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The Curse of Arkanus -- Really need help on this...:

 1 Moe Dantes, Thu, 3rd Feb '11 7:50:40 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
All right guys, I've decided to take a chance and submit one of my original stories for consideration and critique. That's right—no Lucky Star characters or goofy self-inserts this time.

Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to post the three chapters I've got finished in three separate posts, and then I'm gonna make a fourth post detailing plans I have for the rest of this story. I need critiques both on the individual chapters and the overall plan (or just whatever you feel like giving me).

I discussed this story partially in the "Elaborate, or just get to the point?" topic, and you'll kind of get what I was worried about as you read. Basically, its supposed to be a sort of slasher-horror, but I didn't want the characters to be all Strictly Archtype and, well in general I wanted it to be more human than the blood-crazy ghetto-fests those kinds of stories usually are. There are some other places where I'm not sure if I'm making a mistake here or there too, so again, just any comment you feel like throwing at me.

Anyway, so here's the first chapter:

The Curse of Arkanus

by Edmond Dantes

Chapter 1 - Ryan and Josephine

As Prince Ryan rode through the streets on a white steed, he couldn't help thinking that the Kingdom of Arkanus seemed like a fine place. The roads, which had been of clumped dirt upon the land, now became cobbled stone. Ryan raced at a gallop, slowing down slightly to assess the huts and houses that formed the homes of citizenship about him, but never stopping until he reached the gates of the castle. There he cupped his hands and called out "Oy, hello there!"

The two guardsmen atop the wall turned their attention toward the prince. One shouted "Hallo! What brings you here?"

"I am Prince Ryan of Bolkana, and I have business with King Erelay!"

One of the guards motioned to someone on the other side of the wall while the other called down "Aye! We've been expecting you! Safe journey!"

"Thanks!" Prince Ryan said, and rode past the open gates. Ryan glanced quickly around the courtyard as his horse came to a stop. Ryan walked the rest of the way up to the front steps of the castle, while an assistant graciously tied his horse for him.

As he ascended the steps, Ryan almost didn't notice the child.

She sat on a banister to his left: a small thing, with long auburn hair that curved in places, dressed in a black robe that seemed to be made of expensive materials. In her hand was a purple flower whose petals she was delicately picking. Her mouth moved, but no sound came from it except an occasional girlish giggle and a blush. Ryan's best guess was that she was playing the old "he loves me, he loves me not" game.

Ryan turned to the child and said "I'm sure he does."

The girl slowly looked up at Ryan, seemed to be taking him in. Her gaze almost compelled Ryan to size himself up: Ryan was sixteen, five-foot-seven and had short blue hair. His build was rather average, but maybe the girl would be impressed by the leatherette scabbard of his long sword, or his aqua-scale chest plate with the centerpiece bloodstone.

Ryan quickly dashed the thoughts from his mind. To think he was worried so about impressing a child! In his embarrassment he almost turned away and went about his business, but then the girl spoke:

"Are you a prince?"

"Hm? Why, yes, yes I am. Prince Ryan of Bolkana."

The girl made a squeal of glee as she jumped from the banister and ran around Prince Ryan, looking him over from all sides.

"Wow, a prince! A real live, flesh and blood prince! Hey, is this cape made of real fur?"

"Oh come now!" Ryan said gently. "You're some noble girl yourself. Surely you must see this kingdom's prince quite often?"

The girl put her hands behind her back and looked a little downcast. "N-no... this place doesn't have a prince. The queen died after giving birth to her first child."

"Oh, I see. And that only child was a daughter, " Ryan guessed.

"Uh-huh."

"Sorry to cut our conversation short, but its precisely on the business of that daughter that I came to see your king. I'm sorry, but I must be—"

"Awesome!" the girl exclaimed, "We'll go see the king together!"

The girl did not give Ryan time to argue; She simply clasped his arm and pulled him towards the front door. A couple was coming out at just that moment and held the door open for Ryan and the child before passing through on business of their own.

Mid-day light shone through the windows and illuminated the light-colored bricks which made up the castle wall, but Prince Ryan had little time to notice other details than that as the eager child pulled him along by the hand. The girl simply would not wait!

Many side-paths presented themselves, but the girl never strayed from her straight-ahead course, which finally emerged into a huge cube of a room. Only now did she let go of Ryan's hand and allowed the prince time to look about his surroundings. A brief glance showed him a huge tapestry on the back wall, a wide red carpet which led out from the hallway they had taken all the way up to a dais, a table in front of said dais with some sort of map on it, and the king: His throne was on the raised platform, and he was using a sort of monocle to eye the map. The girl climbed on this table and moved a stone piece.

