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(DRAFT) Miscreants: Inauguration - Chapter Six, Part Four

by Liminality


Summary:

The Kingdom of Woodlands is at the end of a 10-year war, which resulted in the formation of a new social class called the heroes. People are vying for power in the new regime.

Golzar, leader of a hero company, has made a tenuous alliance with Queen Lucretia. In this chapter, they meet secretly, and Golzar, having taken a priest's advice on local customs, has brought Lucretia a gift. She tries to maneuver the conversation to the motion to reform the constitution of the Heroes' Guild, while Lucretia tries to discuss Golzar's appointment as a palace guard intended to keep her close in reach. Lucretia reveals a startling development in their alliance.

Later, Golzar sees members of her company sparring in the palace training grounds. They are interrupted when Dene Skyroot, a young noblewoman with a passion for heroism, asks to join them with her father watching. 

Finally, Bryn, Golzar's second-in-command, spies on the Queen's handmaiden Myra. They find out that Myra has been speaking to some high-ranking nobles with a connection to the Queen about a mysterious topic. 

“What’s this?” Lucretia looked down at the little carving of a fox. They were in a small room, with curtains all along the walls. Velvet drapery hid paintings, and would also lock in the sound from the room. Golzar had drawn one over the locked door, too.

Golzar leaned back in her chair. Lucretia was inspecting the carving with curiosity. Although she should have been more worried about that, Golzar supposed, she had a good feeling about the way Lucretia’s eyes glanced over the little whisker marks, the small grooves Golzar had made for paw pads. The scar marked in on the fox’s flank was jagged, but not so much so as to be crude.

“A gift, your Grace.” Golzar smiled peaceably.

Lucretia’s dark eyes rolled upwards to meet hers for a second, as if she had said something remarkably obvious. “Yes, but . . . I’ve not seen a fox carving like this before. The detail is . . . exquisite.”

Golzar felt time stop in her insides for a bit. This was supposed to be a political gesture. She’d expected Lucretia to nod and then proceed with business as usual.

The Queen looked like a curious child, almost, and Golzar didn’t know how to feel about that. She watched Lucretia with wide eyes. “I-I’m happy to hear you say so, your Grace.”

Lucretia sat up slowly, her gaze shifting from the carving to Golzar. The torch on the wall lit up one half of her face with a burnished golden glow. "Golzar," she said, as though trying the name on her tongue. "You would have to move offices to the palace."

Golzar bit her cheek. Right, of course Lucretia would go straight to that topic. Her eyes tracked how Lucretia's hands plucked a scroll from a fold in her many-layered skirts, and opened it on the table next to the carving. It was a sketch-map of the palace. No official ones had been produced so far, especially with all the changes her Grace had been making to each building, so it must have been something Lucretia commisioned for herself personally.

Or, Golzar, thought, the fluid ink strokes looking ever more familiar. She drew the map herself.

"Palace guards live in the Periwinkles. On the ground floor. They conduct drills easier there, and keep an eye on the heroes." Lucretia had a piece of charcoal in her hand now, and she was marking up the map. Golzar saw a whirlwind of black marks all throughout the parchment.

She would have to speak soon, Golzar realised. Lucretia kept glancing at her, though the Queen tried to hide it. Her Grace was itching for an answer. Inwardly, Golzar felt a flutter of something like amusement, perhaps a bit of awe. After all, she'd never seen a noble, much less a Queen, keep a running record of everything that happened in her palace this way. Usually, such affairs were left to the steward.

Golzar's mind briefly flitted back to Raymond. How much of a role had he really ended up playing in getting her that first audience with the Queen? If Lucretia had been this eager to see her again since that last time, Golzar had reason to doubt it was very big.

"The Red Roses are . . . racked with disorder at the moment." Lucretia paused. "It should be easy for your men to steal a spot there."

So she was trying to separate her from her people, Golzar thought. Why? If Golzar really wanted, she could appoint a courier back and forth to the House of Red Roses.

