Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

The Brookrow Bastards - Come What May (1 Viewer)

MBNewman

Senior Member
Hello, all. "I come back to you now at the turn of the tide" with the, shall we say, 'final' version of the first chapter of my novel the Brookrow Bastard.

Tear me a new one, or tear me down completely. I look for all criticism big and small. Mostly looking to see if this is acceptable as a beginning (gods-know that's one of the hardest parts for me).

A hearty thank you to any and all potential readers.

WARNING: Mature themes.

WC: 3200

***

I: Come What May

I often dream of the first time I saw death. The curse of mortality had been present in my life, yet it had been a decade before I witnessed it with my own eyes.

Cold and stoic, I took the steps down the hallway. To my front and rear lay darkness; only a single orb of light cast by the gas lamp upon the wall illuminated my path. I had been here before, once each night for eight long years. I could hear the screams, as clear as they were that day; the shrill horror that accompanied the discovery of a malicious deed in the night.

I gazed upon the door, knowing that on the other side lay the destination of this horrible torpor. My palms were moist, my knuckles white, and a single bead of sweat rolled down my cheek. Step after step, I made my way towards the agape door. I extended my arm and grasped the brass knob, feeling the division of the fabricated existence and the release I would find on the other side.

I took a breath, a hand pressing against the door, letting it creak open. The screams began to fade away, and in its place came a faint ringing that grew louder and louder with each passing moment. Upon the floor was my father and the pool of blood in which he lay. I felt myself screaming, but no sound came forth. I looked down upon my father’s lifeless face, and I felt the inevitable pain and helplessness. I closed my eyes and pleaded for escape from this hell.

*

Darkness greeted me as my eyes fluttered back open. My limbs were shaking, and my shirt was drenched in a cold sweat. I attempted to regain control of my breathing as I stared into the black void above me, grateful only that the nightmare had ended.

“It’s only a dream,” I told myself to still my beating heart. “It’s only a dream.”

Not that reality was a more gracious host. I ran a trembling hand through the matted hair on my head. I sat up, my head spinning. I did my best to hold back the bile making its way up my throat as I drew deep, shaky breaths of fresh air.

My feet searched for the security of the solid ground below. I picked myself off the bunk, and took those few precious steps allowed to me. I clasped my hands around the bars for fear that I might fall. Slowly, I felt the life return to my body as I roused from the deepest parts of sleep. Past this perimeter, lay the same sights I had seen for the past six months.

The days of my life fluttered by like the sounds of the wind upon deaf ears. I had been told I was fortunate. Pickpockets often get the noose, after all. I had no prior record, and as far as they were concerned it had been a first occurrence. I was to consider my sentence a firm warning. I suppose I had no place to argue, and the cast iron bars that caged me away only reaffirmed that sentiment.

I had to wait for the sands of time to fall, one by one until the hour came that I would taste freedom again. Until the last grain fell, I would pay the penance for my crimes. Locked away with only myself and the memories that haunted me. I had not just abandoned the only family I had left; I had taken from them the one thing they had left to lose. The guilt was my punishment; my burden to keep in tow.

If I could turn back the clock, if I could refill the hourglass, if I could do it all over again, I would do so in heartbeat. If I had not been so careless—no, if I had not been so foolish perhaps I could have avoided this pain I brought upon myself.

There is no use wondering. As they say, what is done is done. There is no changing the past. Only facing what may come next.

Footsteps broke the silence, drawing me back to reality. I raised my eyes to witness the arrival of the jailer. The portly man cleared his throat, and spat the phlegm onto the ground before addressing me. “Killian Todd,” he said.

“Constable Andrews,” I returned.

His nostrils flared, and he shook his balding head. “Eighteen months to the day, isn’t it? I suppose you’re twitching with anticipation. You’re standing there, wondering if the upstanding gentleman before you bears good news.”

“We both know you wouldn’t be wasting your time talking to me if you didn’t.” The man cracked a grin, revealing a row of blackened teeth. I chuckled. “Are you going to miss me, Andrews? I dread to imagine how monotonous your days will become without me.”

“I shan’t miss your incessant backhanded remarks or your ‘puckish wit’.”

“If you think that—”

“Lest you feel like staying in there, you’d best choose your words carefully.”

