Sorac's Epiphany 12k

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RJM Corbet

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EDIT: Sorry I've just realized that the term 'father' as used here may be misinterpreted in its literal sense. But it's just a term of respect to an elder ...





The shepherd sat there for a long time, until at last a shadow detached itself from the darkness and came forward into the circle of firelight and became the upright hooded figure of a man. He wore sandals and a plain brown robe, belted at the waist. Dark amethyst eyes burned beneath the hood.

Sorac bowed his head in greeting, waiting, as was the custom, for the elder to speak first.

“Do you know me?” the old man asked him.

“Father, I do not,” replied the shepherd.

“But I know you, Sorac.”

“You risk the curfew, father. Are you hungry?”

A chill wind gusted from the mountains and ruffled the cloak around the old man’s shoulders.

“No,” he said, “I am not here for food.”

Kierien then took his place beside the fire and told Sorac of how his father, the king Dumarion of Aazyr, and his mother, the queen Dylia, had died on the night the Royal City had fallen to Mykros. He explained to Sorac how he had carried him away as a three month old baby from the Royal City and given him into the care of Nyla, a devout woman whose husband had died that night, alongside the king upon the walls of the city, and who had recently given stillbirth to her own baby.

Speaking in a quiet voice, pausing sometimes to gather his thoughts in order to avoid digressions, he spoke for a long time and when he had finished there was silence between them.

Their shadows flickered and jumped in the firelight against the walls of the hut. They sat in silence while the shepherd slowly shredded tobacco into his pipe as his mind tried to negotiate the enormity of what he had just been told. Suddenly, in one awful instant of awareness, he knew it was the truth.

Then Kierien spoke. “What you know about the weapon of Aba Mainyus?”.

Sorac held a twig into the fire. He waited for it to flare then used it to light his pipe. He puffed up a cloud of smoke before speaking.

“It is an old myth father, a fairy tale.”

“And I want to hear it.”

“A legendary weapon forged by Aba Mainyus the Great Adversary, able to capture and hold forever the souls of those slain by it.”

Kierien’s nodded. “An army of wraiths, bound in service. The man who wields it would have terrible power. And he would be driven mad too. Tell me the rest.”

Sorac had just been through one of the most traumatizing days in his young life. It didn’t matter who he was, or who his real parents had been. What good was it to him? It didn’t change anything. He just wanted to forget the conversation. He was a shepherd. The only mother he had ever known was sleeping inside the hut. The old man’s insistence on hearing from him a common fairy tale, known to every child in Aazyr, distressed him greatly.

“The Archangel Mycyl created a sword of light -- the Sword of Mycyl – and used it to cut away the foundations of the dark continent of Aba Mainyus, which sank into the sea forever – it’s just a myth, a legend, father.”

The old man nodded slowly.

“But a myth may be like the hard shell of a nut, that protects some truth within,” he said. “This weapon of Aba Mainyus does indeed exist. More: it has come into the possession of Mykros, the Emperor of the Ukonaai. He perceives it a sword though, as you have correctly said, it is a force. And it is the source of all his power.”

Sorac wasn’t convinced. And why should it concern him anyway? He added more wood to the fire. He smoked silently, staring into the fire, watching the wood bubble and hiss and flare.

“Tell me the rest,” said Kierien.

Sorac shrugged. He’d had enough. “That’s all I know.”

Kierien lips tightened briefly into a quick, rare smile.

“Then I will finish it for you,” he said. “The legend goes on to say that the Archangel Mycyl placed the Sword of Light in a cavern of ice and set over it a fierce guardian -- knowing one day the weapon of Aba Mainyus would return to the world of men, and in that day a man would be born to wield the Sword of Mycyl against it.”

The wind tugged at their garments. Thin clouds scudded like grey smoke against the bright stars, pinpricks in the light bound blackness of the night sky.

“Perhaps you are that man.”

The shepherd, patient and respectful up till now, rose angrily to his feet.

“Our headman died today,” he said quietly. “All my friends are taken by the Ukonaai. Yet you have come all this way to tease me, father? Goodnight. I must rise early.”

“Come back. Sit down.”

The shepherd paused with his hand on the door of the hut, with his back to the old man.

“Do not snub me, Sorac.”

The shepherd sat down again. He looked sullenly into Kierien’s eyes for a few seconds, then lowered his eyes and stared into the yellow flames, thinking that the rising brightness of the fire must draw upon the heavy, patient wood for it’s own power to reach upward.

“You are free to try to find the Sword of Mycyl if you want to,” Kierien said.

