The Soldier and the Sorcerer

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
1,815
#1
Hey critty party peoples

This is the first scene of a short story I had planned. Holidays interrupted, I lost steam, I noticed it was longer than I'd meant it to be... so I decided to post it up here, see if it worked, maybe reinvigorate my enthusiasm.

Yes, I know I should be doing my editing rather than more new pieces. But there we go.

Its 1.5k on the nose (slightly rushed the scene ending to make it fit). Thank you all in advance!

edit: P.s. AHA! People, if you paste as plain text, it keeps your formatting (I think...). JOYOUS DAY!

---

Hirano ran. He ran past looming menacing shadows, through rain and branches that whipped back in his face, over the slick leaf mould. He ran as hard as he could, each stride hurting his knees and making his chest shudder. He ran from the soldiers behind him, from the slaughter they’d made and were now planning to finish.

But most of all he ran. Hirano had been the champion of his village before getting conscripted. He knew running was about focus. Nothing mattered but running and everything else should be ignored. Even so, he couldn’t help but note he’d never won a race wearing full armour before, blood sticky against his skin. And that he could hear horses.

He tripped over a tree root, mind and muscles alike betraying him. He caught himself on the trunk, winced, and straightened. He had to start running again. His hand was trembling. Where was he running? Everything was trembling. There! He could see a light off to his left.

Hirano started running again but settled for a fast stumble. His muscles were screaming at him. The light was a hundred yards away. He had to stay strong. There was a cramp starting in his left calf. The thunder of hooves. Fifty yards. He picked his knees up higher, focused entirely on every step and every pain. Twenty.

And then time stopped.

He kept moving, not quite believing it. But the hoof beats had stopped. There was a bird hung motionless above him. Raindrops suspended in mid-air. Time had somehow stopped and Hirano crashed to the floor, panting hard. He turned to see his pursuers, frozen in mid-gallop with swords upraised mere yards behind him, outlined as if light had been shone through quartz.

Hirano slowly sat up, trying to breathe slower. Trying to make sense of the world. This morning he’d been a soldier in the army of Grand Duke Misumo. He’d marched to battle with his comrades, with a spear, a long coat of padded cloth, and a full belly. He’d thrown up all that food back on the battlefield and left the spear there too. As for the cloth armour, it was soaked and cut in a dozen places. Hirano felt at the cuts, cringing when he felt dried blood on his shoulder and ribs. At least they hadn’t wounded his legs. At least he’d be able to escape. Even if it was just into this sorcerer’s trap.

“Hello?” he called out.

The air rang in reply. “Well, hello to you too.”

Hirano covered his ears with a yelp. His head whipped round one way then another but no one was there. This truly was a bad place. As bad as the battlefield though? He glanced at the frozen riders and shivered.

“Who’s there?”

“I might well ask you the same question. This is my home after all, and I really can’t recall inviting you.”

He clutched hold of his trousers this time. There was no excuse for not showing a brave face. Not even to a sorcerer. He forced himself to his feet, limbs still trembling, and bowed.

“I am Hirano, formerly of the Grand Duke’s army, before that of Tishun village. I apologise for disturbing you, friend sorcerer. I saw your light and ran towards it because I was desperate.”

“I’d already gathered that last detail, thank you.” There was a peevish quality to the voice that reminded Hirano of the village tutor. “But you are quite forgiven, friend Hirano. I suggest you close your eyes.”

Hirano opened his mouth to question why then thought better of it. He shut everything as tight as he could. Even so he could see the flash of violet light through his eyelids. Someone whimpered. No. He had whimpered. Tears forced their way out and suddenly he remembered Kashi falling, hands failing to stop blood spurting from his neck. Remembered Grandfather’s howls and painful panting when his liver failed him. Remembered the spear that cut his ribs, the one he’d been sure would end his life.

Every moment of pain. Every moment of violence. And then gone.

“Open your eyes.”

Hirano did as he was told. In front of him was a tall lithe figure with a beautifully angled face and a crimson scarf over the eyes. They wore a crimson gown that covered the whole body and a purple-black aura shifted unevenly around them. The sorcerer stood before a trio of dull dark stones, jutting from the earth at unnatural angles and marked with lettering that still pulsed with violet light. Hirano slid to his knees and made a formal abasement.

