Critique - The Bok'Tarong Part 18

Hi!
Well, I'm aware I say this a lot, but reading it one more time can't harm: I LOVE your dialogues. Really, great job. Then again, this is the moment we've all been waiting for: the two paths finally meet. You have paved the way for, at least, a good piece of action, and it's stopped all too soon. Besides the issue with time managment that I mention below, I think maybe you could expand on this section by adding a bit of a fight here, both physical and mental (The earlier regarding Raeb/Dragana and the latter, Aeo/Dragana) to fully exploit the tension you've wonderfully built up to this point.

Dragana’s excitement was so strong Aeo could barely sense anything besides it. He still wasn’t sure exactly why they were after this man, or what he’d done to earn such animosity from Dragana, but this was obviously momentous for her. He caught hints of her thoughts punching through the emotions, and they all revolved around “the catch of a lifetime” and “finally” and imaginings of the sweet vengeance the Taronese would receive upon this man’s death.

They’d found the camp with a very small amount of effort. It had been abandoned only minutes before, and the footprints leading away from it were deep and clear. (Thus far, I’m having some trouble following the story with regards to time/space. Since we’ve been switching back and forth between the two groups, I’d strongly suggest adding a sense of time would immensely help in giving us a strong anchor point. Especially now that Dragana is ‘chasing’ after Raeb, so we can try to match both stories time-wise)

It didn’t make sense to Aeo. For someone who’d been hunted by the Taronese for so long – he didn’t know how long, but Dragana’s thoughts hinted at lifetimes – this was an incredibly sloppy retreat. Someone with no experience in tracking whatsoever could follow this trail. The man would have almost had to leave these evidences on purpose for the signs to be this clear. (Nice!)

He tried to tell these things to Dragana, but she wasn’t listening. Her emotions and bloodlust were so high that he couldn’t get through to her. She ran after the footprints recklessly, foolishly, in her haste to reach the man. (How long have they been on the chase?)

He’d hear her and run, Aeo thought. A rampaging elephant would be more subtle than she was right now. The man would have no trouble avoiding her and slipping away.

But Aeo wasn’t convinced that whoever left this trail wanted to get away.

Dragana crashed through the trees and entered a small clearing. A man stood on the other side as if he’d been expecting them.

Because he had been expecting them. He’d set up this entire scenario like a trap for Dragana and the Bok’Tarong. Aeo had no doubt of that.

He looked at the man, a faint tickle of recognition nagging at him. It took him a few seconds to place him, and when he did he chuckled slightly. That’s the man who hired me to kill the last bearer. He’s the one who led me to the Bok’Tarong.

He imparted these thoughts to Dragana, but she still didn’t hear him. Her heart was pounding and the hand that held Aeo was shaking. (Out of fear or excitement?)Her fingers gripped his hilt tightly. Her eyes were glued to the man.

Aeo knew he’d seen them, but he made no move to run. He just stared at Dragana as if he’d always known this day would come. There was peace in his strange, Hntaña eyes. (Again, solving the time issue would help here a lot. We know from the previous section that Raeb has made his mind regarding the Bok’Tarong, however, he seems awfully calm for someone who’s been ‘avoiding his fate’ for so long, unless he’s had the time to assimilate things proper.)

Dragana raised the blades, leveling the points at the man’s chest. Her emotions were clouded with incredulity – Aeo knew that she truly didn’t believe she was actually here, facing his man, with him apparently unwilling to defend himself. “Traitor,” she hissed.

“If that’s what you choose to believe,” the man replied. “It wasn’t my fault that the Hntaña attacked me. Do you think I would have chosen this existence? I would have gladly given my life for the Bok’Tarong.”

“You were never worthy to wield it,” Dragana said.

What are they saying? Aeo thought. Had he really been a Taronese warrior-in-training? (Perhaps it’s just me, but I’d like this brief dialogue to extend for another pair of lines or two, just to get to know more about Raeb’s past and, perhaps, his motives.)

He turned his spirit-eyes back to the man. He looked beyond the physical and saw the tendrils of the Hntaña snaking through his head, more than he’d ever seen in a single person before. He thought it was more than he’d even seen in ten peoples’ heads.

But through all of that, the light of his soul still burned clean and clear.

Something wasn’t right. Aeo could feel it. (I’d suggest rewriting this in the form of Aeo’s speech. Something like ‘Something’s not right’, which I believe would increase the impact.)

The Hntaña were unmistakably evil. They corrupted everything they touched, and their victims were lost as soon as they were infected. Aeo pitied the -taken but he could see that their souls were beyond redemption. He longed to kill the Hntaña and put the people out of their misery.

But Aeo didn’t feel that about this man. He was clearly -taken. Only an idiot could miss that. But he certainly wasn’t evil. (Hmm… very interesting)

Dragana pulled back to strike, but a female voice cried out, “Wait!”

Aeo saw a young woman – no more than a girl, really – run to them and place herself between the man and Aeo’s blades. She too had the tendrils of the Hntaña, though they were fewer and far smaller.

Dragana stopped her thrust, but barely. Anger simmered in her red-streaked eyes. Her voice was deadly calm. “Step aside, girl. This is not your business.”

Aeo took another look at her. She was -taken also, but Dragana hadn’t recognized that about her. How did she miss it? (Instead of the question, how about rephrasing it to sound like her bloodlust/anger was blinding her to even the most evident of facts?)

“No,” the girl replied. “He isn’t what he appears to be.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, girl. You’re in over your head.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re willing to kill him without question when he’s the only one who can help you!”

Listen to her, Aeo whispered to Dragana. I think she’s telling the truth. (I’m wondering both why does he suspect that and why.)

“I don’t need any help, especially from a traitorous -taken.” She pushed past the girl and prepared to strike at the man, who hadn’t moved during this exchange.

Aeo couldn’t let Dragana do this. There was more going on here than she saw – than either of them likely saw. She drew her elbow back, tensing her muscles, settling her weight. She took a breath, preparing to strike on the exhale, when Aeo set the force of his spirit against her strike. He held the blade steady as she pushed, and no matter how badly she wanted to stab this man, Aeo wouldn’t allow it. The Bok’Tarong was not moving. (Wow… very nice giving Aeo a degree of control over the sword! However, I’d say this fragment would flow better with the rest of the scene if this turned into a battle of wills. Right now, it sounded too easy for Aeo to restrain the blade, while I would prefer to see him strained, having to fight against Dragana’s immense desire to kill Raeb.)

Dragana tried again, with no better result. She strained against the blades, her anger turning to rage as she was restrained. “Let the blades go and let me kill him!”

This is a mistake, Dragana, Aeo said. He tried to be gentle but forceful in his tone, hoping it might break through her anger.

“I’m going to kill him, whether you say it’s a good idea or not! You don’t understand what he’s done or how long we’ve been searching for him. He will die, no matter what you do. Now let go!”

She was screaming at him and wishing very bad things to happen to him for denying her. Aeo knew he wouldn’t get through without matching her ire, so he did his best to scream right back at her. Damn it, Dragana, listen to me! I didn’t argue when you left the -taken breeders to chase after this guy. I trusted you when you said this was more important. Trust me now when I say don’t kill him.

“You don’t understand,” she said. She wasn’t screaming anymore, but there was more than enough venom for the words to sting.

You’re right, I don’t understand the past that made this man so hated. But I do understand the present, and what’s right in front of us now. Whatever this man did, it hasn’t tarnished his spirit. His soul is free from the Hntaña. He must have a reason to bring you here (I’d say ‘lured’ would fit better.) and to stand before you, with my blades pointed at his heart, and not run or plead for his life. A hunted man who does that either wishes to die or has a plan, and I don’t think this guy is ready to give up on life just yet.

When Dragana didn’t reply, Aeo continued. Just give him a chance, Dragana. See what he has to say. If you still don’t believe him after he’s said his peace, then we can talk about killing him.

Dragana gripped the Bok’Tarong so tightly that Aeo gasped. Her teeth clenched and he felt her simmering rage, but she lowered the blades. “Explain yourselves, but make it quick.”

The man placed his hand on the girl’s shoulder, gently pushing her aside from where she still stood guard. “My name is Raeb,” he said.

“I know who you are,” Dragana replied. “You are a traitor to the Taronese and a servant of the Hntaña.”

“I was enslaved by them, but my mind remains my own. The Hntaña do not control my thoughts or my actions.”

“How can I believe that? An Hntaña would say the same thing so that I would drop my guard.”

You can believe it because I say it’s true also, Aeo said.

The man – Raeb – seemed to understand that Dragana was speaking to the blades, because he didn’t interrupt.

Dragana thought for a moment, then nodded. “Okay. I don’t know how you’ve managed that, but I’ll suspend my disbelief for a little bit.”

