“Remember me, always.”
A voice spoke in his head as he awoke.
The darkness was all encompassing. It was comforting, like the warm glow of a fire on a cold winter night.
And yet there was treachery in it. Cold, dank and disconcerting, a deathly quiet that threatened to entomb him in its icy chill.
How long had he been asleep? Where was he? Curiosity overcame him, but movement did not come easily. His slumber must have been and long and deep, his muscles felt atrophied.
A vision flashed in his mind, a memory of days gone by. A boy standing under the Cherry Blossoms, eyes closed amidst a flurry of crimson petals. A lesson imparted. “The sword is forged in the mind first, the body second. A warrior’s mind is his most powerful weapon.”
His senses were coming back now. He could feel a chill, and something else he hadn’t realized until now. His backside was wet. He had a sudden fear: Am I awash in blood? Was it my own? He felt no pain, no sharp, cutting sensation that would seem to suggest a significant injury. Was it someone else’s? Cold stone and liquid. His sense of smell returned. The air was fetid. He felt sick to his stomach.
“Calm down and focus”. He opened his eyes.
Darkness. He squinted and stared out into the distance. There was no sign of light, but he could make out faint details.
With great effort he stood and began to survey his surroundings. He could make out outlines, things in the darkness.
“Your parents are no more. Your mind may be in darkness today, but not forever. Talanoth is your home now, lad. Duty and honor will be your new companions.” An old man with wise eyes, gentle, but who had seen much death.
He reached out slowly to touch the objects, his first real movements. Like a newborn, the entire world was different to him. Born in darkness, like a babe in a mother’s womb. Or was it king in an otherworldly tomb?
He crawled around, trying to make sense of his surroundings. His hands felt several objects – a glove, a helmet, a dagger. Did they belong to him? No, these artifacts, whatever they were, belonged to more than one person. He looked down at the wet floor with the liquid substance. It looked more like water now to his eyes.
Another memory. A boy holding a katana, training under a waterfall. “The spirit and the sword are one.” A commanding voice spoke above the roaring water. “If the spirit breaks, the sword breaks along with it. Let your spirit guide your hand and the sword will cut true.”
His eyes went to the floor. The stones were set in a pattern too deliberate to occur naturally. Instinctively, he dusted himself. His hand felt a mishmash of textures, cloth, chain links, leather, and cold steel. His chest was covered in a linked iron material. Leather straps secured it in place. He realized he was geared for battle, and that the armor he was wearing had been well worn, as if he had just fought in a large war. The cloth was tattered everywhere, the leather straps torn, the iron-link breastplate ravaged from what he could feel in the darkness.
He took a few more steps and realized his feet were bare. The cold cut into them. “Think! What am I doing in this place?” After that question came another one, surprising, a knot twisting in his gut.
“Who am I?”
He had a sudden, sinking realization. He could not recall his name, what he was doing before he got here nor of the events that led to him being in the place he was in. He felt sick, his breathing was taut, mouth open. He realized he had lost the ability to speak. “Calm down!” Panicking would not serve him in this situation.
“You have lost today because both mind and body are weak. Do not be afraid to be weak. Weakness does not lessen the man if he learns from it. It is through mastery of fears and weaknesses that a warrior is made. A sword becomes stronger in the forge, when it folds inward, unto itself.”
He took deliberate, deep breaths, slowing his heartbeat down. He continued to walk around, his feet numb from the cold. He got down on the floor and started feeling for something he could use. Discarded pieces of armor, leather breeches, and what felt like a tunic. He felt around carefully, lest he pick up a blade edge-first. He seemed to have an exceptional grasp of weaponry. He could identify pieces of armor by touch alone. He knew exactly what each part did, what condition they were in, whether they were serviceable or not.
He found what he was looking for a few steps away. A pair of sandals that fit well. He placed them on his feet and heaved a sigh of relief. The pain from the cold subsided. He rummaged around, hoping now for something that could be used as a light source.
He found what he was looking for a little further away. Flint, steel and char-cloth that could be used for sparking a fire. A discarded torch lay conveniently next to it, presumably for the purpose of being lit. He took the flint and steel and began to strike, slowly and carefully. Getting the bits of tinder to fall on the char-cloth was a difficult task in the dark. Once he was certain bits of flint were on the cloth, he blew gently and saw the glow of his first fire. He heaved a sigh of relief. “Now let’s hope the torch works.” He took the smouldering char-cloth and draped it over the torch and stopped breathing.
Whoosh! The torch came to life with great gusto, illuminating his dark world for the first time. Shadows danced around his flickering light source as he tried to make out his surroundings. The first thing he noticed were the bodies. The floor was strewn with what appeared to be hundreds of bodies. It explained why he had such easy access to serviceable equipment.
