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Author Topic: Charred Life (Rewritten)  (Read 17054 times)

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Offline Echo_River

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Charred Life (Rewritten)
« on: August 01, 2019, 07:44:45 PM »
Charred Life
Part One: The Acor Village

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Action

Info: Six years have passed since Roun's village was attacked and his best friend killed. Roun has vowed to avenge his friend, but to do so he has to become a Warden of the Acor village, a protector of his people. When the time for the Warden's Exam comes around, Roun faces the threat of being disqualified, and is at the same time  expected to teach the ways of the Acor to his cousin, Dave, who comes to the village for the first time. Dave doesn't know spat about Acor traditions, nor does he know who their enemy is.

Here's where I'll be posting story info and chapters. Feedback, comments, and questions are welcome!

Status: In Development

# of chapters currently written: Dreams (3) + 15

Currently posted chapters (Links):

Music Links
Chapter 13 - "Upon That Night" -

This is a story I've been working on for, well, a while. :confused: If you looked at my art gallery, you'd find most of the drawings are dedicated to "Charred Life".

Originally, I had wanted to make this story in a manga, but I am now working on it as a novel. Not that I've lost hope of having it drawn one day! It's just that I've personally found this method of creation suits me better.

This is also not the first time I've written "Charred Life". In fact, I first attempted to write and post it some years ago, and I've also used my characters in some crossover projects! But after receiving feedback and thinking about it, I decided that I should scrap the old version and, consequently, rewrite it. I had hoped to finish it before sharing...But since some of you have expressed interest in reading it, here it is! :)

Thanks for taking your time to read this. c:

« Last Edit: April 24, 2020, 02:14:20 PM by Echo_River »
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Offline Echo_River

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Re: Charred Life (Prologue + Chapter 1)
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2019, 07:45:44 PM »
Prologue: Dream I

Six Years Ago...

“Why are we running?”
“Because they’re chasing us?” said the tall boy ahead of me.
“But – why are they chasing us?”
“That’s what I want to know…”
“They – they’re not going to kill us, are they?”
“You’re asking lots of questions today, Roun.”
That’s because I had so many things I wanted to ask you.
The clouds sat on the treetops that day, low, dark, and concealing. It could’ve been day or night, but the fear I felt from both was the same.
Arrows flew from the shadows and dug into the trees beside us and into the ground.

“Keep going!”
My friend grabbed my hand and pulled me along the skinny trail. It was the only path. Outstretched branches whipped my cheeks, my ankles. I breathed in gulps of damp air as my legs, my lungs, burned. We kept running. And when we reached the end, we found ourselves on a cliff overlooking a waterfall. Dark water spilled dozens of feet down into the ravine.
“They’re still coming.”
His eyes swept the treeline, he sensed something I didn’t. The only thing I felt was the deep thirst for blood in the air, in the intent of those undoubtedly approaching us.
I felt tense, even as my friend glanced casually over his shoulder at me. I frowned when he smiled, a strange smile. My breath came quicker as he laid his hand on my shoulder.
“I’m sorry Roun – you’ll have to go on ahead of me. I’ll catch up to you.”
“What? But – Xehann – I can’t – “

Strong arms wrapped me into a tight embrace, his arms squeezing me close. I could feel the trembling in his body and then heard his shaking voice in my ear.
“I’m sorry, Roun. Stay safe.”
My world spun. The trees became the sky. And the ground rushed up to meet me.
I fell, my friend’s figure became smaller, further.
Then I hit the water.
Darkness wrapped me in thick folds.
Fingers like ice circled my neck, suffocating and vindicating.
Every time I opened my eyes I could only see a faint light and the bubbles escaping my mouth.
Nowhere to move. No space to breath.
No time to think.
And from somewhere in the shadows, a muffled voice called my name.

Chapter 1: Missing

Zerakis Forest - Present Day

“What do you mean you 'can’t find him'?” Throwing down a set of tools, the man turned to the young girl standing behind him, hands on hips.
She mumbled something while gesturing with her hands.
“Not in the house? Not in bed? Where did he go this time? This is the fourth day…” A heavy sigh escaped the man as he rubbed his forehead. “Shira, I don’t care how you do it, find Roun and bring him back here. If he does this again, he’s disqualified from entering the festival. You tell him that, Shira.” Muttering in harsh undertones to himself, the man turned away from the girl, picked up his tools, and walked away to resume whatever work he was doing.
And the young girl was left alone to complete this quest.
They say that everyone knows everyone in a small town. At this moment, the young girl stared down at the village below and felt the sentiment of this statement twofold. She could point out every home in her Family Area, name who lived there, which family they were from in the clan, and what they did for a living.
For example, the house behind her, known as the Main House, was currently inhabited by Jaanes of the Tiuruh Family, who worked as a police officer when he wasn’t in the village.
Right now, her task involved finding a certain person.
 A person everyone knew – and knew well.
Maybe someone could tell her where he was.

In this village nestled deep within the Zerakis Forest, someone had to know.
She went forth to see out her mission.
Two young kids at the first house making floral wreaths stared dumbly at Shira before expressing their familiarity of the name by offering apologetic smiles and shaking their heads.
She sighed, but was not disappointed. Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy. After all, he probably hadn’t come down the main road for everyone to see him if he planned to ditch his duties.
She noted the children, a boy and a girl, were already dressed in the Acor traditional clothing, just as she was. Girls wore dark blue dresses that hung mid-thigh, secured with a belt, dark leggings, and knee-high boots fitted for the rough forest terrain.
The boy’s outfit consisted of a long black shirt under a grey jacket, dark pants, and similar boots. Most of the Acor switched to the traditional clothing when they came to the village, generally because the fabric was more durable and comfortable. Older folks still wore the same outfits from years ago, ones heavily decorated. Modernism took toll on the newer outfits in a sleeker appearance and simpler embroidery.
Shira dropped by the next place.

“Have you seen Roun?”
Cooking some sort of nutty smelling dish on their outdoor fire, the elderly couple looked at her with the same sorry look.
“Tch…” Shira bowed her thanks.
“Poor child,” she heard them say as she continued on.
The adults didn’t provide any information she hadn’t thought of already. Occupied with some project or another, their answers came as tart and tired.
“Roun? Is he missing again? Good luck finding him.”
“Either sleeping in or sleeping elsewhere, huh.”
“He could be in the forest if he isn’t in the village.”
No luck came from her peers either.
“That guy is useless.”
“It’s too bad we don’t have sensing equipment for people like we do for finding plants,” a cousin of hers remarked, pausing from practicing moves with a staff.
Shira sighed. Nearly at the end of the village, she rested on the raised porch outside of small cube-shaped house partially hidden under a hill. “That would be an invasion of privacy.”
“Imagine if we lived in the past and everyone wore trackers.” Her cousin started to laugh but stopped abruptly. When he spoke again it was in a gentler tone. “Where was he yesterday?”
“In bed. I had to drag him out.”
“That’s tough. I don’t know, Shira. Why don’t you ask a Warden?”
“If Jaanes doesn’t know where he is, I don’t think the others would know either.” Shira hopped off the porch to continue her search. Only a few more buildings and she would have scoured the whole street. She’d spoken to almost half of the villagers in the process in less than an hour. Quite an accomplishment.
“Don’t spend too much time on him, Shira. You need to train for the festival too, don’t you?” the boy called after her.
Shira held up a hand to acknowledge she’d heard him. Naturally, the faster she found her target, the better. Jaanes might be disappointed that she couldn’t find his nephew, but probably wouldn’t blame her for putting training first.
She fought back a sigh and a frown. One thing at a time. First, find Roun.
Shira raised a hand to the left side of her face and couldn’t help lower her head.
“It’s not like I’m any good this festival stuff anyway…”
Hoping they carried the information she needed, the young girl sought out the black garb of one of the Wardens. There was always one place they could be found no matter what time of day.

Shira found herself at the bottom of a steep hill beyond her Family Area. She looked up at a wooden stairway leading up the same incline. Taking the steps two at a time, she passed under several wooden archways. During the festival, these would be heavily decorated.
At the top, surrounded by slender red-leafed trees stood the Acori Hall, which served as the gathering place for special events or village announcements. When not used for assemblies, the village chief did his daily work here, doing whatever a chief did.
Paying grand-uncle Jacke a visit was furthest from Shira’s mind as she jogged up to the doorway out of breath.
“Hey, it’s Shira.”
A voice deep and casual as a lounging leopard spoke from the open entrance. Almost on the threshold, Shira balked in brief surprise. She hadn’t noticed him at first because he stood so still, his dark clothes blending in with the dark wood. Now the man leaning against the wall by the door had her full attention.
He was a little over six feet tall with a large build that was all but covered in his black clothes. A thick scarf hid his face from the bridge of his nose down, leaving only his rusted brown eyes and short messy black hair visible. Shira figured he was the one who had spoken because his hard gaze rested on her.
“Hi, Warden Waron,” she said in dull tones.
“Looking for your mom?”
“I’m looking for Roun.”
“Pft – haha!” In a moment of muffled laughter, the Warden’s eyes became like little half moons before returning to their regular coldness. “What’s a day without a renegade Roun. I don’t envy you one bit, Shira.”
Shira aimed a sharp look back. “Have you seen him?”
Waron looked at her, but his eyes weren’t focused on her. “That time of year already, huh.” Then the force of his gaze returned. “I haven’t seen him, but I do know where he is.”
Ignoring the questionable statement, Shira felt relief wash over her. Finally. “Really? Where is he?”
“Why don’t you just call him?”
Shira deadpanned. Adults and their ways of avoiding answers like squirming worms. “I don’t have a phone and I don’t know his number and even if I did he probably wouldn’t answer – can you just tell me already?”
“Easy little squirrelly. Why are you looking for him?”
“Uncle Jaanes needs him.”
“Took a day off babysitting the boy, huh?”
“Uncle Jaanes is busy.”
“Me too.” Warden Waron gave a sigh. “Ahhh, I wish I could switch jobs with him right now. Standing guard can make you stir-crazy, y’know? I think I might start to see hallucinations waiting for trouble to come around. I might end up destroying something one day. Oh! How much of a chance do you think Roun will end up causing some havoc this summer?”
“Uncle Waron, I know you’re bored, but I don’t have time for chatting.”
Another laugh. “Okay, snapping turtle. Do me a favour and tell Roun to come see me later, yeah? He’s in the cherry tree grove by the river on the other side of the Hakara family property.” His answer came quick and certain that Shira almost doubted him for someone who hadn’t seen the person, but she didn’t have time for that.
“Thanks.” Shira walked past him to go around the building. Another staircase on the west side would get her down to the trail leading towards the Hakara family property.
“Tell Roun that if he doesn’t listen, the shadows will come and get him,” the Warden called after her in a light tone.
“That’s not even funny.”
Shira hurried, planning the shortest path. She would have to ask for more directions on the way. In fact, didn’t a lot of cherry trees grow in that area? Wait, did he say the other side of the river?
That was a half an hour distance. What if he moved by the time she got there?
A frustrated cry burst from Shira and she swung back around. “Just wait till I find you, Roun Tiuruh.”
Warden Waron’s eyes popped open as if he’d be sleeping, when she suddenly came back around with an expression as hard as a stone statue’s.
“Can I use a Birdie?”
“...are you even old enough to drive yet?”

Moments later, Shira zipped along the red paths on a Birdie – children’s nickname for the light hover vehicles used in the village. It was basically a slick ATV without wheels that used  adjustable levitation pads and a main thruster. Smooth and fast, the Birdie made itself a popular form of transportation among the youths. It might’ve hit gold on the market if they made it public.
But everyone knew as an unspoken rule that such things were kept secret from the “outside” world.
Not that the tech would work outside the village anyway.
Shira didn’t really get how they worked and didn’t care about that right now. The village taught the children how to ride the vehicles and let them use the Birdies after permission. It operated on automatic transmission; all Shira had to do was control her speed and the rest was as easy as riding a bike.
Warden Waron gave her permission.
She could reach the cherry grove in ten minutes.
Little blue birds in the roadside bushes scattered as Shira wrenched the throttle forward a little more. The blue glow from the thruster brightened and the low whistling of the lev-pads grew louder. She headed towards the Hakara Family path. At around midday, most of the villagers were home for lunch, so she drove without many obstacles.
Normally she would use the Birdie to cruise around, enjoying the sights. Zerakis Forest provided many different sights from the city or actually, from anywhere else. Summer vacation in the Acor village wasn’t to be taken for granted. Now the time she might have used for sight-seeing she used for quickly navigating through various paths to find this boy - for the third time this week.
In no pleasant mood did she arrive in the cherry orchard. Shira switched off the Birdie and walked along the trail winding through the trees. All around her grew light brown trees with slender trunks. Small red fruit hung off them in clusters and ripe ones littered the ground. Several lay in sorry purple splotches from the impact of falling. None appeared to be crushed underfoot though. Was Roun here at all?

No, it could be he had carefully avoided the trails so that no one would know he was here.

“Roun?” There’s no way he didn’t hear the whistling of the motor. 
Shira proceeded further inward and glanced upward regularly. Small animals scampered unseen in the bushes as she passed. When she brushed by a green and orange fern, its sensitive fronds curled up. No Roun in sight.
From the tint of warm sweetness in the air, she suspected he’d come to reap the harvest in its prime season. Couldn’t he have waited until the chores were done?
“Roun, you’d better be here… Hey!” She cupped her hands around her mouth to amplify her voice. “Roun, I know you’re here!”
No response.
Shira looked up and squinted with her right eye to glare at the branches. This was getting annoying. What was his deal? Hide and seek? She held her breath, closed her eyes, and listened.
Leaves rustled in the earthy breeze. Insects chirped and whined. Birds chittered and rodents crooned in low tones.
A couple of leaves drifted by her face. Her eyes shot open. From above?
Was there someone up there? Maybe it was an animal.
Scrap that, animals were easier to call than this.
Shira kicked up a layer of dead leaves then continued to trudge deeper into the grove.

« Last Edit: February 05, 2020, 01:56:03 PM by Echo_River »
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Offline Echo_River

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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2019, 10:03:09 AM »
Chapter 2: Roun

What luck.
Someone was here to look for him. Probably sent by uncle Jaanes – again. How’d they figure out where he was? And so quickly too. Had he been snitched on?
On the other hand…

What luck.
What luck that the someone sent was Shira. After gathering a good haul, he’d heard the whistling of the Birdie. If there was such a thing as Lady Luck, Roun hoped that she was on his side today.
The teen lay still on his perch, a thick branch twenty feet off the ground. Most of the tree trunk and big leaves concealed him, but one wrong move, and he’d be found out. He imagined himself as a bug, some kind of beetle, frozen in the presence of danger.
Don’t notice me. I’m not here. Not here… not here…
Roun ran the two phrases in his head like a chant. In the case that Lady Luck didn’t exist, he fell back on this method. It usually worked. Who knew when the superstitious lady would move on. He didn’t budge until the crackle of footsteps on foliage traveled away and he couldn’t hear them anymore. Now the coast was clear.
Yes, he liked to think he had luck on his side today.
Turning his thoughts back to the purpose of his being here, he stood up on the branch and checked the contents of the pouch he held in his hand. Cherries filled it to the top. And they weren’t your typical cherries. Nothing in the forest held up to its given name. These fruits grew  in bowl-shaped flowers. The “cherries” were actually its seeds that hovered over it, usually six in total, each the size of a ping-pong ball.

Looks like you will be getting your yearly due, Xehann. He chuckled inside. Now you can’t accuse me of not trying hard enough. Good thing I kept an eye on the grove. They’re at their prime, if I ever called myself an Acor. Now… how to get down without her noticing me?
Up or down? Roun put his hand on his chin, posed with the decision, when his eyes flickered impishly. He had a great idea. As noiseless as he could, Roun worked his way up the tree to the higher, smaller branches, which looked strong enough to support his weight and dared his ability to mount it safely.
Roun stepped sideways onto the limb. It swayed a little, jibing at him. A glance down ascertained his position over the path. He glimpsed a movement of blue. Shira was returning back this way. Slowly, he lowered himself onto the branch, locking his legs around it so he wouldn’t fall, and took out a small  slingshot from his jacket pocket. Then he slipped a cherry out of the pouch and fitted it to the slingshot pocket. In a smooth motion, he drew back the elastics and held still.

Shira paced on the trailed, looking from side to side. He waited until she was right underneath the tree before he took aim. She paused - the decisive moment. He let the cherry fly.

