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Thread: Stories by Matt (New short story, not fantasy for once)

  1. #11
    999 Knights Member Matt's Avatar
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    It's times like this when I really appreciate good critiques. You and Smartry have given me the first big, in-depth critiques I've had in a very long time. My parents aren't too fond of fantasy, nor are they writers, and the only writing group in my area is dead.

    The setting and the interactions do come across as rather original, too, that said, so please don't take this entire review as one big downer.
    Don't worry about making me feel down. I get so few fiction critiques that I don't have the luxury to feel anything but absolute joy when I actually get one, no matter how harsh it is. So no, none of the three critiques was a downer. I felt nothing but absolute joy. Seriously.

    Erm, isn't this kind of rediculously, incredibly lienient? If this was a human king, and the human mistrust of angels and feykind is a officially state-sponsored thing, that should really, really be brought up here. Because even then, I figure they would not be inclined to listen to a confirmed murderer's pleas, esspecially not if they were also a fey themselves. A young age doesn't even begin to cover why she is apparently walking around, free, no strings attached. I certainly don't think she would ever shake that stigma off around the local populace. >_>

    The only ways I can really think of rectifying this would be if either; A) The King was completely corrupt and morally absent himself, and was intent on weaponising her in future for his own use. B) The angel killings were part of the revolution itself, and she only murdered a few amoungst the chaos, alongside other racist individuals. I kinda prefer this version since it is much less mary sue-ish...
    Yeah, Siren should probably be dead. She killed an angel, and killed nine more in pseudo-self-defense when they attacked her in retaliation.

    Siren's back story is kinda vague, even to me--though a bunch of racist killings in addition to the king/governor using the kid as a tool of war is a good idea. Even so, she shouldn't be running free unless I have some super-good explanation cooked up, and I have a bit of one:
    SPOILER! :
    Siren's sentence is actually the topic of a game I'm developing for a final project in Intro to Game Programming. The main mechanic of the game is interpersonal communication: Siren does her killings and the court postpones her execution for a month while they gather evidence. During that time, Siren has to make sure more than half of Sigmora wants her to stay alive. She could do this by making the city dependent on her (pseudo-canonically, she led the rippers to Sigmora in the first place), and/or she could either manipulate or persuade the people--and therefore, the jury--to think highly of her.

    The big problem, as you already brought up, is why in the world she's allowed free reign that whole time. I'm thinking she'll be suspected, but not actually caught committing her crimes, and in a month when the court re-convenes, she knows they'll have the evidence to sentence her. If I go that way, that brings up another gameplay option: tampering with evidence.


    Tendons are made of collagen, also, just in case you didn't know...
    Hm. The narration is Illyana's, and I assumed Illyana would know almost nothing about anatomy. Is there a way I could pull off the same thing and be less jarring about it?

    Anyway, thanks for the critiques. I really appreciate them. I'll rewrite everything accordingly and give you a much better story. You can give chapter 4 a thrashing if you want (it needs it), and I'll definitely implement any necessary changes, but if you'd like to wait for me to rewrite it based on Smartry's critiques and have a story that isn't painful to read as a result, you can do that too.

    (I should also stick to non-fiction on my blog if my story's canon is going to change this much.)

  2. #12
    999 Knights Member Regantor's Avatar
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    No problem man. I will get onto chapter four soon enough, but I might wait for you to implement the last critiques.

    Also, I just thought; A third option for why Siren is not in prison is if she has a friend in a high place. Or perhaps is related to someone who is a national hero of some kind, which would both make the leadership unwilling to sully said hero's name and highly interested in the girl's potential. Especially if they are corrupt and are dependent on a good public image, which a newly formed democracy might well be.

    As for Illyana's medical knowledge... It's unclear how educated she actually is, but if she hasn't been to school or anything, and it's basically a medieval society, would she even know what a tendon is? I was also pretty uncertain exactly how fiercly you were sticking to her viewpoint, so I guess I thought it might have just been a weird pun on your part...

    Anyhow, I wouldn't say it's that much of a blunder if you just want to ignore it... But if you really wanted to stick to a single viewpoint more concretely, the character should probably have their own names for things, even if it sounds ridiculous, simply because they don't know the real words. "Working meats", "muscle string" or "ankle muscle" would probably all be adequate things to call a tendon... Writing for a character who is not supposed to be particularly intelligent is alot harder than it sounds.

