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Fine Print

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by 0xDEADCAFE, Oct 22, 2006.

  1. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Fine Print

    Not in love with this title, but there it is for now. This short story does not have chapters per se, but there are breaks so that's how I'll post it. Starts in the next post; more to follow.

    As always: Comments welcomed. :thumbsup:
     
  2. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Part I

    Outside the mouth of Maggot Cave it was hotter than the breeze of a balrog’s belch. And under the heavy layers of cloth and tempered steel of Gallen’s exquisite armor it felt even hotter. The sweaty adventurer yearned for the comfort of what he imagined it would be like inside the cave: cool, dark—a bit damp, perhaps—but well out of the burning sun and the blistering desert heat.

    Of course, there might also be giant maggots.

    Would be, more like, but as impatient as he was with having to stand in ever-deepening pools of sweat collecting inside his confoundedly seamless greaves, he knew it would be foolhardy to rush in without his companion’s full commitment. And he would wait for as long as it took to secure it, despite the increasingly slimy feeling between his toes. He could always dry his socks out later.

    “It’s all there in black and white.†Gallen said. “Or… yellow… or tan—whatever—but standard terms, you know.â€

    He stood with his back to the sun, silently cursing the lack of shade, watching as his fellow paladin squinted intently at the roll of thick and very yellowed paper that bound them together. It was in fact, as Gallen had said, a perfectly standard contract of hire widely used for obtaining a licensed mercenary—no doubt, he assumed, like thousands of others that had been taken out before: a nigh illegible, handwritten bill covered from top to bottom in the tiny and dense legal script that was all but unreadable to anyone outside the cabal of bespectacled scribblers that wrote them.

    “I said…†started Gallen, frowning at the unavoidable conclusion that his rented ally, Kidd, was paying him no attention whatsoever.

    He stopped and sighed, feeling certain that Kidd could not possibly understand a word of the contract. He himself could make little out of it, not that that shook his faith in its correctness and authenticity in any way, not at all. This was how it had been done for years, after all—centuries probably—certainly for longer than anyone could remember, and that was good enough for him. And it was irritatingly stubborn of Kidd not to feel the same way.

    “I said…it’s all standard terms, a completely normal and traditional contract—been done this way forever. Surely, you can under-“

    BLEEAT-UNGH!â€

    Gallen winced at Kidd’s deafening, seemingly inhuman bellow. Not for the first time (nor even the second) he regretted not paying more attention to the stories he had heard in town of Kidd’s having been raised by goat-men.

    “All right, all right…†Gallen whispered, gritting his teeth and trying—and failing—to slide the thick fingers of his silvery, polished gauntlets up under his helmet to soothe his aching ears.

    Kidd was nothing like any paladin Gallen had ever seen. At first, he tried to picture him as a kind of desert paladin, as a local version of the noble knights he had known in his youth. But the man seemed so native, so foreign to everything he expected in one of his venerable order.

    Kidd’s leathery face was overgrown with black, curly hair that grew in a way more befitting a demon than an angelic warrior. His armor seemed nothing more than a cloth wrap, though in truth it seemed to Gallen a minor miracle of knots and folds, serving somehow as cloak and vest and britches without so much as a stitch or seam to be seen. But truly, he felt, it was not a proper armor at all, and the man’s general manner—rude to the point of animal brutishness—was insufferable. Even his name was all wrong: Kidd. What kind of a name was that for a captain of heaven?

    And that damn bleat of his, that goatish obscenity of speech—that, above all—was unquestionably the one thing about him most unbefitting a proper paladin. How in the world he managed to make such a loud and bestial noise--maybe that was it, he thought, giving up on his futile ear-soothing efforts, maybe he was actually a demon of some sort, a minor one perhaps, or an imp of some type: an annoying, goat-breathed, mule-stubborn imp belched up by hell just to ruin-

    “Ba-a-a-ah!†said Kidd, suddenly thrusting the contract roughly toward Gallen, “I can’t make hide nor hair of this. Show me! Show me where it says I have to follow your orders like a dog.â€

    Gallen took the paper and quickly rolled it up. “I’ll do no such thing.†He used the circle of twine he had been fidgeting with to fasten the roll of paper and then he held it up.

    “It’s all… right… here.†He waved the roll of paper in time with the careful spacing of his words. “This is as much… your… contract as it is mine. I have no… obligation… to explain anything to you.â€

    “Where does it say that? Show me!â€

    “Look! The time for reading and debating its contents,†he now pointed the long cylinder at Kidd’s face, “is long gone. You had plenty of time to do that before you signed it. You can’t… expect… me to point out each article, codicil, and appendix to you. You can’t-“

    “Ha!†Kidd stomped. “You can’t read it either!â€

    “Well who can?†Gallen shouted, his face reddening. He turned and took a few quick paces away from Kidd and then stopped and turned back. “And what does it matter? “ He shook the roll of paper again. “It’s a standard contract—a standard one, I tell you. I must’ve taken out a dozen of them in my lifetime. Didn’t that merchant—what’s was his name, that desert rat fellow—explain it to you?â€

    “All he told me was that I would be paid some gold to do some easy fighting. Well I’ve been doing plenty of fighting—and none too easy--but so far I ain’t seen no gold.â€

    “Well… that’s entirely between you and he. He got his gold before we left town. How you get yours is none of my concern. Now let’s go.â€

    “I won’t!†Kidd folded his arms and set his jaw into a deep frown, his blood-red lower lip pushing forward and peeking through his long and tangled black moustache.

    “You will. You will! There’s magic in these contracts. Don’t think you can…“ Gallen paused. He thought he saw something in Kidd’s eyes when he said the word magic. “Ma…gic…†he said slowly, waving the contract--and there it was again. Kidd seemed to wilt at the very mention of the word.

    “That’s right, magic.†He repeated, and there was the look again.

    Well, Gallen thought, he should have guessed. The ignorant savage was easily cowed.

    “And it’s the magic that will make sure you don’t break it. You’re bound to me, Kidd, until this quest is over. So… enough nonsense.†He gave the roll a final, lordly wave. “Off we go!â€

    Kidd scowled. His face seemed to get even darker, and deep wrinkles formed, crawling out from the thickets of hair that framed his face. He fetched his gear in silence, though he took his time doing so. But when returned to Gallen, resigned to follow him obediently into the cave despite his growing dislike of him and his quest, it seemed that his master wasn’t quite ready.

    Instead, the shining warrior to whom he was bound was sitting in the sand tugging on his boots. One by one he removed them, pouring from each a stream of yellowy liquid onto the parched sand. Next came the socks, to be clenched between iron fists and then seemingly rung within an inch of their lives, and all this while keeping his feet above the hot and gritty sand, which required that he keep them dangling as he worked.

    Kidd found this both impressive and amusing (rather more the latter than the former.) As he watched the display of impeccable knightly hygiene the wrinkles on his face smoothed, and his jaw relaxed, and by the time Gallen’s feet were dried and primped and once more tucked safely back into the splendid boots without so much as a grain of sand upon them, Kidd’s mood was much improved.

    (to be continued...)
     
  3. The Last Melon

    The Last Melon IncGamers Member

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    Very good so far. I can see the humour potential for a Paladin raised by Goatmen, but you've kept it serious so far without leaving me feeling like it should have been a comedy. Well done!
     
  4. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Thank you, Mr. Melon. I appreciate the kinds words even if I had intended the opening to be somewhat less serious than you apparently took it. I wonder how the next bit will strike you, which starts in the next post.



     
  5. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Fine Print, part 2

    In the dim light of the broad antechamber just inside the cave mouth it was difficult for Gallen to read the expression on Kidd’s face, but the tone in his voice was evident.

