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Author Topic: 1st draft of a short story I am working on, would love input  (Read 579 times)
Dr Smithson
United States United States

« on: May 14, 2015, 06:22:41 am »

This story was supposed to take place as part of a series after a book I was writing but I have since stopped, it is mostly fantasy (imo) with some steampunk themes (again imo) would love any input on it, and if its just absolute crap it would be good to know that too.

Tales of a Deadlands Mage ep0

Kai'rin awoke with a start, momentarily confused as to where he was. Slowly, the memories of his battle with the Phoenix came back to him.
    “It's over mage” The Phoenix laughed even as his blood poured out over the ritual space “You may have killed me, but in doing so you are the cause of the very thing you sought to prevent.” He coughed, blood running down his chin, he broke into a mad smile. “There is nothing you can do to stop the Second Incursion!” Kai'rin tightened his grip, his magic focusing on the small red jewel set into it, the rakshasa, the blood drinker. He remembered the years he suffered to create it, the scars dancing across his torso and arms. He remembered the pain, and weakness he felt in the beginning, he remembered almost dying to his accursed creation. As he felt the magic growing, the images strong in his mind, he turned his focus to the Phoenix who was beginning to pale from blood loss.
    “I may not be able to stop the ritual, but I can make you regret every second remaining in your miserable life.” With a rush of magic Kai'rin soon held the Phoenix suspended in the air above the ritual space. Slowly, gashes began to appear on the Phoenix, first on his arms, then his torso, each one deeper than the last. Kai'rin reached into his pouch and pulled out the rune of healing, using a small amount of blood to activate the magics inside he turned its energies on his foe. The gashes had started to heal, but the original spell had accelerated to the point for every gash that was healed two more appeared. Eventually the screams of the Phoenix could be heard echoing through the underground chamber and into the warehouse above. Kai'rin could feel himself growing weaker by the second, neither of the spells being easy to maintain, one of them trying to tap directly into his life. He gave a weak smile as his legs started to give out on him, the screams had stopped several seconds before but the body was still suspended in the air, more meat than person at this point. As he fell, his vision fading to black, he saw Amelia and Frank running towards him. He could see their mouths moving but couldn't hear anything over the sound of the whirlwind in his head. He smiled at them as he hit the ground, his eyes closing, the blackness consuming him.