"Conquered!" she declared.

Ryan commented "This looks very much like the war games we played back home."

"Quite so, quite so, " the king answered, removing the monocle and standing to his full height. The man was slightly pudgy, dressed in bright orange and had a long brown beard. His hair maintained its color, but he had a bald spot right on the top of his head. He wore no crown, but the very fact that he sat on the throne told Ryan that either this was the king, or else a very stupid fellow. Ryan decided the former was more likely.

"King Erelay Chelainne de Arkanus, at your service!" the King inclined. "I can see you've kept yourself in fine shape, Prince Ryan!"

"It's all part of the princing business!" Ryan answered, shaking hands with the King. "Oh, " Ryan suddenly realized, "I suppose I should give a full introduction myself. Prince Ryan Alexander Ala Bolkana, at your service."

The child then asked "So, when's the wedding?"

Ryan chuckled. "Patience, child! Today I'm only coming to get engaged. The actual marriage will be a couple of years from now. Speaking of that matter, where is my future bride-to-be? I'm anxious to meet her!"

The child giggled, and King Erelay couldn't help a knowing smile as he held out a hand towards the little girl.

As the girl jumped off the table and came to the king's side, King Erelay said "Forgive her, my daughter has a bad habit of not introducing herself."

Ryan felt himself go to pieces.

Author's Comments

I'm aware some of the descriptions are a little wordy. I kind of feel like an opening chapter has to be since its whats giving us our first impression, but if somebody has suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

I was going with a trend of "Noble characters have complicated names, serving or working-class characters have more straightforward names, " but I'm thinking of dropping that as I can't think of any reason this would be the case.
 2 Moe Dantes, Thu, 3rd Feb '11 7:52:01 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
The Curse of Arkanus

by Edmond Dantes

Chapter 2 - A Period of Adjustment

"Is something wrong, Prince?" King Erelay asked.

Ryan hastily recovered himself, and said "Nothing much. Just that I'm surprised she's so young. By the way, " he looked at the child, "You didn't formally introduce yourself."

The child smiled, put a hand on her heart and said "Princess Josephine Contesta Artenio de Arkanus, the Seventh, at your service!" She let her hand drop before adding "And since I know you're gonna ask, I'm eleven."

Ryan rubbed his chin. "That is awfully young to have your husband chosen for you, isn't it?"

King Erelay said "Well, I thought—"

"No!" Josephine interrupted. "I'm just the right age to be engaged to someone!" Josephine clutched the side of Ryan's fur cape. "And someone like you only comes along once in a millennium. I'm staking my claim now!"

"Hold still, now!" Ryan argued, "Outside, you said you'd never seen a prince before!"

"Eh, I lied." Josephine let go of Ryan's cape.

Ryan knelt to her height and said "Well, you do understand that this is a political marriage, right? It's probably not going to be as wonderful as a fairy tale—"

"So you're worried about me?" Josephine looked at him with stars in her eyes.

"Well, I'm worried that you might not understand what—"

"You're actually worried about my feelings?"

"Well, yes." There was a moment of silence, then Ryan said "I get the feeling everything I say is a positive to you."

"Of course." Josephine hugged him, and whispered in his ear "I'm young, but I'm not stupid." She let go and coyly turned her back to him, and said "See, I have a superstition. I believe that a good prince comes from a good kingdom. Since this marriage is an agreement that my soldiers won't horribly mutilate your soldiers, I had to make sure yours was a kingdom worth making peace with." She turned and face him. "So far, you match up!"

"Well, I'm... glad to hear that!" Ryan said, nervously chuckling. He stood, cleared his throat, and then said "Then, you'd be willing to wait six years?"

"Of course!" Josephine smiled.

King Erelay had been standing by and watching this exchange, and now said "I'm sorry to spring this on you. I was aware that your people have morals against child marriages but... well... I hope things are satisfactory now?"

As Ryan and King Erelay continued to talk, Josephine wandered off.

"It's all right, " Ryan replied. "As far as I know there is no law against being engaged. Besides, I can tell this is harder on you than it is on me, she being your only daughter and all."

"Yes. Oh, how I wish my Queen had lived longer!" The King sighed. "Yanlin, my chief of staff, tells me I should remarry. But I ask, 'what woman would want an old man like me?'"

