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MBNewman
May 1st, 2013, 01:02 AM
Hello, all! I just finished this chapter in my book "the Brookrow Bastard", and it still has some kinks to work out, but I figured I would see what some fellow writers thought of it so far. I am looking to solidify the tension and atmosphere of this chapter, so any suggestions or opinions on that matter would be much appreciated.

As always, a preemptive thank you to any potential readers.

QUICK INFO: Killian Todd is the protagonist, and Liam Morin is the son of the man who is courting Killian's mother. They are 15 and 16 years old respectively, living in an alternative, pre-Victorian era in the port city of Irianna.

*UPDATED: Made revisions based on suggestions offered during a read through.

WC: 3000


V: The Streets of Grey


My heart raced as I took those half-hearted steps after Liam Morin. My stubborn nature had gotten the better of me, despite my hesitations. I could not just go back now, but I was still wary of what might come next.
He trotted along a few feet ahead of me, whistling a boisterous tune. He had not spoken to me once since convincing me to sneak out. I knew not where he was taking me, nor why. It was a mystery only he knew the answer to, and he seemed to enjoy leaving me guessing.

What are you doing? I asked myself, slipping through a cluster of people. Why are you following him?
The thought never left my mind, yet I stayed my course. Whenever I thought I might catch up, he would clearly pick up pace. After struggling to keep up, there was no doubt that his physical prowess was significantly superior to my own.
“Wait up,” I called after him between heaving breaths.

The worn soles of my shoes slapped against the cobblestones bellow as I followed after him. I was afraid that the material may give out at long last, and I knew not if we had the money for repairs. Mother had often teased me about anxiously awaiting the day I would stop growing so that she would no long have more. If they fell apart now, I would hold Liam accountable.

The would-be-accused glanced back for only a second, a smirk growing on his face. He stood on the outskirts of a dense crowd. “Well, come now, Todd. Keep up.”

Before I had a chance to reach him, Liam had slipped into the heart of the busy street. I charged into the crowd after him, knowing quite well how dangerous the city could be at night.

He was gifted in traversing the dense herds of people that filtered through the streets; a gift that I did not share. He glanced back often to check if I was still following, the smirk lingering on his lips.

All progress would be lost he made a hasty change in direction. I was jostled and turned about by the countless people. While struggling against the current of the river of people, I lost sight of Liam for a time. I would catch glimpses of him weaving in and out of the crowds. I gritted my teeth, and gave an exasperated grunt.

While surveying the crowds for Liam, I noted a couple walking hand in hand, and removed myself from their path. This courtesy led me to a clearing in the street, where I was able to further search.

There was no sight of Liam. In the light of this discovery, I allowed myself some time to catch my breath. When I had the energy, I began my search again. Minutes had passed and I still had seen no glimpse of him. In absent-minded boredom, I passed the time by kicking an empty bottle I found down the road. After a few failed attempts, I ceased attempting to kick with my left foot, with which I could never make a solid connection. Raising my right foot to strike, I took aim.

“Get out of the way!” came a shout from my rear. I turned about to see the coming horse-drawn carriage, its coachman waving frantically. For a moment, I could not move. For a moment, I could not scream. All I could do was watch as the carriage barreled my way, before the light of the lantern hung at its fore blinded me.

When that moment passed, I found myself sitting on my arse upon the ground. A surreal experience, to be sure, but after a quick look over, I determined that I was unscathed.
“Tryin’ to get yeself killed, boyo?” growled a vagrant standing by my side.

I glanced upward to look upon the man. A knotted, grey beard encompassed most of his face and his clothes were tattered and stained. In any other circumstance, his appearance would have repelled me. Mother had always told me to keep away from the lowlifes and vagrants, and never to speak to them. I had always been told they were thieves and criminals, yet this one had showed me compassion.

“Thank you, sir,” I said, pushing myself up. “You saved my—”

The vagrant waved the gratitude away, grumbling and scratching at the gnarled beard about his neck. “No need. Jus' mind where yer steppin’ from now on, eh?”

Without another word the man went about his business. It was a fortunate happenstance perhaps, but in Irianna it was an oddity. Most of the citizens firmly believed in an “every man for himself” mentality, but this vagrant proved to me that this was not always the case.

