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Gift from a Small

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by KWBishop, Mar 23, 2004.

  1. KWBishop

    KWBishop IncGamers Member

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    Gift from a Small

    Howdy all. I'm a new member here in the fan fiction forum. This story is in a first-person letter format, and I'm wondering if it works. Inspired by SCA fire-side storytelling, I tried to keep the pace of a fire-side story, but in a written format that would make sense for that style. Letter format is what I settled on. It feels clunky to me every time I read it, but I just can't figure out where the kinks are. Any suggestions? Should the format change and rework from the ground up? Is the story so flawed it just needs to be scrapped? Any help appreciated.

    -------

    Gift from a Small
    by KWBishop, aka Sefro

    Perhaps you've heard the name of General Vilham Pike. Maybe you know the stories of this brave warrior who served the armies of Durwald for many years. I am Vilham Pike. I can tell you, most things you've heard of me are exaggerations. I'm not a glorious hero, just a loyal soldier to the Crown. There's one important story about me nobody ever tells. It's an important one. It's the whole reason I lived to fight in for the Crown in the famous battles you know me for.

    When I was a captain in charge of the Southern Guard, I made it my best effort to spread good cheer for our soldiers. I established daily parades through the cities we traveled through. It was a grand time, and a relatively peaceful one. I had to keep my men busy, so we performed public services constantly. We often taught the young men the basics of fighting and fitness.

    On one such travel through a southern city, my troops couldn't stop this one small boy from trying to learn how to fight. While a sergeant of mine was busy teaching a dozen of the town's men the basics of sword fighting, this child would keep coming into the practice area and mimic the motions of the adults. The sergeant yelled at him, and he left, only to return moments later when practices had resumed. When those lesson's ended, the boy asked the sergeant if he could learn how to fight, and my soldier promptly told him to wait until he was older.

    The boy was not content. He went to my officers, and asked them how to fight. None would help him, and suggested he find some other children to play with. When he reappeared with a wooden sword, they laughed until his constant requests got annoying. He was shouted off.

    I overheard one of my lieutenants shouting and soon after a boy crying. This was such a cruel scene I had to leave my duties supervising timber gathering for a new bridge. I asked what was going on, and given the summary of events involving the small child. The boy had such zeal in him to fight. I could see it as clear as the sun in the sky, so I took him aside to find out why he so desired to fight.

    As it turns out, he was the son of the town's blacksmith. Every day of his life since he could remember, he would see his father craft fine weapons and sell them to enthusiastic kingdom dealers. The fervor his father and the dealers had in their eyes when they looked upon the beautiful metal weapons was something he admired. He wanted more than anything to hold a real weapon in his hand and love it like he saw the adults do. He wouldn't accept the wooden sword his father gave him, and he wouldn't accept the patronizing advice of adults. He wanted to feel what it was like to be a true warrior and feel the proper energy from a weapon. These were not his words, of course. He was too small a child, but he clearly communicated all of these ideas to me.

    I felt it was only the right thing to do to give him what he wanted. He wasn't a spoiled child, just one that had a simple wish that he dearly wanted to come true. I had the means to help him, so I did. I found a light rapier from my quartermaster, and let the boy hold it. It was just barely the correct weight for him, as swinging it about only gave his arm the faintest hint of tiring out.

    The lessons began. It was noon when I had found the boy being yelled at, and it was past supper by the time I felt I had taught him the rudimentary skills to wield a sword properly. Basic strikes and postures went lightning fast for him, as he seemed to have a natural talent. Teaching him the honorable means of respecting a weapon was something I quickly found unnecessary, as he had observed how to act around weapons from his father. I should have seen it earlier, when I drew my own sword and he averted his eyes in respect of the blade. I had to use a rapier similar to his in order for him to end his humility. Still, with hunger forming a knot in his little belly, he felt there was more he had to learn. I showed him a handful of maneuvers, and he insisted on practicing them until the sun began to set. It was only then that he accepted my ending of the lessons, and left with a respectful bow. He had even made sure to gently wrap the old rapier in a nice cloth before he left it under my care, something that I had not shown him how to do.

    I was amazed at how easy he was to teach. He was my favorite student I had ever taught, and still is to this day. My surprise was increased the next day when I was informed by one of my officers that the boy I had taught the afternoon before was waiting for me outside my tent. I went into proper uniform and went outside to give him the bad news that I could teach him no more. I found, in astonishment, that he was with his father. The great blacksmith Edwards stood with the greatest grin I have ever seen a man form. In his arms was an ornate sheath with a brilliant sword laying next to it on a fine red cloth. He told me that he felt in my debt for teaching his boy something about swords. It was something he had no time to do, as he was always busy in the furnaces creating new arms for His Majesty's Army.

