As of yet Untitled Fiction

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As of yet Untitled Fiction

Post  Mormosi on Tue Mar 26, 2013 12:26 am

((Currently I have no title for this. It’s just something I started working on the other day and found myself getting a little carried away with it. Criticism and any sort of response would be greatly appreciated, and this will be continued in the future.

Warning: Some disturbing imagery. Nothing major, in my opinion, but I figured I would at least put up a sign for it.))

I visited my lord in his chambers late one summer’s night, when the heat pressed down upon our keep as gently as a blanket. I only had to tap once upon his door before he let out a sound of excitement from within, begging me to enter at once. After a moment of hesitation, I slipped inside, careful to firmly shut the door behind me. I gave a start when I saw my lord as I turned, for he stood barely a hand’s breadth from my face, the old, deep wrinkles of his face bristling with complete and utter glee. What was left of his hair was in disarray, knotted and fraying in every direction as though it hadn’t seen a comb in months. The spots that had begun appearing on his face now covered the entirety of his cheeks and seemed poised to take over his forehead too. Most striking, however, was the glazed look in his diamond-colored eyes, once the hue of gravel, and the wild grin he wore. Trying to ignore the fact that his eyes seemed to be within dark pits, I glanced down. He wore his nightgown open, as one would wear a coat, but beneath he wore nothing, not even pants or smallclothes.

While I tried to find my voice, he took me by the arm and led me further into his chamber, speaking to me as if he hadn’t seen me in years. He’d taken the covers for his bed and replaced them with the luxurious eastern rug that typically sat on his floor, and all but one of the chairs were missing. I noted that his wife was not in the room, to which he said she was “washing up.” I did not protest, and let him guide me to the balcony that sat on the opposite end.

There, he had placed his favorite cushioned chair so that he could gaze out upon his city. Yet, as he walked alongside me out onto the balcony, his attention seemed fixed on the sky. Suddenly, he wrapped one of his bony arms around me and held me close, pointing at something above us. He claimed that the sky was changing colors, brightening to an extent he had never seen before, “as though the clouds themselves were alight with lanterns greater than the sun.” He had been watching the “spectacle” all day, apparently, waiting for the moment when he could show me. I muttered that it was indeed beautiful, and that this was likely the only time either of us would see it. The sky was darker than a cavern’s depths, both moon and stars hidden by a veil of clouds.

He sat down in his favorite chair, not out of weariness but so he could “see the light with a better eye.” I did not question him. He asked me of my day, and of how my studies were going. I answered that they were, as usual, progressing with alacrity, offhandedly mentioning that tomorrow would be my final day at the University while deliberately avoiding the fact that the University had burned down over five weeks ago. He sounded pleased, however, and commented that he would love to meet my wife sometime. All the while, his eyes had attention for nothing but the sky. If he noticed my growing distance from him, he did not express it.

When I next stood behind his chair, I held a long strip of white cloak, a piece of the ornamental curtains running crisscross over his bedstand. I do not know how long I took to steady myself. After a time, he nodded, and said he “knew the light would come again.” I said I hoped he was true, my voice shaking despite my best efforts. Then I bound the cloth twice around my fists, stretched it taut, rested it in front of his neck, and pulled.

He did not struggle as much as I feared he would. At first he thrashed incoherently, of course, tearing at my coat and staring into my watery eyes in sheer disbelief, mouth contorted with wordless rage. But when his hand brushed past the medallion dangling from my own neck, the one that bore the sigil of his house, something gave within him. All strength left his form. His hands dropped, and he spent his final moments staring at the sky as I yanked the cloth about his neck harder and harder. I do not remember how long it took for me to realize he was dead, but I took a longer time re-swearing my oaths before his favorite chair.

Then I left him, returning with a rusted scalpel. It was the only sharp object we had permitted him. I drove it into his head at least dozen times, trying not to grimace at the sounds it made. By the time I finished, I could see his hideous, shriveled brain. I wheeled around, hurled the scalpel as far away from the balcony as I could, then unceremoniously left my lord’s carcass lying in his favorite chair, where he smiled at sights only he could see.

---

Ever since the age of twelve, I have served my lord dutifully. I will not say I have served him without question, for his rule is the kind that provokes and shocks those less personally acquainted with him, but in retrospect I regret not a moment of the time I spent under his will and tutelage. Up until his final breath and beyond, I served, and I have never benefitted from anything greater.