    “So, let me get this straight,†Kidd said. “You want me to walk down to the end of this dark tunnel here and start making a lot of noise?â€

    “Yes, exactly,†replied Gallen. “In fact, one of those awful bleats of yours would be just about perfect.â€

    Kidd turned and looked down the tunnel, then turned and looked back at Gallen. Then he repeated the maneuver, spat, and said something under his breath that Gallen could not make out.

    “What?†Asked Gallen.

    “Are you out of your shiny metal skull?â€

    Gallen suppressed an urge to yell and instead expressed his contempt for Kidd’s remark by frowning deeply and raising one eyebrow while simultaneously lowering the other. It was a feat of facial acrobatics that he was especially proud of, having practiced it in the mirror for many hours. He had put it to good use intimidating many a parlor room rival, not to mention impressing a young lady or two. However, in the darkness of the cave, its visual impact was completely lost on his spitting companion.

    “Did you hear me?†Kidd repeated. “I asked if you were out-â€

    “I heard you!†Gallen yelled. “No! Do I have to say it? No, of course I am not out of my-“ He stopped mid-sentence and snorted. Then quietly, almost as if he were whispering to an invisible companion, but loud enough for Kidd to hear, he said, “More like you’ve run out of spine.â€

    Kidd stomped. “Well, you must think I am out of my skull if you think I’m going to go charging down there by myself, kicking up a ruckus, just to be eaten alive by a bunch of giant maggots. Why don’t you go? “

    Gallen sighed, crossed his arms, and shook his head slowly from side to side.

    “Kidd, Kidd, Kidd…â€

    Kidd glared back at Gallen. He made his most fearsome battle-scowl, the one he had learned in his youth from the eldest Goat-Man in his tribe, Ramm. It involved an impressive narrowing of the eyes, a fearsome flaring of the nostrils and an astonishing control of the muscles around the ears that only the most able and dedicated members of Kidd’s tribe could master. Alas, due to the insufficient illumination, it too had little of its intended effect.

    Meanwhile, Gallen’s head-shaking continued.

    “It’s a little thing I like to call strategy. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?†Gallen paused as if waiting for Kidd to respond, which he did not. “No? How about an example? Hmmm, let’s see, what would pass for strategy among the proud Caprinids? Ah, try this: put your head down and—I don’t know—maybe paw the ground a few times, then ram your head into the wall as hard as you can; do it a few times. Maybe that will chase the big scary bugs away?â€

    Kidd was outraged. He bleated, a good hearty battle bleat that he knew would have old Ramm pawing and snorting in delight.

    “BLEEAT-UNGH!â€

    Gallen winced and stepped back, squeezing his eyes shut. He could swear he saw sparkles, initially in an interesting, swirling primary color arrangement but soon fading to pale white. By the time he opened them again Kidd’s spear was pressing pointedly against his throat.

    Gallen coughed. “Oh, please. Can’t we just get on with—Ow!â€

    “Oh I’ll get on with it,†said Kidd, pressing his spear even harder between a seam in Gallen's armor, â€...you pompous, polished, pretty-boy. I think I just might make these big uglies a present of your head—maybe for a nice snack. Then I’ll beat it on back to town and get myself a cold mug of ale. How’s that for a strategy?â€

    “Pathetic.†Gallen stared at Kidd, apparently unconcerned with the point at this throat. “You really don’t know, do you?â€

    “Know what, shish-kebob?â€

    Gallen sighed. “I am so going to have a talk with that merchant of yours… Alright, go ahead: run me through or whatever it is you think you are going to do.â€

    Kidd just looked at him and blinked. They were close enough now so that Gallen could see the look of confusion on his face.

    “Do I have to do everything…â€

    Gallen reached out, grabbed the end of Kidd’s spear and pulled it roughly toward his throat. Reflexively, Kidd pulled back on the spear, but before he could wrest it from Gallen’s grip, the high-gloss paladin had thrown his weight forward and impaled his neck against the spear tip.

    Kidd was horrified. He hadn’t really meant Gallen any harm. He was just mad. But now, as Gallen plunged forward onto his spear, he imagined Gallen’s neck bursting open against the sharp point, almost heard the blood and slop gurgling from the widening seam like warm gruel, almost saw Gallen’s head teetering like a rag doll’s as the tip severed his spine—almost, that is, but not actually, because in fact none of that actually happened.

    What did happen was that the spear point never made more than a minor indentation in Gallen’s neck, although Gallen did end up clearing his throat in a very rough way that made it sound to Kidd—at very least –as if his throat were feeling a bit dry. Maybe even very dry, or maybe… maybe like he was choking on a chicken bone, perhaps. Yes, thought the bewildered Kidd, perhaps a very nasty chicken bone with nasty jagged edges—perhaps— but not a spear, no, certainly there was no spear sticking through his neck. And probably no chicken bone, either.

    “There,†said Gallen, still sounding a bit dry. “Satisfied?†When it looked to him as if Kidd was still not getting it he rolled his eyes and barked, “You can’t hurt me, dolt!†He pushed Kidd’s spear away and rubbed the spot where the spear had touched him. “Well, not seriously anyway…â€

    He then produced the rolled-up contract from beneath the secure plating of his metal combat vest, a maneuver, which, executed with gauntleted hands, required a chorus of clanks and grunts to complete during which time Kidd passed the time by inspecting the tip of his spear. By the time Gallen was once again shaking the roll of paper under Kidd’s nose he seemed a little out of breath.

    “Don’t you know anything? Listen, Kidd, you, the hireling that is, can’t…do…his master… any harm.†The contract bobbed along in time.

    Kidd tried swatting at the contract whenever it came close to his face but Gallen’s wrist was so quick that he never managed to actually touch it. For a while they seemed to be fencing, hand to contract as it were, until Kidd stepped away, once again furious.

    “Oh!†He snorted. And stomped. “Ugh!†And spat. Then, after giving his spear a disappointed look, and with a dignified, “I’ve had enough of this,†he turned away from Gallen and began stomping swiftly toward the cave exit.

    Gallen said nothing more and made no move to follow, but a sly grin began working it way into his pasty cheeks.

    “I’m done with this,†said Kidd as he neared the circle of light that lead back to the desert dunes. “Done! You can take that contract and—ungh!â€

    He stopped dead in his tracks—not that he meant to. He had suddenly found that he simply could not move his leg forward. He took a step back. Then he tested his leg and started forward again only to find himself locked in place again after just one step.

    Gallen, meanwhile, was having himself a good laugh, which is not to say that he was actually laughing at all, but rather that he was gloating over Kidd’s ignorance of the contractual details of their agreement, scoffing at the futility of Kidd’s efforts to quit the quest, and most importantly, savoring every second of it.

    “Are you having second thoughts?†Gallen called out in a lilting, mocking voice. “Perhaps you miss me already?â€

    Kidd’s face got extremely wrinkly again and he pressed forward with all his might. But it was no use.

    “I say, would you like to take another a step?†Gallen asked. “Okay, I think I could allow that.â€

    Gallen took a single step toward Kidd, who instantly found himself free to move again, but only as far as Gallen’s step, at which point the unthinkable dawned on him.

    Gallen! He thought. Gallen is stopping me!

    He turned around and looked for his contract-waving tormentor. Having adjusted to the brightness of the cave exit, Kidd’s eyes needed time to get used to the darkness of the cave again. At first Gallen was all but invisible to him, but in a few moments he saw him emerging from the gloom, sauntering casually toward him still waving the damnable roll of yellow paper and smirking.

    It was true! Kidd thought.

    Stymied but undaunted, he refused to look Gallen in the eye, and instead slumped down into the dignified sitting-on-one’s-haunches pose he had seen Ramm and the other tribal elders adopt on solemn occasions. He stared straight ahead, past Gallen and into the darkness.

    Gallen walked up right beside him and literally talked down to him, still smirking, in a low, carefully controlled voice that was not so much gentle as it was tyrannically smug.

