Lays of the Fianna- Sharnon

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Did you realize Sharnon had been a nightwalker all along?

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Lays of the Fianna- Sharnon

Post by Sirch Hanom on Thu May 28, 2009 3:08 am

Please note that all works posted by the Writer's Club Forum user 'Sirch Hanom' are owned exclusively by the user 'Sirch Hanom'.

Sharnon I

The carriage rumbled away, the rising sun at its back. The man on horseback watched it disappear into the street of Ankmor. A young servant man walked out of the manor the carriage had stopped at, and handed the rider a large black book, stuffed with papers. The rider nodded to the servant man and flicked the reins. The sun felt hot on his back, so very, searing hot.
Richard had the gold. The patrons of the Pale Lady knew that; it was the way he walked in the door, looked around the shabby establishment, and especially the way he stiffly seated himself at one of the barstools. Many men that had sat at the barstool, and for roughly the same reason Richard did now. Few had ever come back to the bar alive. But plenty came back dead.
Richard checked his purse of gold, hidden in a pocket on the inside of his robe. Alchemy was paying well, and his customers had appreciated his elixirs he had been creating for half his life: Fever cures, love potions, strength enhancers, and for certain, well-paying customers, excellent, undetectable poisons. Discreet, whispering customers. The world of retorts and alembics was paying well, and Richard woke up in his feather bed one day to wonder if he could spend all of his gold in one lifetime. And so he had come to the Pale Lady Tavern.
Netros was far inland, in the hills, tucked away in forestlands and a valley dotted with caves and plenty of shady spots. The town was cold in the winter, cold in the summer, and its far, northern latitude let only a few weeks of summer enter the shadowy, freezing dale. But the lumber trade was booming, and Netros boomed in turn, new lodges and homes built to accommodate the loggers and their families. After weeks of logging without incident, several lumberjacks had disappeared in the icy forests. With only 5 or 6 hours of daylight, little could be done but to hope the loggers found their way out.
And several had, and they had brought their friends. Richly dressed men accompanied a logging team of 10 men into town after the sun had set. They met with the chief of the logging operation and had a long, quiet talk in the ice-covered street, their conversation watched by a group of around 30 pale, lavishly dressed men.
And agreement had been reached: The loggers would no longer log certain expanses of the forest, nor try to explore the caves or grottos they might find. In return, no more loggers would disappear, and the wood quota disturbed by the pact would be compensated for. The pale group, accompanied by the lost jacks, returned to the forests. After midnight, it was common to see pale men walking through the town on the way to a nearby village, or see shadowy figures dancing between the trees. The pale folk had become so integral to the town, supplying money to fix homes and even taking wives back into the forest, working as merchants or smiths, and even a toymaker was established by a young, ghost-white youth.
But then clerics had come, thought Richard. The damn clerics! They disrupted the unholy peace the town had forged with the nightwalkers, and began to send heroes and adventurers to kill the pale folk at will, paying hefty bounties for each pale hand brought back. Soon, no white-faced, red-eyed person was encountered in Netros, and the heroes moved into the woods to root out the caves and tunnels below the town. Screams of anguish and fear now were the norm in Netros, as foolish rogues tried to clear tunnels of the former benefactors of the town. But the villagers of Netros were sympathetic, and hid their unholy brethren. The pale folk began to return, but more subtly, as the heroes and frustrated priests ran out of bodies to throw to their growing enemies and their corrupt townspeople.
Richard saw no ghost-white faces in the bar, but he knew there would be one somewhere, listening to the talk of the inn. But he had come prepared; four compass roses were hung around his neck, and two garlic bulbs were in his sleeves. He waved the bartender to come closer.
“I’m looking for a man named Sharnon?”
“Ah, yes. That should be him in the booth, with the scarf over his face. Bugger just got in before you did, and the icicles off him should be meltin’ ‘bout now.”
Richard nodded and slipped into the bench in front of a heavily clothed man. A Scarf was wrapped around his face; a heavy jacket was worn over chain mail and pieces of plate steel. Leather and iron greaves covered his legs, and massive boots encased his feet. Dark goggles covered his eyes to protect from glare off the ice. The man seemed to fear exposing the tiniest hint of skin to the cold. And that was why he had been recommended. Richard gently placed the purse of gold on the table.
“You know what I want.”
“It’ll take more than that.”
Four purses were placed silently on the table.
“What do you want specifically, my kind sir?” Sharnon spoke in a whisper.
“Bring me to a cave, and let me collect some…specimens.”
“You wish to die terribly? I can help you do that much faster.”
“My purses insist you help.”
“Very well. The foolish alchemist will get his wish.”
“How…?”
“Your smell.” Sharnon touched his scarf where his nose should be. “This has helped me out of many dark places. Let us hope our adversaries do not think the same way.”
An hour later, Richard was trudging carefully behind Sharnon through waist deep snow. The mercenary carried his large dai-katana on his shoulder as he crept down the well-trodden path through the trees. They were bent over, although camouflaged by Sharnon’s spell, and slowly making their way deeper into the woods.
After another hour of listening to trees crack and cold silence in between, Richard thought he would go mad from the tension. Sharnon finally stood in front of a huge ash tree and placed his hand on it. The roots of the tree were thick as pillars, and when he touched the trunk, they groaned and shifted apart, so that a hole in the ground was opened. Richard grabbed him by the arm.
“The first one you kill, you throw him over your shoulder and we run out.”
“You do not want their treasures?”
“They are treasures enough.”
Sharnon’s tone changed.
“You wish for a trophy.”
“Hardly! I am an alchemist, not a hunter.”
“Then you seek the sang immor.”
“It’s no business of yours!”
“You wish it.”
Richard sighed.
“I do. If you tell no one, I shall add another purse.”
“Very well, sir.”
Sharnon eased himself into the hole and dropped down into the pit. A gloved hand emerged, beckoning Richard. He sat on the edge of the hole and slipped down. He felt his feet hit the ground, but that was it. No light penetrated the trees outside, and so pitch black was, for all intensive purposes, the color of the floor, walls, and ceiling. Sharnon led him through the black room until Richard felt a wall in front of him.