    As for the changes, I wouldn't worry that much. Revising and revising your work like nuts just comes with the territory. *_*

  3. #13
    I haven't read the chapters yet, but reading the comments...

    From what I read in chapter 4, Siren is the most powerful person around, and she doesn't fear much, except for the rippers. But if the rippers attack regularly, and she's the one who primarily fights them, would the king allow her to be sentenced to death or imprisioned? Or would the king keep her alive to fight the rippers?

    SPOILER! :
    What if the king declares, in the interest of national security, Siren should stay alive to fight the rippers? Keeping Siren on a chain while the fights rippers doesn't sound effective, especially if she could cut the chain with her wing blades, but what if someone working for the king (or the court) finds out that Siren cares about Illyana, and declares that if Siren doesn't 'work off her sentence' and instead tries to escape that Illyana will have to carry out Siren's sentence.

    That sounds very corrupt, yes. But then again, it also depends on how the rules of the kingdom work. In the U.S., minors are not usually judged as adults (even if they kill someone) and generally get a much lighter sentence.

    So if Siren is about 15, what is the age of majority (adulthood) in your story world? Does the court judge children less harshly than it judges adults? Are there some crimes that people are judged on equally, regardless of age? Are there laws that discriminate between species?

    Are there lawyers? How do trials work? Can a plea be made to give Siren a sentence that is an alternative to the death sentence?

    In Rome, prisoners (slaves?) could become gladiators with a chance to fight for their lives. After a certain number of victories, if Ceasar approved, the gladiator could be set free.

    What government system is in place in the story world?

  4. #14
    999 Knights Member Matt's Avatar
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    [W]hat if someone working for the king (or the court) finds out that Siren cares about Illyana, and declares that if Siren doesn't 'work off her sentence' and instead tries to escape that Illyana will have to carry out Siren's sentence.
    That's one of the most evil things I've ever heard.

    I try to work with gray morality, where everyone basically wants to do the right thing. However, in this case, I think this is actually feasible. Regardless of whether Illyana's actually in any danger, if Siren is enough of a douche to the government, I can see them resorting to such a threat.

    So if Siren is about 15, what is the age of majority (adulthood) in your story world? Does the court judge children less harshly than it judges adults? Are there some crimes that people are judged on equally, regardless of age? Are there laws that discriminate between species?
    Twenty-five is the official age of maturity (the brain fully matures at 26, and the fay live long enough to justify a higher age of maturity). However, younger kids aren't restricted as to what they can do so long as they're competent (I have a 16-year-old working as a governor's adviser in my main story). Therefore, kids can be executed for murder, though their sentences do tend to be more lenient. Laws do discriminate between species--dryads, by law, are not discriminated against, but are heavily disadvantaged in practice. Blood angels aren't protected under the law, though.

    Are there lawyers? How do trials work? Can a plea be made to give Siren a sentence that is an alternative to the death sentence?
    This, I have yet to fully decide. Tentatively, how about a standard trial by jury where a 2/3 majority is needed for non-death sentences, and the vote must be unanimous for the death penalty? I don't think there would be official lawyers yet--probably informal representatives, or the accuser and accused themselves? It also seems like there'd be alternative sentences, especially if Sigmora needs Siren to defend it from rippers and such.

    What government system is in place in the story world?
    Officially, democracy. It's not working out too well--only a few cities around the continent actually use it successfully. Sigmora isn't one of them, and they're slowly going back to monarchy.

  5. #15
    999 Knights Member Regantor's Avatar
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    Just because I forgot to mention, remember that the age of adulthood in ancient times was alot lower than it is now. Right up to Victorian England, it was pretty acceptable for a twelve year old to work in a factory, join the army in a diminished capacity (as a musician, cook, loader, or standard bearer of some sort), or hold a noble position (including being the actual king, alrough that's generally a bad sign for the dynasty). In some places it's still legal for twelve year olds to get married now...

    So yeah. Obviously this is a fantasy world and all so that stuff doesn't neccisarily apply, but it could explain why the goverment would openly use such a young person as a soldier. The flip side is that they probally wouldn't be treated any better than 'modern' adults by the law, in that case, through.
    Last edited by Regantor; 10-04-2012 at 02:14 PM.

