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DMan64

Blood Ties: My Personal Work

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So I am currently in the middle of writing a novel and would like as much critical feedback as possible, but before I share it, I want to give a bit of detail on it.

I've been working on this project for quite some time, and had spent a long amount of time planning it out; I know how I want it to begin and end, I know the characters that I want to focus on, and I know where I want them to go in the future. 

The story itself is a fantasy war story.  It takes place in a different world than our own, and has a mix of morality, politics, religion, alchemy, and war.  While it is primarily taken seriously, many of the characters try to make the best of the situation they are in and do whatever they can to stay as upbeat as possible.  Focusing on three main characters, each of whom look at a different aspect of the conflict. 

I have the first four chapters plus the prelude done and will be putting them here to see to get any feedback thus far, and may add more down the line.  I do hope to eventually publish it down the line, so any feedback would be great.

Spoiler

Blood Ties: The Grau War

BY: DANIEL CUNNINGHAM

 

 

 

Prelude

 

 

On the land of Grau; a land of war, wonder, and secrecy, there stand five great nations.  To the north resides the people of Glendor; known for its fierce military and beautiful landscapes.  Eastward lies Hiruan, the alchemical capital of the world. Westward stands Berdon, known for the lavish lifestyle of the nobility.  In the north eastern sea, the island nation of Zealith stands secluded from the other nations yet a great naval power in its own league.  Between the nations of the mainland lay Dwyer, prosperous and bountiful, yet uninvolved in the affairs of others.

 

Unbeknownst to three individuals, their lives will soon be forever changed as events from the past echo to the present.

 

 

 

Part One:

The Conquest Begins

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1:

Erin

 

 

She curled under the tall sequoia tree, overlooking the great Lake Lune, the water crashing against the cliffside below.  While waiting for the others to arrive, her heart began to close in on itself, as her mind raced around with the thought of her mother.  She wanted to cry.

But she didn’t… she wouldn’t- not for that woman.

She tried looking for the positive, yet they wouldn’t come.  The house was now hers, but she despised it. Her mother was gone, but she was the only family she had.  Balthasar and the others could finally see what the place was like, but she couldn’t tell them what happened within those walls.

The pain lingered behind her eyes, until she heard a voice call from behind,

“Your here early.”

Erin watched as Balthasar marched up; curly dirt hair, eyes like fine exotic wood, and wearing the locket left by his father.

Erin smiled back, “I got cleaned up early,” she replied, “training wasn’t as intense today.”

“Maybe for you,” Balthasar sat next to her, stretching his back, “My mother didn’t hesitate to hold back today.”

“Well, she was a fierce warrior.” Erin chuckled, “guess that’s what you’d call tough love.”

Balthasar leaned back on the tree, “I suppose, though it is kind of strange to see her go from being an unrelenting fighter to gentle caring mother.”

Erin shifted, “That reminds me, any word from your father yet?”

Balthasar rested his fist on the ground, “No- as of now this makes it fourteen years without a word from him,” he looked up towards the moon as it reached the apex of it’s path, “Either way, I know he’s fine.”

Erin stare back down at the ground, “Right…”

“Oh yeah,” Balthasar asked, “How are you holding up?”

Erin kept looking downwards, “I’ll be fine.” she asserted, “All I want to do is move on from it.”

“Okay…” Balthasar replied, “but if you need to talk about it, just let anyone of us know.”

Erin looked back at Balthasar, whose face shine like the moonlight breaking through the night, “I know.” Erin blushed, “But like I said, don’t worry about it.”

Sitting back against the tree and her head resting on Balthasar’s shoulder, the two gazed into the distant horizon of Lake Lune as stars began twinkling into the sky.  For Erin, moments like this made all the pain she felt worth it; being alone here with Balthasar was all she wanted.

“Aww, look at you two!” A voice called from the hill leading up to them.  Erin and Balthasar turned to see Dawna and Zayn hiking up the hill, Dawna snickering at them as she played with her long black hair, “Really, you two are adorable- wouldn’t you agree Zayn.”

Zayn shrugged.

Erin shook her head, “What took you two so long?”

“She got twigs in her hair… again.” Zayn grumbled.

“Hey, some people like to look good doing the things that they do.”

“Is that practical though?”

