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AtleanWordsmith
July 10th, 2015, 03:52 AM
Fire filled the sky.

This was neither a euphemism nor an attempt at metaphor. The fireballs launched by the mages of House Cael'ean bore down on the advancing soldiers, whose own mages responded with shimmering magical shields. Captain Tesius hated the sound of magic hitting magic. It had an electric crackle, and always left a fuzzy feeling in his teeth if he was standing right under it, but the shields were necessary. Death by magic could be quite nasty.

The fighting had stripped the land of any useable cover. The forests, once the pride of Drae'mor, had been largely reduced to splintered wood and ash, stamped down by multiple advances and retreats by men in heavy armor. The golden haze of defensive spells had long evaporated, leaving the elven city isolated and vulnerable in the artificial clearing.

Ostheran soldiers had already reached the crumbling walls of Drae'mor. The elven resistance was falling back toward the city center, and its leaders were getting desperate. Another volley of magical fire arched over the gate. The Ostheran mages responded with another shield, and something strange happened.

The shield in front of Tesius wavered as the fireball hit it, and blue fire, almost too dim to see, spread down the mage's shoulders. There was a violent rush of wind, and the fire began to spread to others in the mage's immediate vicinity. There was a brief flash of light, and Tesius stopped dead.

It was like watching a body age and mummify over hundreds of years, even though it only took a few seconds. Clothing stiffened, armor lost its polish, hair lengthened, turned white, and fell out. The remaining corpses hit the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust.

"Captain! CAPTAIN!"

Tesius felt someone tugging on his sleeve, as if to pull him with them. He looked down at a young man he didn't recognize, wearing a uniform that he did, and quickly snapped back to reality. The two of them ran for the wall, and Tesius hurled himself against it, thankful for the cover. Looking back, he saw magic being cast and flashes of light which weren't normally associated with magical shields. It made him wonder what foul magic House Cael'ean had cooked up this time.

More soldiers joined the ranks at the wall, and Tesius recognized one of his own mages. The long coat he wore had been white once, and somewhere under the dirt and grime, the Mages' Guild insignia identified him as a healer. He pulled the man close.

"What is that?"

"What is what, Sire?"

"That magic! What are they doing?"

"It's... it's complicated, Sire!"

"Then bloody well uncomplicate it!"

An explosion shook the wall. The elves had abandoned the strategy of arching their magic over it, and sought to bring it down around the soldiers using it as cover. Tesius cupped his hands and shouted down the line.

"LET'S MOVE! GET OVER THIS DAMNED WALL! FIND COVER IN THE CITY!"

There was no response. Tesius saw some of his men push themselves further into the wall, loathe to let go of the security of something solid. He looked to the healer.

"Get them moving," he ordered, "Meet me on the other side."

He ran down the line until he found someone he could identify as a sergeant. He pulled the sergeant off the wall and emptied his lungs into the poor man's face. The sergeant, now running on automatic, sent the abuse rolling downhill onto his men, physically dragging them out of cover if he had to.

Tesius continued to shout himself hoarse as the soldiers scrambled through the large holes in the wall and into the buildings on the other side. There was no resistance. The elves of House Cael'ean had retreated too far back.

"Sergeant!"

"Sir!"

"Keep your men advancing! Drae'mor is ours! DO NOT LET THESE ELF BASTARDS PUSH YOU BACK."

"SIR!"'

Tesius directed a flow of stragglers. Across the battered battlefield, he saw siege engines being erected. He loved engineers--they operated with a magic of their own. Mages could cast fireballs, but they'd eventually get tired. An engineer unit with a trebuchet could cast fireballs of their own, only stopping when they'd run out of ammo or the enemy had retreated too far. It was a heartening sight.

Tesius lifted himself through the hole that the sergeant had used. His course took him across the main road, and elven arrows clattered ineffectively on the stones; the wall was just out of range for whatever snipers were trying to pick him off. He found his healer tending to an injured soldier on the far side.

