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(DRAFT) Miscreants: Inauguration - Chapter 1.2

by Liminality


Bryn accepted the bowl of mushroom stew. It was piping hot, a wisp of steam rising from it. The cook quickly turned away, clearly busy with other tasks. After all, the whole small tunnel of a tavern was now blockaded with hungry heroes, ready for their own celebrations after the parade.

It was a small building, tucked under lodgings, with a low roof. Bryn could see the colours of different hero companies, all crowded together.

Fireplace light illuminated Golzar across the room, seated at the bar table. She was surrounded and shadowed by the other Miscreants. Officially, they were called the Grey Hound company, but Miscreants was fine in the taverns.

Richard, a blond cavalryman, clapped Golzar on the shoulder. “And that’s why no one messes with you in a duel, Commander!”

Tanya, who was sitting next to Golzar like a squire would her knight, pumped her fists. “Yeah! I knew it was a good idea to get that story outta you.”

A grin, somewhat strained. Golzar turned back to her bowl of stew and took a sip from the front of her spoon.

Bryn saw Tanya’s gaze flit to Golzar’s expression. The kid’s voice was even brighter when she next spoke. “Hey – I didn’t tell you Richard’s growing out his chest hair again, right?”

Golzar choked on her soup; beside her, Richard sputtered and flushed strawberry red.

When she had recovered, thumping her hand against her chest, Golzar turned around to face Richard. “What, after I told you to shave it off? The lice will come back, you know?”

“Yeah, Richard! I don’t want you to be all gross and lice-y! We still share a dorm and all,” laughed Tanya. With Richard standing up indignantly, the conversation seemed to have moved ahead of the duelling situation.

Bryn frowned to themself. They stirred their mushroom stew around, watching the little brown chunks float in the broth. The duels were starting to grate on people's nerves, beyond the Miscreants. For one, they knew Thornston's men weren't happy. The Lions were balled up on the opposite side of the tavern, near the back entry, where they'd usually be mixing with everyone. It was humiliating, and people didn't take lightly to humiliation.

There was a moment, where Golzar was turning her head round to look at them and smile. They stared silently. They should say something. After all, they were second-in-command now, right? But then the moment slipped by, and suddenly Bryn found themselves staring into the stew again. Their feet felt frozen to the ground, as the noise of the crowd washed over them.

--

The air in the infirmary was suffocating. When the healer's attendant slipped in to open a window, Gerhard smiled and nodded at him in thanks. With a pop and a creak, the glass swung open, the rivulets of black framing flitering the afternoon sun in a different way than before.

As the boy turned around the face him, Gerhard noticed he was balancing a tray in his hands. On it there was a teapot and two cups. The boy looked between him and the door with an uncertain expression, setting the tea set down on the long bench beside the bed.

The attendant spoke in a soft voice. "Are . . . are you?"

"Hmm?" Gerhard tilted his head to one side. He pulled the blanket up to his mid-section; it would do a newcomer no good to see the gruesome injuries of war.

"Nothing!" The boy bowed his head and fled from the room. How strange.

Gerhard sighed. He raked a hand through his mess of chestnut hair. On the wall opposite from him - a sight the boy could not have missed - was a battered shield, inscribed with the grey-and-black coat-of-arms possessed by the Grey Hound Company. The hound sigil had sharp, pointed eyes, gazing out at whoever crossed it in battle. There was a chink in the shield that went down to the hound's left cheek. Almost like a scar.

When the knock came, he was just about done putting up his hair. "Come in, William."

A head of greying brown hair poked in shrewishly, before the body it was attached to fell in behind, like a comical puppet strung up for a street performance.

“Indisposed, but not incapacitated.” William trilled.

Gerhard kept his voice level. “I suppose you’re here about me stepping down from the Council.”

“I’m here about you leaving the Miscreants in the hands of your stowaway.”

Gerhard bit his tongue. Sure, he could deny Golzar being a stowaway, but William was still Guild Chief. There had to be something he could say in her defense without outwardly putting himself and by extension, the whole company in opposition with that man.

“Why not take a seat, sir?” Gerhard gestured with an open palm towards the chair next to his bed. He watched impassively as William stalked around the bedframe to sit down, crossing muscular but wiry arms. A sigh escaped him as he looked the older man in the eye. “Well, I think Golzar will be good for the Guild.”

“Good?” William trumpeted. “How?”

“She’s fresh blood, and – “

“Fresh blood is exactly the problem!”

Gerhard’s eyes widened slightly. He took a deep breath. Keep a cool head. He had to. Even if William was a bursting drum on a daily basis.