As the siblings began their usual bickering, Erin looked over at Balthasar, both tuning them both out before they went back to looking at the lake, the moon now shining high in the sky and a calm evening wind brushing through the tree above.

 

Erin arrived back home after spending the next hour relaxing their, the silence welcoming after Zayn and Dawna’s constant chattering.

As Erin entered the small one story home, she stood a moment to analyze its contents.  Barely decorated, only four rooms; one living room with a furnace, two couches, and a table; her mother’s room; and her small, barely spacious room with a tiny bed and a few books; and a bathroom.  It may not have been a lot, how Erin prefers things, but every bit of it she couldn’t stand. The only place that was heavily decorated was her mother’s room, filled with jewels, portraits, and other lavish accomadies.

It made Erin sick to be in there, but if she were ever going to get a comfortable night's sleep, then it would be in there.  She walked over to the door, which she had kept closed ever since she had taken the home for herself a week back, and slowly pulled it as if it were a leach stuck on her body.

As she entered, she lit the lamp on the dresser to her left, the light reflecting off the copious amounts of jewelry.  She never understood why that woman had as much as she did; she barely went out in public. She plopped on the large, comfortable bed, and turn to look at the full-body portrait of her mother stuck on the wall in front of her.  Beautiful, lush blonde hair, emerald green eyes; traits Erin carried that she wished she didn’t have, partly why she kept her hair short. The only trait that truly distinguished her from the woman was the color of her right eye; rather than it being green like her other eye, it was a deep blue color.  She thought that it could perhaps be connected to her father, whom she knew nothing of. Her mother never mentioned him at all, at least not in a positive sense.

As comfortable as the bed was, she couldn’t bring herself to stay in the room any further, quickly leaping out of the bed, extinguishing the lamp and going back to her own room.  As she stood in the doorway of her room, contemplating sleeping on the couch, she shook the idea off and closed the door behind her, crashing against the sagging mattress.

 

The night was still young, yet Erin was fast asleep.  Though she couldn’t stop shifting around on her tiny bed.

Erin-

Erin shifted around more.

Erin…

She continued shifting.

Erin, stay calm, and come to us.

When her eyes opened, she found herself in a strange place.  It looked like the overlook from Lake Lune, yet the plants were all a rich silver color and the sky had an otherworldly blue aura to it.  Her attention then shifted to the tree, where three beings stood tall.

Come, hear our call.

 

 

 

Chapter Two

Balthasar

 

 

To say Balthasar missed his father would be an exaggeration.  In many ways he idolized the man, hearing tales of the great Sir Gareth, the most respected and successful generals not just in Glendor, but in all of Grau.  Yet that was the only way he ever got to know him.

He remembered only small bits of his father from when he was really young.  He could remember his appearance vividly; tall, proud, grey hair, and a scar over his face.  As for anything else about him, he had to consult either his brother Kiro, his mother Karen, or the various journals, books, and maps that covered his father’s career.

Yet that said, he was never entirely sure why his father left so long ago.  While true that the New Union’s rise to power startled many outside Glendore after King Bastion’s death, he figured his father would simply go to pay his respect to the man he once served.  But that was years ago. Anytime a letter was sent, his mother would never reveal much to him; all he knew was that his father lead the Knights of Legacy against the New Union. It seemed strange that he would take up arms against his homeland, and even the crown he once served now that Lord Conroy had ascended to the throne after coming of age, but what reason would he have to do so.  Why would his mother still stay silent after all these years? Did Kiro ever find out before he left for his alchemical studies in Vero?

Curios, Balthasar stood from the bed he lay on and exit his room, taking his father’s journal during the Grey War with him.  As he walked through the hall and down the stairs, his mother, sitting on one of the seat at the fireplace in deep thought, caught sight of him.

“Balthasar,” she gently called, “What are you doing up this late?”

“Nothing mother,” Balthasar answered nervously.

Karen studied him for a moment, her eyebrows raising at him, “Nothing, hmm?”

Balthasar sighed, “Okay, I guess… I was just wondering why you never said anything about why father left.”

Karen stared at the fire, once again in deep thought, “Very well,” she answered, “you’ve waited long enough, you’re old enough now.”  She motioned to the seat across from her.

Balthasar took a seat as Karen took a deep breath.  Whatever she was going to tell him, he felt that it wasn’t going to be easy to swallow.

