Unintentionally Helpful Villain #15:

Diary Entry #215

Ah, my sweet perdition has ended! And to think that I have one of my very own Librarians to thank for it! A nice enough lad, and bright, too–to save me from the throng of half-catatonic Inquisitors–while I’m slowly roasted upon a pyre, no less!

I have named this Librarian the Head Librarian, and have banished his original name unto the Infernal Tempest. He doth not seem very pleased at all by this turn of events. He groans and bemoans my choice, this Head Librarian.

He’ll get over it!

Diary Entry #216

Mine Head Librarian has finally recovered from the loss of his name. He has taken the time to tell me the tale of his discovery that mine body has been in use by an imposter — mine ex-wife. Thus goes his tale:

As My Lord knows, we few remaining Librarians remained behind along with Your Lordship’s champions, to await your return. When first you–rather, your body– returned from the underground of Kresh, we had very well taken ahold of it, and prepared to annex it into the Realm. To everyone in the camp’s chagrin, you ordered us to free the prisoners, to turn the newly-converted Library building to dust, and to ride away. 

We didn’t know what to think. As we moved northwards, a series of events served to confuse us much further; as we made camp near a brook, it was none other than you, Lordship, that ran along to fetch water for our sick and wounded. Later, you offered your pale horse to the Prime Librarian, Sven, as he had taken an arrow to the elbow from a twelve year old child. You also did not order the child be commended as we have witnessed you to do, but punished its entire village. 

As your loyal subjects, Sire, we are used to a certain amount of…aberrant behaviour where your royal decisions are concerned. Your Lordship will forgive me for saying so but there is a certain mercurial side to your magnanimous character. No, no, don’t blush, my Lord, I speak truth. 

When your…imposter, for lack of a better work, allowed another to ride your horse, we knew we were dealing with something altogether different from our true master. So it was that I volunteered my services to return to Kresh, and to seek out the truth behind your change. 

Your…wife, is it, Sire? gave me permission to leave when I told her my darling, old grandmother had health issues several towns away. There is something disconcerting about your gauntleted hand offering me a healing salve to take on the road; that’s what I used on all the burnt flesh, Dark Lord, it works rather well, doesn’t it?

As I got to Kresh, I heard more and more rumors of strange happenings — villages gone rampant against men, magical animals disappearing, a traveling rabbit-beast–werebunny, Lordship?–do forgive me; and much more, besides. 

I seemed to miss you time and time again; until I heard of a woman that refused to die within enchanted flames, a witch that refused to give up on her sinful ways in so terrible a way that one Inquisitor crier had passed on, and another was on the edge between life and death. That is when I knew.

The rest, Lordship, is history. Now that you are well-rested, we should be on our way.

So he spoke, the Head Librarian, and so I found myself moved almost to a murder spree; so strong was the bond of loyalty that mine men have for me, and so well do they know me! Never would I have thought anyone so familiar with mine character.

Now, of course, I might have to murder this Sven, for he is in direct competition with the Head Librarian, but alas — the road ahead is clear.

“Lead on, minion!” I say, and so we go, to kill Sven!

And also, to punish mine ex-wife for her traitorous body-switching ways.

 

(Top) Ten Things I would do if I were a Sentient Sword in a Fantasy Setting

Another Monday, another Top Ten List! I’ve been reading and thinking about magical weapons, sentient swords, talking scythes and so decided to do another one of my favourite little lists!