Tears came to the boy’s eyes. “You must be able to look death in the eye without flinching. You are here because you have lost everything. Your parents, your homeland, yourself. There is nothing that binds you to this world. When you have nothing to lose, death has no power over you.”
He went for a closer look at some of the bodies. It was odd for there were no actual bodies. No remains, just empty pieces of armor. There was evidence of a great struggle, yes. The armor was just as ragged as his. There were weapons strewn around, edges were chipped, shields were pierced, pounded or scratched. The armor all looked the same, exactly like the one he was wearing.
He quickly scanned the rest of the area. He appeared to be in a circular chamber. The room itself was about 300 feet in diameter. The ceiling was high, but could not have been more than 30 feet above him, made of the same stone he had been standing on. Braziers for the torches lined the walls. He went around and lit a few of them. The light danced around the room illuminating the scene of a great battle. There was a sense of desolation, a melancholy death that hung about the chamber. A great battle was waged, but for all apparent purposes, all existence of life had been wiped out. It was as if the darkness had consumed it, and left in its wake a grim reminder of what had been.
Despair took him as he realized he was the sole survivor of a conflict whose aim he knew not and that not a single soul had survived.
“Do not weep. There is no dishonor in slaying a man who has fought honorably. A blade that strikes with purpose wins over the blade with the weaker resolve. There is no shame in defeat, so long as the swordsman has been true to his purpose.”
He continued his exploration. It felt forbidden, like trodding on the graves of the dead. There was a sudden sense that he didn’t belong in this sea of nonexistent bodies, that he was disrupting the natural harmony of things.
A sudden terror took hold of him. While it was indeed a frightening prospect to be alone, a more dreadful thought was that he wasn’t. What great threat had eradicated the life that very obviously populated this chamber? Whatever it was, now was the time nor the place for contemplation. He needed to find a way out.
The light grew as he went around lighting torches, basking the chamber in a warm, diffuse glow. As he completed the circle, he found himself staring at a great oak door. It was shut, securely bolted to the side of the wall, preventing entrance or egress into the chamber.
Oddly enough, the bolt slid right off with minimal effort, the wood creaking as it moved, groaning from, seemingly, years of non-use, though it was grateful for the movement now. Like his muscles that had atrophied, it remembered its purpose, and was spry in its movement, eager to show the world what it could do.
With the bolt off, it was a small matter to push the great oak door open. It swung outward slowly but surely. When the door was fully open, he found himself staring at the entrance to a great hallway. There were no signs of a struggle outside. It was as though the battle that occurred in the circular chamber had begun and ended inside of it. In the hallway, there was only silence.
And darkness. The torch he he held did little to light the way beyond but a few feet in front of him.
He started to move forward again, guided by the lone torch. The fire flickered, casting shadows in the great hallway. The stone walls seemed to grow in size, moving as if to entomb him. More tricks, he told himself. The air was cool outside the chamber.
A cool spring evening. A great beauty. Love. A promise made under starry skies. A kiss. Warm lips and a lover’s embrace.
“Remember me, always.”
Crossing the hallway felt like an eternity. With each step, his footsteps echoed and reverberated across the hallway. He looked back and realized that he must have walked a great distance. The chamber was now but a tiny light in the distance, the lit torches maintaining their dignity and marking his entrypoint. He wished there were lights to guide him to his next destination as well. But this reverse lighthouse served him just as well.
“Sing to me again of the far off lands.” The boy insisted. “Why can I not stay with you?”
“They tell me a warrior has no time for memories or love. That I only have duty, and my sword. But my mind keeps coming back to the day we met. I can think of nothing but you.”
At last, he reached the end of the hallway. A stone door greeted him. There was no bolt this time, but the door was less cooperative. He tried to push the door as hard as he could, but it did not budge. It loomed in front of him in silent defiance, mocking him, almost laughing in his face. He cast his torch upon it, trying to make sense of it all.
The door stood a good ten feet tall, with a great archway above. There were markings, symbols in a language he did not recognize. Doors this size normally had levers, machinery upon which it relied on to effect movement. He could find no evidence of such and the door stood before him, immovable as ever. He took a few steps and looked behind him at the hallway he had just crossed. The ceilings were high in this place. The hallway itself was about a hundred feet wide. He estimated that because of the time it took for him to cross it, combined with the size of the light in the chamber he had just left, that he had walked about a mile. He had wondered why there were braziers in the chamber, but none in the hallway.