“So, at this point I take it you know of everything happening in Glendor now, correct?”

“Of course,” Balthasar answered, “the New Union has made the place a prosperous nation once again.”

“To a degree, yes.” Karen shook her head.

“So, why would father be leading a charge against them?”

Karen sighed, “Even if Glendor is prospering, the New Union took many extremes in order to reach that point.  While some accept these new, harsh practices, they do it because they know they’ll survive comfortably.”

Balthasar looked at his mother with puzzled eyes, “But that’s a good thing, isn’t it.”

Karen sighed, “Yes, but not all agree with the methods taken-” Karen looked back at the fire, “I don’t know much, but from what your father has told me, it doesn’t sound good.  Yet even that said, he said that among other reasons he needs to stay and fight.”

“What reasons?” Balthasar questioned, “I get the methodology crap, but why else would he fight?”

Karen quickly looked directly in Balthasar’s eyes, “He wouldn’t say.”

“What?” Balthasar sat back, “What do you mean he wouldn’t say.”

“Exactly what I meant.” Karen asserted, “Now Balthasar, go rest, we can continue this discussion tomorrow.”

Balthasar, unable to generate any words, quietly went back to his room, leaving the journal on the seat.  Upon entering his room, all he could do was sit on his bed and stare out the window.

“Why?” he asked himself, “Why wouldn’t he say anything?  What could he be hiding?”

“He has his reasons.” Karen startled him, putting the journal next to him as she hugged him from behind.

“Does Kiro know?”

“I’m afraid not.” Karen gently answered, “Whatever reasons your father has, it must be to much of a burden for anyone else to bear, at least, that’s how he’s always seen things.”

Balthasar looked back, “Well, whatever the case, someday I’ll find him.”

“Balthasar-” Karen began.

“Just wait mother-” Balthasar interrupted, “I’ll grow to be just as great of a warrior as he is, and we can all be together again.”

“I…” Karen muttered, “I’m sure you will.” she said, letting go of her son, whom turned to face her as she left, “Now, get some rest.  Remember you’re helping Erin with her home tomorrow.”

“Of course.” Balthasar eagerly said, before turning to face her again, “Is that why you train us?”

Karen stopped at the door way, brushing her hand across the door, “There may come a day, at least, that’s what he sees.”  She slowly shut the door, hesitating a moment before it came to a close, leaving Balthasar to reflect in his sleep.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

Erin

 

 

Erin woke, achy and groggy as always when she slept in that bed.  For a moment, she regret not going to her mother’s room to sleep. She didn’t limmer on that for long, her mind instead focusing on the strange dream she experienced.  It seemed completely random, though oddly real. She tried to remember what those three beings were; conjuring shapes of a large silver wolf, a towering gold dragon, and a large orange phoenix, all of which glowing with an immense, warm aura.

The ancient gods?  She questioned why of all things she would have a dream such as that, seeing as the gods haven’t made themselves present for ages.  But then why did it feel important. As Erin sat up, felt a calming warmth surround her. Perhaps it was eagerness to get the house emptied, or the dream itself?   Or perhaps she was overthinking it?

Regardless Erin stood from her bed, getting herself dressed for a day of house work.

 

Erin solemnly sat on a stump in front of her home, waiting for Balthasar and the others to arrive.  Getting that place cleared out of all of her mother’s belongings was all to enticing to her. Yet something seemed off, she felt as if someone, or something was calling to her.

She didn’t question it for long as she noticed the three walking from the path in the forest leading to her place.

“Good morning sunshine!” Dawna greeted, her eyes then locking to the house in an awkward gaze, “Huh, that’s actually smaller than I expected.”

“Dawna,” Zayn scoffed, “Perhaps be a little more courteous next time.”

“What,” Dawna stretched her voice, “I was making an observation.”

Erin rolled her eyes, “It’s fine, like I said before, you don’t need to do this.”

“Oh come on,” Dawna chuckled, “Your always helping us with stuff, we figured we’d only repay the favor.”  Dawna then began flexing, “Besides, with my muscle, this’ll get done in no time.”

Zayn began rubbing his eyes, “You know, sometimes you are unbearable.”

Balthasar walked over and gave Zayn a light punch on his shoulder, “Come now Zayn, a little enthusiasm never hurt anyone.”

Zayn sighed, following with a smirk, “Oh fine, I suppose I’ll just have to show dear sis what real muscle looks like.”