  1. If I get an arsehole of a wielder, I’m going to pretend that I’m just your normal, every-day magical sword. No sign of sentience from me, nuh-uh. Then, when he’s in the middle of a fight–snikt! and off go his hands.
  2. I would make sure not to get thrown away into a forgotten quarry by some reluctant master. Millenia spent talking to rocks, devoid of tasty  blood? No, thank you!
  3. I would be a fantastic instructor to youths who’ve never held a weapon in their lives before. Face anyone–anyone!–and I’ll use the pipsqueak to gut whatever instructor, family member, or fellow student of the sword he’s going up against.
    I like to throw my pupils head-first unto oceans of blood. It builds character.
  4. I would encourage, listen to and do just about everything but tolerate defeatist attitude.
  5. Teaching heroes is, of course, another purview of mine, and I would put my back into it. So to speak.
  6. I’m not saying I would enjoy sating my blood thirst…I’m not saying that I wouldn’t, either.
  7. I would make a great gift. Not a ‘ha-ha’ kind of gift, more like a ‘I murdered everyone at my birthday party and it was epic’ kind of gift.
    It’s the little things in life.
  8. If ever a strong-willed man or woman with principles takes hold of me, I might be in trouble. Naturally, I’ll do my best to betray and murder them horribly. Not because I’m evil, but because I’m a free spirit, and loyal to who I am!
  9. I would not tolerate any Dark Lord or Evil Master or Ancient Forger’s soul to snuggle up in my biz! No other sentient creatures and souls are welcome in my house, thank you very much.
  10. I would accept kitten sacrifice as a price for my use! Oh, don’t look at me like that, it’s a valid currency where I come from!

Thank you for reading this list! We’ll be back next week with the third part of Adventurer’s Mishaps! If you’d like to give me some feedback–the comment section is below, and I’d be all too happy to implement any good advice in the blog! 

Total War WARHAMMER 2: 60 Turns of High Elven Intrigue!

One thing has become painfully clear in the 8 hours I spent fooling around in Total Warhammer 2 — High Elves…are wankers.

Total War  WARHAMMER II Screenshot 2017.10.07 - 22.02.26.38.png

The world around them is going through a cataclysm; the Great Vortex, a nexus of arcane magic created to siphon off Chaos energies, is assaulted on all sides; Dark Elves, or Druchii, are sprawling towards Ulthuan like brooding ants over honey; the Gods only know what Skaven and Lizardmen are up to; and what do your fellow High Elven princes do?

They go straight back to backstabbing you, without a care in the world. Not even when an army of Chaos pops up in the middle of a ritual to stabilize the Vortex does anyone lift a finger to stop them! What gives, fellow High Elven rulers?!

Total War WARHAMMER II Screenshot 2017.10.07 - 21.04.09.05

The backstabbing nature of my fellow High Elves aside, I can’t describe how pleased I am with the work put into this sequel; nevertheless, I will make an ill-fated attempt to do just so.

Warhammer 2 manages to create a world that feels far larger than that of the first game, partially because of the sheer size of the four new continents and partially because of the supporting part that all of the original game’s races play. Sixty turns, and I’ve already had my closest ally attacked by Norsca tribesmen and human pirates(who use the Empire’s faction presets), I’ve made contact with several other human factions, and I’ve even met a particularly nasty triad of undead specimen, quite unwilling to grab a chat. All of that, and more, in such a short span of time; if I wanted to compare this to the last time I played a campaign in Total Warhammer…I recall bashing ork skulls with dwarven hammers not for sixty, but for a hundred and twenty turns!

With the Vortex now a joint objective for all four newly minted races, there’s an active push towards a much more tightly focused experience; where domination nearly always ends up a bore with a clear victor going through the motions near game’s end, the Vortex adds a level of tension that, I suspect, will keep you on your toes until the very end. Gathering artefacts to perform large-scale magical rituals comes with the need for greater structure in terms of objective-led thinking, as well as timing; you can’t let yourself waste sixty turns jostling with the neighbor over the state of grass; else you might just end up like me!

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I can’t speak for the other factions’ unique racial traits — although I plan to — but I applaud the Intrigue mechanic, which is unique to those cleanly shaven chaps. It doesn’t just involve manipulating different factions’ relationships behind the scenes; no, Intrigue goes one step further, allowing you to recruit better Lords and Heroes, to solve the myriad events that pop up every few turns, and more…perhaps. Sixty turns will only give you so much.

Diplomacy is the same as in the first game, however; I found it wanting there and I am sad to report, Creative Assembly hasn’t done anything to improve this static bit of design; there are a dozen different commodities you can gain through trade, for examples, but other than increasing your gold per turn in terms of trade agreements, they do absolutely nothing. Wine should give a bonus to public order; salt should offer some additional bonus to the towns/province in which it’s produced; just so with all the other resources.