Her ears must’ve picked up the twang and whoosh. Right before it hit, Shira suddenly flinched and ducked fast. The cherry whistled by harmlessly. It splattered into the ground, splashing its juicy innards everywhere.

Shira gave one indignant glance at it, then looked straight up into the tree without a second guess.

Roun’s eyes met the glare of the young girl below. “Whoops.”
“Cret.” What bad luck. “You traitor, I thought you were on my side,” he grumbled at Lady Luck. “Of course, you had to side with the girls.”
“Roun, get down here you -” the girl shouted up again in an exasperated tone.
“Hi Shira,” Roun called back. Time for a quick escape. Anything to get away from the annoyance rising up at him, even if it emanated from only one eye. He shimmied down the tree, thinking of jumping to the next one, when he had to lean back quickly. A small dagger flew through and stabbed the branch in front of him. “That was uncalled for!” he protested.
Shira guarded the base of the tree with another dagger in hand. “What do you think you’re doing? Uncle Jaanes is looking for you.”
“Yeah, I figured.” Roun glanced at the outstretched arm of the neighbouring tree.
“It’d help us a lot if you didn’t keep disappearing when we needed you. Stop fooling around. What are you doing here anyway?” she demanded.
“I was just taking a break. What’s the point of a summer vacation if we have to be so busy everyday?” He edged slowly forward, yanking the dagger out of the wood.
“You sleep in every morning, you don’t need a break.”
“Sleeping in is part of summer vacation. What about you? Bet you haven’t done anything fun yet.” His feet firm on the branch, he could jump over anytime. The dagger he held in case Shira decided to throw another one at him.
“The festival is in a month, Roun. We’re not here to play around.”
“That’s plenty of time. Besides, today was the least busiest day I could find to check some off my holiday list.” Roun crouched, ready to spring off.
“Well, today’s going to be the last day if you plan on doing it again.”
Roun almost fell off. He looked at Shira’s face – at least the half he could see. Something about her tone proved she wasn’t joking around - not that she was the type to joke around in the first place. Oh, that’s right, the queasy feeling in his stomach, not from the lack of breakfast. “Say what?”
“I’m not telling you till you get down here,” she replied saucily.
Roun rolled his eyes. Girls. With movements like a cat, he slipped from branch to branch till he landed on the forest floor and came to face with the girl who waited with a serious look and crossed arms.
Looking down at her, Roun swallowed back his dread. Shira was one of the younger children in the village this year that would be entering the festival. At eleven years she barely came up to his chest, so he thought her as small. Small and seemingly innocent, but exuding an aura of danger in her expression and stance, like a bear cub. His thought might have been triggered by the gold clip fashioned in the shape of a three clawed paw in her hair that she had tied back.
The threat she’d made nagged at Roun’s brain.
“What’s the big deal?” Roun asked.
“Jaanes wants you back at the main house, asap.”
“Anything else?”
“He said he won’t save you if the shadows get you in the woods,” said Shira, flatly.
“No, he said you’re disqualified from participating in the festival if you do it again.”
Roun heard her as far as “disqualified”. His jaw dropped. “What? You’re kidding.”
If you do it again. That’s what he told me to tell you.” None of her words held a trace of concern or sympathy.

“You’re pulling my leg.”

“Jaanes is great at pulling legs. Sure. Good luck. Bye.” She turned on her heel.
“Wait, Shira - seriously?” Roun gaped. “No, really? You’re not kidding? Cret, she’s not kidding. But he can’t do that. There’s no rule like that,” he argued.
“Yes, he can. He’s a Warden. Wardens can prevent people from joining if they don’t think they’re ready,” Shira shot back.
“Says who?”
“My mom told me.” With that declaration, Shira walked passed him. “You can ask Jaanes about it once you go back to the main house.”
Roun trailed after her. His eyes had lost their focus. “It’s only been a week. What’s he so mad about?”
“A week you said you would wake up on time and help him out every day already.”
“Did I say that? I might have slipped out a couple of times. And besides there’s tons of other people he could ask.” Roun started, but Shira gave him a narrow stare. “Okay, more than a couple - but that doesn’t warrant getting disqualified. It’s not like breaking one of the rules.” Shira shrugged. If what she said was true, then his uncle must be pissed. That threat had come out of nowhere.
“Alright, I’ll come back with you,” he sighed, walking ahead.
“Finally,” Shira muttered, pulling up beside him.
“Thinking of disqualifying me before it’s started, my uncle must be mad.”
“He wasn’t exactly in a good mood earlier,” Shira said. “Everyone knows you dodge your share of duties.”
“It’s not that I haven’t been. Y’know, by the time I get to doing it, someone’s already finished the job.”
“Uh-huh.” A glance from Shira told Roun she wasn’t buying it. “Maybe if you did it right away, someone wouldn’t have to do the job for you. And if you didn’t keep running away, someone wouldn’t have to keep looking for you.”
Roun grumbled as pangs of irritation rose inside him, but didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. She was right. The fact she was right was annoying. And the whole forest was witness for her.
As Shira walked on silently, Roun eyed the portion of her face that he could see. He considered Shira as fairly normal. She dressed like the others, and her hair was black like the rest of the Acor. Her childhood did not differ much either, except for one thing. At the thought of it, his face took on a heavy look. He couldn’t be mad at her.
A wooden mask covered the left half of her face, the only opening where her eye was, but even that was covered with a wire mesh, effectively hiding that side. For as long as he’d known her, Shira had worn it. Black scars riddled the skin beneath – or so he had heard. Scars from the war.
Roun stopped looking. He sighed inside.
Just who was he trying to appease?
“Ugh, I hope Uncle Jaanes doesn’t seriously disqualify me,” he muttered.
That would be seriously bad luck.

"And give me back my dagger."

"Oh, sorry, here."

Note to self: Edit done in chapters

Chapter 1
- removed a few descriptive paragraphs describing the scenery. Saving them for later.

Chapter 2
- replaced a slower descriptive part with character action
- split chapter 2 into two chapters: "Roun" and "Bad Luck"
- added some dialogue for (hopefully) better flow

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Offline Echo_River

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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2019, 02:31:27 PM »
Chapter 3: Bad Luck

Shira dropped Roun off by the Tiuruh family area, then left to return the Birdie. Hints of afternoon sun were already streaming through the canopy. Roun sprinted towards the Main House. Along the way he passed other village children heading in the opposite direction. There was an odd mixture of city clothes among the traditional outfits. Looked like others had arrived today from outside. They were all going out of the family area.
“Roun, practice in thirty. Are you coming?” the boy Shira had spoken to earlier called out, following the trail of people.

“I’m busy, I’ll see you there.” Roun focused on zig-zagging up the slope. Inside, he cringed. “There was a practice today? Nobody told me about that,” he muttered under gasps.
Probably because I didn’t stay around long enough to hear.
Finally, he arrived at the main house, a mansion, all blocks and edges with large glass windows. A last burst of speed brought him to the verandah. His shoulders heaved as he placed a hand on the metal railing and tried to catch his breath.
“Uncle Jaanes?”
A slow-moving silence settled over this lone house as it rested above all the other abodes. Even viewing the village from here made the distance separating the two feel large. By now most of the youths had exited the family area. In the forest quiet, Roun heard no sign of another human on the premises.
“Uncle Jaanes?” Roun called again. He debated entering the house. To be chewed out now or later – that was the question. And it wasn’t in his mind to wait for the punishment. Not like his uncle would actually disqualify him, right?
Jaanes came around the back of the house.
He saw Roun and frowned instantly.
Roun ducked his head.
Please don’t disqualify me, he prayed.
The man did not storm up to the youth. No, he walked across the porch with as much noise as a cat. No wonder Roun hadn’t heard him coming. All the worse.
Unlike the other Wardens, Jaanes wore a plain white tank top and dark cargo pants. His arms, thick from workouts, showed plainly, as if daring someone to come test them. Right now probably wasn’t the best time to do that. Roun braced for a swat to the head as if he were a bear cub being batted for naughty behaviour. Instead Jaanes put his hands on his hips and pursed his lips with an unimpressed look.
“Roun, I needed you two hours ago.”
“Did you do all the other things I asked you to do?”
“Um, well Aunt S asked me to do something for this morning, and Aunt B gave me another task along the way, and then I ran into Uncle L -”

“Did you get any of it done?”

“I might’ve done it. In theory. Just not in practice?”

“Roun.” Jaanes leaned his head to the side. “You know this is a busy time for all of us.”
“How can I qualify you to be a Warden if you’re not at your post when I need you? I can’t even call you ‘cause you have your phone turned off. Just what did you have to do that you couldn’t spare a few minutes helping out?”
Roun slipped the pouch off his wrist and raised it up to his uncle, keeping a bowed position not only because it was easier to look at the ground than at the unimpressed face bearing down on him, but also because he was still tired from having run all the way from the forest. He swallowed. “Gathering cherries.”
He could imagine Jaanes’ eyebrows raising as the man’s voice pitched higher.
“Cherries for what?
Perplexity in the man’s voice made Roun glance up briefly, before training his eyes to where his heel ground into the dirt. “For that…y’know…”
As if he would remember.
“…you’ve been here for a week, and you didn’t think to do it earlier?” Jaanes said, quieter.
Oh, he remembered.
“I’m sorry, I won’t do it again. I’ll wake up on time and go to practices so please don’t disqualify me from entering the festival.”
In his position, the silence seemed to weigh down like rocks on his shoulders. It occurred to him his uncle had been considering disqualifying him.
Great cret. Uncle Jaanes had actually been thinking of it.
A sigh like a pressure cooker releasing steam burst from his uncle’s lips. Then, he suddenly laughed. “What, you think I would actually disqualify you for not doing your work?
“Huh?” Roun glanced up.

“You know I can’t actually do that unless you actively break one of the rules, right.”

“Hey, you were pulling my leg!”

“Not at all.”
Realizing his uncle wasn’t going to punish him yet, Roun straightened himself slowly. His relief was brief. Not all the dissatisfaction was gone from Jaanes’ eyes.
Again, a nagging feeling crept into his mind, like a premonition. Though he studied Jaanes and his expression, he wasn’t sure what that premonition was. Another thing occurred to him. Something worried Jaanes more than Roun right now.
“Although I might have you talk to your mother,” Jaanes added.
“Did you do everything you needed to do?”
“For now.”
“Next time, at least tell me where you’re going.”
“I was gonna. But I couldn’t bring it up to your stressed face.” Roun pointed at his uncle, then hastily lowered his finger when the man aimed a narrow look at him. “So, what did you need me for?”
Jaanes jerked his thumb towards the back of the house. “Originally? The fencing. The back area needed repairs. And for which, if you had done your part, we wouldn’t have had to deal with the wild boars that came through and raided your mother’s garden.” - Roun’s jaw dropped - “Luckily, they didn’t do much damage and the wolves chased them away before they trampled the flowers.”
“Do you still need me?” Roun asked hurriedly. If mom’s plants got destroyed, then that’d really warrant bad premonitions. He shivered at the thought.
“I have the others taking care of it, but...” Jaanes drew out the word and his eyes focused elsewhere. The thoughtfulness in his words made Roun gulp. “I have something better for you.”
Uh-oh. By ‘better’ do you mean ‘worse’? Roun felt in his gut he didn’t like where this was going.
“You want to determine you qualify as a Warden? Let’s make a deal.”
“Wow, are you bribing me, Uncle Jaanes? It sounds serious. R-18 even. Is it a hunt?”
Jaanes chuckled. “It’s pretty important, but not illegal.” He put on a warm smile. “Do you remember Dave?”
Roun paused, puzzled at the question. “Your son, Dave?”
“Yes, your cousin, Dave.”
“Yeah, I remember Dave, what about – Wait. Is he here?” Roun brightened.
Dave was his first cousin on his mother’s side – Roun’s mother and Jaanes were siblings. Usually they met at those occasional family get togethers. They were close in age and shared similar interests, so the two always got along whenever they met.
Normally, this would be welcome news. Someone to hang out with. Fool around with. But the nagging grew rather than abated.

Jaanes sucked in his breath through his teeth and nodded. “I arranged for Dave to come to the village this summer.”
“You never told me that.” Roun stared hard at him. He could feel the premonition more acutely now.
“It wasn’t really decided ‘till recently.” Jaanes hesitated. Then said it, “It’s his first time to the village actually.”

“His first time?” Dave hadn’t ever come to the village before?
Oh no, don’t tell me…
Jaanes continued with a tight smile, “I’m going to be busy with the festival preparations, so I won’t be able to tour him around and meet all the family as much as I’d like to. I’m also hoping to enter him into the festival. He’s been practicing at home, but it’s not the same experience.”
“Ummmm,” Roun started, trying to slowly raise his hand.

“So, here’s my deal. I’d like you to stick with Dave for this whole summer. It’s a totally new environment to him  Show him around the forest, the village, wherever permissible, and prepare him for the festival.”

“And?” Roun asked cautiously.

“And the deal is this: if he shows positive results, then – I won’t consider disqualifying you from entering the festival and becoming a Warden.”

Cret, I had a feeling he would say that.

“That’s a bad idea. You’re asking me, who’s got the tainted record, to be a good role model for your precious son?”

“You said you wanted to become a Warden. You’ve entered the festival before, so I’m sure you know what it takes. I like to think I can rely on you to show Dave how its done. He doesn’t have to pass. Think of it as an orientation.”

Roun frowned. What was this new bombshell that was dropping on his meadow for careful summer days? The deal wasn’t exactly gaining him anything either. But as long as there was the danger of elimination, he couldn’t take any risks.
“Why don’t you ask someone better? Like, I dunno, Dae? Warden Waron?” Roun tried.
“Maybe you’re the only one I can ask because everyone else is busy.”

“Then if I help Dave out, you’ll promise not to disqualify me.”
“I will make no such promises.”
“What is this…” As much as he wanted to point out all the things wrong with this method of “training”, he apparently wasn’t in the position to. He’d set himself up.
This wasn’t even bordering horrible luck.
It was just downright unfair.
“Do we have a deal?” Jaanes said.
“What happens if I don’t succeed?”
“Then, you might have to come back next year to try again.”
Roun groaned. “I should’ve gone to a normal summer camp.”
“Hey, you promised your mother you would get it done this summer.” Jaanes spoke sternly. “Besides what if Dave gets lost in the forest? If that happened, then you’d really have to explain things to her.”
Then keep an eye on him yourself. Roun clicked his tongue. His eyes wandered to the rest of the village. It was absolutely quiet. Even if he left now, he wouldn’t make it in time for practice. Who was leading it today? He hoped not one of the scary strict aunties.
It’s not like I don’t want to hang out with Dave… Roun mused. But I’d rather not have to “be responsible” for him. It’s summer “vacation” for cret’s sake. He can look after himself, can’t he? Jaanes continued to look at him, creating an unpleasant pressure that was only made by just looking. Roun fidgeted under the unrelenting gaze.
Living in the forest, taking part in the yearly festival, going to practices… these were only some of the things part of being an Acor. He did promise his mother “to do well” in the festival. And he did want to become a Warden.
He figured his uncle wanted an answer now, and there definitely wasn’t going to be another chance like this. At least if he had Dave, he wouldn’t be the only one going down should plans fail. And he would have a good excuse for not being at the practice if anyone came by to chew him out later.
So much for being an Acor.
“Mmmmmm-uuuurgghh-alright. Fine. I’ll do it.” Roun forced the words out after a long unwilling grunt. “But that better be the only thing you ask me. You said to do just this one thing. Nothing else. Okay?”
Jaanes smiled in no reassuring way. “No promises.”
“When does Dave get here?”
“Oh, he’s already here. He’s just inside.”

NTS: Edits and considerations
Chapter 3

- Separated from Chapter 2.

- Possibly needs more movement during dialogue.