"Or," Lucretia tapped her finger on the table. "I should say your soldiers. You have a little girl with you, correct?"

"We do." There was no point lying to her about Tanya, Golzar figured. What was she going to do, take the brat hostage someday? Maybe, but knowing Tanya existed was inevitable at this point. The girl was loud and nearly half the Guild itself knew her name. Mostly from the scuffles she got into with the village children.

Hopefully, Golzar thought to herself, Tanya's rambunctiousness would put off any potential kidnapping plans swirling around behind those onyx whirlpools. The light of the torch began to dim. Golzar glanced at it meaningfully, excusing herself to go and replace the burnt out stick with a new one. As she watched the new torch catch the flame from the old one, she thought it would be a good time to bring up her draft motion.

"She has been quite energetic, lately. Keeps trying to stop me from working on that motion."

Lucretia turned around to look at Golzar. "Is that so?"

The light glinted in her eyes. She seemed almost bird-like in elegance, head turned slightly at the back of the chair. A bird listening to the sound of some distant insect Golzar couldn't hear. The memory of how Lucretia loved to cut to the chase sprung to mind, and Golzar sat down, stretching and spreading her fingers on the surface of the table.

"I made the amendments you recommended. And will propose some of my own."

Lucretia's head tilted to the side as she analysed the text Golzar pushed in front of her. The silver earring on her left ear swung with the motion. It was teardrop shaped, sleek and seeming to glisten like actual water in the dim lighting.

"Very well," Lucretia said. Her eyes met Golzar's as she pushed the text back. "We will discuss this in the future."

Golzar tamped down on her tongue inside her mouth. Was she stalling? If she was, that was bad, they –

"Our next meeting will be public, in the throne room."

A small smile curled on Lucretia's lip. "It will be good to see you among the rest of them."

At that, Lucretia rose, laying a cool hand on Golzar's shoulder. Golzar tried to stand, but the light pressure told her she should remain seated. "There's a back door. Use that."

Golzar nodded tersely in response.

When Lucretia had left, she slid the motion draft back into her pouch. She looked at the empty table. Lucretia had taken the carving with her.

~

It was some time before Golzar finally got up and used the back exit like she had meant to. Her mind was swirling with possibilities. With the Queen holding an audience in public with her, things would change. They likely would have to make the motion known to William. Golzar swallowed. She wasn’t looking forward to that.

Again, her earlier concerns of Lucretia and William conspiring just as Golzar was trying to gain Lucretia’s favour rose up and bothered her.

The kitchen was still as noisy as ever. As she walked, the maids cast her curious glances, but didn’t say anything. It was Lucretia who really needed to watch her back here. After all, heroes often met clandestinely like this, and none of the maids could possibly guess it was the Queen herself who had been speaking to Golzar in that little room.

Lucretia would have known how to sneak in and sneak out without being seen.

Golzar reached the courtyard in a daze. It was still early afternoon. The overcast sky had begun to clear, with a pale yellow light dousing half of the courtyard. When she stopped in the centre, she heard it. There was no mistaking that sound. The clash of wooden blades.

Smiling, she took a left turn, and saw what she expected. Yes, she remembered. They had planned to come here for training today.

Robert and Tanya were sparring in the palace training grounds. They looked small, like toy people, from where Golzar stood at the top of the stone staircase. Golzar descended hurriedly. She saw Gerhard by the bottom stair, leaning quite heavily on his walking stick.

“Golzar!” Gerhard turned to look at her. “You’re out early.”

Golzar shrugged off the heavy official cloak she had put on for her meeting with the queen, revealing just her northern style black tunic with the wheatgrass emblem on her thin belt. She hummed in agreement, a tired grin on her face.

“Come see what I can do!” Tanya swung at the air, making three consecutive strikes. “Neat, huh?”

“You’ll kill a bear with that,” Golzar said, her smile broadening.