"Kings are always in demand, your majesty."

They both smiled. King Erelay was glancing up at a portrait of a beautiful woman. Ryan guessed who this was, and the painting's title—"Queen Eclezia Defuorth Chatalaine-Arkanus"—confirmed his guess. Ryan looked around, hoping to compare Josephine to her mother, but Josephine was nowhere to be seen.

"That's funny, " Ryan said, "I wonder where Josephine went?"

"Usually when Josephine is bored, she retreats to one of two places: the library and her personal flower-garden. That page over there can show you the way to both."

"Ah, yes, " Ryan acknowledged the boy standing next to one of the room's entrances. He thanked the king and followed the boy's lead. King Erelay watched Ryan leave the room, then looked up at the portrait and said "Oh Eclezia, how happy you would've been!"

...

Of the two locations, the garden was closer than the library, so Ryan elected to see to that first. He chose right: The first thing he saw in the panoramic, million-hued field was the princess. She was sitting next to a stone fountain. Josephine had something in her hand. Ryan asked the page to wait and went to see what Josephine had.

It was a bird. The creature was alive, but with ugly gashes across its back. A hawk or something must've scarred it.

Josephine touched the bloody spot with her index finger, and brought a single drop of blood to her lips. Then she held the finger to the air and it began to glow with a magical luminescence. She touched the bird with this glowing tip, and in a flash of light the bird was good as new. It stood, tweeted at her once or twice—probably saying the bird version of "thank you"—and fluttered away.

Ryan watched the bird fly as it rounded a corner of the castle and vanished out of sight. He continued to scan, crossing with his eyes the various statuettes in the windowsills: a praying woman, a star, a squatting goblin, a rushing bull, a heroic archer, a coiled serpent that seemed ready to strike. He had to give credit to diversity.

Josephine's words interrupted his thoughts: "There's a sorceress living in the west tower. She teaches me magic from time to time. You know much magic?"

"The philosophy of it has never penetrated my thick skull, I'm afraid. The most I do is avail myself of enchanted armaments."

"Oh? Is this breast plate magical?"

"Well, not as such... but do you see the bloodstone?"

"Uh-huh?"

"When I rub it twice, it projects a protective field around me. Watch." Ryan distanced himself from Josephine and rubbed the stone. A sphere of energy surrounded him. "Test it, " he said.

Josephine picked up a loose pebble, tossed it. It bounced right off. Smirking, Josephine next threw some water at it. The water, too, washed right off. Ryan was smiling.

Josephine looked to her left, and then said "Stand under that tree."

"All right, " Ryan did so. He watched Josephine climb the tree, suspecting that she would next throw nuts at him or something. What she actually did quite amazed him:

Josephine jumped off a tree limb and onto the top of the force field!

"Hey, be careful!" Ryan cautioned her.

Josephine did not seem troubled. She came to her feet, and cried out "Look at me, I'm riding on air!"

Then the force field disappeared. Josephine dropped right into Ryan's arms. As Ryan placed her back on her feet, he said "I warned you, be careful!"

"What happened?"

"You took my breath away."

"Eh?"

Ryan chuckled.

Josephine blinked. "No, seriously: Eh?"

Ryan sighed. "You startled me such that, for a moment, I forgot to breath. When my field is up, nothing gets in; Not even oxygen. So the spell is designed to shut off if I ever stop breathing for any reason."

"Still, I bet it helps on all the adventures you must have!"

"I don't really have very many adventures. Actually, this plate and my sword were to protect me from travelling bandits or spies from enemy kingdoms." Ryan carried her back to the fountain and sat Josephine down, and continued "Some particularly foolish people try to hold princes for ransom, you see."

"Does that happen often?"

"Not in Bolkana. The last time was when my older brother was five years old. One of my father's spies managed to find the criminal's hideout and rescue my brother. Then my dad personally led an army to sack the place and put the entire organization to death. Ever since then, my father's reputation was usually enough to scare off potential wrongdoers. Still, one can never be too careful."

"I guess not, " Josephine said as she looked to the sky. Ryan looked down at the ground for a moment and then back up at the sky. His eyes cast across the windows one more time, but something seemed different.

"That's odd, " Ryan commented. "That goblin statue seems to have grown wings."

Josephine quickly glanced at it and said "Honey, that's a gargoyle."

Ryan chuckled in his embarrassment. "Oh, is that so?"

