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View Full Version : Righteous indignation



Katon
December 17th, 2013, 07:30 AM
Just looking for some honest feedback. Yeah, it's probably a bit lengthy but I've worked pretty hard on it. Enjoy!


Azakan followed the line of servants to the main dining hall. The black coats and leggings of the servants were neatly pressed. Each boasted golden buttons and a golden silk fabric that lined the seams of his garments. Azakan matched the other servants well. They passed from a lesser dining hall into a narrow hallway. Azakan felt uneasy in such a narrow space. Many people that he had killed were caught in narrow walkways like this. People that were cornered, those that had been unlucky enough to know that their death was nigh. He held his breath, unable to escape the feeling of being cornered himself.
Finally he exhaled as the hallway opened up into a spacious dining hall. He felt like he could breathe again as he took in the scene around him. The guests of supreme honor were seated around a dark brown stained table. Two jesters traveled around the table entertaining the seated guests. Their orange and gold garments were overdone as is acceptable for a jester. The table rested on solid, peach flecked, white marble floors. Three golden chandeliers hung from the ceiling boasting oil lamps and crystal ornaments. Azakan looked over the faces in sight. Each guest was extravagantly dressed.
After surveying the attendees, there was no doubt in Azakan's mind that his target, Lord Urwath would be here. Azakan searched each face on the right hand side of the table. 'Who is it?' He wondered. He further studied the room around him. There were four doors on the ground level. Each door was stained the same dark shade as the table was. Every door looked solid and opened inward. Azakan knew that there would be no way that he could break through those. He hoped to The Highest that there were no narrow hallways beyond each of those. Azakan needed a plausible escape. If this was in fact where Lord Urwath was, he would need to be able to push past guards and possibly other assassins. Maneuvering in such narrow hallways would be almost impossible. The other possibility creeped into his mind. Such a bold move would require a safe escape. A flash and smoke bomb would stun the guests, and it would give him enough time to escape.
Over against the very right end of the hall were large plated windows. He searched his memory, trying to remember where the windows were on the outside of the palace. They overlooked the courtyard, beyond those windows was a stone platform that was raised probably six feet off the ground. There were two staircases on either side that led to the courtyard below it. Azakan guessed that a simple bomb would shatter the windows and he would have a straight run to the main entrance. The exit would be quite extravagant. However, the crowd below would doubtlessly part at his exit. The assassin's tournament was a dangerous game. Thirteen assassins were picked by Yargoth himself to participate in this tournament. They were assigned a target by name and were to find who that target was. The first to kill that target would win the game. Azakan proceeded into his place beside a noble and took the golden lid off of the silver plate. The aroma was intoxicating, an assortment of vegetables and various cuts of meat.
He leaned past the nobles that paid no heed to the presence of the servants. Azakan carefully placed the plate in front of the noble to his left. Azakan started to straighten his figure when his eyes locked with the eyes of a man across from him. Azakan felt needles prick the back of his head. Like a wave needles washed over his neck, and rolling down his back. The feeling turned his skin to ice as it rhythmically cascaded down the back of his body. There he stared into the eyes of the man, Lord Yargoth. His eyes were a vexing green with flurries of yellow toward the center of the pupil. His bald head reflected the light above. Yargoth's face was strong with a squared, wide jaw, covered in short-cut facial hair, black. Yargoth smiled, his lips extending to either side of his face and showed his yellow teeth in a grin that spelled triumph. The ice was quickly replaced with coal. The coal was solid and hot in his bosom. From its center, a hot anger radiated outward. Yargoth was the reason that Azakan entered Wrath, the Assassin's guild. Azakan hated every assignment. He dreaded every kill. Still, after trying to escape, he had found that there was no where to run from the hand of Wrath. Azakan knew what Yargoth was thinking: Azakan was the one that almost got away. Now Azakan was a pawn in Yargoth's tournament and would serve as his personal entertainment.
Hope was kindled inside of him. Two paths lay before him. Either he could play Yargoth's game, or he could end it. Azakan allowed a slight smile to touch his lips. 'Just you wait,' he thought. Azakan pulled away from Yargoth's glare and stood up. The line of servants had begun to exit. Azakan quickly followed. As he turned left to make his way down the table he sighted one of the jesters. Her eyes met his and in that moment, they knew. Azakan realized that the jester was an assassin herself, and she knew that he was an assassin. Sometimes assassins would guard the target to kill any assassin that came near. It's likely that both jesters are assassins guarding the target. Teams were allowed in the tournament. Azakan, worked alone.
Azakan passed by her without flinching. It would be too obvious a place to kill anyone in the main hall. If she made a move to pursue, Azakan would have to defend himself. 'Guilty consciousness or not, what is one life justly taken amid my sea of iniquity,' he thought. Azakan passed through the doors and into the narrow hallway. It opened into a lesser dining hall. Azakan turned slightly to see the silhouette of the jester in his peripherals. She walked calmly from the opposite end of the hallway. Azakan turned slowly, to his right was the kitchen door, at the far end was a door that led deeper into the palace. To his left was the door that led out to the courtyard. There, guests were no doubt mingling in loose circles. In the courtyard it would be easy to get lost.