As I reflect upon his reign, I realize that perhaps my role was predestined. I was born to my lord’s premier chamberlain and one of his maids. Though both were of low birth and even lower morals, my childhood was spent in the decadence of my lord’s court, watching nobles play their treacherous social game and beseech my lord for trivial, inconsequential forms of compensation for perceived insults. Even as a child, I pitied the man who had to suffer complaints from his own subjects and allies.

Yet, the capricious nature of his court never surprised me, given my family’s origins. Once a beggar who earned his keep by singing to drunkards at the city’s most popular inn, my father was swept into the political scene by my lord when the former charmed him with his sharp mind and even sharper wit. Rather, that is my theory on what happened one stormy night. Nobody truly knows why my lord took a beggar into his service, or, moreover, placed him into such a high station. The court was naturally appalled. Often reserved for wards of noble birth, the position of chamberlain was hardly something to be handed out to any beggar that happened to catch his fancy. They all but begged for my father, now known as “Silvertongue,” to be dismissed from service, if not as a fool then as a sorcerer who bewitched my lord into accepting him. I never believed the latter claims. Clever as he was, my father never maintained the level of secrecy required for sorcery. In fact, he did quite the opposite. Within weeks of his arrival at the palace, everyone inside knew of who he was and, more importantly, of where he had come from. He touted it about during conversations and debates, using it whenever he saw the need to remind others of his apparent social prowess.

As for my lord, whenever a man raised complaints over his chamberlain, now stripped of dirt and rags and garbed in every ounce of finery a servant could expect to receive, he merely tapped the hilt of his sword. Men tended to rescind their arguments then.

However, some sort of deal had been brokered that night at the inn. What exactly transpired between my lord and my father remains unknown, but my father made one thing explicitly clear: he had been promised a great sum of monetary compensation in return for his servitude. Some said the amount was twenty gold flecks every three months. Others said it was ten gold flecks every year. My father himself insisted that the amount due was a single payment: a hundred gold flecks, no more, and from then on he would receive the typical wage.

Whatever the case, my lord failed to meet the expected sum, so my father protested. He refused to accept what he deemed “years of lies and deceit” and interrupted almost every social gathering or political meeting to reveal this to others. My lord shrugged off these complaints as he did all the others, reassuring his nobles that his chamberlain was “being foolish” and that “he had misinterpreted something vital” in their agreement. Seeing themselves as vindicated, his nobles raised no efforts to help my father, and soon his petty rebellion stopped.

Until, that is, civil war tore our kingdom asunder. In order to aid his own liege, my lord gathered his vassals and their retinues and set off for the battlefield. One man remained as his regent: my father, his chamberlain. After all, such an honor was well within the position’s assigned duties.

I do not know if my lord thought anything significant would happen to his estate in my father’s possession, but I do know that the majority of his nobles were unsurprised by what followed. In the month my lord spent abroad, my father happened to leave my lord’s son’s room unguarded, and an unknown assailant happened to “slip in” and strangle the boy in his sleep. When my lord returned, he found my father drinking in the very inn they first found one another in. His execution came the following day.

His final words were: “I hope your son was worth one hundred gold flecks.”

My mother took his death poorly, as did I. To see a man so dutiful denied his rightful compensation, even after dealing justice to those who had shamed him, outraged us, and my mother instilled in me a burning hatred of the person who called himself my lord. But we did not voice this opinion, and for that I am thankful. My mother sought to collect her dues in another manner, by steadily pilfering through belongings throughout the household as she cleaned. She started first with pieces of clothing, picking lost coins from pockets and purses, then moved onto dressers and cabinets. Finally she moved onto stealing from the lady’s lockbox, though the lord found her before she could crack its barrier, and she was thusly thrown out, her life spared.

I, however, was detained.

As my mother was dragged away, a group of muscular house guards gripped me and led me to my lord’s room. Crying and struggling all the way down, I felt nothing but spite for my future liege and his wretched family as my captors threw me inside, shut the door, and left me to my fate. There, on the balcony, sat my lord, atop the ornate, cushioned mahogany chair he’d named his favorite. He held a goblet of wine in one hand and his ceremonial sword in the other, his dark grey eyes immediately finding my own and refusing to release them, austere face never moving an inch. Without a word, he beckoned me to move forward with the point of his sword.

