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The Devil's Traitor I

by Tenyo


Chapter One:

The children of Knight fight hard, live alone, and die young.

It had been raining that morning of my first combat lesson. The new spring grass was gleaming and cold against my ankles as I tread across the field beneath the afternoon sun. My trainers; stretched out and patched up once for each brother I had- and once more just for luck- were as good as sandals for keeping the wet off my feet and worse for stopping me slipping in the mud and grass.

We had our lessons on the Sandbank, so named because the top six feet of earth was mixed with sand to stop the field from becoming a pit of mire and sludge. On the summer days the ground was grainy and abrasive, but softer to fall onto. In the winter sometimes we would be sparring through the dirt, traipsing back into the building covered in mud. Sometimes it would take four or five ear scrubs to get the sand out of our ears.

In winter it got into our shoes and socks and in between our toes, across our legs, down our shirts, up our noses. We'd drag our feet back in looking like mud monsters from the depths of some twisted children’s fairy tale, slouched in exhaustion and grunting with effort and the knowledge that when we were finally done and showered we'd have to grab the mops and brushes and clear up the trail of grime that we'd leave in our wake.

Only when you know how debilitating winter is and how unrelenting the summer sun can be do you appreciate the damp, squelch springtime grass and the clear, humid air.

In our quiet, hillside village we were kept far from the peculiarities of the world, and I’d never before met a man like Ceros, our combat teacher.

His right arm gleamed in the light- metallic from tip to shoulder and right across to where the metal wove itself into the skin and around his ribcage. His left leg was metal, and a significant portion of his skeleton had been fortified with it to help carry the weight of it all.

His strength wasn‘t just in his mechanical parts though. He had the strength of an ox and the will of a steamroller.

He barely seemed to acknowledge me at the beginning of the lesson, but began with the words that still ring in my head to this day: ‘What some see as inhumane, others see as necessary.’

The Ethics Division at Quarters knew this well enough. They spent endless hours arguing over the riddles and knots of Vincent’s new toys- that’s what they called the kids in the Youth Recruitment Sector.

‘You have to learn to fall before you learn to pick yourselves back up. You have to be lied to before you learn how to lie. You have to hold your breath before you understand why you need to breath. Partner up. Howl I want you with Rusty, Mew, take the new boy.’

Everybody separated out with their respective partners. Howl was my newly appointed roommate and in time I would train with him, but for my first lesson it was Mew who became the victim.

‘We’re the parasites of the scourge of this world.’ He said. ‘We are not Knights like those of the round table or the of the royal guard. We cause havoc where there is peace and imbalance where there is balance. We’re the vigilantes of a dark and twisted world. We’ll trek across mountains, fight beasts from the most wicked pits of the earth, trample criminals, conquer armies. We will be the voice of the silenced and shout when we should be quiet, march when we should be still and fight when the world tries to beat us into the dust - and all the while they’ll hate you for that look in your eyes.

‘You may call what I do to you inhumane, but compared to what they’ll do if they find out what you are, what I do will become your last hope to retain your own sense of humanity.’

ã??????

Mew was my first and last opponent of that session. Like most all of the Never Weather boys he was lean in stature. His skin was fair and his hair was as white as moonlight. He was always kind even when everyone else was against me. He looked at the world as if seeing it for the first time, and regarded every person as he would an old friend. His eyes were bright blue and always seemed to be laughing- except today. I would like to give him a more suiting introduction but I said I would speak only truth and this was in truth the first I saw of him.

We bowed.

I felt the wind of his fist as it grazed past my cheek before I even realised that he had lunged forward. He frowned briefly when our eyes locked and stepped back away from me.

‘How am I supposed to fight him if he won’t move?’

‘He’ll move,’ Ceros said.

Mew winced and turned back to face me. We bowed together again.

This time he came straight forward. I felt the air hit my face and the warmth of his fist when he halted just milimetres from my nose. He stepped back again. He should have hit me. It would have ben better for him.

There was no sound at first. I saw the flash of metal as Ceros stepped in front of me. Then came the noise like a dog devouring the bones of a dead animal: the crackle and crunch as the pieces fell apart. I’d never heard it before.

