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Solus
February 22nd, 2020, 06:33 PM
This is a bit of a longer text, so I'd recommend saving it for when you've got some time to spare. Fifteen to twenty minutes should do just fine, though more may be necessary if you want to go more in depth.


That said I hope you enjoy


-

In light, we see the world as it is
In darkness, we see what it could become

Varus’ life had been nice. Sometimes he'd smell rosewater that his nanny used to love so much, and for just a little while,
he could believe the freezing hallways would lead to the warm hearth where fright was only found in books. He shivered.
The books remained, but the warmth was missing.

"Seriously, hurry up!" Morris' head twitched back and forth down the hallways, strangely convinced that it would do him
any good. Varus had explained many times that the passage had gone unused since the northern wing had been expanded,
but somehow that fact was still eluding him.

"If you'd stop whining for one moment I'd be done already." Extracting the Shrieker-blossom was a precarious process.
Varus tried to limit the shivers to his clacking teeth, all too aware that a slip of the hand could be the last mistake he ever
made.

"What are you even doing with that plant?"

"Shrieker-blossom, herba clamor. You remember when young Henry got disembowelled taking that silver chalice
displayed at the front of Fire Hall?"

"Yes?"

"That will be you and me if you don't quiet down."

Varus knew it wouldn't shut him up for long, but seeing him a shade paler gave some small amount of comfort.
Most of the wires were already bound, but the trap was still very much lethal. The tension in the metal made it
remarkably difficult to work with, especially as it was so intricate. Knowing a minor disturbance at the wrong
filament was all it took to set it off served to put some tension in him as well. Damn it was cold here.

"I think someone is coming."

"It's just the echo of your heartbeats."

A wire-trap was volatile and unpredictable by nature. There were too many factors to consider when disarming it
and just few enough that it could be set up without excessive personal hazard. Luckily Varus didn't need to
deactivate it, only remove the specimen without getting flayed to pieces, so a pair of pliers and a bit of dexterity
were all that was required. And luck. Laughable amounts of luck, though Varus wasn't laughing at the moment.

"No but seriously, someone is coming. I'm certain of it."

Varus drew a deep, shivering breath. "Listen, I've set up tripwires all over the place, if something is going to sneak
up on us then it'll be a ghost, and at that point, we might as well-"

A slight jingle flew through the hallway, so soft he almost missed it, but it was there. Then came the crash, a
clangour of bells and loose stone, and Varus felt his head snap up as he scanned the room. Too late he realised
his mistake, feeling a filament as it brushed ever so lightly past his gloves.

"Down!" was the last thing he had the chance to say before the wires all started moving.

The noise was horrendous. Nails on a chalkboard was birdsong in comparison to this metallic screeching.
Varus almost regretted not writing his testaments, but then again, who would want his musty old garments?


Then it was all over, almost as quickly as it had begun. The wall was partially collapsed, a big hole had been torn
in the roof and both sides of the corridor were blocked off. The wires had minced the stone and wood into fist-sized
slivers, creating long gashes where the metal was still stuck from the ruinous forces. Rain was pouring through
the rafters and pooling on the floor, which for once was a good thing since it helped the dust to settle. Sheer terror
served to combat the cold.

Whoever had been approaching them was now coughing wildly behind the rubble, drawing quick and shallow
breaths in between. Morris was alive too which was a relief; he would've dreaded to find an explanation that
would satisfy the inquisitors.

"Up now," Varus said quietly, gently touching the Morris's shivering arm "and don't scream."

For once he was quiet, but there were several cuts along his body and his robes were beyond help. For a moment
they both just stood there, looking silently at each other and wondering what would come next.

A sudden shift in the rocks, followed by a croak no louder than a whisper served to set reality in motion again.

"Curses!" Varus muttered, carefully lifting his prize off the pedestal. What did he hope to accomplish in his stupor?
That they would just decide to leave?

"We gotta go, fuck the plant!" Morris hissed, but he didn't move.

Varus packed the specimen into a special copper canister that would prevent it from triggering its effects too early,
carefully making sure that no part of it remained outside. "Shrieker-blossom."

Morris almost answered but was cut off when one of the wooden beams started groaning, sending splinters and dust
swirling through the air yet again.

Beams...

"The roof!" Varus didn't wait for an answer but started up the shifting rubble immediately, grasping for the boards above.
The footing was unsure and slippery but he managed to keep upright by edging forward close to the wall, not unlike the
spiders that made their lives.

Then the beam snapped.

Something caught his foot and for a terrible moment the ground was all below him, the sky to an endless stormy sea.
The observatory, the smokestack and Fire Hall, they were all stalactites in the cave of the world.