I refused. Not vocally; I merely shook my head and tried to formulate something appropriate, something that would denounce this fraud for all he was and expose what I saw as the teeming corruption that sat within him. My lord practically had no reaction. On the contrary, he seemed to expect it. He signaled to his eldest son, who overpowered me and forced me to one knee before the seat.

We sat like that for several minutes, staring into each other’s eyes. Slowly I lost the will to fight. All the while, my lord sat perfectly still, as though judging my every breath. Then he held out his hand, palm up.

“Kiss my hand,” he commanded, his voice as powerful as the steel he wore.

I refused. I thought of spitting in it instead, but his son held me until I slowly bent my head and touched my lips to his skin.

“Know that when I grant you something, it shall only benefit the kingdom.”

Then he turned his hand over, the back of it towards my face. I took the message more quickly this time, and kissed it of my own will.

As soon as my lips left his hand, he drew back his hand and brutally slapped me across the face, sending me sprawling.

“Know that when I strike you, it shall only benefit the kingdom.”

I cursed his name and thought of escaping back through the door, or even throwing myself from the balcony to escape such an unrighteous torment, but his son, once again, picked me up and tossed me back to his feet, only this time he gripped my chin and held my head up. My lord extended his goblet of wine.

“Know that whatever you consume beneath this roof you owe entirely to the kingdom.”

My eyes widened as his son ripped my mouth open, and my lord let the purple wine splash over my face and rush down my throat, so much I felt I was going to drown before they let me go. I sputtered and choked it down, spitting as much out as I could. After a time I glanced back up, and saw the point of his sword barely a finger’s length from my flesh. I hesitated for a minute, two, perhaps as many as five. But I kissed it all the same.

“Know that whatever the kingdom gives to you, it can also take away.”

And from then on, I was his.
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A Good Start

Post  Mercutio on Tue Mar 26, 2013 11:35 pm



What I feel this piece suffers from is a bit of vagueness surrounding not only the setting it is set in, but also who these characters are. Not once are we given a name to call the location or the characters (save a nick name for the protagonists father), something that is an interesting prospect, but should be questioned on whether it adds anything to the piece. Truthfully, I am not sure what it really adds to a story that seems that so far seems to be around politic, loyalty, and perhaps a bit of vengeance.

The structure thus far is interesting. We start out after the protagonist has spent seemingly a lifetime under the servitude of his lord, and things seem pretty fair until he chokes him and then stabs his brain repeatedly, in a scene that expresses rage, sorrow, and grittiness from the kill, with the added bonus of the lord’s calmness and resignation to his fate after an initial struggle. All in all, it’s a neat opening, but it brings with it a few issues, namely that we essentially know how the story ends, supposedly, which means we aren't in suspense of the protagonist’s fate. Perhaps it will be more about how we get from point A to B, but just something to consider.

But overall, I feel it’s a very good starting point. It’s an intriguing setup, of a child forced into the service of a lord, in a court that has its share of corruption and political intrigue, and apparently coming to genuinely appreciate this “tutelage.” I am curious of how our protagonist will progress from the ending to the beginning, as well as how the relationship will develop. All in all, I found it to be a good read, and am hopeful to see it complete.


Points of Thought
  • I’m not entirely sure I have sympathy for the main character’s loss of his father. Yes, it’s understandable that his father was killed, but there’s the very big detail that his father deliberately allowed his lord’s son to die, potentially even having done it himself. However, it IS understandable, if nothing else. (Plus, I get the feeling that the protagonist himself will get over this.)

  • Beginning with the murder of the lord, while interesting, is very peculiar. On one hand, it provides for a very interesting opening that catches our attention, but on the other, we essentially know how the story is going to end now.

  • We know very little about the workings of this world. No names are given, to characters or places, we know only a bit of the hierarchy and government (that the lord we see in the story answers to a king of some sort), and we don't see much of the political intrigue in action, save for when Silvertongue is involved.

  • A fair amount of the story is abstract. Up until the son is seized, the flashback has no solid point for its narrative. In the beginning of the story, the dialogue is entirely summed up and generalized (more on this later).