Tanya’s face was flushed with joy. It was an odd sight to see, sword-fighting for fun in a time of peace. Golzar remembered people doing it during the war as well, but it had always been layered with a tension absent from the way she had just seen Tanya and Robert spar.

Gerhard’s gaze was fixed on a point in the distance. Frowning, Golzar approached him. He was looking at the figures of two people who were watching the training session from the corridor above.

She tiptoed slightly to whisper in Gerhard’s ear. “Who’s that?”

“That’s Lady Dene Skyroot,” Gerhard whispered back. His eyes were blown wide. Golzar could see the little red blood vessels. “And her father.”

The man behind Dene Skyroot was nearly large enough to fill the corridor width. Though he smiled pleasantly, Golzar’s gut tingled with a sense of danger. Still, it wasn’t as though they had done anything to wrong him, she thought. The most he could do was to send them away from a place, or perhaps gossip about them to some powerful people . . . Realisation dawned on Golzar. Yes, she and the others would have to be careful.

Dene bounced down the steps with enthusiasm. She dashed under the large birch trees that bordered the training grounds. A few stray leaves fell.

“Advisor Gerhard!” Golzar pivoted politely to the side as Dene trundled on past her to shake her mentor’s hand.

Gerhard bowed. “My lady.”

Dene turned to Golzar next, eyes lighting up. “A-are you Councillor Golzar?”

When Golzar nodded the affirmative, Dene began to shake hands with her as well. Luckily, they were both wearing gloves. Shaking hands bare-handed was frowned upon, she remembered, especially across boundaries of class.

“I am happy to see you join us at last. After all, there’s no need to be shy.”

Golzar glanced at Gerhard as he said this. So, it was as she suspected. Dene had been watching them for a while.

Dene opened her mouth, as though to say something to Golzar, but suddenly her jaw clamped shut and she turned to Gerhard instead. “Well, I was biding my time. Waiting for a good entrance.”

Despite her smile, Golzar had the feeling she was slightly annoyed about being caught. Her turned head revealed a mole on her unpowdered neck, her coldly pale complexion that contrasted hard with the leather armour she was wearing.

Still up on the corridor, Lord Skyroot folded his arms. He was dressed in silver robes, thick enough to protect him from the chills without an overcoat.

Golzar wondered what sort of quest William would have assigned to Dene in exchange for future Guild membership. Gerhard had told her about it one night, though he had forgotten to on the day he had first encountered the Skyroot. But Golzar didn’t think William would actually make good on his promise. Which is why the action didn’t make sense. Attempting to deceive one of the Skyroots? It sounded like a death-wish.

Dene walked up to Tanya, a large grin on her face. “Would you spar with me?”

Tanya jolted in surprise. Her wide eyes flickered between Golzar and Gerhard, who were behind the noblewoman.

Trying to diffuse tension by replacing it with new tension, Golzar figured, at first. But she looked at Dene’s plump, flushed cheeks and the child-like gleam in her eyes. Perhaps it was just an impulsive action, after all.

As Dene prepared her wooden sword, Golzar ducked down to say something quietly to Tanya. “Tanya. Think you could lose this one for us?”

The girl nodded solemnly. “Got it, Commander.”

The spar commenced. Lord Skyroot was watching them intently. Golzar made a show of turning her back to him and invigilating the match. She counted by point.

Dene scored two points striking Tanya’s shoulder pads. Tanya made a deliberate miss, just an inch from Dene’s chest plate. The younger girl skidded and slid a path between Dene’s legs to score a point striking her in the back. With a loud yell and a stumble, Dene managed to score a point with a hasty swing to Tanya’s left thigh.

When Golzar raised her hand to end the match, she saw in the corner of her eye, that Lord Skyroot had begun to walk away. She breathed a sigh of relief.

“That was fun!” Dene declared, through panting and her sweat-covered face.

The sound of a deep bell resounded through the courtyard. Golzar looked up, craning her neck, towards the white gleam of the High Tower some distance ahead. The nobles would now be taking tea.