Azakan was disturbed by the food master to his right, he called Azakan over and exchanged the golden lid for a platter of moon bread. "Go hand these to the guests outside," he said and waved Azakan off. Azakan rushed out into the night. Before he left he saw the jester standing in the doorway to the grand dining hall. The night air engulfed him as the door shut behind him. He quickly made his way into the crowd dispersing the bread to the guests around him. They were delighted with the oil and garlic vinegar smothered bread. Azakan himself had a taste for moon bread, he remembered the maids at his home used to make them. That was an olds life that had been stolen from him.
Several other servants similarly dressed made their way through the crowd. Azakan turned toward the door to serve a group of guests. There, black against the bright interior stood the jester. She descended the steps to the courtyard. She didn't pause for one second. Azakan found himself very thankful for the dimly light setting. The dull moon lanterns hung above the courtyard. Their light was enough to see, but not enough to carefully distinguish one servant from another.
Azakan kept an eye on the jester as she carefully made her way around the courtyard. She stopped several times performing for the gathered guests. Azakan looked down at the platter in his hand. His bread was running low. Azakan started making his way toward the door that he came out of. He searched around only to find that he had lost track of the jester. Azakan began to feel uneasy, he moved to get out of the courtyard fast. Something he knew that he should have done a while ago.
He went and served a larger group of nobles who only motioned to another servant that was on the other side of the group serving them. Azakan looked over at the young blond man in time to see a hand wrap around his face. A knife was quickly brought around to his throat and cut deep. The figure behind him pulled the servant back to look at his face. The crowd gasped in horror, several of the ladies shrieked as the group opened up around the killer. Azakan backed up with them and made his way into the palace. Behind him he could hear a quick succession of steps. The footsteps trailed to his right as he mounted the stairs to the doorway. Azakan paused and looked up, 'wonderful,' he thought as his legs turned to lead. Before the door stood the jester, somehow she realized that the servant wasn't her indented kill. Courage was never about not feeling fear. It was the actions that you took contrary to fear. Right now, Azakan felt fear as he forced his body to move. He dropped the platter and took off running. He knew that other assassins would be in the vicinity, but if he didn't run he was going to die anyway. He passed through the crowd pushing his way around groups. The pillars to his left were too thick to climb. If she were handy with throwing knives, she would pick him off anyway. The only plausible escape was into the gardens beyond the courtyard. Azakan turned himself to the right, his feet beat upon the blocks of stone. Women cringed as he ran by, and some guests whispered among themselves. Azakan guessed it was about how undignified he was acting.
Azakan ran between two marble pillars encased with vines. He lamented that the vines were too weak to support the weight of a man. Before him lay vast trails that led to separate gardens and garden houses. Several lovers made their way among the many fountains and the greenery. However, there were significantly less people here than in the rest of the party. The footsteps behind him increased in pace. Azakan turned and jumped to the left as the woman stabbed at his midsection with a knife. He was not about to become just 10 more points for HER score. He pulled a knife from a secured holster in his sleeve. He then swept his left arm down and out to swipe her arm away. Azakan then jabbed at her. She stepped back and brought her knife up to slit his throat. Azakan caught her right arm, pulled it away, and then moved forward and slit her throat.
Blood fanned out from the wound as she gasped quickly. She fell backward clutching at her throat. Azakan looked down upon her as she died. He regretted death, he had never imagined that so many would meet their end at his hands. All he wanted was revenge on Wermich, the man that killed his parents. For that reason, he joined Wrath. Azakan looked down at the jester, he picked her up to move her body into the bushes. As he bent over her lifeless form he smelled her for the first time. The smell of Jasmine permeated her. Azakan remembered his mother, a knife plunged into his heart as the memory vexed him. A gyre of anger encompassed him as he looked back on his life. His countless assignments, and his merciless fulfillment of Yargoth's will. He never expected how hard it would be to kill someone. Azakan tried to escape Yargoth, but he could only evade his men for long.
Azakan looked up, a man stood between the two marble pillars. Azakan's muscles tightened as he readied himself to escape. The man only looked between Azakan and the jester and nodded. The man then walked away. Azakan sighed at the realization that the man was a spectator. This party was no doubt filled with them. The spectators were Yargoth's eyes. If Yargoth survived the night, they would relay the story of what happened outside Yargoth's view. The spectator would award Azakan the points that he was due. 10 points for every fellow assassin killed. That was how things worked in the game. That was what made the game so dangerous. You had to kill the target without being discovered by other assassins.
Azakan looked down at the jester. After 6 years of killing, every face of every life he took still haunted him. No amount of killing could numb his conscience. He longed for freedom and it was his to have. If everything went well, he would be a free man by the end of the night. He hid her under a large bush. He stepped back and made his way through the garden. He remembered that there was a side door that led from the garden into the kitchen. He would use this door to get in. After running through the courtyard, there was no doubt on his mind that other assassins had caught on to him.