  • Significance of the scalpel? Does the main character practice medicine and doctoring?

  • Setting is a bit confusing. Mentions of the university, yet what seems to be a feudal system is in place. Clarification and building on this setting could solve this problem.

  • Dialogue for the first scene is entirely summarized. This feels like a wasted opportunity to help with the characterization of the people involved, especially the lord who seems to be going senile and crazy in his old age.



Wild idea
Make the main character female. This is actually what I thought the main character was at first, before picking up on some of the details in the first part (such as the character’s wife that the king wanted to see). Some potential results could be another aspect of the relationship between servant and lord (not necessarily romantic, mind you, there is a big age gap I gather), not to mention relationships between the other characters (the lord’s wife, for example). That angle could also help reinforce the protagonist’s views on the corruption apparently inherent within the lord.

Feel free to discard this idea altogether if you have a specific plan for this story, I just thought it might be interesting to toss out there.
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Re: As of yet Untitled Fiction

Post  AWizardDidIt on Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:38 pm

While I cannot promise a response as in-depth as the one Roth has provided, I'll do my best to outline how I feel about the piece at large.

  • The narrator's voice is exceedingly cold at the start, even as he murders the lord. There's nothing wrong with this, but I was quite taken by surprise - after all, one would expect a level of social anxiety as the act in question approaches. However, the background you provide us with in the informal Part II makes this voice seem very reasonable, so whatever problem existed at the start has faded by the end. The voice works, put simply.

  • The diction and phrasing is smooth and succinct throughout.

  • The lord, although obviously a victim of dementia, does not come off as "insane" in a hackneyed manner. You've done an exceedingly good job making his mental illness seem real, and not an imagined hyperbole created to entertain the readers.

  • I particularly enjoy the anaphora found in the lord's dialogue in Part II. It's fitting to the picture of him you seem to be painting. Additionally, it is interesting to note the contrast between the old, mad lord and his younger self.

  • Although I am very guilty of this, be careful with the frequency of your "one-liners." These should only be used sparingly for dramatic effect. Of the three in this passage, I'm comfortable with the use of all but "I, however, was detained." It seems a tad unnecessary.
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Re: As of yet Untitled Fiction

Post  AWizardDidIt on Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:48 pm

Feedback II: Electric Boogaloo

These points are all in response to Roth's earlier post.

a. There is absolutely nothing wrong with beginning the story with the lord's murder. The way I took it, the entire point of the piece is meant to be exposing the mindset of the narrator after the crime has transpired. It is not at all an uncommon or ineffective literary tactic, as knowing the ultimate result leaves us hungering for knowledge of "why."

b. Universities existed in medieval times.

c. The exposition of the "verse" is unnecessary. This piece is a standalone meant to focus on the actions of the characters in question and perhaps the concept of aristocracy at large. To this end, we don't need to know where it's set or what its exact system of government is - all we need to know are the basics.

d. Regardless of what the protagonist's father has done, he is still his father: the man who has ostensibly raised him lovingly from birth. Although his murder of the son is no doubt cruel, it's important to realize that the narrator has just lost one of the most important people in his life from any standpoint. It is foolish to believe that the death of one's parent could provoke no semblance of emotion.
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Re: As of yet Untitled Fiction

Post  Miss Tiger on Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:41 pm

I actually love the vagueness of it. Using names would have bogged it down. Since it is just a beginning, my assumption is that the rest of the story will come out. And hell, maybe the main character's name isn't even important. He wonders if perhaps that act wasn't predestined. Perhaps he's just a tool. And like Grant said, this isn't some sweeping narrative about a huge kingdom and everyone in it. It's a very personal story. Names of lords, their standings, even his mother and father, who are both removed early in his life, would just jumble it up.

I love the very selective use of dialogue. It makes what there is that much stronger. It hit me really hard at the start, especially. It seems more like the bits that would stand out in the storyteller's mind rather than trying to remember whole paragraphs of chatter.

I personally find the motivation behind the murder far more interesting than the murder itself. I want to know how the storyteller went from defiant child to repentant murderer. His love for the lord at the beginning is made very clear.

I think it's an amazing start to a story, and I -will- pester you to complete it! <3

Also this: monkey is supposed to be a monkey. What the fuck, right?
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