With a steady hand, Gerhard poured a cup of tea, the hot liquid breaking the silence in the room as it sloshed into the carved wooden cup. Then he offered it to William.

The man glared at him for a second, but he accepted and took a sip. William’s usually beige and cool cheeks were flushed red.

“Don’t s’ppose she knows how’ta run a Council meeting, “ he said, looking away. “Or any o’ our traditions, for tha’ matter.”

“S’not something you can’t learn,” Gerhard replied. He folded his hands in his lap, atop the white linen blanket.

“Well.” William harrumphed. “The inauguration dinner will be in a few weeks. We will see how she does there.”

His eyes glinted. “There will be noble names, landed folk.”

Gerhard smiled, though inside his gut churned. Yes, nobility would be present. And William was wrong to presume it would necessarily be just Golzar having a problem with that . . .

“We’ll do our best, Chief.”

Something told him that was not what William wanted, not one bit.

-

In the afternoon, they left the tavern. She clapped Robert on the back as he followed his brother out of the low-roofed room single file. He yelped in surprise, but hurried onward. “Right, boys! See you at training!”

“Aye!” they all chorused, including Tanya.

Golzar watched them walk down the street. On either side, there were large stone walls, rising up to cast great dark shadows across the lowlier cobbles on the path. The surfaces were carefully scraped of any mould or greenery. At some points, the stones at the top even reflected the white flames of the sun.

From behind her, Bryn coughed lightly. She turned around to see them looking at her expectantly, their usual black cloak switched out for a grey mantle, which let in the spring breeze. They averted their gaze, shifting the wooden clip that held the mantle together. “We’re seein’ ‘im today, aren’t we?”

Golzar nodded. She slung one arm over their shoulder. Together, they turned and began walking towards the infirmary in the opposite direction to the other troops.

The sunlight turned the cobbles golden from this direction, like a honeymilk washing over the street. As they walked, Golzar pointed out the various activities among the serfs and freepersons going about their day.

A craftswoman was sitting atop a short stool by the side of the path, spinning a spool of thread. Beside her, an attendant was readying a large bucket of green dye and dipping the already-done threads into it.

On the other side of the road, a group of children waved at Golzar and Bryn as they passed. The little ones were playing amidst the rubble of a broken-down storehouse, building a castle out of chipped pebbles, glued together with ash. Bryn stopped, turning to her with a meaningful look.

Right. Golzar should probably tell them to scram. The repairs of the city were proceeding slowly, as one would expect immediately after the war, and children didn’t know danger when they saw it.

Before Golzar could call out to them, however, there was a voice from the other end of the road. When they heard it, the children immediately started to disperse.

“Hey! Gerhard!” Golzar grinned, as her mentor approached, walking stick clacking against the cobbles.

At the same time, Bryn exclaimed, voice unusually loud and shrill. “H-hey, what are you doin’ out of the infirmary?”

Gerhard was the oldest member of the Miscreants – in two senses. He’d been out questing for longest, and he’d been birthed the earliest as well. Golzar noticed the dark circles deepening around his eyes as the years passed, though despite his complaints and insistence that he was aging, she’d yet to see any wrinkles on his still-young forehead. His complexion was slightly dull and ashen still, Golzar noted, but there was a bit of copper in his cheeks. “Goddess, I – needed – the fresh air.”

He looked between them and huffed. “Come on in then, if you want to keep me indoors so badly.”

-

Gerhard led them into a sitting room in the infirmary. With the door shut, there was still a flood of orange evening sun from the windows, which were all prised open to let in an abundance of spring air. Golzar pressed her lips together. Her gaze flitted to Gerhard for a second, but she quickly looked away.

In the corner of her eye, she saw Bryn do the same.

The floor was hard-packed dirt, as it was in the main rooms of most houses here. Golzar remembered rumours during the war, especially in the countryside areas of Witchfield, that every house in the capital was furnished with at least thin rushes. Rumours often said more about their speaker than their subject.

They each dragged out a chair from around a squat wooden table.

As he sat down, Gerhard threaded his hand through his hair, a nervous gesture, as though he was going to undo and retie it – but then he stopped himself. Golzar watched him. She realised her back was tensing, as if getting ready for a fight. Steel grey eyes narrowed at Golzar. “Why were you picking fights with the Lions again?”

“Ha! I knew you would bring that up – “

Bryn, the snitch, looked between the two of them.

“ – what, did Thornston come crying to you again?”

“N-nevermind who told me,” said Gerhard. He folded his arms. “I know you do this every time, and so why would it be different this time? Either way, we need to talk about this.”

His voice dropped. “You’re a commander now. People are watching you.”