  6. #16
    999 Knights Member Matt's Avatar
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    I did a lot of studies on age and maturity, and how the correlation actually depends heavily on upbringing (kids these days are many times less mature than they were a hundred or even fifty years ago). I don't know everything about it, but I assume, in a time where survival is still the focus of life (rather than comfort), kids would be more mature than they are now.

    About the use of blood angels when Warhammer 40k has them--"fallen angels" doesn't ring right to me, "dark angels" just sounds bad, and "blood angels" really doesn't sound amazing either, but it makes sense in the setting. If the Blood Angels in Warhammer aren't actually any breed of angel, I don't think using the name for angels who actually drink blood in a fantasy setting is a breach of copyright or trademark or anything. Regardless, if it turns out to be a bigger issue than I'm making it out to be, I'll change it.

    Re-wrote chapter 1:
    SPOILER! :
    Chapter 1: In Which Illyana Begs for Food and Meets a Blood Angel

    Illyana wanted to scream at the figures passing out of Sigmora's city gates. She'd hidden from them the night before, hoping at least the girl she thought of as a sister, Kiri, would turn back or at least look for her. She'd suspected they weren't too fond of her, but needed to see if that was true. She'd trusted them, and she'd been wrong. The girl she loved did nothing. Neither did the young man she looked up to as not a father or a brother, but a friend--Boriol. He didn't feel the same about her. She'd loved them, and they didn't hate her. She'd thought that was a good thing--a step in the right direction. But they were indifferent. To Illyana, that was worse than any form of hate.

    She slammed her fists against the wall on either side of the window, clenching her teeth and wondering why in the world she was holding in her scream. She pounded the wall again and again, harder and harder, hoping it would shatter, hoping the destruction would satisfy her. Her scream wouldn't come out, but her tears did. In her rage, she didn't tire until her energy was completely spent and she collapsed. She rested her head against the windowsill and cried.

    Was it something she did? She'd eaten their food, sure. She'd taken up one of their horses and the man previously occupying it had apparently been glad to give it to her. Was it because of her race? Dryads were thieves, stereotypically. They could slip in and out of any wood structure like a sticky-fingered ghost, taking anything they pleased with them in or out. They were assassins, thieves, perverts. She could admit that her race was generally made up of shady people, though they were at least better than nymphs and blood angels among the fay, and they were especially better than any subrace of fiend.

    "Who's up there?" somebody called from the floor below. Illyana looked behind her at the inn bedroom she'd hidden in. She heard heavy footsteps on the stairs, then the knob shaking on the door she'd locked. She heard the innkeeper fumble for his keys and didn't stay to hear more. She sank into the crack between the wall and floor, the wood reaching out to pull her in like a thousand tiny, greedy hands. Once in the wall, her form was no longer her own. She was the building, but the building wasn't her. She felt her being wrap around every room, every beam, every board. She no longer needed to breathe, to see, or to smell. All she did was think and feel, though not through her human form's sense of touch. She felt the innkeeper throw the door open and check the room Illyana had just been in. She didn't hear him call for the intruder to show himself. She felt the words, the tone of voice. The innkeeper was simultaneously apprehensive and annoyed. Illyana didn't see the gestures that betrayed the man's false anger--she felt them as well. It wasn't through vibrations, but just through the space her being occupied and surrounded.

    She slipped out of the building, reforming her body as she went. Familiar human senses rushed back into her as her eyes melted out of the wood and connected to her brain as it, too, flowed from the entirity of the building into her body. Her nerves, not entirely formed, tingled as they appended themselves to what was already inside her. Dryads were formless when they entered a tree or other wooden structure with greater mass than their natural body, but they couldn't change their natural body. Illyana was twelve and looked twelve. Her eyes were light brown, her dirty skin a shade darker than her eyes, and her long, uncombed hair a shade darker than her skin. Her skin was pulled tight around her bones and small muscles. Even through her baggy, long-sleeved white shirt, her ribs were visible. It would take a lot more clothes than she wore to cover her malnourishment, and she had no desire to. If she appeared sickly thin, people were more likely to give her food. She'd also be hungry all the time. It wasn't worth it, but she didn't have much of a choice.

    She'd been traveling for a year, and it was time to stop. If she stayed in one place, the chances of a merciful family bringing her in and feeding her increased. She'd seen it happen before to another urchin. Once.