« Last Edit: August 07, 2019, 07:20:14 AM by Echo_River »
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Offline Echo_River

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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2019, 10:03:05 PM »
Chapter 4: Dave

             “He’s not here.” Jaanes stood dumbstruck by a pile of abandoned luggage in the living room. Of all the rooms in the Main House this was the largest apart from the dining room. But even then, it was obvious that no one else was there. The man yelled again into the house. “Dave?”
            “No kidding, even my emergency snacks are gone.” Roun ambled in with a bag of nuts in his hand. He munched on them dolefully. Already his ticket to redemption was fading fast.
            Frankly he hadn’t expected Dave to be inside. His uncle had mentioned he needed him two hours ago – that gave Dave two hours to do something.
            “Did you check upstairs?” Jaanes asked worriedly.
            “I don’t think he’s in the house.”
            “I hope he didn’t go outside.” Sighing, his uncle ran a hand through his short hair.
            “Did you tell him to stay here?”
            “Then he’s probably outside.”
            Jaanes groaned and pressed his face into his hands. “His mom was afraid this would happen. He’s got such a headstrong personality. Dear Cretanneh, what am I going to tell his mother when we get back…”
            “’He takes after you, honey,” Roun said in an unnaturally high voice.
            Jaanes laughed harshly. “Who went missing first now?”
            “See? Bad idea to leave him to me.”
            “I’ll let you talk to your mother then.”
            “Okay okay.” Roun held his hands up in surrender. “Are we going to look for him?”
            “You stay here in case he comes back. I’m going to quickly ask if anyone in the village has seen him.” Thinking quickly, Jaanes moved out as he spoke.
            “I can go – “
            “I won’t be five minutes. Stay here,” Jaanes ordered.
            The front door closed.
            Roun clicked his tongue, rolling his head back.

Eight Hours Ago
            When his dad told him it would take six hours to travel to the village, the boy decided to take a nap in the car to pass the time.
            Bad idea. When his dad woke him up, he found himself in a fantasy world.
            “I warned you,” was all his dad said.
            “Like hell you did.” His dad barely talked about the village at home when his mother was around. All he knew was that he had relatives here, the competition would be high, and it was smack dab in the middle of the forest. His dad didn’t mention the forest was a literal translation of the Enchanted Forest. If any ecology had been mentioned, it was probably that the animals were different and he would see a lot of weird plants.
            Geographically, the boy couldn’t tell north from south. He thought he remembered seeing trees, or at least a lot of green. Everything blurred together until he stepped foot into the first manmade structure, a big mansion, which his dad apparently used to live in as a child.
            Then the present caught up to him and the boy listened in a daze as his dad told him to stay inside until his close cousin got back from who knows where. Someone had already been sent to find him.
            Without giving further directions, his dad went to take care of other matters and left the boy, Dave Tiuruh, to himself.
            Another bad idea.
            He explored the house first - saw lots of bedroom and storage, many locked rooms, not much else – and when no one showed up after half an hour, got bored.
           “Look at those trees,” Dave gawked out the big glass windows in the living room. A view he wasn’t sure it wasn’t actually from a huge high-definition monitor increased his urge to go out and make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Strange scents roamed the air, weird plants covered the beautifully laid out gardens out front and back, and he could see unfamiliar houses down below.
           “You’re an Acor,” his dad had told him many times. “One day I’ll bring you to the village, where you’ll meet all the other Acor.”

            “I can’t believe I’m actually here.” Dave caught himself mid-squeal. The next second he  laced his hands over his head as he crouched close to the ground, taking deep breaths. “A clan where everyone is trained in the art of fighting, dad said. What if I’m worse than all the others who’ve grown up here? I bet they’re all naturally born geniuses.” He stared out the windows again, in a trance. “I want to go outside….”
            Why not?
            “Dad’ll flip if he doesn’t find me here.” Dave spoke to himself in low tones.
            What about just around the house?
            “But I guess a little walk wouldn’t hurt. Not like I’m going far. Besides, it’s my first time here. It’d be weird not to explore a little, right?”
            Sounds like a good idea, Dave.

In the present – One minute later.
            Dave didn’t hang around? So what, neither will I.
            Only fools stood around waiting for the future to fall, or so the saying went. That made Dave a wise man for taking advantage of the time if not for the fact Roun desperately needed him for his own future.
            Great cret, where did you go, Dave?
            While Jaanes left through the front, Roun skirted around to the back. More ground covered meant more luck in finding his cousin., right? It wouldn’t take him five minutes to investigate the perimeters.
            “Please don’t tell me you went on a hike,” Roun muttered under his breath as he jogged quickly to the backyard. His eyes darted quickly to the different areas. Vast as it was, he would know if someone was there. He saw no one in the patio, the flower garden, or the vegetable garden; no one by the stream, the pond, or the stable; no one on the walkways, the back path, or the left path. And considering they were patching up the back fence, Dave being there was a low possibility.
           “He’s not on the property at all?” His conclusion stunned him. His uncle had better have found him in the village. “Tch, why did uncle Jaanes have to bring you this summer…”
            One other possibility existed. Dave could be walking on the trails behind the gardens, hidden by tall hedges. Hands in his pockets, he stared at the dense greenery, as if Dave could pop out of the ground. He startled couple of light-grey crested squirrels along the way. They ripped through the grass at a breakneck speed. Did one have something in its mouth?
            The rodents fled at his approach, chittering angrily in the brush surrounding the property. Maybe they did need a fence if animals were going to scamper through their vegetable garden. Roun crouched and found the object of their squabble.
            “Wait a second – these are my honey coated nuts,” he exclaimed, irritated. Realization struck him. “So Dave did come out here but – oh no.” Flattened grass caught his eye and went under the wall of leaves in front of him. Then he remembered what went that way. “Cret, he couldn’t have –”
            Roun stood up and swept aside the leaves. They moved easily to expose an overgrown trail leading into the forest. His trained eyes spotted crushed stalks and leaves – proof someone had travelled here in the recent past. Not himself.
            I’d forgotten about this trail. Dammit, Dave, how did you even find this?
            “Dave?” Roun called out. Thick vegetation made it impossible to see any figures. “Uncle Jaanes, I think I found out where Dave went –”
            He stopped mid-holler to a sound in the forest.
            Did I imagine that?
            Glancing back at the house, he knew his uncle would be miffed to find him gone, but if he was right about that sound he heard…
            “Oh, come on,” Roun griped at himself.
            Why was everything being so annoying today?
            He lunged into the trail, the branches and leaves swinging into place to cover up the trail.


           The first thing Dave noticed when he stepped out was the perpetual shade that cast a subdued look over everything. He didn’t even have to squint in the sunlight struggling to penetrate the interlocked crowns of gigantic trees. An unearthly glow thrived in the undergrowth like star clusters, helping his eyes to adjust.

            Dave gaped up from the base of an Oonrwon tree. He didn’t know that was its name, but the immense girth and height of it would be ingrained into his mind forever. He put a hand over his head, as if to protect the contents of his brain from exploding – he was that close to being mind blown. Their dark massive trunks rose straight up like skyscrapers. Their widespread branches bearing thick bundles of leaves were the main reason for the absolute forest canopy.

            “Can I climb it? But I don’t think I could get back down… How far does it go up? I can’t even see the sky…” Part of him expected to see a fairy appear. Many things floated through the air in different colours, most of them bugs. He nervously dodged them and rolled his sleeves down protectively. The pleasant climate surprised him. His dad had told him the village was located far north, so he had predicted it to be chilly. Instead, it was neither overly warm or uncomfortably cold, with a soothing breeze. A greenhouse effect, he wondered, because of the enclosed environment?
            “Whoa, are those plants glowing? What do you call that? Bioluminescence? Blue mushrooms! Wonder if they’re edible. Wonder if they’d still glow in your stomach.”
            Muttering to himself as he scanned the forest, Dave wandered along the trail and stared at every new sight. A plant coiled up when he brushed it with his hand. Floating pores from a jar-shaped flower swayed as he passed. The sharp fragrances of multiple herbs made him sneeze a few times.
            Then there were the sounds – a deafening combination of insects whining, foreign bird calls, and a weird hum in the background that kept going on an on. He heard animal sounds, but couldn’t see any of them, all hidden in the dense foliage.
            “This is so cool. No, chill. This place is chill. Why didn’t my dad bring me here before? My sister will be pissed she didn’t get to come.”
            Better head back now, he thought.
            “I want to look around more… but I guess I’ll have more time later to explore. Hope dad isn’t looking for me.” He checked his phone. As to be expected in a remote forest, it received no signal from the outside.
            So saying, Dave turned around reluctantly and followed the trail back. And no sooner when he met a fork that he didn’t remember passing.
            The paths parted gradually. He could have come from either one.
            “I didn’t go that far, did I?”
            Taking a bargain, the teen started towards the left.
            What if it’s the other way?
            He stopped.
            It was more of a notion than a voice in his head, or maybe the whisperings of the wind.  An idea that wasn’t his own questioned whether this was the right path or not. Sometimes his thoughts were his own.
            “Nah, I’m sure it’s this way.”
            You really sure?
            “And if it isn’t, I’ll just come back.” He resumed walking.
           Don’t get lost.
            “What a headline that would make. ‘Acor boy lost near Acor village in the Enchanted Forest’. Dad would not be impressed.”
            Dave stopped from surprise this time. Did he imagine that?
            A sound like a laugh came just around a smaller tree ahead. It reminded him of an old man’s chuckle: high-pitched, wheezy, and obnoxious.
            “Is someone there?”
            The leaves rustled. His eyes suddenly registered a brown form moving in the bushes. It continued chuckling in short intervals.
            Dave heard more rustling behind him, but saw nothing when he looked. Considering all the forest noises, it wouldn’t be surprising if he had imagined it.
            He stepped closer to the form, nervous to pass by. That was when he noticed the tail. A long thin tail with a fluffy bulb of black at its tip.
            “Wait, is that an animal?”
           Way to go, mistaking an animal for a human.
            “How was I supposed to know?”
            Scare it a little.
            Dave scrounged the ground for something to throw. At least the rocks looked normal. The fiery orange flowers beside the animal looks like a good target. Flicking his wrist to test the weight of the rock, he threw it.
            It would’ve landed perfectly. Then some glowing insect with  transparent wings appeared in front of the rock. The projectile hit the poor thing, glanced off, and struck the rump of the animal instead.
            The animal squealed and whirled.
            Eyes red and flashing, a giant boar locked its sights on the teen.
            Dave paled.
            Acor mauled by wild boar near Acor village.
            “This is not funny!”
            Dave tried, but the creature charged faster.
            Brace yourself!

I've been splitting up chapters because I feel like the chapters get a bit long.
Originally chapters 2 and 3 formed chapter 2, and I'll be splitting originally chapter 3 into chapters 3 and 4.
While I have stated there are 9 chapters currently written in the top post, by the time I've caught up posting on the chapters I have currently, there'll probably be more o-o

With this chapter, I'll have introduced the main characters for Part 1. I'm a little worried the pacing might feel too slow at this point? What do you think so far?

Thinking of posting character references here when I have them as well as some setting material. Both are still under development. Sometimes I'll have a set idea, but then find it works better another way, so there'll be some tweaking to the story here and there.

No one is perfect . . . that's why there's erasers and extra paper.

Offline Echo_River

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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2019, 05:17:54 PM »
Chapter 5: Unexpected Trouble

Declaring doom - a wall of brown rushed towards him.
In a flash – a force smashed into sideways Dave and bowled him into the bushes.
Winded – Dave lay stunned as the forest exploded around him.
The rumbling ground rattled his skull and a rumbling growl flooded his ears. Dazed, the teen stared up with wide eyes wondering if he was dead.  All he saw was a black shadow writhing over him. Shifting, it revealed itself to have a gleaming row of white teeth. Dave pinpointed the source of the growling straight from the large jaws blowing hot air into his face. He froze.
There’s another one! Dave panicked. It’s just as big as the other one. What is it? A bear? A jaguar a – Cret, it’s moving, it’s growling really loudly - It’s going to eat me. I’m going to die – I’m going to –
Breathing in through its nostrils, the beast took a whiff of him. Then its head shot up. With a gust of wind, it vanished, swirling leaves and glowing orbs in its wake.
Dave gasped. He saw the green of the forest again. Except for a smarting shoulder, he felt no pain from broken bones or gaping wounds. “I’m still alive,” he breathed. Now that he considered it, the shadow must have been the one to shove him aside. If so, had it just saved him?
What just happened? Where’s the boar? Where’d they go?
He sat up fast. Two large forms grappled in the brush around him, the boar and a dark shadow ducking in and out of the trees, too fast for him to tell what it was. They circled around with dizzying speed. The stomps of the boar shook the ground. Dave scrambled to his feet and stumbled backwards, looking for the trail. He kept an eye  on the creatures’ positions. From what it appeared, the shadow kept the boar at a distance without directly attacking it.
Whatever it was, its strange behaviour didn’t mark it as hostile to Dave. Nevertheless, their unpredictable movements created a volatile warzone that would be bad to get caught up in.
“Better get out of here.”

No, get off the ground.

Off the ground? Dave hesitated. A crash made him jump. He saw the boar tear a small tree out of the ground with sheer force. “I-I don’t think so!” he squeaked.
Rage at its devious challenger blinded the tusked creature and it rampaged blindly through the wood. The shadow darted away with amazing speed, though it could barely keep out of the way. Their paths shifted. The boar turned and charged towards Dave with a squeal.
“Huh?!” Dave found his feet riveted to the ground.
A hand grabbed his arm and wrenched him back. The boar streaked by and crashed into a tree mere feet away. Dave felt the vibration through the ground.
Who the -?!
Dave glanced wildly. Beside him gripping his arm was a youth with disheveled black hair tied back in a short ponytail and wearing a strange outfit. He had no time to catch his breath before the individual shoved him towards the next nearest tree, one of the forest giants.
“But the -”

“Never mind them we gotta get off the ground or we’ll be tenderized by nature, I kid you not.” Urgently whispering, the youth leapt onto the thick vines circling the trunk and reached his hand out to Dave. His tense tones must have carried to the boar. Recovered from the brunt of its collision the creature directed its snout at them with alarming accuracy.
Picking up its hooves for another charge the boar let out a roar. Dave grabbed the youth’s hand and was hefted higher up where he scurried up to the lowest branch a good height off the ground. Following close behind, the black-haired youth swung up none too soon.
The boar bashed into the immense trunk. The wood vibrated harshly from the impact but their post didn’t even sway. Only a cascade of leaves showered down on them. They covered their ears to block out the boar’s angry squeal. It dug its tusks into the trunk with frustration but couldn’t reach them.

“See?” the youth motioned, sitting carelessly on the branch.

Not all was fine yet though. A spot of black caught Dave’s eye. Zipping through the wood, the black shadow appeared. It stopped a distance away and growled at the boar.
“Noturn wolf!”
“A what?” Dave stared. He could finally see the features of the dark figure and it was no doubt a black wolf, large as a horse, fur ebony as a starless night sky.
They winced at another cry from the boar. It pawed the ground and fixed red eyes on its target. In a burst of speed, the boar stormed after its tormentor with new fury. Slick as a fish in water the wolf easily evaded the heavyset animal. When it was far enough from the boys, it dashed off, leading the boar away into the forest. The creatures thrashed through the brush and disappeared.

“Now!” The black-haired youth moved quickly off the branch.

“What?” Dave struggled to follow, slipping clumsily down the vines to the ground.

“We should make a run for the house while it’s distracted. This way!”

Without a moment to catch his breath, Dave sprinted after the youth as best as he could. His feet fumbled on uneven terrain while his guide seemed to glide over it easily. How far had he wandered from the house?

“Wai - wait up!” Dave gasped. He glanced over his shoulder. With alarm he noticed a flash of brown. His fears were confirmed when the ground started shaking. “It’s back!” he yelled.

“Too soon!” The youth  veered sideways. “Keep running - we’re almost there!”

It’s going to overrun us, Dave thought, when he felt a wind.

The wolf jumped in from the side just as the boar emerged through the trees. They didn’t collide, but the boar swerved, its rampage momentarily stalled.

“Over here!”

Dave looked ahead to see where the boy was. He hadn’t been watching where he was going and rammed right into the individual. They tumbled down a small slope into an area clear of dense foliage.

“Really, Dave?” the boy complained flat on the ground.

“Sorry!” Dave groaned, feeling sore. Flustered, he got up, looking for the animals. An angry grunt and growl signaled their approach.

The boar burst through the trees. Dave yelped, and shielded himself with an arm. It began to charge towards them.. Just when he thought it would trample them, a thin film of faint gold appeared in front of the boar. Instead of running into him, the creature suddenly squealed and skidded, throwing up dirt. It didn’t stop in time and hit the sheet of light. The light crackled against the boar’s hide. As if tangled in a net,  the boar shivered, made upset noises, and writhed, like it was trying to throw something off.

Dave barely noticed the humming noise coming from the barrier like film. He watched, tense, as the animal shook its head, staggered backwards, and fled back into the forest. The moment the boar backed off, the film disappeared, along with the humming.
After the animal’s cry faded from hearing, it became quiet again. All Dave could hear was panting from other boy. Insects and birds returned to their whining and chirping like this was a normal day in the forest. Perhaps it was, for them, but not for the awe stricken boy.
Dave released his breath he didn’t know he’d been holding.