“Oh it’s on brother.” Dawna cracked her knuckles, “All right Erin, let’s get started.”

Erin couldn’t help but smile, shaking her head, “Okay, follow me.”

Leading the group into her home, she motioned them to her mother’s room, “We’re going to take care of that room first.”

“Okay then.” Dawna answered, viewing the surroundings of the small room, “Well, not much in here…” then Erin opened the door, multicolored light blasting out at them, “Ay, okay- forget I said anything.”

Erin jumped to the curtains, tossing them shut, “This is why there’s barely anything else.”

Erin shot her eyes to the portrait of her mother, which Balthasar had taken interest in.

“This is Jewel?” Balthasar tilted his head, “She looks so much like you.”

Erin brushed her hand through her hair, “Yeah, that can go down first.”

Everyone else in the room fell silent.

“You sure?” Dawna scratched her head, “That’s your mother.”

“I’m sure,” Erin walked towards the picture, attempting to take it from the wall.  “Geez, this thing won’t budge.”

Zayn scoffed, “You can’t move a picture.”

“I’m serious,” Erin grunted, “you give it a shot then if your so confident.”

Zayn just began to walk over, before he stop in his tracks and squint his eyes, “Wait, look closely.”  Balthasar and Erin looked at the edge of the portrait that Zayn pointed out, noticing a small grip on one side wedged into the door, and hinges on the other end, “You ever see that before?”

“No, I’ve barely been in this room.”

“You’ve barely been in your mother’s room?”

“Don’t worry about it.” Erin rolled over her words, “Balthasar, help me out here.”  The two gripped into the latch, pulling it with great might. After a moment, the painting moved from its initial position and swung open, revealing the hidden compartment.

What lay inside however, was completely unexpected to everyone.  Erin reached in and grasped the hilt of what looked like an ornate rapier.  The scabbard holding it colored blue, with silver decor around it. The hilt gleamed with silver, and the centerpiece of the hilt lay a glowing jewel of many colors.

Dawna whistled, “Well, that’s a beauty- let’s see the rest of it.”

Erin, slowly revealed the blade itself.  Similar to the hilt, the blade was a, shimmering silver.  She held it before her, getting a feel for the blade. To her surprise, the blade felt light; lighter than a rapier should, yet it seemed like it should’ve had some heft to it.  For a rapier, the blade had an unnaturally sharp edge, perhaps enough to cut effectively. The strangest thing was that the sword felt comfortable in her hands, a bit to comfortable.  

“Where’d your mother get that?”  Balthasar gazed at the blade, “No ordinary person gets a blade like that.”

“Like I said, my mother-” Erin’s speech screeched to a halt as a scream echoed through the forest into the home, catching everyone’s attention.  

“Anyone else-”

“Shh!” Balthasar silenced Dawna, slowly walking forward and turning his ear towards the door.  As he did so, faint sounds of shouting and metal clashing. Erin watched as the color flushed from Balthasar’s face; at that moment Erin knew what was happening.

“Balthasar?”  Erin gripped the blade, hesitant and sweating, before rushing out of the door.

“Erin, wait!” Balthasar reached out, turning back to Zayn and Dawna, “You two, let’s go!”

 

Upon reaching the other end of the path leading to her home, she stopped dead in her tracks, looking on in horror as people scattered for their lives as soldiers clad in black armor had rushed through the town as the town guards attempted to hold them back.  A blaze had started towards the opposite end of the town, ash now snowing down. Almost on instinct, she had taken the blade from the sheathe and rushed into the town.

“Erin, wait a second!” Balthasar screamed from the distance.  Yet Erin paid no attention to him, instead rushing past the outskirt of the town as to not be seen.  Through the ally way, she saw that the gate leading into the town was shut, though shaking violently.  Upon reaching an alleyway leading towards the front of the gate, she took cover behind it, looking for an opportunity to to strike.

“I’ll tell you once more!” a voice boomed through, catching Erin’s attention, “Surrender now and I will order my troops to cease.”  Erin stared towards the man, armored in sleek, dark grey and black plates. His face stern, yet covered in an ashy white beard. Erin slowly crept in to see who the man was talking to.  