    She'd gone far enough north that the heat would have been unbearable if it weren't for the massive canopy of leaves the surrounding forest provided. As it was, people wore significantly less than they did back where she lived. Men and women both wore simple things like short-sleeved or sleeveless shirts and standard trousers or shorts and skirts, plus sunhats. Back home in the south, she'd found it strange that people would cover their hair in the north, but now that she was there, she could see why--or rather, feel why. She'd have to get a hat of her own if she was going to stay here.

    She was hungry. Very hungry. Though staying in a tree provided her with the nutrients a tree needed to survive, she was, ultimately, not a tree. She needed food, and she'd rather beg than steal. She wandered and surveyed the city of Sigmora, searching for a populated spot to sit and look pitiful and cute. Intersections were populated, but people at intersections were usually hurried. So Illyana turned at an intersection, following a train track running down the middle of the cobblestone roads. Trains stopped at important, busy places. Important, busy places had a lot of people. Again, these people were usually hurried, but only when they were getting on or off a train.

    The train station was marked by diagonal yellow lines painted on the road in front of a building with a pure glass front, its sign on a pole outside. Illyana strolled past it, glancing inside. Tens of people sat in a waiting room larger than most houses. Illyana smiled and plopped down under the "Train Station" sign.

    In an hour, she collected a few pieces of bread, twenty lunes--which would buy her all of nothing when a loaf of bread was worth five hundred lunes--and one pat on the head from a woman who looked entirely too pleased with herself. It was something new, though. People generally didn't touch urchins.

    In two hours, her income was much better. A man in a suit knelt, talked with her for a minute, and left her a thousand lune note. She got no more bread--she'd eaten the first as soon as it had fallen into her hands--but she did get some chocolate. Though it was tempting, she waited to eat it until someone gave her water. With her age and gender, she was at an advantage as a beggar. A young girl gained much more sympathy than a middle-aged man. All the same, she had to look vulnerable and dirty, yet pretty. Rotting teeth were not pretty, and two of her molars already hurt when she bit down with them.

    In the third hour, the train came, collected about a hundred people, and the street was suddenly empty. Illyana got up to leave and found her path blocked by an angel--no, not an angel. This one's wings were dull red, and the last three feathers on either side shined and pointed almost like blades. Her hair, nearly as long as Illyana's, matched her wings.

    "Where did you come from?" the blood angel asked, stepping forward. Illyana stepped back. She looked around for something made of wood to sink into. Unfortunately, none of the buildings had enough wood on them to let her fit inside, much less escape. She took another step back. The blood angel took two steps forward, thrust her wings backward, and soared toward Illyana, landing close enough that Illyana could see the color of her eyes. They were red, like everything else. A common color for angels, but unnerving on a blood angel.

    "Answer me."

    "South," Illyana said. "I'm from Dakonia." The blood angel was a girl, not much older than her. She wore baggy gray trousers and a tight, sleeveless, faded red shirt.

    "That's a thousand kilometers away. Why are you here?"

    "I ran away and got lost on my way back and I needed food," Illyana said, backing up another step. The blood angel glared at her for a moment, then smiled. Illyana blinked. Blood angels could do that?

    "A dryad who isn't a thief," she said, sounding skeptical. "Now all I need to see is a virgin nymph and a civilized draman and I'll have seen it all. What's your name?"

    "Illyana Fhin." Illyana was also surprised. Weren't blood angels the creatures that were supposed to torture criminals after their deaths? Moreover, weren't all blood angels killed the moment they turned from angels into blood angels? What was one doing in a heavily-populated metropolis?

    The blood angel cocked her head and looked at Illyana expectantly.

    "Healer," she said, remembering northern manners: state your name and your birth ability when introducing yourself. "I'm a healer."

    The girl looked skeptical, but nodded slowly. "Show me."

    Illyana opened her mouth, but didn't get a word out before the girl bit down on her own wrist with two fiend-like fangs, drawing blood. She held her arm out toward Illyana. Illyana raised a hand to the puncture marks and felt around the wounds. They were shallow--the blood angel's fangs had hit her ulna and even a blood angel wasn't stupid enough to keep biting after that. It was only a flesh wound--the first thing the doctors back home had taught her to heal. She let her inergy flow from her fingers and into the bite mark. She couldn't truly heal--nobody could. She, and anybody else born with healing, was only able to speed up the body's natural healing process in a single area. Healing a bite was a simple task, as smaller injuries could be healed at many times the speed of larger injuries.

