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Bdor
February 28th, 2013, 01:48 AM
This is a project I've been working on for a little bit. It's an episodic high-fantasy story I'm writing. It's about a thief named, obviously, Delvin Shadowblade, a man that hires out his less-than-savory skills to the highest bidder. However, when what should have been a perfectly easy and simple heist, things become complicated, and he finds himself with an extremely dangerous magical artifact and being chased by a fanatical cult of dark sorcerers. I have Part 1 here, but I'm not sure it's the best it can be. You see, I have crippling lack of self-confidence when it comes to my work, and I always need someone to check it over and make sure it's okay (and if not, where it needs improving). Since I don't have any friends with a liking of high fantasy, it falls to you, random strangers on the internet. Please... enjoy.

The city of Wyrmsreach was known for being a very… eventful place to live, to say the least. Nestled in a sizable valley of the Dragonspine Mountains of Sylvania, the Wyrmsreach City Guard face goblins, spirits, dragons, and of course, wyrms, on a daily basis. On this clear, moonlit night, though, they’d be facing something much more extraordinary.

That extraordinary thing was currently scaling a sheer cliff, assisted be nothing other than his trusty grappling hook and a few rare footholds. His arms were sore, his mane of black hair was beaded with sweat, and he desperately needed to relieve himself. Delvin Shadowblade had had easier heists.

It was the only way to go, of course. Delvin wanted to remain undetected, and he couldn’t do that if he chose the well-traveled route. The steep and frankly dangerous path that wound up the cliffs was currently being patrolled by a couple dozen keen-eyed knights. Someone must have gotten wind of his plans and reported it to the City Guard.
But a good thief always had a backup, and this was his; a secret, undetected, exhausting way up. Who knew sheer cliffs were so difficult to climb? Next time, he was going to find a target a little more… low-laying.

Above his lithe, cat-like form, encased in leather armor dyed dark blue, Delvin’s hawkish blue eyes took in a glimpse of his destination: Highguard Tower. It was a fortress, a great mass of cobblestone built into the very cliff. In fact, Delvin was actually climbing over parts of the foundation; windows and the occasional balcony that led into the lower levels of the structure.

But he dared not enter those. According to his sources, wizards had placed spells upon these convenient entrances. One foot inside one of them, and he’d be frozen, incinerated, obliterated, eviscerated, and turned into a newt. All unpleasant experiences. But this protection, again according to his sources, didn’t extend to a single window. For all their power, wizards were very careless individuals.

Carefully, the dashing thief pulled himself up on to a balcony only twenty feet under his desired entrance. Only one more throw of his grappling hook, and a quick climb, and he was in. He took a few moments to rest and wipe the sweat from his forehead. It wouldn’t do for him to make it this far and collapse from exhaustion. More out of curiosity than anything, he looked down upon the city below.

Wyrmsreach was laid out before him like a map. The Upper Levels, the tangle of mansions and towers where lords and particularly rich men resided, clung to the mountains as a child would cling to its mother. The Lower Levels, where the poor and the peasants worked, were spread before the valley in a great tangle. And in the distance loomed the Great Gate, a massive reinforced threshold that protected the only entrance to this city.

The only easy entrance, Delvin corrected himself with a grin. He committed this sight to memory. Having a bird’s-eye view of the city would really come in handy during his escape.

Steeling himself, Shadowblade heaved his grappling hook, spun it in the air a few times, and launched it at his target. The thief heard the satisfactory sound of metal colliding with stone, and he knew he was successful. He began his final climb of the night.

Halfway to the window, he met a little snag. An armored man walked onto the balcony below, oblivious to the presence of the master thief just ten feet above. Delvin froze, a wide variety of foul words flying through his head. He couldn’t afford to be seen, by him or any other.

The man looked over the rather scenic view of Wyrmsreach, drinking it in as a man would a painting. To him, nothing was wrong. He was simply getting some fresh air. Don’t look up, Delvin pleaded to the universe. Don’t look up, don’t look up, don’t look up. The thief shifted slightly, his foot grinding against a rock. He froze again. Now he’d done it.
Like magic, the man tensed, his hand flying to his sword. Something was wrong, he knew it. But where? He was the only person on the balcony. Delvin saw the conclusion forming in his quarry’s mind. The only place an intruder could be—was that man walking back inside?

Yes, he was. Delvin resisted the urge to laugh out loud. He had just left! He’d been so close to stopping the thief, and let him slip away! Grinning ear-to-ear, Delvin continued his climb.