You could make the case that Intrigue adds to diplomatic relations, but it’s difficult to praise something that only affects one race as a positive for the entire game.

But enough! Eight hours can only offer so much, and I do not wish to misrepresent a game that has brought me sixty turns of exciting experiences in a brand new world, and some would say — with good reason — a better one.

Total War WARHAMMER II Screenshot 2017.10.07 - 22.03.46.84

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this quick run-down of my experiences with Total War: Warhammer 2, let me know; there’s more to come! 

 

Thursday Recommendation: Asimov’s Science Fiction, September/October Issue (Part 1 of 2)

Ah, Asimov’s. Doubtless, one of the best known science fiction magazines in America, perhaps the world. I’ve been subscribed to the e-mag for exactly one year now, and it’s been nothing short of a delight every issue I’ve read. I rarely read all of the magazine before the next one comes out, but I make the effort — hopefully, I’ll get a couple of weeks sometime, enough to read every single issue of the last year of Asimov’s, uninterrupted. That’s pretty close to happiness right there, folks.

At any rate, in this post, I am going to take a few minutes to give you a short synopsis of the four novelettes in the September/October 2017 issue of Asimov’s. They’re really good, and worth your time. Worth mine, as well–or I wouldn’t be going the extra mile to recommend them to y’all!

Wind Will Rove by Sarah Pinsker, is a story about a generation seedship; if you’re unfamiliar with the concept, the generation ship is a hypothetical type of arc ship that takes hundreds or even thousands of years to reach its target; its original passengers and crew pass down the knowledge to their children and so on and so forth, until some far-removed descendants reach their ancestors’ dreamlands.

In Wind Will Rove, collective memory and knowledge are put under question after a tragedy led to the ship’s loss of all of Earth’s media databases — books, movies, video games, plays, everything you could imagine. What this led to was a recreation of many great works of art by the generations on the ship — most of the original scientists and artists and engineers from Earth were alive and well, and to lose everything that reminded them of home must’ve been horrifying.

What follows is, then, a recreation from memory. Movies reshot with the usage of the ship’s holo-tech, books written a new from memory, and so on. It’s this recreation that Wind Will Rove digs into in a clever, charming way, while using an old folk song by the same name. It’s about more than collective memory; it’s about humanity’s ability to bounce back up, no matter how lethal the wound on its collective behind!

 

I don’t think I’ve ever read a work of science fiction as vibrant as Universe Box by Michael Swanwick is.

Nightmares beyond human imaginng howled and ravaged at his heels. Nihilism and despair sleeted down on his upturned face. But the thief culdn’t have been happier. His grin was so mad and bright that it would melt granite.

His erection was shocking.

That’s an excerpt of the very beginning of Universe Box; it gets a lot crazier from that point onward. The story is filled with literally allusions; one character, for example, originates from Gilgamesh! It’s as far from hard sci-fi as you can imagine, but the humor Swanwick has infused this with makes this a memorable story that you’ll laugh through.

It reads like fantasy, in truth. Fantasy with sci-fi elements is how I would label it, in fact. The devil may or may not appear as well, in the form of an “attorney at lawlessness.” You know. Normal sci-fi stuff.

It’s a strange story, but funny throughout.

 

Grand Theft Spacecraft was a difficult one to get into, but once you did…R. Garcia y Robertson, author of this novelette, does not easily let go. It’s the closest to the space opera genre of the four, with Space Vikings, a Christian Deacon protagonist, a nine year old genius who’s got an AI by the throat, and a princess that may or may not be in need of saving. I’ll let you figure that one for yourselves; but underneath the swashbuckling, grand theft spacecrafting is a story about love, family and…well, blowing space ships.

“Faint hearts never fucked a flag captain.”

Indeed. Oh, there are also space Mongols, very much into Genghis Khan’s ideological beliefs. This novelette is also filled with historical allusions, which are entertaining in their own right.

 

Books of the Risen Sea is a post-apocalyptic story of a small American coastal town (if I got that correctly) by Suzanne Palmer, who’s been doing quite well for herself. It’s about a man’s attempts to preserve books in the library from the slow but certain spread of mold, toxic rain and just about anything else that Nature can throw at him, while dealing with being a parriah in his city for who he is, and his choices.