Raeb smiled and nodded his thanks. Aeo thought he sensed a great flood of relief from him.

“So what does a free-minded Hntaña-taken want with the Bok’Tarong?”

The girl spoke before Raeb could explain. “He means to destroy the Hntaña. We both do.”

That made Aeo pause. He felt Dragana’s thoughts whirl and ask for advice, but he didn’t have any to give. He was as confused as she was.

Raeb nodded. “If you would agree to a truce, I will explain our plan over dinner.” (I feel this sentence breaks the tension you’ve managed to build.)

Aeo felt Dragana’s hesitation, but he nudged her to agree. “All right. But if I suspect this is a trap, I will kill you both.”

“Agreed.”

Critique - Soulsong Ch4 Pt 4 & Ch5 Pt1

Hey there!

Alright, the second section seems sound to me, then again I'll need to wait and read ahead to be able to really comment on it. The first section, however, while beautifully written, didn't seem to advance the plot at all. We get some nice insights into the characters for sure, but I feel that could be done in anothe rway (I've added some suggestions below) while keeping us immersed into the world/story. Also, while I don't specify it, I think the first paragraph could use some help from Jane's POV. The place seems wonderful, and I think you could enhance the beginning by delving deeper inside Jane's thoughts. :)


Gale led the way through the passageways and, as they rounded a corner, Jane froze in wonder as she took in the sight before her.  The passage opened up into an immense cavern.  There were outdoor lamps filled with ember stones set every few yards along crisscrossing paths to illuminate the vast space.  To help further the sense of the outdoors, there were hundreds of individual ember stones set into the ceiling giving the effect of stars shining in the distance.  It rendered a truly romantic effect to what otherwise would have been a very gloomy place.  A large area had been devoted to an amphitheater that could seat several hundred people.  However, the most astonishing of all were the shop fronts lining one side of the cavern.  The space was vast.  If Jane had to guess, the grand cavern, with the dining area and shops on one end, the central plaza in the middle, and the amphitheater on the far end, took up two football fields in length and could hold a three story building easily.  There was a massive support pillar in the center of the cavern that housed a clock and bells, which at the moment was sounding the hour.

 The largest establishment, located near the shops, was also the most crowded with people.   It was the main dining area of the guild, and standing in the middle of it, waving his hand wildly, was Tuner.  Jane recognized his untamed hair and tall, thin form immediately.  She chuckled to herself as the image of a scarecrow came to mind.  He stood transfixed as they approached.  His only image of her, she realized, had been of a dirty, disheveled person wearing strange clothing.  She barely resembled the Jane of yesterday. (How could he barely recognise her yet wave at her first?)  

“You are undoubtedly the most beautiful young lady in attendance,” Tuner said.  Jane smiled and looked at the floor.  She didn’t believe it but it was nice of him to say. 

 “Have you eaten?” Gale asked.  “Jane and I are starving.”

“No, I’ve been waiting for you.  Let’s go see what Fiona has for us today,” and he took both young ladies in either arm.

They found a table to set down their trays of porridge and fresh fruit, and Tuner dug into his right away.  Jane noticed he also had a hunk of bread and a wedge of cheese.  She shook her head.  Where does he put it all? She spooned a dollop of honey into her porridge and took a bite.  There was more in the porridge than just oats and Jane inspected her breakfast closely to see if she could identify the various kinds of grains it contained.

“Did you find a fly in yours?” Tuner asked, watching her scrutinize the contents of her bowl. 

She grinned.  “No.  How’s your breakfast?”  He could only nod his approval as he had just taken a big bite.  “So, tell me about yourselves.  How did you come to be here?  Are you orphans? Tuner, you said most of the students here were orphans.  Tuner glanced at Gale before he nodded. (There’s something troubling me about this bit of dialogue. I would think being an orphan should be addressed with a bit more sensitivity. Right now it sounds a bit rash; it reads something like “oh hey, you’re all orphans huh?” Especially for a proper introduction to the guild members.)

“Yes, I am.  My mother died when I was very small.  My father raised me and my older brother until he died of the cholera.  My brother, who is eight years my senior, looked after me until Master Troubere discovered me fiddling at a country dance.  My brother was sad to see me go but knew I would be better off.”

“Why was he not brought here with you?”

“He is not musical.  Besides, he had found a girl and was courting her.  They were married not long after.  They come to see me from time to time.”

“Has your life been difficult for you?” Jane asked, unable to fathom losing parents at such a young age.

“No.  I at least had a loving family to warm my memories.  Many of the students here never even knew their parents.”

“And you Gale?  Are you orphaned?”  Gale looked down at her bowl of porridge.  “Oh, I am sorry,” Jane said quickly.  “I didn’t mean to pry–”     (Up until here I had thought it was Gale talking about her past. Adding a tag or two would help clarify that. Also, Jane approaches the same issue with much more emotion and delicacy here than before; which is nice but sounds contradictory –until the previous part is fixed that is :P)

“Yes, I am an orphan,” Gale interrupted.  “My parents died in a fire.  Mistress Quaverly heard me playing the recorder in the streets.  She thought I had musical ability so now I am here.”  Gale’s tone was brusque, and Jane felt embarrassed at her insensitivity.

“Oh, I nearly forgot” Tuner said, pushing away his empty bowl.  “Master Troubere has asked to see you Jane.  He said to come when you finished eating.” 

“Finally.  I really want to talk to him too,” she said.  “I have a few questions for him.”  Mainly, how was she going to get home? 

(Ok… As always, I loved your description of the place. It was vivid, magical… in a word: excellent. However, I’m not sure what this fragment’s purpose is, other than letting the reader know more about Troubere and Gale’s past. I’d suggest cutting that dialogue a bit and, maybe, you could focus on what makes someone ‘musical’? Or have Jane ask about the school itself; her fellow students and teachers, what is expected from her. Anything to advance the plot a bit, through which you could also develop the characters.)

Chapter 5

Tambour’s Vision

Not knowing her way around yet Jane relied on Tuner to lead her to the main house where all the teachers’ offices were located. He led her back through the kitchen where they passed Fiona, who gave Jane her hearty approval of the new clothing.  Jane flashed an embarrassed grin as she and Tuner continued through the house.  After many twists and turns they came to a long hallway with four doors on each side, and from one of the doors, a thin, petite woman stepped out.

“Good morning Mistress,” Tuner said with a small bow.  Jane saw this and quickly bowed as well.  She really needed to ask Gale later about all the bowing.

“Oh, good morning to you, Mr. Tuner,” the woman replied brightly.  “And who might this be?” she asked, smiling at Jane.

“This is my new friend Miss Jane Picardy,” he answered.  “Jane, Mistress Quaverly, the strings instructor at our guild.” 

“Hello.”

“At last,” she said, peering intently at Jane.  “I am very pleased to finally meet you.” 

Jane frowned.  Why is she so glad I’m here?  “Why?  What is it you all seem to know that I don’t?” 

Mistress Quaverly looked at Jane a moment, warmth in her eyes.  “Only that you are needed my dear.”

“For what?”   

“It is Master Troubere’s wish that you hear it from him.” 

Jane was frustrated, but she kept it hidden.  Well, I’m about to meet with him anyway.  Guess I’ll know soon enough.  

“Welcome Jane.  I hope you are able to make yourself comfortable here with us.”  She bowed then Jane and Tuner watched her tiny footsteps take her briskly away.  Jane heaved a sigh and motioned for Tuner to lead on.  They knocked at the first door on the left. 

“Enter.”

Rite of Awakening: Chapter 6 Part 1


Hey all!

I’m terribly sorry I’m posting the redlines at this time. I had exams week and was busy studying/drinking coffee and it seems the critiques slipped my mind completely. I remembered about them earlier today, after finally waking up. Better late than never, so here they are. Also, thank you for the redline on my fragment :)


Death. Once again the thought had taken a hold over Marasia´s thoughts. It was like a knife tearing at the fabric of her quietude, preventing her from thinking clearly. She could not explain it. A growing sense of dread and danger. The question once again nested in her mind as a chill ran down her spine. Whose?

Marasia walked down the empty streets in the creeping darkness. Empty and dead, as if some foul creature had snatched its heart away. It made her feel on edge to walk within the cold shadow that veiled Sethides amidst its unnatural sleep, but this was her only chance to meet with Ducrat alone, without Prince Nansa and his bodyguard.  How can we trust him when he’s willing to slay his mother and take her place?

They had been planning for days now, always meeting at the crumbling shack that had once been The Blazing Forge. However, she was still unsure about taking action. A wrong move and Gamalarn’s soldiers would march against the Empire. A wrong move and she would fail her uncle. 