    “You can’t leave me, Kidd. And you can’t hurt me. And while it’s true that nothing in here,†he tapped the contract, “can force you up off your cowardly rump and make you fight for me, I swear on my father’s shield that we’re not leaving here without that treasure. So we can do this now or we can do it whenever you stop pouting. But you’re not getting that cool mug of ale until we finish my quest? Is that clear?â€

    As much as Kidd hated to admit it, it was: crystal clear. As clear and hard as the block of ice that was forming around Kidd’s heart. For now, thought Kidd, for now. But when the quest was over and that damn contract had expired, then—then!—he’d see how well his spear worked on the gloating Gallen’s gullet.

    (to be continued...)
     
  6. The Last Melon

    The Last Melon IncGamers Member

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    Very good! However, I'm slightly confused as to who Kidd is, exactly. You mention that he's a hireling - would he be one of the Desert Wolves or something of the like hired in Lut Gholein or some other caste that you came up with yourself?
     
  7. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Basically, yes. I had in mind the Act 2 desert paladin mercenary, although I've taken some liberties with it. Glad you liked it. Next part should be up soon.



     
  8. Disco-neck Ted

    Disco-neck Ted The Dark Library

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    A merc whose knees bend the wrong way... Funny stuff, Mr. Dead. Really nice to see you are back in stride, writing.



    Cheers!

    -DnT
     
  9. RevenantsKnight

    RevenantsKnight IncGamers Member

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    Good to see more from you, 0xDEADCAFE.

    So far, these look like a pretty good first few bits, and I definitely like how you can manage to come up with decidedly oddball characters. After seeing what you've done before, I'd say it should be quite a ride to see how you throw Gallen and Kidd at each other.

    I'm inclined to agree with The Last Melon a little bit, in that this didn't come off as humorous as most of your previous stories. As to why that's the case, my best guess would be the tone; I thought it sometimes sounded rather neutral and fact-based. For example, "Kidd was horrified. He hadn’t really meant Gallen any harm. He was just mad" felt dry to me. Certainly, some other lines, such as "...almost, that is, but not actually, because in fact none of that actually happened," worked in terms of their presentation, but next to parts like the one above, they can sound a little odd. Since there's a noticeable difference in tone between various sentences, I think it was harder for me to read the piece in the same way as, say, Brain Salad Frequency, which was serious without generally losing that quirky feel. Just my two cents.

    That aside, I thought the general idea and such were solid, so it should be fun to see where this is headed. Thanks for posting!
     
  10. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    DnT: Funny? Funny, you say? (Don't you know that's only going to encourage me!) No, really, it's great to see someone getting use out of obsolete Romulan technology. Keep on cloakin', Mr. D.


    Rev: Your radar seems to be in fine tune, as ever. This is supposed to be funny, you see, which seems like a good recipe for killling any potential humorous content. Eh. Hopefully it's at least amusing in a funny-ish sort of way, but humor is so hit and miss, and I have to admit that while a lot of this had me smiling while I wrote it, it's not exactly comedy.

    As for the two specific reference you gave, mea culpa. The first one is most definitely a clear case of the evil telling, and the second is one where I deliberately went out on a limb, trying to capture a moment of disconnect between what Kidd expected and what actually happened and suggesting in a humorous way the resulting mental confusion. Definitely a stretch. I half-knew this about both those parts before posting; your feedback drives it home. Thanks, as ever.


    Part three follows in the next post.
     
  11. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Fine Print, part 3

    For what seemed to Kidd like hours of unending toil, danger and humiliation—but which was really only a single, rather long afternoon—the duo fought their way through the maze of twisty boreholes left by untold generations of the creatures for which Maggot Cave was named. He had never particularly liked the dark or having to follow orders, and in addition had discovered a new dislike, that of being in close proximity to ravenous, cow-sized insects, a revelation about himself he could just as well have lived without.

    Gallen, on the other hand, was jubilant. Before embarking upon his quest, he had taken pains to learn all he could about the cave. Legend held that it was home to a breed of fantastically large and vicious monsters that resembled of all things a common household pest. But no one Gallen had talked to had ever actually seen one, and he had come to doubt the description of their size as being little more than the type of exaggeration, if not outright fabrication, that rumor and mead-inspired banter often inspires. And the last thing he wanted was for his quest to be marred by the lack of an impressively large adversary.

    But the beasts did not disappoint. Right from the start, Gallen was delighted that their tunnels were high enough to stand up in, broad enough to swing a war scepter without constraint, and even rather roomy in places where one path intersected another. He was sure that only creatures of a very impressive size could have made such tunnels.

    Then when the maggots themselves turned out to be rather poor fighters he was ecstatic. Who needed to complicate the quest with real danger? The very fact that the things were so big would be enough to impress anyone who heard tell. If he failed to mention how easy they were to kill, well, who could blame him? They were giant insects, after all, and when it came to telling tales of adventuring it was, as with so many things in life, size that really mattered.

    The tunnels also turned out to be dotted at irregular intervals by large ovate burrows that appeared to have served from time to time as egg chambers. Some of these were as large as a tavern main room, and at the end of the day Gallen had decided that they would make camp in one: eat, mend their wounds, and rest before their next assault on the great mother burrow that legend told was secreted somewhere in the lightless depths of the underground hive.

    Upon entering the burrow, the two warriors found themselves in total darkness. Whistling merrily, Gallen quickly got to work making a torch out of the remnants of what seemed to be an old axe handle, dropped no doubt by some unfortunate predecessor. He propped it up against the side of the chamber, where it filled the room with a wavering, orange light as well as a host of equally wavering, inky black shadows.

    Lack of light had been a constant issue since they went underground. As Gallen settled himself down next to the torch to take stock of their provisions, he mulled over that fact that the tunnels had somehow seemed to provide a meager amount of illumination. It wasn’t much, but enough that when their eyes had adjusted they could make out the large shapes of the maggots moving in the darkness. There was no need to see them particularly well; as long as Gallen and Kidd stayed out of each other’s way they could pretty much depend on a strategy of striking at anything that moved, which is just what they did.

    Still, they both had sustained a number of combat injuries, especially Kidd, and it was only Gallen’s provision of healing potions that had gotten them through in one piece. It was this cache of bottled magic that he was counting when Kidd broke the silence that Gallen had been enjoying since announcing his intention to make camp.

    “I still say it’s unfair.â€

    Kidd squatted near the same wall as Gallen, but on the other side of the torch.

    â€After all, you’re the one with the armor. All I’ve got is this stiff cloak they gave me in town.â€

    Gallen stopped whistling. He did not wish to take the baited words that he knew were intended to draw him into yet another round of arguing about tactics, fairness, and who was more responsible for their success. He was in too good a mood. He set his jaw and continued rooting around in his potion bag, now in silence except for the tinkling that the bottles made as his counting jostled them around.

    “The only reason we’re doing this well is because I’m such a good fighter. “

    Gallen rolled his eyes, but held his tongue, though he felt himself suddenly eager to take up the argument again.

    “Our success so far is in spite of your stupid and unfair strategy, not because of it. If it weren’t for that fact that I am such a good-â€

    “Stupid!†Gallen sputtered. “Aren’t you forgetting something? How many times must I… You are the one using the defense aura, Defiance. I’m using Might, the offensive one. Therefore—and I really wish you would get this through your thick skull—it only makes sense that you bear the brunt of the attacks. I chose these auras specifically so you would be able to take the lead, and-â€

    “Lead! Some lead! You say where to go and when, and then you leave me to do all the fighting. Where do you go anyway? How come you’re not up in front fighting with me?â€

    “Well… I’m hanging back—naturally—probing for weaknesses, assessing the unfolding battle situation, planning contingencies-â€

    “Planning to save your own behind, more like. It’s a clever strategy, alright—fighting from the back row, where you don’t get hurt.â€

    “Well, I am! Planning, that is. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed me working my way around the edges, picking them off one at a time.â€

    “Uh-huh.†Gallen couldn’t see them very well, but from the sound of his voice, he knew that Kidd’s eyes were mostly likely rolling up to the ceiling about then.