    Illyana let her arms fall to her sides. The blood angel, true to her name, licked the blood away from her wrist and looked at the pale skin where the bite mark had once been. She nodded, then looked back at Illyana.

    "If you're planning on staying here, fine." She stepped forward, leaning in close. "But if you steal so much as a single lune from anyone--no matter how despicable--in this city, I'll make sure you're punished."

    "I'm not a thief," Illyana said, looking the girl straight in the eyes. The return stare unnerved her enough that she had to look down. The other girl's face betrayed emotions that Illyana couldn't quite place. A slight, tight-lipped smile combined with a narrow-eyed stare could mean many things.

    "I won't take your word for it," said the girl. "You seem honest, but I have yet to trust a dryad."

    The blood angel spread her wings--the blade-like feathers on her wingtips screeched like steel as they slid against each other--and took flight, blowing up dust all around Illyana. She rose, then disappeared over the top of the train station. Illyana heard her wing beats for a minute after that, and wondered how she hadn't heard the blood angel arrive in the first place.

    The blood angel had apparently been watching her for long enough to know that she hadn't stolen anything. Was she distinctive enough to watch? Her skin was a similar shade to the rest of the people in Sigmora, maybe a few shades darker. Was she the only beggar? No, she'd seen two or three on her way to the train station. Was it her race? She hadn't seen any other dryads, and though her hair covered most of them, her ears, pointed outward like most fay, yet shorter than elves or angels, might give her away.

    That was of small concern, though. Illyana wasn't sure she wanted to stay in Sigmora anymore. She didn't want to be a thief, but she'd made that resolve a few times over the year she'd been away from home, and she'd broken it every time. The thought of being punished by a blood angel didn't appeal to her.

    Maybe this was what she needed. She didn't want to steal anymore, and with the threat of a blood angel's punishment, maybe she could stop. She'd try it, she decided. If she managed to go a week without stealing anything, she'd stay.

    She sighed. Just wait until you're starving and there's a nice bakery made of wood, she told herself. That's how you failed the last three times.

    The first three paragraphs are the same (minus Illyana denying the possibility of male rape, for it had nothing to do with the story and didn't add anything useful to her personality). The fourth and on are completely different.
    -Dryad wood-warping is explained a lot more.
    -Sigmora is fleshed out a little more.
    -Siren doesn't attack Illyana.
    -Illyana's urchin-ness is elaborated on.
    -"Healing" is explained as much as a first chapter would allow without (much) infodumping.
    -In contrast, I'm worried that this new first chapter is too infodumpy, though this could be a normal level of description and I'm just taking too much influence from minimalists.

  7. #17
    Sorry I haven't around much. I've been busy.

    I'll try to read chapter 1 sometime soon.

  8. #18
    999 Knights Member Matt's Avatar
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    I've been busy too. I couldn't even keep up with NaNoWriMo because of schoolwork, sadly. I really wanna finish it one of these years.

    I completely rewrote chapter 1 again, and it's the best it's been so far. It's about half done, but I figured I should post for feedback before I go too much further.

    +The entire situation is changed and is more interesting.
    +The beginning is changed to incorporate some of the more unique bits of the setting.
    +Fashion is fleshed out a lot more.
    +More description, less infodump.
    +Removed magic altogether. Wood-warping is possible by natural law, healing is removed.

    SPOILER! :
    Siren Song

    -

    Chapter 1: In Which Illyana Steals from a High Lord and a Blood Angel

    Dryads were the best hitchhikers. Illyana Fhin, thirteen years old, starved near to death, and a thousand kilometers from home, did it now. She didn't feel her hunger--she wasn't in her natural body. She existed within a single log in a pile of them on a train heading north. Her being filled the log like steam would fill a tank. Within the log, she was omnipotent. She was the god of the log, and as lowly as it made her feel, it also made her feel in control of something for once. She couldn't move the log from inside it, just as she couldn't push a carriage from inside either. She didn't see outside the log in any way, and she didn't exactly hear either. She felt. Not with her nerves--no, those weren't even material right now--but as hard as she tried, she couldn't accurately describe the feeling to herself. Variations in pressure? No, she felt that with nerves. It was more like any movement or sound would penetrate her mind directly. She couldn't identify every sound. She couldn't decipher speech, even if she knew people were speaking. Several people were speaking now. Hitchhikers, like her. Only not dryads--the poor saps outside couldn't melt into logs and disappear. Some of them would probably be caught and arrested. Illyana wouldn't.