She stopped to look back; a black corridor stretched behind her, making it impossible to see anything beyond a couple of metres. For a moment, she felt like a defenceless child wandering lost in the dark. Although she could not tell why, Marasia despised places devoid of light; but whenever she tried to remember the reason, she winded-up in an alley full of questions and lacking in answers. There was a shroud in her memories as deep and unsettling as the one crawling across the Gamar capital.

Now is not the time, she told herself. There was a more pressing matter than her past. Ducrat held the Emperor’s trust, perhaps even to a higher extent than Marasia did. It could not be a coincidence that both had been sent to the city at the same time. Her uncle had taught her never to believe in coincidences. Fate will play us all puppets if we willingly permit it, he constantly told her.

It didn’t take long for her to reach her destination in the outer section of the city. Marasia took a few steps inside. Due to the poor visibility, she could not distinguish any forms in the darkness.

“Ducrat,” she called and the name echoed throughout the building. There was no reply.  “Are you there?”

“I’m afraid he’s not.”

Rapidly, Marasia extended her left hand, now holding a golden orb of light strong enough to pierce the blinding curtain in front of her. A man in crimson armour stood straight across the room.

“The Knight,” she said. Her heart pulsed, but she kept her voice under control. “Where is Ducrat?”

“Most likely on his way here.” He approached Marasia slowly.

“Do not take one more step.” Marasia took her right hand to the sword’s hilt on her waist; swiftly unsheathing her weapon.

“You would do best leaving that fiery temper to these Gamar brutes. That’s a conduct suitable for blood-lusting dogs.”

“Strange way of referring to the people of Gamalarn, as if you weren’t one of them.” The Knight resumed his approach towards her. “Back down!” She yelled, extending her blade-arm as far as she could. Marasia noticed his armour was stained with blood. Fresh blood.

“I know of your strength, Seraf-Magister. Power and skill on par with the Laégelian Empress they say. However...” The Knight disappeared from her view. “... I wasn’t fooling when I claimed you had no power here.” The orb of light withered in her hand. “This city has been swallowed by shadows; the shadows I command.” The Knight materialised behind her, forcing Marasia to retreat while aiming her sword’s tip at him once again. “The spark has been lit. It will soon begin. You are powerless to stop me here.”

“Do not underestimate me.”

“It has already been done,” he affirmed, extending his left-hand glove towards her. Droplets of blood ran down his hand. “These drops will soon turn into rivers. It is inevitable.”

Marasia ran her fingers across the length of her blade. The runes inscribed in the metal began to shine with an ethereal red glow, defying the darkness around her. It soon resembled a sword crafted out of fire and lightning.

“You insist on fighting?”

“Fate will play us all puppets if we willingly permit it.”

“Curious words, coming from the Emperor’s own marionette.”

“He is like my father.”

“I wonder if he thinks the same of you.”

“He does,” Marasia instantly replied.

 “Have it your way then.” He snapped his fingers and the building’s walls were set aflame.

Marasia swung her weapon a couple of times. Bursts of fire, lightning, and wind came out with every swipe, but the Knight managed to block them with ease.  A cracking noise ripped through the room as the ceiling began to crumble under Marasia’s relentless assault.

“Your Excellency!” Ducrat yelled, breaking through the remains of the wooden door. The general rushed to Marasia’s side, weapon at the ready. “Your Excellency, you must leave this place. Return to the capital.”

“What? Why?”

“There’s no time, you must hurry. I shall deal with the Knight.”

Impossible. The Knight was no ordinary opponent. “You can’t beat him.” He will kill you, she had meant to say.

“Trust me, Your Excellency. I, too, have a task to fulfil to the Emperor. Until then, be assured I shall remain alive and well.”

Marasia hesitantly nodded. “Thank you, Ducrat.” Goodbye. The word raced through her mind before vanishing in a shimmer of red light. There was a deep feeling she would never see him again.

The Gamar palace was no less agitated. Instead of the usual cheering, singing, and fighting, there were bur cries of frustration and anger. They were running wildly from one side to the other, rushing as if a volley of arrows already rained down upon them.

Then she heard it and understood the haste in Ducrat’s voice.

“Revenge!” they roared in unison. “The King has been murdered. Death to Sylenvia!”

Critique - Sacrificial Kingdom: Words 18018 - 19336

Hey all!

I’m terribly sorry I’m posting the redlines at this time. I had exams week and was busy studying/drinking coffee and it seems the critiques slipped my mind completely. I remembered about them earlier today, after finally waking up. Better late than never, so here they are. Also, thank you for the redline on my fragment :)


The War room was dark. Fossnor took a moment to light the torches, using the hot coals hidden in an ornate container filled with sand. Dawn was halfway to noon outside, but no natural light made it down to the bowels of the Keep. Fully lit and blazing merrily, the torches gave a good approximation of daylight.

Fossnor approached the circular map and leaned his fists on the edge. Who had taken the sword, and why? The circular Kingdom of Kavernath lay before him, a halo of land around the huge blue mass of Brightwater Lake. The river Kaver linked the lake to the sea hundreds of miles south. Fossnor stood where the river left the map, counting off Kavernath’s neighbours from his left hand: Talberk, Gelderon, Mau’Nir, Mathir and finally Mekbarim, pressed beneath his right fist. Six clear suspects. His thoughts churned, stirring gently like fetid swamp water with something lurking beneath.

Where would a thief flee? Mathir wouldn’t, couldn’t, be to blame; their goal ended with the liberation of the Sword. Amu’nir, also, had little to profit as the treaty gave them ownership, at least until after any attack from the North.

Follow the motive - Who would benefit? The treaty gave the land to Gelderon and the refugees to Talberk, excellent prizes in their own right. Desides, he couldn’t believe either would refrain from gloating to the other the moment the Sword was secured. It only took one slip on a lake of bad blood. (Ok… I think having a tiny bit of backstory knowledge here would help, since we can only read/interpret Fossnor’s thoughts so much. For example, you could explain the treaty briefly, so we could try to understand more about the other kingdoms’ motives/current situations)

That left Mekbarim. If they already had the Sword, their late arriving to the siege, a token effort at fulfilling their part of a treaty promising them Kavernath’s wealth, would seem suspicious. But not even the fractious, splintered Mekbari would try deceit on such a pathetic level. They would have arrived first or not at all.

Fossnor ground his teeth. That left one of the Kingdoms in the east. And they had shown little interest in the Sword. Did any of them even have the resources to slip an agent of Mathiri descent, into the Rectory over a decade ago? Unlikely.

Answers always existed, he just didn’t have any of them. Not even an inkling. (I love the mystery surrounding the Sword’s disappearance, but I don’t feel myself on solid ground to venture a guess as to what’s happened to it.)

Trotek emerged from the murk of the King’s office and stood across the map from Fossnor, though he didn’t see it. His attention instead was on the same puzzle Fossnor had unearthed when he killed the man four hours ago.

“You read it all?” Fossnor asked and Trotek nodded once, blond hair barely moving. “You noticed the irregularities?” The Visioner rose from his fog of thought, regarding Fossnor.

“Excuse my impertinence, Captain. But I myself, a scholar and student of all Therusamora’s prophecies regardless of their Kingdom of origin, barely noticed it. I didn’t realise ancient scripture was a hobby of yours?” No sarcasm, just curiosity. Fossnor allowed himself a dry smile. (I think you could help us in clarifying the prophesies a bit more. I’m inclined to think the differences are subtle yet vital, otherwise everyone would have the same version; in which case, I’d expect Trotek to have noticed them if the differences do make an important change in how each of the prophesies can be interpreted.)

“It isn’t. Or at least wasn’t until yesterday. I’d only known one prophecy: Mathir’s. I knew the general gist of the other five; it’s difficult not to acquire these things in my position. But after the last few days, and at a recommendation from the….a friend, I sat down and studied Kavernath’s in detail. I don’t know what I thought I would find, but I read it anyway.”

“The differences between the six main versions are subtle.” Trotek said, as though consoling Fossnor. He comforts me for gaining knowledge. Is that how he sees himself: a man leading the Rectory and both weighted by a great burden of facts? “But that is precisely why such great attention is paid to them. Two tracts, utterly different, possess no mystery, only argument. But should something be changed…ah! The question becomes: Why? Why would someone alter a text instead of copying or dismissing the original? What did they believe? What knowledge had they unearthed to prompt an alteration? Faith is about deliberate acts, Captain. It puts no stock in chance.”

“So you think the text in there,” he pointed past Trotek to the office, “should be ignored?”