Dene glanced upwards in a panic. “I have to go.”

She waved at the four of them, as she rushed away. Golzar traced her path up the stone steps and through the corridor, in the opposite direction of her father, heading towards the House of Periwinkles. Gerhard stood next to her, watching the same thing.

“Looks like she has business with her Grace.” Gerhard’s voice was dark with doubt. Golzar hummed. The birch trees by the corridor shifted uncomfortably with the breeze.

~

Some distance from the courtyard, Bryn was still following the Queen’s handmaiden. She had been lingering in the House of Red Roses for some time now. Warm coral-coloured arches rose from either side of a grand stone path. Bryn sat down on a bench with a stack of paperwork. The wood felt hand-warm, as though someone had recently been sitting on it. Every so often, they glanced at the flutter of white fabric at the corner of the entrance, where Myra was speaking to Lady Branchlee.

The woman’s chestnut brown hair was worn up, as it always was, but with a decorative turquoise cloth. Her pale yellow cloak hid her hands, which she seemed to be clasping attentively at her waist.

“As I was saying –” Branchlee’s volume spiked slightly. “ – I have no intention of courting those chevaliers. Your employer has nothing to fear.”

Myra’s posture remained still. She was like a pillar, with her white dress a curtain that billowed slightly around her, otherwise unmoving. The briars from the nearby hedges obscured her from the shoulders up. Bryn contemplated changing positions, but then they figured it would make them too conspicuous.

Branchlee spoke again. “It is not the business of her Grace’s loyal wardens of the land to mind such matters.”

Bryn strained themselves, but as hard as they could, they couldn’t catch what Myra had to say.

“Lord Redvine? No, I have not seen him today.”

So the handmaiden was looking for Lord Redvine. Bryn thought back to that night at the palace, when Lucretia let Redvine in through a strange stairwell, as though he were a pet dog with his own special door. A conjecture sprouted in Bryn’s mind, but they tried to set it aside for the moment. Listening in carefully would do more good at the moment than to jump to conclusions.

Myra begun to take her leave, disappearing entirely behind the hedge. Before Bryn could get up and follow her, however, there was a sudden ruckus from behind them.

An actress with bright earrings was standing still in the middle of the garden. A hero dressed in the Lions’ colours was looming above her.

“Don’t mess with me like that,” she said to the actress, her voice high and aggravated.

Bryn saw Thornston, his shoulders bunched and his face snarling, march towards them through one of the four stone paths and grab the hero by her elbow. “Come!”

They watched with curiosity. Thornston seemed reluctant, and that reluctance became anger. He didn’t look at the actress, nor chide the Lion who had run stray from the pride. Instead, he just returned to his own group by a gate and continued walking.

Bryn decided to follow them.

The small group of Lions was moving towards the eastern exit of the palace grounds. They were dressed formally, as though they’d been for an audience with a noble, or a palace official. As they were passing by the High Tower, they ran into a stream of white-clad clerics, and they all had to stop on their path as the clerics passed.

During this time, Bryn overheard a conversation, as they stood pretending to examine a bird’s nest on a nearby tree.

“Did you see the itinerary for the general audience with the Queen next week?” Thornston’s harsh voice rang out.

“Motion to amend the Guild constitution . . . sounds like trouble.”

“Be quiet, girl! No one wants to hear your snivelling.”

Bryn turned, staring at the backs of Thornston and his people. Maybe, they thought, Golzar’s blade would reach this time.

A small robin peered out of the nest, its red breast showing against the dull grey-greens and browns of the thick branches. Bryn watched it hop onto the rim, and then fly off into the skies.


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Wed May 25, 2022 3:09 pm
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Otterpop wrote a review...



Hey Lim! You've been doing a lot with my Awakening chapters so I figured I would return the favor! Granted I have not read previous chapters but I hope I can still provide some good feedback. Plus, it really is time to get this thing out of the Green Room huh?