Then he started falling, and by the looks of it, it would be a deadly descent. They were stalagmites now, weren't they?
Varus's stomach started tingling, hands and feet flailing as he spun downward. He thought he heard a woman scream,
but that was stupid since all the inquisitors were male.

Maybe this wouldn't be so bad, right? After all, there were worse ways to die, more painful ones. He probably wouldn't
even feel the impact as his bones turned to mush.

Gods save me

Varus could for just a moment taste the sour bile building in his throat, and after that, he could remember no more of
the fall.

-

There was something to be said for the difference between knowing and understanding, but that was currently lost on
Varus even though he had studied physical injuries extensively. It didn't hurt yet, which was to be expected for a fall
like that, but he couldn't focus on anything. It was like only being able to see from the corner of your eye, never fully
grasping what it was that you were looking at.

He felt as if he was detached from his body, only held in place by a thin tether, and the sky... oh god, the sky. It was like
he was seeing through the faceted eyes of an insect, thousands upon thousands of images desperately trying to coalesce
into a messy whole. He had to avert his eyes, and instantly things made more sense, though it was still incredibly hard to
focus. That was when he realized he wasn't alone.

Three shapes were moving around him, all distinctly different though Varus could not say what they looked like. One
shivered and twisted, another paced restlessly, but they were unimportant as the last called to him with a voice so sweet
and tender that it literally sent sparks through the air; they would sail on for a while, before flaring up into small,
scintillating clouds. The smells of parchment and candlewax soon filled his nostrils, sending a soft warmth pulsating
through his veins.

He tried to sit up, but the legs that had served well for a good sixteen years had decided that they were worth a break today.
Nothing else would move for that matter, which saddened Varus because the figure was moving away, and this meant he
could not follow. That gave the song a bittersweet tinge, which somehow made it even more beautiful.

He strained. Against what he didn't know -it didn't matter- and slowly something gave way. The shivering one became more
chaotic, as if it was trying to go in all directions at once, and the other grew tense, each step filled with measured worry. But
the important one didn't change; it kept walking at the same leisurely pace, humming its wordless hymn that never kept
rhythm but always made sense.

Exhumed glee and pulsating trepidation started mingling in the air, creating a rank but pervasive undertone to the otherwise
agreeable smells. The rough cobbles under him became warm to the touch, but Varus was not sure whether the heat came
from him or somewhere else. He tried to get up but was taken aback when a flash struck his arm and made it flop around like
a fish on land; a sour taste with tingly overtones invaded his mouth. This is the way.

He pressed on.

Once again the world took on a faceted and fractured mantle, but this time there was nowhere else to look to spare his aching
head. The roof had mended itself -when did that happen?- and of the rubble, there was no sign. It was now or never.

He tried to get up.

A veritable thunderstrike hit him, setting every single drop of his blood on fire, pouring acid down his veins and filling every
cavity with molten lead. It was unbearable, a hell so cruel that even the gods would've balked.

But when the crash had echoed away the song returned, and Varus found himself stuck in the in-between. Wafts of balmy air
soothed his blistering skin and fleeting melodies knitted his thoughts back together, though the aching in his arm wouldn't
go away.

He didn't make another attempt; nothing could ever persuade him of that. Gods he was tired. The melody was almost faded
now, reminding him of the dissonant lullabies that his nanny used to sing. He suspected she wrote them herself, considering
their strange meanings, but they still held a nostalgic sweetness to them.

Mire, fire, far below the mender
Syren, calling, vibrant in your splendour
Hear the distant song, far from the


-

Varus opened his eyes, but closed them again when he felt rain spattering. The sky was a stormy grey, and never had that
insight been more disappointing.

"... so only a sprained ankle from that fall? I doubt it. His bones should be shattered from that height, I'd rather not move
him, but if he doesn't wake up soon we might have no choice."

Alyn?

"I think he's back."

The trembling voice of Morris was at least easy to recognize. He tried to get up, but the pain sprouting from his wrist put a swift
stop to that. Frozen and scarcely daring to take a breath he waited, tense as wire, but when his veins didn't erupt into flame he relaxed.

Her eyes widened in surprise "I was right about the wrist at least, but you can thank the gods you're alive. You're a moron
Varus, I hope you know that."

It was Alyn alright. He let his head fall back onto the stone floor.

"No compassion for the dying?" he groaned. His mind was too dull to process what had happened. All he knew was the warmth
was gone, the song was gone, and that he really didn't want to move.

Her eyebrow arched. "You're not dead yet. And unless you want to be we should go." Together with Morris, she tried to pull him
upright.

