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LoaMR: Ch.XVIII: Collapse 1

by MailicedeNamedy


What has happened so far: After Claire decided to travel with Léonard and Emma to find out the truth from Léonard, they met the writer Julius Siebenfeder, who had written a book about Mönchsberg Abbey a few years ago. Shortly afterwards, his sister was murdered and he was framed for the murder. Since then he has been living underground and helping Léonard.

In this chapter we accompany Claire, Emma and Julius as they try to free Léonard and Monique.

***

Dear Daphne!

How are you? It hasn't been long since we said goodbye, but I have experienced a lot since that day. I miss this time very much and am happy to be with you again someday. I hope you feel the same.

I told you about Léonard and his daring search for this Book of the Dead. He had lied to us constantly! He's on a quest for the four Imperial Caskets. Have you heard of them? They are said to have been created by the Goddess as a gift for the four domain families after the Long War.

He has now allowed himself to be arrested in a daring manner. I don't know if you read the daily papers, but he posed as the murderer of the Imperial Territory Leader, who was killed in Kapellengarten on New Year's Day. I have enclosed the newspaper article for you. He is doing this in order to hear more about the whereabouts of these caskets. Can you understand that? I'll never know who I'm dealing with. No matter how close you sit to him, his next actions can go in the complete opposite direction.

Surely you are now asking yourself how he can escape arrest. I don't know myself. So far, we've been waiting at a station every night for a clue...

I don't know where this will go. I'm afraid of the uncertain future and at the same time, I'm looking forward to this incredible adventure. Maybe I don't often show my friends when I'm happy, that's why they keep thinking I'm in a gloomy mood.

But how can one really become open-hearted and show one's feelings? I'm afraid that I might be hurt without knowing by whom or why. I wonder if people will think badly of me if I walk the streets smiling? If so, about what? Do they think I am crazy? Do I have a reason to be happy? I close myself off, whether it was on my birthday, or in exciting situations...

When we were interrogated in Edward-Lloyd-Newman City, I imagined putting a second me there so as not to fall into despair right away.

Is this normal, what I am doing?

I'm sorry for writing so much about myself. I guess it's easier for me if I put my thoughts into words and write them down.

I will write you a new letter as soon as we stay longer in one place, at the moment I am not allowed to tell you my exact whereabouts.

In deep gratitude,

Silberlilie, Claire R.

Claire sealed the paper in the envelope. In an attempt to imitate Léonard's handwriting, she curved Gessner's G too much, resulting in a slipped 8. After correcting it, she hid the letter in a book.

Dusk enveloped the courtyard in a carrot-coloured aura. Toddlers and brats played with a ball on the uneven, overgrown ground. Shouting and the bouncing of the ball delighted the gentlemen on a bench right next to the ivy-covered façade. With good eyes, the observer recognised the pale yellow.

She had left the balcony door open. It was soon time to leave.

Emma sat in a cosy rocking chair and petted the house cat. She listened to her narrator.

"... from a Sagauvelish-speaking country, but not Sagauvelish-born. On my imperial documents, it says I am a Sagauvelian imperial citizen. This is wrong. I was born a Flechburger. Yet I did not choose what nationality I wanted to be. What kind of a rotten trick is that anyway? We are human beings. I don't need papers to know what my name is! I could tear them up right here and now and throw them out the window!"

She was small, had a deformed face, a loud voice, black hair, a cloche hat, dark eyes, and pink cheeks. Henriette was what the good HePo would call a partisan. For causing public nuisance, distributing leaflets against the regime, and breaking into a (no longer so) secret camp, she had fled Flechburg two years ago. For the sake of neutrality, she used the entry into the Free Duchy. It was not five months later when the first troops marched in.

Claire didn't like her. She was too pushy for her. Her loud voice made half the neighbourhood rouse from their sleep. On top of that, she was a bit hermaphroditic. Claire didn't even know the true meaning of the word but she was sure that it was created for Henriette.

Claire used the unstable stairs to them. This makeshift was attached to the upper floor by two screws and could be dismantled within a few minutes. It was the perfect place to hide.

"Where are Julius and Konrad?" Claire interrupted the boring topic about imaginary lines and borders of states.