He took a white cloth out of his coat pocket and cleaned his face off. He made his way through the garden until the large ten foot bush met the palace. He saw a door bleeding light into the dark. The sounds of cooking poured out into the still night. Azakan went up to the door and entered the kitchen. One of the cooks looked at him and asked, "What do you think that you are doing here?"
"Making my way through," Azakan said without blinking.
"Very well then, servant, make yourself useful," he said and then waved another cook over.
"This goes to Lord Urwath," he said handing Azakan a platter with the gold dome over it.
"I'm afraid that I don't know what Lord Urwath looks like," Azakan said, his tone showed ignorance.
The cook sighed, "Lord Urwath is sitting to the left of Lord Ahlmore, the host," he said as he pushed Azakan off. 'Perfect,' he almost said. Azakan then exited the kitchen into the lesser dinning hall. He went back into the narrow hallway. Azakan kept turning slightly to see if anyone entered the hallway behind him. He was so close to his goal, he could taste freedom. The weight of the phial up his right sleeve was tempting him. It would be so easy to play along, but to what gain? More years of servitude, and to make Yargoth happy. Azakan toyed with the idea. However, he didn't have much more time.
Azakan exited the hallway through the open double doors. The scene before him hadn't changed much. The main difference was, the other jester was no longer present. Azakan pulled his shoulders back sat his head upright. He walked into the room and brought the platter to Lord Urwath. Lord Urwath had no plate of food before him. Azakan then placed the platter in his hands before Lord Urwath and uncovered the dish. It was a savory sick that permeated a thick and penetrating odor. The weight of the knife in the holster up his left sleeve was more apparent now as he discerned the right time was here. He looked over at Yargoth who smiled briefly. The corners of his mouth stretched slightly. Then he suppressed a smile and watched eagerly what was about to happen.
The moment was Azakan's to take, he brought his hands together as he stepped back. Azakan's heart was a ravenous drummer pounding beneath his chest. Lord Urwath cut the meat with his knife and ate a slice of meat. Azakan waited for Lord Urwath to nod his consent. Finally., Lord Urwath nodded and Azakan stepped back as he fished in his sleeve. His right hand felt the knife in his left sleeve, and he felt the weight of the phial of poison in his right sleeve. Azakan then looked over at Yargoth who studied Lord Urwath as if expecting him to choke at any second. "No," Azakan whispered as he instead brought the phial out of his right sleeve. He held it among the frilled cuffs. Yargoth then looked over at Azakan. Azakan showed the phial to Yargoth who smiled slightly. Azakan smiled back, 'That's what you think,' he thought as he unstoppered the pinky sized phial and poured its contents on the marble floor. Yargoth's face turned red. Azakan made his way around the head of the table.
His heart again threatened to beat through his chest. A calm washed over Azakan as he approached Yargoth. His true target lay before him as his conscious thought narrowed upon one single man. The man that had drafted him into Wrath, the man that had forced Azakan to take so many lives, the man that caught him. Now, that man was to die at his hands. Just one more kill, and Azakan would be free.
In the corner of his conscious awareness, Azakan saw a man walk up behind Lord Urawth's chair, place his arm around him, and slit his throat with the other arm. Azakan barely took heed of the shrieks from various guests, his only target was Yargoth. As he neared his chair, he remained parallel to the table. Several smoke bombs went off in quick succession, it filled the room with a white cloud. In that moment, something happened. Azakan became possessed by the countless lives that he had killed. Every soul that screamed for mercy, now wailed for vengeance. They took control of his body and his movements were no longer his own. They now reached out in their indignation. He looked down on himself as if he were out of body. He saw himself draw the knife from his sleeve and hold it in his right hand. He put his left arm around the chair, Yargoth reached for his arm, but Azakan apparently held fast. Then with his right hand he cut deep into Yargoth's throat, it grated against a spine that Azakan didn't know he even had. He pulled back and then jabbed the knife into Yargoth's throat. He came to, looking through his own eyes.
Azakan firmly grasped the top of the chair. He shoved his foot against the back of the leg, and then pulled down with all of his might. Every demon and phantom departed from his soul, relinquishing the hold that they had on him. The result was a liberty he had not felt for years. He flipped the chair over and then looked into Yargoth's eyes, Yargoth's face was caught between excitement and fear as the events unfolded before him in the dining hall. He stared into Azakan's face, no doubt Azakan was wild eyed. Azakan then said, "Your game is over," Then spat in his face.
He stepped back, taking in the scene and whispered, "freedom," the smoke began to clear. Women and men ran this way and that about the hall. "Freedom!" He yelled above the clamor, placing his foot on Yargoth's chest he screamed, "Let all of Wrath know, from Tartia to Lorenzza, there is freedom to-" He gagged then coughed violently into his hands. Pain vibrated throughout his body. He looked into his hands to see blood running thick from them. He looked beyond his hands and saw cold steel protruding from his stomach. A guard must have come behind him and ran him through. The sword was withdrawn from his body. He sank to his knees, "Freedom," he whispered. 'Is this what freedom feels like?' He wondered. His vision began to fade. He fell the rest of the way face first. He glared at Yargoth whom had ceased his struggle. His body no longer bore the signs of life that it used to. Azakan smiled. His mind faded to oblivion, but his prevailing thought was that he was free.