The heavy metal fist smashed into his ribs.

From his lips escaped an audible gasp, raspy and windbroken. He hit the ground knees first and no matter how hard he tried to maintain his composure the force of metal against his bones and the drain of oxygen from his collapsed ribcage left him down for the count. He doubled over and a wave of scarlet bled into his fair cheeks.

‘Don‘t try to pull that again,’ Ceros said. He flicked his head and Howl moved stiffly towards us. He grabbed Mew by the arm and lifted him up despite the reluctant protest. They left for the Healing Ward with slow, crippled steps.

My heart was pounding. I wasn’t afraid, but I was young and naïve. The force of it- the intentional and uncontrolled violence- left me breathless and confused.

I kept my eyes downward for as long as I could before he came to stand in front of me.

‘Look up.’ He ordered.

Right then I couldn’t have even recalled my name if he had asked me. Not that my name mattered anymore.

I lifted my eyes to meet his and he held my gaze for a few seconds before continuing with our lesson.

When you become a part of Knight you leave everything behind and find yourself stripped to the bare fragments of identity. The first stage is breaking.

There are always regrets at the Never Weather. There’s always someone who breaks too hard, someone who changes too much. There’s always someone who becomes something dangerous.

His words spun around inside my head over and over again. Was what Ceros did to Mew necessary?

It all depends on whose side you’re on.

Welcome to the world of Knights and Terrorists, dear friend.


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308 Reviews


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Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:10 pm
GoldFlame wrote a review...



Sorry if this review is a bit late. I'm reviewing works from the past :D.

This immediately snared my interest. Combat lesson? Children of Knight? Not to mention that I admire your style. Dependent clauses in moderation, consistent alternation between active and passive voice. Also that your descriptions weren't your base—or even your launch start. I know works that swim in prose and have absolutely no solidity. Like mine years ago :D. Here, their sole purpose was to smooth out the setting, nothing beyond that, and so I applaud you.

And your exposition is developing well. Your characters have depth, your plot solidity. As Kaf also mentioned, your pace is well-measured. I have a vivid idea of what's going on without being overwhelmed by information.

In this review, I'll zone in on technical mistakes and fluency. They're the only faults I find with this. Writing clearly comes naturally to you. You slide from idea to the next with seemingly no effort, and generate descriptions like a machine.

I couldn't help noticing your jumps between past and present tense:

The new spring grass was gleaming and cold against my ankles as I tread across the field beneath the afternoon sun.


Only when you know how debilitating winter is and how unrelenting the summer sun can be do you appreciate the damp, squelch springtime grass and the clear, humid air.


Not necessarily frequent, but directs the reader's attention away from the story. Good thing is, they're mistakes easy to fix.

Also try to refrain from loading descriptions with adjectives and irrelevant phrases. Would "a porcelain-white, pulchritudinous physiognomy that was complimented by the soft, dancing, diluted moonbeams that were known to, and did, dominate an early spring" be preferred to, say, "a face framed by delicate moonbeams"?

So "The new spring grass was gleaming and cold against my ankles as I tread across the field beneath the afternoon sun" could be narrowed down to "As I crossed the field, my ankles were greeted with new cold grass."

A few more mistakes I caught...

My trainers; stretched out and patched up once for each brother I had- and once more just for luck- were as good as sandals for keeping the wet off my feet and worse for stopping me slipping in the mud and grass.


Semicolons' sole functions are combining independent clauses and separating items in a lengthy list. The hyphens should also be replaced with "--", which Microsoft Word will automatically correct to "—." No space is required after it.

But the meaning is a little unclear here. A possible alternative (?):

My trainers were stretched out on the grass, a temporary substitute for shoes. By just looking at their wounds, you could tell how many brothers I possessed.


His right arm gleamed in the light- metallic from tip to shoulder and right across to where the metal wove itself into the skin and around his ribcage.


This comes off slightly confusing. Maybe: "His right arm was metal from shoulder to fingertip. You couldn't tell because he wore a long-sleeved shirt today, but the metal also wove around his ribcage."