Ryan looked at Josephine. She half-smiled and gave the windowsill statuettes a glance. Ryan figured her for an art lover and decided to admire them as well. He especially liked the bull.

Josephine jumped off the fountain and headed back inside. She told Ryan "I'm getting hungry. How about it, you feel up to having your first dinner with your fiancee?"

Ryan nodded. Hand-in-hand, Ryan escorted the princess to the dining hall.

Author's Comments

This is actually a second draft. My first draft tried to make more of an issue out of Ryan's dislike of being engaged to a child, but I decided that anyone who seriously has issues with that element will be appeased by the whole "its an engagement, not a marriage" thing. To be honest I kind of think that part should be trimmed down as it seems to be somewhat over-emphasized.
 3 Moe Dantes, Thu, 3rd Feb '11 7:53:02 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
The Curse of Arkanus

By Edmond Dantes

Chapter 3 - Friends and Acquaintances

Once or twice that week, Ryan went back to stare at the portrait in the throne room. During one of these times, a lady spoke to him.

"She was a beautiful queen, wasn't she?"

"She was." Ryan said. "I only hope Josephine grows up to be just as lovely."

"Are you a friend of Josephine's?"

Ryan now looked at the girl, a lovely sixteen-year-old with hazel eyes and dark blonde hair. She was wearing a plain but well-kept dress that favored modesty. About her was a good-natured look, not naive, but approachable.

"I am, " Ryan answered. With a bow he introduced himself: "Prince Ryan of Bolkana, at your service."

"Millie Corben, at yours, " she answered back. "If I'm honest, I suspected who you were the moment I saw you. Princess Josephine seems quite taken with you."

"Really?" Prince Ryan felt the embarrassment creeping up on him. Wishing to change the subject, he asked "So how do you know the princess?"

"I'm her personal servant. I make sure she gets a bath, eats three square meals a day, gets to bed at the proper hour, and so on. Largely, I just sew her torn clothes."

"I haven't seen you before, " Ryan pointed out.

"That's because I've been away. I received word that my mother was sick and took a leave to care for her. Josephine is a very independent child, so she got along fine without me. Except, of course, that she hasn't had time to sew her own clothes, what with the recent developments."

Millie giggled, and Ryan couldn't help thinking that her laugh was a little charming. His glance went back to the portrait and then to Millie as he thought to himself how the servant girl was more to his tastes.

"Speaking of Josephine though, " Millie said, "I've got business in her quarters."

"Hold on, I'll come with you, " Ryan offered.

Millie thanked him.

...

"My grandparents were farmers, you see, " Millie was telling Ryan her life's story as they walked, "But neither my mother nor my father had a knack for it. Rather, if some people have 'green thumbs' then my parents had black thumbs, if you will."

"So they weren't good at it."

"Quite right. My father thought he could make it as a merchant and my mother thought she could make it as a seamstress, so they moved into town and opened up shop. It was hard going at first but they managed to make a business of it.

"One day, three years ago, Josephine had a dress that she absolutely adored. She tore it by accident and would not settle for a new one. My parents were contacted on the strength of their reputation, but as they were under a heavy workload they sent me instead. Josephine was glad for my services but she was even gladder for my company, and so worked out an agreement with her father and mine where I would stay on as her servant. I'm well compensated, of course."

"I bet you make more here than both your parents combined!"

"Well, not quite, " Millie gave the question some serious thought, "Though they had to borrow money from me more than once."

"Serves them right."

Ryan and Millie turned to see who had spoken.

The newcomer was a redheaded teenager, thin and plain. Her features were angled. Her dress was a mesh of reds and whites that seemed like they were trying to attract attention. She stood leaned against the wall, her armed crossed and her demeanor arrogant.

Ryan glanced questioningly at Millie, whom replied "Ignore her."

"Oh yes!" The red-haired girl had overheard. "Ignore me! What need have you for little old Tabitha Cleary, who cooks and cleans and does all your dishes! That's right, peasant: Now that you're the personal plaything of that spoiled little princess, you can do whatever you want and walk over everyone!"

Ryan could take no more. He turned to Tabitha and said "Just what is your problem, madame?"

"'Madame'? Ha!" Tabitha approached with an accusing point, though nobody could say what the accusation was pointed at, or at whom. "It wasn't long ago that I was a little rich girl myself! Think that girl's daddy was so great for selling women's underwear? My daddy used to be a duke, and watch over the borders from Alkeron! But then some rabble-rouser got some silly idea in his head that my daddy was selling secrets to the enemy kingdoms. The family falls from grace, we lose everything we had, and then King Erelay pretends to feel bad about ruining everything and 'compensates' me by giving me a job in his castle—as a servant! Hmph! Some 'compensation'!"

