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The Meeting at Phlegethon (1 Viewer)

Save.Face.

Senior Member
I'd like to see if this fragment is understandeable to a reader with no previous exposition. Thoughts, corrections? Anything helps. (Language warning!)



Four minutes to roll the corpses. Another two to blot a thumbprint in the blood and mark foreheads; and a whole five minutes to smoke a cigarette when I should have been running, but I took the time. I brushed my hair back, laughed against the hollow night air. What a productive night i'd had. I was still fresh.
I turned the cell phone again in my hand as I strolled the last mile to the meeting site. Phlegethon, the river between the central and western limits, was the meeting spot. I knew nothing, save that location. I felt excited, though I should have felt tense, but I was too worked up to be as still as I'd have been otherwise. I could still feel Arcturus' fingers at my throat from earlier that night; those long, pinkish spiders squeezing and clawing. I also felt the little soft spot where that Gregorian whelp had put heel to kidney. A good kind of sore, one that let me know I'd done something lately. I watched the slow laze of the river hiding the monstrous current beneath the surface as I traced it's course upstream with my eyes. Funny, that I could imagine it fondly, as if it were peaceful.
This wide expanse of a river, that twice a year flooded it's banks, that ate children and drunks, that sank anything fool enough to brave it's waters on bleaker days. It had it's name for a reason. lt was both a tyrant and a murderer. Oh God, they sent a runner.
Seven years old at a guess, sitting cross-legged eyeing the surface intently, waiting halfway down the bridge, still chubby enough to let me know he either ran messages for the better off circles or he was new at this game. He should have been more vigilant. I was insulted.
"Where is it, kid?" I threw him an intimidating look, he beamed a shit-eating grin up at me.
"There's a rope at the far end." He pointed to the last standing beam on the bridge.
"Pull it up. Directions and money inside." I shook my head and kicked at him, shooing him from his spot on the bridge.
"Don't get too close, kid, you'll regret it." I gestured to the river. He stuck his tongue out and jumped up.
"This here's MY river, see?" He laughed, grabbed his belly.
"I feed it, and I stay nice and safe." He added with a dirty grin, "Brothers, and Sisters, runners... and even killers." He looked at me, held out a hand, open palm, turned his arm to the river, as if to show me his property. I cocked my head to the side, ignoring the river and instead noticed something else. This boy wasn't wearing the Colors. Where was his emblem, his identification within the circles? If he was a loose runner...
"You little shit!" I dove straight backward, rolled from my spine back onto my feet just as the ice flew past the spot where I had stood. I felt the aether-soaked frost sail past me from out of nowhere.
"Where's my uncle? Huh?" He stood stock still as a fog crept from the bank of the river onto the bridge.
"Where IS he?!" The child's chubby little face twisted from a mocking smile into a vicious little sneer. He balled his hamburger fists and stuffed them into his pockets, digging. The little porker fished out a piece of gum and unwrapped it furiously, snarling at the packaging, mumbling,
"If you hurt him, I'll strangle you and feed you to my river. I'll make you beg, and I'll make you cry, and I'll kill you." Those chubby digits stuffed the gum into his fat cheeks and he chomped away, glaring, letting the fog envelope him. I was worried. I'd never seen anyone under twelve actually control the aether around them. And then I saw the truth of it.
Three of them behind him. Sixteen, by the marks of their circle on their clothing. Old enough to have learned to survive. Old enough to know how to kill. The tallest of the spindly figures spoke, shirtless, hairless, only pants and boots against the ice chill of the night.
"You heard little brother, tell us where he is." He unsheathed a miniature knife from forearm sheath and pricked his palm. The fat child spoke deviously,
"We heard you were meeting with two circles here, so we had a little meeting with them first." The boy pointed to the glossy water beneath us. He squinted his eyes and smiled.
"Yep. Even killers. I told you. It's still hungry." He sniffled against the cold air and eyed the three on the bridge. They looked at him and marched my way. The man without the shirt squeezed his palm and collected the blood in his other hand. Oh, now I get it. The ice.
Fuck. An icicle for every drop of blood. The globs that stick together just make bigger projectiles. All aimed at me?
He flung his arms as fast as the blood would flow, the aether around him compacting and flinging what the night air froze. Blood to impale me.
The other two took up wide stances and either chewed away at fingers or scratched at forearms. One cocked back and swung on the other, tearing his lip open and bloodying his knuckles in the process. They'd be walking bullet factories and bloodsicle pincushions in seconds. Sounds like a bad movie scene.
I was late, and they took advantage of that to lay their trap. But who were they looking for? No time to ask yet. The first came, all bloody knuckles and busted lips. He spat blood. Through the shoulder of my coat, grazing my arm with lightning fast frozen blood, through my calf. Just tiny pinpricks in the armor I've made of my own skin, but painful nonetheless. He swung, his trailing blood sending jagged shards in every direction as he tried to connect his swings.
I let him overswing twice and reached through his guard to shove his jaw over his shoulder. Spit at me with a broken neck, go ahead, I won't try to dodge. He dropped like a carcass from a meat hook.
The second kept me at bay by flinging his frozen lifeblood at all angles. He was fast. He was wiser than to let me close with him. I pulled a little shard of metal from my coat and flung it into the roof of his mouth. It barely stuck, and once I'd closed the distance the elbow to the jaw drove it home. He had time to paw at his mouth before his face found the bridge planks.
The third, the shirtless bald one, cut a bold slice from his elbow to his wrist, and smiled as his appendage bled out. His wiry frame shook with the loss of blood, but the gushing all came down his hand, freezing as it dripped. In the four seconds it took to reach him, he'd raised a full foot of frozen blood like a sword, attached to the heel of his hand. Blood rites were taboo in the outer circles. Someone had taught these people. More to brood on later. For now? Tap the aether and end this. Eyes closed.