As if they hadn’t been watching before. Golzar scoffed. She knew she was mirroring his posture, crossing her arms loosely as she turned away from his burning stare. Suddenly even the open windows weren’t giving her enough air.

Gerhard went on. “Don’t you think you’ve been too reckless? I know it’s not easy, but we’re not at war anymore. They won’t let things slide so easily now that they don’t need us to fight their battles.”

By ‘they’, Gerhard meant the nobles. Golzar could see a couple of expensive hooves trotting down the street through the windows just then. White mares with gold-tipped horseshoes that shined in the sun. Her two companions turned at the sound of clopping. She continued to stare. Who were these people to come running into the square when much of the city had been ruined to rubble?

“Golz’, you okay?” Bryn’s voice was low and unusually earnest.

Golzar turned to look at them. She quirked the corner of her lip. “I am in excellent shape.”

“But y’know Gerhard – “ she said with a false casualness, canting her head to one side “ – maybe I want them to see me.”

The knot in his eyebrows deepened. “What do you mean?”

“I mean someone needs to teach these guys a lesson.” Golzar narrowed her eyes. “You’re right. The war’s over. And now all the nobles see is a bunch of mercenaries left to run loose – chevalier or not.”

“Nobles?”

“Don’t tell me you don’t realise they’re the ones pulling all the strings. If they influence the Queen enough, they could get her to revoke anything the heroes have earned for ourselves – including our freedom.”

Bryn stared at their lap quietly throughout all this.

“And besides,” Golzar went on. “I don’t like what some of the troops think they have the right to. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t let them go on like this. And given I’m in the Council now . . . ” Her tone of voice inclined upwards, almost anticipatory.

Bryn let out a sigh, beginning to twiddle their thumbs. “Why d’ya hide in a backalley then.”

“Hmm?”

“If you wanted them to see you.”

A silence passed among the three. Golzar’s gaze was downcast. She glared at a chip in the table’s edge. “Well. Because they’re not ready.”

“You think they ever will be?” Gerhard folded his hands on the table, leaning forward. Before he could continue, though, Bryn interrupted.

“S’long as we don’t get into too much trouble.” Hazel eyes glanced away from the two. Then, as if pushing further, Bryn turned around in their chair, resting both legs on the side and leaning their elbow on the wooden back. “Didn’t sign up for this just to get thrown back into serfdom.”

Golzar opened her mouth to speak, but Gerhard raised a hand. Out of habit, the both of them fell back into old patterns, their old relationship as commander and captain.

Bryn crossed their legs, trying to act casual. “I mean, if ya’ ask me, I’d take the troops and run, y’know? Now we’ve got enough loot to spare us.”

Golzar felt her lips twist into a scowl at the suggestion. No one was looking anyone in the eye. A window creaked, blown by the wind.

When Gerhard spoke, it broke the silence. “Before all that . . . remember we’ve that dinner to plan.”

“Dinner?” Golzar and Bryn said simultaneously.

“Your inauguration dinner? You’ll have to host it at our new quarters – I mean – our halls.” Gerhard rolled his eyes.

“Oh. Pleasantries.” Golzar smirked. “No worries, Gerry. I’ll charm them well enough.”

“They’re not just pleasantries, Golzar.” Gerhard’s stern grey eyes met hers earnestly. Seemingly out of nowhere, he unrolled a scroll that spread over the table and then spilled over the edge.

“What,” Bryn said, turning back to him, a glint of engagement in their eyes. “That your list of fans?”

“No, this was my action plan from when I hosted my inauguration dinner some years back.”

“You’ve kept it all this time?” Bryn almost groaned.

“Heh – resourceful as always, Gerhard!” Golzar appraised the neat handwriting. She remembered how she’d taught Gerhard to write late into the night at camp, the candle flickering over the thin sheets they used for messages in war. Ever since then, Gerhard filled in scroll after scroll of lists, inventories and, sometimes, names.

“I didn’t tell you back then because I didn’t want to cause you worry, but the inauguration dinner is . . . crucial. For determining who in the Council gets to stay and who leaves. William is very particular that Councillors can show up the nobility on their own turf. You understand me?”

Golzar nodded, a thoughtful frown coming across her features.

“And if you want a good name in the Council, you’re going to have to do more than not mess up,” Gerhard said. “You’re going to have to impress. Gather . . . supporters, even at this stage.”

“What do you mean by ‘supporters’?” Golzar asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Loyalists, at best.” Gerhard’s voice did not falter, even with the rasp that had worsened through the years of war. He cleared his throat. “I . . . just want you to be secure before you start anything. I know you don’t always want to listen to me, but . . .”