It’s another very powerful story that starts off slow, and goes onto unexpected places. Caer–that’s our main character’s name–is content in his loneliness, and hungry for story after story. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t see myself in that hunger.

There’s also a robot with a sawhand. That’s right, you read that correctly. Pretty good reason to check this one out, right?

 

Thank you for reading! If you find this little run-down interesting, let me know and I’ll do more. Would you like spoiler-y discussions, as well? Or would you prefer I be even more vague and non-commital? Say it and I’ll make it so! 

Unintentionally Helpful Villain #14: Karogar, Cursed Be Its Name

Read the previous entry here. Read the first entry in the series here.

Diary Entry #200

Ah, Karogar. The birthplace of mine own greatest failure.

It’s a filthy place, filled with pampered humans, haughty elves and bored, rich dwarves. Artists! Each one will tell you that’s what they are, and they’ll smile and look at you with thinly veiled arrogance, all the while explaining how your art has no merit!

Pish posh. What could possibly have ‘artistic merit’ if not the myriad shades of blood?!

If mine memory serves me right and proper, ’twas five days that  I spent within this accursed city. Here it was that I first lay within a great wide bark — and dreamed the dark dreams that led me to mine great empire. The empire mine wife even now plots to destroy with mine old body, mine own arcane strength!

Bah, I am salivating profusely once again. Mine magical quill begins scribbling away whenever I allow this wrath take over mine better self.

Diary Entry #201

Mine search for the ex-wife hath proven fruitless. What I did find was a small army of Inquisitors, all too ready for mine appearance in the Art Halls of Karogar.

Aye, they hath caught me, and bound mine skin with rope. They remain obsessed with my witch’s magicks, no matter what I offer them. I cannot change in form, for they have enchantments keeping me locked unto this ridiculous body.

And yes, I am dictating unto mine magical quill through magical means. Do not question it.

Diary Entry #202

I have now offered mine captors a number of treasured items and experiences: several painful and gruesome ways to die; crossbow bolts to their knee caps; precious last words with their significant others, children and elder relatives; a mountain of goblin shite.

I hear that goblin shite is much appreciated by humans for the variety of medicinal values that can be found within it.

The Inquisitorial Order still refuses to release me from mine bindings.

Diary Entry #205

The Church of the Holy Blame hath pronounced that there is much to blame about mine feminine wiles. A crier has been crying out crimes, real and imagined, for the past three days now.

I have been tied to a balefire for some time, waiting for the Inquisitor-boy to finish mine list of grievances. Or mine wife’s. There is a surprising amount of overlap.

It is mildly uncomfortable.

Diary Entry #210 

The young man that hath read mine great list of crimes, real or imagined, hath perished due to lack of breath. Another took his place. Might some fiend light the stake already?

Diary Entry #211 

This is torture! Such monotonous voice, such inept usage of words, one coming after the other. I cannot stand it anymore!

Diary Entry #212 

I hath attempted to break my bonds. While not fully successful, I hath managed to grab a torch and set the stake afire. It has burned now for one whole day. I feel the most terrible itch on my calf from the fire.

The monotonous boy-creature will not shut up. Where do they find these fanatics?!

Diary Entry #213

‘Tis enchanted wood. It simply won’t stop burning. The young Inquisitor will not shut up.

I will not die. I will instead laugh at them all! At the fire, at the lad, at their ineptitude in killing witches! What fools, what blithering, magnificent idiots!

But who might that be, in the distance? Doth mine feline eyes deceive me?!

Thank you for reading the latest Unintentional Villain adventure! I needed to take a few weeks easy, to rediscover my awful inner comedian, but now I’m back, and my vision for the series and the blog — restored and stronger than ever! I’m pretty much like Palpatine in that one Revenge of the Sith scene. In order to ensure the security and continuing stability of this blog, Magnus Writes will be reorganized into the *BLANK* to ensure progress and awesome fantastical shenanigans! 