    “What—you haven’t? Well, it doesn’t surprise me, the way you fight. Head down all the time—what do you do, head butt them or something? You don’t really think you’ve been killing all these bugs by yourself, do you?â€

    “It’s a miracle I can kill any! Why don’t you fight next to me where your Might aura would do me some good, too.â€

    “If I do that we’ll both be facing their mandibles. Think! When they’re all gathered around you I can come at their flanks. It’s much more-“

    “Safe for you!â€

    “-efficient! I can kill them faster, which means you don’t have to fend them off for so long, which means you don’t get hurt as much. You don’t have to kill them—leave that to me. You just have to keep them… occupied.â€

    “Yeah, yeah…â€

    “For the fiftieth time: you supply the defense, I supply the offense. Really…it’s such a basic strategy. Any school-age paladin trainee could tell you as much.â€

    “Yeah… well, I don’t know about that.â€

    Kidd sniffed and looked at the floor. Then he looked sideways at Gallen and nodded his head knowingly.

    “I still think you’re just staying out of the fight.’ Gallen began to protest again, but Kidd continued over him. “And I think we both know the real reason you chose Might for yourself.â€

    “Oh, really? What? What reason? What on earth could you be talking about?â€

    “You know...†Kidd nodded his head up and down more vigorously as if assuring them both of the rightness of his unspoken contention.

    “No, honestly,†Gallen said. “Do tell. What’s the real reason I chose Might?â€

    “Well, everyone knows what they think—the townspeople, that is.â€

    Gallen stared at him blankly.

    “Look, you and I both know there’s nothing to it, but people, women especially—and don’t pretend you don’t know all this perfectly well—they think it increases, you know, a man’s… er, power, so to speak.“

    Gallen unconsciously began biting his lower lip, which Kidd noticed.

    â€Uh-huh, you know what I’m talking about. You chose Might for yourself ‘cause you thought it would help you with the ladies.â€

    Gallen forced an unconvincing laugh.

    “That’s right. It’s always guys like you, with your fancy armor and your fancy talk. Deep down you feel a little… what’s that word they use…yeah, a little inadequate—know what I mean?â€

    Kidd winked wickedly at Gallen but in the flickering torchlight it looked more like he was just squinting.

    “What! Why… how dare you! †Gallen sputtered, “Why...why…why…â€

    “Sure, sure; tell it to your dainty metal britches.â€

    Gallen literally bit his tongue now—hard. The pain helped him regain a little self-composure. He took a deep breath. He had gone a bit red for a moment, but as he breathed he could feel himself getting back in control.

    “Well…†Gallen paused while he folded and refolded his arms, “that’s a very interesting theory, indeed yes, but let’s see, as I recall it wasn’t me who was eating without the benefit of feminine company every night, was it?â€

    “Well, I wasn’t dragging a Might aura around with me every where I went, was I? Anyway, the girls in that town were all so… so silly, so stupid—just the type to fall for-â€

    “Pshaw! That’s rich. The girls in that town were of a very discerning nature. Naturally they appreciated my erudition and refined manners.â€

    “And your Might aura.â€

    “Look, has it ever occurred to you that no matter what the townspeople might or might not believe about paladin auras, the one thing any woman most definitely does believes is her own nose? Let’s see, what would be an example… like when it tells her something stinks to high heaven—she believes it!â€

    “Huh?â€

    “Try taking a bath sometime! Then maybe your lady luck will improve.â€

    Kidd squirmed a little and looked away. “Hmph. Bath… In my tribe we… avoided water.â€

    “Oh, I should say. No doubt, your tribal elders considered good hygiene a sign of questionable masculinity, or would that be goat-ulinity.â€

    Kidd snorted at the mention of his tribal elders. Gallen’s grin returned.

    “Or, I know, maybe it’s your tribe’s idea of a goaty-good paladin aura. Let’s see, what would they call it—Stench?†Gallen chuckled. “Perhaps your enemies are supposed to faint dead away as soon as they catch a whiff of that beastly odor of yours.†Gallen paused to indulge in a few forced chuckles then he slapped himself lightly on the forehead. “Or is it only intended to keep away females? Maybe your tribe avoids them, too?â€

    Gallen snickered, drawing his laughter out like sword, waiting for some outburst from Kidd. But he found that Kidd was suddenly very quiet—too quiet. Gallen’s smile vanished. In a flash he reached out and grabbed Kidd’s arm—hard.

    “Oh, no you don’t! Don’t you start with that damn bleating again. It’ll bring the whole burrow down on us.â€

    Kidd tore his arm free of Gallen’s grasp, but remained quiet. Then he turned his back to him.

    After that it was silent in the ancient egg chamber, the only sound being of bottles tinkling gently and Gallen mumbling to himself as he counted. He counted them over and over as if trying to make absolutely sure of their number.

    Kidd coughed. In a bit he coughed again, and in a bit more he began whispering numbers under his breath too, just like Gallen, and coincidentally close to the same numbers Gallen was counting.

    “Do you mind?†Gallen said. “Now I have to start over. Let’s see, five… ten…â€

    “Fifty…†Kidd whispered.

    “fifty-five…sixty…sixty-fi-,†Gallen continued, “wait… Do you have to do that!â€

    Kidd chuckled.

    “Look, if anyone should be worried about these things it’s you. You’re drinking most of them.â€

    “Taking most of the damage, too.â€

    “Well, yes, according my strat- oh, never mind. Just be quiet, will you?†Gallen gave his bag an angry jerk and the chamber rang sharply with the sound of many glass bottles banging together.

    “Careful there, sahib. Maybe you’d like your humble servant to do the counting?â€

    “No, I would NOT!â€

    “Easy, sahib—there’s no reason to shout. We don’t want to bring the whole burrow down on us, do we?â€

    Gallen sighed roughly, then set his jaw and began again.

    “Five… ten… fifteen…“

    “Twenty.â€

    “Twenty-five…â€

    “Thirty.â€

    “Forty…Forty-fi-… wait… “

    Kidd laughed out loud.

    “K-I-I-I-D! â€

    While the chamber echoed, Gallen swore like a schoolboy, Kidd laughed like a hyena, and unheard by either, a small, many-legged thing deep in the lightless, echoing tunnels probed the darkness with its antennae, chattered briefly, and began to scurry.
     
  12. The Last Melon

    The Last Melon IncGamers Member

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    This was supposed to be funny? That changes my entire method of reviewing entirely.

    As a funny story, this is well-written, but not that funny. As a serious story, it's very good, so...

    Aw, whatever. Nice chapter.
     
  13. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Hear! Hear! Enough about what's funny and what's not. Not important. Thanks again for your encouragment, Last.

    Next (completely not-funny) part in next post.



     
  14. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Fine Print, part 4

    Later that night the two warriors lay asleep at opposite ends of their temporary subterranean barrack. Gallen had offered to sleep nearest the tunnel entrance, sleeping on guard, so to speak. Kidd had been happy to let him, remarking on the utility of his steel armor, most of which Gallen had elected to leave on while he slept. He had removed only his helm and boots, and lay clutching his war scepter in one hand.

    The chamber had been pitch black when Gallen closed his eyes, and still was, but in a dream Gallen was standing in a brightly lit hall, being toasted by a host of lords and their ladies, all sitting in a wide circle around him. There was a muddy din of laughter, an unpleasant sound, and he felt as if something was wrong. He felt as if they were laughing at him.

    In a flash he realized he had forgotten to pull his boots back on and that he was actually standing atop a huge, round, polished marble table on which the image of his stocking seemed to be magnified and reflected in a honeycomb of distorted, muddy images.