    The grip of his memories finally releasing him, he took a moment to examine his surroundings, after a moment he realized that it was the same room he woke up in the first time he had been brought to the clockworks. He chuckled to himself as he realized how short a time it had really been.
    “You're awake!” He looked over to see Frank lounged in a chair, his feet kicked up on the nightstand. “Hold on, let me get you something to drink!” Frank said as he nearly fell out of the chair in his surprise. He quickly rushed out of the room, the chair falling to the floor forgotten in his haste. Kai'rin could hear raised voices but couldn't make out what was being said until the door burst open and a pale woman with purple hair burst through.
    “You idiot!” Amelia screamed at him, tears welling up in her eyes “You could have killed yourself...” her voice trailing off as propped himself up into more of a sitting position. “What were you thinking?” Her tears began to flow freely as he opened his voice to answer and could only manage a hoarse rasp. Frank returned with a mug of water which Kai'rin quickly tried to drink but only succeeded in pouring half of it down his front, and choking on the other half.
    “Take it easy Kai, you've been down for quite a while.” Frank said as he took the mug from Kai'rin and traded it for a fresh one with William. “You were right Will, he tried to drown himself with the first one” Frank gave a light chuckle as the elderly mage sighed.
    “Master Johnson, I really wish you wouldn't call me that” He said as he looked over at Kai'rin,
“You gave us quite the scare Master Kai'rin, you have been unresponsive these two weeks past.”
    “Two week?!” His voice was a hoarse whisper, and he was immediately set into a fit of coughing. After he was able to take a couple breaths, he leaned back against the wall, and Frank handed him the second mug of water. He took a couple small sips from the water before attempting to speak again. “Seeing as how I still draw breath, I am going to guess that we somehow survived the opening of several gateways, and the subsequent invasion?” His voice, while hoarse, was laden with sarcasm. Frank feigned a mock offense before explaining the events following Kai'rin's loss of consciousness.
    After Frank finished his tale, the silence hung heavy in the air, until Kai'rin finally spoke.
    “Is this barrier still active?” His weak whisper seeming like a shout in the silence.
    “Yes, we actually have three sets of four of our number keeping it active in eight hour shifts.” William stepped forward, his cloak of stars drawing in the light around it. “While I cannot guarantee it will survive a full assault, the shock of the initial waves repulsion should be enough to keep them at bay for a little while longer.”
    “Don't worry about anything Kai, Amelia and I have everything under control.” His confident tone betrayed by his pale skin and slight tremble, but Kai'rin just smiled at them weakly.
    “Yes, Master Johnson and the Dark Mistress have been of great assistance to us in rallying the people and hunting down the few daemons that made it into the city. Currently the Mayor is gathering volunteers to form a militia, we have tried to reach out to other mages in the Kingdoms but with Mistdale in the condition it is...” He cast a glance at Amelia, who only looked away in an attempt to be nonchalant. “the point is, any reinforcements from other mages will be a long ways coming.” His unspoken words hung heavy in the air.
    “Well it seems like we have our work cut out for us,” Before anyone had a chance to protest Kai'rin was already sitting on the edge of the bed, his face grey with the exertion. Amelia handed him his cane without a word, the rakshasa cracked and dull from the forces channeled through it. He took it with a silent thanks, colour just beginning to return to his features.
    “Master Kai'rin you need your rest!” The elderly mage began to protest but Kai'rin cut him off with a gesture.
    “I appreciate your concern William, but we must act quickly. There is much to be done if I have been down these two weeks past as you say.” His first attempt at standing quickly aborted, as he sat on the bed trying to catch his breath. “Besides, there is much I can do, even in my condition.” After a few more attempts, Kai'rin finally managed to get to his feet. His body was weak, and even while leaning heavily on his cane, he couldn't go far without needing to rest. Eventually he managed to make his way into the clockworks library where the Nightcloaks had managed to gather a number of books on the first incursion, a few of which appeared to be the journals of some of the first mages. He hoped to find some clue to the force they called upon to save the city the first time.
    Hours passed, and the number of books left to examine had begun to dwindle and Kai'rin felt no closer to the answer than when he began.
    “I don't understand, they make the occasional reference to “guardians” but nothing specific on the matter. We must be missing a crucial tome.” He mused to the spiders and rats that had kept him company in the moldering library. He began the arduous process of once more getting to his feet when the sound of approaching footsteps drew his attention. He looked up to see Amelia walking towards him with William in tow speaking softly to her, as they got closer he could just barely make out what he was saying.
    “'s not prudent to bring this to him now, he needs to rest. You and Master Johnson can handle this matter without him.” Amelia stopped and said something too soft for Kai'rin to hear, but whatever it was, it made William pale by several shades before a flush crept up his face as he stormed out of the room in a huff.
    “What was that all about?” Kai'rin asked after Amelia had finally made it over to him.
    “It's not important, what is important is you have a meeting at C.O.G. Laboratories. Frank and I have spent all day arguing to get them to see you. They undoubtedly know something about what happened during the first Incursion, and if they don't then maybe they can help us figure out what to do.” She spoke quickly as she moved to help him to his feet. “We need to get you cleaned up and dressed, the only way this will work is if they are convinced you are as strong as you appeared in the battle with Phoenix. It won't do us any favours if they knew that you almost died from that.” As she helped him move through the various places of the Clockworks he knew better than to argue.

SAM:I think we need to explore whether this attempted murder was a hate crime.