“What was that?” he said, not in shock or fear, but in a reverent kind of way.
“A close call, that’s what. If it weren’t for the wolf you might have been knocking on the door to the underworld. Thank goodness the fencing worked,” the black-haired youth sighed in relief, falling on his back.

“Fencing?” Dave blurted.

The boy lifted his arm. It was then Dave noticed two tall poles rising from the ground a few meters apart near to where they were. The colour of dark wood, they didn’t catch the attention right away. He didn't see anything connecting them, but perhaps there was more to the eye than he could see.
“Keeps the wild animals out. Senses if you’re a human or not,” the boy said between breaths. “How else would we be able to survive out here? I just wish it kept out the squirrels too - pesky things like to eat up the garden. Oh, the only thing it doesn't keep out are the wolves and the deer."

“Wolves? They aren’t dangerous?”
“Hell yeah. Any and every animal is dangerous – when you get on their bad side. Don’t get me started on how heavy one is sitting on you.”
“…how about a small one?”
“They don’t get much smaller than that. He was only a pup – the adult wolves are terrifying. Luckily our village has a long history with them so they don’t generally view us as enemies – generally. They're registered as non-hostile. That one must’ve sensed you were an Acor and came to help you.”
That was just a pup?! Dave couldn’t believe it. He almost wouldn’t believe anything he was seeing and hearing except that he was actually in the midst of it all happening. It filled him with a growing excitement.
That excitement quickly broke down into a dawning realization of what the situation had been. His breaths came out shaky and he placed his hands on his thighs to steady himself.
“I thought I was going to die,” he admitted in timorous tones.
“You’re telling me,” the other youth blurted. “Lost half my life span getting here and I could lose the other half when we get back. Why on Cretanneh would you provoke a wild Irian Boar?”
“I didn’t know they liked honey-coated nuts,” Dave said flatly. No point letting this person know his blunder with the rock throw.

“Cret, we need to talk about that,” the youth said seriously and sat up to face Dave. For some reason, the casual manner was oddly familiar. “Rule one – Always carry a weapon with you or Cretanneh save your soul. Rule two – Don’t mess with boars, and especially not boars. Rule three – Don’t go into the forest by yourself. Rule four – Don’t touch my snacks.”
“Okay.” Under the influence of the moment, Dave could only agree.
Fussy – like someone I know.
Though he nodded with a thoughtful look, his mind was elsewhere, trying to place the identity of this person. After a couple of deep breaths, he still couldn’t put his finger on it. At the very least, they’d helped him out in the nick of time. He wouldn’t be able to live it down if he made the headlines in an unfortunate accident.
“We’d better head back. It’s been over five minutes so don’t except a happy ‘welcome home’.” The unidentified youth stood up to stretched.
Dave got up and dusted his clothes off. “Hey, uh, thanks for earlier.” He scratched his neck sheepishly. “I owe it to you, um –“ he hesitated. “What’s your name?”
The youth’s jaw dropped. He clapped his hands onto Dave’s shoulders. “What? We’ve been talking for two minutes and you didn’t even – did you forget about  me? No, did you seriously forget me? C’mon man, it hasn’t even been three months since the last family gathering.”
Staring back with eyes wide, Dave stiffened and tried to remember who could’ve had such an unkempt appearance during the get-togethers but since he spent most of the time with his first cousin of the same age he didn’t really notice anyone else, although this individual’s sharp slanted dark-chocolate eyes certainly reminded him of…
Dave sputtered in sudden realization of the person standing before him. “Roun?!”
What a surprise.
“I can’t believe you,” Roun huffed and turned away in a dejected manner.
“No, really, Roun?” Dave goggled at the teen. “I didn’t recognize you! When did your hair get so long?”
“Did you not recognize my voice at least?”
“I thought you were a girl.”
“You thought I was a girl??” Roun swiveled, exasperation plain on his face.
“I’m joking. Sorry, I didn’t expect you to look like that.”
“I’m cheesed. I’m literally cheesed right now.”
“I said I’m sorry. Stop acting so dramatic. Thanks for coming to save my skin.”
“A bit late for that,” Roun remarked wryly and broke a quirky smile. He held out his hand. “Good to see you, Dave.”
Dave clasped the hand earnestly, his shaken nerves calming down, and yet he was elated he’d finally bumped into a family member he was familiar with. Roun started to speak, but ended up staring at a detail he hadn’t noticed in the forest shadows. “What did you do to your hair?”

“A modern bowl-cut? It doesn’t look you.”
“Neither does that ponytail. ”
“At least you didn’t have to change your hairstyle because you lost a bet with your sister on who would get better grades in school.”
“Oh, what a coincidence, you did that too?”
In the split moment of silence where you could hear the leaves rustling, the boys stared at each other, dumb looks on their faces.
Roun broke out laughing first.
Dave couldn’t help but join in, first with nervous chuckles, before they both doubled over in hopeless laughter at the pathetic fate dealt out to them.
“Man, this summer's going to be a blast.” Roun collapsed against a tree to sit down.
Dave fended off the last titters with a large grin. He counted on it. Sitting beside Roun he looked up at the towering trees, the unfamiliar landscape, and wished it could be like this all the time. Spending the summer in a fantasy forest with his best friend – what could be better?
“That is if you don’t count the festival,” Roun added suddenly.
Festival? Ah, his dad had mentioned that as well. An annual thing where everyone was invited back to the village for some sort of sports competition.
“Why? I thought that was the highlight?”
“Sure, but that makes everyone busy preparing for it. There’s always some boring job to do. I barely get a moment to myself. You’ll find it mostly work and non-existent vacation. It’s like this every year. All I’d worry about is the Warden’s Exam.”
            To be honest, Roun felt very worried about it. No point letting Dave know that though. Thank goodness he had found his cousin when he did. It was one step closer to passing the festival. All he had to do was make sure his cousin was ready and the rest would breeze by. Considering how Dave survived facing a boar, with a little help, Roun had hope in him.
Dave looked at him with a puzzled expression. And his hopes were dashed in the very simple question posed to him by the very source of his hope.
            “Warden’s Exam? What’s that?”

NTS: Edits

Chapter 5
- Separated from Chapter 4
- Edited parts of chase scene

- 2019-9-10 Edited some dialogue

« Last Edit: September 10, 2019, 04:34:56 PM by Echo_River »
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Offline Echo_River

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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2019, 03:14:02 PM »
Chapter 6: Unreal

How could you do this to me, uncle Jaanes?

“Your dad didn’t tell you about the Warden’s Exam?” Roun couldn’t believe his ears.

Dave shrugged. “Never heard of it.”

“Hold on, you know about the festival. How can you not know about the exam?”

“Is this an exam like a school exam?” Dave looked uncertain. “We have to study during our summer vacay?”

Roun fought back the threat of a mental shutdown. “No, the festival and the Warden’s Exam are practically the same thing. I thought your dad would have told you – he said he wanted you to enter the festival.”

“You mean the sports competition?”

The shock Roun experienced from that last statement left him at a loss.

Great Cretanneh…

Quickly, Roun turned away and pressed his fingers against his forehead.


“Gimme a sec.”

A second wasn’t going to fix this. Nor would a minute. Maybe not even a year. Dave didn’t know spat about the Acor?.

When uncle Jaanes said that it was Dave’s first time to the village, he wasn’t kidding.

Did uncle Jaanes tell him anything at all? How much does Dave know – or rather, how much doesn’t he know? What Acor parent would neglect to inform their Acor child?!

His mind worked rapidly. If Dave doesn’t know about the exam, he at least has to know something if uncle Jaanes thought he had any chance of entering the festival. But ‘sports competition’ – seriously?

Roun turned back to Dave who viewed him with some concern. “You know what the festival is about, right?”

His cousin said hesitantly, “Something about an Acor tradition to pass down our art of fighting and the festival is a way to bring everyone back to the village to get in touch with our roots?”

“That… is the most abridged version I’ve ever heard.”

“Then what is the festival about?” Dave scowled.

Roun inhaled deeply. “You weren’t wrong about passing down traditions, but we’ve only been doing the  festival  for about six years.”

“So it’s not  a tradition?”

“Not really. It was started after the last war with the Nanrot.” Roun explained.

“I see…” Dave nodded. He paused. “What are the Nanrot?”


That would have been the sound of Roun’s patience breaking if emotions produced sound.

This… was going to turn into a major babysitting job if Dave knew a lot less than Roun had been counting on. And it looked like Dave didn’t know a lot.

Nope, I am not dealing with this. How could you do this to me uncle Jaanes?!


“What are we doing now?” Dave stuck close to Roun as they backtracked along the trail.

“Finding your dad.” Roun replied sourly.

They emerged from the forest, passed through the garden paths, and arrived behind the main house. One of the back doors swung open. Jaanes strode out, looking displeased.

“Roun, where were – “ The man’s gaze diverted to the figure behind his nephew. “Dave! Where did you - What… what happened to you two?” He raised an eyebrow at their rumpled and soiled clothes as if they’d been rollicking in the grass like a couple of puppies.

“We had a run-in with an Irian boar,” Roun retorted. “You’re now talking to our ghosts.”

“That was you? The wolves were making a ruckus about it just now.”

“Roun helped me out,” Dave said, almost proudly.

“I told you to stay inside,” Jaanes returned sternly.

“’Dave, Roun, I’m so glad you’re safe. I wouldn’t be able to face your mothers if something happened to you’,” Roun squeaked.

“I told you to stay inside.”

“If you’d told Dave a little more about Acor, maybe he’d be in less danger,” Roun whispered loudly. “Why didn’t you tell him?”

“About what?”

“I dunno. Everything?”

Jaanes pursed his lips. “Maybe it’ll be a good opportunity to refresh what you know.”

He dodged the question!

“Sorry, dad,” Dave intervened so mildly, he almost didn’t sound apologetic. “I just wanted to explore a little bit. We’re alright. Nothing happened.”

“It’s not ‘nothing’, Dave. You could have gotten seriously injured.” Jaanes sighed and  ignored Roun’s stabbing glare. “Right now I want you two to come inside. I need to explain a few things to you before you get yourselves lost in the forest.” The man beckoned to them and headed into the house.

The boys glanced at each other then followed him in.


Roun sat on the couch in the living room, one knee drawn up so he could rest his head on it as he brooded over this unexpected development. It bothered him that Dave professed to know nothing of Acor history, origins, or customs. What could he have expected of a guy who’d grown up outside all his life?

The strange part was that Dave claimed his father hadn’t told him about Acor. At the least, his cousin knew he was an Acor, which was a start, and he barely knew about the festival, which was bad.

One thing was clear to him – he wouldn’t be able to fill Dave in on everything with what all he had to do this summer.

Correction – he didn’t want to bother with the boring stuff.

What can I do? Roun thought worriedly, I have to gauge his abilities as well. That’s the most important part. I’ll have to bring him to practices. Maybe if he meets with the others, they can help him too. But what about explaining Acor and all that to him?

“Is that clear, Roun?”

“Hm?” Broken from his trance, Roun looked up at his uncle who had just finished a lengthy you-better and you-better-not lecture, one he’d heard before. Dave slouched on some pillows beside him, acting like this was another daily news report on the radio. He shrugged when Roun glanced at him. “Yes, uncle Jaanes, clear as clean air.”

“Good. Dave, remember, stick with Roun. I have no problem with you exploring during the night, but I want you to attend the practices. I’m not letting you off of that.”

“Don’t worry, uncle Jaanes, we’ll be on time no matter what and we’ll work hard.” Roun said in mock-seriousness as he lowered his legs to the ground and stood up with a stretch.

“Oh? I’ll hold you to that.”

“You just keep doing what you were doing and we’ll take care of ourselves. Can we go now?” Roun pulled himself up straight and proper while forcing a harmless expression.

Jaanes eyed him. “Alright. But if I call you, you come.”

Roun chuckled nervously. “Send me a wolf. We’ll probably crash in at Swallow’s for dinner, give Gr’uncle Jacke a visit, you know the drill.” He tugged Dave to his feet and slowly pushed him out of the room.

Jaanes watched them shuffle away. “Don’t bother your relatives too much. And don’t stray into the off-limit zones!”

“Wolf? Off-limits?” Dave whispered over his shoulder. “Is that something important?”

“I’ll tell you later,” Roun whispered into his ear. “First let’s go where your dad isn’t. He’s sending out those ‘I’m watching you’ vibes and it’s unsettling.”


The front door closed behind them and the boys stood on the porch.

Roun drew in a deep breath and released it slowly. “What was the first part of his lecture?” he asked Dave.

“Just some guidelines about what to do if I ever encounter another wild animal, what not to do, and something about village rules.”

“Info overload. I coulda told you all that.”

“Yeah, dad said that you would tell me everything I need to know.”

Roun flinched at that. Everything you need to know, just great. But then an idea hit him. A slow smirk spread across his face. Everything? Everything, huh. Well, why don’t we give him ‘everything’?

Dave squinted at the hazy mid-afternoon forest light, not seeing anything but green. Earthy smells assailed his nose. “So, what are we doing now? Where are we going?”

“Into the village. If you want to get cozy with this life, might as well start with getting to know the people – and we need to get you clothes,” Roun replied with unexpected energy.

Dave pinched his urban outfit. “I can’t wear these?”

“You can, but you’re going to need a traditional outfit for the Warden’s – the competition. Tradition for traditions.”

Dave scratched his neck. “Sounds like there’s a lot I need to know.”

“Uncle Jaanes just wants me to make sure you’re comfortable.” Roun frowned. “And that’s with more than just the forest, which is pretty sick if I don’t say so myself.” He stepped off the porch and beckoned for his cousin to follow.

Dave glanced back at the house as he tagged along. “Yeah, no kidding. When dad told me we were going ‘to the forest’, I thought he meant some backwater county. But you have all the necessities here. I mean, that ‘fence’ you told me about. How does that work? Is it magic?” His bright curious eyes dazzled Roun.

“I couldn’t explain it to you, it’s just…” Roun trailed off. “How can he have not told you anything…? If you get culture shock, it’s not my fault,” he grumbled in bewilderment once again.

Moving across the front lawn, Roun stepped on top of a large stone platform surrounded on three sides by waist high railings, a small cube on each corner. It was positioned on the edge of the hill the house stood on. “Trust me, that’s nothing. Try to save being surprised for the surprising stuff.”

Dave chuckled and moved onto the platform beside his cousin. “What could be more surprising than a magical forest and giant wolves...” Then he looked down and realized he’d spoken too soon.

He caught his breath. A community of different sized buildings sprawled through the forest below like plants springing up through rocks, except this was the opposite, buildings sprung up in the wilderness. Though he’d seen the view a couple of times from the window, to be seeing it with his own eyes felt like he was quite literally stepping into a place you’d only see in picture books.

“Cret, I’m actually here,” the teen breathed, a shiver running up his back.

“Let’s take a shortcut,” Roun said in a bright tone and put his hand on a round contraption attached to the railing that Dave hadn’t noticed before. The cubes lit up. What kind of shortcut was his cousin talking about? he wondered.

Suddenly the ground under him shifted. Dave quickly grabbed the railing to steady himself when he realized they were moving forward. His eyes widened. “What? How??”

A glance down showed a far drop to the ground and when he looked over his shoulder, they were already beyond jumping distance to the house. He heard no engine or saw anything levitating the platform. It merely floated forward. “You’re not serious!” Dave exclaimed, disbelieving his eyes.

“Yes, now that is something to be surprised at,” Roun said with a satisfied grin.

“What is this - Magic?”

“Ancient technology.”

Dave laughed out loud. “I feel like you’re just saying that to avoid explaining the mechanics to me. This is ridiculous!”

“Just pretend we’re on one of those automatically moving platforms in video games for now. “Roun slapped his cousin’s back and made a dramatic swoop of his arm to the main street. “Welcome to the Acor Village, Dave.”

Forgetting how his first experience was literally nearly getting mauled by a wild animal, Dave officially began his orientation of the home of his heritage. He goggled at his surroundings, taking in every detail he could. Excitement tingled through his body. So tightly he clutched the railing his knuckles turned white.

How lucky.

The thought came with a speck of envy. Roun had probably lived in the Acor village for most of his life. Who wouldn’t wish for a chance to have a home here? He might as well have been sucked into a fantasy RPG.