    The laughter got louder and muddier, and then, looking up, he saw that everyone around him, no longer distinguishable as men or women, were naked and sprawling, and their skin shone like glass, and then it wasn’t a dining hall at all but an earthen bathhouse, and it wasn’t a table he was standing on, but the mirror-like surface of a shimmering pool of water.

    And then he was submerged.

    He felt the pressure of water on his face, the fullness of his lungs bursting with air. Looking up through the surface of the pool he could see the laughing faces, dark now and ugly and threatening. None made a move to save him, poor Gallen, being dragged down by the weight of his armor. Though somehow, he was treading water. He could feel himself bobbing just beneath the surface and he could hear the laughing still, though the sound was sharper and cruel now, an almost devilish chattering like bony fingers drumming on a hard tabletop.

    He felt something grab him by one foot, something hard and claw-like. It pulled him down. He felt the air erupt from his lungs and looking up through the bubbling surface of the pool he saw faces that had completely transformed: black as ebon and chattering through shiny, hard lips and sprouting from their cheeks, long cruel tentacles like curved knives and from their foreheads, long spiny black antenna dancing about their faces. And down he went gasping for air, down watching the light fade and the faces fade, and down watching the room above disappear into complete and total blackness.

    He woke up in a sweat to the feeling of a pinched foot; there was indeed something bony and sharp accosting him. He kicked it away and jumped to his feet and stood in the near-complete darkness, holding his breath and listening. Against the wall, from the direction in which he had aimed his kick, he heard a sharp scraping, a chattering, and to his surprise, as the baby giant maggot crawled toward him, he could see it.

    Where was that light coming from? Of course! His nightmare had evoked a reflexive response from his slumbering mind, causing him to concentrate upon his paladin aura, which did, in fact, give off a very faint light.

    Normally, that light was so faint that it was invisible, even in a darkened tavern, or in front of a fading campfire, but here, below ground, in an utter void of light, it shown just enough to make the invisible visible. The foot-long critter was only an ashen shadow against the black curtain of the chamber, but it was enough.

    “Chut!â€

    Gallen’s scepter passed through the thin shell easily. A trail of slime that Gallen knew was green hung from it when he raised it back up. As he bent down to wipe it on the floor he wondered where the little maggot had come from. Were their eggs in the chamber, he wondered? No, they would surely have seen them in the torchlight. He turned his head and stared in the direction of the tunnel entrance but the darkness was impenetrable, as if he were staring into a depthless block of pure ebon granite.

    “How many more of those things are out there?†he wondered aloud and then in silence peered emptily while a chorus of muddy echoes mocked him from the seemingly endless, lightless tunnel.

    He finished wiping his scepter and stood up. For a moment he considered scouting out the tunnel; his aura would provide him a little light, at least, but then he realized he didn’t need to go anywhere. He could listen. The underground was as empty of sound as it was of light, and in the abject silence he felt his ears could see what his eyes could not. There was nothing. Not a cricket, not a bird, no sound of the wind, no hint of any of the sounds of the living world above ground that he was accustomed to, not even a scurrying maggot, only the sound of Kidd’s soft and even breathing from across the chamber.

    Funny, he thought. He’d have sworn that Kidd would snore like an old goat, but he seemed to sleep as peacefully as a baby. Gallen smiled to himself and turned to lower himself back down to his make-shift bed. Suddenly he found himself slipping, and down he fell, right where he would have sat anyway, but a bit quicker than he had planned and with more of a bump to his rump.

    A half-hearted oath slipped almost carelessly across Gallen’s lips. He was very tired and wanted to sleep, but now would have to clean the slime from the bottom of his foot—in the dark--before getting to do that. “Damn,†he mumbled to himself, “damn the bugs, damn these socks, damn everything, especially that insufferable goat-man.â€

    * * * * * *​

    In his dream Gallen was alone in the dark, bootless and weaponless, huddled in a corner with the sound of chattering all around him.

    Why don’t they attack, he wondered. He felt helpless, paralyzed.

    What were they waiting for?

    After a while one seemed to move toward him, a little one by the sound of it, but he couldn’t see it.

    Where is the light of my aura? Are my eyes even open?

    He listened: closer and closer it came—he could almost feel it pinching him, its needle-like legs biting into his feet through the soft cloth of his stockings.

    Closer.

    Where is it?

    In his dream his mind raced. In the cave his body squirmed, his feet twitched, his brow squeezed drops of panic through deeply knit brows.

    It’s been coming at me for so long. It should have been on my already.

    In the grip of his fitful slumber, the waiting was unbearable, worse than the coming of the figment itself.

    Why isn’t it here? Why can’t I move? Where is the light of my aura?

    Gallen awoke in a cold sweat so groggy with sleep and nightmares that he could barely open his eyes. The sound of that he now heard was same as it had been in his dream. It came from the tunnel and it was far away, but coming nearer. Without lifting his head, he squinted into the blackness, feeling his pupils opening like black daisies under a black sun, sucking at the darkness, but drinking nothing. He lay awaiting the invader, not moving. Closer and closer it came, and finally when it was in the chamber, a dim shadow in the dim glimmer of his aura, still he waited.

    And when it approached him he lifted his scepter.

    And when it was next to him he brought it down.

    Chut!

    And then he left it there, closed his weary eyes, and before the dying throes of the crushed fiend had subsided, the torpid paladin was submerged beneath crushing dreams once again.

    * * * * * *​

    Through the night Gallen dreamed the same dream and was awakened again and again by the same sound of what, were it not for the evidence of the growing pile of insect detritus next to him, could almost have been the same baby maggot, and each met with the same fate.

    Chut!

    After dispatching a half-dozen or so of the persistent but ineffectual invaders, Gallen was almost able to do it in his sleep, waking up only long enough to take aim by ear, deliver the killing blow, and repeat these immortal words:

    “I should have made Kidd sleep on this side.â€
     
  15. RevenantsKnight

    RevenantsKnight IncGamers Member

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    Here're my thoughts on Chapter 3, and sorry for the delay on these comments.

    Overall, I thought this chapter was solid, and I think you did a good job of building on the interplay between Gallen and Kidd. The counting bit at the end was particularly amusing, I thought. The exchange between them felt a little repetitive in the middle, though; while you do establish the grounds of the interaction and present it well, some time shortly after the Might aura bit started up, I found myself wanting to skim a little. In retrospect, that part is nice in that it moves away from battlefield matters, though, so I'm not sure whether that's just something to accept or if it could use some trimming.

    Also, (and I can't believe that I'm the one saying this,) the sentences in the opening narration felt a bit cumbersome to me. I might try to pare them down a touch, especially since you open with them, because they do slow down the beginning somewhat.

    Some minor bits aside, though, I thought this was a fun read, and I'll see if I can get to the rest soon. Thanks for posting!
     
  16. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Rev, thanks for the feedback. As in the preceding chapters there was a deliberate attempt to be amusing here. Glad it worked towards the end, at least. The long Might aura gag was trimmed a little before I posted this, but I'm less and less convinced that it works at all. It's really quite a hackneyed jab at false machismo, even if it is the first time that anyone ever thought to apply it to a Diablo 2 paladin aura in this way.

    As for the clumsy opening paragraphs. It is. I think I felt that the first two chapters were a bit short on backstory and that it needed some direct story-telling at that point, but it could be smoother.

    I'm glad you liked it overall. Starting in the fourth section (already posted) it takes a sharp turn away from any attempt at amusing banter, and in the next veers toward more of a straight-forward adventure tale. Part five continues in the next post.
     
  17. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Fine Print, part 5

    The next day’s fighting went even better than the day before. Kidd, mindful of Gallen’s warning about the dwindling supply of potions, fought in a more deliberately defensive way, leaving the killing mostly to Gallen. It still galled him to admit that Gallen’s strategy was working, and so, just to make sure his cooperation wasn’t misunderstood, he made a point of complaining more loudly, more often, and generally more annoyingly than the day before.