"Stop! Take it slow for gods' sake!" Varus cried, and after recovering for a moment he added "I'm starting to think dying would be
the preferable optio- No wait, I take that back." That memory was still too fresh. The pain had brought some clarity into his senses
though; he could think later. This was the time for survival.

Alyn smiled that wicked smile of hers that he had always envied, but she was more careful after the fact. "This is a fool's errand,
you know that right? Even you must see how ludicrous this has become. And for what reason? A peculiar rumour that acquiring
these artefacts will let you pass without the Lux Insignia, which has about as much truth in it as the morning bread has flour... Do
you know how many there are in total?"

"Forty-three, but honestly, we should go now. This is best saved for another time." The inquisitors' office was on the south from
both the northern and western wings, and considering the lectures, they would probably avoid walking through Fire Hall.

She ignored him "And how many have you acquired?"

Varus did not meet her gaze "Two, thus far." The crash had been loud though, and the mire of narrow tunnels that wound through
the northern turret was probably unknown to them, which made Fire Hall the swiftest route.

Alyn pursed her lips "And what conclusions can we draw from this?"

He sighed "I need to try. And we need to go. Now."

She looked in defeat at Morris, and together they started climbing the rubble, taking ample time to check for any perilous footing. Or
rather, it was Alyn who checked while Morris stumbled along, so slumped that Varus feared he'd soon collapse. He wrapped his arm
a little tighter.

"I would say you're smart enough to pass, but I'm beginning to doubt that sentiment. And even if you don't, earnestly, what's the worst
that could happen?"

"Lorn Bend was-" The rubble shifted, dust and plaster stirring up into the air. Too slow, and they would be found out, too fast, and there
might be nothing left to find.

Alyn frowned "People drown in the canale all the time, that had nothing to do with the test."

"You know as well as me that he was a competent swimmer, he boasted about that all the time. And where the hell is his body? He's not
in the frozen undercroft- No, don't interrupt me, I checked the lower levels and he wasn't even recorded in the ledgers. Nothing. As far
as the morgue's concerned he has never set foot in there."

A moment of silence befell them as they cleared the debris, but there was nothing to be heard. Just the wind rushing through the cracks
that hadn't been filled by moss yet -there weren't many- and the mice that liked to climb inside the walls. Thank god no one was allowed
to leave the lectures once they had begun.

"That's ridiculous, we were shown the body. Someone must've tampered with..." Uncertainty flickered in her eyes "I admit, that is strange.
But that was a one-time occurrence, two years ago no less. How does that relate to you?"

"Wait, you snuck into the morgue?" Morris looked at him with disbelief, finally awoken from his torpid demeanour "How the hell did you
do that?"

"Quite forcefully." The acid had been a nightmare to handle, and he did not envy the stewards who had to replace the lock. "Why?"

"And you didn't take anything?"

"No. Again, why?"

He shook his head "You've lost yourself more than a few marbles. That place would be an utter gold-mine. You'd never imagine how much
a finger or a frozen-"

Alyn grimaced "We don't want to hear about that, thank you very much. Continue Varus. At this pace, it's a while before we're back by the
Roost and I'm not in the mood for more worry."

A thought struck him "Is my face alright."

"A little dusty maybe. Do you feel something peculiar?"

"No, it's nothing..." That was a relief. "The reason why I'm fearful is-"

Morris's head snapped up and Varus knew something was wrong immediately; he'd learned that lesson already. Without so much as a word
uttered they diverted into another corridor, then entered the old courtyard through a crack in the wall. It was raining outside, but whether
he shuddered from anticipation or the cold streaks that found their way underneath his robes was hard to tell. Tap tap. The footsteps drifted
closer, almost as if they could smell the fear lingering in the air. Varus closed his eyes. Even though it felt shameful, he prayed, hands clenched
and face turned to the sky above, feeling the water as it rushed down his face.

For one who no longer fears the rain, as one who tends thy children, lend me a whisper. Iguvine Solitude. No task shall be left undone.
Lend me a whisper.

The courtyard was a bleak place. Brambles and other vilethorns had smothered the bright mats that used to cover the flowerbeds, and roots
had long since loosened the cobbled paths. An informal study had been carried out in the botanical areas on which herbs were the hardiest,
but it was cancelled when the old Willow blew down. It took out the main corridor and threatened to collapse the entirety of the northern
turret. It was rumoured that professor Selawynn had threatened to execute anyone trying to escape the tower, though no one had dared to
question him about it.

Most pathways had been rendered impassable after that ordeal, filled with support beams where possible, and rubble where not. The courtyard
and surrounding areas were designated unsafe, harsh punishments had been set for trespassers, and then promptly forgot about.