"Edwyn," Tesius gasped, suddenly aware of his own fatigue. The healer looked up at him.

"Sire... you... you should sit down."

"Right... right," Tesius said, removing his helmet and taking a knee, "Edwyn, what the hell was that?"

"I... I've never seen anything like it," the mage replied, "I mean, theoretically, powerful spells... could, er... drain the life force of the caster? I'm not certain how it works. I've never actually tried, you see. They don't encourage that sort of thing."

"He was only using a shield spell. Seen it dozens of times."

"I suppose... it's possible that House Cael'ean could have devised a spell that would disrupt... something. I'm really not good at the theory, Sire."

"Right... right. Complicated."

Tesius stood, using the wall to pull himself up, and shoved the helmet back onto his head, "If you see any other mages pass through here, warn them not to use any magic that isn't essential."

"Yes, Sire."

"Tell any stragglers to push forward and move up."

"Yes, Sire."

Tesius left the healer to tend to the wounded. He had a city to capture.

________________
AUTHOR'S NOTES:

The "Wars" was a period of conflict that threw nearly the entire continent of Cartegea into turmoil, sparked largely by overspill during the civil war between the elven Houses of Cael'ean and Darkthorn. It was the first conflict to see such an extremely liberal use of magical warfare... that the people of Cartegea know of, anyhow. The final sack of Drae'mor was one of the first battles to see the effects of the Drain, an anomaly caused by a severe lack of magic remaining in the world (which is being explored in my current web serial, imaginatively titled The Drain).

The Ostheran units that particpated in the retalitory action after the Battle of the Mountain were quick to eschew full plate armor, and indeed many other forms of heavy armor. In the wilderness surrounding most elven cities and strongholds, mobility could mean the difference between success and failure. Armore was generally reduced to the essentials--breastplates and helmets to protect vital organs, supplemented by a generous use of healers, who were generally patriotic mages from the Guild in Rotan.

Firemajic
July 11th, 2015, 06:24 PM
Wordsmith... Welllll... I hate battle scenes... truly I do. But, you did good!! The imagery is fabulous, this is where your skill shines in this story.. I could easily visualize the battle, and I found to my shock --I enjoyed it, fast and frantic--you kept this moving along at a wonderful pace that suited the scene described...The moment to moment description and action was interesting and full of fabulous detail.. sooo, thanks for a cool read... Peace ...

Cato
July 12th, 2015, 12:23 AM
I like how it is written, the English is fine, I can't see any errors, but if could give some insight on another matter - Magic must be mysterious and wonderful - this just feels like Hollywood magic #fireballs#mages#mageorder#elves#healers - there is no character to this magic, its the same old - bad people using super bad powerful magic, fireballs against magical shields - Where is the wonder, the danger? On a plus side, I really like authors notes in stories like these, if you have ever had the good fortune to read "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell", it is an amazing book, a magical book, wizards(or mages) have a really feel of strangeness or power, magic just does feel normal, and like you, there is a ton of author's notes. In advise, ask yourself "Is my magic magical?"

AtleanWordsmith
July 12th, 2015, 01:07 AM
Thanks, Jul! I'm glad that you enjoyed it in spite of yourself, haha.

Cato--you're right, the magic does come off as a bit... unmagical.

Magic is something that I've never given much thought to, and I went to lengths to avoid it even when I was running D&D campaigns... I could always use the excuse that, from the viewpoint of someone like Tesius, any magic is Hollywood magic. It's a cheap handwave, but there's a bit of truth to it, haha.

The Wars were basically the largest abuse of magic that anyone had seen. The elves churned out mages almost faster than they churned out fighters. The Mages' Guild in the eastern lands was put under pressure to protect the world, and started churning out mages almost as quickly. Magic was considered a lot better than anything else for fighting a war, and there are places on Cartagea where nothing will ever grow again because of it. The abundance of magic during the Wars inevitably created the Drain, and I think you'll find post-Wars magic a little more to your liking, in that it has to be used sparingly and at great risk to the caster.