    “Gaa-aagh! A potion, Gallen! A potion!â€

    “Right,†said Gallen, swinging his war scepter frantically at a particularly large specimen that was at that moment attempting to separate him from his shield.

    “Hurry!†Kid yelled. “That last one almost had my leg for a sausage!

    Swearing, Gallen gave the maggot a shove and then reluctantly released his shield into its clutches. He then used his shield arm to quickly pluck a bottle from the bag slung over his shoulder.

    “Here—“ he yelled, “catch!“

    He tossed the potion as soon as Kidd looked over and then immediately turned and charged the creature that now held his precious heater. He found it standing just where he left it, spitting and clicking, seemingly at a loss as to what to do with the kite-shaped curve of metal firmly stuck in its distended mandibles. Gallen wasted no time, planting a boot between its many eyes and ending its confusion with an overhead, two-handed blow to its tiny cranium.

    After that there were only a few more left in this particular group, so the battle was shortly over. As always, as soon as he was out of danger Gallen let his aura subside to conserve his energy. He then lit a torch and came to Kidd’s side to see about his injuries, which, as he brought the light nearer, appeared to him to be quite minor.

    “Don’t tell me you need a potion for that scratch!â€

    “Scratch! Did you see the jaws on that thing? As long as my spear if they were an inch. I swear it nearly had my leg!â€

    “Yes, yes, but it apparently it didn’t, despite its impressive jaws.†Gallen reached for the potion, which Kidd had not yet drunk. “I told you we’re low on potions so…“

    Kid pulled the bottle away. “I need it, I tell you. Look at this.†He hiked his cloak up like a woman lifting her dress to reveal a long gash running across the thick part of his left thigh. “See that? That’s deep, I tell you—all the way to the bone. I’m lucky to still have-“

    “Your leg? I don’t think so. A bit of a nasty scratch, certainly, but a scratch nonetheless. Come on—†He extend his hand, palm up, as if expecting something.

    “I need it! I tell you it hurts like a bugger!â€

    Gallen folded his arms and put one finger against his lips. “I knew I had forgotten something,†he said as if suddenly distracted by something important. Then he leaned forward and mewled through puckered lips, “I should have brought your Mommy along to kiss your boo-boos.â€

    Kidd went red, but made no reply. Instead he dropped the hem of his cloak and reached for the cork.

    “Oh no, you don’t,†snapped Gallen, stepping closer and making a grab for the bottle. Kidd saw it coming, though, and drew it quickly out of Gallen’s reach.

    “I need it, I tell you!â€

    “No you don’t! And I told you we’re already low-â€

    Kidd popped the cork and brought the bottle up to his lips.

    “Wait! Alright, alright—you can drink one, but not that one. I was a little busy before so I just grabbed the first one I touched. Here, let me give you one of the littler ones, at least. Save that one for when you really need it.â€

    Kidd paused, but kept the bottle near his mouth.

    “Come on, Kidd, don’t be a stubborn old--I mean—be a reasonable chap, won’t you?â€

    Kidd just squinted at him for a bit, but then he lowered the bottle. “Show me the small one.â€

    Gallen opened the sack, clinked around a bit and then produced a finger-sized vial about half-filled with the dark red liquid.

    “Here.â€

    “That’s hardly anything!â€

    Gallen sighed. “It’ll be more than enough for your little scra-a—uh—your wound, that is. “

    Kidd squinted again, frowned some, but finally relented. When they had exchanged bottles Kidd drank his down in one draught, but not before sniffing it and—as always—making a face.

    “You never told me why they had to make these things so foul-tasting!â€

    “That’s because I don’t know.†Gallen spoke calmly without looking up from his sack, which he seemed to be organizing yet again. “Maybe you should have asked Mommy for a spoonful of sugar before you left.â€

    Kidd ignored Gallen’s barb—barely heard it in fact—as he distracted by the gripping sensation that followed the murky, crimson liquid down his throat. As it reached his stomach it was an almost a sickening feeling, but it soon spread through his pelvis and into his wounded leg where it seemed to pause and gather itself like a cat preparing to pounce. His leg felt large and swollen and then for several moments after it throbbed in time to his heartbeat in great swells that ran from intense heat to numbing cold. And when it had passed the wound was gone and the pain and discomfort were barely a memory.

    “Hmph,†said Kidd, rubbing his thigh and staring at the empty vial thoughtfully. “No matter how many I drink, it still amazes me… How do these things work?â€

    “For the fiftieth time,†Gallen said, “I have no idea whatsoever.’

    “You must have some idea. Where do they come from?â€

    “The magical potion store, of course—every town’s got one.â€

    “But, how—why? Didn’t you ever-“

    “No.â€

    “No? Never? Weren’t you ever curious about it at all?â€

    “Look…if you must know, I actually did get to see a batch being made once—a horrible bore, I assure you.â€

    “But then…you must know the secret.â€

    “No, I don’t. I told you—no one does. Not even the owner of that shop knew—not really. He just followed a recipe on a piece of paper that was nearly brown with age; recited some unintelligible words from memory that I’m sure even he didn’t understand. It’s the old magic, same as most everything else we use: the weapons, the armor, even this contract of ours—it’s the old stuff. A few mages have still got the technique of it, but no one understands it anymore—if they ever did.â€

    Kidd stood frowning for a while as Gallen finished whatever he was doing with the sack of potions.

    “But... doesn’t that bother you at all? I mean, not knowing. In my tribe, we… avoided magic. Old Ramm, he said he’d never trust no horns that didn’t grow out of his own head.â€

    Gallen snickered. “I’ll bet he did.â€

    “No… what he meant, what I think he meant, was make sure you know where things come from—especially when you don’t understand it. Like magic.†He squeezed his thigh thoughtfully. “Who knows what this stuff is really doing to us?â€

    “Well, I’m sure that your Elder Ramm was quite the wise old goat, but me, I say what does it matter? Take this scepter here.†Gallen pulled his scepter from his belt and held it up. “This scepter does ten times the damage that you would expect it to. Don’t ask me how. I suppose it has something to do with this odd engraving along the sides, something about a spirit of battle and divine inspiration, I think. I had someone read it to me once—damned if I remember exactly what he said. What difference does it make what the words say when I know what it can do in battle?

    “It’s the same with our auras, isn’t it? I know a dozen of them, taught to me in school. You know how it is. They give you a phrase to memorize—a bunch of unintelligible words in some language that no one understands anymore—they show you how to meditate on it—and that’s it. Takes you some time to learn how to do it, get the knack so to speak, but then that’s it. I don’t know about you but I haven’t the foggiest idea of what the words mean. How do they work? Who knows? Who cares! That aura of yours, it keeps you alive, doesn’t it? Is there really anything else you need to know?â€

    Kidd did not answer. His upbringing among the goat-people of old Ramm’s tribe had given him a deep distrust of magic that the brief training he had received from the paladin mercenaries in town could not completely dispel. But he was slowly starting to become convinced of its value, even if its unknown origins and utter incomprehensibility left him more than a little uncomfortable.

    “Come on, “said Gallen. “That treasure chamber has got to be around here somewhere. And it’s not going to find us.â€

    Kidd grunted and climbed to his feet. His leg felt better than ever but he felt the need to test it. He made a few slow lunges and then tried a few defensive moves. During a quick parre-four, step-to-the-right, his foot rubbed against something hard that made a metallic scraping noise against the floor.

    “Hunh? Gallen, bring that torch over here. I think I found something.â€

    Gallen did so, and as the light came over the floor, Kidd saw the gleaming edge of a small weapon pressed up against the side of the tunnel. He picked it up. It seemed to be either a long dagger or a short sword and it reflected the torchlight with an unusual glow.

    “Hmmm,†Gallen hummed. He brought the torch closer and it became apparent to both of them that the metal had a shine to it that was altogether different from that of ordinary steel. The air around it seemed to shimmer with pale, golden sparkles, though the metal itself was silvery. Along the blade there was writing.