Sorac moved to get up again but the amethyst eyes flashed dangerously, forestalling a dismissive response. He thumbed tobacco into the bowl of his pipe then looked into the fire, smoking. Thoughts and emotions boiled inside him.

“I’m just a shepherd,” he said, at last.

"And the son of a king too."

“I’ve never even held a sword.”

“One can learn such things.”

“Father, I cannot do it.”

“Then what will you do? the old man said. “You can’t stay here. Unless you wish to join the armies of the Ukonaai?”

Their shadows danced. Sorac knocked the ashes out of his pipe against a stone. "One man alone cannot defeat those armies, father."

"But it must start with one man, Sorac.”

Sorac stared into the fire as if he would find an answer there. It was madness. Yet within him spoke some intuition that told him he was not alone. Finally he lifted his head.

"How?"

Kierien nodded: “You must go to the mountain Coreyan, beyond the desert of the Naar, within the Sacred Kingdom of H’zaar Trith, of which it is written: ‘only the pure of heart may enter there, and none that enter, ever leave.’ There you will find the sword of Mycyl.”

“How will I find it?”

Kierien spoke for a long time, and when he had finished, there was silence again. A log popped in the flames.

“Then I will try.”

Kierien’s tone softened. “I know,” he said. There was compassion in his eyes. “Trust Eloih for all you need. Take nothing with you. Ask nothing of any man. Everything will be provided.”

"When should I leave?"

“Go now, before the sun," Kierien said, rising. "Follow the great south road.”

He slipped back into the shadows.

Already the stars were beginning to fade. Sorac turned to find his mother standing behind him. She smiled sadly.

“I always knew,” she said.
 
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Now you see, this is what I find - not exactly confusing about your writing but interesting in a perplexing way. This is great storytelling, it drew me in, and your command of dialogue to tell the tale is really good. And if the Erlos story went the same way, it would have the same command, the same drawing power. Here we have two characters, one a seer, the other the son of a king, whose destiny has now been revealed to him, and we're set up for a rollicking tale of derring-do. The erlos group extract just didn't have the same commitment to characterisation you're showing so admirably here.

There are a few points. The opening is great, I really love it... the way you set up the relationship between them, up until the bit where you try to avoid 'telling', by revealing Sorac's past to him... By doing it the way you do, I feel you've lost immediacy, you've lost a chance to show us more about Sorac because we have absolutely no way of knowing Sorac's reaction to it. Did he know it already? Is there disbelief? Amazement? Shock?

But then you tell us the shepherd sits shredding tobacco
as his mind tried to negotiate the enormity of what he had just been told. Suddenly, in one awful instant of awareness, he knew it was the truth.

So this is the first time he's been aware of it, yes? Considering how well you handle dialogue, I wonder why you've passed up this opportunity to continue in the way you started out. And exactly how did Sorac know? Where did the instant of awareness come from? It's a little too convenient and it's a shame, because the great strength in your writing is the way you handle people when they're together - showing a lot and telling a little. Although occasionally you drop an infodump in, you largely get away with it because the story is rolling along so well. Can I make a suggestion? I'd like to rearrange your words a little, to add more drama (because that's what's missing when you use three 'cold' lines to tell an incredible birthright story) and to keep the focus on the characters. This is only off the top of my head, but seeing the words on the page, this occurs to me:

“No,” he said, “I am not here for food.”

"Please, share my fire," Sorac said.


Kierien nodded and squatted beside the flames. “What do you know about the weapon of Aba Mainyus?”.

"I'm a shepherd, father. I know about sheep and goats, and high pastures. Not Myths and fairy tales."

"Indulge me."

“A legendary weapon forged by Aba Mainyus the Great Adversary, able to capture and hold forever the souls of those slain by it.”

Kierien’s nodded. “An army of wraiths, bound in service. The man who wields it would have terrible power. And he would be driven mad too. The Archangel Mycyl created a sword of light -- the Sword of Mycyl – and used it to cut away the foundations of the dark continent of Aba Mainyus, which sank into the sea forever. Do you know what became of it?"

Sorac shrugged. He’d had enough. “That’s all I know.”

Kierien lips tightened briefly into a quick, rare smile.

“Then I will finish it for you,” he said. “The legend goes on to say that the Archangel Mycyl placed the Sword of Light in a cavern of ice and set over it a fierce guardian -- knowing one day the weapon of Aba Mainyus would return to the world of men, and in that day a man would be born to wield the Sword of Mycyl against it.”

The wind tugged at their garments. Thin clouds scudded like grey smoke against the bright stars, pinpricks in the light bound blackness of the night sky.