Ryan felt like being a little callous after hearing all that, and said "If attitudes like that run in the family, I can see how your father came to trouble. Good day!"

Ryan and Millie were about to walk away, when Tabitha grabbed Ryan's shirt collar and said "Oh, what do you know? You're still your daddy's darling and the guy everyone looks for to bring everlasting piece! Everyone treats you like a hero for becoming that spoiled heathen's latest toy—"

Suddenly Tabitha had a fist in her gut. The fist did not belong to Ryan, nor did it belong to Millie.

The fist belonged to Josephine, who had come so fast that she seemed almost to come out of nowhere. Tabitha seemed to have had the wind knocked out of her, and Ryan wondered if Josephine was just that strong or perhaps Tabitha was just that weak.

Tabitha recovered after a few panting breaths.

Josephine pulled the older girl down by the ear and said "I don't mind most of the things you say, but nobody calls my husband a plaything, you understand?"

"Heh, " Tabitha managed a little more arrogance. "You're not married yet. What is it, six years? In that time, he could easily have found somebody better—like that servant of yours!"

Ryan tried not to react, for he had been having exactly this thought. Josephine, however, smirked.

"Oh, I don't mind if she borrows him for awhile, " Josephine said, turning away and going on down the hall, motioning for Ryan and Millie to follow. "In fact, I was thinking of sharing him with every girl in the castle! But I think I'll make an exception for you. You'll understand, won't you?"

Josephine punctuated her last line with a laugh, and left Tabitha behind to clench her fist and fume in useless anger.

When they finally got to Josephine's quarters, Ryan said "Josephine, if I'm honest—"

"Come inside, " she said. Ryan let Millie first and then entered himself.

The princess bedchamber was nice, but far more humble than Ryan had expected. The bed was big enough for a family and had fine sheets and quilts, but no trimmings, no overhang. There was a small table next to the bed, and one wall was lined with shelves, absolutely packed with books. Off to the other side Ryan saw the entrance to the room where the princess got her daily washings, and near that, the closet where her clothes were hung.

Josephine immediately went to her shelf. Without looking, she said "What were you about to say, Ryan?"

"Hmm? Oh, yes. If I'm honest, your comment about 'sharing' me was far worse than anything that Tabitha Cumnuckle—"

"—Cleary—"

"—That Tabitha Cleary said."

"I know, " Josephine smirked. "That's why it worked!"

Ryan glanced at Millie. Millie had settled into a routine and was already sitting on a stool, sewing up torn clothes, too lost in what she was doing to speak. Ryan instead turned his attention to the books, and found that many of them had titles he couldn't understand.

"Are any of these in Bolaric?" Ryan asked. Bolaric was the common language of the area Bolkana and Arkanus inhabited.

"Mmmm, a few over here, " Josephine said. "Most of the really interesting stuff is in Bekaic though."

"You read Bekaic?"

"Well..." Josephine sheepishly smiled, "I cheat."

"Cheat? How?"

"This ring here." Josephine picked a ring up off the stand and put it on. "A magician put all his knowledge of languages in it, so now anyone who wears it knows as much as that magician did. It just so happens he was fluent in Bekaic and Nargon, and knew little bits of Pisces, Egartine and Volsfolleni as well."

"Where did you get such a ring?"

"Didn't I tell you a sorceress lives in the east wing of the castle? It was part of her collection, and we bargained for it. The bargain was that I had to clean up her room for a week. When I was done she said she just wanted to see how badly I really wanted it."

"Hmm, " Ryan tried to find a title he could understand. "So what are these books about?"

"Giant beanstalks, orcs and ogres, daring adventures, lots of romance..."

"Ah, fairy tales." Ryan nodded understanding. He meant to make a new line of conversation, but a quick glance showed him that Josephine was now enraptured in a book and Millie was still caught up in her work, so Ryan excused himself and left.

...

The thought of books got Ryan wondering if the castle had a more general library, so he asked the first person he passed and got directions to the general area. From there, he was able to find it himself. The library, such as it was, was a square-shaped room with shelves lining the outer walls and two additional sets of shelves in the center, with chairs, tables and stools situated around somewhat chaotically. To Ryan's delight, all the books were in Bolaric.