"Downstairs. He won´t forget it," Henriette replied, as uninterested as she was.

By it, she meant the guard.

For three days, Julius, Emma and Claire had been lying in wait at the Violentz depot station for signs of a prisoner transport. Léonard and Monique had to go through it when a court decision or an execution decree came up. Every prisoner had to.

Violentz lay in the mountains, hidden in a side valley of the Faldergau. Due to the emerging flood of the HePo, the small town had become the safest community in the Free Duchy. It was all the more surprising when Julius revealed that he had gone into hiding there.

The Martin Richter printing house was the ideal hiding place for the writer. From hearsay from other persecuted people, he learned that Mr Richter gave these people refuge and helped them get across the border with forged papers.

It was thanks to him that Julius was able to publish his second and third books. The HePo had no idea. As convinced nationalists, the printer and his son showed themselves on the streets and in front of the police while secretly running over their lousy sleuths. The Richter family has already saved dozens.

Yesterday, Emma didn't want to go. She found herself waiting in the dark nerve-wracking. She had fallen asleep in the car the first two times. But she could not be left behind. As soon as they freed Léonard, they were to leave the print house immediately. From then on there was no turning back, the Richter family knew that as well as Claire.

She and Henriette got along very well, as the young woman saw Emma as an ideal resistance fighter. Richter's son, Konrad, was not convinced of this.

He was the one who took care of the stairs. Together with his brother, they had built this part of the house themselves. He died shortly afterwards at the front. He sacrificed himself for the family when the WA got wind that Julius was supposedly living in the house. It was the darkest moment for the Richter family.

"...to my knowledge, there is no major group left that could take on Sagauvela - except for the States of Terra Omnibus," Henriette rambled, "But they hardly have the resources to take it on. And they aren´t interested in interfering in a war on the other side of the globe.”

"That means the war won't end?" said Emma anxiously.

"Not in the coming years. And when it ends, the wrong ideology of peace will be represented on the continent," she replied, "They say Sagauvela's troops are sieging the Weißberg capital, Gnomonpol for some weeks. Diplomatic talks have all failed."

"Do we even have a chance?"

"As long as the Sagauvelian rut exists-" (She glanced fleetingly at Claire, who was trying to listen to the arrowroot). "- there will be no future for us lower groups. Either we will become Sagauvelian or we will be killed. And how do we choose? Live or die?"

"Live naturally!"

That joyful time with Daphne was years behind them. They had spoken of war once and now she heard it every day. It was a word that changed people. It made her uneasy.

Claire was tired of being gawked at. Always, because she was what she was. Her conscience cleared. There was no reason to be hot-tempered or angry with anyone. The only person who gaped at her was Henriette.

She left the room.

Far away from the men in the courtyard, she watched the football players. Konrad with his stupid eyes and the sooty hair, the brick, as the neighbours called him, passed the ball to a little boy. The makeshift goal, consisting of two jackets that had to be cleaned in the evening by the scolded boys, was guarded by Julius.

The old master printer, Mr Richter smoked a pipe with his old comrades and talked about the former velodrome in Valdebourg.

To avoid the ball, Claire sauntered back into the house. Her skirt and top barely offered a chance to make a pass, let alone get off the starting line in the velodrome.

She could not play the violin. In order not to allow the neighbours to alert the squatters, after all, the lights were turned off at 7 p.m.

Around this time, when darkness already had Violentz in its grip, Julius, she, and the sleeping Emma were on their way to the depot.

***

Claire was glad to get away from Henriette.

She did not like her statements and emphases about Sagauvela. It was no shame at all. It was a little bit of anger. She was always talking about imaginary borders and that nationalities were on paper. However, when it came to Sagauvela, Claire was evil personified. Why this inconsistency?

The elongated parking in front of the station hall was mainly used by the HePo cars. At this time of day, there were few present. Emma was lying on the back seat, dozing off.

There was initially a heated argument between Julius and Henriette's otherwise good relationship. Together with Konrad Richter, they used to be an inseparable team. They helped the writer resurrect his profession to write The Nordic Palatinates and The Human Politician.