"The Sack of Drae'mor" takes place roughly around the time where the Drain first began to manifest. There is absolutely no context to explain it, and that's entirely my fault, but the deaths of the casters weren't caused by the elves... well, directly. "Standing" magic, such as shields, for a reason yet to be explained (see author hand-waves for more details), was the first to be affected by the Drain. When the casters raised their shields, the cost had suddenly spiked, and the spell literally sucked the life out of them to balance everything else.

I probably should have included a note about that, as well. Hope it explains what I was aiming for a bit better.

Cato
July 12th, 2015, 01:29 AM
AtLeanWordsmith,
I understand what you are saying, and I agree that to Tesius, all magic is mundane; but to the reader, magic is something special - personally I love magic in stories, I adore something strange and new. So if I understand you, something/someone has drained all the magic, killing or 'draining' the mages as they use magic. But then is the 'drain' magic? Also this implies that using magic in some part drains 'life force' from the user, how does this happen, can someone use up their life force, where does this life force go? I understand that at this time in Cartegea magic is common place, but remember you are writing towards a reader - for me and all the readers magic is something 'magical', something different. But all in all it sounds like a great story and I look forward to seeing more of it.

P.s Try and avoid cliches - in fanstay fiction there is so many cliches - magicians order, disorder, a prophecy/chosen one, a lost of magic, forbidden magic, old wise mentor.

AtleanWordsmith
July 12th, 2015, 01:39 AM
I often try to write from a limited perspective, rather than an omniscient perspective, since I find myself getting a bit exposition-y in the latter, and I don't like too much of that in my work. It tends to get in the way of the story. In the future, I'll probably add more notes into standalone stories like this one, to supplment the experience.

As I said, I'm still working on the magic bit, so the explanation isn't going to be great, but here's what I've basically got:

As far as the mechanics of magic here are concerned, there's no real difference between the two. The Wars created a... well, "deficit" would probably be the best word there, and when the cost of the spell exceeds the user's ability to control it, as it were, it draws energy out of the user's surroundings in order to repay the debt. The caster generally forfeits the energy that comprises their life force, and often the Drain will spread beyond that, especially as the overall deficit gets worse.

As far as cliches, your advice is noted, but I like to play with them. Not everyone is looking for something completely new, and having familiar devices can be comforting for a reader. Your advice is noted, though, and I really do appreciate you challenging me to put more thought into my work.

Deafmute
July 12th, 2015, 01:50 AM
biggest piece of advice would be to stop saying "Its magic" the audience will understand it is magical without being told. Describe what is happening, but you can leave out the word magic as often as possible. That will help give it a more mysterious feel right off the bat. Other than that I think its a great excerpt keep up the good work.

ShadowEyes
July 12th, 2015, 06:13 AM
I'm not sure I can carefully critique the story as it stands, but I will try to offer some insights.

My general complaint with fantasy nowadays is that it uses magic as a "catch-all" for anything that the author wants to do. Remember that if you include anything in a story, it ought to be explained to the extent that it is used to solve problems. Otherwise, the consequence is the reader doesn't take the story seriously. The reader doesn't trust the author because she feels tricked by a surprise resolution due to magic, much like a deus ex machina.

This complaint can extend to characters as well. They're only interesting as far as you reveal their motives, as far as the characters use those motives in a way different from how anyone else would have acted. Sure, you can have a battle scene and have slick descriptions and thrills. But don't give me a battle scene and then expect me to automatically relate to the struggle. Struggle itself is not enough. War is hell, that's obvious. I'm more interested in why it's hell rather than how it's hell. Otherwise, there's the danger of one-dimensional melodrama.

I liked the character's pleasure at engineering. I didn't understand his hatred of the elves. I didn't understand why the elves couldn't have a contingency plan. Is magic an aspect of nature or is it learned? How does it affect one race and not another? What are the consequences of a world with magic? All of these, once they're explained, used, and satisfying plot devices must be maintained consistently. I hope you do so because your description is inventive and thrilling.