“Oh, stand will you?” There was no noise as the sorcerer walked past him. “I am not your Grand Duke or some leader of soldiers. Speaking of which, what we do with these?”

He scrambled up and around to see the Sorcerer feeling the frozen horsemen. “Could you vanish them?”

“I’m afraid that is not the nature of my power. But I could perhaps help you vanquish them.”

Hirano knuckled at his mustache. One way or another, he had to escape these enemies, but he didn’t much like the sound of that offer. Not only was he a reluctant warrior at best, but something about the lilt of the Sorcerer’s voice made him uneasy.

“What do you want for this?” he said.

The sorcerer clapped their hands in glee. “Ah! To the point at last. Friend Hirano, do you see these stones behind me?”

A blind man would have seen those stones. “I see them.”

“If a person touches them in the right way, they can travel to other worlds. My duty is to ensure nobody goes or comes through that shouldn’t, and let me tell you the coming is a lot harder to deal with. There are others who would come here to kill and steal. From time to time, I can get them first.” The sorcerer’s mouth twisted in what could have been smile or grimace. “That is my bargain to you. I will give you the power to kill these men if you go along the world-threads and kill a single man.”

Hirano licked his lips. There was so many questions he didn’t even know which to begin with. The silence stretched on, uninterrupted even by the wind in the trees. The sorcerer cocked their head in question and Hirano turned to look at the soldiers. There were a dozen of them, all of them mounted and armoured in steel plates. No man could hope to win that fight. He stared next at the stones. He didn’t doubt the sorcerer’s word that they could transport him to other worlds, even if he’d never heard of such a thing. He didn’t doubt anything here.

“How would I get back?” he said.

“I’ll give you a stone. As soon as it touches the man’s blood, it will come back here, along with anyone touching it. So don’t lose it!”

“And how will I know who to kill?” he said.

“He will be wearing a mask over his face and a bloodstained apron,” said the sorcerer. “He will be easy to find, believe me.”

“And how will I kill him? I have no weapon,” he said.

“Indeed. No weapon, nor the strength to use it, nor the inclination to do so either. I have seen your mind, Hirano, and you are a decent man. That’s why I’ll help you and help you I can - if you agree to our deal.

He was actually going to go to another world and kill a man. He was actually going to do it. This wasn’t some mad prankster’s joke and it was going to happen. No it wasn’t, said a voice at the back of his mind, but that was quickly silenced. His choice as to kill the sorcerer’s enemy - an enemy of the entire world - or die to his own enemies. And that was no choice at all.

“I will do it,” said Hirano.

“Splendid!” The sorcerer reached inside their robe and handed three items to Hirano. He took them and inspected them as the sorcerer kept speaking.

“A stone for you to travel with. Touch it to the portal to go through, then to the dead man’s blood to return. A weapon for you to kill with. I suspect even a decent man such as yourself knows what to do. And in the vial, the strength to use it. I’d drink it now if I were you.”

Hirano lifted the vial to his eye. The glass was cool but the contents were bubbling away inside. He slowly uncorked it and tipped a little into his mouth. It was - somehow - icy cold and thick.

“I said drink it, not sip it.”

It slid agonisingly down his throat and seethed in his stomach. Nothing happened. He examined the weapon, an abnormally long butterfly knife with a darkened blade. It felt right in his hand.

Then he touched stone to stone.
 

HareBrain

Bunny of Wonder
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#2
Very little wrong with this, I'd have said (and in fact am doing, right now). I'd think about shortening the running at the start to a single paragraph. The style here is slightly distanced and quite traditional (one of the things I like about it) but that means you don't really get us into the experience of him running in fear as you might in a real close-third segment -- and even if you did, that wouldn't fit the rest of the story anyway. At the moment, it's only holding us up. He's running for his life from enemy horsemen, with a few environmental details -- that's all you need before time stops.

Apart from that, three small points. The grandfather's liver failing feels out of place in the memories of battle. When the sorcerer hands him the three objects, it feels weird to have to wait for so long to be told at least that the weapon is a knife. And I tripped up a few times on "they" or "their" for the sorcerer. You don't have much choice if you want no gender assigned (though you can smooth away some of them, e.g. "the sorcerer's head cocked in question") but it does feel clumsy, because it still has a default setting as plural. I wonder, though, wouldn't he assume one or the other, especially if he comes from a traditional society?
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
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21,956
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Highlands
#3
Yep, a pretty decent piece and HB picked up on my niggles, so no need to repeat them. All except this:

And then time stopped.
I wondered - in an historical setting, would a person think time had stopped - or would they think the world has stopped? Simply because the concept of time is abstract and the world is material. Modern lifestyles time everything to the second or less, but this is an exception.