Claire was embarrassed to be unwillingly in this argument. It wasn't her fault. Emma had mentioned that they were from Regenschloss. Sometimes Claire wished she didn't come to a negatively conspicuous town. She would rather be from one of the well villages of No Man's Land, those communities whose inhabitants never left home in their lives.

"I grew up in a village like that," Julius explained, fuming.

A palpable chill had entered the automobile. Behind them, the deciduous trees were losing their leaves. The yellow-brown and the red-orange illuminated the dark station façade.

"I would a thousand times rather have been born there than in Regenschloss."

"Believe me, you don't want to swap," Julius said, staring out of the window, "That is precisely what makes these villages overly sensitive enemies of outsiders. They are a community; every family belongs to this parasitic organism. It's not good for the blood."

Claire was not convinced. Little by little, she thought about what it would be like to live there. She wouldn't be locked in. Rather involuntarily, she realised in her head and smiled at her father's delighted face after a forced marriage to one of the villagers.

She didn't know how long she had been silent now. Julius had thrown his cigarette out of the window and straightened up. His driving style was cautious. He only drove rarely, so it happened from time to time that almost accidents happened.

"What's it like... being a writer?" Claire forced herself to ask.

Julius raised his eyebrow, "What do you mean? Should I feel different?"

"Yes."

"A lot has changed, but I still feel good."

Such a short answer. He doesn't want to talk about it...

Twice she opened her mouth without saying anything. Emma's soothing breathing distracted her for a while.

Léonard and Monique had not been freed that night.

The oncoming rain obscured the dawn view back to the hideout. In a sleepy tone, the silent Claire had to give her driver directions.

They had hardly spoken anymore. He asked sometimes, but it didn't seem to have been relevant. He replied with a hm or an ah and did not elaborate. She wondered if he was thinking of a character for a new manuscript.

***

Her dream of that morning was in her head. It was as if she had been listening to a piece of musical art.

Loneliness lurked in the dream, creating a monotonous, warming mood that made one believe all the clocks in the world had stopped. They were in a bright, transilluminated forest full of life. If they could see the squirrels, they stumbled upon the succulent mushrooms. The cosy moss and the fallen trunks made this place a gallery of joy.

But now it was over.

This slow, soft-sounding music changed in a few keystrokes to a pitiful concert of destroyed hope. A tuning xylophone reflected the past. A shadowy grey thought of a sad moment in the family that broke them were observed through the children's eyes.

This longing made Claire's stomachache. The cold water from the bowl was nothing. She tried to travel back. She read a diary in blue writing. Memories gathered in a deep pool, bringing her up in a shallow swell. For a tiny moment, she felt the burning acid scratching her throat.

If she had been alone, she would have cried. She always wanted to return to this world. Now more than ever.

During the day, she thought about a conversation with Daphne about a novel character who also wanted to live in a false reality. The whole thing was overshadowed by an argument between her and Henriette. The already ailing bond between them was finally broken. Like a doll, torn in two and losing an arm, the sewn-on button eye rolled across the wooden floor, under a cupboard.

Claire withdrew. She had wanted to rip Henriette's hair out, and now she relaxed in her scanty emergency accommodation. The mood was testy but not because of that. On the one hand, she was glad to have fought back. On the other hand, she was sad about her poor performance.

She was always the weaker one in an argument. She could not understand why. The flare-ups of time-induced rage kept her in check. Emma had been her last victim. Now the return to dreamland mixed with the pain of being a Sagauvelian citizen.

Julius knocked on the door.

"May I come in?"

"I don't know why."

He sat down next to her.

"What just happened, we have to forget. I have spoken to her. It's not right what she said."

"But it's true."

"You are not Sagauvela. You do not have to give an account for these people."

"It doesn't change anything..."

"That's true," Julius returned, "But constantly reminding yourself of these facts does no better than being blinded by self-pride."

"What is there good about it? I'm a foreigner here. I don't care - but she provokes it out!" howled Claire.

"You are a friend of all of us. Different views are normal and can lead to scuffles."

"It's all Emma's fault! If she hadn't said anything..."

"Do you want to be angry with her or Henriette?"

"I want to shoot them... no... I want to shoot myself."