GENE: What, as opposed to one of those "I really really like you" sort of murders?
Dr Smithson
United States United States

« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2015, 06:23:17 am »

    After some trouble they eventually got him cleaned and shaved, and properly dressed in a black vest over a lavender shirt, with black trousers and a black overcoat trimmed in purple. He tightly gripped his cane as they made their way up to the city surface, their progress slowed at first, but slowly his muscles started to remember their old canter. They met with Frank at one of the points overlooking the Terrarium, the dome shattered from the battle with Phoenix.
    “They say that repairs are already in planning,” Frank said as they walked up, not turning to look at them, simply staring at the massive dome of copper and glass. Kai'rin was thankful for the brief stop, taking a moment to sit and rest. “Pieces are already being made to replace the ones that were damaged in the explosion.”
    “That's good to hear,” Kai'rin finally said after he caught his breath. “The Terrarium stood as a symbol of hope in the city, the people need that at a time like this.” Neither of them rushed him now, they let him sit and rest for a few moments before they proceeded on, none of them knew if this meeting would hold what they needed. They made their way through the winding streets of the city, Kai'rin's cane echoing with each step on the hard cobble streets. As they began the descent into the lower sections of the city they wandered into a mist that the morning's sun had yet to burn away. Once they found themselves at the entryway to the C.O.G. Laboratories facility, the mist gave it a chilling effect, its wrought iron gates leading onto the ominous building with no windows. As they approached the gates, they swung open without a touch, and the trio proceeded into the shadows that lined the entryway to the building.
    The inside of the building was so far different than the outwards appearance that they almost questioned whether or not they had just walked through some sort of gateway into another dimension. The foyer was brightly lit with light marble floors contrasting the dark wood furniture and walls. A rich blue rug marked pathways to the receptionist desk on the other side of the massive room, as well as to various doors leading out of the room. After their initial moment of shock they cautiously began to make their way to the smiling receptionist.
    “Welcome to C.O.G. Laboratories main research facility!” Though she didn't seem to speak very loudly, her voice seemed to be amplified so that they heard her while they were still halfway across the room. “Don't worry, most people have a similar reaction the first time they come here, the outside is designed to discourage curious onlookers.” She quickly looked at a book of handwritten notes she had sitting next to her on the desk. “You must be Kai'rin, if you would like to take a seat I will inform Dr. Whyte of your arrival.” Without another word she was off through one of the doors, leaving the trio standing there confused about what had just occurred.
    “Should we do what she said?” Frank asked as he looked around the large room at the variety of chairs and couches arranged within it.
    “Unless you relish the thought of standing here for an unknown amount of time, then it seems the wisest course of action.” Kai'rin stated as he settled himself onto one of the couches nearest to the reception desk, prepared to wait as he closed his eyes and tried to relax.