popsprocket
December 19th, 2013, 12:38 AM
To be honest this is about the third time I've tried to review this for you. I've made it a little further through each time, but it doesn't hold my interest for more than a minute at a time.

To answer your original question, now gone: no this isn't literary fiction. Ordinarily I'd say that one would have to read the whole of a book to be able to tell, but I can say with confidence that fantasy works are pretty much precluded from being literary fiction due to their standing in the literary world. Even as someone who reads and writes fantasy, I agree with that assessment. If you want to write something of LF quality, check out some other genres.

To critique the work itself: as above, it doesn't hold my interest. The beginning is slow and is only slowed down by the myriad of description. I understood immediately that Azakan was an assassin, even before you mentioned it, and I understand that you are giving him a thought pattern on how he is going to make his kill and get away, but all it serves to do is slow down the action that's happening.

The writing is reasonably technically accomplished but it has no flair or flower. This is how a fantasy story might be told in report format. Everything is dry and there's no sense of what is happening to Azakan internally. I'm not following him along in that room as he stalks his kill, I'm sort of just reading glassy-eyed.

Admittedly I didn't get through the whole thing, but the biggest suggestion I'd make is to change the start. Begin with the part where he notes that it's an honour to be chosen for an assassin's tournament. That is infinitely more interesting than the way it currently begins. And if you still want to include his thought patterns regarding setting and possible escape, shorten it and make it seem a little more natural. Someone with great skill at this sort of thing would be better prepared for the situation, no? Even if he's not had a bit of time to prepare and examine the location of the target, I'd imagine he has automatic thought processes that eliminate impossible escapes and extraneous details and allows him to notice only the things that are important.

thepancreas11
January 3rd, 2014, 07:28 PM
I will say this: you are certainly an enthusiastic writer. Unfortunately, this story requires a bit more restraint.

What is your story about? Is it about the struggle between Yargoth and Azakan? Then why doesn't Yargoth show up earlier? In fact, by the time he shows up, he's buried in so much detail, that I passed over him. It took me a while to figure out that he was an integral piece of the puzzle: I was still stuck on the extravagance of the place. I was convinced that your character was some kind of Dexter-Robin Hood mashup.

Subtlety is your friend, especially in a thriller. You only want to give us what we need to know. If you're going to paint a picture of lavishness, then have it be key to the story, otherwise, don't include it. A short description of the characters, focusing on aspects of them that will resurface later, is all you need. The same goes for the place. As for the premise, that should show up in your first or second paragraph. Dive right in! Don't dilly-dally!