"You're talking nonsense," he spoke seriously, "Pull yourself together and think about what you're saying! Taking a person's life is absolutely insane. And taking it yourself is equally insane!"

"I was not asked to be born."

"None of us was," he said with defiance, "We have to make the best of what we get. You are not alone in this world. Come back to the real issue and we'll end it here and now! Or go on sulking and wait for someone to give you pity. You want that attention, don't you?"

Almost angrily, he slammed the door. Down the stairs, she could hear his steps all the way into the print house. He muttered something loudly to himself. It was incomprehensible.

Maybe he was right. Maybe not.

Claire stayed in the room. She wiped away the tears with a dirty handkerchief. Absentmindedly, she searched for the envelope to hold it to her chest.

Once again, her head had not given the script for a sequel.

To XVIII.2.


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Fri Jun 17, 2022 7:59 am
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MailicedeNamedy says...



Hi @Liminality,

Thank you very much for your review and insights. I really enjoyed how you tried to explain Julius and Henriette's character. (Henriette, btw is one of the few characters that are actually real persons I met).

I honestly don’t know what that ‘means’ in this context either, so I’m really quite confused by this description . . . I’m pretty sure the word is often used as a slur (see for example this info).


Thank you for that. I didn´t know that the word is a bit more on the negative side. As in German, it´s actually used to describe plants that are both male and female and I didn´t want to write, that she is tomboyish or something like that. It also wasn´t my intention to show with that Claire´s thoughts about intersex people, because she herself is still in that phase of finding her own sexuality.

Mailice




Liminality says...


Oh that's really interesting, about Henriette! And ah, I see - I had a feeling it could have meant something else in German.



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Tue Jun 14, 2022 10:19 am
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Mailice!

This chapter was quite surprising. I hadn’t expected there to be more characters introduced after the previous scene. It seems that Claire’s character arc is also bringing her to her darker moments again. Somehow the chapter leaves me feeling a little disorientated, like I missed something in between.

Something I liked about this chapter was the character interactions. I like how Emma immediately seems to get along with Henriette. It feels very true to her character, and in a way is part of what makes Henriette quite likeable to me, even though Claire doesn’t like her (and she doesn’t like Claire). I just feel like if Emma can get along with her, I can too :D Henriette is also quite different from other characters we’ve seen in the past. She talks about a topic that hasn’t really been discussed much before (other nationalities in a world where the Sagauvela form an empire) and she can really go on and on about it, which makes her stand out. (Like RandomTalks I found it a little bit hard to understand where Claire was coming from here on the first read, and I tried to piece my interpretation together on the second read, which got me pretty close to what you described in replying to that review. So I was able to make sense of it after a while.)

I also really like Claire’s interaction and argument with Julian in the last scene. The conflict was really intense, even though it doesn’t seem at the moment to have much to do with the main plot.

"It's all Emma's fault! If she hadn't said anything..."
"Do you want to be angry with her or Henriette?"
. . .
"Pull yourself together and think about what you're saying! Taking a person's life is absolutely insane. And taking it yourself is equally insane!"

I think Julian is a very different person from Claire and the way you’ve shown them clashing here was really good. Julian is ‘the adult’, he’s mature in that he prioritises everyone getting along even though they disagree and even if he disagrees with them, and he also ‘spots’ some inconsistencies in what Claire is saying (like is she angry with Emma or angry and Henriette) in trying to communicate with her. Claire is in the process of growing up and she’s struggling with some mental and emotional issues, so her frame of mind and conversation are less constructive, and more on the destructive side in trying to blame somebody.

On top of that, she was a bit hermaphroditic. Claire didn't even know the true meaning of the word but she was sure that it was created for Henriette.

I honestly don’t know what that ‘means’ in this context either, so I’m really quite confused by this description . . . I’m pretty sure the word is often used as a slur (see for example this info). Maybe it’s trying to show the attitudes in Claire’s society? Or just Claire’s attitude? To me at least, it kind of came out of nowhere, since so far the only gender themes that came up are like women’s rights and freedoms and men being at war, not so much to do with people who identify as neither men nor women, or with gender non-conformity, or with intersex people. For that reason, I feel like I don’t understand why Claire or the narrator is using it. (To contrast, I understand what it means and why Claire is upset when Henriette uses the term “the Sagauvelian rut” because the empire and its role is a consistent theme in this story.)