    Someone knocked on the log. Illyana left through the side, the wood reaching out and pushing her body out as it materialized. She felt her own weight again, her own skin, brown as the log she'd just come from. She formed black hair, long and dirty, her hands, caked in so many things she didn't care anymore. The simple shirt and trousers she'd stolen last week were already torn, burned, and covered in just as many things as her hands. Just about the only clean part of her was her eyes, light brown, the whites bloodshot, yet not horribly so. She blinked a few times, rubbing her eyes with a relatively clean part of her arm.

    "Dryad," a woman's quiet voice said. "Sigmora is a kilometer away."

    Illyana nodded, but her hunger assaulted her in full before she could reply. She clutched at her stomach, thin enough that she could almost feel her organs. She felt like a corpse in her human body. Of course she preferred the log.

    "Thank you," Illyana said, voice hoarse and weak. The woman smiled. She was a cona, a round-eared, pale-skinned type, able to jump twice her height if she was like any other cona. Like Illyana, her skin was pulled tight around her bones and muscles, cheeks gaunt, small muscles clearly defined. She might have been thirty-something, but her malnourishment made her look older. Her hair was brown, but some had fallen out. At least Illyana's stayed, even if bits were gray here and there.

    The woman smiled, placing a hand on Illyana's head. "What I'd give to slip in a log like that," she said. Illyana wasn't sure who the comment was meant to comfort. Her, as the hand on the head suggested, or the woman, as the words suggested. Illyana smiled in return, assuming both.

    The single lantern lighting the entire boxcar swung around the side of the pile of logs. A cona man of about forty held it, glaring down his nose at Illyana. Most of his body was covered in a long-sleeved, mud-covered suit, but his cheeks were as sunken as the rest of the hitchhikers. He wore a small dagger at his belt, curved in a southern fashion, sheathed, but intimidating all the same. Beggars couldn't afford to wear such things. This man was likely a full-time thief--not a hybrid beggar-thief like Illyana.

    He turned his eyes on the woman. "You've had your minute," he said. "Get away from the dryad. When she gets caught, we don't want to join her."

    Illyana leaned back against the log as the woman gave her a parting smile, stood, and walked to the edge of the boxcar with the man. They quietly discussed their plans for getting out when the doors opened, quiet enough that another cona wouldn't hear. Illyana could pick out every word. They planned to throw the doors open from the inside and run before the lumberjacks came to pick up their supplies, wielding the axes from the boxcar to defend themselves if necessary. Illyana nearly groaned upon hearing it. She didn't know about the others, but she barely had enough energy to lift her own weight, much less an ax.

    Sigmora was a plentiful city, though. Illyana had heard all about it in her travels. Sigmora had this! Sigmora had that! Everything would be great if we lived in Sigmora! Did you know there's not a single angel living in Sigmora? That a blood angel slaughtered them all and still lives there to this day?

    The last bit, of course, was from a horror story, told to her by a boy about her age, who claimed to be Sigmoran himself, yet spoke with just as much wonder as any other southern or center-born urchin. Blood angels were a thousand years extinct, and for good reason. Still, Illyana wasn't about to discredit the idea. She'd been lucky enough to enter the dryad superhighway herself, without a license, and she'd even escaped arrest. She hadn't managed it a second time, but all the stories she'd heard about it being impossible were false. Fortunately, no one spread rumors about it. No one knew, and no one ever would.

    The train slowed, metal on metal screeching like a siren's death cry, muffled through the boxcar's dark walls. Illyana climbed into a log on the top of the pile. This one had less mass than the first one, but Illyana still fit easily. She stuck half her head out the top, just enough that her ears and eyes worked.