“You know as well as I that I can’t do such a thing Leon.”  At that moment, Erin recognized it was Karen. Closing in ever so slightly, she found her kneeling on the ground, the blade next to her broken in two.  Her hair a frizzled mess, armor cracked, and sweat dripping profusely.

The man seemed to sigh to himself, “Very well, may the gods have mercy on you…”

Erin heard enough at this point, rushing from the alley in front of the man, drawing the blade and swinging it across her.  The man barely dodged her attack, dashing back quickly despite the heavy amount of armor that the man wore. Erin readied her stance, the blade pointed at the man with her left arm to her side.

“Erin!” Karen staggered up, “What are you doing?  Get out of here!”

“And leave you to die?” Erin shouted back.

“We’re surrounded by troops and you aren’t in armor! Leave now!”

The man grunted, “Enough of this!” He held his blade out, “If you are so eager to challenge me, then don’t hold back.”  He turned to face some of the troops approaching, “Continue the mission, this fight is mine.”
Erin took a deep breath, eyes focused on the man who stood laxed before her.  She took one step after another, rushing at him and quickly thrusting the blade forward.  Yet the man perried her attack, causing her to stumble before swinging his own blade. Erin was barely able to defend herself as the two blades clashed with enough force to make sparks fly.  Erin had little time to think of a way to counter, before the man had kicked her straight in the gut. Erin flew to the ground, the air sucked from her body as her back slammed the dirt beneath her.  Her grip on the blade hadn’t loosened though, and Erin tried to regain her composure, staggering up trying to catch her breath.

“Erin-” she barely heard Karen through the ringing of her ears, looking in her direction.  The woman tried running to her, though had been intercepted by other soldiers. Erin staggered up, using the blade to get her balance, as the man put his blade to her throat.

“How pathetic…” the man grunted, “I’d expect better from-” Erin looked up at him, as he stare at her blade, “Where did you get that blade?”

“Why-” Erin gasped for air, “Why do you care?”

The man shook his head, before turning his attention back to Erin, raising his blade to strike her down.  Erin attempted to raise her sword to counter, but she had been completely drained of strength.

Though she expected to be struck down, Balthasar, dressed in the light, animite armor they wore for training stepped in front of her, broad sword in hand, ready to guard against the attack.  But the man stopped just before he struck down, with Erin watching in confusion as he stepped back.

“What…” Balthasar lowered his guard momentarily, before running in to attack.  Erin watched on as Balthasar swung quickly at the man, who had guarded against every single swing without exhaustion.  Faster than Erin could blink, he then rushed in, shoulder chucking Balthasar onto the ground next to Erin, causing his sword to drop to the ground.

“Balthasar!” Erin screeched, “Are you okay?”

Balthasar pushed himself off the ground, pulling Erin up with him, “I’m fine,” his attention kept on the man before them, who simply stood on, leering at Balthasar, “Why won’t you attack?” Balthasar screamed at him.

“Because boy,” he began, “it wouldn’t be worth the victory.”

“What!” Balthasar barked, beginning to rush at him, Erin struggling to hold him back.

The man then looked to Erin, pointing his blade at her, “You will be coming with-” he was cut off when Karen struck him in the face, causing him to stumble, just as Zayn and Dawna arrived equipped with armor and basic weapons, Zayn carrying light armor for Erin.

“You two alright?” Dawna shouted.

“We’ll be fine,” Erin grunted in pain, “just a bit- a bit banged up.” she faltered, Balthasar quickly catching and wrapping her around his shoulder.  She turned her head to see Karen pick up the blade Balthasar had, turning to him.

“Balthasar, get everyone out of here!”

“No, I won’t leave you!”

“Balthasar, that is an order, go!”

Erin used whatever might she had to turn her head and looked at Balthasar, who was frozen in place, unable to leave his mother behind.

“Balthasar…” she murmured, “we- we can’t-” she began to falter in her speech, “I can still fight…”  She struggled to keep herself up, nearly dropping the blade from her hand, as Zayn and Dawna arrived before them.

“Balthasar, we need to go now!” Zayn shouted, then turning his attention to Erin, taking the blade from her hand and putting it in back in the scabbard, “You really should’ve thought this through.”

“I couldn’t… let anyone-” Erin tried to speak.

“Erin…” Balthasar looked to her, as Zayn helped carry Erin, “Take it easy.  Dawna, watch our backs!”