Just as he had been told, the window was unguarded and undefended. He slid in easily, swift and silent as a shadow. The thief found himself in a narrow corridor, cut from stone. Carved into the rock were half-a-dozen doors. Which one should he take?

“Delvin?” a voice asked. The thief started and whirled around, but found no one. “Delvin, are you there?” Delvin sighed with relief. He knew that voice, and where it was coming from. He plunged his hand into a pocket in his armor and pulled free a small amber orb.

“Answer, Delvin,” the voice said again. No doubt. The voice was coming from the orb.

He drew the orb close to his mouth. “Lazav?” he murmured.

The voice from the orb sighed with relief. “Oh, thank goodness you’re still alive. For a moment I thought you’d fallen to your death!”

Orbs were very reliable method of communication throughout Terra. Crafted by mages, orbs were enchanted to allow communication between two or more parties no matter the distance. The bearer of one orb could, simply by talking through it, send a message to the bearer of another, and that other could respond. Conversations could be held this way from across continents. Delvin had been provided his in order to speak with Lazav, his man on the inside. Every good heist needed a turncoat.

“There was a… complication,” Delvin admitted, thinking of the man on the balcony. “But it’s of no consequence.”

“Good,” purred Lazav. “Now listen carefully. The thing you’ll want is in the Artifact Research Wing, in the lower levels. For that, you’ll want the door on the far right.”

“What’s between here and there?” asked Delvin sharply.

“A few minor enchantments,” Lazav told his thief. “Don’t worry, I’ve taken of those. You’ll have to take care of the guard, though.”

“Guard?”

“Oh, yes,” Lazav said gleefully through the orb. “A nasty brute, encased head to toe in the best armor the knights can provide. Knows a fair bit of magic, too. Very dangerous, very difficult to dispose of.”

Delvin sighed. This would be difficult “What single object could warrant this much security?” he wondered aloud.

“You don’t know?” Lazav asked. “Seriously?”

“I just steal things,” Delvin said icily. “I bring them to the employer and get a cut. I don’t question it.” That was only half true. Delvin had indeed pestered his… employer about what he was after. He only received in turn the vague remark that it was ‘shiny’, as well as assurances that it would make them both very rich.

Lazav seemed to guess Delvin’s discontent. “You’d think that you’d be provided proper information from your own—”

“Don’t say it!” Delvin hissed. “Someone could be listening in!”

“Who? The Orb Faerie?”

By this point, Delvin had grown very tired of Lazav’s voice, and stuffed the orb back into his pocket. He’d heard enough. Quiet as a mouse, the thief slipped through the door that Lazav had pointed out. He found himself in yet another corridor, absent of any decoration save for a single sign that said Artifact Research Wing; Restricted Access. “That was easy,” the thief muttered as he began to sneak forward.

“Stop!” Lazav’s voice rang out. Delvin slid to a halt, annoyed, and again pulled the orb out of his pocket.

“What now?” he asked angrily.

“I just found out,” Lazav said urgently. “They’ve added some new security. If you take two more steps, you’ll trigger a ward.”

Delvin sighed. He hated wards. Defensive spells were a thorn in the side of every thief. “What’ll it do?”

“I’m not exactly sure,” said Lazav hesitantly. “But I think it’ll turn you into a chicken.”

Shadowblade really had to hand it to wizards. They were careless and arrogant, yes, but damn it were they creative. “How do I get past?”

“You’ll have to stand on one leg and do a tap dance.”

“How do I really get past?”

Lazav sighed with annoyance. “You’re no fun. I was told that there was a password. Hold me close to the ward and I’ll take it down.”

Delvin complied with his accomplice’s demands and held up the orb. Lazav shouted a string of strange words, words the shadowy thief couldn’t even fathom. Clearly it was more than gibberish, for a soon as he started speaking, the hallway in front of him was filled by a swirling green aura. Had that always been there, waiting and invisible? As the man on the other side of the orb finished speaking, the aura disappeared, leaving the hallway clear.

Hesitantly, Delvin stepped forward. Would he still turn into a chicken? As it turned out… no. He was still entirely Delvin Shadowblade. The burglar breathed a sigh of relief and continued forward.

Everything had been going so well until the explosion.

Delvin was just as surprised as everyone else when a shockwave tore through the cliffs. Cracks appeared in every wall, floor, and ceiling. For a moment, the thief was afraid that the whole complex would collapse right on top of his dashing head. “.What the hell?” he muttered. What had just happened, and how would this effect his plan?