There did not seem to be any other way to operate the door from what he could see. His patience wore thin. He turned to the door once more, running his hands over the cold stone, trying to see if there was anything he missed.
After a few moments of trying, he felt an indentation in the stone. It was a rectangular shaped indentation right about where his chest was. He ran his hands over it again, just to be sure he was not imagining it. By torchlight, it was not visible, but it was certainly discernible through touch. He took his right hand and tried pushing. Nothing. He tried both hands and tried again. Still no movement.
In desperation and frustration, he took his fist and pounded in the space. The indentation moved slightly. Perhaps he was imagining it? He pounded on it again, this time the movement was greater. The indentation was getting deeper, more pronounced. He pounded with renewed gusto, excited that he was making progress where there was previously none. The indentation moved forward by a few more inches. By the fifth or sixth blow, he heard something click into place. He heard the movement of gears above him, coming to life in a whirring frenzy of activity. After a few moments, he heard heavy movement.
“The Knights of House Talanoth have but one purpose. You lend your sword in defense of your House, of your King, and your brothers.” Commands uttered from on high. The Knight knelt before his liege, boy no longer.
The door started moving, swinging outward slowly, the dust dropping as it followed its predetermined path. As he watched the door swing outward with satisfaction, he had a brief flash of inspiration. He realized the spark yielded him something of value. A name. His name? It was very familiar. It seemed to speak to him of memories from long ago, of things that he could not quite recall, but that called out to him. It was a start and it was something he could use for now.
“Mykall. My name is Mykall.”
“Mykall, my dear Mykall. My Knight.” A memory, a face, the warm summer wind, and the scent of a woman. “What I give to you, I give to no one else.”
Mykall took a few steps beyond the now open doorway. The air was fresh, cool and inviting. He reasoned that he must have stepped outside. His eyes tried to strain to see his surroundings.
Darkness. It was still here, but he could see farther than he could before. Out here, it was not quite as bad as where he had come from. It must be nighttime, he decided. He looked up at the sky to get his bearings, and immediately noticed something very wrong.
The sky above him was pitch black.
There were no stars. No sign even, of the moon prince Tsukuyomi’s presence, in any state. Far above the night sky, Tsukuyomi would exert his influence over the tides, waxing, waning or coming out in full force. None of the children of the light could be seen.
He heard the sound of crickets in the distance. Signs of life. The chill evening air made him cold. He was still soaked from laying on wet stone. He looked behind him at the place he had just been in and was startled. Without his realizing, the door he had just crossed had swung shut and he was staring at solid rock. He was standing on the side of a mountain. The door, if there ever was one, was nowhere to be found.
He ran his hands over the rock to find an indentation of sorts, something that would indicate the presence of the door he was sure he had just passed through a short while ago, but there was no sign of it. He felt like he was going crazy. “Am I dreaming?” If he was, it was too vivid. He could recall events as they occurred clearly. He received input from all five senses.
It was a world he no longer understood.
What of the sky? How had the world changed so much? What had transpired since he was last awake?
Full of questions, but happy to be alive, he decided to press on. He looked down the mountain at the land below. He saw tiny lights everywhere. The land was illuminated. A city perhaps? Closer to the mountain, past a small forest, there was a smaller, brightly lit area as well, perhaps a neighboring town. The breeze blew and Mykall wished he had taken a cloak with him from one of the bodies of armor in the chamber earlier. His torch burned brightly still, but it would run out soon enough. Best keep moving, he decided. He pressed on and began his descent from the mountain.
“Remember me, always.”
Try as hard as he could, he could not honor the promise.
Mykall took a few steps beyond the now open doorway. The air was fresh, cool and inviting. He reasoned that he must have stepped outside. His eyes tried to strain to see his surroundings.
Darkness. It was still here, but he could see farther than he could before. The level of darkness here was not quite as bad as the darkness he was just in. It must be nighttime, he decided. He looked up at the sky, and noticed something very wrong.
The sky above him was pitch black. There were no stars, and there was no sign of the moon prince Tsukuyomi’s presence, in any state. Far above the night sky, Tsukuyomi would exert his influence over the tides, waxing, waning or coming out in full force. None of the children of the light could be seen.
He heard the sound of crickets in the distance. Signs of life. He was once again in the land of the living. He had left the confines of his tomb and had rejoined the rest of the world. He felt a great excitement in him. Better to be alive than to be dead. The chill evening air made him feel cold. He realized that he was still wet from laying on the cold wet stone of the chamber he awoke in. He looked behind him at the place he had just been in and was startled. Somehow, without his realizing it, the door he had just crossed had swung shut and he was staring at just rock. He realized he was standing at the side of a mountain. The door, if there ever was one, was nowhere to be found. He ran his hands over the rock to find an indentation of sorts, something that would indicate the presence of the door he was sure he had just passed through a short while ago, but there was no sign of it. He felt like he was going crazy. “Am I dreaming?” If he was, it was too detailed. He could recall events as they occurred clearly. He could feel his five senses. It was much too lucid to be a dream, he decided.