Just a thought, and good writing. :)
 

night_wrtr

Non-human Protagonist
Joined
Apr 18, 2017
Messages
338
Location
US
#4
My comment is the same as HB regarding the opening paragraphs and running. Other than that, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed the story and didn't find anything that kicked me out of it as I read along.
 

Plucky Novice

Eat sleep write repeat
Joined
May 11, 2018
Messages
105
Location
UK
#5
This is great; best thing I've read on Chrons yet.

There are a couple of errors easily picked up by a proof read e.g. was vs were.

I wasn't concerned by the genderless sorcerer, it worked for me and I stayed in the story throughout.

You should definitely write this, the premise is exciting. I'd love to see Hirano dropped into a different age, maybe even modern times. But that's just my thoughts and you will have your own.
 

Lafayette

Man of Artistic Fingers
Joined
Jun 14, 2016
Messages
315
Location
Phoenix, Arizona
#6
I also liked it. I like the fact that Hirano is not an experience or a mighty soldier and isn't gung-ho on killing anyone or is even morally brave.

The only thing I would change is instead of telling us the pain and fear he is feeling show us. Have him think something like: I can hear them closing in on me. Got to keep running. But I hurt all over. I don't want to die.

Intersperse his thoughts with the action. You may also want the reader to read Hirano's thoughts as he is speaking to the sorcerer.

Speaking of the sorcerer I got the impression he was male. I always thought the word 'sorcerer' denoted a male and 'sorceress' denoted female.
 
Last edited:
Joined
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#7
Thank you all. It's been a while since I've written in this kind of style, so there's a few little niggles here and there - good job I've got your eyes to point them out. About halfway through this short story, so glad to know people like th ebeginning.

Apart from that, three small points. The grandfather's liver failing feels out of place in the memories of battle.
I wanted to highlight the fact that he's not much of a soldier by juxtaposing the two - I'm guessing that didn't work.

Do you think doubling down would work here? More memories of pain and cruelty as a peasant? Or do I not need to do this at all to make it clear that he's a reluctant conscript soldier who wants no part of this?

And I tripped up a few times on "they" or "their" for the sorcerer. You don't have much choice if you want no gender assigned (though you can smooth away some of them, e.g. "the sorcerer's head cocked in question") but it does feel clumsy, because it still has a default setting as plural. I wonder, though, wouldn't he assume one or the other, especially if he comes from a traditional society?
Speaking of the sorcerer I got the impression he was male. I always thought the word 'sorcerer' denoted a male and 'sorceress' denoted female.
I wanted to see if I could simply have the Sorcerer be gender neutral and just move on. You might be right about his reaction - and Lafayette is certainly right there's a male bias to the word Sorcerer (not many gender neutral terms for magic users, I might have to ponder on this) - but I'm tempted to simply keep going and see how many people call me on it.

I wondered - in an historical setting, would a person think time had stopped - or would they think the world has stopped? Simply because the concept of time is abstract and the world is material. Modern lifestyles time everything to the second or less, but this is an exception.

Just a thought, and good writing. :)
Arguably not, but I thought time stopped sounded better and more dramatic :p Plus that's generally what similar such effects are referred to in Fantasy. But I'll think about it as it might help contrast the characters.
 

TheEndIsNigh

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#8
It seems I must be a bit more picky than others - But then....

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Hey critty party peoples

This is the first scene of a short story I had planned. Holidays interrupted, I lost steam, I noticed it was longer than I'd meant it to be... so I decided to post it up here, see if it worked, maybe reinvigorate my enthusiasm.

Yes, I know I should be doing my editing rather than more new pieces. But there we go.

Its 1.5k on the nose (slightly rushed the scene ending to make it fit). Thank you all in advance!

edit: P.s. AHA! People, if you paste as plain text, it keeps your formatting (I think...). JOYOUS DAY!