The thief heard something click. With horror, he realized that the door leading to the Artifact Research Wing was being pushed open. Hadn’t Lazav said something about a guard? A deadly, magic-wielding, armed-to-the-teeth guard? He looked for somewhere to hide, but he was too slow. The largest man Delvin had ever seen, encased in armor from head to toe and holding a massive claymore sword, stepped into the hallway…

…and proceeded to run straight past him as though he wasn’t there. Delvin couldn’t believe his luck so far. Almost skipping with merriness, he walked straight up to the ajar door and reached out a hand.

At that point, three men stormed into the hallway, swords drawn. Delvin withdrew his hand and wheeled around, throwing his arms into the air.

“Surrender, burgl—oh, okay,” one of the men began shouting, noticing Delvin’s gesture at the last moment. He turned to his comrades. “I didn’t expect him to surrender that easily. Did you two think that would happen?”

“I’m just full of surprises,” Delvin said smartly, giving them his most winning smile.

“Yes, you are,” one of the men said, stepping forward. He raised his right hand, and both of his comrades lowered their swords. Obviously he was the leader. “Clearly you’re a man of extraordinary talent.”

The man looked strangely familiar. Delvin squinted, taking note of the brown hair, hard eyes, and especially that armor. He was sure he’d seen that armor before. And then it hit him. Realizing who it was, he groaned. The universe had such bitter irony.

He’d been caught by the man from the balcony.

Circadian
February 28th, 2013, 05:52 PM
Well, I can say that I already like Delvin, so good job with that. This was easy to read and I am glad to not have to correct any SpaG errors. I didn't see too much I would change. I can see this world well enough with the description you've provided and I haven't been overwhelmed with detail. There are just a few teensy little things I'd like to point out that can be corrected easily.


One foot inside one of them, and he’d be frozen, incinerated, obliterated, eviscerated, and turned into a newt.

"...or turned into a newt." It would be really difficult to suffer through every one of these at the same time.


Don’t worry, I’ve taken care of those.


This would be difficult. “What single object could warrant this much security?” he wondered aloud.

Overall, this was a well-written piece and I would be interested in reading more. Based on the little synopsis you gave, it sounds like it's going to be an intriguing story.

~Circe

archer88iv
March 1st, 2013, 05:56 AM
Running commentary:


1. Wyrm and dragon = same damn thing in any sensible mythos.


2. Just to avoid the had-had thing, try "had been on easier heists."


3. "...didn't extend to a single window," to me, naturally raises the question, "Well, which one, dammit?" which you then refuse to answer.


4. Missing detail: you forgot to mention how he tucks the loose end of that rope into his belt so that the guard doesn't see it when he goes out for a smoke as our hero dangles overhead. No, it's not important that we know how this worked out; I just thought it'd be a good way to demonstrate the master thief's competence.


5. Delete this entire paragraph:


"Orbs were very reliable method of communication throughout Terra. Crafted by mages, orbs were enchanted to allow communication between two or more parties no matter the distance. The bearer of one orb could, simply by talking through it, send a message to the bearer of another, and that other could respond. Conversations could be held this way from across continents. Delvin had been provided his in order to speak with Lazav, his man on the inside. Every good heist needed a turncoat."


Seriously. What we didn't figure out from the context, you ought to be showing us by their conversation. Furthermore, details like, "reliable communication," and "crafted by mages to allow conference calling," etc., are out pretty out of place unless they, like the "man on the inside" bit, are somehow a part of Delvin's witty inner monolog.


6. Give the man on the balcony some kind of defining detail. Don't simply have Delvin recognize him: have the *audience* recognize him.

Topper88
March 3rd, 2013, 02:13 AM
"Delvin Shadowblade"? Don't stop there man, call him "Awesome McBadass"!

I kid. I do suggest changing the name to something a bit more mundane, though. "Delvin Shadowblade" is right up there with "Jim Darkmagic" in terms of eye-rolliness.

As a general criticism, unless the focus of the story is the world of Terra (too expected of a name, in contrast), there's really no point to mentioning how the city is near some mountains in the city of something or other. Unless exposition like that is absolutely required for the reader to know what's going on in the scene, don't include it. Readers are very patient when it comes to waiting for exposition, so there's no need to front-load details about the area's geography.

And turning someone into a chicken is supposed to be clever? Why not have the ward set the ground below you on fire while simultaneously conjuring a metal pot around he invader so they cook to death?