“You are that man.”

Sorac rose to his feet.

“Our headman died today,” he said quietly. “All my friends are taken by the Ukonaai. Yet you have come all this way to abuse me, father? Goodnight. I must rise early.”

Sorac strode away angrily.

“Come back. Sit down.”

Sorac paused with his hand on the door of the hut, with his back to the old man.

“Do not snub me, Sorac.”

The shepherd sat down again. He looked sullenly into Kierien’s eyes for a few seconds, then lowered his eyes and stared into the yellow flames.

"You say you are a shepherd? Yet you know, deep inside, that there is more." The old man paused, as if considering, then continued in a quiet voice. "Your father was King Dumarion of Aazyr. I carried you away [at least I think that's what you're saying...] from the Royal City the night it fell to Mykros. You were three months old."

Sorac stared at the old man, aghast.

"I gave you into the care of Nyla, whose son had been stillborn, and she raised you."

"It's not possible..." Sorac's voice was barely a whisper. Yet even as he spoke, he knew, somehow, impossibly, it was true. His mind reeled; he could not take it in. The old man waited.

“I’m just a shepherd,” Sorac said, at last.

"And the son of a king too."

“I’ve never even held a sword.”

“One can learn such things.”

“Father, I cannot do it.”

“Then what will you do?" the old man said. “You can’t stay here. Unless you wish to join the armies of the Ukonaai?”


And so on... just my thoughts.:eek:

ps: not sure if you can alter it, but your title is '12k' and I'm sure you meant 1.2k. Might be putting people off, thinking there's 12,000 words awaiting them...
 
not sure if you can alter it, but your title is '12k' and I'm sure you meant 1.2k. Might be putting people off, thinking there's 12,000 words awaiting them...
RJM can't, and although I can, Brian prefers us not to change titles unless necessary. I debated here, but I figured most people who frequent Critiques will know 1500 is the limit, so having 12k in the title might even make them curious enough to drop in and watch the Moderatorly fireworks...

RJM, I agree with Boneman ref the paragraph of telling stuck there. I could understand if we, the readers, know the story, ie we already know Sorac is the king's son spirited away etc etc, then you might want to say "And Kierien told him his story" rather than repeat it at length, thus allowing you to go straight into Sorac's reaction, but to set it out like this is, to my mind, the worst of both worlds. Dialogue is much to be preferred, and Boneman's technique of starting with the legend and leading up to the revelation is a better way of going about it in my view.

NB "Enormity" when used correctly should refer to something monstrous in a moral sense, not simply something of staggering importance.
 
RJM, I agree with Boneman ref the paragraph of telling stuck there. I could understand if we, the readers, know the story, ie we already know Sorac is the king's son spirited away etc etc, then you might want to say "And Kierien told him his story" rather than repeat it at length, thus allowing you to go straight into Sorac's reaction, but to set it out like this is, to my mind, the worst of both worlds. Dialogue is much to be preferred, and Boneman's technique of starting with the legend and leading up to the revelation is a better way of going about it in my view.

Thanks Judge. Yes, they do know he was spirited away, etc ...
 
First off, I really like some of the names that you use for the mythology and characters. They are clearly influenced by Christianity. The boy is a shepherd "and the son of a king", The Archangel Mycyl (Michael), and "Trust Eloih" jump out at first glance.

I only have one small issue with this. "...the only mother he had ever known..." Does he have other mothers he doesn't know about? I realize that I may have missed any earlier parts of this story, if there are any. I just noticed that one little thing.

Over all, very good and most engaging.
 
First off, I really like some of the names that you use for the mythology and characters. They are clearly influenced by Christianity. The boy is a shepherd "and the son of a king", The Archangel Mycyl (Michael), and "Trust Eloih" jump out at first glance.

.

Thanks Tom. Interesting observation. It isn't meant that way, but ...
 
A little bit of a missed opportunity to develop Sorac as a character. He has been given a very important and scary task, one that I’m sure is key to your plot. There is very little wrong with the conversation between the characters, a few short cuts as per Boneman but these I forgive as it lets the storyline flow. What I did miss was Sorac’s thoughts on the task ahead, was he scared or determined - etc. These can be whatever you want RJM and these would have added depth as your character as he makes his decision. A decision that is life changing and would sink that hook into the reader. So I would have liked more thoughts from Sorac.

A good section. Good images as ever RJM and used sparingly and effectively. Simple POV’s from both characters made this easy to grasp and drew me in. It did not quite hook me in but it was not far off the mark.
 
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