“Way ahead of you bud!” Dawna shouted, as she had pushed a soldier away with her spear.

As the four dashed towards the forest, the sounds of the gates crashing open boomed through the air, as the victorious chants of soldiers clumped together.  Erin, hung her head in shame.

 

 

 

Chapter Four

Conroy

 

 

Conroy walked alongside Alexander through the western garden of Castle Glendis, as servants worked with various topiaries and planting various flowers.

“So the mission goes well?”  Conroy questioned his mentor.

“Of course,” Alexander smiled, “The Zealith front is going well, Dwyer will take little effort with a lack of forces, and the people of Berdon can easily be coerced to aid us, with their lack of resources.”

“And what of Hiruan?” Conroy gripped the hilt of his blade, “Of all places that may pose a threat, it would be Hiruan.”

Alexander chuckled, stroking his ashy white beard, “I assure you, the New Union army is unmatched at this point.”

“Well, if you are confident in it, then I feel more at ease.” Conroy’s grip eased, “Still, I can’t shake this feeling I have.”

“What feeling is this?”

“It came from a dream that I had.”

Alexander’s eye rose, “A dream- do tell.”

Conroy walked over to the fence at the topiary of knight on horseback, about to ride into battle, staring up solemnly, “Well, I have trouble recollecting what happened, but I remember that a great warrior would rise to challenge me.”

“It may have been Gareth?” Alexander responded, “That traitor to the crown has always posed a challenge to the New Union.”

“A fair assumption, but no-” Conroy sighed, looking downward, “Rather, it was a girl.”

“A girl?”

“Yes,” Conroy chuckled, “I know it seems absurd, but I will not lie, it had me concerned.”

“Well a dream is a but a dream.” Alexander turned from Conroy, analyzing the servants at their work, “Though I take it you’ve more to tell.”

“Of course,” Conroy reached for his blade, tightening around the handle, “The girl held the sacred blade.”

Alexander’s head slightly shifted towards Conroy, “I’m sure it means nothing.”

“Maybe so,” Conroy tensed up, “Even still, I can’t help but feel it is of great importance.”

Alexander scoffed, “Whatever case, the blade you hold would crush any opposition.”

Conroy had slightly exposed the blade from the scabbard, watching as the shadowy material emit a festering, violet aura, “The Blade of Power,” Conroy muttered, before sheathing the blade turning to Conroy, “I’ve been meaning to ask you about that as well.”

“What other questions could you possibly-” Alexander cut himself off, reddening as he watched a black-haired girl mistakenly cut a great portion of her topiary off, “You there! Start over-”

Conroy stepped forward, “Alexander, please calm yourself…”

“No, no,” the girl bowed to Conroy, “I’ll get right to it.”

The girl quickly took her tools towards, rushing past Conroy into the western quarters.

Conroy sterned his eyes to Alexander, “Alexander, it’s a bush.”

Alexander moaned, “Conroy, how many times must I tell you.  A servant needs to be at their best at for any situation. If they aren’t then everyone else must make up for their failures.”

“I know,” Conroy murmured, “Just like my father.”

“Precisely,” Alexander smirked, “But look what happened once you had taken charge of the New Union; bellies are full, people can work, and Glendor is prosperous once again.  And despite some resources lacking, this mission will surely bring us more to distribute to the people.”

Conroy looked towards the western quarters, “And we can then bring all people under one vision, one union…”

“Exactly.” Alexander approved, “And now that you’ve ascended to the throne, the name of the nobility shall be restored.”

“Right-” Conroy began walking, “Well, I must be off… I have to take care of something.”

“Of course,” Alexander trailed, “What would that be?”

“Oh,” Conroy nervously snapped from his thoughts, “Just- getting myself ready for my journey to Berdon and Dwyer.  The gods know it will be an exhausting trip.”

“Ah, of course.” Alexander remembered, “Well, just be sure to pack only what you need.”

“Of course,” Conroy began walking away, before turning to give the old man a bow, “And may you have a great day.”

 

Conroy quickly walked through the marble halls of the servant quarters, skimming through the open doors to find the black haired lady.  It wasn’t until he reached the opposite end near the rear garden, catching sight of the woman working furiously at a topiary on a stand.  Conroy slowly approached, clearing his throat.

“Excuse me-” he gently called, surprising the girl.