---

Hirano ran. He ran past looming menacing shadows, through rain and branches that whipped back (the problem here is that to whip back in his face he would have to carrying his head behind his body in some way. The branches might whip back behind him but there's no way the could do that and hit his face) in his face, over the slick leaf mould (reads as though the branches are whipping back over the leaf mould). He ran as hard as he could, with each stride hurting his knees and making his chest shudder. He ran from the soldiers behind him, from the slaughter, from certain death if he slowed. they’d made and were now planning to finish.

But most of all he ran. Hirano had been the champion of his village before getting conscripted (dumpy in the middle of good action and if he was of a mind to become champion then surely his type would be to volunteer first) He knew running was about focus. Nothing mattered but running and everything else should be ignored. Even so, he couldn’t help but note he’d never won a race wearing full armour before, blood sticky against his skin. And that he could hear horses.

He tripped over a tree root, mind and muscles alike betraying him. He crashed into a tree trunk, winded and shocked he managed to caught himself on the trunk, winced, and straightened. He had to start running again. His hand was trembling. Where was he running? Everything was trembling. There! He could see a light off to his left.

Hirano started running again but settled for a fast stumble. His muscles were screaming at him. The light was a hundred yards away. He had to stay strong. There was a cramp starting in his left calf. The thunder of hooves. Fifty yards. He picked his knees up higher, focused entirely on every step and every pain. Twenty.

And then time stopped. (Interesting)

He kept moving, not quite believing it. But the hoof beats had stopped. There was a bird hung motionless above him. Raindrops suspended in mid-air (If it's raining it's relavent before). Time had somehow stopped and Hirano crashed to the floor, panting hard. He turned to see his pursuers, frozen in mid-gallop with swords upraised mere yards behind him, outlined as if light had been shone through quartz. (nice)

Hirano slowly sat up, trying to breathe slower. Trying to make sense of the world. This morning he’d been a soldier in the army of Grand Duke Misumo. He’d marched to battle with his comrades, with a spear, a long coat of padded cloth, and a full belly. He’d thrown up all that food back on the battlefield and left the spear there too. As for the cloth armour, it was soaked and cut in a dozen places. Hirano felt at the cuts, cringing when he felt dried blood on his shoulder and ribs. At least they hadn’t wounded his legs. At least he’d be able to escape. Even if it was just into this sorcerer’s trap.

“Hello?” he called out.

The air rang in reply. “Well, hello to you too.”

Hirano covered his ears with a yelp. His head whipped round one way then another but no one was there. This truly was a bad place. As bad as the battlefield though? He glanced at the frozen riders and shivered.

“Who’s there?”

“I might well ask you the same question. This is my home after all, and I really can’t recall inviting you.”

He clutched hold of his trousers this time. (? is this some weird greeting) There was no excuse for not showing a brave face. Not even to a sorcerer. He forced himself to his feet, limbs still trembling, (so much for the brave face) and bowed.

“I am Hirano, formerly of the Grand Duke’s army, before that of Tishun village. I apologise for disturbing you, friend sorcerer. I saw your light and ran towards it because I was desperate.”

“I’d already gathered that last detail, thank you.” There was a peevish quality to the voice that reminded Hirano of the village tutor. “But you are quite forgiven, friend Hirano. I suggest you close your eyes.”

Hirano opened his mouth to question why then thought better of it. He shut everything as tight as he could. Even so he could see the flash of violet light through his eyelids. Someone whimpered. No. He had whimpered. Tears forced their way out and suddenly he remembered Kashi falling, hands failing to stop blood spurting from his neck. Remembered Grandfather’s howls and painful panting when his liver failed him. Remembered the spear that cut his ribs, the one he’d been sure would end his life. (confusing as to who's ribs and liver you're talking about)

Every moment of pain. Every moment of violence. And then gone.

“Open your eyes.”

Hirano did as he was told. In front of him was a tall lithe figure with a beautifully angled face and a crimson scarf over the eyes. (They It was a figure) wore a crimson gown that covered the whole body and a purple-black aura shifted unevenly around them. The sorcerer stood before a trio of dull dark stones, jutting from the earth at unnatural angles and marked with lettering that still pulsed with violet light. Hirano slid to his knees and made a formal abasement. (formal abasement is a bit of a formal way to describe it)

“Oh, stand will you?” There was no noise as the sorcerer walked past him. “I am not your Grand Duke or some leader of soldiers. Speaking of which, what we do with these?”

He scrambled up and around to see the Sorcerer feeling the frozen horsemen. “Could you vanish them?”