Just as I began to believe that there had been some good in the world, I was returned to the reality by a simple question: “What are you waiting for, Todd?”

I turned around, following the sound of his voice. I found him leaning in the maw of an alley, arms folded across his chest. The smirk had not left his lips as he gestured me his way. I jogged to him, watching for anymore of his tricks.

“Why did you run off?” I asked before he could speak.

“Why did you not keep up?” he retorted.

I glared at him, but still I did not intimidate him. I shoved my hands into my pockets and grumbled, “Where are we going anyway?”

“Exploring the city. There are so many sights to see, so many mysteries to unearth.”

I gazed about anxiously. I knew that that when I returned home, I would be punished for leaving. There was no way around that. But if my mother knew I had ventured into the alleys, she would be beyond furious.

“Nothing good comes from walking the streets of grey,” I said, gazing into the grey cobblestone alley, my eyes following the narrow path that led into darkness where the light of the sun could scarce reach, “only misery and woe will lead your way.”

“How quaint,” Liam sneered. “What? Are you afraid, Todd?”

“I am not afraid. I just have some common sense. Nothing good will come from this.”

“If you do not wish to join me, then go home. Go back to your Auntie Elsa, and the chores that she has surely lined up for your punishment.”

I gritted my teeth. Glancing back into the alley reaffirmed my belief that I could take any punishment over going in there. I kept telling Liam, and myself, that I was not afraid. That could not have been farther from the truth.
If there is one thing that everyone in Irianna knows, it is the dangers that lurk in the alleys. The husks prefer them, as a lot of commotion scares them. They are nocturnal hunters, and target those who are few in number or venture off onto unforgiving paths.

“I am not going in there.”

“Suit yourself,” Liam said. Turning around, he strode into the alley.

I glanced around, and back to him. I did not know what to do. If I turned and ran home, I would not only have to deal with the repercussions for leaving, but now I would have to explain why I left Liam out here alone. I did not want to venture forth, but I had no other option.

“Gods-be-damned,” I muttered, as I watched him progress down the alley.

While the alley entry had been cleared of all debris and rubbish, to give the streets the appearance of cleanliness, the ground ahead had not been tended to. A single path in the center of the alley had been cleared of the muck and filth. Who, or what, had cleared the way, I knew not.

Crossing the threshold, I took my first step into the alley. An intimidating sight, to be sure. Narrow enough for only a single body to fit through at a time, and towering high enough to black out the sun. I ran my fingers along the mossy walls as a precaution for the slick alley floor. Step after step, my heart beating quicker and quicker, I progressed into the darkness that lay before me.

I glanced once last time at the street, allowing myself one last chance to go home. Liam stood in the shadows of the alley, watching me. When I turned back to him, I saw his smirking face, veiled by shade.
“We need to go,” he announced, the smirk growing wider, “while we still have the light.”

Giving a chuckle, he disappeared into alleyway. I had no time to think. I had to catch up. I took a deep breath, and began to follow after him once more. I stepped into the darkness, watching as the world slowly faded around me. I pressed forward, delving into the depths of misery and woe. By the time I looked over my shoulder, I could no longer see the light from the streets.

There was no turning back now.

*

Light faded quickly as we ventured into the alleys. We had not remained on the original path for long, and had taken many turns that drove us even deeper. I had no inkling to where we were, or how to get back. I hated myself for putting my life in the hands of someone I had no reason to trust. I did not know if he knew where we were going, and was growing certain that he would not be able to get us back out.

Good work, Killian. With one brainless move, you have followed the wolf to slaughter. I thought as I stumbled blindly in the black. My foot squelched into a pile of what I hoped was a dog’s excrement. In the alley of a city like Irianna, one can never be certain. I shook the bile from my foot, and quickly skipped after Liam, trying my best to not think about it.

I was grateful that he had been keeping a reasonable pace this time around, as I did not want to chase him in this place. He must have known the dangers that linger here. We were on our own now, but I had no doubt that we were not alone here.

Liam, even now, kept his smirk. His expression had never wavered, as if it had been only a mask that he wore. I humored myself with a brief thought of Liam removing different masks bearing his face in different ridiculous expressions. A hiss of fleeting alley cat returned my attention to the world around me.