“I withdraw my comment,” I said. “Let’s get on with this then.”

Andrews retrieved the keys from his pocket, and after an insufferable amount of searching, he found the correct key and opened the door to my cell. I half-expected the man to slam the door shut in my face and walk away chortling. Much to my relief, he did no such thing.

I went to take a step, but was halted by one of his meaty hand. “Hold out your arms,” he ordered.

“Is this really necessary?” I asked as the constable slapped the cast iron manacles about my wrists. “You told me I was a freeman.”

“I haven’t said that yet.”

“Not in so many words, no.”

Andrews laughed. “Think of it as a formality then. The warden would like to pass on the news himself.”

With a firm grip on my shoulder, the good constable led me from my cell. “You’ve got a visitor, Todd,” my escort announced. “A padded sentence and someone in this world still cares about you. The gods must be feeling generous.”

“I frolic in an abundance of good fortune,” I replied. “Is it my brother?”

“Who else? Lad’s been here for hours, waiting for confirmation from the council.”

I felt my heart skip a beat. I had no contact with my family and received little news. What I did hear came from the constables lips, and more often than not he carried grim tidings. I am not ashamed to admit that I was nervous to see my brother, considering what had transpired these past eighteen months.
As we entered the room, I noticed Aiden immediately. He sat in chair against the right wall, head resting in his hands. He glanced up at the sound of the door shutting behind us. We stood immediately. I gave him a curt nod, he returned the same.

The room was spacious, with a single desk facing the door at the far end. The floor was made of stone tile, and there was a picture of some regal man, possibly one of the previous wardens. One large, circular window overlooked the yard; it lay on the far wall, my eyes unable to pierce through the darkness that blanketed the outside. Oil lamps along the walls kept the entire room well-lit, and banners were hung in between each set.

The banners were a sage green and bore the Baellic seal, two doves soaring in opposing directions from a sword in the center. The doves represented the peace and serenity the Baellic people held dear, and the sword represented the blood they were willing to shed to keep it.

The irony was not lost on me.

This was the office of the warden of the Imperial Jails, and authority emanated from its bland, symmetrical layout. It was here that I would learn my fate. The very man who carried that news sat behind an excessively ample desk, stroking the trimmed hairs that adorned his lip. He wore a golden ascot underneath his red and gold brocade coat. Pinned to his lapel was medal in shape of the Baellic seal. This man was the warden of the jails, this was his office, his territory, and he bore a bemused expression that is so often evident in officials of his stature.

“Ah, Constable Andrews, I’m glad you’ve returned. I see that you have brought along Mister Todd as I have asked. Tell me, Constable, would you continue to be so helpful, and go and retrieve the items that were removed from his possession upon his arrest?”

“Yes, sir, Warden Byrne sir.” Andrews saluted him and exited the room swiftly.

The warden turned his ivory smile to me. “Your brother has been keeping me company while we awaited the council’s report. I am happy to announce that the council has decided, in part for your adequate behavior, to suspend your sentence forthwith. As this was a first time offense, the council can be assured that it shall not happen again. Can they not?”

“Of course they can, sir,” I answered. “I must agree that the lesson was most definitely learned.”

“Splendid,” Byrne said, clapping his hands together. “If you will pardon a few more moments of your time, then we shall address the final issues before sending you back on your way to a free life.”

“What’s a few more minutes compared to the rest of my life?”

“Precisely,” he said. “May I ask what your plans are after you get out? You surely had some time to think it over.”

I had no answer for the warden. I looked to my brother in hopes of a revelation, but as I met his gaze I knew I would not find what I sought. The stubble upon his face had grown thick and dark since I had last seen him. His eyes were sunken and his skin pale, marring his once youthful and vibrant complexion. Aiden had always been stronger and more stable than me, yet now he seemed as lost as I was.

“I’m sure we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” I said, looking back to the warden. “I’d like to focus on the present, if that is alright with you, sir.”
Constable Andrews returned at just that moment, sparing me from further continuation of the subject. He marched straight to the warden’s side, setting my satchel down on his desk.

“Constable, remove the shackles from Mister Todd’s hands, would you?” He did thusly, and I felt the first passing moment of freedom. I kept the flurry of emotion from contorting my blank expression, lest the rug be pulled from underneath me at the last possible moment.