“I’m afraid that is not the nature of my power. But I could perhaps (this bloke knows he can) help you vanquish them.”

Hirano knuckled at his mustache. One way or another, he had to escape these enemies, but he didn’t much like the sound of that offer. Not only was he a reluctant warrior at best, but something about the lilt of the Sorcerer’s voice made him uneasy.

“What do you want for this?” he said.

The sorcerer clapped their hands in glee. “Ah! To the point at last. Friend Hirano, do you see these stones behind me?”

A blind man would have seen those stones. “I see them.”

“If a person touches them in the right way, they can travel to other worlds. My duty is to ensure nobody goes or comes through that shouldn’t, and let me tell you the coming is a lot harder to deal with. There are others who would come here to kill and steal. From time to time, I can get them first.” The sorcerer’s mouth twisted in what could have been smile or grimace. “That is my bargain to you. I will give you the power to kill these men if you go along the world-threads and kill a single man.” ( ^ This was a bit disjointed)

Hirano licked his lips. There was so many questions he didn’t even know which to begin with. The silence stretched on, uninterrupted even by the wind in the trees. The sorcerer cocked their head in question and Hirano turned to look at the soldiers. There were a dozen of them, all of them mounted and armoured in steel plates. No man could hope to win that fight. He stared next at the stones. He didn’t doubt the sorcerer’s word that they could transport him to other worlds, even if he’d never heard of such a thing. He didn’t doubt anything here. (seems unlikely he'd just take it in his stride)

“How would I get back?” he said.

“I’ll give you a stone. As soon as it touches the man’s blood, it will come back here, along with anyone touching it. So don’t lose it!”

“And how will I know who to kill?” he said.

“He will be wearing a mask over his face and a bloodstained apron,” said the sorcerer. “He will be easy to find, believe me.”

“And how will I kill him? I have no weapon,” he said.

“Indeed. No weapon, nor the strength to use it, nor the inclination to do so either. I have seen your mind, Hirano, and you are a decent man. That’s why I’ll help you and help you I can - if you agree to our deal.

He was actually going to go to another world and kill a man. He was actually going to do it. This wasn’t some mad prankster’s joke and it was going to happen. No it wasn’t, said a voice at the back of his mind, but that was quickly silenced. His choice as to kill the sorcerer’s enemy - an enemy of the entire world - or die to his own enemies. And that was no choice at all. (Messy and rambl;ing)

“I will do it,” said Hirano.

“Splendid!” The sorcerer reached inside their robe and handed three items to Hirano. He took them and inspected them as the sorcerer kept speaking spoke.

“A stone for you to travel with. Touch it to the portal to go through, then to the dead man’s blood to return. A weapon for you to kill with. I suspect even a decent man such as yourself knows what to do. And in the vial, to give you the the strength to use it. I’d drink it now if I were you.”

Hirano lifted the vial to his eye. The glass was cool but the contents were bubbling away inside. He slowly uncorked it and tipped a little into his mouth. It was - somehow - icy cold and thick.

“I said drink it, not sip it.”

It slid agonisingly down his throat and seethed in his stomach. Nothing happened. He examined the weapon, an abnormally long butterfly knife with a darkened blade. It felt right in his hand.

Then he touched stone to stone. (what about killing the blokes on the horses)
First off - A good start to a story for me - Action, run VT.

A bit OTT with the running but fairly good all the same. Having said that I think you could improve the sense of urgency and maybe throw in a few "would he ever see his woman again" type thoughts but that would possibly make it too long.

I was disapointed to hear it was a short story because it has the making of an epic tale.

As for does it work. Yes in the main it works well. I'm intrigued and would certainly be interested in more. The dialogue with the old geezer I found entertaining, with a nice sence of humour.

Obviously at some time there ewas more than one sorcerer and the remnants remain

Although I don't think it was intended the fact you didn't have him go back and give the horsemen a good seeing to was a pleasant change - Especially if this remains a short story as the battle scene will just make it longer for no advancement in the story. However, if this grows to a novella then maybe you could turn your talents to a good punch up scene.

I'm not sure what a butterfly knife is (and it's shape relavence) but an abnormally long one makes it even more confusing. Why not just stick to the usual sword with runes - We all know that's going to be a powerful weapon.

Hope I helped

Tein
 

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