Sharnon began to whisper rapid incantations, and then became silent after several metallic clicks of several locks, most not of this world. A door was pushed open, and Richard was led through the portal. Sharnon propped the door open with a stone, though Richard couldn’t see. But to his relief, Sharnon lit a match. Then Richard acutely wished that he had not.
A long, vaulted hallway, only six feet wide, ran on into the dark, and every three feet, a door interrupted the wall. They were bedrooms, Richard assumed, each one holding a pale inhabitant. And Sharnon had lit a match in their sanctuary. But Sharnon walked confidently up to the first door, made of iron, as were the walls. It was freezing in the hall, and when he tried to open the door, Sharnon flinched at the cracking of ice. He quickly ran inside and held up his hands, ready to blast a fireball into white faces. But the luxurious bed was empty. And as they repeated the procedure, each room was found in the same condition.
While the were in between rooms, walking I the hallway, Richard stopped, imagining a scrabbling, scratching sound, or a subtle hiss. The sound would persist for a fraction of a second, and Sharnon whispered their boots were cracking ice and disturbing the frozen water in the rooms, causing the sound of steam and the frost breaking. But every room took them deeper into the tunnels, and farther from the door. And yet, Richard was comforted by Sharnon’s cautious readiness and subtle bravado. After a tension-wracked hour and a half, they reached the other side of the hallway.
“We are out of luck tonight, alchemist; your mark has escaped us.”
“All right. Let’s get out of here.”
Richard turned and began to walk back. But just outside the globe of candlelight, a figure stood, shoulders raised and eyes shining. The little red specks were candle-hearts themselves, and Richard staggered back, clawing Sharnon’s sleeve.
“Sh-Shar-non!”
The champion spun around. There was nothing outside the ring of candlelight. Sharnon put his back against the wall and pulled Richard next to him. He raised his hands and a pillar of blue flame erupted from them, filling the hallway. Anything standing in the hall would be obliterated. Richard let out a sigh; the burst of fire had been silent. Sharnon sighed heavily.
“We must leave with all haste; we might have been detected. Or perhaps we were always under surveillance, to be silently assassinated. In either case, our assassin is dead. No night-walker could take even a second of that flame on their small finger and live.”
They crept down the hall again, this time with a lantern. Still, scratches were heard on the edge of hearing, making Richard doubt his own ears. Every few steps, he turned his head and looked behind.
After the third time he turned, he saw a pair of eyes.
“Sharn-“
“Silence, they cannot see you. The only thing they sense your air current disturbances. They will be dealt with.”
Sharnon walked a few more steps, and then pulled Richard in front of him. Another burst of blue light ripped down the hall. After lowering his hands, he pulled a lantern out of his jacket. He whispered something to it, and it burst to life. Light flooded the hall.
Hundreds of men and women stood in the passage, pale as snow and silently waiting. Red eyes reflected the light, like cats.
Sharnon seemed intrigued more than alarmed. “How did you avoid my fire?”
One woman smiled, though it was more like muscles tightening than happiness. She raised a finger to the ceiling. Richard raised his face and almost fell down. Hundreds more people clung to the ceiling, looking down on them. “I see.”
Suddenly, Sharnon fell to the ground. Richard looked down and watched Sharnon’s clawing hands disappear into the blackness, before his lantern smashed on the ground and left Richard in the black. He took out his own short sword and ran his hand along the wall, swinging his sword arbitrarily. His hand wrapped around a metal door handle, and Richard swung it open. Once inside the room, he slammed the door shut, taking comfort in its impressive metal.
He lit his own candle and pushed the bed against the door. There were several scratches at the door, followed by pounding. Then silence. Richard quickly pulled pouches and vials out of his robe, then a mortar. He emptied substances into the bowl, and began to calm down while his mixture formed. He stood and carefully lifted the fist-sized ball of putty out of the bowl.
Those blood-sucking monstrosities are about to get a taste of humanity!
Richard pushed the bed out of the way, opened the door as quietly as he could, and pushed his candle out. He saw no figures outside. He burst out of the room and ran for the end of the hallway. No sounds but his own footsteps interrupted the cold silence of the passageway, and as the doorway came into view, Richard started to breathe again. But the door was closed.
There was a short hiss, like an amused laugh. Richard turned his head. A pale face was inches from his ear.
“Come.”
Richard grasped his ball of putty, at the bottom of his pocket. And fell to the floor.
When he woke, Richard was sitting in a comfortable chair, seated in an expansive room. It looked more like a church than a ballroom, though there were chandeliers and amazing tile floors. Seated in high-backed chairs, thrones, pale men sat stiffly, staring at him. Only a faint glow from dying candles threw light onto the crowd of robes and cloaks that filled the rest of the room. Shadows flickered, and the robes seemed to shift with them.
One of the men in the thrones leaned forward. He was pale, beautiful, with a sloping cheekbones.
“Greetings, Richard the Black, alchemist of Ankmor.”
“What…”
“All will be made clear very soon. We have taken an interest in you, Richard the Black. In fact, you have interested us greatly. We know that you have lived for 50 years in your home on Guild Street, which has four entrances and a balcony, a single bathroom, and several beds, built in western Coast style. Your sheets are made of red silk, and you enjoy drinking the juice of oranges. You sleep for roughly seven hours on normal days.
“For the past three years, you have been meeting with several magicians and master alchemists, researching. Tirelessly, diligently, greedily.”
A black book was thrown at his feet. Richard’s eyes widened.
“My notes! I…No…I wasn’t…you…I took pre…”
The men sat in their chairs, watching their quarry writhe before them. Finally, he slumped back in the chair. The exaggerated movement almost disguised his hand as it slipped discreetly into his pocket. The man in the throne smiled faintly.
“Your light-dust is gone, Richard.”
Richard raised his head slowly. A robe separated itself from its ring of brothers. It held a fist-sized ball of putty in a pale hand. The man pulled his hood back, revealing the emotionless face of Sharnon.
“We cannot allow you to live, Richard.” Sharnon whispered. A weak smile turned the corners of his mouth up.
“So we allowed you to die.”
Richard lifted a fist-sized object out of his pocket. Sharnon smiled openly now.
“You wanted to live forever, Richard. And you will. As food.”
The object slipped from Richard’s hand and fell to the floor.
It was his heart.
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Re: Lays of the Fianna- Sharnon