There was a door off to the side, situated in a gap between two book shelves. Out of curiosity Ryan tried to open it and found it locked.

"That's for the unpleasant books."

Ryan looked at the speaker, a youngish boy, Ryan's junior by at least two years. He had a very round face and barely any hair—a true "baby face." He was dressed in a robe, but Ryan could still tell he was somewhat plump. He had a rather uncomfortable, shy look about him. In his left hand he held a book. Ryan guessed he was an assistant librarian.

"Greetings, " Ryan said his name and shook hands with the boy, who introduced himself as Pegal Martin. "Unpleasant books, did you say?"

"Y-yes sir."

"The kind Knights enjoy after a hard day's training?" Ryan guessed with a knowing smile.

"N-no sir, if I understand your jest. On second thought yes, there are some adulterous works in there. But I was talking about the... other unpleasant kind."

"What kind would that be?"

Pegal looked around as if afraid somebody would hear, whispered the answer in Ryan's ear.

Much to Pegal's dismay, Ryan blurted out "Demonology?" and began laughing. Anyone else who was in the library looked at him and Pegal (who was now trying to make himself scarce) and Ryan remembered he was in a library. He apologized, then spoke in a whispered voice to Pegal: "Seriously?"

"Y-yessir."

"Well I'm in the mood for a good fairy tale, do you know who has the key?"

"I have a key, sir."

"Fine. Mind opening that door?"

"... I really don't think I should, sir."

"Please just call me Ryan."

"Ryan, sir, I really don't..."

"Oh come now, what could happen?"

Pegal thought about it a minute, hesitantly presented the key. Ryan took it and opened the door. He handed the key back to Pegal before entering the room.

The room within was only slightly bigger than a closet. There was only enough room for two shelves and a stool. While the library was lit with sunlight, this expansion library had to rely on illuminator stones. Ryan just happened to have one on his person. He unpocketed it, rubbed it and lay it on the free space of a lower shelf, and its glow was enough to illuminate the entire chamber.

Ryan scanned the dusty, uncared-for volumes, again relieved to find that they were all in a language he knew.

"M-m-m-might I suggest this one?" Pegal said, pointing to a book titled The Legend of Gromzemmel, Greatest Demon of the Eighth Circuit. No author was listed.

"The 'Eighth Circuit'?" Ryan questioned.

"Y-yessir. A c-c-circuit—"

"You do stutter a lot."

"I c-can't help it when I'm n-nervous, Sir Ryan. And nothing m-makes me more n-nervous than d-d-demons."

Ryan shrugged. "So anyway, you were telling me what a 'circuit' is."

"Y-yessir. A c-c-c-circuit—"

"Can you do it without stuttering?"

Pegal closed his mouth, gulped, and then spoke. His speech was slow, but Ryan found this preferable to the endless stuttering.

"A circuit is... well you can think of it as the demonic version of an era. Demonologers believe that demons designated 'circuits' based on some major shifts among their societies... however demon societies worked. The Eighth one is the one of most interest to humans though—that was the only one in which they had any business with humans."

"Oh? And when was this?"

"About two hundred years ago."

"And where are the demons now?"

"They just... vanished. Nobody knows why."

"I have a theory." Ryan couldn't help sounding a little smug.

"Really, sir?"

"My theory is that they didn't disappear."

Pegal looked over his shoulders as if he expected a demon to come out of nowhere and grab him that very minute. "T-that's an unpleasant theory, R-Ryan..."

"You've only heard the first part. Once you hear the rest of it you'll never be afraid of demons again."

Pegal was astonished at such a bold promise, and payed eager attention.

Ryan cleared his throat and said "Demons didn't disappear because they never existed to begin with!"

Pegal cocked an eyebrow. "You don't believe in demons, sir?"

Ryan sat down and looked at Pegal the same way a mentor looks at his student. "Let me tell you something: When I was ten I went to the caves to see goblins. Goblins live in caves, right? Well, I never found any. Then I went to the lush forests to see unicorns. I learned a lot about outdoor survival and how to find the most comfortable tree branch, but I never saw any unicorns. Then, when I was twelve I heard rumors of a basilisk that was attacking the village of Drasmen, which is northeast of my father's castle. When I got there I found no such creature and the townsfolk told me that such an attack never took place."

Ryan expected Pegal to say something, but Pegal was sitting, caught up in Ryan's story. Ryan continued.