“Not at all, Captain, but normally such deviations are a statement: ‘My beliefs have changed’. Here appears to be a choice in semantics, making no change to the meaning. The variations -”

“Just so happen to be exactly which our lifeless friend was trying to erase?” Fossnor snapped. “I struggle to believe some scrupulous Rectory scribe, noticing the discrepancy in the language, decided to correct it. In the middle of a foreign Kingdom. During the search for the single most important artefact in the Southern Kingdoms. I feel slightly guilty for defending myself, now. Such diligence ought to be commended, not met with a blade to the throat.” Trotek watched him, eyes cool.

“No need for such sarcasm, Captain. I was merely about to state that such variations does not mean the recognised Kavernathi prophecy is false.”

“The King of Kavernath disagreed with you. He hung that one behind his desk in his War Room’s office. There are few seats in this Keep, in the entire of Kavernath, where the King would ponder weightier issues.”

“Do not think I take this lightly, Captain. I am simply accepting no conclusion.” Trotek said and Fossnor opened his mouth to reply. But the Visioner was correct, of course. He should take his time. The Sword may yet be found. Each passing minute made it less likely, but it was still possible.

“A wise stance.” Fossnor said. His sleepless night dabbled muddy fingers through his brain, swirling his thoughts. He should try and get a little rest. “Find out what you can about this man, Visioner. Even if it’s only how long he’s been in the Rectory. It might coincide with some event or other.” Trotek bowed.

“Of course, Captain.”

“Meanwhile, instruct the Rectory to have full drafts of each prophecy brought here, to the war room. I’m going to go through each word for word and see what this new version might suggest.” (New version? Until now I’d thought it was a known version he’d altered. Also, I’d expect Trotek, being the scholar versed in the prophesies, to demand to see them all instead of Fossnor, or at least object to whatever interpretation Fossnor could think of.)

“Will you need my presence?” Trotek asked. He considered refusing to minimise any external influence, but the Rectory knew lore the way Fossnor new the battlefield. He nodded his assent. “Then I shall begin at once.” Trotek moved to the door, tall and languid.

“Oh Visioner,” he said, over his shoulder, “As soon as you see anyone in Mathir uniform, have them summon Kelumi immediately.”

“Yes, Captain.” Trotek’s footsteps paused for a moment. “A wise move to post guards at the office. Where there is one infiltrator, there may always be others. Wolves rarely hunt alone.” And Trotek was gone.

Fossnor stood there for a moment, bristling at the compliment. Foolishness, he thought, tiredness is making me overly irritable. He pushed Trotek from his thoughts and turned back to the map. Six Kingdoms, each coveting the Sword, each satisfied had it remained where it had for the last few centuries.

He wanted a solution, any solution, but nothing was forthcoming. Instead he returned to Maher’s office, ignoring the dead man stiffening on the stones. The air was fouling, and the guttering torches weren’t helping, but Kelumi would be here soon to clean up while Fossnor slept, if he could. But until then...

The desk creaked under his weight, feet covering the dirty footprints already on the chair. He resumed his study of the prophecy. Specifically, the passage of text someone decided vital enough to destroy.

..................will come. For their own ends, they will come. In the shadow of the darkening North, the Sacrificial Kingdom beneath the blade, the Sword of Theru will be placed in Therusamora’s blessed hand for protection. A Kingdom must die ignorant of Therusamora’s valour.

(Is the full prophesy too long? Depending on what you intend to do with the different versions; maybe having it worded in its entirety would help us in the future.)

The differences were there, clear if one either knew the text by rote, such as Trotek, or had studied it a few hours prior, like himself. Three words included: ‘will be placed’. But what did it mean? And what did it have to do with his own, failed prophecy.

Fossnor sat and he thought and he wondered.

Critique - The Bok'Tarong Part 17

Hey all!

I’m terribly sorry I’m posting the redlines at this time. I had exams week and was busy studying/drinking coffee and it seems the critiques slipped my mind completely. I remembered about them earlier today, after finally waking up. Better late than never, so here they are. Also, thank you for the redline on my fragment :)


“Raeb,” Saydee said, “I thought you wanted to find the Bok’Tarong.”

“I do,” he replied.

“Then why are we going south when the frontlines are in the west?”

Raeb cringed.

“I’m not stupid, Raeb. I recognize stalling when I see it. Why are you avoiding this?”

“I don’t want to get myself killed.”

She hadn’t bothered with her glamour, and she gazed at him with Hntaña eyes. “It’s more than that, isn’t it? There’s some other reason why you don’t want to face the Bok’Tarong.”

Raeb growled and stepped around her. He didn’t look back as he continued walking.

He stomped along the path. She was right, of course. He was stalling. There were more reasons for him not wanting to face the Bok’Tarong than she could imagine. Sometimes it seemed like his entire life revolved around that damn blade. It had always been a curse on his life. And now she expected him to waltz straight into the danger – which she only understood a tiny bit of – with some sort of bravado? Well, she wasn’t gonna get that. Not from him. (Might be my mind’s a bit foggy here, but wasn’t their plan to het the Bok’Tarong to get rid of the Hntaña? I remember Raeb being somewhat determined to get it, so having him stall does make it seem contradictory. On the other hand, it does reveal a nice bunch about Raeb’s character.)

He turned to say some of this to her when he froze mid-step. Saydee hadn’t been following him. She still stood in the road, trembling and sweating. Raeb raced back to her just as her eyes widened and she stopped breathing entirely. Then she crumpled to the ground.

The Hntaña were attacking.

Raeb knelt by her side and grasped her hand. “Saydee!”

Her chestnut hair grew dark as it was drenched in sweat. “They’re coming,” she whispered.

Fear clenched at Raeb’s heart. “You have to hide.” (Maybe you could clarify what he’s afraid of, since we know he has some sort of ‘dealings’ with the Hntaña along with his personal agenda, this feels a bit loose. Why does he suddenly react like this?)

The haunted woman was hyperventilating. She thrashed as if fending off invisible enemies.

“Run, Saydee!”

Her eyes darted back and forth behind her eyelids. Her expression was twisted with panic and genuine terror. Several minutes passed as her mind searched for a place to hide from the Hntaña.

Suddenly, her breathing returned to normal. He didn’t know if she had escaped or if the Hntaña had caught her. All Raeb could do was wait.

He reached his fingers toward her eyelids, but changed his mind. He didn’t want to know if Saydee had full Hntaña eyes. (This bit here seems to move too fast. I hadn’t fully assimilated the assault when it was over, and I didn’t get much information from it. How do they attack? Why Saydee and not Raeb too? You could slow down the pace and explain a bit more about the Hntaña here, which would work wonders.)

Night fell, and Raeb still waited. Saydee lay next to him, her sleep only occasionally interrupted by nightmares. Raeb’s Hntaña eyes stared at the small fire he’d built, but his mind was far, far away.(I like that you keep reminding us about the eyes, but I don’t know what they look like)

Saydee stirred next to him, and he placed his hand on her shoulder. She immediately calmed.

He watched the young woman for many minutes. He knew that she’d figured out his delays were not legitimate. He was stalling, and they both knew it.

What surprised him was that he’d found himself stalling for yet another reason. No, he did not want to face the Bok’Tarong. But when it came down to it, he would if it meant he might win his freedom. (Seems weird he’d wait until the night to take a moment to analyse things. You could say he spent time building a camp or scouting the surroundings to make sure it’s safe, which would also give more detail to the scene itself and justify why he has this moment of introspection at night.)

He looked down at Saydee. He was stalling for his sake, but he realized that he’d also been stalling for hers. She’d placed her life in his hands, and chasing after the Bok’Tarong was a good way to ensure the trust that showed was misplaced. She was far too young to face death at the hands of the sacred warrior. Raeb couldn’t risk having her death on his conscience. If he dug deeply enough, he was still wounded from failing his last partner. He couldn’t handle being responsible for another death. (While this paragraph does give some nice, easy-to-follow backstory, Raeb has lived for too long. One could think that he’d somehow find a way to, at least, ignore those feelings of loss and regret after all the things he must have been put through in the past. Also, it seems they’re getting close to one another, but I don’t believe Raeb has been given a real motive to start caring for Saydee –considering he didn’t even want her with him in the first place. What makes her so special in Raeb’s eyes?)

It was a good reason. That was his justification. He couldn’t put her life at risk. Even though she’d come with him willingly, knowing the danger, he had to protect her. It was for her sake.

He told himself that, but he knew it was just another reason for him to avoid the Bok’Tarong.

Saydee woke from the nightmare with a gasp, shivering and drenched in sweat. Tears streamed from her part-Hntaña, part human eyes. Raeb wasted no time in wrapping her in a blanket and then his arms. She bundled into both gratefully and wept.

She felt so small in his arms. She was so young.

Raeb understood. She wasn’t safe anywhere. Her life was already at risk without confronting the Bok’Tarong.

He might not have anything to lose in death, but she and countless others did. He couldn’t just think of himself anymore.