He noticed Alyn's green eyes were fixed on him. Strikingly green.

"They've left." She whispered, "Let us do the same."

Varus felt light.

Slowly, through the brambles and remaining corridors, they crept back to the dormitory. It was rarely quiet -someone had hung a sign aptly
titled "The Roost", and now that was what it was called- but for once there was some peace to be had; most likely everyone was away to see
what the ruckus was about. A malfunctioning device having collapsed the old main corridor, hopefully, though that notion could turn sour if
Sylawynn got his way. He was very clear on the fact that his traps never failed, and sadly Varus was inclined to agree.

Alyn left him in his room with that 'We'll-talk-later-so-don't-get-your-hopes-up' look before storming off, probably heading for a nice book
to sulk with. Not a bad idea all things considered, but there was one thing left to take care of. Morris looked at him expectantly.

Varus sighed "How much."

"Fourfold. At least."

"Double is all I have. But let's sit down. This is going to take a while, no?"

Finding a place to sit turned out to be no easy task. The unfinished gadgets and prototypes could be swept under the bed for another time, but
the veritable sea of papers strewn about was another story. The botched essays, the blotched sketches, and his life's works in the form of three
hundred and twenty-one unique schematics. He'd nailed the finest ones to the walls, but there was only so much wall and the rest of them
needed storage all the same.

The bed served as a depository today. Morris knew better than to touch his creations, especially when bartering, and so sat down and started
tapping against the table. Varus looked back and found him with a sly grin on his face

"You have the money."

"Can you smell it, or have you become psychic while I wasn't looking?"

Morris looked at him blankly, so Varus stuck his tongue out.

"Haha. I checked your pockets while you were gone. Corpses usually don’t object. Alyn did though, yikes." He rubbed his cheek, and Varus,
red-faced, thought about taking her lead.

He was interrupted, however, by a loud knocking on the door.

Demiel
October 12th, 2020, 09:03 PM
This is rather good. To answer your question, yes, it is.
I have no idea as to why I'm the only reply to this as of now, is this website really that dead?
Yes, it is most definitely functional. It is also intriguing and rather well written. The only issue is that your punctuation and capitalization is all messed up, nothing that you cant fix. You seem to have a strong inner voice and can write things that make sense, unlike so many other pieces I've seen . Good job, keep going!

Smith
October 15th, 2020, 06:45 AM
Besides the last third or so which seems to suffer from some formatting issues, this was very clean writing for what I presume to be a rough draft.

The setting gradually become pretty clear by the end of the chapter here, although I'm still a little uncertain where we're at temporally... the future? The past? We're in what sounds like a castle, but with seemingly sci-fi traps, so perhaps some combination? I'm not sure, but I would think that this would be answered soon in the second chapter.

I think it works very well as an opening chapter. You introduce the characters, the main character's goal, an antagonist, key information about the general setting, all efficiently and effectively.

Some minor nits here or there but I'll leave that to somebody else this time. Mainly minor grammatical mistakes (like missing punctuation with your dialogue tags), and occasionally some overwriting (i.e. sentences that would benefit from being written a bit more succinctly with a smooth "flow").

I am sorry that this did not get the attention I think it deserves. I hope you have more of it to share.

Theglasshouse
October 15th, 2020, 03:14 PM
It's clear the protagonist's life is at stake. But I wanted to know more about the inquisitors. What makes this personal beyond the uncertainty of death? Is this really a revenge mission? It is just a tentative idea. By exploring the internal problem, the lesson the character cannot confront you can setup a more compelling story. It is all external for the moment. What are the significance of the events being wanting to get rich ( internal problem and the magnitude of consequences)? Hunting for treasure sets up other possibilities. What if people who died previously before found out he survived? What would be the reaction?

One of the messages of the story seems to be: does it pay to be greedy?

Solus
November 4th, 2020, 10:31 PM
Bottom to top

Glass, you have, in a very short paragraph, summarised the troubles of my writing. Internal versus external conflict. Really what separates a monthly instalment from a serious novel. My hope was to address it in future chapters, but to be fair, as it is the core of any book, it should at least be hinted at from the beginning. I shall consider and make adjustments

Smith, your words are too kind. When dropping a slab like this on top of the forum you have to at least expect something of the sort; I am now gladly proven wrong. I hope the second chapter will be of sterner stuff, building on this foundation

Demiel, I thank you for reviving my old creation. Was almost ready to leave it by the wayside, but you have encouraged me to give it another look.