"Two years ago is when I recieved my full education. At that time, my mother had gone to her home kingdom to visit her relatives, but before reaching her destination her carriage was attacked and she was taken captive. I personally journeyed to my mother's former home with a company of loyal soldiers to find out what happened to her. It turned out that some bandits, thinking she was some lesser noble, had abducted, raped and killed her. Me and my men found their lair in a mountainside cave, and slaughtered them to a man.

"While I was at it, I called the bandits all sorts of names, including 'demons!' and 'monsters!' It just so happened that a travelling merchant had been passing nearby and heard my cries. That, aided by a local superstition surrounding those mountains, convinced the folk of that kingdom that my mother had been killed by demons. I and my men had been there, we knew the truth, but the story persisted and even spread somewhat into my home kingdom of Bolkana.

"Now let's take this 'Gromzemmel of the Eighth Circuit.' How could they possibly know there were eight of them if the eighth is the only one they've heard about? More likely, its just some word one of these writers made up, and this 'Gromzemmel' was just an ordinary man who achieved extraordinary things, and got remembered as a mystical creature for that reason. That is, if he even existed."

Pegal sighed. Ryan sensed he was about to be contracted, and prepared himself for it.

"I-I-I'm sorry to b-b-be the one to tell you this, sir, but you're wr-wr-wrong. Read that b-b-book and y-y-you'll understand." Pegal looked around again, and said "I've g-got to go. Duty calls."

"All right then, but you just think about what I said!"

Pegal nodded and left to attend his duties, leaving Ryan to glance over the Gromzemmel volume. He carried it under his arm, telling himself that it ought to at least be worth a laugh.

Authors Comments

To be honest, when I was formatting this chapter for the Forums I couldn't help but see flaws everywhere. Tabitha is kind of poorly introduced, and the comment Josephine makes to her doesn't really have the kind of sting it should.

Mostly though, I didn't like how Ryan suddenly becomes a conceited asshole, I don't feel like the whole "dead mother" thing is going to be relevant at all, and while the demonology talk sets up future developments I am considering ways to shorten it. I have plans for Pegal though—see next post.

The next post is going to be a summary of the unwritten parts of the story.
 4 Moe Dantes, Thu, 3rd Feb '11 8:08:42 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
All right, now that the finished chapters are out of the way, here's my plans for the rest of the story.

Warning: The below is only for people who are going to give advice and critiques. If you're seriously reading this for fun, then don't read this post.

The next chapter is when the murders begin. The victims are two guardsmen found in a hall. King Erelay orders an investigation and institutes a "nobody is allowed to leave" policy. I'm thinking of having this upset Millie, since she intended to visit her sick mother some more. Other than that I'm trying to think of ways to do more with Millie.

I also wanted to have a scene where Tabitha rescues Pegal from some bullies, and from there have the two start hanging out more—using possibly as an excuse that Tabitha is illiterate (her daddy didn't believe that women should read) and so Pegal is either going to teach her, or else read to her, and the two develop a big-sister/little-brother relationship. Tabitha also finally gets over herself and warms up to damn near everyone else as well.

I'm also trying to dream up an excuse for Ryan to visit that old sorceress in the east wing.

The murders continue, and start to include named characters: Millie is next, followed by the east wing sorceress and Tabitha (who goes down defending Pegal—who by the way survives this story).

One problem I have is I'm not sure how to handle The Reveal. See, for awhile I've had two different versions of this story in my head. In one version, Ryan and co. keep encountering a mysterious "black knight" who is doing the killings, but ultimately turns out to just be an empty golem. This version tends more towards mystery, while the other version—where the killer just openly reveals herself—leads to more emotional or dramatic moments. If you haven't guessed yet, the killer turns out to be Josephine.

Ummm, okay, basically at some point Ryan puts on that magic language ring and finds out that Josephine lied about her library: Its not fairy tales, its demonology books, most of them focusing on Gromzemmel. Ryan never got around to reading the book, but several times throughout he encounters that mysterious goblin (the one he saw in place of a gargoyle statue in chapter two). Before The Reveal he suspects the goblin (whose name is Medes) of being the murderer. Afterwards he thinks the Goblin "corrupted" Josephine some how. But, Medes gives him the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the truth:

A long long time ago demons used to rule the human race, and they raised humans like cattle, slaughtering them to harvest blood (human blood is magical, no srsly). But they found another, better source of magical energy and stopped giving a damn about humans. During that time, Gromzemmel managed to piss off others of his own kind. Demons don't believe in the death penalty so he was instead bound up in an underground cavern. Medes was set as his guard to keep anyone from freeing him, and Medes thinks that's what Josephine is trying to do.