“This has to end,” he whispered. “No more stalling. We have to let the Bok’Tarong find us.”

Critique - Soulsong Ch4 Pt 3

Hey all!

I’m terribly sorry I’m posting the redlines at this time. I had exams week and was busy studying/drinking coffee and it seems the critiques slipped my mind completely. I remembered about them earlier today, after finally waking up. Better late than never, so here they are. Also, thank you for the redline on my fragment :)

Before she could gather her wits to ask who it was, the door opened to reveal Fiona, with Gale close behind.

“Jane me girl, yer up.  Very good.”  Fiona burst into the room and filled the place with her exuberance.  “We’ve ‘ad quite a time of keepin’ the rest of the students at bay.  They’re anxious to meet yeh and get a good look at yeh.”  She pointed at the tray of uneaten food sitting on the desk.  “What, you don’t like shepherds pie?  There’s no other in this guildhall that’ll pass up me famous shepherds pie.”

            “Well, I–” Jane was completely mowed over by the sudden influx of energy and could hardly get a word in. 

            “I s’pose there’s nothin’ for it.  We’ll just ‘ave to get yeh another big breakfast like yesterday’s instead,” she said as she began to tidy up the bed covers.  Gale took this as her cue to begin laying out clothing for Jane to put on.  Jane noticed Fiona’s eyes were red and swollen and realized she had been recently crying.  She looked at Gale and saw she had been crying too.  What’s going on?  What’ve I missed while I’ve been asleep?  Then, Fiona’s words registered.

            “Breakfast?  Are you saying I slept clear through the night?”(This bit confused me. Maybe it’s because of the length of the fragments we read, but I had pictured Jane going to bed at night, so this question felt odd)

            Fiona stopped and turned her large brown eyes on her.  “Ye’ve been through quite an adventure, me girl, and earned a much needed rest.”  She touched Jane’s arm, and tears welled in her eyes.  She looked away quickly and cleared her throat.  “Well, I best be gettin’ back to the kitchen.  Gale, you get ‘er fixed up and come straight away for breakfast.”  She took up last night’s dinner tray and, as quickly as she came into the room, she left it; and all seemed strangely quiet.  Gale finally broke the silence.

 “I heard you playing just now.  I am very much impressed.  Master Troubere will be glad to have you here.  There is finally someone as capable on the keyboard as himself,” she said.  “He has long yearned for someone with whom to play duets.”

“Thank you,” Jane replied.  “He plays the piano too?  I’ve heard him sing, but didn’t know he was a pianist as well.”

“Yes, he plays many instruments, and speaks several languages.”  There was a lull so Jane worked up the courage to ask Gale why she had been crying.

“Master Troubere called a convocation before breakfast and announced that our teacher, Miss Tambour, whom I suppose you already know about, was killed yesterday.”  She snuffled as tears brimmed in her pretty blue eyes.  She wiped them away on the back of her hand. (So far we’ve had both Gale and Fiona with tears in their eyes. I assume the ceremony where Tambour’s death was announced was an event on the emotional side, so I’d try to heighten the sense of loss to add more impact to Tambour’s passing.)

“When you say ‘piano,’ are you referring to the pianoforte?” she asked, changing the subject.  Though Jane wanted to know more about Tambour, she went with the change.

“Oh, that’s right.” She tapped herself on the forehead.  “I need to remember when I am,” she said, more jovially than she felt.  “Yes.  In my time, we’ve shortened the name for convenience.”

“Hmm,” Gale said, nodding her head.  She was young, Jane guessed only about sixteen years old, but seemed very observant and level-headed.  Her eyes conveyed youthful energy yet a sense of cleverness and good judgment as well. 

“Let us get you dressed, shall we?” Gale said.  “I noticed your clothing is very different from what we wear.  Shall I help you with these?” she asked, pointing to the array of things she had lain out on the bed.

“Um, yeah.  I think that’s a good idea” Jane replied, flushing as she remembered the confusion over underwear.  She eyed the garments Gale brought and did not recognize some of them.  Things were going to be vastly different than she was used to.  These people had not even gone through the industrial revolution yet.  Realization came crashing down and a surge of panic enveloped her.  Where am I?  Is this place even real?  Is this really the past, or am I hallucinating?  (Alright, this reaction of hers is excellent, however I feel it’s out of place. By now we’ve read many a time what seems to be Jane accepting her current situation to have this ‘crisis’ drop down on her so suddenly. Maybe moving it back a couple of sections could enhance them). She couldn’t think of going through this sort of thing again, especially without Glenna.  Her palms became cold and clammy and her face went pale.  She turned away and pleaded with her lungs to slow down.  Gale was instantly at her side, wrapping her arm around Jane’s shoulders.  Her arm was warm and… real.  Gale’s touch brought emotion to the surface and Jane sobbed.

“You go right ahead and let those tears fall, you’ve earned them,” Gale said.  “I would be a right jumble of emotions if it were me in your shoes.  Thus far, I think you have been quite brave.”  (Hmm I’m not so sure this bit works out for me. They seem to be very emotional in this fragment whereas in the past they all acted as if it were any other day; a common thing. I’d say diluting all this emotion regarding Jane’s ‘adventure’ across both the sections we’ve read and the upcoming ones would suit the story better.)

After a moment Jane wiped her eyes and turned back to her.  “Thanks.  I’ll be all right.  I appreciate all you have done to help me.”  She sniffed and smiled then wiped her nose with the handkerchief Gale gave her.  “So, tell me what this is and how I wear it,” she said, lifting an extremely uncomfortable-looking item.

“That is a corset.  It goes around the top half of you.  Take off your night dress and I’ll show you.”   Jane obeyed and soon the heavy, whale bone-lined contraption enclosed Jane’s torso.

“This reminds me of Madonna,” Jane said as she squirmed.  “Hard to believe she’d willingly wear this.”

“The Madonna?” Gale asked, clearly confused.  “The Virgin Mary in her undergarments?” (I like how you keep mixing Jane’s ‘futuristic’ comments with the story’s setting in the past. Nice!)

Jane blinked.  Then she giggled.  She tried to contain it, but it only seemed to make things worse, and once she got started she couldn’t quit.  Jane looked at Gale, who only stared back, which sent Jane into convulsions. 

“What?  What have I said?” Gale asked, giggling now herself.  Jane, in the throes of laughter, could only shake her head.  Before long, they were both in a heap on the floor holding their stomachs.  (Hmm… well seems a big change going from being on the verge of crying to laughter –although I agree it happens in reality.)

 “I know not at all what I said to put you in such a state,” Gale finally said, breathless.

“And I don’t know the first place to begin to explain,” Jane said, wiping tears.  “But, thank you. I needed that.” 

 “Well, if what I said made you feel so fine then I am glad for it,” Gale said.  “We should get you dressed.  We have yet to get you cinched up,” she said, pointing to the corset hanging loosely around Jane’s waist.

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.” She looked down at herself.  “You know, in my time this is considered sufficiently dressed.”  Jane chuckled at the look Gale gave her. 

“Be still now,” Gale said.  She took out her pocket flute and played a soft little tune.  Jane stood in amazement as the corset slowly tightened on its own.  Her amazement soon turned to astonishment, however, when the corset continued to tighten and began to hinder her ability to breathe.  Finally, the tightening ceased and the laces tied themselves. (Nice use of ‘musical magic’ however, I’d like to know the limitations they have. Since they can grow crops, move lifeless objects, etc. with magic, then it would all be easy, and because you’re dealing with the real world here, I’d be very clear regarding what they can/can’t do)

“Is this how tight it’s supposed to be?” Jane asked, her shoulders rising and falling with the effort to draw in air.

“It cuts a lovely figure,” Gale replied. 

“Yes, but I can’t fill up my lungs!”

“You will become accustomed to it,” Gale said dismissively.  “We had better get breakfast before Fiona returns looking for us.”  Gale began pulling a dress over Jane’s head and pushing stockings and shoes into her hands.

“Here, put these on while I help comb out the tangles in your hair.”  Jane winced as the comb caught on snarls that had amassed through the night.  “You should wear a night cap to bed,” Gale said as she furiously worked large snarls from the ends of Jane’s hair.  Jane used the large hair clasp she had worn from the future to keep her hair up and out of her eyes, and finally, she was dressed.  She inspected herself in the mirror and was pleasantly surprised. 

“Now I look like Fanny Price,” she marveled. 

“Who?” 

Jane waved her hand dismissively.  “Oh, just a character from a book I’ve read.  She wondered how much of Jane Austen’s books she should reveal before they have even been written.  She turned from side to side to get a full view of the dress.  The skirt was full and gathered low at the waist and the bodice straight and simple, with buttons running down the back.  The sleeves came just past her elbows ending with long lace around the cuff.  The fabric was a sturdy homespun material of a soft slate blue color.  Although it was made for everyday wear, but Jane thought it looked elegant.  She would never have worn a dress like this in her own time, but here in the eighteenth century, she could allow herself to enjoy the aura of femininity it evoked. 