ã??????


?

He hit the ground knees first and no matter how hard he tried to maintain his composure the force of metal against his bones and the drain of oxygen from his collapsed ribcage left him down for the count. He doubled over and a wave of scarlet bled into his fair cheeks.


The quantity of active voice here was overwhelming. Throw in a dependent clause or two, and try converting a sentence to passive voice.

That's all I have. I know that I was harsh, but this was a very enjoyable read. Keep up the good work! Looking forward to reading more!




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Sun Mar 17, 2013 2:46 am
Kafkaescence wrote a review...



Great opening chapter. Your diction is engaging and your pace is well-measured.

I have a few comments.

First, the transition from the opening seasonal description to that of the training program, here

Only when you know how debilitating winter is and how unrelenting the summer sun can be do you appreciate the damp, squelch springtime grass and the clear, humid air.

In our quiet, hillside village we were kept far from the peculiarities of the world, and I'd never before met a man like Ceros, our combat teacher.

was far too abrupt. The first few paragraphs seem almost disconnected from the rest of this piece, because the imagery is never returned to. I agree with the previous reviewer in that you'll either have to cut them out, as their relevance isn't clear, or connect them more effectually to later parts.

I'd like a clearer sense of place in this chapter, a clearer sense of where this takes place and of the village itself. I'd like a taste of the other, calmer side of the protagonist's life. I think the first thing to do would be to expand this--namely, the beginning. Doing this would help to mold your character into something more than the dimensionless observer he/she is now.

I also agree with the previous reviewer that the ending wasn't ideal, though for somewhat different reasons. My issue lies with these lines:
His words spun around inside my head over and over again. Was what Ceros did to Mew necessary?

It all depends on whose side you're on.

Up until this point, the protagonist had been an almost completely impartial narrator. Introducing a whole new layer of storytelling this late in a chapter comes across as dishonest, because it admits that the narrator was actually capable of thought throughout the entire chapter but had withheld it. Better would be to continue with the relatively detached narration and perhaps wait to introduce thoughts in a later chapter, after the introductions are finished with.

I'll keep an eye out for future installments.

-Kafka




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Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:00 pm
Caesar wrote a review...



Hey there Tenshi! I'll be dropping a small comment on this.

I liked it! This is cool. I like how you introduce the winter, the description is rather neat. Dark and such. And yet, you skip straight to the spring. I personally don't think you needed that long, long description of the winter if you weren't going to use it. You might as well cut it out and start it right at Ceros' arrival. Personally, I think

"In our quiet, hillside village we were kept far from the peculiarities of the world, and I%u2019d never before met a man like Ceros, our combat teacher."


makes a far, far more intriguing opening than a redundant description of the winter.

Now, about this sentence. Obviously Ceros is a particularity, but why mention the hillside village was sheltered from them? Well, it's secluded, though maybe that's kind of obvious when you state it's a hillside village...? Not really. I'm left with the feeling that you wanted to introduce something here, and this was the hook, but you left the hook and no story unwound. A description of Ceros entering the village, maybe, and/or the character watching, now that would be cool. It justifies the description of him. Turns out however, your character is narrating this in flashback, which, I think, doesn't quite work. I'm left somewhat confused when it ends. So your character is narrating from the future, talking about past events huh? But how far ahead in the story is he as he narrates? Has his tale ended and is he merely recounting it, or what? It's rather unclear actually, which is sad because it has potential.

And now, the arena. I would have liked more description when it comes to the arena. Like, yeah. That would have been cool. And then, Ceros mentions what their (whose?) purpose is. Wouldn't they already know? if not, why not? All these are interesting questions which may very well be explained in further chapters, however, you might want to give us some explanations here, so that people won't ask the questions I'm asking.

And as for your ending, well. I find your ending was the worst part of this. Dear friend? To whom is he speaking? Suddenly I'm thinking of a letter. The ending is weak. The dear friend completely kills the drama the statement before implies. It also leaves me wondering who these guys are... too many questions, Tenshi, too many questions and not enough length nor answers.

Hope this helped
~Ita





An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards.
— Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, Good Omens