But what of the sky? How had the world changed in such a short amount of time? What had happened since he was last awake? Full of questions, but happy to be alive, he decided to press on. He looked down from the mountain at the land below him. He could see lights down below. It was as if the Boshi, the star gods themselves had descended upon the land. He could see lights everywhere. The land was illuminated. There was a larger light source he could spy in the distance. A city perhaps? Closer to the mountain, past a small forest, there was a smaller, brightly lit area as well, perhaps a neighboring town. The chilly night breeze blew and Mykall wished he had taken a cloak with him from one of the bodies of armor in the chamber earlier. He torched burned brightly still, but it would run out soon enough. Best to keep moving, he decided. He pressed on and began his descent from the mountain.
“It’s not like we’re going to find anything this time around. Come on Fala, we’ve spent months trying to track this. I think this theory is quickly disintegrating. It’s got no legs.”
Fala looked back at Gustav. A striking beauty, she had wavy, raven black hair (all humans in Kuro had raven black hair), cut short like a boy’s in the back, but the bangs long in front, framing a small face with blue eyes and a fair complexion. She was one of the most attractive girls at the university. Like Gustav, she had an athletic build. She was dressed casually, sporting sweatpants and a sweater.
She smiled coyly at Gustav. “Just because YOU haven’t found anything doesn’t mean I haven’t!” She slowly produced a set of documents and waved them at Gustav.
“Fala, what the hell are these?”
“Documents detailing a trade agreement between Taiyou-Shi and Yin. According to this, Taiyou-Shi contracted with Diskarma to transfer 35 Billion GEUs to Yin in the last 3 months.” She smiled even more. “How do you think Diskarma came up with that many GEUs in such a short amount of time?”
Gustav thought about it carefully. GEUs take time to accumulate. Despite the Kurokyuu Orbs greatly shortening the time and lessening the effort required to acquire the Goddess Essence, the time it took to mine a single unit was 60 seconds. That meant it required massive amounts of Kurokyuu orbs to mine the amount of energy required in a day.
“They’re lying about the shortage”. He responded back to Fala.
“Bingo. You’re smarter than you look.”
Gustav looked hurt. “Fala…” he began. “Gustav, you know I’m kidding…”. Gustav smiled again. “Fala you know how much you mean to me. Stop hurting me with words.”
Fala moved around animatedly. She knew that she was on a roll. “There is only one way to find out for sure.” She ran from the hill, down toward the east side of it. Gustav ran after her in earnest. “Fala, quit the games will you? It’s hard for me to try and follow your train of thought here…” Gustav stopped abruptly. They were now staring at the sealed entrance to Reactor Core #3.
“Fala this isn’t funny…” Gustav began. Fala smiled even more. “Gustav, there is only one way to find out how accurate this document is…”
“Where did you find this document, Fala?”
“I hacked it off of the Central Reserve’s classified files.”
“Fala, that is a Class A violation. We could go to prison for years, I can’t believe you called me out to the hill for the sole purpose of looking at Reactor #3. I could have sworn you had something else in mind.”
Fala looked at Gustav with a puzzled expression on her face. “And what might that be Gustav?”. Gustav sighed. “Nevermind. What’s your plan?”.
Fala giggled. “I think you can figure that one out yourself Mr. Smarty Pants.”
I found this terrific article from Kristen Lamb about structure. As an aspiring ( and completely green) writer, this is about the equivalent of a big, bright neon sign pointing the way. There are several good bits of information, and a link to a an interesting book that I will need to read on structure.
Want a way to stand out from all the other writers clamoring to get an agent’s attention? Want to be a best-selling author with stories that endure the tests of time? Learn all you can about the craft, particularly novel structure. Structure is one of those boring topics like finance or taxes. It isn’t nearly as glamorous as creating characters or reading about ways to unleash our creative energy. Structure is probably one of the most overlooked topics, and yet it is the most critical. Why? Because structure is for the reader. The farther an author deviates from structure, the less likely the story will connect to a reader. Agents know this and editors know this and, since they are in the business of selling books to readers, structure becomes vital.