“I do believe you are ready,” Gale said, and heaved a sigh.  She looked fairly worn out from the effort of getting Jane fully clad.  

Rite of Awakening - Chapter 5 Part 3

Hey all!
Hmm it seems the last fragment was confusing and awkwardly paced... I'll make sure to go back and fix that ASAP. Thanks for the useful input! Any other errors you notice along those lines, please let me know. Enjoy this fragment and keep those great redlines coming! 


Regelial and King Caylsig appeared inside the Emperor’s Office. Regelial took a seat, while the Sylen King was left standing up, looking around the room with infirm balance. He held on to the nearest shelf while his eyes refused to look anywhere but at the polished marble floor.

“It’s not easy to grow accustomed to the Aliasemia technique,” Regelial spoke. “Disorientation and light-headedness are common the first couple of times. Come, sit down.”

The King approached the desk with slow but steady steps. “Thank you.” Caylsig sat down, bringing his right palm to his head. “I had heard about it... Aliasemia.” His index and middle fingers rubbed against his temple. “Merging with one of the Essences of Nature to move at an unimaginable speed. Never thought I’d experience it first-hand.”

 “It’s exceedingly rare, even amongst those blessed by the Essential Spirits,” Regelial added. “But I did not bring you here for a lecture on Aliasemia. Tell me, that lovely daughter of yours, how old is she?”

The Sylen King stopped massaging his forehead as a hushed gasp broke through his lips. He straightened his back and caressed his dark beard. “Don’t you think there are more important subjects than Sivrial?”

Regelial smiled. Not to me. Not now. “One question at a time, Lord Caylsig. If it’s Sylenvia you are so concerned about, I assure I’ve given your country much thought. However, I require you to answer my questions first.”

“Sixteen.”

“So she’s almost the same as As̆.” He stood up, gazing at Asaia-Laégel through the window behind his desk, unconcerned about turning his back on Caylsig. The age coincides and she bears no physical resemblance to either of her parents or grandparents. Nevertheless, I need one more proof to confirm her true lineage. He took one of his hands and placed it in front of his eyes. “Our bodies are inevitably doomed to perish; no matter how powerful, wise, or healthy; human, t̆erian, or... something else.” His sight was now focused on his wife and Queen Mylina, who were walking across the Balance Plaza. “Everything must come to an end.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You will know when the proper time comes. In the mean time my friend, I want to make you a proposal that will further solidify the alliance between our nations: an unbreakable alliance.”

King Caylsig cleared his throat. “Surely you don’t mean...”

“But I do.” A pair of birds flew by the window; gracefully dancing in the wind. “I want your consent to marry Princess Sivrial to my son, Prince Sefiren.”

“But Lord Regelial, they’re too young; only children!”

“Required to behave like adults since childhood. Why should this be any different?” Regelial sat down once again. Caylsig was turning out to be more docile than he had expected. The untameable winds that once blew from the West have become but gusts and whispers. “I’ll understand it if you want to refuse my offer, but I can’t guarantee that the Empire will get involved in this conflict since I don’t believe an attack will befall the Empire until after both Sylenvia and Breinall lie in ashes. You’ll have to defend Sylenvia on your own. If that happens, we both know you’ll drown in your family’s blood.”

Caylsig’s face turned to white; his tired eyes shaken by uncertainty. He cleared his throat yet again, albeit with greater effort. Old and weak.

“But why? Why ask this of me now?”

“Because in the upcoming war we need to know whom we can trust in. Things are about to change Caylsig; now is the time to make as many allies as possible; strong bonds and unfaltering friendships.”

“I promised Sivrial I would let her choose whom to love.”

“In the end, do we not all choose whom to love?” He gave the King a moment’s pause to assimilate what he was saying. “I fear it might be the only way, my friend. I’m sure the Princess will understand.”

“And your son? Will the Prince understand as well?”

“Sefiren’s thoughts on this are inconsequential. He will do as I say; one way or another.”

“I wish I were as resolute as you are, Lord Regelial.”

“It’s not resolution you lack, but the inability to let go that restrains you. You’re feeble and unwilling to make sacrifices. Unfit to rule.     

“Perhaps you’re right. It isn’t up to me to decide on what to do with my daughter’s freedom, but there is much at stake.” The King sighed. “Sivrial will marry your son, Lord Regelial. I pray to the Goddess I’ve made the right choice.”

Regelial grinned. “Of course it is my friend.”

“I would like to make one request, Lord Regelial. If you found any other way to put my country under the Empire’s permanent protection, could you desist on the marriage and pursue that option instead?”

“Whatever that option may be?”

The King hesitated.

“Yes.”

“Of course my friend. Now, let us leave. There are plenty of matters that require our attention.” And your time runs ever shorter.

Critique - - 16572 - 18017

Hey!

Hmm quite an interesting character, Fossnor. A skilful soldier, cold, and calculating. Great! However, at times, I felt him distanced from the persona of a soldier and more like a plotter. For my taste, I'd say, while giving him an analytical nature is brilliant, he goes a bit over the edge (Maybe you're intending for this to be a character flaw or merely he is a perfectionist). At any right, that is my perception of him regarding his behaviour during the scene. There were just some minor details I highlighted below which could be interpreted as inconsistencies either because of the wording or misunderstaing on behalf of the reader. Otherwise, I loved it!


Feet on the wooden chair, Captain Fossnor sat the wrong way on the King’s desk, staring at the scripted wood hanging on the wall. Behind him a corpse cooled; its life already spilled onto the flagstones of the office annexed off of the war room, pooling like a dark pond. The ragged wounds in chest and throat matched Fossnor’s dagger.

He sat, chin rested in his palm, elbow propped on his knee. Beside him his grey gauntlets dripped blood onto the desk. Flickering shapes of red and yellow swayed across the walls, made by guttering torches. The air tasted metallic. Everything had a ceremonial feel, like he just conducted a strange occult sacrifice.

His thoughts mimicked the torchlight; something swirled in them, but he had no idea what. The war room remained silent, excluded from the search for the Sword. Any activity at all for that matter. So when Fossnor heard footsteps hurrying towards him, he knew it could only be one of two people.

“Visioner Trotek. Please, step inside.” Trotek wore soft soled boots. No armour. If the messenger Fossnor sent several hours ago to summon the Visioner had returned, it would have been with a great deal more noise. The Visioner paused, just inside the door. “Ah, yes. I should’ve warned you about that.”

“Is he…?” Trotek spoke in smooth, learned tones. It reminded Fossnor this was a man who spent his life speaking, and not doing.

“Alive? I’m afraid not.” Fossnor indicated his gauntlets. “I tried to staunch the bleeding, but it would appear the accuracy of my blows is quite impressive.”(Thus far, I haven’t thought of Fossnor as someone who would brag about his abilities, which is what this sentence almost sounds like. Maybe you’re aiming at sarcasm, or even humour, but to me it came out as if he was boasting about his accuracy)

“You may kill who you wish, Captain. It is little concern of mine.”

“Oh, but it is.” Fossnor said, voice a conspiratorial whisper. “If you peel back that dark cloak you’ll find some interesting things. Firstly, the man is clearly from Mathir and not a soldier. Secondly, you’ll see the strange tattoos behind the right ear and on the left palm. Thirdly, you’ll notice the retractable blade on the right wrist. Lastly, if you turn the head to the left you’ll see the twined leather thong around his hair. Three strips of leather: two black, one silver.” He left a pause, but Trotek said nothing. “So I’m sure you realise now why I roused you at this early hour.”

“Yes, Captain. That much is clear.” Had there been any guilt in the man, Fossnor hoped to shock it free. But Trotek, it seemed, had none. Not a single tremor in his voice, just its usual composure, eloquence, confidence, and politeness. Was that in itself suspicious? “What isn’t clear is why you would be here, Captain, alone and unguarded. Have you not been to your bed?” That fatherly approach Fossnor had come to expect as well. And loathe.

“No. The missing Sword weighs heavily on my mind. Also armed soldiers from four nations are scouring this Keep from foundation to ramparts. Loudly. Not conducive conditions for sleep.” (Now that you’ve mentioned the other four nations I’m wondering about the interaction between them. I believed they were all vying for the Sword, in which case they seem too cooperative with one another, unless there’s a point about it I can’t recall/conclude)

“We are all amazed by the Sword’s absence, Captain. Indeed, I have my men studying each and every text mentioning the moments after the Sacrificial Kingdom has lain upon the altar. But I see futility in wearing oneself down and haunting dark, unguarded chambers in an enemy fortress.”