Focus, I berated myself, pay attention. I do not want to die today.

I had stopped asking Liam where we were going as he would always avoid the question. No matter how hard I might try, I could never get a direct answer out of him. I was not even anxious to see what he had planned anymore. I wanted to go home, read my books, do my chores, practice my penmanship; anything, but be here.

The alley we traveled finally led us to an open area, where the fading, orange light of the sun could be seen. This place was preferable to the confining alleyways, though cluttered by shipping crates as it was. I looked around, glad to be able to see my surroundings without impeded vision. Liam found himself a seat atop one of the crates, resting his feet on smaller one nearby. While a rest sounded delightful, I did not want to stop now.

“We should turn back, Liam,” I said.

“What is your rush?”

“It is getting late, and it is already hard to see.”

Turning to face me, I noticed that the smirk had vanished. Liam looked up at the sky. As I waited for him to speak I took notice of a horrid stench that seemed to linger in the area. I shielded my nose under shirt, hoping to filter out the smell.
Another item to add to the list of reasons why I do not want to be here.

After a time, Liam looked back down, appearing to be unbothered by the smell. I was surprised as I could hardly stand it even within the confines of my shirt. He had that cold look in his eyes again, and again he aimed it at me.
“Why did my father give you a knife?”

I was caught off-guard by the question. I did not know that he had been told. I said, “He gave it to me to protect my mother, said I was a man now.”

“You said you were not afraid of anything, right? Men are never afraid.”

I nodded abruptly, trying my best to seem certain.

“Then you are not afraid of the dark.”

“Obviously,” I said as boldly as I could manage, wrinkling my nose as the smell penetrated my defenses. “Gods, but this stench is vile. Do you not smell it?”

“What made you scared that night?”

“Liam, I do not want to stand about in this,” I said, avoiding his question for a change.

“My father said that you saw a monster in the dark.”

“No.”

“What did you see then, Todd? Was it a demon? Are you scared of them?”

“I saw the man that I killed,” I growled with a locked jaw.

Liam chuckled emptily. “No,” he said, and reaffirmed, “no. Not a man. A husk, a brainless creature—a wild animal, if you will. I was impressed by what my father told me. How you killed that husk with your mother’s paring knife; marvelous. Tell me,
what did it feel like? Was it quick, or slow?”

“What are you asking me?”

“I am asking you how it felt to take a life.”

“Well, I,” I thought, as my hand fell down to the pommel of the dagger tucked under my shirt. I remembered what Liam’s father had told me that I should be proud of what I had down. “I felt…happy. I saved my mother.”

“That is not what I am asking.”

“Then what do you want to know?”

“How did it feel? Think back to when you put blade to skin, when you slid that knife deep into the creature’s flesh. Were you surprised how easy it was? Did you get a rush when it finally stopped struggling; stopped…moving?”

My brows furrowed and I watched Liam curiously. “Yeah, I guess,” I muttered.

The smirk had returned in full-force now. “Knowing that you hurt someone so horribly that they can never hurt you again; it is invigorating, is it not? That husk—that animal—can never hurt you again.”

“You are right,” I said, “but others can hurt us, as they are likely in these parts.”

“There was at least one.”

“What do you mean?”

Liam said nothing, just breathed a laugh and walked silently over towards a stack of shipping crates. He had begun to unnerve me more than he already before, and by this point I had half a mind to flee right then and there. My stubbornness to
prove to him that I was not afraid forced me to remain. I watched with shallow breath as he began to move boxes out of the way.

When the way was clear, he stood gazing at what he had uncovered. I looked back at the pitch black nothing that waited behind me. I had no way of getting back alone now. I would never find my way out.

“Come here, Todd. Come and see.”

I took a few steps forward, questioning myself all the way. What are you doing? Go back home, go to Mother and Elsa. You can take all the punishments, just turn around and go home.

My brain could not persuade my feet, and soon I was standing by Liam’s side, though I could not see what was hiding behind the crates. He turned to me, and stepped out of the way, gesturing for me to approach.

I took a deep breath, knowing my heart what I would see. I would tell myself that I was only scaring myself, but as I stepped closer the spectacle in question became visible in the dim light.