“Oh- Lord Conroy!” the girl nervously backed away, “I- apologize for my careless technique.”

Conroy waved his hand to her, “No no, I understand.”

“You understand?”

“I mean- your frustration…” Conroy stuttered, “mistakes can happen, and… such.”

“Umm, right.” the girl nervously chuckled, “So, is that all?”

“Actually, I was wondering if I could help with this.”
“You what?” the girl moved back, “Lord Conroy, you have a lot to worry about as is, I couldn’t possibly give you more to worry over.”

Conroy moved slightly closer, “Please, I assure you, it’s not a problem at all-” he sighed, “If anything this would be a nice change from planning, training, and ruling.”

The girl was taken back a lot by Conroy’s statement, holding her hand to her chest in deep thought, “Very well… though if it becomes too much for you, just let me now.”

Conroy closed his eyes, smirking, “A bush is a bush, and I am the lord of a nation, this will poss little challenge.”

The woman stared intently back for a moment, before returning a smirk, “Well then, let’s see how well you’ll live up to that statement.”

 

A few minutes passed and the two were sweating buckets as they worked.  While the woman had been making quick, effective progress, Conroy had made careful intricate cuts attending to the finer details.

“I must admit,” the girl wiped her forehead, “Your not half-bad.”

“Thanks,” Conroy took a deep breath, “Though to be fair, I don’t think I could do as well as you could.”

Lilac silently laughed to herself, halting her progress and putting the tweezers to the side.

“What’s so funny?” Conroy chuckled back.

The girl stared at him, “You’re not at all what I expected…”

“How so?”

“Well, don’t take this the wrong way, but I thought you’d be more, fierce, stern, and hard to be around.”

“A fair assumption,” Conroy nodded, “My father was never-”

“Oh, Lord Conroy, I didn’t mean…”

“No no, you’re fine.  And please just call me Conroy.”

“Um okay- Conroy.” the girl blushed, “If you don’t mind me asking, what were you going to say about your father?”

“Right…”  Conroy trailed off, “See, while I never knew him much, Alexander told me of what he was like.”

“Oh?”

Conroy stopped, shaking his head, “I apologize, I-” before Conroy finished, he and the woman overheard Alexander talking with a knight approaching in the distance, “I should leave.”

“Right…” the girl sighed.

As Conroy began dashing away, he stopped in his tracks and rushed back to her, “What’s your name?”

“Huh, um, Lilac.”

“Lilac,” Conroy repeated to himself, “Okay, Lilac, when I arrive back from my journey, would you care to have dinner with me?”

“What?” her eyes lit up.

“Well, what do you say?”

Lilac looked in the direction of Alexander’s approach, as he came ever-so closer, before smiling at Conroy, “Yes, but what will I wear?”

“Don’t worry about that…” Conroy began walking away again as Alexanders voice grew louder, “I’ll see you when I return.”  Conroy ran into the chambers, peeking from behind the doorway as Alexander approached closer and Lilac resumed her work.

“My my,” he announced, “you’ve certainly made progress.”

“Thank you,” Lilac confidently said, Conroy gleaming to her, before happily walking to his quarters to prepare for departure.

 

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gonna be honest, not gonna read it all, but will say, that you probably shouldn't start with jargon introduction. make the early parts easy to jump into without prior knowledge, like just have people doing manual labor, and then reveal "actually, wait, they're using magic and shit" would be my take to introducing a story.

also

1 hour ago, DMan64 said:

characters try to make the best of the situation they are in and do whatever they can to stay as upbeat as possible.

may be biased, but that seems a quite psychologically damaging mindset long term. you could explore themes of wartime optimism being crushed by horrible tragedy for moving character progression, but honestly, thats vague advice, so make of it what you will. 

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Okay, thanks for the feedback regardless.  I suppose what I meant by upbeat is that they are more or less trying to stay as stable as they can given their situation, but they keep their real emotions tuckered down, only for things to just keep going downhill hill until they just feel completely crushed.  One of my characters, Balthasar, for example, following the footsteps of his father, becomes a very effective leader of the army, but as he goes forward, the weight of leadership starts to get to him as he has to do things that, while effective for them to progress, doesn't gel with his morals, and it continually eats away at him, until near the end of the story, when the low point of his character arc causes him to emotionally shut down after he does something that clashed with his values, even though he didn't know it.

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