And, as you all have pointed out, I'll take an afternoon to iron out the syntax


And so, for the next chapter, which I wrote some time ago:


Varus woke up habitually scratching his face. He was constantly sore under the flaking pigments, but there was nothing that could be done about that. A short jolt through his leg was the only reminder he needed for what happened yesterday. It felt better though, maybe even sturdy enough to walk on.


He rose clumsily and started looking for the mirror that hid somewhere in the clutter. The reflective obsidian was one of the few privileges afforded to a student freely, and one few used as vigorously as himself. Its worth was meant to be symbolic, but that hardly mattered. Using a small razor he meticulously scraped the pigments off his face, before strewing them beneath a loose floorboard. Cleaning the canvas. Applying new paints was a trickier process. The grey scales, which seemed blacker every day, were rough and uneven, always protruding just enough that it was visible, yet never so much they could be cut off easily.


When first attempting to paint them, the result was poor; his face became such a drooping mess that it might as well have been made of candle wax. For a month, sitting cowled in the corners or perched high where he could see the children rollicking in the halls, his mind started to wither in the tar-pits of solitude. You sank and sputtered at first, but eventually it turned into a dreamy existence of malodorous, bubbling silence. Back then, the lessons learnt were not of a scholarly nature, but of self-reliance and survival.He ripped a scale, tossed it down the boards and waited for the blood to coagulate. It was all so ugly, painted or not. Either scaly like a lizard, or a child's plump, disgusting appearance. Or a half-measure that would combine the worst of both worlds. The brush slipped and drew a long brown gash just beneath the left eye. Varus leaned away from the mirror to scrape some more, sighed, and began anew.


Yesterday had been scary, terrifying enough to still be troublesome. As soon as the knocking sounded Morris had jumped out the window, proving that there was still some spirit beneath his indecisive nature, but that gave Varus no time to hand the canister over. He was no stranger to keeping contraband, but the little carved hideout up in the rafters was trapped with an acid flask. Stress, fear and lack of time dissuaded the proposed disarmament. The gadget-pile turned out better than any safe though; the asinine little myrmidons turned faintly green at the prospect of dismantling the stockpile and left . The copper container glinted at him in the dim sunlight; a project for another day. It was time for breakfast, and with the limping it would be wise to start early.


-


"It was pretty scary actually. You know that crooked half-smile he does whenever he's angry? That's how he was looking at them."


Varus yawned, and poked his porridge tepidly. Sarah's gossip and very stressful night had left him completely drained, and astonishingly he didn't know what had contributed the most. But since Alyn liked her it was a bother he was willing to endure. Aside from occasional gibes she usually left him alone, and that was the way he much preferred it.


"So what did he think about what happened?" Alyn asked cautiously, half-shouting to be heard over the hubbub.


"A misfire. He was livid they had decided to stomp through the lecture hall for that."


Alyn gave him a surprised glance, but he could only shrug; Sylawynn had his reasons, but spiting the inquisitors was probably high up the list. The professor was very clear that his traps never failed; a statement with which Varus was inclined to agree.


"Like when the willow blew down?"


"Yes, exactly like that!" Sarah looked around, trying and failing to make sure no one listened, before continuing in a hushed voice -hushed to be the mess hall that was- "But I've heard that someone got to the artefact first."


Varus almost choked, jolted from apathy in an instant.


"Really?" Alyn stuttered, paling noticeably "Why do they say that?"


"Apparently, Myla caught one of the inquisitors saying the trap held a Shrieker-blossom. I've never heard one, but from what I've read they're supposed to be deafening."


Varus massaged his temples. It was all he could do to keep from screaming; how much could one be expected to account for? He'd made sure the ledgers down in the archives listed a vial of dephlogisticated gas, which had to mean that the inquisitors kept their own records. And when the inconsistency was inevitably discovered, there would be no doubt that someone was involved. The web could only unravel then, once a thread is found, and that would lead to questions. Questions for which there were no acceptable answers.


"Could it not be so that it disintegrated before activating? Or maybe it was drowned out by the collapse?" Alyn said tentatively


"Maybe, but the "shriek" is noted as being extremely high pitched. They'll check who was missing from the lectures so we'll see what comes from..." she trailed off. "Are you alright Alyn? You look like you'd be sick."


Timidness was not a trait he'd expect of Alyn, but few people were brave when the inquisition reared its ugly head. They were fanatics, filled with such fervour that no methods could be ruled out and no amount of normal human inhibitions could be presumed. The stories that went around...Maybe if he reversed his changes to the ledgers? It was worth trying, if for nothing else than to keep from despair.


"Were you miss- You were someplace else." The statement was delivered the same way someone might announce their father's passing.