    The sword was too heavenly of a weapon to disgrace with decline. I took it, and we bowed to each other. It was not a captain and a common man bowing, but two lovers of weapons sharing an honorable transfer of a fine gift. The two left, and I was left with a dilemma. The sword was a short sword. Despite its beauty, the blade of the sword was no longer than my forearm. I was known for being a lover of swords, but only large ones. I never fought with a sword that didn't require two hands to hold it. This was so small I could have sworn a woman could wield it with her thumb alone. The hilt, being large enough for a hand in gauntlet, made a mockery of the blade which was almost of equal size. Still, it was a gift, and the engravings on the hilt and blade caught my eye. I decided to put the glorified rapier on my belt, next to my utility knife.

    None of my officers dared mock the blade. They held the same standard for weapons as I did. It was only the ornate design of the weapon that kept it from being a mark of jest. The fact that I put it next to my knife had no effect, as nobody would believe that I would ever use such a fine weapon as a common tool.

    For two years I had that small sword on my belt. It had become a symbol of myself in that time. Officers who respected me, even those under the command of other captains, wore short swords on their belt without ever using them. The life of the fine blade had become merely an honor mark. However, the gift finally found use and honor after two years.

    There was a raid on the border town of Kriest. I had ordered a charge into the city to defend it, but on the way my horse suffered an injury from a devious trap laid by the Canni invaders. I ordered my men to ride to battle without me, and I would run to the battle on my own. My loyal men followed my orders, but the five with a hint of cowardice stayed with me to join the fight later. They escorted me as I ran on foot and they rode on horses. My orders were no matter, and they feigned loyalty to stay with me. I hoped the whole way that their absence had not meant defeat for the rest of my men. The tides of battle can often be turned by small things, after all.

    When I arrived I found most of my men had been slaughtered by a merciless band of raiders. They weren't Canni military, just a fugitive band who had raided other towns enough to get good armor and weapons. They fought dishonorably, using innocent townspeople as shields and buildings and hiding spots for ambushes. I had never seen such dirty tactics in my life. I and my five escorts joined the battle.

    AT first, we were doing well. With myself having joined the defense, there was a boost in morale and even the badly injured soldiers found reason to fight again. We had reduced their numbers to a third before a stronger wave of raiders came in. We were overwhelmed by the lightning speed and ferocity of their attack. With the blink of an eye, I found myself alone with the bloody bodies of my escorts on the ground around me.

    I was forced to fight three men at a time, then four, and soon after, five. The captain's insignia on my helm and my shoulders meant nothing to them. They had no code of honor overseeing the treatment of enemy officers. I shouted commands that they did not hear; requests to stand down and let me fight their commanders personally. They wanted to kill me themselves, so I was forced to stand my ground.

    Three of my attackers found their death by my sword when suddenly a rock was hurled at my head. I was lucky to have worn a solid helm, but I was still knocked partially to senselessness. I regained myself, discovering that I was on my knees and my sword was in a much different place. By my guess it had at first fallen from my hands, but by the time I was fully aware of my senses it was in the hands of one of the attackers. I found it at a most peculiar position, as it was slicing downward right at my head. I had time to carry out one action before I was dishonorably slain.

    I grabbed the small sword and blocked.

    I deflected the blow.

    I was alive.

    It was a reaction. I had shown recruits how to do it for years, and had never once practiced it in the field. Using a short sword to block was something I didn't do. I always found myself on my feet and able to dodge blows while holding my large sword. I was glad to have that short sword, as the knife that was next to it could never have deflected the force my two-handed sword could produce.

    A second blow came down and I was fully able to not only stop it, and continue the motion of my arm and swing it around to kill my other attacker. The man with my sword was instantly mortified and was fleeing by his own terror. His cowardice had robbed me of my beloved sword. I felt twice as lucky that I had the short sword, as fighting with a knife was possible but far too impractical.

    Seeing me standing and proudly fighting gave my men the needed morale boost to fight through the second wave of invaders. There weren't enough of them in the field to form a third wave, and we defeated them with minimal effort after I had escaped my attackers and had the ability to give commands to my men. Though at a huge cost in casualties to my men, we had saved Kriest from the Canni invaders.

    Though the small sword saved my life, my men, and the city of Kriest, it was too small a weapon to give credit to. I retell this story, but the men who know if it never do for fear of dishonoring their own two-handed swords. They would rather put the credit in me, the war hero, of having saved that day. But in the full view of things it was the sword that saved me. It was that small boy who saved me.

    I replaced my two-handed sword and still fought with it until promotions took me away from the combat fields. It went away into my belongings in my home, while that small sword from the small boy remains even today on my belt. It is hanging from the edge of my chair right now as I write this. The only time it is removed from my uniform is when I meet with His Majesty. That is how highly I feel honored by having that fine weapon on my side.

    Casey Edwards, when I heard of your graduation from the Royal Academy this last month, I had to write to you. It pleases me to learn that you have joined His Majesty's Army. You'll have a long and honorable career. I hope you remember that day when I taught you to use a sword. I never will forget it. There is no need to thank me for that day, as it is I who will forever thank you.
     