Something that could be improved on is maybe the portrayal of Claire’s changing emotions throughout the chapters. I was a bit puzzled by Claire saying she was excited in the letter. While I remember in past chapters Claire has sometimes expressed excitement when faced with Léonard’s dangerous exploits, I did mention in my review of the last chapter that I thought Claire wasn’t looking forward to this one in particular? So I would have liked there to be maybe another scene or paragraph showing how Claire went from not looking forward to it to being excited, or maybe something in the previous part that shows her having mixed feelings rather than longing to have stayed with Daphne and avoided all this.

Claire was glad to get away from Henriette.
She did not like her statements and emphases about Sagauvela. It was no shame at all. It was a little bit of anger. She was always talking about imaginary borders and that nationalities were on paper. However, when it came to Sagauvela, Claire was evil personified. Why this inconsistency?

That being said, I do like how you depict characters who are hypocritical. I think that’s a bit of a theme in this story, for example, Léonard thinks he’s fighting for justice in a way but he also does terrible things and manipulates other while he’s at it. Meanwhile, Claire is always finding herself wanting to 'run away' from everything, even as she left her family to seek something new. I think it makes them more psychologically complex and interesting, even many chapters later.

Overall, I’m interested in seeing how this part of the story plays out. I wonder how the new characters at the printing office will play into their plan to rescue Monique and Léonard, and if Léonard’s whole strategy will pay off in the end. I also wonder how Claire will react to Julian's advice.

Hope some of this is helpful and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim




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Mon May 23, 2022 4:48 pm
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MailicedeNamedy says...



Hi @RandomTalks,

Thank you very much for your review! :D

On a side note, I didn't think she was allowed to reveal Leonard's intention to other people?

Maybe that´s a bit of an oversight from me, but I think Claire would never write her address on it, and even if it was forbidden to write to some other person, I think Claire would still do it, as - in this case - Daphne is her last person with reason.

The whole section describing Henriette and the Richter family is actually only there to answer some questions about Julius, how he could still publish some books and how he has some connections. Henriette and the Richter family are only minor side characters and Henriette should have been revealed at Léonard´s birthday, but that party was already crowded with a lot of people.

After doing a quick glance at the chapter, I can see what you mean by “more difficult than usual to follow her thoughts”. I wanted to create a bit of that strangeness and loneliness of Claire, without it actually being true, especially in this and the next part, but I have to rewrite it a bit. Thanks!

However, in this situation, I do feel it would have been better if you had explained the grounds of the argument between Henriette and Claire.

That´s material I had to cut in this version but to summarise it: Henriette provoked Claire as being a citizen of the Empire and Claire didn´t like that until she starts getting really angry.

Thanks again!

Mailice




RandomTalks says...


Thank you for the explanations!



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Sun May 22, 2022 2:08 pm
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Hey Mailice!

RandomTalks here with a short review! (sorry again for the delay!)

The beginning of this chapter again slowed the pace down a little. We see our characters get adjusted to a new environment and to new characters as well. I liked the fact that you did not immediately carry on with the plot in this chapter, but instead gave us a moment to breathe and catch up with this supposedly crazy plan of Leonard's. Also, it heightens the anticipation, as right now, we have no idea what Leonard and Monique have been up to or if their plan is going to work at all.

Maybe I don't often show my friends when I'm happy, that's why they keep thinking I'm in a gloomy mood.

On my second read, I decided that Claire was probably her most honest self in this letter to Daphne. Throughout the rest of the chapter, she is angry and impatient and a little irritated at all times, but here we see her actually trying to present her thoughts in a constructive manner. I don't know if its because she is writing her thoughts down instead of speaking them or if its because its Daphne she is trying to communicate them to. Either way, this letter very effectively sets the mood for the rest of the chapter.

