning he surmised you had undertaken some final act on behalf of Kavernath.”

“And you found me, how?”

“His Highness told us of the hidden passage by the Eastern Bridge on Brightwater Keep. He said it would be the most likely escape route. As for spotting you – Dragon Riders are used as scouts for a reason.” Even as the words came out, each one a piece of truth, he tasted their inadequacy. Makki tried to put himself in her place, fleeing and scared, and realised that he hadn’t said anything meaningful.

“You have a letter? Signed documents? Surely my Father would have given yousomething.” Makki’s looked at the floor.

“He had a lot on his plate at the time.”

“Do – you – have – any – proof?” Why didn’t he think of that? A seal, a stamp, a scribbled note. Blessed Hand, even a lock of hair would have been something. Makki chewed up some excuses and swallowed them.

“Nothing but my word, Your Highness.” He said.

“Your word? Well, now I’m convinced.” She said. “How did you escape? Brightwater Keep would have had five armies besieging it at the time, not easy to escape, let alone unnoticed. Especially on a Dragon.” She was mocking him, he was sure, but she had that right. It was true; other than a badge of rank and a Kavernathi accent he had nothing to identify himself.

“When the Mathir breached the dock doors, your Father fortified the Eastern wall. He held it until the Mathir were inside so Melu could fly out unchallenged.” He said. Never before had the truth felt so hollow, and the truth was his only defence.

“Who was your Superior, Lieutenant?”

“General Hrakkir.”

“And the Dragon Rider Captain?”

“Mare Konree. Look, your Highness, I can…” Makki said, but the Princess rode over his protest.

“I’m sure you can. Now Sommir, your role in this would be what exac…”

“Your Highness!” He said, loud and forceful.

Rhiharu swung her attention back to him, eyes fiery and as sharp as the blade in her hand. Makki realised he had no defences at all. “Your Highness, I’m afraid we won’t be able to give you the proof you need. For anything we say there will be a reason for doubt. We might be able to name the entire staff at your palace in Kaver, but that does not mean we couldn’t have found out by some means other than in service to Kavernath. For you to believe us takes two elements. We can supply information and truth, but you, Princess, have to believe we could be truthful.” Slowly Makki sat down, keeping his hands in sight, palm upturned on his knees.

“I see, I think.” Rhiharu said. (Well, they already fought side-by-side once and saved each others’ lives. Doesn’t that earn them some trust from her?)

“Not entirely, I fear.” Makki said. “You Father’s last orders were to protect you. All I have left of Kavernath now are those few words. Without them I’m…we're…just more refugees. You will do what you must, Princess, but you must know we will too. If you believe us, then all is well. If not and you choose to send us away, we will still follow at a distance honouring both your wishes and those of your Father. The third way...well…I don’t think it needs to be said.” Makki stared at his hands. He felt oddly lighter, as though proving his honesty was heavier than his life. But his heart raced, hammering at his ribs. He stared at his hands, the white rings of calloused flesh, the rough skin inside coarse from nearly ten years of clinging to a Dragon.

The room was silent but for the soft breath of Melu on the bed and muted voices, caught in conversation, floating up from the common room below. Then after a pause, Rhiharu took two steps. The glimmering tip of her sword pricked the front of his tunic; dimpled his flesh beneath.

“Place both hands on the blade, Lieutenant.” Makki stared at the beautiful craftsmanship. Folded steel drawn out into a smooth edge, ever so slightly curved. She couldn’t. He was an honest servant of a Kingdom still alive in maps and memories. Her Kingdom. But a servant he was and he raised his hands, clasping the sword between as though in prayer.


Rite of Awakening: Chapter 7 Part 1

Hey all!
Thanks for your comments on the past fragment. I'm glad I made the right choices to put just the right amount of description there. You're all great! Here's the next section. I hope you'll enjoy it!


“So…” Sefiren spoke while lying at the edge of one of Elyrdir’s deep lakes, his gaze fixed on the Melcryl Cathedral, faintly visible from their position. To unleash Sylenvia’s wrath. What had his father meant by that? He thought to tell Sivrial about it, but he wouldn’t; he couldn’t. “Um… it’s a really nice day, don’t you think?”