  2. proudfoot

    proudfoot IncGamers Member

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    Hey, great story! The style and flow worked really well. A few grammatical errors and sentence structure errors exist, but I'm sure you can pick those out in a full edit later.

    Stylistically I wouldn't mention the boy's name at the end unless you mention it earlier in the story, which I wouldn't do. Take out the name, and the phrase "...there is no need to thank me," because it disrupts the flow a bit and seems patronising.

    Just my humble opinion, though. Good writing, and keep it up :)
     
  3. KWBishop

    KWBishop IncGamers Member

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    Thank you for the suggestions, proudfoot. I'll definitely make those changes when I revise the story. Maybe the last sentence will work better as:

    "I never will forget it, and will forever thank you."

    As for grammar/spelling errors, I always have trouble spotting those. Now that you mentioned they're there, I'll have to keep a sharper eye open when revising this story.

    And thanks much for the compliment. That means a lot to me as I'm totally new to this public posting of my fiction writing. It still seems to have an odd flow to me, but maybe that's just because it flows much differently than how I normally write. I'll certainly keep them coming. ;)
     
  4. Snowglare

    Snowglare Fan Fiction Forum Moderator

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    You're right, it is clunky. It's difficult to criticise a work like this, since many grammatical errors can be chalked up to the narrator's ignorance, so I'll just tell you how I think it could be made more interesting. Like dramatic license.

    "I can tell you, most things you've heard of me are exaggerations."

    There's the first bump. You should change it to something like "I can tell you, most of the tales are exaggerated". You see, "things" is vague, "of me" is wrong in this context, and the two combine to make for uneasy reading. Speaking of context, it's implied that the tales are about him, so it's unnecessary to note.

    "I'm not a glorious hero, just a loyal soldier to the Crown. There's one important story about me nobody ever tells. It's an important one. It's the whole reason I lived to fight in for the Crown in the famous battles you know me for."

    The first sentence should read "just a soldier loyal to the Crown" or "loyal soldier of the Crown". The third sentence is redundant, and neither it nor the second is firmly connected to the beginning of the paragraph. What you need is some way to join them so that they flow easily into each other. I suggest rewriting the second sentence to something like "But there's one story you haven't heard. It's more important than any other, yet no one ever tells it." That example doesn't lead into the fourth sentence well at all, but it's just to give you an idea. Also, "I lived to fight in for" should be "I lived to fight for". Then again, that doesn't sound so hot either. For one, "for" is repeated within the sentence, and it's not good repitition. And saying "it's the whole reason I lived to fight" is clumsy foreshadowing. "It's the whole reason" suggests that he was inspired to fight for the crown or something, but really, he was already fighting for them (unless I misread) and all he did was survive. He was changed by the events of the story, but not in the way the sentence suggests. It would be better for to him explain that he would have no glory without it, leaving out the fact that he almost died.

    "When I was a captain in charge of the Southern Guard, I made it my best effort to spread good cheer for our soldiers."

    Should just be "captain of the Southern Guard". Again, the rest is implied. Like "I'm captain of this vessel." And you don't "make it your best effort". You can make your best effort, and you can make it your top priority or whatnot to yadda yadda, but combining the two makes not the sense.

    "While a sergeant of mine was busy teaching a dozen of the town's men the basics of sword fighting, this child would keep coming into the practice area and mimic the motions of the adults."

    The problems I've described continue throughout the story, so I'm skipping ahead to something different. Namely being overly specific. The sentence would work better if you said "teaching some of the town's men". There's no reason to point out how many there are, and I feel it detracts from the story to do so.

    "These were not his words, of course. He was too small a child, but he clearly communicated all of these ideas to me."

    This is good. I like this.

    "We had reduced their numbers to a third before a stronger wave of raiders came in."

    This is where it works to specify numbers. That they had slain two-thirds of the raiders is a detail important to the story.

    The story itself doesn't seem bad, but I can't tell for the poor storytelling. Many of the sentences need to be reworked as they don't flow well at all. I can only tell you to do as Casey did. Read as much as you can, mimic the good writers, watch grammar in action. Keep practicing.

    Edit: Oh, and what's with the title? I tried to find some way that small was being used as a noun, but came up with nothing. Did you forget to put the whole thing in?
     
  5. KWBishop

    KWBishop IncGamers Member

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    Thank you very much, Snowglare for the in-depth critique of the story. You've helped in figuring out the type of thing to watch out for. I am pretty bad at editing my own writing, so I'll take your advice and study up on writing some more in order to get better at it.

    As for the errors--They are all mine. None were implied as the narrator's own errors in storytelling.

    The use of the word "small" as a noun is a sign of the direct SCA influence on the story. In the reenactment group, children are sometimes referred to as "smalls." Thanks for pointing that out, as it's such a narrow reference that I think it needs to be replaced.

    I'll certainly keep practicing! ;)
     

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