There upon the ground, festering with maggots and puss, lay a bloated carcass. The macabre corpse lacked a jaw, and from belly to sternum had been torn open, flesh and organs exposed. The smell from the distance was unbearable, and the sight of the rotting body sent flashes through my mind. I stumbled away, falling to all fours on the ground.

“Nothing fights back when they are dead,” Liam said, as looked down the decomposing form. “When they are dead, we are in control. Nothing can stop us.”

I was able to make it back to my feet without vomiting, but I had not begun to quit retching. I could not breathe, so potent were the fumes. I felt that the foul stench would linger forever in my nostrils, as the memory of this day surely would imprint itself in my mind.

I have to get out of here, my thoughts screamed. I have to go!

I ran as fast as I could, ignoring my weary limbs and the absence of breath in my lungs. I did not turn around, and did not look back. From behind I heard a gleeful squeal pierce the silence night, “Nothing good comes from walking the streets of grey...”

With Liam’s grim laughter echoed after me as I fled, with no foresight as to how I would ever make it back out in the darkness.
*

lowprofile300
May 1st, 2013, 01:33 AM
Hello, all! I just finished this chapter in my book "the Brookrow Bastard", and it still has some kinks to work out, but I figured I would see what some fellow writers thought of it so far. I am looking to solidify the tension and atmosphere of this chapter, so any suggestions or opinions on that matter would be much appreciated.

As always, a preemptive thank you to any potential readers.

WC: 2200



The Streets of Grey:

I have to get out of here, screamed my thoughts. I have to go!

From behind I heard a gleeful squeal pierce the silent night, “There are no good who walk the streets of grey...”

I ran as fast as I could, ignoring my weary limbs and the absence of breath in my lungs. I did not turn around, did not look back. With Liam’s morbid cackling echoing after me, I fled from there, having no idea how I would ever make it home in the darkness.
*

@MBNewman, there are a few typos that need fixing, which is something you can do during a read through. In terms of building up the suspense, I noticed that you spent a third of the story focused on the kid following Liam, and the little bit of suspense came towards the end. My suggestion is that, you add suspense and some element of imminent danger or dangers throughout the story as he follows Liam. You can create some danger in the crowd, some danger at the horse drawn carriage scene. Just an idea. All in all, it's an interesting chapter. Cheers

Folcro
May 4th, 2013, 10:39 PM
It's been a while since I read your forward to this story, but that might be a good thing: so I can judge this chapter on its own merit. Some of the basic questions I have, like how old are these guys, may have been answered back there, I'm not sure. If not, it might be a good time to establish that (If you haven't already and I'm just that absent-minded enough to have overlooked it. Apologies if that's the case).

Let me first get down to the nitty-gritty and work my way into how I think your narrative can be improved.

"Fully within my own right to question"--- that line didn't sit well with me. What does it mean? I would already assume he's in his rights, especially if he is saying this to himself...

Watch for redundancy: "The thought never left my mind, but still I did not change course. I pressed after him" I would make this: "The thought never left my mind, but still I pressed after him."

Try to use "seem to" only when you need to. If something is obvious, like Liam's picking up pace, you might prefer to word it "clearly picking up pace when I almost caught up."

"A smirk unveiling on his face"--- I would take out "unveiling." Unless Liam is smirking in slow motion. Unlikely.

"Before I had a chance to reach him..." Todd actually had several chances to reach him, remember---? When Liam would "pick up pace." I would therefor word this a little differently.

"Morin was gifted in traversing past the dense field..." Traversing is a nice word--- it has "traveling" and "past" already bundled up on its own.

...Who is Morin, anyway? (If I'm being absent-minded again, I apologize).

Watch your "ANDs," your "ASs" and your "SOs"--- "And" this happened "so" that had to happen "as" this was happening. The reader will connect these ideas and sequences on their own. Usually, the comma will suffice, or even a whole new sentence.

"I jogged over to him." Over makes the sentence sound flowery, and you mentioned (and I can clearly see) that it is tension you are trying to cultivate throughout this chapter.