    The man and woman from earlier grabbed axes and dashed for the door. The man flung his lantern at the pile of logs Illyana occupied, shattering it against the dry wood. The fire in the lantern spread to one of the logs. Illyana would have screamed if she had a mouth. As it was, she pulled herself out and jumped away, landing unbalanced and falling to her hands and knees. The boxcar was all metal, and wouldn't burn, but its occupants would if they stayed. The man and woman had already fled, and the other three passengers were already jumping out the door. Illyana hadn't so much as seen their faces for two days of riding in the same boxcar. She found herself following them. She jumped from the train to the ground half a meter below and hurt her weakened legs. She stumbled a bit, then crashed into a fence. She blinked through the sunlight, blind, noise of all kinds assaulting her underused senses. The train horn blasted about a hundred meters left. People shouted incoherently in front of her. Hard gravel dug into her bare feet. The air smelled of maple wood, coal, bread, steel, and dust. Startling heat beat down on her from above, and she remembered just how far north she was. Sigmora was the highest you went before either turning back due to heat or being blown back by the winds.

    "Would you look at that little thing? Is that a nymph or dryad?"

    Illyana blinked away tears and light, wiped her eyes again, and stared through the fence and into the eyes of a girl maybe three or four years her senior. Two boys and another girl stood beside her. All four of them wore suits, one maroon, one blue, and two white, all with matching hats.

    "Dryad," Illyana said, and looked left. Someone was running toward her. So she let go of the fence and ran right, toward the back of the train. Sigmora flashed by to her left, the train blocking the right of the city. Buildings rose high as trees, and though Sigmora was supposedly a forest city, Illyana didn't see a single tree. She saw roads of asphalt and brick, mansions of brick and wood, angel homes ten times the size of standard mansions, factories of solid cement. She could have sworn she saw a horseless carriage or two, and, like the blood angel, decided not to discard the possibility.

    She saw the blood angel next. She stopped short just behind the other five hitchhikers as two of them turned around and shoved past her, only to be beaten down by several guards with wood clubs. A fence to the left, train to the right, guards behind, and a pseudo-mythological creature in front. The blood angel's dark red wings raised toward the sky, spanning the width of a train car total, the last three feathers on each wing shining and pointed like swords. The angel herself was a red-haired child, maybe two years older than Illyana and much healthier. Though her skin was pale, it had a red tinge to it. She wore gray trousers and an untucked white button shirt with a black suit coat, probably with slits in the back for her wings. She wore no expression, though her red eyes scanned the hitchhikers like meat. Illyana recalled that blood angels were said to be carnivores, as bloodthirsty as dramen and as lusty as nymphs. This girl displayed neither trait immediately, but Illyana took a step back all the same.

    "More hitchhikers," a man said, stepping out from the crowd, standing next to the blood angel. He was maybe in his late thirties, clean-shaven, wearing a black felt hat to match a white shirt, unbuttoned black coat, and black trousers. He wore a rapier at his belt, but didn't touch it as he stepped forward, examining the hitchhikers.

    "The last bunch got three weeks of low-wage labor," he said, meeting everyone's eyes in turn. Illyana looked away when he turned her way. "I presume you accept that punishment over the beating and jailing you'd get from the sheriff?"

    Illyana's heart lifted. Wherever she traveled, she feared capital punishment for petty crimes. Though she very rarely landed in a city that allowed execution for anything less than murder, it was a rational fear and one she found no shame in keeping. It alone was responsible for keeping her vastly more a beggar than a thief.
    Last edited by Matt; 11-12-2012 at 01:32 PM.

  9. #19
    Super Senior Member Celestial-Fox's Avatar
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    I will read before bedtime~

    Edit: I'm on my phone (because my laptop is dead), so I can't say a whole lot. It was such a wild improvement from your older works, and I like the inclusion of wood magic. The part where she stuck her head out of a log gave me a laugh-out-loud image in my head. It was cute.

    I also like the world building. The outfits weren't something I probably would have expected! But they work, and it adds uniqueness to the story.

    The only thing that needs a bit of work is perhaps describing what's actually going on. I can't say I understood the transitions between their modes of travel or why they are traveling. I'm sure it's included in the text, but I think it could be a little less subtle? This is a big improvement from your Guardians style of tell-not-show, though, and is an easy fix. You have some great descriptions in there, so adding minor "tell" details (without info dump, of course) is easy.
    Last edited by Celestial-Fox; 11-13-2012 at 03:29 PM.

  10. #20
    999 Knights Member Matt's Avatar
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    Yay, critique! I'll make the necessary changes and upload the whole chapter when it's finished.