Post by HS7 on Thu May 28, 2009 1:01 pm

*claps*

It seems to me Mr. Critic needs a critic.

Shall I go into the smaller details first?

Punctuation and capitalization errors. You have one sentence, the you try to split it off into two. Capitalizing one thing shows that it's more important than you think.

Granted, we all make these kinds of mistakes. You on the other hand, you tell everyone else what's wrong with theirs. I have other things to say, so I'll just stop their for the smaller details.

"But" and "and" do not start an actual sentence. You've left them as fragments. It would be better to try to combine two sentence, or just change the wording of one.

The word "pale" comes up quite often. Word usage needs to vary. Repeating the same word over and over again gets tiring and the reader is less interested. Coming up with different words that have the same meaning as one is much better than the same word over and over again.

Sounds like I'm giving you an English lesson, doesn't it? Well, I'll just get to the usual.

I can say your story reminds me of Twilight in some way. The "pale-faced" don't seem any different than the "Cold Ones." They both are pale, hated by people, if not a certain group, and seem to both start fights with others. Not very much different, just a slightly different setting and the way with words.

Your story is basically what most look for: it has detail, an interesting plot, and correct grammar. Simple mistakes, though, can bring it down quite a bit.

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Re: Lays of the Fianna- Sharnon

Post by Sirch Hanom on Fri May 29, 2009 2:23 am

Similar to 'Twilight'? I don't think that; but then again, I'm quite obviously biased. The story is supposed to be sympathetic to Sharnon and his kin, yes, but not because they are simply misunderstood. I may not have stressed it quite enough, but the story was supposed to be about Sharnon and his group punishing men such as Richard for trying to obtain immortality without the stigma of being a vampire. The 'nightwalkers' were supposed to come out, even though universally disliked, as the higher moral group.
Anywhere you have vampires, there is usually the stigma. This was established before "Twilight" and will continue afterwards. I tried to make my vampire character epitomize a "Tuck Everlasting" situation, forever young and beautiful, but forever young and so on. This theme will develop in later stories.
Now I come down from my 'defensive pony'....I appreciate the grammar and repeated use of 'pale'; I should change that. And the fragments...I like them, as long as they're used to emphasize points or certain action and they're not too halting to read. But this is something I'll watch out for. I constantly rewrite and edit my stories, and sometimes miss sentences, ending up with one that is out of place. More meticulous proofreading is in order.
I realize my comments can sting. I don't want to be the 'tough-buttocks' guy with which nothing is good enough, but I think constructive criticism helps more than compliments.
Thank you HS7, for your feedback.
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