Alyn nodded slowly, though her thoughts seemed to be far away from the bustling space. Like all things at the school it worked on backwards logic -humans served it, instead of the other way around- and it had taken somewhere around three days for the students to figure out exactly what it was useful for. The loud, hulking mess hall was the linchpin that kept secret all the darker plans that went around, drowned out by the the splendid acoustics. Truly, a marvel of architecture that would've been envied by any theatre in the city, and unfortunately predisposed toward the hearing. To be able to lose yourself here, let alone think, was quite the achievement. Varus flexed his leg.


Sarah, realising the gravity of the situation, put a reassuring hand on her shoulder "Come on, it'll be fine. Where were you?"


Alyn's head snapped up, green eyes suddenly sharp from a mixture of determination and adrenaline; fear was the mother of invention, one had to surmise. "I was talking to Lynna. She's not doing too great."


Varus whistled quietly to himself; Quick wits.


"How sad. It was a shame that you should get such a child for mentoring."


"Lynna's circumstances are a bit special."


"I see..." Sarah frowned disapprovingly "I could arrange for a switch. So that you could focus more on your studies, instead of worrying about her. You deserve as much, Alyn, I hope you know that."


She forced a smile "No, no it's alright. She's a smart child, she'll get it eventually."


Sarah nodded gravely "Well, you know I'll always be here to help. And try not to worry dear, I'm sure the real culprits will be found before too long."


Mumbling something appreciative Alyn excused herself to hurry down to the first lecture. Varus rose more cautiously, threading his injured leg through the maze of benches and foreign limbs. Being the only one left on the small bench, Sarah innocently shifted in her seat to block the one escaping meaning he had to slide out in a painful manoeuvre. Varus stole one unanswered, venomous glance before limping after Alyn.


"Slow down!" He hissed, maybe sounding a bit more frustrated than necessary.


"I do not intend to be late today as well, especially not thanks to you." She snapped.


"Certainly, but consider that we should talk about what to do with this whole mess. And on a more pressing note, consider that my teeth will soon be ground to dust if you don't slow down."


"Alright!" Alyn stopped dead before taking a shaky breath "Sorry. I might be a little wound up at the moment. How's the leg?"


You don't say? "It's alright. Just meet me in the library after the lecture. We can talk there."


"Sure. That sounds good...Fantastic even."


Varus watched her march off, splitting the press of bodies into nice rows with unquestioned authority.


-


A library is much like a meal because no matter how good it looks, it is the insides that matter. In that regard, though an eye-sore, the school's book depository was a feast fit for monarchs. It was more than a library; it was history itself that stretched along the walls, in seemingly endless succession.


Varus sat tucked in between some shelves, keeping watch over the entrance. The only place to approach was from the front and that made him feel safe, safe enough to relax just a tiny bit. He covered a yawn. "In The Courts of Mist - A Guide to The Foreign Worlds" What a load of bollocks. Gutted ramblings that spilt out at the opening of a page, loosely held together by the occult intestines that permeated any book from the southern lands. However, it was different in the regard that it had some grasp on the basics of magic, and that meant he couldn't write it off despite the blatant lunacy of the narrator. Extending one's mind through touch and fits of hysteria before the ability manifests, all too vividly described to be doubted. "I can no longer touch him. His rough skin writhes at my presence, crawls into my senses with that same putrid taste. It is agony and ecstasy, maggots eating away at my flesh whenever he returns, enthusiastically tickling me where I can't reach, only to burrow deep into my rotting flesh whenever he goes away. They breed quickly down here, in the dark residues, and I feel as if I will rupture before-"


"What are you reading?"


Varus head snapped up and he clacked the book together, reflexively stiffening and turning away. Then, as reason was lodged back into the mechanism again, his appearance relaxed. Alyn towered above him, yet seemed strangely small and hunted, and her question somehow inauthentic.


"Nothing." Angry at having been caught off guard he added, thoughtlessly "I didn't know we were making habits yesterday."

"Won't you maybe shout it a little louder so everyone can hear?"

"No, my throat feels a bit sore and I'd loathe to make it worse. Forget it. I have pondered, and if things keep down I think we'd be better off doing nothing at all. We're awfully sure to make things worse if something, anything goes wrong." He really couldn't ask for her help, now could he? She'd done enough already, more than enough.

"You took me here just to say that?"

Varus bit his lip, not hard enough to draw blood, but on the very precipice of doing so, and asserted confidently that so was the case.

"So we just let it die down? I have nothing better, though I hate the notion." The creases on her forehead died away, and were replaced by a tired expression "Despite, I need your help Varus. Lynna has grown worse. Much worse. Selawynn has practically demanded her presence by next lecture, and she is having one of her fits."