I wish I’d grown up here.

He soon found out the houses were nothing like your country cabins you’d find on farms. Just like his dad’s house, these were modern. He saw two types: one like shaped like tall yurts that blended in with the trees, and the other built like futuristic portables, shining with a blue metallic shine. Small cube lights dotted every structure emitting a soft sleepy blue glow.

And the road wasn’t restricted to the ground. Several bridges crossed between the houses and from building to building as if you were meant to travel without having to step on the forest floor. Coupled with the presence of the immense trees and all things vegetable, animal, and mineral that glowed, it made for a very convincing fairy village.

But magical wasn’t the first word to grace the boy’s vocabulary.


Dave breathed a short cynical laugh.

This is unreal.

From what Dave saw, Roun was able to control the platform with the round ball device, tilting it up, down, left, right in order to maneuver under or over the bridges. As they moved over the main road that ran through the middle of the village, Roun pointed down to certain houses and told him who lived there or named different people they saw on the ground. Dave nodded in turn, although many of the names passed through his ears.

Partway down, Roun set the platform down on a stone pedestal - a landing pad, Dave figured - to the side of a large open spot that seemed to be the centre of the family area, judging by the huge fountain and the four large intersecting paths that met up with it. No sooner had they hopped off when Roun plucked Dave’s sleeve urgently.

“Let’s go, quickly, before uncle Brelehew catches us,” he whispered.

“Who?” Dave followed Roun at a sprint, glancing over his shoulder and expecting to see some scary old man who disliked kids in general, waving a cane.

Instead, he heard a window pop open, and a man’s voice called out to them from above. “Roun! What happened to bringing the pigs in?”

“Cret,” Roun muttered under his breath. He turned around, walking backwards, and hollered back to the man leaning out of a window behind them. “They’re still alive, as far as I know - don’t worry, the wolves won’t eat them. I’m kind of busy right now, so you’ll have to ask someone - see you later! Okay, run!” The last words he shot to Dave before bursting into a sprint.

“That’s not what I’m worried about. They shouldn’t be eating anything outside the fence!”

“And this is exactly why I decided to take the shortcut.” Roun chuckled.

“Is that something important?” Dave asked with some concern while running alongside his cousin. They darted out of eye sight quickly and slowed back down to a walk.
Roun flapped his hand dismissively. “Nah. There aren’t any terribly poisonous plants within five kilometers of the village. But eating certain things might change the colour and taste of the meat. Blue pork is the weirdest - expect to get a few trippy dreams. Anyway, there’s tons I want to show you outside our area except we won’t be able to get to them all in a day. I’d bring you to practice, but they’re almost done by now so there’s no point. I wonder if we can pay him a visit...he’s finished with duties around this time. Yep, let’s pop by the Acori Hall.” He spoke the last part more to himself. With his mind made up, he began to lead Dave towards the end of the road.
“Acori Hall?” Dave tried to keep his bearings as they continued moving. Looking back he could see the main house posed directly behind them, raised over all the others.
“It’s where he holes himself up all day. Cons of being the village chief.”
Dave gasped. “We have a chief?”
Roun smirked. “We’re a pretty big clan. We very well couldn’t function or get along without a leader. Don’t get too excited. He’s technically our grand-uncle.”
“We’re related to the chief?”
“Gr’uncle Jack is our grandmother’s younger brother.”
“Are we related to everyone in the village?”
“Pretty much. It comes with being in a clan.” Roun pointed at the rows of houses behind them. “This is the Tiuruh Family area. There are three other areas that house different families. Don’t go wandering in them unless you know someone.”
They came to the end of the family area, marked by a large wooden arch rising high over their heads. A short trail wound into the trees below it away from the houses. Apart from a few adults, younger children, and elderly people, they hadn’t seen many others. Dave wondered where everyone was and trusted that his cousin knew where they were going as his bearings were confused by the forest closing around them.
As long as I stay in the Tiuruh Family area, I’ll be fine, he thought determinedly.
Beyond the trail it turned into a wider road that split left and right at the base of a steep hill that rose up before them. A flight of wooden steps winded up the hill where the road divided. Following the staircase up with his eyes, Dave couldn’t tell if there was anything at the top.
Roun glanced left and right, as if making sure they weren’t being seen. “Chief Jacke works at the hall just up there. Whenever you come by here, watch out for the leopard and bear.”
“You have tame bears here too?”
Roun explained in a careful whisper. “I’m talking about the two wardens you can always find at the Hall. They’re the Chief’s personal bodyguard. I’ve had more than my share of run-ins with them.” Then he motioned for Dave to move ahead. “If we run into someone you don’t know - just remember you’re related to everyone here in one way or another. Don’t be shy, but don’t act like you know everyone. Being related doesn’t mean you have to be friendly you’ll soon find out.”
They reached the bottom of the stairs where Roun gestured for him stop. “Wait here for a sec, I’m just going to check if he’s in.”
“Okay.” Dave watched Roun hurry up the long staircase two steps at a time. Before his cousin reached the top, a figure appeared in front of him causing Roun to halt. Dave didn’t know what was up, but decided to wait as instructed and took the time to look at the scenery, read the signs, and get his bearings. He tried to remember what this area looked like in case he got lost.

It wasn’t long before he heard soft footsteps approaching from the left of the road. He turned his head cautiously, remembering he was wearing his city clothes and probably looked out of place. In spite of Roun’s advise, he felt conscious.
A girl walked out and Dave couldn’t help but stare.
She was younger than him, judging by her height and demeanor, and wore clothes similar to Roun’s. Her steps were directed with intent.
But what stuck out to him the most was the dark wooden mask covering the right side of her face, giving her a forbidding and mysterious aura. Where her right eye should have been was a pointed oval opening covered by a thick mesh so that he couldn’t see half of her face at all. She stared back evenly as she walked by, not blinking.
Dave gulped and nodded to her. “Hi.”
She passed him without responding.
“Something to note, uncles are scary too, in their own way.” Roun made an abrupt appearance as he skipped down the steps. “Dave, guess what, Chief says he doesn’t want to see us right now. I’m kidding, he’s still busy. But I asked if we could use the training grounds behind the hall and we’re allowed.”
Dave pointed after the girl. “Am I related to her too?”
Roun glanced. She was out of sight now. “Who?”
“There was a girl. She was wearing a mask…”
“A mask? On her whole face or only part?” Roun peered in the direction she had gone.


“Which side of the face? Up, down, left, or right?”
“The right.” Dave covered the part of his own face with his hand.
Roun’s gaze turned solemn. “Oh…I know who you’re talking about. Why? Did she say anything to you?”
“She didn’t say anything at all,” Dave said glumly.
Roun patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll introduce you to the others later. Wait, I have to introduce you to everyone. Your mind is going to explode.” He started up the steps again. “C’mon. Let’s move before the guys finish practice. It’s over this way. We don’t want anyone laughing at us. That would be too typical for a first day.”
“Who was that up there just now?” Dave trailed after his cousin stiffly.
“The Leopard. Luckily, I wasn’t in trouble, but if you’re ever called by them, then you know you’re in trouble.”

NTS: Edits

Chapter 6
- I made a lot of edits to this part. Previously, Roun introduces the village to Dave as they walk through it. In this edit, I've added more of the Zerakis technology. Note sure how I feel about it yet.
- Separated from chapter 7
- Excluded some banter

- 2019-9-10 Replaced chapter 6 material with chapter 8 material from "This is unreal". Removed chapter 7 "Gran".

- Maybe stop the "day" there and continue the next chapter on another "day", so the timeline is better paced/drawn out.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2019, 03:11:57 PM by Echo_River »
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Offline Suuper-san

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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2019, 04:46:36 PM »
I had a flick through and it looks good :)
I'm not a good reader but I'll try and read it, sometime :P
keep up the good work :)
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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2019, 10:53:53 PM »
That's alright suuper c: I appreciate that you gave it a look.
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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2019, 02:51:57 PM »
Alright! Finally time to get some honest reviewing done! Per usual, I'm just going to be commenting as I go along, so if you see some comments that seem odd given later context, don't sweat it! It's just my way of giving honest reactions.

Let's get to it then.


- I like the way the little bits of action you have happening to the characters starts to flesh out the surroundings as we go along. It's refreshing not to have to have any drudgery that comes from reading about the setting before actually getting into the good stuff.

- It's an interesting style of formatting. Very spaced out and punchy. It works pretty well in the prologue, but always be wary of not overusing any single formatting trick. You can very easily squeeze all of the goodness from it without meaning to.

Chapter 1:

- It's kind of a weird jump in that first little stretch. The girl seems to be in a house, but then we get a bit of narration and then she's suddenly outside? Might work better if the conversation is something she's recalling, and not something that seems to be happening in real time.

- " the young girl sought out the black garb of the Wardens." - Looks like you missed a "one".

- Well that took an abrupt turn. Fantasy to neo-futurism whiplash a bit.

- The birdie sounds real cool. I kinda want one myself now!

- A bit of a strange place to end the first chapter. Usually you'd expect more of a nail at the end. A splash screen with the tiltle across the top of the screen, proverbially, of course, haha.

Chapter 2:

- Did he think it was going to knock her out or something? Seems like no matter what happened here, our erstwhile Roun was going to get found out.

- And now there are daggers? That escalated quickly!

- "That threat had come out of nowhere." - Sounds like it came from somewhere very specific!

- "And give me back my dagger." - I feel like the dagger should be a privilege, not a right.

I will say that I thought the flow was fine with this chapter. It is a bit still in the action, but long conversations fall prey to that easily. If you don't plan on having characters move, make an effort to cut any 'fat' out of a conversation that you can. Banter is still fun, but if it's included, make every word weigh ton!

Chapter 3:

- "all blocks and edges with large glass windows." - You could establish the rule of 3 here by replacing "with" with "and" and cutting out "large" and "windows" entirely. If you're saying it's all blocks and edges and glass, then we get the same image of the building, and it makes things much snappier to read. As it is, the end of the sentence drags a bit.

- Wow, all of these kinda out there names, and suddenly it's just 'Dave'? That's the wildest thing yet.

- I sense a tragic mother syndrome coming on.

I can definitely see why you started splitting the chapters. It's not as if the actual length is a problem, but I wouldn't want to push too too much still conversation together. At the very least, you need to keep a pretty good rotating cast of characters and topics. As it is we're basically just following the same couple of people, talking about roughly the same thing. I'm not sure what all else you've got going on at this point, but if the option is there, it wouldn't hurt to lace some things together to help give more of a change to the reader. That being said, this still all feels very much like 'episode 1' kinda stuff. I won't say it's too much of it yet, but if we're going to go from one long conversation to another, there definitely needs to be some action to interrupt things. What you did with the birdie was really good earlier, so maybe it's just dragging a little because the zooming around was so cool!

I think chapter 3 could really but cut down if you wanted to. There's a lot of back and forth, but there's not a whole lot of information being passed. It could be worth while to go through everything, and just highlight the exact lines which actually move forward our understanding of the plot and then you'll know which ones are just there filling space. You can then go through and ask your self at every exchange "do I love this?" if you don't, then why should the reader love it? Ask yourself hard questions wherever you can, and it will make for a stronger work!

Good stuff overall! I'm excited to read more when the time comes! For now though I have other stuff to occupy my Labor Day!
« Last Edit: September 02, 2019, 03:29:15 PM by Coryn »

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Offline Echo_River

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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2019, 12:16:12 AM »
Chapter 1:
- I'd pictured them outside right at the start actually, but now I see I missed referencing that completely. Recalling the conversation would be neat too imo. :hmm: I'll experiment with it.

- As in "one of the Wardens"?

- Am going for an ancient technology take actually haha. Is it too abrupt? Do you think there could be more preparation for it?

- Ikr?!

- I'll keep that in mind when I go over and edit it.

Chapter 2:
- It was meant to be a "small" prank, but that he was going to be found out anyway is a good point I think I will add to Roun's thoughts O:

Chapter 3:
- There was a rule like that?? I will remember that. Thanks for the tip.

Dialogue vs action vs exposition is something I'm definitely struggling with atm. And I agree on cutting out parts, some of which I did before posting. The lack of movement does bother me and the episode 1 feeling, as you mention. Especially since the next few chapters contain more explaining stuff, I'd like to perhaps merge chapters into shorter sections?? Or maybe I'll decide to shift parts around.

Thanks for your feedback/review Coryn. I really appreciate it!

On that note I'mma go ahead and fiddle with a few things.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2019, 12:40:27 PM by Echo_River »
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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2019, 07:16:12 PM »
- As in "one of the Wardens"?

Makes sense when you say it. Just didn't at the time. Seems like it's a sentence ripe for rewording.

Chapter 1:
- Am going for an ancient technology take actually haha. Is it too abrupt? Do you think there could be more preparation for it?

I think you could definitely have a smoother build up to it. Some sort of exposition before we're suddenly on hover bikes. Maybe talk about the level of integration there is with the surroundings.

- There was a rule like that?? I will remember that. Thanks for the tip.

It's more of a universal rule than a literary one. 'Three' is a number with a lot of meaning, but it also sounds good off the tongue. (Ready "Again, and again." out loud, vs "Again, and again, and again."). It give it a level of repetition that drills down into a readers brain.

Good luck! I can only hope I've helped in some small way!

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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2020, 03:31:38 PM »
Chapter 7: Assessment

“Shadows be true, you’re the first-timer the wolves were making a ruckus over.” Leaning on the wooden fencing at the top of the stairs was a man in all black.
“You’re –” Dave recognized him as the one Roun called The Leopard. He took one look at the man whose face only half shown from behind the ridiculously large scarf. “-Aunt Swallow’s brother?” Drawing from his meager knowledge of the family, Dave named a relative whom he was much more familiar with. Aunt Swallow attended most of their family gatherings and was generally well-known outside the village.
Roun glanced at his cousin, eyebrows raised. He wasn't suprised that Dave knew about uncle Waron, he was surprised Dave could tell it was uncle Waron under the mask. Meanwhile, the Warden barked a laugh, startling them both. “Swallow hasn’t been running her mouth about me, has she? Trust a sister to rat out her brother.”
“No, your eyes.” Dave indicated his own with two fingers.
“Wow, Dave, have you been running a detective agency without me?” Roun said, forcing the words past his astonishment. “I bet even Wholmes couldn’t deduce relations based on their eyes. Let me join.”
His cousin rolled his eyes. “It’s not that hard.”
Waron made a humming sound, eyes trained on the boy. Whether he was smiling or frowning they couldn’t tell. Though the noise vibrated closer to mirth. “Now that’s not a skill to discredit so quickly. If I had a skill like that, I would be able to tell the difference between a Nanrot and an Acor. Don’t you think, Roun?” Even though the man had spoken in lazy sarcastic tones Roun stiffened at his words.
“I have twenty-twenty vision thank you. Unlike some people, I can identify the two-hundred fifty some fungi in the forest.” He started to edge away. “Anyway, Dave and I are going to squish in a little practice. Later.”
“Word of advice,” Waron called out after them. “Irian boars are smellers, so if you ever find yourself on the front side of their snouts, staying still is a good idea.” They couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not this time.
“Um, thanks?” Dave replied.
“Oh, and don’t forget to throw something at them! Have fun, kids!”
“He’s joking, right?” Dave whispered to Roun after they rounded the corner of the hall.

“Forget him,” Roun huffed, frowning. “He thinks he’s being funny. What can you do. There’s a crazy uncle in every family.”

 Through a break in the trees, the boys emerged into a large flat area surrounded by a grove of thick trees with straight trunks planted in a circle. Characteristic blue lights hung off their branches, but what drew Dave’s attention were the arrangement of oddly modern looking posts in the clearing. About twenty posts made from white blocks were positioned randomly about, glowing a soft blue. They stood upon a surface of large tiles of a similar whitish colour. When he stepped onto them, Dave was reminded of walking on kitchen floor tiles.
In addition, Dave noticed a hum in the air, gentle and melodic without being annoying. Dave swallowed. “These are training grounds?”
“Specially made with old Zerakis technology.” Roun moved around the area, prodding posts to make them sink into the ground, and pulling more out of the ground where Dave couldn’t even see a break in the tiles.
“Our ancestors? They were at the height of their society, weren’t they?”
“So, you do know about them. That’s a relief. I’d be in trouble if you didn’t,” Roun huffed. He finished setting up the last post which completed the pattern of posts forming a large circle around them, allowing the use of the space in the middle. “Watch this.”
Drawing back his foot, Roun kicked the middle of one of the posts. It broke clean in half, turning a hazard yellow as the top smashed into the ground and broke into smaller pieces.