Try something like this:

It is the place you would expect to find a target. Gold-encrusted chandeliers, velvet coats on all the servants, diamonds and sapphires dripping from the women. This is a man with enemies. There are many reasons to kill him: his wealth, his power, his woman. They all mean nothing to me. He can keep his money. All I need is his life, and I'll be gone. I have the target's name: Lord Urwath. As soon as I find him, I am gone, the shadow I was always meant to be.
I hide in plain sight, black knickers and overcoat, the picture of a poor butler made to wait upon these people. I have done this a hundred times; I will not fail. I wonder if Urwath knows what I do: he will breathe his last this evening. They never do. Poor slobs, I pity them. Well, at least I would, if I had any pity. My only focus is survival, and in the game of death, it is kill or be killed. This is my only truth. It is the phrase I have been made to utter in dark places every time I've taken a life. It sustains me. It is the code of my people, the Wrath, the guild of assassins.
Tonight, we are out in force. It is a game we play to test our skills. For high-profile targets such as Urwath, we are set against each other: the first to kill him wins. I have never lost. I am always best. The Master tells me so. It is why I can never leave. I have grown tired of killing, but there is nothing I can do. There is one man stronger in the art of death than me, Yargoth, leader of the Wrath, my master, my enslaver. To leave is to be killed. If only there was a chance to level the field of battle, a way of taking him by surprise.
I stop, the ornate soup bowl in my gloved hands sloshes about, disrupting the patron sitting just in front of me. No, I think. It cannot be. He is here?
Shaded by the powdered wig upon his head, Yargoth stands opposite me, a mirror of my own costume, though he is a much lighter man than I in skin and eyes. One would never call him an assassin if one met him on the street. That is why he so easily slips through the fingers of other men.
"But why is he here," I murmur as I walk away. "Perhaps he has come to claim the prize himself?"
An idea strikes me: when the moment comes for him to take the life, that is when I shall take his. This is my leveled battlefield....

I found focus as soon as possible, introducing all the themes that you did, but I did it in a streamlined fashion by making them fit the true story (i.e. the battle between Yargoth and Azakan). I gave them a reason to fight, and I even gave them a platform to fight on.

Lastly, I suggest you find an overarching theme. It's nice to tell an adventure story, but it's better to tell a moral tale.

TheWriteStuff
February 7th, 2014, 02:20 AM
I'm going to add comments to the first two paragraphs, which hopefully help you figure out the rest of the story and how I read it.

Azakan followed the line of servants to the main dining hall. I understand the desire to throw the reader into immediate action, but you may want to slow down a little bit and set the scene with even half a sentence of world building (See David Remnick's recent article about Obama in the New Yorker for an excellent first sentence). The black coats and leggings of the servants were neatly pressed. Does one press leggings? Each boasted golden buttons and a golden silk fabric that lined the seams of his garments. Check how this sentence reads, it sounds like the people are "boasting golden buttons," not their clothes. Azakan matched the other servants well. They passed from a lesser dining hall into a narrow hallway. Azakan felt uneasy in such a narrow space. Many people that he had killed were caught in narrow walkways like this. People that were cornered, those that had been unlucky enough to know that their death was nigh. He held his breath, unable to escape the feeling of being cornered himself. How was he cornered? He is in a hallway and as you just said he was blending in perfectly. Was he nervous about the upcoming kill or had something previously happened to convince him that his cover might be blown?
Finally he exhaled as the hallway opened up into a spacious dining hall. He felt like he could breathe again as he took in the scene around him. The guests of supreme honor were seated around a dark brown stained table. Two jesters traveled around the table entertaining the seated guests. You have a lot of details that could be flushed out and made more descriptive. Instead of breaking everything apart into multiple sentences, why not something like "The arrow straight line of servants began moving again and Azakan breathed a sigh of relief. As they exited the hallway into the grand dining room Azakan felt dizzy at the opulence on display. Gold chalices on a fifty foot table hewn out of solid oak, jesters spinning like rainbow tops, and there, at the head of it all, the target, the Supreme Honor." Their orange and gold garments were overdone as is acceptable for a jester. The table rested on solid, peach flecked, white marble floors. Three golden chandeliers hung from the ceiling boasting oil lamps and crystal ornaments. Azakan looked over the faces in sight. Each guest was extravagantly dressed.

Keep working on it and don't get discouraged. You've finished the hardest part (first draft) and now, with good editing, you'll get to a much stronger draft two. Did you know the Bob Dylan song "Like a Rolling Stone" was edited down from 20 pages of midnight writing? With a rewrite who knows what this might become!