On a side note, I didn't think she was allowed to reveal Leonard's intention to other people? I am not sure if she actually sends out all the letters, but if she did then that would mean that Daphne has all this information about Leonard that could get him in deep trouble. Its because she is perhaps the only character in the story who has always been intentionally kept far away from the main plot. I am not starting to become suspicious, but I do wonder about the significance of it all.


Henriette was what the good HePo would call a partisan.

I liked how you kind of eased us into Henriette's introduction in a not-so obvious way. It broke the pattern slightly and introduced a different tone to the story. However, I did have to read that section twice to understand that we were meeting a new character. Coming from the previous chapter, Henriette's introduction was a little sudden especially because she is a completely new character we haven't heard of before. On second read, it does not feel as confusing, because this time we know what Claire is talking about. Some part of me felt that Claire had already pronounced her an annoying person and therefore, she did not bother to go into the depth of her character, mentioning only the qualities that she personally deemed distasteful. However, this subjectivity did make it a little more difficult for me to form a concrete opinion about Henriette. I could not decide whether she truly was annoying or whether it was just Claire being her harsh, judgemental self, especially when no one else seemed to have a problem with Henriette.

The family's history did solidify these characters we have never met before. It was narrated clearly, and I felt that it helped a lot in making us adjust to the changes and the new introductions. Maybe, if Henriette's introduction was done after her family's, that abruptness would not have as much. However, the way Claire described Konrad made me feel that maybe she was just in one of her moods. The boy had done nothing to her and she had no reason to complain about any of it, especially when their family was doing them a favor by letting them stay. And yet, there was a harshness in her observations, an obstinate resentment that reflected in her interactions with other characters. I can relate with her need to snap and complain some times, but this tendency exists in her to a much larger extent. However, in the context of the story, I could understand her desire to escape into a false reality. After all, that had been Claire's number one coping mechanism from the very beginning of the novel.

If she had been alone, she would have cried. She always wanted to return to this world. Now more than ever.

This part was not very clear to me. In fact, throughout the chapter, I felt that it was more difficult than usual to follow her thoughts and observations. It felt like her thoughts were submerged underwater and we had to work hard to extricate the meaning and significance from them. While, I love how your narration always reflect Claire's personality at any given moment in the story, I still don't think I caught the exact meaning of this scene. From what I interpreted, Claire had a dream that she rather would not have woken up from. I can understand that feeling, but then she talks about a sad moment in a family and memories that crowded her mind. That was the part that confused me a little as I could not understand if she was strictly referring to the world in her dream or if she meant that in the context of her own childhood.

"You are a friend of all of us. Different views are normal and can lead to scuffles."

I think this quote summarizes an important aspect of both the characters. Claire has always had this tendency of silently segregating those she feels she can get along with and those she feel she can't. She never liked certain characters like Martha or Henriette and she immediately closed herself off to them, rejecting any inner quality of theirs that might have been otherwise appealing to her. On the other hand, she admired Daphne and she respected Julius from the very first moment of their introduction. And while, she idolized Daphne on a different level she listened to Julius's harsh proclamation of her character without feeling the need to strike back. Its her inability to find an acceptable middle ground that leads to such problems.

However, in this situation, I do feel it would have been better if you had explained the grounds of the argument between Henriette and Claire. We are able to form a basic gist of what went on between them, but it would help to understand why Claire deems Henriette to be such a despicable character.

On the other hand, I thought the most interesting part of the this chapter until now has been the interactions between Julius and Claire. I had already been wondering about how they would handle any interaction, especially because of Julius's obvious disregard for emotions that are not justified. I was a little surprised that he actually called out Claire on her childish obstinacy in this situation. He has the maturity to not want to engage in a conversation that was heavily influenced by Claire's sulking mood and I liked the fact that he did not stay around for any of that and instead simply delivered the unflinching truth and left as if his work was done. He felt more like an annoyed father in that moment trying to drive sense into his petulant and arrogant child, but no matter which way we interpret this interaction, I really like the fresh dynamic Julius brings into the scenes. He is stubborn and set in his own ways, but the way he carries himself suggests that there's nothing in the world that can really move him anymore. He certainly is an interesting addition to the group.

That's all!

Keep writing and have a great day!

Until next time!





The universe will reward you for taking risks on its behalf.
— Shakti Gawain