“That was ama-” Dave started to praise the force of his cousin’s kick when something more ‘Ama-’ happened. Not even a moment passed when the broken pieces suddenly slid across the ground and smacked back into one solid white piece, recreating the post without sign of a crack. “-ZING. What?!”
Roun grinned. “Self-rebuilding Training Targets. One of the cooler things they left us. Don’t worry about obliterating them.”
“That’s lit!” Dave blurted, eyes glowing.
“Only works with small objects like this though. They couldn’t apply it to the buildings.”
“Why would you want to punch a hole through your house?”
“Hey, sometimes even I feel like kicking a wall.”
“Am I supposed to knock these down?”
Roun regarded Dave thoughtfully. “What’s your main weapon.”
Dave perked. “Throwing knives.”

Roun deadpanned. “That’s a side weapon, not a main.”

“They’re my favourite.” Dave fidgeted awkwardly. “And my strongest.”
“Might as well start with those I guess. Did you bring any with you?”
“…do I look like I have anything on me right now?”
“I was hoping you’d show me some secret ability or something,” Roun remarked. “They should have some equipment up at the hall, I’ll fetch them for you.”

At a certain stage of maturity, you realize that having that skill to do something doesn’t mean that you are automatically good at doing it. Roun admitted he didn’t practice as much as he should… but he didn’t think he would feel this out of it. How good Dave would be at weaponry, he had no idea. Hopefully not as lacking as his knowledge of Acor was.
This was the clincher. He’d shown Dave the village, introduced him to some of the family, and was now about to witness Dave’s competence for the festival. A knot of anxiousness wormed into his chest. How bad could Dave be? As often as he saw Dave at gatherings, he actually had no idea. He trusted Uncle Jaanes hadn’t set him up for sure failure.
Roun stared at the dagger in his hand, one of the most commonly used weapons. His brows drew low, eyes squinted, and lips drawn in a thin line. His fist clenched around the grip as if holding a kitchen knife. He wiggled his fingers, trying to feel the right position. They wouldn’t settle.

He took a different approach and flipped the blade to hold it in a reverse grip, again grasping for the right place.
“That doesn’t feel right either… maybe I need a different set of knives,” Roun muttered to himself as he regarded the quillon of the knife.
To the side, Dave came out, wearing an Acor shirt Roun had found, a loose gray top that he rolled the sleeves up to his elbows. He still wore his black jeans and sneakers, giving him the semi-urban look. Around his waist he had a belt with a pouch and a holster that held the knives.
It fits him well, Roun thought. “Hey, you look good. Can’t imagine how Gran can make you look better. Your face maybe.”
“Hah, let’s hope yours is still intact after we’re done here,” Dave remarked lightly.
Roun smirked and handed Dave the knife. “Fair enough. Show me what you can do.”
The posts in the clearing now glowed with a different colour. On each of them shone one little square red tile among the white. Dave took a moment to scan his eyes over them.
“Hit one red tile on each of the posts as fast as you can,” Roun directed, stepping outside of the circle. “I’m going to time you.”
Dave weighed the blades in his hands with a thoughtful look. While his eyes locked onto the first post, his other hand drifted over to the pouch on his belt containing another set of knives. The slow measured movements combined with eyes narrowed to slits reminded Roun of a tiger, crouched and positioned to spring.
“I’m ready,” his cousin said.
He’s so serious. Roun gulped as an uncanny feeling crept up on him, making him shiver. “Okay, I’m going to give you a three, two, one – go.”
The words barely left his mouth when the clearing erupted in a rapid flurry of sounds.
Whoosh – whoosh – thud – whoosh – thud thud –
Whoosh – thud – whoosh – whossh – thud –
Thud – whoosh – thud –
Whoosh – whoosh – thud – whoosh –

His finger hit the stop on the timer the moment he heard the tenth impact.
Something silver had soared close to Roun and struck the post nearest to him. Splintered yellow streaks tainted the red tile where the blade pierced through.
Then his eyes lowered to the timer.

“How’d I do?” Dave said, slightly out of breath. He twiddled the leftover knives in his hands, flipping them over his knuckles casually.
“Two point five four seconds,” Roun told him, throat slightly dry.
“Agh, three milliseconds off my best,” Dave groaned. “How does that compare to the others? I bet they have real battle experience.”
“Uh, you’re good,” Roun said in short stutters. “You weren’t kidding when you said this is your strongest skill.” He smiled and gave Dave a slap on the back. Without looking, he knew that each of the bladed had struck a red tile on all ten posts he’d set up. And what surprised Roun – mildly surprised, he’d admit – was that Dave threw blindly. That is, he didn’t wait to see if he’s struck center before throwing the next, as if he was already sure he would hit his target.
That’s it. He sent out homing signals with his brain.
His cousin was better than he.
Roun closed the timer. “Yeah, you’ll be fine.”
“Should I do it again?”
“No no. That’s enough for that test.” Roun smiled brightly.

In all honesty, Dave’s numbers were a lot better than some of the others, perhaps because, although common, throwing knives wasn’t considered a major form of combat. Sure, everyone in the village learned the skill as anyone could hold a small knife. Even the young children used them to learn basic offensive and defensive techniques. Older kids liked to use them for fun competition. No one had them as a main. 

If this was Dave’s “average”, his best would be mind blowing…but he wasn’t going to tell his cousin that.
Wait, if Dave is really this good – it’s a good chance to pick up some tips. Unless Dave’s a prodigy, then I’ll really be at a loss.
They collected the knives from the posts, the tiles snapping back together without a sign of a crack. The Zerakis forest tech was really something.
“Where’d you do most of your training?” Roun asked.
“Dad sent me to a ton of dojos when I was younger,” Dave explained. “He believes in collective learning from different perspectives. After that, he trained me himself.”
“He did?” Surprising.
“I also practice with my sister. We like to play darts together.”
“I remember Halyn.” Roun handed Dave the knives back and they looked at the self-repaired grove.
“My dad even bought me my own set of throwing knives. They’re back at the house.”

Cret, uncle Jaanes was really hardcore about training.

Dave pulled out one of the blades, a double-edged weapon with a slender blade that shone in the sunlight with a golden tint as it sat in its dark wooden handle. “These are nice too.”
Roun had to admit, they were pretty.  “Can you show me how you throw? Slowly.”

“Okay.” Dave held it upright, only gently clutching the dagger with his thumb and two fingers. “- is when I throw.”
With a swift arm motion, Dave threw the knife sideways, and the weapon slipping from his fingers with that same magnet attracted movement like the target pulled it in.
The action was fluid, decisive, strong.
Roun retrieved the knife from the post and held it in the same way he had seen Dave hold it, then aimed a sideways look at his cousin.
“Can you catch a flying knife?”
Dave held his hands out and shrugged. “Try me.”
A flash of gold streaked for Dave’s eye. Very calmly Dave leaned his head to the side and raised his hand, snatching the handle of the blade neatly out of the air.
“Whoa -!” Another flash forced him to duck. Dave avoided a second dagger that sailed through where his head had previously been. “That was uncalled for,” he bristled.
“I wasn’t aiming at you,” Roun said, pointing to the post behind Dave, the dagger stabbed into a red tile.
“Uh-huh,” Dave rolled his eyes. “…you’re not bad yourself.”
“Thanks.” Something like a smirk flitted by Roun’s face.
As Dave went to get the unexpected dagger, a thought came to him. No, a vague feeling that, for some reason, Roun was thanking him for more than just the compliment. It was the same feeling when he talked to himself, but the other voice sounded like another person. He shook his head and pulled out the blade. He heard no voice at the moment. Just his imagination, right?
Roun reset the posts to submerge back into the ground. “Did you know, throwing a knife at someone in the Nanrot tradition counts as challenging them to a duel?” he said, in an off-handed manner.

Dave chuckled. “Oh yeah? Where’d you learn that?”
“My mom.”
“Are you challenging me?”
“For our next activity.” Roun smiled, playfulness in his expression.
“You’re on. What are we doing?”
“Swordplay.” And something I’m better at, Roun thought a bit uneasily, fingers clenching around his dagger. They settled comfortably now. Like a dog clamping its jaws down on its quarry. If Dave covers this, then I really don’t have to worry about anything. What was I anxious over anyway? Obviously, Uncle Jaanes prepared him for the exam.
Dave immediately groaned. “Aw, not that. That’s my worst skill.”
Or not?? Roun glanced at him in surprise. “Then what’s your close combat skill?”
“I need one?” Dave scratched his head.
“It’s part of the qualifications.  Proficiency in all weapon types.” Roun patted the sheathed blade at his side. “You think all opponents are going to stay on the other side of the dart board?”
“I like to keep my distance,” Dave admitted. “Do dual knives count?”
“Too light,” Roun told him. “You’ll be lighter on your feet sure, but an opponent with a bigger heavier weapon could easily knock them out of your hands. Not to mention they’re useless against long-rangers. Trust me, you haven’t seen some of the side arms the Wardens have. Hold on, I’m going to get one for you, we need to cover this.” We NEED to cover this. Worry was a better prompt than trying to be better than everyone else. He started to head in to fetch the equipment.

As he did, his mind continued rolling in doubt. What if Dave only had one strong skill? What if he didn’t know how to use any other weapon? Did he have enough skills? A month wouldn’t be enough to get comfortable with ones he didn’t know.
This sucks, Roun sighed inwardly.

NTS: Edits

Chapter 7:
- Made minor dialogue and description edits. Still needs tinkering.
- Split chapter 7  into two chapters "Assessment" and "Family"

Something that always haunts me is that when I'm writing a scene, I'll word things one way, but when I go back to edit I'll mentally facepalm and wonder why I worded it that way.

NTSx2: Going to continue to post so I don't fall behind on my own schedule. The goal right now is to stahp worrying about doing it perfectly and just getting it down. I know I'll probably be making some extreme edits in the future, but if I don't get it down now I'll never get it down OTL

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Offline Echo_River

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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2020, 09:40:37 PM »
Chapter 8: Family

“Um, is someone there?”
Roun was almost at the hall when he heard Dave’s question come out of the blue. Turning around, he saw his cousin standing at the side of the tiled area and looking into the dark bushes beyond the grove. Roun snapped his eyes in the same direction.
Was someone else in the grove? Did Dave notice something he hadn’t? It wasn’t unnatural for another villager to be near, even more likely a Warden, but usually that was something he would’ve noticed. He knew the land better than his cousin after all. Wow, I’ve gotten really rusty.
Still peering into the leaves of the trees encroaching the training area, Dave stepped forward. His hand slipped into his pouch and whipped out like a lash.
“Cret! ” Roun sucked in his breath fast, caught off guard.
The dagger met with a fast receive and flashed back towards Dave, digging into the ground his feet.
Laughter that sounded like a suffocating monkey burst from the shadows of the tree branches.
The instant he heard the sound, Roun grimaced, recognizing the voice. Shoot! They must’ve finished practice, he realized and ran back to his cousin to grab his arm. “Dave, don't just shoot at anything that moves! Dammit, why did they have to come this way?”
“What? What is it?” Not understanding the situation, Dave stumbled a step back.
“Y’know what, we can postpone that sword duel. Let’s leave.”
“But my knife…”
Before either of them could firmly decide on ditching the area, a skinny figure dropped into the clearing and picked up Dave’s dagger. Roun cringed at the sight of the spiky haired youth.
“Huks,” Roun said through his teeth.
“Is that an Acor swear word?” Dave said.
Roun jabbed a finger at the boy approaching them. “Huks. One of the kids from the Nioni family. Also someone better I would have preferred not run into.”
“You sell out my name but you won’t tell me his? You get colder and colder every year, fam. Please tell me if I did something wrong,” the newcomer replied thin sarcastic voice. Hearing it, Roun went still, caught in a position with his back half facing the newcomer.
A boy no older than they and wearing a differently styled traditional outfit moved slowly towards them, steps paced deliberately as if testing the waters. He dangled the small blade between two fingers and held it out to Dave, who watched the stranger with interest. Not willing to face the boy, Roun eyed him over his shoulder.
Dave took his throwing knife back. “Thanks.”
Huks wore a slanted smile as he sized Dave up. “Arrived today?”
“I’m Dave.” The teen stared back without flinching.
“Another from the heir born?” He referred to Roun’s mother.
“My dad is Jaanes.”
“Huks. Nioni.” The boy spoke curtly.

“I guess we’re related then.”
“New and sharp. Like your knives. I like that.” Huks shifted his gaze to Roun, eyes like slits. “One day a snake’s gonna rip you in the neck with your ‘awareness’.”
“Not by one of yours.” Roun replied. “What are you doing here?” He was ignored.
“Were you challenging me?” Huks’ sharp stare swivelled back to Dave. 

The teen caught his meaning. His eyes briefly took on a far-off look, as if listening to something else. “Are we converting to Nanrot traditions?”
“It’s an interesting idea.” Huks smiled.
“Dave,” Roun breathed. He gripped his cousin’s arm more tightly, trying to warn him. But Dave was being oddly daring. Of course, he’d never dealt with a Nioni before and probably never got into any fights outside, so any fear of losing or getting injured was lost on him.
Dave ignored him. “Then yes, I’m challenging you.”
Roun released Dave’s arm and sighed, hand pushing into his face. The same high-pitched hiccup laugh sounded from Huks as he grinned with glee.
One word described Huks, and that was nasty, not to mention the pressure coming from the youth, similar to facing a reptile about to spit venom in your face.
“Huks, don’t you dare. Chief is still at the hall,” Roun tried to say.
“Roun’s cold and soft like a melting ice cream,” Huks taunted, stepping lazily into position on the other side of the training grounds across from Dave. “I bet if we took a spoon and dug it into you, we’d hear an I scream.”
“That’s cheesy,” Dave returned, taking up a stance. “And full of holes. As if a rat ate you, spat you out, and left because it thought you were a rotten egg roll.”
“Dave, wait – we can’t do this.” Except there was no stopping two hard-headed boys focused on meaninglessly beating each other up. Why was Dave so miffed anyway?
What were they going to do? An actual duel? The situation was too risky. This wasn’t a practice; it was a real fight. And that - that he had to stop. But how, when the air between the two was so tense he would probably provoke them further if he stepped in?
Roun gritted his teeth, hand posed over the hilt of his sword. He made up his mind. Even if he met with crossfire, he would stop them.
Luckily, he didn’t have to.
Dave and Huks sprang forward.
And then they both jumped back.
Right in the middle of the lot, an arrow stabbed into the ground.
“Hey, no infighting!”
The three boys looked up at the berating holler. On the roof of the hall stood a figure with two pointy ears on their head, or at least that’s what it looked like. They ran across the roof, swung onto one of the overhanging tree branches, and shimmied their way down to the ground with amazing gracefulness. Then Dave realized that it was a girl in a traditional Acor outfit, somewhat like a robe, with ears and eyes fashioned onto the hood. Two mirthful eyes peered out at them from behind messy hair, her face half covered by a cloth just like Waron. It gave her a really Acor look.
“‘No infighting?’ And you fire right into the designated combat zone?” Huks scowled.
“I wasn’t aiming at you,” the girl lightly stepped up to her arrow, plucked it out the ground, and waved it in his face. “I was aiming for the bug on your foot.”
“The Day is here, we’re saved,” Roun remarked dryly but looked relieved. Thank goodness it wasn’t a Warden, or they’d be screwed already.
“What?” Dave said.
“That’s what you turn into if you take the ‘v’ out of your name.”
“I heard that,” the girl replied in mock anger.
“At least it wasn’t the Night,” Roun returned.
“Huks is right. You really are going to die one of these days.”
“Did you want to be included in the ring with the lions?” Huks laughed tensely.
“Do you want to include me?” Stepping back to make space, the girl fitted the arrow onto the string of her bow. She didn’t raise it, but the look in her eyes said it wouldn’t take much to draw and fire. Suddenly, Dave came up beside her, two throwing knives in each hand. Then, Roun moved to her other side, laying his hand on the sword hilt.
That wasn’t right either… but if they were going to break the rules, better to do it together than be accused of doing nothing while it happened.
“Funny how you all have to gang up on me,” Huks said.
“No shame,” the girl shrugged, “If you attack one of us, you get all of us. In combat there are no rules to break.”
“We can kill each other?” Dave said, as if the suggestion was perfectly normal.
“Uh, that falls under World Law. We can’t break that one.”
“Oh. And while we’re at it, I kinda attacked him first.”
“Now you tell me?”
“My bad.” Dave called out to the other boy. “Huks, if you want, we can postpone this for later.”
“What?” Both Roun and the girl stared at him.
“You said there aren’t any rules to break. I can’t do that?”
“That falls under Acor Duel Formalities – not that you can’t do that…”
Huks scowled. “You’re withdrawing your challenge?”
“Postponing,” Dave corrected him. “Unless you think you want to face all of us – or is that not allowed?”
Roun held his breath. Say no. Just say no.
The girl groaned. “Actually, combat formality rules state we have to have an adult present supervising the match, if they’re not watching us already. It’s really muddled in that respect. They want us to simulate actual combat – without killing each other. Otherwise it’s labelled as infighting. That’s taboo.”
“You know what,” Huks snapped. “I’m not feeling this. This is why our village is being dragged through the mud. Incompetents like you preaching a safe path to fighting. That’s not what war is about! Nanrot won’t wait for you to make up your mind to attack.” Without having to draw a weapon, Huks backed away into trees, glowering. “If that’s how you plan to die, it’s fine by me. Don’t expect me to dig your graves.”
A rustle and whisper of leaves and Huks was gone.
Roun broke the silence with another sigh, falling into a crouch as he ran a hand through his hair. “I can’t believe we almost did that.”
The girl unstrung her bow and waved it at him. “The plan was NOT doing it.”