    Time seemed to pass slowly while they waited, Kai'rin watched as Frank grew bored just sitting around and began to examine the paintings on the walls, and he could hear the faint snores of Amelia in the chair next to him. Just as he felt he was about to fall asleep himself he heard one of the doors open.
    “Sorry to keep you three waiting, I was in the middle of an experiment that could not be lightly abandoned.” Dr. Whyte was not an assuming man, he was not the type of person that would stand out in the crowd, but if the rumours about C.O.G Laboratories were to be believed, he was the head mind behind the Steam Men and many of their other recent innovations.
    “I understand Dr. no need to apologize” Kai'rin got to his feet and made his way over to the man dressed in a white coat. “My past studies have shown me that some things must be seen through to the end, because the alternative is unacceptable.”
    “Exactly, but you have come here for a purpose, I should not keep you from it. Come with me please.” Dr. Whyte quickly turned and went back through the door he came through. “As it turns out when your assistant contacted us, we knew exactly what you were looking for, you see, we have been using that same research to fuel a few of our own projects.” Amelia opened her mouth to object to being called an assistant, but Frank quickly quieted her down.
    “So you know what this “Guardian” is then?” Kai'rin was not amused by the chuckle his question elicited from the Dr. but he kept himself under control as the passed through a maze of corridors.
    “We stumbled across the journal long ago, we have spent years studying it trying to figure out how we could use it.” They stopped in front of a pair of massive wooden doors, Dr. Whyte pulled out a key and unlocked the doors before they proceeded inside. The room was mostly barren except for a glass case on a pedestal in the centre of the room, as they approached the pedestal Kai'rin saw in it a book bound in black leather with silver runes picked out on its cover.
    “Our greatest regret...” he muttered as he read the ancient runes, the words coming quickly to his mind from his schooling when he was younger.
    “Whats was that?” Dr. Whyte asked as he unlocked the case and opened it up.
    “The runes on the cover. They say 'our greatest regret'” Dr. Whyte said nothing as Kai'rin picked up the book and began to look over the ancient text. He began to recognize a few of the spells that were involved from some of the tales of magic gone wrong, slowly it began to dawn on him what they had done. He understood why they regretted it, the spells would take the soul of their target and use it to fuel the spell, ultimately destroying it upon the spells completion. Though it spoke of the power they needed to wipe out the daemon armies that quickly encroached on their dear city. The last few pages were names, and after a few moments Kai'rin realized that they were the people who had sacrificed themselves to the initial experiments and the final spell that ended the incursion. He could feel the tears welling up in his eyes, but he didn't care.
    “Kai?” He could hear the question in Amelia's voice but he couldn't find the words to answer her as he set the book back down in the case.
    “The price was so high, how could they even consider it? How can you?!” His voice was still weak, but his sorrow and rage were clear with every word.
    “Before you think to judge, you best know we don't follow the same process as them, and we cannot speak for their actions. This was the only journal that was managed to be saved, you were only allowed to see it because you have already proven your actions will only benefit us in the long run. We have taken the liberty of copying the spells you might need, they will be given to you on your way out.” There was a hard edge to his voice, and his dismissal was as clear as the tears that he tried to hide. Without a word Kai'rin turned and began to make his way back through the maze of corridors, eventually finding himself back in the main foyer of the building. The receptionist was once more seated at her desk, she sprung up and handed him a scroll case of carved wood.
    “I hope you have a wonderful day! Thank you for visiting C.O.G. Laboratories.” She ignored the hateful look in Kai'rin's eye as she smiled and took her seat back at her desk. Once they were back on the streets and the sun had burned away the mist, Kai'rin set off at a pace as quick as could.
    “Kai, what was in that book?” Frank asked as they caught up to him, “Come on, you have to trust us.”
    “They sacrificed people to power their spells, to a fate worse than death...” His voice was barely above a whisper, but he could hear the startled gasps of Amelia and Frank behind him. “I need time to think about this new information, Amelia will you go to the market and get some fresh meat and vegetables for tonight’s dinner? And some tea if you would be so kind.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a slightly battered bag of coins, the last of the money he had when he entered the city. She took it with a look of concern on her face, and gave a brief nod. “Don't worry Amelia, I have no intention of using these spells, but they may offer a key to other options.” Amelia smiled at him before she turned towards the towns market.
    The two men walked in silence to one of the many entrances to Aurou's underground that had been installed by the Nightcloaks. After Kai'rin unlocked the door and they were traversing the sewers, Frank decided to speak his mind.