The real story is Josephine had once gotten lost in those caves and met Gromzemmel. Gromzemmel it turned out was about to die from lack of sustenance. Death is a very big thing for normally-immortal demons so he wanted it to mean something—meaning he wanted to pass on his powers and knowledge. To do that, the recipient has to do a "Blood Ceremony, " which requires killing certain people in certain places. I'm trying to think of why an eleven-year-old girl would be totally kosher with this—either Gromzemmel did corrupt her (I don't like that explanation), or else she has an unnatural amount of knowledge from using mind-enhancing devices such as language rings. Anyway she tries to justify herself to Ryan by claiming her morals are more "complicated" than his, but Ryan is a believer in the good ol' black-and-white and won't buy it.

Eventually, Ryan (damn near everyone else is dead by this point) chases Josephine to Gromzemmel's chamber and tries to kill Gromzemmel early, but it turns out the last part of the Blood Ceremony is getting washed with Gromzemmel's blood (did I mention Grom is huge?) While the washing is going on, Ryan and Josephine get into a fight and wind up getting impaled on the same sword or spike or something. This puts some of Josephine's blood in Ryan, and he also winds up washed with Gromzemmel's blood. While he doesn't get the powers and the knowledge that Josephine does, he does get to become immortal, and he can also sense Josephine's exact location from anywhere in the world. Josephine renames herself to "Shiazemmel, " eludes Ryan and goes out into the world.

Yes, that's a Sequel Hook. I've had some ideas, but let's concentrate on the first part first.

So, comments? Parts I should improve? Do away with? Should I just scrap the story here and now?

EDIT: Some things I forgot to mention:

1) Josephine doesn't do any standard Creepy Child things. No threatening intonations of "its time to play" or bizarre grins. Basically, she's one of those who seems like an ordinary little girl unless you're one of those who knows what she really is.

2) Josephine is also genuinely in love with Ryan, so she refuses to hurt him (she doesn't need to anyway—the ceremony doesn't require his blood). Ryan does try to use this to protect people but she finds some way around it. I'm thinking of having a scene where some harsh comment he says makes Josephine cry, in order to drive home both this and the "she's perfectly ordinary—except for the part about killing people" thing. Ryan though, basically hates Josephine by the time the story is over.

edited 3rd Feb '11 8:31:54 AM by MoeDantes

 5 Moe Dantes, Fri, 4th Feb '11 3:20:36 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Bumping because still looking for advice.
Away on the wind~
Josephine is also genuinely in love with Ryan

Why did you introduce this plot element?
There are too many toasters in my chimney!
 7 Moe Dantes, Fri, 4th Feb '11 3:45:52 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Basically because without it, she'd be an 11-year-old Cute Bruiser version of Jason Vorhees and I wanted her to be a little more nuanced and complicated than that.
Away on the wind~
Ah.

So it was just a randomly chosen trait.

Hmmm... Have you watched/read Silence of the Lambs? That one does the whole obsession with a prospective victim thing well.
There are too many toasters in my chimney!
 9 Moe Dantes, Fri, 4th Feb '11 4:09:07 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Not really "random." More like it seemed like it was just... how she was, and without it she wouldn't be Josephine (I was using Jason as an example of a "generic Serial Killer" in my previous post).
Away on the wind~
Ah. A natural addition to her character.

Hmmm... What sort of vibe does she give off around him? If it's fairly obvious, you could have people blame him for attracting her there in the first place, thereby eliminating a lot of useful allies...
There are too many toasters in my chimney!
 11 Moe Dantes, Sat, 5th Feb '11 1:42:44 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
She gives off the same vibes after the killings as before. I would take what she says to Tabitha (and what she does afterward) as rather definitive to her stance on Ryan.

Keep in mind that she's killing according to a plan, not just following Ryan around.

Here's my qustion: Do you think I should try to make it more of a "mystery" (IE go with the "Black Knight" plan where some possessed suit of armor does the murders and then—SURPRISE—Josephine is the one controlling it) or just forego the whole mystery angle and make it obvious Josephine is the killer?

(I'm also kind of wondering how I could handle the whole Demonology exposition better)

edited 5th Feb '11 2:03:45 AM by MoeDantes

Away on the wind~
Hmmm...

That depends on the tone you should go with. But in my opinion, telling everyone upfront she's the killer and obsessed with him would be more... fun.
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