“Then what were you waiting for?” Roun glared at her.

“His will to break. And it did. Huks was right, you really will die one of these days.”
“You said that already??”
“I’m making a point of repeating myself.” She shot a look back at him.
“And? What are you doing here?”
“Came to see my mom. Nothing unusual about that. Question is what are you doing here? Skimping on practice?”
“Because we are practicing. I’m not so mean to bring the new guy in and traumatize him in front of the veterans.” And he was going to be late, so why bother?
She jutted her bow the other way. “Who’s this? That was pretty reckless of you to go challenge another villager.”
“I’m sorry.” Dave looked down. “I didn’t know.”
Roun cut in without getting up. “Dae, this is Dave. Dave – Dae. She’s part of the Tiuruhs.”
Dae gasped. “Oh, you’re Dave. That solves the mystery. First time to the village I hear.”
“Hopefully not the last,” Dave said in low tones, a distant look coming into his eyes.
“Don’t worry about that. You can’t get any worse that this guy.” Dae shook her bow back in Roun’s direction.
“Well thanks,” the subject of the insult muttered.
“Still, that was awesome of you to face off Huks. He’s a splinter in the toe that Nioni!”
“You just said he was reckless??”
Dave smiled shyly, heels shifting back and forth. He seemed oddly uptight. “You’re really good with that bow. Do you know Serl Nasander?”
“You’ve heard of him?” Dae shrieked, all the earlier edge in her mid-tone voice gone. “He’s my role model! Man, that draw speed of his is in-sane. Three arrows in under a second – that’s my benchmark. My best is three in two seconds.” She rattled on without prompting. “I mostly do competitive at home but my mom has been teaching me the old Acor war style – I’ve picked up a lot by watching the adults but I get they’re still better than me.”
“I’m more of a dagger guy, but I can’t believe how fast my dad can move. The videos by Mad Incaled are really helpful – and he’s non-Acor.”
“Outsider,” Dae said abruptly. “We call them outsiders. I’ve seen his videos. They are smooth. Much respect to the competent outsiders.”
“Well, I know Jab Man from Super Punch,” Roun interrupted flatly. “Weapon geeks...”
“No need to act like a sorry wuss about it.” Dae thrust her nose close to his face with a narrow look. “I hear you’re supposed to help Dave get ready for the festival. You better do a good job even if you don’t plan on passing – because I will!”
“Thanks for the incentive.” Roun rolled his eyes.
“Good luck training, Dave.” Dae squinted her eyes at the teen, probably smiling behind the cloth. “If you need any help around here, let me know.”
“Thanks.” Dave brightened up and looked pleased.
“And you!” Dae glared upon Roun. “Stop giving my sister a hard time! I heard she had to go looking for you again and you were in the cherry patch. No wonder you didn’t show up for practice. You should’ve. Warden Coyen had us doing sparring and I would’ve shredded you.”
“Do you make it a habit to have everyone dislike you?” Dave asked as he came up beside his cousin. It seemed like everyone that they met had a bone to pick with the shaggy-haired youth.
“Must be in my genes.”
“He is – by far – the troublesome contestant – after the Nionis,” Dae said. “By Cretanneh I have no clue why you’re still considered competent to join the festival.”
“Hey, can I ask before I unknowingly throw myself six feet under?” Dave said, glancing at them both. “What did you mean by no infighting…?”
“It’s exactly as it sounds.” Roun sat on the ground. “It’s taboo to induce a fight with another villager if it’s not official or supervised.”
Dae closed a flap over the arrows in her sheath with a snap. “No skirmishes, family feuds, or attacking another villager without good reason.”
“Except if its for practice?” Dave asked.
“Practice duels are different from… actual combat.” Dae furrowed her brows. “In practice we’re working to fine tune certain skills, learn new ones, in a safe way. Combat duels – you just want to beat each other up, and there’s no good reason to.”
“Because we’re family.”
Dae’s eyes softened. She ran a hand down the limbs of her bow. “Yeah.”
“Doesn’t mean we have to agree with each other,” Roun interjected, getting to his feet. “But we should be getting along with each other – or so Chief says.”
“Huks didn’t seem to agree with either of those,” Dave observed, glancing into the trees.
Roun sighed. “Forget Huks.”
“Huks has changed, that’s what,” Dae said. “The Nionis have different standards. But I still don’t like them. They’re downright creepy, and you’ll know what I mean when you meet more of them.” Facing Dave, she put a hand on his arm. Dave couldn’t place her age, but he felt strongly that she was younger than he.

Unlike his assumption, the stern expression in her eyes was anything but of a child’s. “If anyone from the village ever tries to pick a fight with you, don’t ever fight them back. You could get banned from the festival, or even worse, you’ll never be a Warden. And that means you too.” Dae shot a look at Roun.
“Yes, mom.”
“Can you be serious for once? What is wrong with you?” Dae took a swing at Roun with her bow. He dodged by backstepping and tossed a handful of dirt at her, scooped up from the ground in the moment. She flinched, turned red, and strung her bow in one movement. “This is for missing practice, snail brain!”
“Whoa, hold on, no infighting,” Roun protested ducking for the trees as Dae fitted an arrow onto the string.
“I’m not aiming for you,” Dae said in thick saucy tones. “I’m aiming for your extremely - irritating - annoying - bothersome - aggravating - vexing - ” An arrow sprang off the string with every rapidly enunciated word she could come up with. Watching her in action, Dave had no doubt of her ability to fire three arrows in two seconds. He was even more amazed that Roun was able to flit from tree to tree without getting himself skewered. Every shot stabbed into a trunk, solidly and vengefully. His lips tightened slightly. These Acor-raised kids were the real deal.
“Okay, okay! Truce! I promise I’ll be a good boy. Lay off or I’m telling your mom,” Roun yelled out wearily.
After some two dozen rapid fires, Dae lowered her bow, worked up to a mild panting. She passed a stealthy glance towards the hall. “That guy... I hope she wasn’t looking. That’s the only thing Roun is good at, you know – running way. If he ever annoys you, don’t hesitate to throw something at him. It’ll never hit him.”
She’d said it in a serious tone, but Dave couldn’t help a chuckle. “I’ll let you know if it ever happens – hits him, I mean.”
“Way to throw me under a boar, Dave!” Roun called out.
Dae laughed, a girl’s giggle, nothing like the heavy Acor appearance she bore. Out of a side pocket on her sheath she pulled out a phone. “Give me your number. Send me a photo.”
“Okay.” Dave took it gingerly and handed her his.
After exchanging contacts, Dae bumped him with her elbow. “You should come by the fire pit tonight. Tell Roun to bring you. Okay? See you there.” Dae winked and went to collect her arrows. Then she jumped onto a low tree branch, shimmied up the trunk, and climbed back up to the Hall’s roof. From there she leapt from tree to tree until she was out of sight. Dave gaped after her.
“Such a show-off.” Roun stood beside him. When he got there, Dave hadn’t noticed.
“She’s cool.”
“And you aren’t? Better step up your game.” Roun smacked his shoulder. “She’s not the only one in the fam gungho about being a super ninja.” He trudged past his cousin, acting normally, as if the training ground exchange hadn’t happened. “When I bring you the practice… you might start questioning your existence. I know I will be.”

NTS: Edits? And random stuff

Chapter 8:
- Split from Chapter 7
- I don't think I actually changed to much of this scene? There was a little blurb at the end I did cut out, but the rest of it is pretty much as it was.
- Note: I'm pretty sure it was around this time I started listening to rap, so there are some little random blurbs in there that are just.... yeah.
- Fun fact: Took Serl Nasander from Lars Andersen and Mad Incaled from Adam Celadin, research resources for some of the weapon stuff. ...forgotten a lot of it by now.  :ohmy:

This might be my personal favourite chapter so far. I have too much fun writing character interactions. Too much...

No one is perfect . . . that's why there's erasers and extra paper.

Offline Echo_River

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Re: Charred Life (Rewritten)
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2020, 02:59:54 PM »
Chapter 9: Fire Pit - Pt. 1

Evening crawled into the village. The rays of misty sunlight faded away and the forest ceiling became a dark shadow, any sunset light through the gaps in the leaves making a makeshift starry sky. Glowing plants lined the paths. Luminescent bugs sprang through the high branches. Nocturnal animals with bright eyes scampered through the brush.

There was no lack of light. Nor was there a hint of fatigue in the village. Children ran in the streets or rushed home for dinner. Cooking smells drifted from window to window as families gathered together. Previously a soft blue, the cube light fixtures changed to a warm cozy orange as they shifted into night mode. From its mysterious mood the Tiuruh Family area transformed into a comfortable den.
Roun and Dave headed back to the main house to get a bite for dinner. Canned food and dinner meals since Jaanes hadn’t returned. The meal improved Roun’s mood, distracting him from the events of the day.
Afterwards, Roun brought Dave upstairs to show him the rooms. His room, actually, that he would be sharing with his cousin. They emptied the luggage, organized equipment, and settled him in. By the time they’d finished, both were weary but not tired enough to call it a day. The rest of the village seemed to agree with them. From the window, they could see people meandering about, splitting off into groups.  Many drew round fireplaces placed at the road intersections.

Twilight came and that’s when they stepped out of the house. Instead of joining the people in the village however, Roun led him right out of the Family Area.

“Where are we going?” Dave followed on light feet.

“The fire pit Dae told you about. It’s where we hang out after hours.” Roun explained. “The adults go to the hall, the oldies gather in the village with their rocking chairs and drinks – we have the fire pit. You’ll meet the rest of the Tiuruh kids there.”

They moved quickly, as if Roun was in a hurry. It was just as he described to Dave: the older folks gathered on porches and around bonfires with none of the adult Wardens to be seen. The first part of the route went through the main street of the village, and then they sidetracked into the smaller avenues before diving completely to narrow trails and little alleys between and behind the houses.
Gradually their sources of light diminished as well. Fewer lights and plants shone on the paths they took, until Dave realized they were tracking into less maintained parts of the village. He saw cracks in the walls, litter on the ground, and broken lights. For some reason, faint yellow, red, and orange paint covered random parts of several structures. He couldn’t accurately make them out as they ran by.
“The whole village was built on the old test grounds of the Zerakis for some odd reason,” Roun told him. “Lots of abandoned and rundown factories here we don’t use.”
A fair distance from the Family Area, they came to a short but wide alleyway between two industrial looking buildings. Shattered windows and rampant vegetative life spoke much to the state of them. Dave could even see a giant tree sprouting right through one. Off to the side of the middle of the road were a set of stone stairs leading into the ground that he only saw due to a bright source of light coming from the bottom of it.

“It’s not as far as it looks. We just like privacy from the adults,” Roun joked. “Don’t want them sitting on your doorstep if you’re exchanging secrets.”
The stairs led to a door, partially open to let out a warm orange glow. Low voices drifted to their ears and Dave gulped. They stepped inside.
Dave felt an immediate change of mood upon entry. On the outside it seemed like a cold abandoned factory, but underneath existed a cavernous room with a domed ceiling made of earth and roots from a tree growing right on top of them. One large cheery bonfire occupied a pit in the centre of the room, providing comfortable light and warmth all around. A breeze wafting through the gaps in the roots kept the smoke from being unbearable.
All hostility from earlier that day melted away here. Maybe because unlike earlier, these were all children of the Tiuruh Family. He counted about twenty kids around their age, scattered about in small groups, sitting on various layers of rugs and clothes covering the ground. The level of conversation was surprisingly tame for a bunch of teenagers. Some played little traditional games, others shared snacks. He didn’t recognize any of them at first glance even if all were changed into casual wear.
Wow…am I related to all of them? Dave wondered.
Someone waved to them from the side and Dae was there, seated cozily in a nook in the wall created by roots some five feet off the ground. There were others nearby Dave didn’t know who at times pitched into the conversation. The result was like being in a online chatroom with too many people talking at once. He couldn’t keep track of who was saying what. Luckily he didn’t have to, as Roun and Dae did most of the talking.
“Welcome to the local hangout,” Dae greeted and gestured for them to sit. “Where we plot awesome ideas to beat the Nanrot.”
“Are those the kinds of ‘secrets’ you talk about here?” Dave said.
“It’s ‘plan a strategy’ to ‘subdue the enemy’ and no we don’t,” Roun rolled his eyes. “Don’t give him any ideas.”
“Boring. Old school.” Dae brushed him off.
“And what’s your genius idea for breaking the trend of history?” Roun asked.
“Drop a bomb into their village.”
“Where do you get the bomb?” Dave tried to be casual and chose to sit between Roun and another older boy who gave him a nod.
“Tell the outsiders the Nanrot are planning to attack them,” Dae replied smoothly.
“With armoured chickens.” Roun yawned. “And chainsaws.”
“That shoot lasers out of their eyes.” Dae chortled. They burst into silly chuckles.
“Wait, really?” Dave blurted, the earnestness in his voice only setting them off more.
“No, not really,” Roun said, trying to smother a guffaw. “We’re not going to attack or bomb anyone’s village, Dae.”
“I was joking!” Dae defended, not that anyone could tell with half her face still concealed. “Besides, mom is against anything like that.”
“Basic Warden protocol,” the boy beside Dave introduced himself as Kon. Dave took comfort in the fact the boy was wearing a normal hoodie and jeans. Considering the people he’d met today, he deemed Kon the most normal Acor person he’d had the pleasure of meeting so far. “Are you entering the festival this year?”
“Oh – yes,” Dave replied, caught off guard and immediately getting tense.
“Good luck.”

“Thanks. You too.” Dave smiled nervously.

“Gonna need more than luck. I heard the examiners are going to be different this time around,” Dae told them. “They’re including some guy from another clan.”
“No way.” Roun sat up quickly. “Who?”
“No idea.”
“Which clan?”
Kon said. “Isn’t there only one that we’re on good terms with?”
“Oh yeah.” Roun lay back down.
“Is that – bad?” Dave said cautiously.
“It just means we won’t know their standards or fighting gimmicks ahead of time,” Kon explained. “Examiners from before were mostly just some of the Wardens from different families rotating regularly – but you got to know their quirks.”
“Just means we should be prepared for anything,” Roun added.
“Says the guy who misses practices!” Dae said pointedly.
A person from a nearby group overheard them and spoke up. “At least Raven isn’t on the examiner roster this year.”
“Raven?” Dave said, seeing relieved expressions.
Someone else suddenly hollered over the room. “Guys, the practice next week – Raven’s leading it.”
Sighs turned into alarmed cries and even a few curses. Dae, Janos, and Roun all groaned.
“Great, that means morning practice. Goodbye sleep,” Roun muttered.
“Shira’s gonna have to go,” Dae sounded worried.
“Who’s Raven?” Dave had to ask.
“Only the most gung-ho auntie you’ll find about slaughtering the Nanrot on this side of the family – her family was killed a long time ago.”
Killed? Dave went still.
“Her training routine is brutal,” Roun said.
“Can’t wait to see you get whopped.” Dae snickered.
“Haven’t been and don’t plan to be.”