    “You intend to sacrifice yourself don't you.” It wasn't a question, and Kai'rin wasn't going to lie to him.
    “If there are no other options then I will do what is necessary.”
    “There have to be other options.”
    “And what if there aren't? What then Frank, would you rather I live and watch these creatures kill this city? Would you rather I live while they kill you and Amelia?” The anger in his voice made Frank stop for a moment.
    “It's not going to be like that Kai.” He ran to catch up to the other man. “We will figure something out, there will be another way.” They walked in silence for a while, each lost within their own thoughts. Once in a while one or the other would open their mouth to say something, but they would quickly close it again without a word uttered. As they rounded the corner that would lead them into the main room of the Clockworks they heard a yell of pain. Thinking that William had slipped in one of the many puddles that could accumulate through the underground structure Frank ran ahead to help. Kai'rin barely heard the click the explosion and everything went black.
When Kai'rin awoke again, everything was silent, his clothes were smoking slightly but one of the pipes had burst in the tunnel he was in saving him from any extensive burns. He made his way to his feet, coughing slightly as he gathered up his cane and top hat.
    “Frank!” his voice barely audible over the ringing in his ears. He made his way into the main room and couldn't believe the sight in front of his eyes. Frank was laying on the floor in the centre of the room, in a pool of blood, his skin was mostly missing, and in a couple of places bone was exposed. Kai'rin almost burst into tears as he noticed his friend's chest rise and fall, he was still alive. “Frank, hold on, I'll find a way to heal you.”
    “Kai, no.” His voice was strained and each word seemed to take a great effort. “I'm n-not. Go-goi-going make it.” His body shook as shock set in, yet he gritted his teeth in the strain to speak. “U-Use th-the spell..o-on me.”
    “Frank, no. You don't understand.” His tears fell freely now, behind him he heard footsteps, he wanted to call out, to tell her to go away, but he couldn't find the strength to speak. He heard her stop and drop the food she had been carrying.
    “Frank!” Her scream echoed through the chamber, she ran over and fell to her knees next to Kai'rin. “Frank no!” Her words failing her she screamed in her sorrow.
    “Kai, Do it.” His breath was becoming more shallow and shaky.
    “You don't understand Frank”
    “Your soul will be destroyed! That's what will happen Frank.”
    “I-I don't care,” Fresh tears welled up in Kai'rin's eyes as he opened the scroll case and began reading the words of power needed to capture a human soul and harness it. As he read the words they began to glow on the scroll, eventually lifting off and burning into ash as the magic took hold of them. Franks body began to glow as his breathing slowed and eventually stopped. As he reached the point where the caster would normally begin the spell which the soul would be used to power, an idea struck him. He quickly found Frank's pocket-watch, and used it as a focus for a spell of binding. He would bind Frank's soul to the city. As he started the spell of binding, the unfamiliar words coming easily to his lips, he felt a new wave of energy rush through him as the spell neared completion. He watched as the spell took hold and Frank's soul rose out of his body taking on an orange hue. He looked around and then looked at Kai'rin seemingly knowing what was about to occur. Kai'rin could see his mouth moving but couldn't hear the words, although it looked like he was saying “thank you”. As Frank's soul faded from view Kai'rin could feel the spell take hold, and Amelia began to cry.
    “Don't worry Amelia, Frank is not lost, he will forever watch over this city, as long as there are people left within it.
    After they wrapped Frank's body to prepare for his pyre they returned to the surface of the city to see people standing in the streets staring up at the sky. When Kai'rin turned, his eyes filled with tears even as a smile split across his face. Looming in the sky was a massive, translucent figure that resembled a giant clockwork knight glowing the same orange as Frank's soul.
    “Frank?” Amelia stared at the great clockwork knight, tears welling up in her eyes.
    “If any of the daemons seek to take this city they will have a fight on their hands Amelia. He will protect the city that labeled him as their hero. We will make sure his sacrifice was not in vain.” That night was Frank's funeral pyre, when the Mayor heard about Frank's sacrifice, he immediately set about arranging things for a funeral befitting one of Frank's status. Kai'rin stood in the shadows and watched as the populace of the town came to pay their respects to the man who had saved their lives. He watched as they set the torch to the scaffolding of wood and tinder that held his body, Kai'rin turned and looked to Amelia. Without another word he turned and walked away, winding his way through the city streets until he eventually found himself standing in front of the C.O.G. Laboratories facility. After a quick conversation with the receptionist, Kai'rin once more found himself being escorted through the halls to the room that he had previously visited. He waited patiently while Dr. Whyte unlocked the case for him, he turned to the last page that had a space. He took the pen from the doctor and careful to keep his hand steady and his tears off the paper, at the very bottom of the last page of the book he added one final entry.