 

 

 

Writing Advice: The Seven Key Steps of Story Structure (Chapter 3 of The Anatomy of Story)

Welcome back to my summary of ‘The Anatomy of Story’ by John Truby. Today we’ll take a look at Chapter 3, which deals with the steps of story structure. Let’s get to it! 

When we talk about the  structure of a story, we talk about how a story develops over time.

A story has a minimum of seven steps in its growth from beginning to end:

  1. Weakness and need.
  2. Desire.
  3. Opponent.
  4. Plan.
  5. Battle.Thgfgfgga
  6. Self-revelation.
  7. New equilibrium.

(Magnus Commentary: Sound bit unclear? Don’t worry, we’re gonna breeze through these!)

These seven steps aren’t arbitrarily imposed from without, the way a mechanical story structure such as the three-act structure is. These seven stop are based on human action, and are organic.

1.Weakness and need.

From the very beginning of the story, your hero has one or more great weaknesses that are holding him back. The need is what the hero must fulfill within himself in order to have a better life. It takes change and growth to overcome weaknesses.

Need is a wellspring of the story, and sets up every other step. Keep two important points in mind:

Your hero shouldn’t be aware of his need at the beginning of the story. 

If he’s already cognizant of what he needs, the story is over. The knowledge comes at the end, after the hero’s gone through a great deal of pain or struggle.

Give your hero a moral need as well as a psychological need.

Psychological needs involve overcoming a serious flaw that is hurting nobody but the hero. In better stories, the hero has a moral flaw in need of overcoming; a character with a moral need is always hurting others in some way at the story’s beginning.

(Magnus Commentary: I’m interested to see a character begin without a moral flaw but develop it as the story progresses.)

Giving your hero a moral need also prevents him from being perfect or a victim. Both are the kiss of death, storytelling-wise.

Keep the problem simple and specific.

The problem is also present from page one, but it isn’t as important as the weakness and need. Crisis defines a character very quickly.

Technique: Creating the moral need

Remember the rule of thumb: To have a moral need, the character must be hurting at least one other person. The moral need usually comes out of the psychological need. The character must be hurting at least one other person. The moral need usually comes out of the psychological weakness that leads him to take it out on others.

  1. Begin with the psychological weakness.
  2. Figure out what kind of immoral action might natural come out of that.

A second technique for creating a moral need is to push a strength so far that it becomes a weakness. It goes like this:

  1. Identify a virtue in your character; then make him so passionate about it that it becomes oppressive.
  2. Come up with a value the character believes in. Then find the negative version of this value.

2. Desire

Desire is what your hero wants in the story, his particular goal. A story doesn’t become interesting to the audience until the desire comes into play. It’s the driving force in the story, the line from which everything else hands. It’s intimately connected to need.

One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is to confuse need and desire or them as a single step.

Need has to do with overcoming a weakness within the character. A hero with a need is paralyzed in some way by his weakness. Desire is a goal outside the character.

Need and desire also have different function in relation to the audience. Need lets the audience see how the hero must change to have a better life. It’s the key to the whole story, but it remains under the surface, whereas desire is on the surface, a thing that the audience wants along with the hero.

Your hero’s true desire is what he wants in this story, not what he wants in life.

Technique: Starting with desire

Careful — you might think to jump past the need and weakness and straight to desire. It’ll start the story off quickly, but it might very well kill the payoff, the ending of the story. Step 1 makes it possible for your hero to change at the end. They’re what makes the story personal and meaningful. And they’ll make the audience care. Don’t start with desire, not ever.

3. Opponent.

See the opponent not as an evil cliché, but structurally, in terms of his function in the story. A true opponent not only wants to prevent the hero from achieving his desire, but is competing with the hero for the same goal. The opponent thus links with Step Two: Desire.

It’s this link that forces hero and opponent to come into direct conflict. Two separate goals mean…the two characters can each get what they want without coming directly into conflict.

To find the right opponent, start with your hero’s specific goal — whoever wants to keep him from getting it is an (or The) opponent.

4. Plan.

Action isn’t possible without some plan. The plan is the set of guidelines or strategies, that the hero will use to overcome the opponent and reach the goal. Linked to both the opponent and the desire. The plan should always be specifically focused towards reaching the goal and defeating the opponent.