    Also, 50 more writing prompts:
    SPOILER! :
    1. Water is replaced with lava. Water is only found underground while lava is the most abundant land resource.

    2. A love triangle with two people and an object.

    3. Gravity is now halved. What happens? (Think sports, transportation, building structure, and anything else.)

    4. A war story without a single battle scene.

    5. A romance with no physical contact.

    6. Any kind of system where megabytes can be currency.

    7. Anyone in the world can connect to the Internet with 1 gigabit down and up, 0 latency. What happens?

    8. Someone manages to invent a VR ideal girlfriend/boyfriend simulator. What happens?

    9. Computers have smell input and output accessories. Go.

    10. 3D modeling goes real-time, real-life. What you model on the computer instantly appears in real life.

    11. The human mind can be programmed just like any other computer application.

    12. Wind blows upward.

    13. Rain is replaced with fire.

    14. Write a story about two parents on a school board, trying to do what's best for their kids.

    15. North America and Europe are suddenly connected geographically.

    16. Money goes completely digital.

    17. A large-scale EMP renders all electronics in the protagonist's state useless.

    18. Your protagonist and several friends corner a young mother and baby in an alleyway with hostile intentions. Explain. Bonus points for using gray versus gray.

    19. A new technology lets anything a user thinks of become reality, within reason. Define said reasons and write from there.

    20. A governor wants to be reelected, but the public opinion of him is extremely low. How does he go about getting it back up? Bonus points if you don't identify with his political party (or make a new one).

    21. Protagonist discovers a material harder than diamond.

    22. Your protagonist dies of old age, is reincarnated, and retains all knowledge from his previous life.

    23. A 50-year-old who's lived on welfare since age 20 decides to turn his/her life around and start a business or something.

    24. A well-known CEO decides to leave his business and most of his money to someone else, get plastic surgery and a fake ID, and quietly watch his company from the bottom as a janitor.

    25. Everyone's best talent suddenly becomes many times better, elevating into superpower status.

    26. When people die, they become zombies. No exceptions.

    27. Code of conduct for real life and the Internet is completely reversed.

    28. Someone makes a type of glass that is edible.

    29. Smartphones are replaced by watches with all the functionality of a computer.

    30. Islam, rather than Christianity, is the world's most common religion.

    31. When angels die, they're born on your primary planet as normal people. When gods die, they're born as prodigies in whatever they were the god of.

    32. A writer gives away hundreds of ideas and concepts for free, regrets it, then realizes that every idea he gives away forces him to be that much more creative.

    33. A sci-fi where people can plug SD cards or flash drives into their brains and access their computers from there. Monitors can be glasses or contact lenses. I'm positive this has been done, but oh well.

    34. Write about an indie game developer who gets a huge inheritance from a grandparent and puts it all toward his/her dream game.

    35. Write about a gardener who discovers a sentient plant.

    36. Write a fantasy with just one single element changed from Earth that makes it fantasy (not alternate history). Bonus points if that one element isn't magic.

    37. Earth's axis flips.

    38. Every celebrity dies of some bizarre illness that only affects celebrities.

    39. Everbody except celebrities die of some bizarre illness that only affects people who aren't famous. Or something.

    40. In lieu of climate change, people start riding horses and carriages again. Also because gunpowder is bad for the environment, we go back to swords and crossbows.

    41. Owning guns is now illegal in every country in the world, and everyone with guns has to turn them in. Try to be more original than any random political columnist on this one.

    42. God starts talking to everyone.

    43. A world where the only light source is from people's heads like those creepy-looking fish things. Also, there's a gigantic light source at the bottom of the deepest ocean for some reason, but you only see it if you go under.

    44. Imperfect pitch is not a thing. People are only capable of talking and singing in perfect pitch.

    45. Every person gets to add a word to the dictionary. I think this is potentially the most chaotic idea here.

    46. Develop a language for a fantasy race/culture/place where making farting noises with your tongue is a word.

    47. A fantasy or sci-fi society that has to use wooden weapons and an explanation as to why.

    48. A fantasy where people discover the secret to travel at the speed of light before they discover how to forge iron.

    49. A guy invents a religion, gets some followers, gets money, thinks he's all that, and then his religion turns out to be real.

    50. Cloaking technology is leaked to the general public and becomes affordable.

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