I really like the humor you bring out. Delvin's a cool guy, but be very careful not to let him fall into the Mary Sue zone where he can do no wrong and is only mildly annoyed when he just scaled a sheer cliff wall only to be caught by the guard he narrowly avoided just a minute ago. I didn't sense he was all that tense about the situation (even hardened thieves aren't immune to it) or that he was especially frustrated about getting caught.

Lastly, like archer said, wyrms and dragons are the same thing. If they are actually different creatures in your story, I'm not sure your intention is worth confusing a lot of readers. Just call them something else.

I like your style. Keep it up.

Bdor
March 3rd, 2013, 03:08 AM
Did I put 'clever'? I actually meant to put 'creative' in there. I'll be fixing that right away.

Sorry about the whole exposition thing. I kind of have this obsession with sharing every little detail right at the beginning so that the reader knows whats going on, because I personally hate being left in the dark. Knowledge of Wyrmsreach and its surrounding wilderness will be important to later chapters, and it does help set the scene a little. I'll try to cut back a little on that front, move most of the little details to when they're needed.

And yes, dragons and wyrms are two entirely different creatures in my mythos. Dragons are hyper-intelligent beings that fly through the air and breathe fire, while wyrms are savage beasts that burrow through the ground and spit acid. I'll try to make that more clear.

Topper88
March 3rd, 2013, 12:02 PM
Actually I'm the one who mixed up "creative" and "clever". My bad. Either way though I think my point still stands. Turning someone into a chicken doesn't seem all that creative of a curse. Sorcerers turning people into farm animals has been around since the Odyssey.

Bdor
March 4th, 2013, 11:26 PM
Well, creative in a relative way, I think. You could have a defensive spell set someone on fire, trap someone in place, or give away their position. Turning a potential enemy into a harmless farm animal is thinking a bit outside the box. After all, I don't think Delvin's read the Oddysey.

Oh, and speaking of names, I've decided to change 'Shadowblade' into something a bit less eccentric. How does 'Delvin Drake' sound?

Outiboros
March 5th, 2013, 01:44 AM
Some minor things-

I agree with the whole Shadowblade thing, and also the removal of the orbs paragraph.
Additionally:

- Why is he wearing leather armour? I don't know if it serves a purpose later on, but any armour would make it hard to scale cliffs. 'Leather armour' in fantasy is too often inspired by DnD rather than history, too, but I don't know if that sort of accuracy bugs you as much as it does me. That's more a thing of tastes. Anyhow, perhaps tight clothes of some sort of silent cloth, wool perhaps, would be more fitting for a thief.
- "Oh, thank goodness you’re still alive!" seems a bit too compassionate for some thief you're helping out/works for you.
- There's an unfinished sentence - "taken of those" where it should have been "take care of those."
- "Delvin had indeed pestered his… employer about what he was after." You use the whole "ellipsis for effect" thing a bit too often.
- For a supposedly stealthy thief who is 'quiet as a mouse,' he thinks aloud rather often.
- The whole thing with the ward seems strange. It's a bit bizarre in contrast with the rest.
- 'claymore' comes from 'claidheamh mor,' meaning 'great sword.' So, in 'claymore sword,' the 'sword' is redundant.
- 'He raised his right hand, and both of his comrades lowered their swords. Obviously he was the leader.' Yes, obviously he is. You can remove that last part, to improve the flow.

Bdor
March 5th, 2013, 02:43 AM
Thank you for this. I just fixed most of these, and I'm in the process of tracking down that unfinished sentence. As for the whole leather armor thing... I'm not really going for super-realistic. There is a lot of it that's inspired by D&D, and I need my character to be wearing something that would serve to protect him if things got dicey. Regular ol' metal, though, would be way too heavy for rock-climbing. So I decided on leather.

Topper88
March 8th, 2013, 09:24 PM
Well, creative in a relative way, I think. You could have a defensive spell set someone on fire, trap someone in place, or give away their position. Turning a potential enemy into a harmless farm animal is thinking a bit outside the box. After all, I don't think Delvin's read the Oddysey.

Oh, and speaking of names, I've decided to change 'Shadowblade' into something a bit less eccentric. How does 'Delvin Drake' sound?
I don't think the audience will agree with the statement that turning someone into a chicken is creative, and that throwaway line will stick out. Just my two cents.

"Delvin Drake" is better, but still a bit too try-hard. How about Delvin Dane? Delvin Frey? Delvin Valhart? Names can sound cool without referencing huge badass monsters, or how a sword closely resembles a shadow.