    “What’s that say?" Kidd mumbled, more to himself than to Gallen.

    The small script was engraved in a very fine lettering that ran from just above the hilt all the way to the tip. Kidd saw that Gallen was quite excited and realized that he had found something special.

    “Let me see,†said Gallen, but Kidd immediately pulled it away.

    “It’s mine,†he said. “I found it!â€

    Gallen frowned and stared at Kidd for a moment. “Well, at least turn it over,†he said.

    Kidd did so and Gallen gasped to see that the writing continued on the other side, seeming to run from the tip back down to the hilt.

    “I’ve never seen that before,†Gallen said.

    “What—seen what before?â€

    “Such extensive writing—look.†Gallen pulled his scepter from his belt and held it next to the small sword, “See the lettering on my scepter? It’s much larger than on the sword, but there seems to be only a few words. But this sword… The script seems very similar, but it’s much smaller, and there is so much of it-“

    “What’s it say?†Kidd asked.

    “I don’t know. I told you, I can’t read it. It’s very like what’s on my scepter though, so it must be-“

    “The old magic,†said Kidd, smiling. “It’s the old magic!†Kidd pulled the sword away from Gallen and held it up by his face. He beamed at it. “And it’s mine,†he said.

    Gallen frowned again and waited a little more, hoping Kidd’s excitement would pass. He could see how pleased Kidd was with his find and he knew that what had to happen next would not be pleasant.

    “Look, Kidd… “

    “Forget it! I know what you’re thinking, but just forget about it. I found it and I’m keeping it.â€

    “See… by the terms of the contract, anything that’s found—by either of us—belongs to-“

    “No! NO! Don’t even say it. It’s mine—I found it. That’s it.â€

    “But, Kidd, the contract… Look, there’s really nothing to talk about. This is the way it is, and that’s that.â€

    “But it’s the old magic! That means it is as strong as your contract—maybe stronger!â€

    “Kidd, don’t be foolish, I-“

    Without warning, Kidd turned and swung the sword at Gallen. Gallen was startled, but made no move to block the blade, which predictably came to a slightly uncomfortable halt against his neck. The razor sharp edge made a slight indentation against his skin but did not cut it. Gallen sighed and slapped his hand over the one that held the blade.

    “It’s no use, Kidd.â€

    Kidd dropped the blade and turned his back to Gallen. He raised his head and then…

    “BLEAAT-UNGH†he roared.

    Gallen swore beneath the din and futilely tried to cover his ears. It was Kidd’s loudest bellow yet. It was literally earth-shaking—he felt a little dirt fall on his helmet—and when it was over Gallen meant to swear again, an earnest and redoubled sequel to the oath that had been obliterated by Kidd’s sonic blast, but as the roar of echoes faded something other than silence took their place.

    From one of the knot of tunnels that intersected in the broad area in which they stood came a chillingly familiar sound: a chattering, as of bony fingers drumming on a table. But not just the fingers of one hand, nor would it be fair to say it sounded like the fingers of just many hands, for the noise of chattering that seemed to pour from that tunnel like the spray of a waterfall could only have been made by a multitude of chatterers. Hundreds, Gallen thought, maybe even thousands.

    And the sound of that multitude made his feet grow cold.

    “The treasure chamber!†Kidd said.

    “Yes,†replied Gallen. “It must be.â€

    “This is it, then. Good! I’m sick of this quest. I’m sick of it and you and that damn contract. Let it be over—one way or another.†And with that Kidd launched himself at a run toward the tunnel opening.

    “Wait!†Gallen cried, but Kidd was already charging down the tunnel. “Fool!†Gallen saw a faint light emanate from the tunnel opening, which he knew was Kidd’s aura flaring up around him.

    “Damn you, Kidd! Damn you for a fool!†Gallen looked around him in desperation. “And damn me, too—damn all such fools as we! Damn it, damn it, damn it…†He continued to swear, damning everyone and everything he could think of, but he gathered his things as he did so, hurriedly slinging the sack of potions over his shoulder, and picking up the arcane sword and jabbing it into his belt.

    “Damn you, Kidd—for the last time!â€

    He took a deep breath and then he too charged into and down the tunnel with no strategy in mind other than reaching Kidd before he was torn limb from limb.

    He needed the goatish fool now more than ever.
     
  18. RevenantsKnight

    RevenantsKnight IncGamers Member

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    Sorry that these are so late; I hope they’ll still be of some use.

    On Chapter 4: completely not-funny, you say? Well, I suppose you’d know, though there were one or two places here that were worth some grins. Other than that, this seemed like a pretty decent setup chapter, even if I’m not entirely sure what it’s setting up. I guess you could try to give this a little more immediate interest if you think that might be a problem, but I thought it worked all right as is. Anyway, here’re some specific comments:

    Minor nitpick: I think there should be a comma after “night.â€

    The wording here was just a touch confusing on a first read, though I caught the meaning after a little bit; I might trim off the “and still was†part and rearrange the wording of the first part so it describes the chamber in the moment, not in the past.

    “Muddy images†seemed odd to me here, since “reflected†suggests more clarity than you appear to mean and you’re also using “muddy†for the laughter. That aside, I like Gallen’s fixation with his boots and other footwear, by the way...it’s a nice quirk. :smiley:

    This felt like it should be one sentence to me; as it is, it seems more contradictory than it needs to be. If that was your goal, well, then it works, though it is a little jarring at first.

    The part after “sprouting†made sense to me, though it did seem a bit odd grammatically; it feels like there was a shift after that point, because it’s no longer the faces that are the subject of the verbs (as is the case for “chatteringâ€) but the tentacles and such. I could definitely be wrong in this case, but something about the grammar seems off. Also, I think “antenna†should be “antennae,†since you’re referring to multiple objects.

    The break between these sentences felt awkward to me, since you don’t really change the subject that much. Also, “shown†in the second sentence should be “showed.â€

    Minor nitpick: the first “it†here is a little unclear (I thought it meant the shell at first.) It’s not a big deal, but it may be worth clarifying.

    This works, for sure, though I might make the simile a little less...enthusiastic. “...staring into ebon granite†would be all you really need, I’d think, and the rest seems a touch wordy.

    “Peered emptily†sounded awkward to me, since “peered†usually takes an object and an empty gaze usually means a lack of comprehension or effort (at least, that’s how I’ve heard it used) and both seem inaccurate in this case. I’m not sure what to suggest for a replacement, though...maybe you could just reword this to “peered around†or something.

    I might make this two sentences, or otherwise detach the last part from the rest, since the shift in ideas in mid-sentence is a little sudden.

    I might move this sentence to the end of this paragraph, since this feels like a summary of the next two sentences, though that might mess up the transition to the next part. Also, “empty†seemed odd to me; I might use “devoid†or something like that instead, though I could just be going insane.

    Minor nitpick: I think the comma after “attack†should be a question mark. Out of curiosity, is there a reason why these bits got italicized when some other parts that were clearly Gallen’s thoughts didn’t? It’s not a big deal, though it did make me stop and wonder for a moment.

    Nice description. :thumbsup:

    I think that should be “on me already.â€

    I think there should be a comma after “sweat.â€

    Huh...I could just be losing it, but it seems like you’re missing a word after “of.â€

    Vivid...and kind of weird. I didn’t quite see how the simile worked here, personally, and the sucking and drinking was mostly distracting, since neither flowers nor eyes really do either. I may have just missed something here (and if so, let me know,) but if not, I might suggest a rewrite on this part.

    Heh...amusing way to end the chapter, I’d say.

    Overall, I thought this was all right, if a little quiet (I know, it’s like the pot calling the kettle black.) It’s still written nicely, though, and I’m curious to see where you’re going to take the story next. I’ll try to get to the rest soon, and thanks for posting!
     