“It sure is,” she replied. Another moment of silence followed.

“And… you know…” Damn! Say something, anything, he told himself as he turned to look at the princess. To his amazement, Sivrial was also looking at him, and their gazes met. They did nothing but stare at each other. It was until a soft breeze blew across Sivrial’s hair that Sefiren turned to look at the cathedral once again. She gently laughed. “Wha-What’s so funny?” asked Sefiren as his face turned to a bright shade of red.

“Look at you. You’re blushed. You haven’t changed a bit.”

“I-I... no, I have. I’m stronger... and...”

            “I’m not talking about that. You’re still that cute shy boy I remember from ten years ago.” She looked at the city. “You know, I’ve missed Asaia-Laégel.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s so different to Aldi’theliga. Life here feels… real. Don’t take me wrong, I love my home. It’s just…” she paused for a moment. “I’ve never been able to be entirely myself within its walls.”

Sefiren felt very word. That had been his life as well; always following commands and living a feigned reality. It was comforting to see he wasn’t the only one, but frustrating at the same time. Life shouldn’t be this way.

“Sivrial, do you really want to become queen?” Sefiren asked.

The princess stared at the blue sky; her eyes challenging its beauty. “Hmmm, I haven’t really thought about it.” She paused for a brief moment. “I suppose so,” she answered with a sigh. “I really can’t say. I rarely left the palace, so I know almost nothing beyond its walls. My tutor, he practically raised me to become queen; taught me all there is to know about politics and religion. I suppose I have never considered taking any other road.” She turned around, her gaze meeting Sefiren’s. “And what about you? Would you be willing to take you father’s place as the Emperor?”

“I don’t think I could handle it.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Emperor embodies his nation, so he has to be strong, courageous, determined, and charismatic. He holds the world together and must make decisions that will change the lives of thousands without doubt or fear, to stand firm, unwavering in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s too much responsibility; too many expectations to fulfil.” 

“But look at your father.”

“I don’t have my father’s strength of will and I don’t think I ever shall,” he harshly replied.

The Princess giggled. “I still think you would make a great Emperor.”

Sefiren shook his head. “I want to live a normal and quiet life, doing whatever I wish to do, away from this life. Wouldn’t you like that too? To live to the fullest?”

The sparkle of a dream illuminated her face, extinguishing shortly afterwards. “That sounds nice, but we can’t. We can’t flee from our responsibilities.”

“And where does that leave you? Isn’t there something you’ve always wanted to do or a place you’ve always wanted to visit?”

“The Moonlight Fields to the north,” she confessed with a smile. “I’ve always wanted to see the blossoming at midnight.”

“Then let’s go,” he swallowed hard, “together. I-I mean... I’ll take you... If you want it, of course.”

“Do you promise it?”

“Yes,” he answered from the depths of his being.

Not a word was uttered after that. They simply stared into each other’s eyes.

Sivrial smiled and took off her necklace. “Open your hand.” Sefiren obliged. She placed the necklace on his hand. Sefiren looked at the object in confusion. “I’m giving it to you. I’ve had it since birth; a family heirloom as I understand it,” said Sivrial as Sefiren examined the necklace. It was of white gold with a beautiful sapphire suspended in between several entwining curves and a pair of wings emerging from its sides. “I’m giving it to you so you always remember me. So you never forget your promise to take me to the Moonlight.” Sefiren looked at Sivrial’s face. To him, she had a smile second in grace and beauty to none. “Consider it your lucky charm.”

“But this belongs to your family. It’s important to them.”

            “Don’t worry,” she said with a smile across her face. “If that bothers you, be sure to return it to me after you’ve fulfilled your promise.”

Without noticing it, their faces moved closer and closer, being separated by a couple inches. Their mouths came even closer.

“Your Highnesses, there you are!” The two of them quickly got away from each other. The soldier stopped to catch his breath. His face was colourless. Sefiren helped Sivrial to get on her feet. “Your Highnesses, His Imperial Majesty has ordered me to escort you back to the palace.”

“Why?” Sefiren asked. “Is something wrong?”

The soldier dropped his gaze. “Please, follow me. The Emperor is waiting.”