May I offer one more thing? Once you have realized characters using a tight, understandable magic system (which I have no doubt you will), with life-or-death conflicts that prove the characters' merits, the final binding factor is effect. I wasn't sure if the scene changed my emotional effect or not. I went from confusion to hope. But I suppose there's a bit of pity for the elves there, too.

Edit: I'll have to remember to check out your blog or whatever. There's only so much Main Street I can read in one day...

AtleanWordsmith
July 13th, 2015, 12:43 AM
I've gotten used to writing in a serial format, so I apologize for the general lack of information. I'll probably start putting ideas to paper this week and publish them on the site, which will hopefully make things easier to understand from a technical perspective. As I get more into the current story arc, I plan to explore the consequences of a world that had magic, but now has little to none.

The elves themselves are not inherently evil, and Tesius' frustration is born mostly from the situation he's been thrust into. Again, my fault for not providing any real context for the story. There's not a "one side right, one side wrong" sort of thing, it's all dependant on whose eyes the conflict is being viewed through. In the end, the Wars were a horrible time for Atlea, at least on the Cartegean continent, and, as it turns out, nobody really won in the end.

Except for the engineers. They're going to be hella in demand.

ShadowEyes
July 13th, 2015, 06:03 PM
I apologize for the general lack of information.

If that's the kind of story you want to tell. Personally, I prefer more realistic fare that's self-evident. You know what I mean? You won't find this quality in children's lit. at all. Sheesh, I'm on a Diana Jones kick lately, but anyway, she said that children are able to grasp more complex stories more easily than adults. So maybe I'm just dumb.


Tesius' frustration is born mostly from the situation he's been thrust into. Again, my fault for not providing any real context for the story.

I'm excited to learn more about this character.


Except for the engineers. They're going to be hella in demand.

Hella. You reminded me of Wil Wheaton for a second lol.

AtleanWordsmith
July 13th, 2015, 08:05 PM
Sheesh, I'm on a Diana Jones kick lately, but anyway, she said that children are able to grasp more complex stories more easily than adults. So maybe I'm just dumb.

Personally, I don't think it's so much that children are smarter, but that they're less... analytical? More willing to suspend their disbelief? They tend to accept things at face value more readily than adults do. They're probably just rolling with the concept unquestioningly, rather than actually grasping it. Children are kind of smart that way. If you start asking too many questions, you tend to find things that you don't like, and it can ruin the experience, much like sitting down and analyzing what goes into a hot dog can, well... turn you off of hot dogs.

That's not to say that the author/creator is universally right, of course. If there's something glaringly obvious that leads you to ask the question, you're going to ask it.

Much like you'd start asking questions if you found out that the hot dog you were fixing to enjoy had a fingernail attached to it and was actually somebody's thumb.

Like I said, I'm used to writing in a serial format, basically releasing one small portion at a time and hoping that people (generally friends of mine, who are happy to read my work with only the tiniest bit of coercion) want to know more about it, so that I can feed them the next portion. This style doesn't necessarily lend itself well to every place I plan to post the story, such as here, where nobody has any context for the events or, say, Tesius' feelings, or the magic that's being used. It's a valuable lesson for me to have learned, that I might not have otherwise.

Hopefully my next submission will be better in that regard.

Moody
August 8th, 2015, 12:55 AM
Hey man, I'm a sucker for fantasy battles, and this was pretty sick. I especially liked that one spell that made all those I think mages age a hundred years and turn into dust. It was also pretty cool how it affected their armor as well as them, that was a nice touch. I felt a little confused in some places. I also felt like you were trying to push the point of this being magic of the sort that they've never seen before just a little too inorganically, especially how they stop and talk about it right in the middle of a battle and kept saying it was "complicated" That's about the only part that was eh to me.

Still awesome and kudos for writing this genre and developing your own world and history and backstory. Reminds me of the fantasy I used to read. Was a HUGE fan of the Wheel of Time series.