Lucretia was inspecting the carving with curiosity. Although she should have been more worried about that, Golzar supposed, she had a good feeling about the way Lucretia’s eyes glanced over the little whisker marks, the small grooves Golzar had made for paw pads. The scar marked in on the fox’s flank was jagged, but not so much so as to be crude.


So from what I understand Golzar is some kind of soldier/hero, and yet she also has some whittling or woodcarving skills? That's a really interesting quirk for her to have and I love seeing little character bits like this even if these kinds of quirks and hobbies don't change the story much.

Inwardly, Golzar felt a flutter of something like amusement, perhaps a bit of awe. After all, she'd never seen a noble, much less a Queen, keep a running record of everything that happened in her palace this way. Usually, such affairs were left to the steward.


Same thing here but with Lucretia instead. Via actions and little exposition you have already showed personality traits of both of these characters that make them feel both real, and interesting. I sense a degree of respect, honor, and care from Golzar; as well as knowledge, intellect, and grace with perhaps a slight degree of cunning from Lucretia. I'm not entirely sure if those are the bases of their personalities but those are certainly the vibes I get from a small section here alone.

As Dene prepared her wooden sword, Golzar ducked down to say something quietly to Tanya. “Tanya. Think you could lose this one for us?”

The girl nodded solemnly. “Got it, Commander.”


This already builds a reader's trust towards Tanya (unless she had been mentioned in previous sections/chapters; if this is the case this little section would definitely build on it), and really shows the relationship between her and Golzar. I find myself liking both characters even more now. If that wasn't the intention, happy accident I would say!

I'm loving your level of detail! From describing the carving to the silent actions of Golzar
to the varieties of clothing or scenery and even some of the internal dialogue / exposition, I am getting a lot of information without feeling too much overload. Your details really pull me in to the story and I love that. The dialogue also feels fairly natural no matter who speaks. I get a good idea of how each character speaks and acts based on their dialogue; not every time, but sometimes.

There were a lot of names mentioned in the last section with Bryn and I did get very confused for a time. If most or all of these individuals were brought up or introduced in previous chapters/sections then my complaint can probably be ignored.

Something else that caught my attention was how long this section is...and yet it is one of four parts for a single chapter. I am certainly not used to chapters being this long, regarding most of the stories I am accustomed to both reading and writing. That is more of a personal gripe and is a bit overwhelming to me, but I do know that plenty of other writers do have a similar style when it comes to sections and chapters.

And with that I don't have anything else to comment on! I found this section enjoyable a read despite it's length and my lack of knowledge of any previous sections, and I hope you have a great rest of your day




Liminality says...


Thanks so much for the review, Otterpop! (Yes, and thanks for saving this chapter from the Green Room!)

I'm glad you get those impressions from those two characters. That was kind of what I was going for at this point in the story for them, at least, though since it's a l o n g story, I do try to explore different nuances and sides to them in different parts. I'm also super glad that this chapter doesn't feel like an info-dump, because I know that tends to happen often where a story needs lots of worldbuilding.

I totally get it about the names and the length! I'm planning to revise this story quite heavily once I've finished my draft. Cutting down on named characters is one of the things on my to-do list. It will hopefully be easier for me to make chapters shorter when I do the revision as well. I know most of these ones ended up so long because of sudden new ideas and twists I came up with in the drafting process xD

Thanks again! Super helpful to know these things!



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Sun Jan 09, 2022 9:06 am
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SoullessGinger says...



Love this chapter as well!!!

Also-

Lucretia’s dark eyes rolled upwards to meet hers for a second, as if she had said something remarkably obvious. “Yes, but . . . I’ve not seen a fox carving like this before. The detail is . . . exquisite.”

Golzar felt time stop in her insides for a bit.


.... is it wrong of me to want this to become a thing? Like... come on... stoic, hotheaded,short warrior and regal, super intelligent, goodhearted-but-somewhat-calculating queen... its not just me, right?