5. Battle.

The final conflict between hero and opponent; determines which of the two characters wins the goal. The final battle may be a conflict of violence or of words.

6. Self-Revelation.

The battle is an intense, painful experience for the hero. The crucible for battle causes the hero to have a major revelation about who he really is.

Much of the quality of your story is based on the quality of your story. Good self-revelation, like need, comes in two forms — psychological and moral.

In psychological, the hero strips away the façade and sees himself honestly for the first time. The stripping away of the façade isn’t passive or easy. It’s the most active, difficult and courageous act the hero performs in the entire story. As need is the beginning of the hero’s character change, so is self-revelation the end-point.

7. New Equilibrium.

Everything returns to normal, and all desire is gone, except for one difference. The hero has moved to a higher or lower level as a result of going through his crucible. A fundamental and permanent change will have taken place, either positive or negative.

The hero will therefore either move to a higher level, or — if he’s committed a terrible crime that exposes a corrupt personal flaw — will fall and be destroyed.

That’s it for this week! Hope you find my summary of Chapter 3 an interesting one: here’s to next week, which’ll be centered on Chapter 4: Characters! 

There are plenty of interesting examples and exercises in the book, which are also worth a look. As always, I don’t fully agree with the premise of the novel — that this is the best way to write; but it’s an interesting and educational experience, reading this!

Adventurer’s Mishaps: Assassin’s Blade

Welcome to Adventurer’s Mishaps, a new short fiction series on this blog, inspired by my love for role-playing games akin to Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).  Today’s entry follows the story of Liadrin, whom we shortly met last week. If you haven’t read last week’s ‘Mishaps,’ click here to take a look.

Liadrin drew the dagger out of the guard’s neck, holding his body as it fell to the ground without a sound. Capable guards were impossible to find, nowadays. Countess Morrgiana’s were a new breed of rabble altogether — messy, inattentive pigs. This one had crumbs and jam all over his collar. Like children with sticks, these — and only marginally less likely to hurt themselves if they tried.

The body would be found, she had no doubt; it was meant to. If no messenger was to be had, you drafted the message on a warm body; that way, no one could ignore it. Not for long.

She was worried, however. With mercenaries this ill-suited for guard duty, the Gods only knew how long it would take them to find a corpse, even one in such an evident place. She looked over the balcony’s edge, scanning the ground below. No one in sight. The assassin sighed.

If you can’t bring attention to the corpse, bring the corpse to attention, Liadrin thought, as she dragged the body over the marble railing. The fall would attract attention, no doubt. Attention was good.

She moved upwards with the alacrity of a shadow, and just as silent as one. Torches flickered and died out as soon as Liadrin neared, providing her with an even deeper cloak of darkness. She didn’t use magic, but she might as well have, such was the nature of her skill.

Yells sounded from below, muffled by distance but clear enough to convey undiluted fear and surprise. Liadrin’s smile widened, a couple of daggers flashing by in the dark.

Two guards stood on the sides of  her supposed target’s living quarters. One of the men held a heavy crossbow, just as the assassin’s information had pointed out. He had the time to give out a surprised yelp, not even loud enough to awaken his colleague before one cold blade sucked the life out of him. The man on Liadrin’s left groaned in his sleep. He would never awaken.

Footsteps sounded on marble steps, somewhere far behind; good, they were coming. Perhaps there was hope for these men yet.

Liadrin hardly appreciated making a showpiece of the craft but her master’s needs demanded that she stand on the spotlight. The assassin relit the torch on one side of the doors to the Countess’ private rooms. She positioned the heavy crossbow in as evident a way as she could, before opening and passing through the door.

Morrgiana slept in her bed, undisturbed by all the commotion. Without so much as a flinch, Liadrin dragged her awake by the hair, forcing the young woman to her crumbling feet despite the Countess’ horrified screams. Even hauled off her bed in the middle of the night, she was in beauty, Liadrin couldn’t deny. Obvious, then, why King Lekaved had taken her as his lover…the assassin couldn’t fault his taste.