What did I hope to achieve by staring at that empty plinth again? Fossnor asked himself.

Despite walking the Keep for hours, no word of the Sword’s whereabouts materialised. He visited Maher, but the King’s rage had faded and he now sat in his cell, bitter and distraught. Poor conversation.

Fossnor could accept the Sword was not here, where it had been prophesized to rest. And so he had come to try and trace and clue from the Sword’s original resting place in the war room. Or had I just come to stare in disbelief, willing it back into its case? When had I become a man of so little sense? Fossnor shook his head. (Fossnor’s analytic mind comes through nicely across the entire section. However, I feel there are times when he is over-thinking things for my taste; since I’d consider him more the sort of man who’s go out and do something – especially considering his remark about Trotek being a man of speech rather than action)  

“Just as well I did, Trotek. I heard movement where, as you so correctly noted, it should have been deserted. I found this man here,” he jabbed a thumb over his shoulder at the corpse, “in this room, doing that.” He pointed at the wooden plaque. With a simple knife a single line of text had been scratched at, a dozen words obliterated from existence. Crude, obvious but effective.

“He carried no tools, wore no colours. When I confronted him he went for my throat and paid for that mistake with his life.” Fossnor finally turned, swivelling round on the smooth desktop like a child. His voice was cold, hard. Reasonable. “Now tell me Trotek, why would a member of the Rectory - a Blind Visioner no less - decide not only to commit an act of desecration on Kavernath’s version of the prophecy of Therusamora, but do so disguised as a Mathir servant. And then, when discovered, resort to murder to cover his deceit?”

Trotek frowned. He was a tall man, with the frame of a soldier and the build of a clerk. Had he spent his time in armour, swinging swords instead of hefting books, marching instead of scuttling around libraries, he would have cut an impressive figure. Instead he didn’t fill his dark, maroon robes properly. His blond hair spoke of Amu’Nari heritage but his skin was wan and pale. Clear, honest eyes of storm cloud grey regarded him from a handsome, angular face. Only his nose, once badly broken and not properly reset, showed any signs of wear.

But he displayed the fortitude of a soldier in peeling back the cloak as Fossnor had suggested without pause. The corpse stared beyond the ceiling at something only the dead saw. Trotek knelt, hiking his robes away from the puddle of blood, and tilted the head to the left. His hands, dextrous and thin, combed a fall of hair away from the corpse’s right ear. For a moment observed, and observed in turn by Fossner.

“If this is a forgery, it’s the best I’ve ever seen, and a lot of men have wanted to claim membership to the Rectory without undergoing the necessary training.” Trotek said. He inspected the leather thong, turned over a limp wrist and peered at the tattoo clutched in dead fingers. “As much as I’d like to say otherwise, I can’t deny this is genuine.” He rose and stepped back. Each movement measured, reverent.

“Do you know him?” Fossnor asked. Trotek shook his head.

“I don’t know all of Therusamora’s disciples by sight, but I know most. I’ve never seen this man before. This is quite...disturbing.” Trotek frowned at the corpse, casting disapproval on a man beyond caring. “I’ll begin enquiries at once, Captain. I ensure some of the Rectory are always awake, and the next shift will begin soon as well. I’ll see if anyone recognises the description.”

“Cut his head off and take it with you if you must.” Fossnor said. Trotek regarded him, eyebrow raised.

“I don’t think such crude measure will be necessary. I will warn you though, Captain, if someone has gone to such trouble to infiltrate the Rectory so thoroughly, they will unlikely be so clumsy as to leave many clues.” Trotek’s calm confidence was both reassuring and grating.

“But...” Fossnor prompted (Hmm doesn’t look like a man who could be easily interrupted like this)

“But of course, Captain, I’ll do everything within my power. Mathir, unfortunately, supplies a steady stream of disciples to the Rectory. A fair number achieve the prestige of Blind Visioner - even Sighted - perhaps due to the Mathir traits of martyrdom and servitude. It won’t be easy.” Fossnor let the barb slide. It was a largely accurate observation.

“Very good, Visioner. I’ll leave it in your capable hands. Even after overseeing the formation of the alliance, and brokering deals with the Gelders and Talberk, I think your reputation would not fare well should this become a protracted investigation.” Trotek nodded in understanding. I can’t even ruffle him with veiled threats. Why would I want to ruffle him? Without the Rectory and the alliance, Mathir would be fighting six nations for the Sword instead of one. “Be that as it may, tell me: have you been in this room before?”

“I can’t say that I have.” Trotek answered, but he was preoccupied by the corpse. If an intensity could pull truth from the dead, Trotek would have the guilty men hanging within the hour.

“I wager few have. But this desecration has cast light on something rather interesting.” Fossnor hopped off the desk, stepped over the pool of congealing blood. “Why don’t you take a moment to read what he tried to obscure. I’ll be outside.” He walked past Trotek, whose attention Fossnor had finally snagged.

Critique - Bok'Tarong Pt 16

Hey!

Nice fragment! I'm enjoying the evolution of the plot and the characters very much! Not much to say about this fragment other than the fact it was very enjoyable. 
There are only two general points I'd highlight: Since we're in Aeo's POV, you might as well connect him to the dialogue (as I mention below) because I could not help but feel Dragana as the scene's focus during her dialogue with the doctor and distant from Aeo. The other one concerns the doctor... Why would he warn Dragana about the 'blind man'? Seemed strange to me. Any doubts about my comments, let me know! 



His eyes opened to the world, Aeo saw the outside disappear as Dragana entered the tent. It was dark inside. He could almost smell the stench of chemicals and death that always hung around places like this. There was something else in the air here, though – the sense that something vile and repulsive was lurking just out of view.
(I’m thinking by ‘dark’ you mean as in dark for Aeo’s spirit eyes, right? Might help a bit if you clarify that, since just saying it was dark made it difficult for me to form a right image in my mind (since I pictured everything dimly lit at best, but there is so much movement happening inside that it seems odd it would be physically dark inside))

Aeo’s spirit-eyes peered into the oppressive darkness. At first he couldn’t see anything, but slowly he began to make out motions and vague shapes. He saw doctors scurrying between writhing patients and nurses preparing tables full of equipment. Around and above it all was a sheen of squirming, inky black tendrils.

As he watched, two nurses held down a man on his right. The bed and ground around him was soaked in blood. He looked like a corpse, but he was struggling against their hold. A doctor asked him something and the man nodded, though he looked reluctant and terrified and revolted.

One of the inky tendrils broke from the rest and snaked down toward the man. His eyes widened and he did his best to break free, but he was too weak from his wounds. The tendril hovered over him for a second before filtering into his mouth, ears, and eyes. The man’s soul screamed, piercing Aeo’s spirit. (So, by the description I take it the tendrils were some sort of Hntaña collective? Or just a single Hntaña whose ‘appendage’ possessed the man?)

The man stopped struggling and flopped onto the bed, exhausted and pale but strangely calm. His breathing slowed and he sank into a deep, almost drugged sleep.

“By the gods of Taron,” Dragana whispered. “What hell is this?”

This is where the devils are born, Aeo said. They’re breeding -taken here. Wounded soldiers come in, Hntaña-taken berserkers go out.

“Please tell me you’re joking.”

I wish I was. They’re using the Hntaña to heal wounds and take away the soldiers’ pain and fear.

Both stood in silence for a moment, watching the sleeping -taken. Knowing these men and women were taking on Hntaña willingly was enough to anger Aeo, but watching them accept the possession nearly made him sick.

“Excuse me, do you need attention?”

Dragana’s eyes snapped to the small doctor peering at her. She lashed out and grabbed him in a painful grip on the shoulder. “What are you doing here?”

To his credit, the doctor didn’t whine or moan in pain. He cried out when she squeezed the nerves, but otherwise he held himself with dignity. “We are saving lives.”

“By infecting people with Hntaña? You aren’t saving them, you’re just prolonging their death at the cost of their soul.”

“None here are forced to take the Hntaña. Each man or woman is given a choice, and it is up to them whether they accept the Hntaña into themselves.”

Dragana’s grip slackened. “They choose to become -taken?” (The way in which the question is constructed made it seem repetitive, even irrelevant since it’s been stated before they’re doing it willingly (through Aeo’s POV), so maybe change it for something like: ‘Why would anyone accept such a fate?’)

“The Hntaña can heal tremendous wounds and calm the mind.”

“They don’t calm your thoughts. They erase them.”

The doctor shook his head. “Not when the person is willing. When the mind doesn’t struggle, it and the Hntaña form a partnership. They work together, with the Hntaña feeding on any excess emotions or sensations. The person’s pain and fears are relieved and the Hntaña is fed.”