Liminality says...


Glad you enjoyed!!

.... is it wrong of me to want this to become a thing? Like... come on... stoic, hotheaded,short warrior and regal, super intelligent, goodhearted-but-somewhat-calculating queen... its not just me, right?


Hmm >.> We'll see ;)



Liminality says...


in other words, no it's not just you ;)



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Fri Jan 07, 2022 1:13 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi Lim,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

Story

Here to finish reviewing the chapter. It is a very peculiar chapter at first sight. It somehow left a superficiality behind, as if the facades that were presented here were nothing more than facades. In any case, it gives me the feeling that this chapter will become much more central in the future than first appearances would like to show.

Here in this part, I really like how you've portrayed the mood between the two sides. Golzar, who feels a little uncomfortable after Lucretia has received the gift and how Bryn feels really comfortable to pursue their activity as spies. There was thus a very nice contrast between the "legal activity", which did not come to a conclusion directly, and the "illegal activity", where rather a result came.

In terms of structure, I thought you fell back into the previous chapter in terms of writing style with this part. While the tone was a little different in the first parts, I like that a new mood prevails here as well. On the one hand, it gives me the feeling that you're going in circles here, because the matter between Golzar and Lucretia is being dragged out further, but on the other hand, it also seems as if we only get results if we sometimes do things a little differently.

What this chapter kind of taught me was that you have to move forward with deliberation and also see something good out of the bad. It was interesting to see, especially because now I feel very uncomfortable about what is yet to come for Golzar and Co.

Characters

Lucretia is and remains a very interesting and also mysterious person. At some points she is very open-hearted and likes to listen, but you still can't interpret what exactly she is thinking. It is as if she is mentally playing chess and has different moves in her head to match her counterpart exactly. You do a really good job of portraying her like that and still making her seem human.

Lucretia’s dark eyes rolled upwards to meet hers for a second, as if she had said something remarkably obvious. “Yes, but . . . I’ve not seen a fox carving like this before. The detail is . . . exquisite.”

I don't know what exactly to make of Lucretia's comment, especially because shortly afterwards the map is shown that was drawn by her. I think it could be a small indication that Lucretia is used to other things and is out of line for her own "kind" and she now notices that Golzar also has a bit of her own “kind". It makes me feel a bit like Lucretia stands out from the crowd. But maybe I'm reading too much into it again.

Miscellaneous

“What’s this?” Lucretia looked down at the little carving of a fox. They were in a small room, with curtains all along the walls. Velvet drapery hid paintings, and would also lock in the sound from the room. Golzar had drawn one over the locked door, too.

That's a very nice beginning, how you move on from dialogue to a short explanation, creating a little tension for the reader. I don't think that's happened that often in one of your chapters, so it's more eye-catching.

Overall, you manage to create a very interesting entrance and exit with this chapter, adorned with a new insight about Golzar and a path that will stay with us for a long time.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




Liminality says...


Thanks once again for your thoughtful reviewing, Mailice!

I'm glad the convo between Golzar and Lucretia made an impact.

Here in this part, I really like how you've portrayed the mood between the two sides. Golzar, who feels a little uncomfortable after Lucretia has received the gift and how Bryn feels really comfortable to pursue their activity as spies. There was thus a very nice contrast between the "legal activity", which did not come to a conclusion directly, and the "illegal activity", where rather a result came.

Oho, nice catch! :D I did want to try and play with the theme of 'different routes to the same goal'.

I think it could be a small indication that Lucretia is used to other things and is out of line for her own "kind" and she now notices that Golzar also has a bit of her own %u201Ckind". It makes me feel a bit like Lucretia stands out from the crowd. But maybe I'm reading too much into it again.

I think you're pretty spot on about that, actually! I designed Lucretia to be a fundamentally lonely character who tries to find people of the same mind as her in others, and this sometimes distorts her view.

Thanks again!




cron
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.
— Maya Angelou