Frank Johnson; gave his soul to become the Guardian of Aurou. Second Incursion. 4Th age 3rd month 194th year.
Antonus Fudge
United Kingdom United Kingdom

« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2015, 10:42:15 am »

deleted as I inadvertently quoted and repeated myself. Feedback below
« Last Edit: May 14, 2015, 10:56:33 am by Antonus Fudge » Logged

~ * ~
Antonus Fudge
United Kingdom United Kingdom

« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2015, 10:46:18 am »


I think it is a good first draft. You clearly have the world and the situation and the characters clearly visualised. Next is to really storify it (if that's the point you are up to; eg if you have written the whole thing or enough of it where you want to edit). It's also good to see that you stick with one point of view - Kai'rin's. This will help readers to sympathise with him, care about him, and thus read on. There's no rule against changing point of view but it has to be done carefully, otherwise it becomes a who's who of clunky forgettables.

First question I have is: Is this the start of the entire story? I ask because you say "this story was supposed to take place as part of a series after a book I was writing but I have since stopped" Was there more before this? I also ask because it seems a little like we've dropped in just after the big battle with the Phoenix and the goings on around these barriers. What is so special about this day that your story starts here as opposed to the creation of the barriers or the arrival of the Phoenix? What is the conflict, the thing that the characters are doing that we must root for. If you have a valid reason for that, and if your conflict or challenge is coming up, that's fine, but that then brings me onto my next point...

World-building. You use a lot of dialogue here. In fact it is 100% dialogue. You can world-build retroactively with dialogue but you might want to be watchful for overusing the "As You Know, Bob" trope. Aside from that, excess dialogue can get a bit ... talky. Dialogue is very useful but don't forget about action. Even simple actions can be used to colour the world; eg. take the first "real world" sentence:

"The grip of his memories finally releasing him, he took a moment to examine his surroundings, after a moment he realized that it was the same room he woke up in the first time he had been brought to the clockworks. He chuckled to himself as he realized how short a time it had really been."

Here you have a chance to reveal the world around us. I don't know what the clockworks is (though it sounds neat) so paint me a picture via exxternal things, internal dialogue (again that's all about point-of-view, and there are differing degrees of that often referred to as psychic distance), actions, and spoken words:

"The grip of his memories finally releasing him, he took a moment to examine his surroundings. His eyes crawled over the aged and dusty maps and maplewood panelling in which dozens of brass instruments whizzed and spun, after a moment he realized that it was the same room he woke up in the first time he had been brought to the clockworks. He chuckled to himself. How short a time it had really been!"

Note there I have added just a little bit of (hopefully - change according to the vision in your head) description to really flesh the place out itself, and his interactions in it, rather than focusing on his perceptions of it. This is the fundaments of "showing, not telling" where telling is saying "he realised he was in a familiar room" and showing is saying "he looked at the bits and bobs scattered about the place. 'Well, knock me down!' he grumbled. 'I know this place!'" We can infer familiarity by his actions, rather than simply being told it. It's definitely worth familiarising yourself with that. It also ensures you don't overuse and repeat (which you did here with "realised") helper words. It also greatly enriches both your writing and the experience of writing. It also allows you to really create a character by both dialogue, as necessary, and action. For example, if Kai'rin reacts fearfully to the surroundings or anything else he is nearby, we will think of him as a scared character. If he reacts more nonchalantly, strolling over and picking something up, we will think of him as cooler, calmer and more collected. Invoke and use props to use as devices to characterise.

Okay that's all I got for now. Hope this is useful and not too negative. Will be interesting to see where you go with this! Smiley
Dr Smithson
United States United States

« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2015, 06:36:44 pm »

Thank you for your insight!

You mirrored a couple of concerns I had with the story. and have indeed given me much to think about.

To answer your questions, there was much before this. Originally the battle that Kai'rin remembers upon waking is towards the end of the original novel. As it turns out there are several conflicts that are introduced in this story, that can be expanded upon in future installments (if it ever gets that far). There is the "death" of Frank, there is the armies of daemons camping outside of Aurou, and there is possibly a conflict of interest forming within the walls of C.O.G. Laboratories.

I will freely admit this is amongst my first ventures into writing short stories, (indeed it is my first "successful" short story in that it didn't turn into a much larger tale), I feel there is still much room for expansion on ideas and conflicts. You have given me much to think about in regards to this, and I thank you once more for your insight.

This tale was a bit of a bridge between the story and the episodic tales that are to follow, I was hoping to use this tale to tie up a few loose ends and set the scene for Kai'rin's quest to find a way to repel the Daemons.

I really just need to get around to writing the original story...
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