“Yeah. Yeah, I understand.” Golzar chipped in quickly, before things could get awkward. She reached out and patted one of Gerhard’s hands, smiling.

Soon, Bryn excused themself. Said they were going out for some air. Night time had fallen, and the keys jangled at the door, marking the return of the healer. Golzar bid Gerhard goodbye, the scroll tucked safely under her arm.

Midway on the cobblestone path, she turned around, and she saw that Gerhard was still standing at the window watching her leave. He raised an arm and waved. A solemn, sad little wave. Golzar waved back.


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106 Reviews


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Sat Dec 04, 2021 2:13 am
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InuYosha wrote a review...



Hey Lim! Hope you missed me, because I'm back again.

First of all, I really want to say how much I appreciate the author's note at the beginning. It's such a little thing, but it really gets the reviewer's thoughts into place, especially when I'm not binge reading.

Fireplace light illuminated Golzar across the room, seated at the bar table. She was surrounded and shadowed by the other Miscreants.


Aha! So the Miscreants are Golzar and Co. I was suspecting that . . .

So, is it safe to assume that the Miscreants are going to be inaugurated? :D

There was a moment, where Golzar was turning her head round to look at them and smile. They stared silently. They should say something. After all, they were second-in-command now, right? But then the moment slipped by, and suddenly Bryn found themselves staring into the stew again. Their feet felt frozen to the ground, as the noise of the crowd washed over them.


I'm glad you gave Bryn they/them pronouns, because that paragraph would have been quite the struggle if you had Bryn and Golzar with the same pronouns.

The biggest thing I noticed sometimes is that I'm not sure who the narrator is 'watching from', in a sense. Obviously, the narrator is third-person, but I can usually see one of the characters thoughts. I'm not sure if you're just sometimes looking at Bryn's thoughts and sometimes at Golzar's, but I felt like it was hard for the reader to discern who was observing the scene.

The air in the infirmary was suffocating.


Yikes, that does not sound good. Isn't an infirmary supposed to like . . . heal people? You start this section off with a really 'ouchie' sentence.

The attendant spoke in a soft voice. "Are . . . are you?"


Might want to end that with three the three dots plus a question mark (. . . ?) and instead of saying 'spoke', you could say 'began to speak' so that it clarifies that the attendant was not finished with what was being said. Right now, it sounds like the attendant just went up to Gerhard and just asked "Are You?" like an actual question. :D

“Good?” William trumpeted. “How?”

“She’s fresh blood, and – “

“Fresh blood is exactly the problem!”


Looks like Golzar is the problem child of this story. I really like that. This plot would be kind of lacking if you didn't have unique characters, and I have to say, you're characters are amazing. (and also gerry better defend golz :00)

Golzar watched them walk down the street. On either side, there were large stone walls, rising up to cast great dark shadows across the lowlier cobbles on the path. The surfaces were carefully scraped of any mould or greenery. At some points, the stones at the top even reflected the white flames of the sun.


Have I mentioned that I have absolutely fallen in love with your descriptions? I'm also pretty intrigued at another thing related to your descriptions. I've read a lot of stories where the elaboration is basically too flowery, but you don't seem to have this problem. Your descriptions are basically perfect. Been wondering how you can manage that, because for me, it always ends up at the two extremes.

“Didn’t sign up for this just to get thrown back into serfdom.”


Back into wha?

and he’d been birthed the earliest as well.


I have to say . . . that is a really unique way of saying "he was born earlier" . . .

Also, I wanted to mention this earlier, but I forgot. I really like your accents and stuff, but sometimes it's not very consistent. For example, I noticed this when William was talking. He would have all the apostrophes in his speech, and then the next time he spoke, it was like he could talk normal again.

“What,” Bryn said, turning back to him, a glint of engagement in their eyes. “That your list of fans?”


I'm not sure what you mean by 'glint of engagement'. Maybe 'glint of amusement' was what you were looking for?

Midway on the cobblestone path, she turned around, and she saw that Gerhard was still standing at the window watching her leave. He raised an arm and waved. A solemn, sad little wave. Golzar waved back.


I kind of think you could elaborate on how Golzar waved back. Because you describe how Gerhard waved to Golzar in great detail, but when it gets to Golzar, it's just like she's standing there, deadpan, and waving like a robot. Was she sad as well? Was she excited? The reader must absolutely know. >:O

-yosh

P.S. Gerhard fanclub lol




Liminality says...


Hi Yoshi!

So, is it safe to assume that the Miscreants are going to be inaugurated?


Haha yep, exactly!