Story that connects to reader = lots of books sold
Story that deviates so far from structure that readers get confused…
View original post 1,515 more words
So it is done. Anti-climactic yes. And I finished it during my lunch hour, no less. I wasn’t expecting the book to be done so quickly, but it in the end, the pieces fell into place, and there was nothing else to say. And so I ended it.
What’s it feel to have completed a novel? Not really sure. I’m not sure I’d call it an accomplishment at this point. Anyone can put words to a page and call it a book. The hard part is getting others to read it and be interested in it. Perhaps someday you will all have copies of it in your hands and I can go into writing full-time. Ah yes, the dreams! The reality is usually far different.
I would say here’s to the next step. Revising it ad infinitum and submitting it out to as many agents and publishers as I can and braving the inevitable rejections. It only takes one “yes”!
I like how it ended and where the characters ended up. The story is far from over, but I would say it at least doesn’t end at a cliffhanger. The ending will be somewhat satisfying and does bring the story arc to a reasonable close.
So there you go, my nonexistent readers, may there be thousands, no millions of you out there just waiting to discover my hidden gem of a novel 🙂
According to my Google Drive, Kuro just hit 98.5K words today. I feel like it’s some sort of accomplishment (Yay, me). I know word count doesn’t equate to anything in the real world, but I feel like I did something cool nonetheless. I just hope that someday, the story I have written will actually be read.
A few interesting things I’ve noted:
Like this post! NOW. That’s an order. 🙂
Crossing the hallway felt like an eternity. With each step, his footsteps echoed and reverberated across the hallway. It was cold outside of the chamber, and though he was fully covered, he had started to feel the chill. There was no wind in this place, thankfully. The air seemed to have cleared as well past the chamber. He looked back and realized that he must have walked a great distance. The chamber he had just left was now a tiny light in the distance, the torches he lit maintaining their dignity and marking his entrypoint. He wished that there were lights to guide him to his next destination as well. But this reverse lighthouse, served him just as well.
After what seemed like an even longer time, he reached the end of the hallway. A stone door stood in his way. There was no bolt, but the door was less cooperative than the oak door he had just moved past. He tried to push the stone door as hard as he could, but it did not budge. The stone felt heavy, immovable. It stood in front of him in silent defiance, mocking him, almost laughing in his face. Despite his frustration, he took hold of himself and tried to find another means of moving the door. He cast his torch upon it, trying to make sense of it all. The stone door was great indeed. It stood about 10 feet tall, a great archway above it. There were carvings on the door, symbols of a language he did not recognize. In the light of his torch, he could not make them out. The door did not appear to have a specific mechanism with which to operate it with. Doors of this size normally had levers, machinery with which it relied upon to effect movement. There was no evidence of such machinery and the door stood before him, still as immovable as ever. He took a few steps away from the door and looked around at the hallway he had just crossed. The ceilings were high in this place. The hallway itself was about 100 feet wide. He estimated that in the time it took for him to cross it, and by the size of the light in the chamber he had just left, that he had walked about a mile, which made for a really long hallway. He had wondered why there were braziers in the chamber, but none in the hallway.
There did not seem to be any other way to operate the door that he saw from the hallway. He was starting to lose patience even more. Did he just come to life, only to see it end, this time slowly, his life ebbing before him with no way out? Did this tomb rouse him to life only to mock him till the end with its silence, its darkness and its unyielding stone? He turned to the door once more, running his hands over the cold stone, trying to see if there was anything he could feel, anything he could use to effect the mechanism that would open the door for him and provide him with a way out. After a few moments of trying, he felt an indentation in the stone. It was a rectangular shaped indentation somewhere about where his chest was. He ran his hands over it again, just to be sure he was not imagining it. By torchlight, it was not visible, but it was definitely discernible through touch. He took his right hand and tried pushing. Nothing. He tried both hands and tried again. Still no movement. In desperation and frustration, he took his fist and pounded in the space. The indentation moved slightly. Perhaps he was imagining it? He pounded on it again, this time the movement was greater. The indentation was getting deeper, more pronounced. He pounded with renewed gusto, excited that was making progress where there was previously none. The indentation move forward by a few more inches. After about the fifth or sixth pounding, he heard something click into place. He heard the movement of gears above him, coming to life in a whirring frenzy of activity. After a few moments, he heard heavy movement.
Finally, the door started moving. He saw it swing outward slowly, the dust dropping as it moved. As he watched the door swing outward with satisfaction, he had a brief flash of inspiration. Once the door had finished moving, his brief flash of inspiration had yielded him something of value. A name. His name? It was very familiar. It seemed to speak to him of memories from long ago, things that he could not recall, but that called out to him. It was a start and it was something he could use for now.
“Mykall. I think my name is Mykall.”