“Please, please, please let me go. I-I promise I’ll be good, I’ll do whatever you want, I-I have jewels and gold, and trinkets with little magicks in them and you can have–”

Liadrin pulled on the girl’s dark hair even harder. “Shut up, you little fool,” she said, her voice as cold as the north seas. “You and I will share in the romantic  view of Kiern at night. The gem of the East, in all its glory is worth appreciation. Move!”

The last word Liadrin underlined by shoving Morrgiana through the glass archway, onto the ground

“Why-Why–?”

Liadrin forced the woman–little more than girl, really–to her feet, ignoring the cries of pain and the tiny pieces of glass that embedded themselves within the Countess’ skin. “With bedfellows such as yours, must you ask?”

Blows fell against the wooden doors to the bedchamber. They wouldn’t last long, but Liadrin had ample time. She forced Morrgiana to turn around with one hand, taking a bone blade out of its sheath with the other, and held it to the younger woman’s pretty face.

Morrgiana’s sobs rocked the woman’s petite body. “Please don’t. If you know about–about Lekaved, you know I could make him do anything.” Her voice grew desperate, histeric. “The King’s ear, I could have it listen to whatever you want. Anything you want, please!”

“I want you,” Liadrin whispered, “to look at the city. Take it in, all of it. Do you see the lights, over there? Have you wondered what it’s like, being one of these lights? Have you ever imagined life out there? Not this pretty little thing you have here, this mimicry, built on marble and the bones of your King’s starved subjects?” Her voice fell to a whisper. “You would think my touch a kind one, and so soft, compared with some of what is there.

But it is beautiful, isn’t it?”

Wood shattered into splinters somewhere behind them. With a well-practiced flick of the hand, Liadrin’s blade left a mark down the side of Morrgiana’s face, from her temple all the way down to the edge of the jaw; far from a deadly wound, it would leave a deep mark on the Countess’ beautiful face. Liadrin removed her grip from the woman, leaving Morgianna to her wailing, and moved next to her, between the arched doorway and the balcony railing.

She glimpsed backwards, to see several guards, one of which pointing the crossbow at her back. Yells mixed into one, calling for her to put the dagger down. Liadrin lifted the blade higher, as if to throw it at one of the guards, her lips curling in a blood-curdling smile.

The guard holding the heavy crossbow squeezed the weapon’s trigger, releasing its loaded metal bolt. Time came to a standstill. Liadrin repositioned her body in that single moment, with preternatural speed that would’ve allowed her to avoid it entirely, if she wished.

That wasn’t part of the job.

Time resumed, and the bolt pierced Liadrin’s body, puncturing muscle, shattering bone, tearing organs to pieces. The force propelled her over the edge. As she fell towards the lake below, Liadrin smiled, despite the burning pain. As blackness overwhelmed her, one thought alone swam above it.

Her task was complete.

**********

Liadrin awoke to the warmth of a fire and one of the worst itches she’d ever felt; a sure-fire way to know that you were alive, and recently gone through serious healing. Without opening her eyes, she said, “Klaus. Your divinations proved as helpful as ever.” Her voice was husky with strain, her mind clouded with exhaustion. “I see your healing arts are as formidable as I’ve heard. You will forgive me if I don’t look forward to the next time I need one of those.”

“I’m sure I’ll find some amount of forgiveness within me,” he humored her. There was strain in his behind the chuckle. “You pulled it pretty close, Lia. A few millimeters higher, and not even the energy within that trinket you gave me would’ve been able to save you.”

Her smile widened. “I know.”

She heard the priest grumble an indecent comment under his nose, then say more loudly, “You should rest now. It’ll take you more than a short nap to recover from this.”

Liadrin nodded, then opened her eyes. The human flinched at her iris-less gaze before getting a hold of himself. “You are ready for your part?” she asked, her fine eyebrow lifting up in what bordered mockery.

Klaus nodded gravely. “You know as well as I do, there really is no other choice.”

 

This is where we’ll leave the tale of Liadrin (for now, anyway). Something tells me that we’ll see her again, at one point or another. Things are heating up, in Adventurer’s Mishaps, and I have so many ideas, and we’re going ever-deeper in the rabbit’s hole! 

Hope to see you again next time!