The biggest thing I noticed sometimes is that I'm not sure who the narrator is 'watching from', in a sense. Obviously, the narrator is third-person, but I can usually see one of the characters thoughts. I'm not sure if you're just sometimes looking at Bryn's thoughts and sometimes at Golzar's, but I felt like it was hard for the reader to discern who was observing the scene.


I think the narrative voice I was going for at this stage was probably third-person, but following just one character's POV in any given scene. I think later chapters make the narrator a bit more distanced/ omniscient? Potentially? But yeah, it's definitely something I'll have to streamline more when I edit this. @_@

Yikes, that does not sound good. Isn't an infirmary supposed to like . . . heal people? You start this section off with a really 'ouchie' sentence.


I probably meant "air" as in "atmosphere", and in the metaphorical sense because it's kind of a heavy scene that follows. But yeah, a stuffy infirmary is no good.

Thanks for the comments on the speech tags! They're really helpful. :D

For example, I noticed this when William was talking. He would have all the apostrophes in his speech, and then the next time he spoke, it was like he could talk normal again.


Right! I might not have made this very clear in the writing. I did that switch to reflect how William was talking about the guild's traditions, hoping that the change to a more non-standard-sounding accent would sneakily show his emotional attachment to said traditions. I realise it comes a bit out of nowhere since there's no mention of how accents work in this setting beforehand. ^^'

Thanks so much for the review!



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Thu Mar 25, 2021 6:28 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi Liminality,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

Let's start right away.

Fireplace light illuminated Golzar across the room, seated at the bar table.


I'm honestly not sure here, but I would remove the "light", as "Fireplace" in combination with "illuminated" already indicates that it is bright. Besides, a fire is used more for heat than light, so I find "Fireplace light" a little too inappropriate.

"Are . . . are you?"


I strongly assume that this sentence refers to a question that will be continued, but the boy is too shy to ask it completely. I would therefore either remove the question mark after the "you" and insert three dots, or perhaps a hyphen or three dots and a question mark. That way the sentence seems more like a philosophical attempt to ask if Gerhard exists. :D

William's usually beige and cool cheeks were flushed red.


Inserting such short descriptions have become a trademark of yours. I like it very much that you get such a description of the characters little by little. (But I would say that if a really important person appeared now, I would still introduce them in one piece).

A craftswoman was sitting atop a short stool by the side of the path, spinning a spool of thread. Beside her, an attendant was reading a large bucket of green dye and dipping the already-done threads into it.
On the other side of the road, a group of children waved at Golzar and Bryn as they passed. The little ones were playing amidst the rubble of a broken-down storehouse, building a castle out of chipped pebbles, glued together with ash. Bryn stopped, turning to her with a meaningful look.


A nice calm description of the scene. I don't know why I like this scene so much, but it gives me a certain tranquillity.

Right.


If it's a train of thought from Golzar, I'd write it italic or somehow that it stand out from the rest of the text.


Midway on the cobblestone path, she turned around, and she saw that Gerhard was standing still at the window watching her leave. He raised an arm and waved. A solemn, sad little wave. Golzar waved back.


A very great ending, after you had a very interesting dialogue before it.

I like that you stayed true to the previous parts in some points and divided the chapters a little. Your paragraphs and dialogue (I think they are very well written) give the reader a smooth flow.

I'm also starting to warm up to the characters a bit (having skimmed the previous parts again) and keeping their personalities and appearances in mind.

What I personally noticed is that the story stalled a bit, especially in the second part. Certainly, the dialogue is important and added a bit more information about the circumstances, which I think is great. (Such background knowledge I love in storylines and video games). It's not directly a bad thing that the story falters a bit, but I think something dramatic or exciting needs to happen in the next chapter to take off a bit from this part.

Otherwise, I can summarise by saying that it's still very exciting to follow your story! Have fun with the writing! :D

Mailice.




Liminality says...


Thank you so much, Mailice! <3 I really appreciate you leaving your thoughts! I definitely agree on your notes on the plot, and I hope to have the action pick up again in chapter two. I'll also keep in mind what you've said about the descriptions. Thanks again!



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BEASTtheHUN wrote a review...



I am so ready for the next chapter. Did you have to stop? I was really enjoying this. The style with which you write is very nice. It's refreshing in a way. Does that make sense? Your flow was flawless, taking us where you want us to be at just the right pace, not too slow not too fast. It is just right. The dialogue is good. And the straight forward-ness is interesting. I like the relatability of the characters and their thoughts. The first sentence had me strangely interested. There are two foods I can't stand in life mushrooms and stews. So that had me kind of interested. Made me laugh, so I commend you on that. Other than that I have no critique per se, just keep up the good work, and tag me on the next chapter. Until next time!




Liminality says...


Thank you so much for the feedback! Will do!




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