Describe the "alleyways" more--- both before and after Todd's entering them. By the time his foot sets within (a motion you may also consider describing), the reader should be begging him not to go any further. For example, "If you stepped on something soft and wet in there, you'd better hope it was dog leavings that seeped through the lining of your shoes, and not human guts (to expand on a line about dog feces you used later; one that I did not fully understand until I gave it some thought).

The line "did not even trust [Liam]" at the start of the second section made me realize that I should probably know more by this point about the relationship between Todd and Liam. Later, Todd tries to read Liam's mind--- your "masks" explanation. So how well does Todd really know this guy? Is he merely being presumptuous in his attempt to read Liam? Or does Todd maybe have some reason to trust Liam after all, and chooses not to?

All-in-all, I like it. You establish a story with ample potential for character development, which I always respect. Purge the flowers and switch to an active voice. "Hid my nose within my shirt"--- "I shoved my shirt against my nose." Things like that. Times of tension are NOT the time to show the reader how great your vocabulary is, or how poetic you can make a sentence. It is a time to take a step back and let the story tell itself. That is where true skill comes in. And you can achieve it here and now simply by removing some of these encumbering words and clauses.

However, there is one place in this story (or at least this chapter), where the flowery language fits perfectly--- Liam's dialogue. Liam is clearly arrogant and clever. Have him use long sentences with long words, where as Todd is to-the-point and logical.

Keep it going. Can't wait to see what you do with these characters.

Velex
May 5th, 2013, 03:11 AM
"The alleys were not only dangerous, they lacked the maintenance and upkeep that were almost exclusively solely reserved for the main streets. There was no shortage of street cleaners in Irianna, as they prisoners of the Imperial Jails were involuntarily volunteered for the position. The problem lied in the protection. The Watch held a presence in all districts, but alleys were too labyrinthine to properly escort prisoners through, let alone patrol."

"The alleys were not only dangerous, but dirty." You want to tell me about Todd and Liam. Don't stray.

MBNewman
May 5th, 2013, 07:38 AM
Hey thank you all for the reads and suggestions. I'll try and put up an updated version this weekend, and will keep your suggestions in mind when I tweak.

MBNewman
May 5th, 2013, 08:02 AM
It's been a while since I read your forward to this story, but that might be a good thing: so I can judge this chapter on its own merit. Some of the basic questions I have, like how old are these guys, may have been answered back there, I'm not sure. If not, it might be a good time to establish that (If you haven't already and I'm just that absent-minded enough to have overlooked it. Apologies if that's the case).
***
...Who is Morin, anyway? (If I'm being absent-minded again, I apologize).

I'll be doing some editing later, but I wanted to address these questions.

As to your first : I skipped ahead a couple chapters with this one, and had mentioned their ages before. Killian Todd is around 15 here, and Liam Morin is around 16. (If anyone read my older posted works, there had been a drastic age change of the protagonist during the rewrite)

As to the second: Well, the two boys are Killian Todd and Liam Morin. Because Liam often addresses Killian by his last name (and there is a reason why), Killian calls Liam by his. There's a bit foreshadow at work here ;)

If it was not the name switching that was not confusing, and you mean WHO is Liam Morin, well he is the son of a man named Corwin Morin, a man who is courting Killian's mother. Corwin and Liam are the antagonist and secondary antagonist. Liam Morin is also not your average young boy, he is a psychopath who has taken an obsessive interest in Killian Todd.

Skodt
May 5th, 2013, 05:48 PM
I don't really know exactly why, but it bugged me that Todd could kick a bottle through a crowded street. How did he not hit someone? Just a small detail, but it really broke my flow. Maybe switch that to something more impeding, he should be worried he lost him if he was chasing him down.

Pelwrath
May 6th, 2013, 02:06 PM
Nicely done, as for grammar my very weak aspect, so I'll not comment on what even I have little grasp of. How old are Todd and Liam? The questions about how it felt to take a life ad the follow up about saving his mom not what Lam meant are, to me, rather advanced philosophical concepts. What I di like is that I couldn't detect ay specific setting. Oh, it was in a street in a large city, but was it pre-industrial London or the port district on the East River in New York City? Is it a fantasy or alternate history. The mystery of that I liked.

BobtailCon
June 21st, 2013, 10:10 AM
I liked it :(