  19. 0xDEADCAFE

    0xDEADCAFE IncGamers Member

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    Hey, Rev. Good to hear from you, as always. Your comments: useful they are and, as there is no due-date but infinity on this forum, as relatively early as the dew on a Spring buttercup.

    Into the weeds...


    Glad to hear it, though I'm sorry I ever made an issue of it. (Blarg! Thou shalt laugh... NOW!)


    I think the point is to emphasize the fact of Gallen being in the cave, dreaming, before going into the dream itself. Think of it as trying to anchor the chapter in the reality of the cave even while spending most of it describing his dreams. I guess I would say that between the two of them, the cave and the dream-world, the cave was the more important of the two, and I was undrescoring the idea that the dreams were a reflection of Gallen's circumstances rather than a thing unto themselves. (Not that it was done skillfully, but in regard to intentions: thar she blows!)


    Consider this: perhaps I used the word muddy specifically to offset any impression that the reflections were clear. Further, consider the multiple uses of muddy as a way of underscoring the dreamlike state, where different types of perception, say, visual and aural, could both seem distorted in a similar way because they are, in fact, only ideas and not actual physical perceptions.

    Also, what do you mean "quirk?" (Kidding!)


    It could have been. Again, consider the dreamlike quality of this. It does not make sense that he could be laden by his armor and still be treading water. But it's a dream. It's a non-sequiter, perhaps even jarring as you say. I think that may be why I gave the second half its own sentence.


    No, you're smack-on. The faces chattered but they didn't sprout, the mandibles and antennae did--at least the way I wrote it. I suppose it would be valid to say that the faces sprouted antennae and mandibles. Perhaps I will rewrite it that way. Good call.


    Yeah, and the break also required me to restate the subject, which makes it a little redundant. As for shown and showed, what I was going for was more like shined, I think.


    You're referring to "...but the darkness was impenetrable, as if he were staring into a depthless block of pure ebon granite." I'll accept that it might be wordy; fact is, I just like the way it sounds.


    Awkward maybe, but he's sleepy at this point so I think "peer emptily" is accurate. Ever wake up in the middle of the night and gaze into the darkness without really making an effort to look?


    Finally, amid all the cogent and compelling criticism, something for me to take exception with. (En garde!) I just don't see how that would work. Lead with the elucidation and then state the main idea? Ugh! Plus I need to end on the sound of breathing to segue into the next paragraph. (Keyboards at 40 pages! Ready?)


    I'm still unclear on just how punctutation works in dialogue, or thought-a-logue as here. Question mark sounds right. As for why the italics: these are supposed to be those special kinds of thoughts that are like unspoken statements in one's head. That's a little different than mere thoughts or impression that one might attribute to a character. This section (notice the break between it and the previous section) is intended to be more inside Gallen's head. I'm trying to communicate his mental state through explicit, statement-like thoughts, rather than mere description. It's almost like he's saying these things, but he's only thinking them, and in a dream no less.


    Thank you. It is kind of weird and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I think this is one of those accidents of revision that sometimes happen when you try to change from one metaphorical image to another but don't quite make it all the way, ending up with an unintended melange. Again, my only justification is that I like it. (Sue me. :tongue: )


    Thanks, and yes it is a setup chapter, and yes it is a bit on the quiet side, Mr. Pot.

    Part 5 (already up) picks up the pace and after that it is an exciting, funny, profound, delightful, action-packed romp for the whole family. (Blarg!) You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll reach for your red pen! (Double-blarg!)

    Non-blarg: I think I'll get several good rewrites out of your feedback. Thanks a bunch and a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or Wonderful Whatever-You're-Celebrating to you and yours.



     
  20. RevenantsKnight

    RevenantsKnight IncGamers Member

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    Well, I thought Chapter 5 was, overall, a pretty good read, and it does pick up the pace nicely. Gallen and Kidd’s changes in perspective after finding the sword are nice, and their dialogue works well, I’d say. The only general issue that came to mind as I read was that even though you use it pretty well to build on some game mechanics, the Kidd-Gallen keep-away game with various items seems a little overused. Given the circumstances, though, that might just be something to live with here. Some specific comments:

    “Fought in a more deliberately defensive way†felt a bit wordy to me. I might try to condense that a little.

    There’s a lot of gall-sounding words around here, between three uses of “Gallen†and “galled†over two sentences. I’d see if you can’t cut or replace one of them.

    “Kid†seems like a typo to me. Also, you’re missing a set of quotation marks at the end here.

    I don’t know if you want a break right after Gallen lets go of his shield, since I’d imagine that he’s acting pretty quickly when he doesn’t have his defense up and it’s odd to imagine a pause there. It might be better if you end the first sentence after “shove,†perhaps, since then there’s a sense of him doing something and then switching tactics.

    I didn’t really get the impression that Gallen moved at all since he dropped his shield, so it only makes sense that the maggot was more or less next to him still. Given that, it was sort of odd to see things like “charged†and “just where he left it,†since

    This feels a bit forced to me, as if you were rushing to finish up the fight. Something like “After that, Kidd dispatched the last one with a hard blow, and the room was quiet again†might read more smoothly, in that you’re not summarizing away anything and the action ends with a more natural feel.

    Er...I think I know what Kidd’s trying to say, but this is still pretty unclear to me. Is this some sort of colloquialism or something?

    Minor nitpick: there should be a comma after “potions.â€

    That should be “He extended†(or perhaps “Gallen extended,†if you want to be extra clear.)

    This seems a little anachronistic to me. It’s not that bad, I suppose, but the image I got at first was out of place for the setting, which was a little distracting.

    I think there should be a comma after “before.â€

    Heh. :grin:

    There’s an extra space at the end between the period and the quotation marks.

    “Frowned some†sounds a bit informal for the narration. I might reword that a little.

    This reference felt rather out of place to me, since refined sugar doesn’t seem like a commonplace product in a medieval world. I’d change this, personally.

    Typo: that should be “as he was distracted.â€

    Interesting description of healing potions, though it seemed to drag a little. I might see if you can make this sound a little less clinical.

    I think there should be a comma after “passed.â€

    Very minor nitpick: the closing quotation mark at the end should be doubled.


    I’d move “from memory†to right after “recited†for clarity, and I think the semicolon here should be a comma, since I don’t see a subject in the second part.

    I think the “it†at the end there should technically be “them,†though this is the sort of thing that you might want in Kidd’s speech, if you want it to be imperfect.

    There should be a comma after “knack.â€

    This seems redundant to me, since the previous mentions of Ramm’s views made that pretty easy to infer.

    I think this feels a bit dry, as well as largely unnecessary, and might try deleting this in favor of attaching a small something at the end of the previous sentence to set up Kidd’s discovery.

    “Reflected†seems to contradict “glow†a bit, as the latter suggests that it’s a light source on its own (at least to me.) I might use “gleam†or some other word instead.

    “It became apparent to both of them†feels a bit wordy, as well as kind of like the narrator telling the audience what they need to know. I’d see if you can’t find a tighter phrasing here.

    The “found something special†part seems implied by the later parts of the dialogue and such, so I might suggest cutting it.

    I think this should be two sentences, broken after “sword.â€

    “Very like†sounds kind of awkward to me. Unless you wanted Gallen’s speech to sound a little odd at times (and I don’t think you’ve been doing that,) I might change this.

    This seems like it could be one sentence to me, since the end of the first sentence and the second sentence carry similar ideas.

    I think there should be some sort of punctuation (probably an exclamation mark) inside the quotes.

    “As of bony fingers†sounds like it should be “like bony fingers†to me.

    The wording of the last part felt a little unwieldy. I’d see if you can’t tighten that up a little, though that’s just me.

    I liked this. :smiley:

    There should be a comma after “that.â€

    And the action begins to heat up, indeed. In general, I can’t really say there was much to dislike here, typos and such aside. Looks like you’ve hit your stride again. Thanks for posting!
     

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