“Yes well, let us finish up what needs to be done then.” The warden turned the satchel over and the few possessions they had not confiscated tumbled out onto his desk. He began to name each item as he set them before me. “One copper pocket watch, fair condition; one fighter’s knife and sheath, blade still sharp; and one book, title of Sir Pierce Alexander’s Collection of Faerie Tales, and of course, the satchel itself.”

I replaced the book and took hold of the knife, sensing Andrew’s watchful gaze pressing me from behind. I placed it too into the satchel. Picking up the pocket watch next, I carefully opened it. Without needing to be asked, the
warden drew out his own watch and volunteered to tell me the time. I pulled the crown and turned it until the hands were properly aligned. I wound the watch, and drew back the chime and listened as it started ticking like a charm.

“I am a fan of Sir Alexander’s work myself,” Byrne commented offhandedly. “A shame he is a Vengard born. Baelle could use a few more intellectual minds, here in our very city most of all.”

“I grew up with his stories,” I told him. I glanced at Aiden, and said, “If it had not been for our aunt, I would never have experienced his works.”

“Yes, you do have my condolences, of course. Elsa Todd was a fine woman.”

“Thank you, sir.” I felt a lump build in my throat, and used all the discipline I could muster to keep the tears from brimming.

“Well, Mister Todd,” he said, interlocking his fingers, “without any further interruptions, I am proud to release you from my care and my jails. You are a free man.”

I stood from the chair, and reached for my satchel. As my hand grasped the strap, Byrne peered into my eyes. “It would displease me to see you return. So, shall we call this goodbye?”

“Goodbye, Warden Byrne,” I said, certain that I would never see the man again. I slung the satchel over my shoulder and turned to walk out of the room. I met Andrews gaze, no words were spoken between us. I could feel Aiden’s presence following close behind, so I did not spare the few moments to turn back.

*

The Waterfront district was only few miles south of the Jails. Aiden had yet to say a word to me, not that I could blame him. Whether he could not find the right thing to say, or if he was intentionally giving me a cold shoulder, I did not know.

I endured the silence. It was something I was far too accustomed to, but it was still a struggle each and every time the world fell quiet. The cold ocean breeze prickled at my damp skin, and the smell of the fresh, salty air filled my nostrils with an invigorating arousal. The streets were mostly empty, with only the few passerby’s travelling silently in the night.

When my patience for the still ran thin, I gave an audible sigh. “You’re going to have to speak to me eventually, Aiden. Might as well get it over with.”
My brother turned to me, his expression as void as it had been. Without so much as a gesture, he made his way to the end of a pier. I continued towards him and stood by his side. We watched the Western Sea, listening to the waves crashing against the pier.

The light of the moon shined through slits in the overcast, illuminating the expression he wore upon on his world-weary face. The years had not been kind to either of us, but it was heavily taking its toll on my brother.

“Twelve years,” he said. The words fell from his lips. He turned his head to me, his face contorted. “That’s how much life we could buy with the coin father left us. Now we barely have anything more to our names than the clothes on our backs.”

“What do mean?”

“The bank took the house, Killian. We have nothing.”

I folded my arms and glanced up at the waning moon peeking through the clouds as I thought on his words. “Loss is not an unfamiliar concept to orphans. There’s always a bright side to things, though, brother—now we have nothing left to lose.”

He gave a pitiful chuckle, and shook his head. “I think I’ll miss our nights here in the Waterfront the most. We used to sit out here every day after I got off work and just watch the sun set. Strange how we take such things for granted, huh?”

“Yeah,” I replied, feeling as hollow as my answer.

“I came here still, even after you were arrested. Even after Elsa…”

“Can we not talk about her?”

“Killian—”

“Do you think I need this right now, Aiden?” I seethed through clenched teeth. “I’ll never forget her or what she did for us, but I also will never forget how I failed her. So please, brother, just leave it be.”

He fell silent and we went back to watching the sea. I looked down at the water below, watching as it stirred white foam against docks. “Here,” my brother whispered, and I glanced up to see him holding letter.

“What is this?” I asked as I took it from.

“Elsa gave it to me before she passed,” he said as I examined the broken seal. “It’s addressed to Father. Just read it.”