"Ah...that's quite monstrous. How much time does she have?"

"Three hours."

"Three hours!" He stared at her in disbelief. "How do you expect me to do anything, let alone have her ready for a lecture, in three hours!?" A nearby student got up and left hurriedly.

She looked at him, pleading silently

"What the deuce! What have I got to lose I suppose." Varus got up, painfully flexing his leg before starting off at a pace not conducive to his condition "If you had let me experiment with her beforehand we mightn't have been in this mess, you know that."

She followed silently, for which he was thankful

"Whatever. I need things from my room."

They half rushed, half limped back to the Roost, but before they arrived there echoed a primordial scream throughout the deserted corridor. Simon and Dolt came out the door of his room, and the latter's inhuman appearance made Alyn recoil, wide-eyed in disbelief. Varus yelped and tripped on his bad leg. The wrist of Dolt was covered in a thick liquid that did some appalling work, oozing and sizzling like a pit of tar. Belts of skin had been peeled off and hung blackened as if from gangrene, and beneath was a yellow foam that seemed to weep pus and blood in equal mixture. It had dug a veritable hole by this point.

Dolt's left fist was clenched hard, white as a lady-in-waiting with her parasol, or white as the face of the recently passed. Then, a low-pitched snap laxed the fingers into a palm. Varus keeled over and vomited on the cobbles.

The world had, in a few days, shattered what remained of his illusions. He didn't hate Dolt or Simon, he wanted to embrace them and plead for forgiveness and never again hurt another living thing, not even spiders, he- He was a monster. Doubtlessly, at this point. An undisputable fact. The raspy wails and stuttered sobs echoed like a choir of butchered goats throughout the sprawl that was the Roost.

"I'm a monster." He whispered. Someone had poured salt-water down the hatch. "I'm a monster." The vomit glared back with a dotted, hateful visage.

Varus got up and shivered slightly, dreadfully turning to Alyn, who visibly shaken looked back at him.

"What happened?"

Looking away he silently replied. "Alyn, I'm sorry." They'd tripped the flask up in the rafters. It was an old servant from darker days who'd served the only purpose it had ever known, a soldier loyal until death.

-

Thanks for reading - if you got this far then you have my utmost respect :)

Theglasshouse
November 4th, 2020, 11:23 PM
Varus woke up habitually scratching his face. He was constantly sore under the flaking pigments, but there was nothing that could be done about that. A short jolt through his leg was the only reminder he needed for what happened yesterday. It felt better though, maybe even sturdy enough to walk on.


He rose clumsily and started looking for the mirror that hid somewhere in the clutter. The reflective obsidian was one of the few privileges afforded to a student freely, and one few used as vigorously as himself. Its worth was meant to be symbolic, but that hardly mattered. Using a small razor he meticulously scraped the pigments off his face, before strewing them beneath a loose floorboard. Cleaning the canvas. Applying new paints was a trickier process. The grey scales, which seemed blacker every day, were rough and uneven, always protruding just enough that it was visible, yet never so much they could be cut off easily.

I am not a writer who knows how to fix other people's writing in regards to this part which confused me a little bit. I was trying to construct in my mind what he was doing. Was he destroying the mirror or saving it's parts? Pigments hint at paint being scrapped, and so does flakes. You refer to a canvas as well. So I am thinking maybe it was one of them. That's where the confusion stems from.

On the bright side I consider what you wrote here good in terms of moving the plot quick. Again, I am wondering the signficance of his actions. If he is peeling a mirror for whom is he peeling it for? What's the significance of the action. Short stories are supposedly built on action. So are novels but these are longer. The action of the character if a mirror could be for multiple reasons. You say it's an expensive item. I believe you since I heard about mirrors being expensive in the middle ages.

I assume this story takes part in the middle ages for many reasons or is influenced by it. One being the inquisition.

So here is what I thought about the mirror which could develop into a separate scene:
He wanted to for example erase the fear he would see his future injured self. Or his companions would. Or maybe the Sarah is insecure about how she looks? I remember a small inner conflict from a world war II novel. Someone had never seen their face after growing from childhood to old. He was famished since he was jewish and was in the war.

Since this place is full of traps it makes we wonder since they are risking their lives the significance of what the mirror can do as harm to them or to others. Maybe it's a bit subtle.

Every action should be questioned when you start thinking. Maybe you'll start writing non-stop. Why does the mirror matter? It's just a mirror!