For the rest of the evening, the children engaged in friendly chatter. Dave found himself talking with Kon. The easygoing boy told him various things about the village, mostly about the different families residing there that summer, and of his own experiences with the festival. It was all very interesting to Dave, who could only listen without giving much input. After all, he didn’t exactly want everyone to know he was the first-timer who nearly died earlier that day. Although in the back of his mind, he wondered if they all knew already anyway.

Roun glanced at his cousin from time to time. He was relieved to see Dave getting comfortable with someone else. Except for a few hiccups, the day hadn’t been that bad. A mini practice, tour of the Family Area, and associating with the peers were a great accomplishment for a first day. He hid a smile.

Two months. They had two months to digest the forest routine. That was more than enough time. Roun sighed in relief. Summer wasn’t going to be bad at all it seemed.

What am I worried about? Roun frowned as he posed the question to himself. A myriad of images flashed through his brain but he pushed them aside. Just for a minute he wanted to relax without any tangible concerns.
* * *

Dae stretched and jumped down from her perch. “Anyone get curfew? Something like ‘Don’t stay out too late or the shadows will get you’?” People started to shift, as if getting ready to leave. Some lingered around their group.
“No one uses that old joke anymore.” Roun sat up again.
“For real?” Dave perked.
“It’s based on an old wives tale that if you stay out when it gets dark the Nanrot will get you,” Kon whispered mysteriously. “There’s probably some truth in it, especially the one about ‘don’t go too far into the forest or the shadows will get you’.”
Roun scoffed, “That’s a thing of the past.”
“You’re just afraid to meet a Nanrot.” Dae stood over him, possibly smirking.
“Do you want to run into one?”
“I’m prepared to face them.” Dae pumped a fist. “I’d whoop them.”
“Don’t let Raven hear you say that…”
“My mom told me there was a time when fighting the Nanrot was like playing in the park – they’d go out everyday, have a fight, and come home at the end of the day.”
“What, like inviting them out for coffee?”
“And have some nice conversation, why not?”
“Hah. You wish.”
“Great pep talk,” Kon remarked. “Now the first-timers will really want to become Wardens. What about you, Dave? Did your dad ever tell you stories of his battles and glorious moments?”
Dave sat stiffly. “Not really.”
Suddenly a dozen eyes trained on him. “Whoa, why, was he traumatized?” Dae jested.
Dave looked away. “Nope. My mom just doesn’t really like hearing about war and stuff like that. My sister and I only hear about Acor things on occasion. Guess you could say we know less than a baby born here.” He chuckled in an off-handed manner.
A strange silence fell on the company. It was as if everyone had heard him. The wood in the pit shifted with an overly loud thunk.
“Oh, my mom’s like that too.” Kon broke the silence. “She gets mad at my dad if he starts talking about Acor. I don’t get why they got married in the first place.”
“I know right? My mom and dad are like that too,” Dae broke in. “And guess what – they’re not living with each other anymore.”

“My dad lets mom bring me here, but she’s not allowed to talk about it at home,” someone else said. Several other voices spoke up, stating similar circumstances. To Dave’s surprise, his situation wasn’t uncommon. Others said otherwise – their parents got along fine and didn’t mind Acor. The chatter resumed, albeit subdued.
Roun sat quietly, gazing at the gathering of youths. “Did your mom know about Acor before they got married?”
“Dad said it’s required to tell your special person if you plan to get into a relationship. Supposed to ease out any tensions if things get messy. Guess it works for some and not for others…” Dave paused. “Mom may have accepted dad, but I think she gets scared. Mostly when he talks about war. So he avoids saying too much. And since he works often, he hasn’t had much time to explain things to me and my sister.”
“If she’s scared, why did she let you come here?” Kon asked. “We’re practically sitting on the frontlines. The stalemate between the clans could end anytime.”
“Mom said he could bring me to Acor as long as I get back safely.” Dave rubbed his arms. “He used to talk about Acor a lot more…”
“It’s because of what happened six years ago.”
Again, silence plunged into the fire pit.
Only this time with rocky tension.
Heads swivelled towards the direction of a voice Dave hadn’t heard yet that day. They looked in Roun and Dae’s direction. For a moment, Dave didn’t understand what had happened. Then his eyes picked up the shadow of a figure just behind the hooded girl.
The voice itself hadn’t been loud.
But the steel-grey cold in its tones sliced through the air.
Fire shone upon a wooden mask hiding half of the speaker’s face.
When they realized what they were looking at, most of the children turned their eyes elsewhere. Roun looked down, but Dave stared.
No one was asking the obvious question so he said it without thinking.
“What happened six years ago?”
Dae looked at him. Her eyes, normally relaxed and cheerful, bore a stony expression. And it wasn’t just her. Everyone stared. Vacantly. Stone-faced. Hardened. A chill settled in the air. Dave held his breath as he felt the weight of the gazes.

“You should ask your dad,” was all Dae said.

Chapter 9: Fire Pit - Pt. 2

Heart pattering, Dave followed Roun back to the Main House. If he could kick himself, he would. Right after, everyone had filtered out of the fire pit. Awkward goodbyes were said. The coldness never lifted.

I brought up a taboo. I just know it.

Even Roun stayed quiet as he walked ahead, leading him through a different route than the one they had used to get to the hangout place.
Eventually, Dave couldn’t bear it any longer, the heavy gloom oozing off of his cousin’s shoulders. No, not just there, but from the very shadows of the forest itself. He stopped in his tracks. “I said something, didn’t I?”
After a pause, Roun responded without stopping. “We should turn in. It’s been a long day.”
“Roun, say something. I’m sorry –”
“It’s not your fault,” Roun barked, startling Dave. He finally turned around darkness hiding his expression. “It’s not your fault. It’s just a sore subject for everyone who was here six years ago.”
“I messed up, didn’t I.” Dave choked.
“You didn’t do anything.”
Dave stopped and raised his voice the loudest Roun had heard here. “Exactly. I’m just the ignorant outsider who doesn’t know anything.”
Roun looked surprised. “Don’t say that. You’re an Acor. Like…like the rest of us.”
“Saying that doesn’t exactly mean anything,” Dave pointed out.
“Then what do you think it means to be an Acor?” Roun shot back. He bit his lip. He was supposed to be making Dave feel welcome and now they were shouting at each other.
Dave crossed his arms. “You’re not allowed to talk about it, is that it?”
“No… it’s just…” Roun sighed. “It’s something your dad should explain. He should have at least told you that much – so it’s his fault.” Redirecting his frustration made him cool down. “But after we go to sleep and go to practice tomorrow because I’m as good as a hunted pigeon that can’t fly if we can’t even pretend to be Acor.”
“Pretend Acor, huh. Perfect.” Dave shoved his hands in his pockets. “And that’s supposed to tell me exactly why we’re doing this.”

Roun squinted at him through the dark. Where was this all coming from? It was like a dark aura decided to coat Dave’s sudden nervousness. His cousin didn’t even seem to be looking at him, a far off gaze in his eyes as if he was thinking of something else. He’d seen that happen several times during the day, but had dismissed it as trying to take in the surroundings.

The next moment, the aura melted away. Dave put a hand on his head with a sort of groan. “Sorry…” he said in small tones, eyes clear. “It’s just been a long day. I didn’t mean to blame you or anything. I guess…” Dave grimaced. “I just wanted to make a good first impression and I blew it.”

The sudden apology stunned Roun, as if he’d imagined the mood shift. Slowly, he walked back to his cousin. “Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. It’s not like you were the one to blow up the village, or did you? That would be a spectacular plot twist.”

“Blow up?” Dave peered at him.
“A history lesson I’m not telling you tonight. But I promise you will learn about it while you’re here. So do me a favour and don’t drown yourself in self-loathing, will ya?” Roun pleaded.
Taking in a deep breath, Dave calmed himself down. “Only if you promise me they don’t hate my guts for obviously being an insensitive dumbass. I might as well have killed a baby bird…”
“Now that would be something to feel bad about. You’ll see. Everything will be back to normal tomorrow. I promise that too.” Roun clapped him on the shoulder.
“You make a lot of promises. I wonder if you keep them all.” Dave smiled weakly.

“I better,” Roun chuckled, “Or - Cretanneh save my soul, it’s a wolf,” he blurted, tense.

The mention of “wolf” made Dave perk. His head craned around to see where Roun was looking. “Wolf? Where?” In the darkness it was hard to make out shapes. He saw it at the end of the street, two pointy ears giving away the pitch-black form watching them at the end of the street.
“Cret, don’t tell me…”
“What’s it doing here?” Dave whispered.
“Wild guess – your dad is looking for me.”

“This late at night? Why?”

“Who knows. I’m going to take this. Can you find your way back home? If you follow this road, it should lead you back to the main street.”
“I can manage.”
“Just stay on the road. Got it?” Roun patted him on the back. “You’ll be fine Dave. Take it easy. You don’t have to force yourself.” Leaving his cousin, Roun made his way over to the wolf hidden in the shadows of the rundown buildings.
Dave watched intently as the wolf approached Roun. They stood for a moment, then whisked themselves away without a sound. A fickle breeze rustled the forest and he heard no animals. The wind left him alone on the road. Silence crowded around him. Quietly, the familiar whispering  tones of the voice in his mind came.
Yeah, you’ll be fine for now.
But who can say for later?


Cret – I hope I didn’t mess up already, Roun thought as he followed the messenger wolf at a run. They travelled away from the Tiuruh area and that meant they were probably heading towards the place Uncle Jaanes would mostly likely be: the Hall.
Wait, what if it’s not Uncle Jaanes but the Waron that’s calling for me? Ripples of nervousness spread through his body. That would be worse – would that be worse?
When they approached the hill the Hall stood on, the wolf gave a short bark to signal his destination and took off, his job done. Roun paused at the bottom of the stairs to catch his breath. He looked up at the lights shining at the top.
“Maybe he just wants a report, that’s it,” he muttered, running the options through his mind. “You think you messed up, Dave? You don’t know messing up like I do…”
“Hah! You got summoned too?”
Roun tilted his head slightly to see Dae standing beside him. As always, he couldn’t place her expression, but she seemed to be in a better mood than when they left the fire pit. “Got over your sentimental outburst already? Fairly traumatized Dave with the mood swing.”
“Not like I was blaming him.” Dae stepped ahead to climb the stairs.
“Tell that to him yourself.” Roun followed.
“Don’t worry, I’ll make it up to him. But how are you going to make it up to my sister?”
“Are you still on to that? I’ve got Dave to poke me in the ribs now. How’s that?”
“Guess we’ll see if that changes anything.”
The Hall grounds were by no means empty when they reached the top. Unlike earlier in the day, a crowd of people occupied the area, all adults, dressed in the dark clothes of Wardens. It reflected the meeting of the children, except no one was joking about Nanrot invasions and a grave atmosphere infused the group.
Even though they knew most of the individuals there, Roun couldn’t help feeling tense and kept his eyes straight. “And what are you doing here again?”
“Same reason as you I suspect.” Dae glanced through the company.
“Which is…?”
“Wow, your memory really is as bad as they say.”
“At least when I’m called in, I’m not always in trouble with the Bear.”
“Ha-ha.” Dae laughed sarcastically.
More Wardens occupied the inside of the building and the lights eased some of the serious aura they exuded through their uniforms and sharp eyes.
“And the rabble arrives.” Warden Waron met them just inside the doorway, his smiling eyes only saying so much. “You’ll be eager to find out why you’re here. Try the back room. Jaanes and Nuyori are waiting for you.”
“Cret, I think I’m starting to remember.” Roun went pale.
Dae led the way. “Good. Then let’s get this over with. I don’t want to be here all night.”
Walking by Wardens who paid minimal attention to them, the two turned down a side hall and to a door with a sign that said “Authorized Permission Only”. And standing in front of the door were Jaanes and a tall female Warden who wore a wide conical hat of dark wood, pulled low over her face so that you couldn’t see her eyes.
Dae visibly tensed and Roun imagined she was steeling herself, because he was doing the same thing. The adults turned as they approached and Roun gulped at the frown on his uncle’s face, while the other Warden’s lips formed a straight line, masking any sort of expression. Without a word, Dae went to the woman and they moved a little away from the door.
“Where’s Dave?” Jaanes asked right away.
“I sent him to the house,” Roun replied shortly.
“Good.” The man opened the door. “Come in.”
The back room Waron referred to was large and filled with the last things you would expect in their forest domain – monitors. Many large monitors covered the whole far wall. Other smaller monitors on desks occupied the middle of the room. On every one of the screens he saw some portion of the Zerakis forest displayed in vibrant colours. In some were people, in others were forest trails, and many portrayed bird’s-eye view of larger areas. A time stamp on all proved this was all being seen in real time.
In short, this was the security footage room of Acor.
Jaanes brought Roun to a monitor to the side of the room that showed a familiar clearing laid with white tiles on the ground.
Roun gulped, his hands clammy. There was no way out of this one.
“What’s this?” Jaanes pointed at the screen.
“The training grounds just outside the hall,” Roun said, throat dry.
The footage started, replaying the moment when he and Dave had finished the throwing knives test. He watched as he saw himself starting to walk off the clearing when Dave looked to the side. Roun flinched at seeing his cousin throw a dagger into the trees, followed by Huks appearing, then Dae shooting an arrow between them. It ended with himself, his cousin, and Dae drawing their weapons as if preparing to attack Huks.
Jaanes was looking at him. “And this?”
Roun sputtered, “But – but nothing happened, uncle Jaanes. You saw the rest of the clip, right? We didn’t even fight. There wasn’t any fighting.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about.” Jaanes kept a level tone that was scarier than if he had been yelling. “You know very well infighting is prohibited. There may not have been any fighting, but do you know how close that could’ve gone the wrong way?”
“You think Huks would’ve taken the chance to fight the three of us together?”
“Roun,” Jaanes said sternly. “Even if you didn’t fight, I would’ve expected you to be the bigger person and stopped any semblance of a conflict. But there you are standing with them.”
“I didn’t even draw my sword!” Roun protested.
“That doesn’t matter. I’m saying what if you had? You didn’t make any effort to stop the others from joining in. Why couldn’t you just walk away?”
Roun felt a growing unease in his chest. “Huks wouldn’t have just let us walk away. What if we’d left Dae behind and let them fight? Would that have been any better?”
“What Dae does is between Dae and her mother. What you should have done is stopped your cousin and left. There wasn’t any need to start anything. I expect you to use your better judgment and act responsibly,” Jaanes said coolly. “If anything like this happens again, I’ll have no choice but to suspend you from the festival.”
“Maybe if you’d given Dave a rundown of some of the Acor rules before he got here, we would’ve avoided this entirely,” Roun retorted.
“Don’t drag your cousin in for something you’re at fault for,” Jaanes snapped.
Roun clenched his teeth, forcing himself not to show anything on his face. Streams of words threatened to shoot off his tongue, but they ricocheted through his brain instead, building energy without getting anywhere. Eventually the feeling turned into a dark cloud settling in his mind. He just wanted to get out of here.
“This is the last time I’m going to warn you. No infighting. Is that clear?”
Managing a nod, Roun barely got the word past his teeth. “Yes.”
Jaanes let out a sigh. His furrowed brows never let up. “Good. You can go.”
Out in the hall, Dae and the other Warden were nowhere in sight. Roun assumed they had wrapped up their conversation already. Lucky for her, she’d probably gotten off easy. He wished his mother had come this summer, then things wouldn’t be so hard.
Going back to the house didn’t appeal to Roun, but he couldn’t miss tomorrow’s practice. His heavy feet led him out a back door and towards the Tiuruh Family area. He walked through silent paths, the orange lights making him feel sleepy.
Everyone had gone to their homes and for once the forest enjoyed a repose from human activity. Roun went up the steps to the house, figuring Dave had made it back alright since some of the second-floor lights were on.
He stopped in front of the building, staring at the ground.
“…” For a moment, all the forest went still, as if listening to the sound of his breathing. Roun gave a low chuckle. “Something I’m at fault for…

“ think I wanted all of this to happen?”

NTS: Edits + Considerations
Chapter 9 Edits
- Added more narration
- Cut out character Janos and subsituted with character Kon
- Cut out some dialogue

- Possibly delete sections of this to make more concise.
- Some themes in the scene I would like to keep but they could be put somewhere else.

Mixed feelings about this chapter. Part of my editing process is trying to figure out which parts are really necessary and how much I should cut or rewrite. Some of the themes in this chapter I would like to keep, but I wonder if they could be written in another way that portrays them better... :hmm:

No one is perfect . . . that's why there's erasers and extra paper.