I watched Aiden’s face, but he made it clear this was no jest. I unfolded the pages, and read the faded words that still clung to the yellowed parchment. It was addressed to Kieran McCallion, the name of our father.

“My friend,” it read, “hands have been reaching and fingers grasping. Brookrow is not safe anymore. This city is not safe for you or yours anymore. I do not wish to be the bearer of ill news, but I ask you as a friend: Leave the city tonight, before the turn of the tide. Good luck.

“I remain your servant,

“Arren Varian.”

I folded the letter and handed it back to Aiden. “Elsa said a courier delivered the message the night he died,” he muttered. “This Arren Varian knows what happened to our father.”

This was the bridge, now it was time to cross. I grabbed his shoulders. “Do you know what this means? We must go to Irianna. We will find this Arren Varian, and we will find our father’s killer. We can do this, Aiden, together.”
“It’s a fool’s errand,” he said. “Irianna is a city of thousands. How do we find one man amongst the many?”

“If the stories I’ve heard of Irianna are true, there are men there who can find anyone.”

“At what price?” he asked, holding his arms out wide to exemplify his financial lacking. “We haven’t much coin.”

“Where else do we have to go? We will work for passage to Irianna. We can beg for food when we get there. If it comes down to it, I can—”

“It won’t come down to that,” Aiden replied coldly. “Not ever again. I can’t lose you for another eighteen months, and if what I’ve heard of Irianna is true, they are far less lenient than the council.”

“We will do what we have to do, Aiden. I say we put all our strength and energy into doing this. Perhaps then we can have some closure, and that is worth any price.”

“Even if we find the man, I doubt we could persuade the Imperials to arrest him.”

“I had simpler answer,” I replied, referring to the pair of knives our father had left us upon his death.

“That’s why I worry about bringing you. We can’t be causing trouble in a city built by it.” Aiden shook his head. “If we are to do this, then we will need to stay low and quiet. Irianna is a dangerous place. Promise me you’ll be careful, and then I will consider it.”

I laughed his request off at first, but his adamant expression told him he demanded an answer. “I promise,” I said. “I won’t let you down.”

Aiden accepted my answer, but he knew as I did that it was a promise that I could not keep. Considering past events, it would not be long before problems arose. I had no more control over these things than he. We departed from the pier, and went to make our arrangements.

We had a long night ahead of us.

*
 
Last edited:

TheoMiller

Senior Member
Your diction makes me want to compose odes in your honor. But this could use a few more character tags, and a little less melodrama. "I told myself to still my beating heart" was a little over the top. But I myself tend to call myself an idiot instead of telling myself to calm down when I'm an idiot, so I'm a little dubious of that in the first place. Another cliche thing - looking up at the "waning moon". Do you address the moon when you talk? Or make heartfelt declarations like that? My first draft of my novel was chock full of that, trust me, so I understand the urge. Also, Killian is fantastic name. Killian Todd. It's memorable. Like the place names.
 

MBNewman

Senior Member
Your diction makes me want to compose odes in your honor. But this could use a few more character tags, and a little less melodrama. "I told myself to still my beating heart" was a little over the top. But I myself tend to call myself an idiot instead of telling myself to calm down when I'm an idiot, so I'm a little dubious of that in the first place. Another cliche thing - looking up at the "waning moon". Do you address the moon when you talk? Or make heartfelt declarations like that? My first draft of my novel was chock full of that, trust me, so I understand the urge. Also, Killian is fantastic name. Killian Todd. It's memorable. Like the place names.

Oh yes, I have already begun to edit the chapter. I get wordy at times, and have been known to drag on a bit too long on irrelevant things. Thank you for the read tho! It's much appreciated.
 

Draxia

Senior Member
Usually I tell people to write in the moment, but perhaps you do this too much. You capture the back and forth very well. But, I'll be blunt, I think you use too much dialogue. On top of that, you seem to suggest even more dialogue with "We had a long night ahead of us." Really? I am exhausted with what the dialogue you already have! Try to say more with less.
 

SpiderDelToroFan

Senior Member
Great job sir! You've really created a likeable character in Killian, I like how rogueish he is while still being good at heart, I look forward to the next chapter!
 
Top