When first attempting to paint them, the result was poor; his face became such a drooping mess that it might as well have been made of candle wax. For a month, sitting cowled in the corners or perched high where he could see the children rollicking in the halls, his mind started to wither in the tar-pits of solitude. You sank and sputtered at first, but eventually it turned into a dreamy existence of malodorous, bubbling silence. Back then, the lessons learnt were not of a scholarly nature, but of self-reliance and survival.He ripped a scale, tossed it down the boards and waited for the blood to coagulate. It was all so ugly, painted or not. Either scaly like a lizard, or a child's plump, disgusting appearance. Or a half-measure that would combine the worst of both worlds. The brush slipped and drew a long brown gash just beneath the left eye. Varus leaned away from the mirror to scrape some more, sighed, and began anew.



Yesterday had been scary, terrifying enough to still be troublesome. As soon as the knocking sounded Morris had jumped out the window, proving that there was still some spirit beneath his indecisive nature, but that gave Varus no time to hand the canister over. He was no stranger to keeping contraband, but the little carved hideout up in the rafters was trapped with an acid flask. Stress, fear and lack of time dissuaded the proposed disarmament. The gadget-pile turned out better than any safe though; the asinine little myrmidons turned faintly green at the prospect of dismantling the stockpile and left . The copper container glinted at him in the dim sunlight; a project for another day. It was time for breakfast, and with the limping it would be wise to start early.

So you can hide what the significance is but hint at it further if that makes sense. Action is an important short story theory according to rust hills. I would say Aristotle never said it the way I did.

Asking So what? Also, can help you get the feelings of the character down. And so is another good question which Chris Miller told me one day.

My reaction: I like that there is magic. I like the fact some traps block screaming. That hints at another internal issue that could happen.

Also, it makes it seem all humane.

I wonder what this lecture is about that if I dont have the character's name wrong (Sarah) has to deal with.

Finally the monster is present. I wonder internally using my thoughts on what it means. Are they friends with the monster or enemies?

I wished you introduced Dolt a bit. Varus who is the main character is interacting with him. Glad I could help. I read books, and maybe something here can apply to everyone. I felt like I learned by critiquing your work.

The lecture bit is something that will be addressed in the future. Thank you solus for appreciating the critique. You plot well and just need to think of the questions and the characters. I say this because one event follows the next quickly.

Solus
November 5th, 2020, 01:35 PM
I say this because one event follows the next quickly.

Too quickly I'd wager. A problem I have is that I build up a huge backlog of unanswered questions; I can't limit myself. My characters fail at having an interesting starting-point, where before their lives could be summed up. There's too much that has happened already, too much story and backlog to work through to ever get through to the meat of things. Couple that with the fact I started this without a clear picture in my mind, which has lead to a lot of action with almost no down-time. And now I've dug a bit of a hole for myself, because the conflicts I previously introduced clash with the picture in my mind which has lead to this breakneck pace, where I want to get to a certain place that is very far off.

-

In the beginning, Varus removes pain from his own face, and not the mirror. I should've been more clear about this. The scales are protruding from his face as well.


Using a small razor he meticulously scraped the pigments off his face, before strewing them beneath a loose floorboard.

I'll remove the canvas part. It's a fragment of a previous draft I believe.


Also, I accidentally forgot to run the last draft through a spell-check, leading to some predictable results:


Sarah innocently shifted in her seat to block the one escaping meaning he had to slide out in a painful manoeuvre


Finally, there is too much violence...I can't make the characters' reactions seem authentic because I've no idea of how it would be to experience. My goal going forward, I think, should be to scale back on the intensity of things, to let there be a little down-time every now and then. And to ground things more in reality, to make things normal at least to the characters.

I hope I answered your concerns aptly Glass. Until next time

Theglasshouse
November 5th, 2020, 02:01 PM
That's a good assessment of the situation of the story. I agree with what you said. The reactions will be very important to convey the character's logic to the action and even internal problem (conflict) or crisis. I also agree that slowing the pace could help you as you said yourself to have them reflect genuinely. But the premise is intriguing and I see this getting somewhere someday when you write a lot more. It's a very strong on interpreting strong emotional empathy and logic of what has been mentioned. The emotional situation and problem in the story that isn't easily resolved which helps a lot to write this novel. The ideas are strong as are the actions. It seems fresh and original. Even if very violent it could be worth writing about. This is because of how original it is as an idea. It's worth spending time to try writing it. I don't think you will be wasting your time writing this. Good luck in writing this.

Solus
November 5th, 2020, 07:25 PM
Thank you Glass :)

I have another project about some travellers who get stuck in India, and I hope that the lessons I learn from that will help me here. It's a lot shorter, and so could probably be finished in a resonable amount of time

Sincerely, Solus