The swirls of color shook my perception of my surroundings. She was laughing.
"You've never killed one of his kind before!" She giggled nervously. "Make him suffer. Blood is sacred, Flodaias." She adopted a grave look, almost as a child would put on a serious face. I tapped my chin, thinking.
"His own blood." I said, eyebrow arched. She widened her eyes. "Yes! But slowly. Show him that all blood is sacred." she added,
"He took it all out. Put it back for him." I nodded, her contagious energy giving me enthusiasm for the task. Eyes open.

This would be a delicious kill. Two steps. He made three steps and a lunge to get to me. Step into his swing arc, through his guard, grab wrist, snap elbow, break that silly bloodsicle at the base. Now kick a knee back, and let him drop. She was watching me, I could feel her. I was giddy.
Pick up his own frozen bloodsicle, elbow through his collarbone and wait for that head to toss back when he yelps in pain... there! She told me to put it all back. Just when he'd opened that esophagus to scream out his pain, I slid that aether-frozen blood right down his throat. I leaned on it comically, my weight forcing it further down and into his stomach. He'd live if it melted fast enough, I'm sure. But I kicked his kneeled body into the river for good measure.
"You're right, kid." I laughed as he glared at me with something between terror and tears.
"Your river is hungry. Still." His wide eyes got even wider as i stepped toward him.
He told me everything I wanted to know once he'd been dangled from the bridge over Phlegethon. Because that river eats children, and drunks, and yes. Even killers.
 

BlueApple813

Senior Member
It's pretty understandable, in my personal opinion. I'd recommend spacing the different sections so that way it's easier to read from a context point of view. For example, since there isn't any space between the two people conversing, it gets confusing to follow who is saying what. For example:

"Where is it, kid?" I threw him an intimidating look, he beamed a shit-eating grin up at me.
"There's a rope at the far end." He pointed to the last standing beam on the bridge.
"Pull it up. Directions and money inside." I shook my head and kicked at him, shooing him from his spot on the bridge.
"Don't get too close, kid, you'll regret it." I gestured to the river. He stuck his tongue out and jumped up.
"This here's MY river, see?" He laughed, grabbed his belly.

Should probably read more like this:

"Where is it, kid?" I threw him an intimidating look and he beamed a shit-eating grin up at me.

"There's a rope at the far end." He pointed to the last standing beam on the bridge, "Pull it up. Directions and money inside."

I shook my head and kicked at him, shooing him from his spot on the bridge. "Don't get too close, kid, you'll regret it," I gestured to the river. He stuck his tongue out and jumped up.

"This here's MY river, see?" He laughed, grabbed his belly.


That way when you put the spacing, it's easier for the reader to follow the actions and words of each character. Also, for this line:
This wide expanse of a river, that twice a year flooded it's banks, that ate children and drunks, that sank anything fool enough to brave it's waters on bleaker days.
I would take out most of the 'that' words you used. So maybe reword it to sound like: This wide expanse of a river that twice a year flooded its banks, ate children and drunks, and sank anything foolish enough to brave its waters on bleaker days.

The swirls of color shook my perception of my surroundings. She was laughing.
"You've never killed one of his kind before!" She giggled nervously. "Make him suffer. Blood is sacred, Flodaias." She adopted a grave look, almost as a child would put on a serious face. I tapped my chin, thinking.
"His own blood." I said, eyebrow arched. She widened her eyes. "Yes! But slowly. Show him that all blood is sacred." she added,
"He took it all out. Put it back for him." I nodded, her contagious energy giving me enthusiasm for the task. Eyes open.
My last suggestion is to either completely italicize this part or do a line division between the main two parts.

Other than that it did intrigue me, and had me asking questions like "what's a runner?" or "bloodsicle? woah!" Stuff like that :) Happy writing!
 

Frank D. Taylor

Senior Member
I agree that it's understandable. Were you planning on using this as an opening/prologue? If so, I think that would be fine as long as the next piece has some answers. As a reader I would want to know what he was doing at the very beginning (with the corpses) and the location (i.e. is this Hell, New York, another planet, or whatever). It's an interesting story so far and I'm looking forward to reading more.
 

Frank D. Taylor

Senior Member
After reading the other part it makes a little more sense. The story is very interesting, but the parts need to be edited so that they sound alike (you probably already know that though). I have to say that I was a little disappointed that the main character was so young. While I was reading this section I was imagining a slick twenty-something and then I read the other part and found out he's an over mature early teen. It sounds like the age of the characters is a main piece to the story though, so I wont suggest you change it. Still very much want to read more.
 

Save.Face.

Senior Member
As the idea of using the world's youth to an end developed, the focus on the age of the character is in a world where by the age of eighteen one is a mature adult already, instead of the way we treat people of that age today. In a sense it's archaic; a world without child labor laws where humans are put to use as soon as their body allows. I do have the issue of cohesiveness between pieces, and I wonder if my mood affects my work to such a great extent. Thanks for the input, it helps more than you know!
 

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