“Sacrificing yourself to a spiritual parasite isn’t an acceptable price just to be fearless.”

The doctor led Dragana’s gaze to the sleeping man. “Tell that to him. Without the Hntaña, he would be dead by now. His wife would have become a widow, his children fatherless. Now he will live, fight, and return home. He has a future because of the Hntaña.” (Since we’re in Aeo’s POV, I’d like to know more about his thoughts regarding the doctor’s remarks. How does listening to him make him feel? Maybe channeling those sensations through Dragana could help deliver an insight into Aeo’s feelings while keeping with the dialogue’s nice flow)

Dragana released the doctor, who rolled his shoulder and stood up straighter. “And now, I must ask you to leave. Our patients need rest.”

Stunned, Dragana nodded and turned to leave. The Bok’Tarong reflected the sliver of light entering through the tent flap, illuminating the deep darkness of the Hntaña medical tent.

The doctor’s eyes grew wide when he saw the blades. He placed a gentle hand on her sword-arm. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know who you were. This must be difficult for you to accept.”

“I will never accept it,” she said softly.

He nodded. “I must warn you, lady warrior, that rumors say a man is asking after your location.”(Why the sudden need to warn her? Also, a warning implies a danger, so the doctor must perceive this as a possible threat to Dragana, but thus far I think he must have other businesses to attend to rather than listening to gossip and warning her all of a sudden.)

“What man?”

“They say he’s blind, that’s all I’ve heard.”

Aeo felt Dragana’s thoughts snap to attention. Her heart raced. “Where is he?”

The doctor looked confused and slightly frightened. “The last time I heard it was from a man who’d just come in from a small town northeast of here.”

Dragana nodded. “Thank you.”

She left the tent in a hurry and practically ran out of the camp. Her indignation at the Mage General was forgotten, and Aeo had a hard time keeping up with her rush of excited thoughts. What’s going on?

“We have to find this man,” she replied.

Why? What happened to going to the King?

“This is more important.”

More important than an army breeding -taken?

“You wouldn’t understand.”

You’re right, I don’t. You’ve spent this entire time teaching me about the importance of hunting Hntaña and now that you’ve found a hotbed of activity, you’re just abandoning it over rumors of some blind man asking about you?

“If this man is who I think he is, then I have to find him. Please, Aeo, trust me.”

The sincerity in her plea touched him. More than that, though, she’d used his name. She was acknowledging him as a person, not just the Bok’Tarong. (Very nice touch).

Okay, Dragana. I trust you.

Critique - Soulsong ch4 pt 2

Hi!

I like the twist you've given Professor Alexander a lot! The last section was also excellent; a smooth transition back into Jane's POV and the idea about him finding Jane's diary was very neat.

My main conern her lies with the little information you've given us regarding the Professor's intentions. Since I've no idea whatsoever what he's looking for, I got lost in the sea of detail you've written. As I suggested, maybe connecting the scene with the Professor's thoughts could make it flow better and add more relevance all the way from the beginning, since I could not feel a strong connection to his search, so part of the mystery/drama was lost for me. 



“I suppose I can start in there,” he mumbled as he hoisted himself up off the low couch. 

The little hallway led to a library.  It was not a large room, considering the size of the house, but books lined every wall from floor to ceiling, except for the small fireplace and mantle.  The hardwood floor was protected by a large Persian rug whose tassels fanned out to meet the bookshelves on all four sides.  The room held an antique desk, several padded chairs, and a small couch.  Overhead hung a huge basin-like light fixture that almost spanned the entire ceiling.  The Professor looked for a light switch, but didn’t find one.  He walked to a small table and turned on a lamp. He tried to inspect the basin more closely in the dim light and noticed a fracture running approximately eighteen inches from the edge toward the center.  Why would they keep a broken fixture?  He continued turning on lamps, one in the middle of the room, one sitting on the desk, and another at the far side of the room. 

He went first to the desk and opened its drawers.  It was mostly empty but for a few pencils and sheets of paper with the Picardy letterhead.  In a corner near the fireplace was a heavy stone globe of the earth sitting in an iron stand.  He ran his hand over its polished surface, feeling the lines etched into the stone outlining the countries and continents.  The entire sphere was a light beige color, except for a dark splotch over Mexico.  He didn’t remember this from the last time he was here.  He admired its craftsmanship and approved of the Picardy’s sense of taste. (So far the imagery has been great, but I’m having a bit of trouble following him around. There are a lot of details here. Maybe adding some thoughts could help give this section some solid ground to anchor ourselves to; give it more focus.)

Next, he went to a shelf of books nearest him and scanned the titles.  These were books a person would expect to find in a family library; works of Shakespeare, Homer, Dickens and Hemingway.  Professor Alexander peered around the room again.  Hmm, what’s that?  On the far wall, on the three lower shelves, was a collection of books of all sizes and thickness.  Compared to the other books in the room, they looked like broken and uneven teeth.  (Given the musical nature of your novel, I found this section odd. I’d expect the Professor’s attention to be centred on musical objects. Maybe you could hint somewhere at what he is looking for so we don’t get a sense of ‘aimless’ nosing around.)

The Professor pulled out a tall, thin volume.  He opened it and was surprised by its contents; very old hand-printed music manuscript.

 “This is well over a hundred years old,” he said to himself.  He carefully turned a few of its brittle pages to see if he recognized the melodies, however, they were unfamiliar to him.  He pulled out several more aged books, each like the first, filled with unfamiliar melodies on brittle and yellowed paper.  Then, on the bottom shelf, way back in the corner, was a short, thick, leather bound book with the words PERSONAL DIARY printed in dark blue ink along the spine. 

“Probably some dead relative,” he said as he pulled the book off the shelf and opened to the first page.  There was no name to identify whose diary it was.  He began reading the first page. 

I’ve been here for a month now and so much has happened.  But, I should start at the beginning of my adventures.  It all began with a lightning strike that hit a tree. I went to investigate and found a baton that whisked me away – to where you might ask, but you would be wrong.  It’s not where, but when.  I came from the year 2012 and ended up in the year 1710. The first few people I met were Fiona Filpott, William Tuner, Pulsiver Thrumming, and Jean Emil Troubere.   At first they were unsure about me, but when I told them my name was Melody Jane Picardy, they accepted me and took me in as if they had known me always... (Very nice!)

Professor Alexander turned the journal over in his hand.  What is this book?  Maybe it was going to be a novel or something.  He took the book to the little couch and began to read. (These last sentences didn’t work for me. Since the words ‘PERSONAL DIARY’ are printed along the spine and Jane mentions her name in the writing, the ‘What is this book?’ question felt out of place for me. Also, since the Professor was clearly searching for something, the last sentence makes it look like his search was not that important –since he could suspend it in order to read. I think a quick edit hinting at what he’s looking for and developing his interest in the diary a bit more would sort it out nicely.)

***

Jane opened her eyes.  They felt gritty, and her mouth was parched.  She sat up and looked around.  Someone had been in while she slept because there was a tray of food on the desk. 

“How long have I been out?” she wondered aloud.  She lost all sense of time in the caverns.  She slung her feet out, padded to the tray of cold food and inspected the beverage; the dark liquid smelled tangy.  She took a tiny taste.  Huh, apple cider, then she gulped it down.  She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand then began investigating the room.  There was music manuscript paper for composing and arranging stacked in a neat pile on the desk, along with an old fashioned inkwell and quill.  She picked up the small glass jar containing black ink. 

“I’ll need to go back to school just to learn how to use this,” she mumbled, shaking her head.  She replaced the inkwell and went to the keyboard.  What she earlier thought was a clavichord, on closer inspection, turned out to be a virginal.  When she pressed a key, rather than a small hammer striking a string, a quill plucked the string to make a small tinny sound.  This diminutive forerunner of the modern piano was ideal for such a small room. 

Jane traced her finger along the ornate scrollwork decorating the outer casing and marveled at its craftsmanship.  The only other she had ever seen was in a museum.  She sat down, flexed her fingers a few times, and started in on an intricate Bach fugue in B minor.  The touch and action were not at all like a piano.  It didn’t matter how hard or soft the keys were pressed, they always sounded the same whereas on a piano, if a key is pressed lightly, it will produce a soft sound, and if it is pressed with some force, will sound loud.  This ability to be loud or soft is how it got the name ‘pianoforte,’ which literally means ‘soft-loud.’  The virginal played more like a harpsichord, and sounded very similar as well. 

It gave Jane a sense of satisfaction to play the piece.  It had been a week and a half since she’d had an opportunity to practice and it felt good to do so.  A soft knock on the door gave her a start.  She whirled around to face the unknown caller.  Before she could gather her wits to ask who it was, the door opened to reveal Fiona, with Gale close behind.