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The Fallen King: Chapter Eight, Pt 6

by MaybeAndrew


Part Five of Chapter Eight

The Fallen King

After his father's death, Liam inherits the title of Keepership to help lead the small village of Lownire. Feeling trapped and inadequate, he is glad when his Grandfather is awakened from sanity by words in the Old Tongue. ( A mysterious magical language that carries power.) Liam thinks his grandfather should be the Keeper, but Grandpa instead asks him not to abandon his Keepership and learn the Old Tongue. After a siege of Darkness and remembering a promise he made his sister before her death, Liam reluctantly accepts. In parts one and two, three, and four, Liam went to the graveyard, visited a trapped cattle, and then went shopping in the happy village. The joy was broken as everyone began to ask him stressed questions until his cousin Cormac comes and rescues him from the panic. He then argues with Gwen and Cormac about whether Lownire needs to be less joyful because of the darkness around it. He is now called into a meeting with the two other Keepers. 

Marching up a spiral staircase and going down a thin dark hallway, the group made their way to the Keepers room, the top room of the front tower, directly beneath the large silver bells.

Compared to the chapel itself, the room was simple. Well lit with three arched windows, looking out onto the green, over the town, and all the way to the lighthouse. The walls were simple stone, without tapestry or carving besides the columns. Along one wall was a shelf with a few books, records, and notes. In the center of the room was a large wooden table with three tall chairs. The table could fit much more than the Keepers, and sometimes their meetings would include others, leaders of the Watch, prominent farmers, loremasters, or families. Often they would have a scribe to keep notes, but since they had convened this meeting on such short notice, they had no such guests.

Liam hated the room. It was the room where he’d never been useful, where all he did was try to look focused and yet be ignored.

Liam, at least having something to add to this meeting, gave the other two the letter Grandpa had given him. The two read over it, discussed it, and asked a few questions. Liam answered as best he could but was again reminded how little he knew. He didn’t know why Grandpa couldn’t have attended this meeting. He would have been more useful.

Despite him not being there, the two Keepers didn’t seem to doubt the letters’ claims to Grandpa’s resanity. Sitric almost seemed to treat it as par for the course, and Hugh chuckled as if it was a pleasant but not entirely strange surprise. They both seemed more relieved by the letter than troubled by it, Hugh commenting on how it will be helpful to have Grandpa’s guidance and Sitric agreeing with him.

Sitric put the letter aside next to the meeting notes. “That’s good to know. Keep us updated if you learn more about this shadow.” He pulled him a piece of parchment. “The original purpose of this meeting is to discuss the food situation-”

“Wait, is that all we are going to say about the Shadow?” Liam asked, confused. Sitric almost seemed to barely care.

“Is that all you know?” Sitric asked, studying his nephew with his eyes cold like steel.

“Yes, but-”

“Well, then, that’s all we can do. We have been aware of this possibility since Astrum told it to your grandfather, and very little of that has changed. Nothing you or your grandfather James has said suggests there is much we can do for now. We have other problems we can deal with. We will deal with those.”

“Thank you for telling us this, though,” Hugh said, “And if you need anything from us, books, resources, hands, loremasters, to assist in your training, all you need to do is ask.”

“Are you not going to make an announcement to the village or something?” Liam asked.

“We have known of the Shadow since your grandfather was a young man, and it has not come yet. Every citizen of the Kings City knows that we are beset on all sides by Darkness. This specific problem is nothing they could do anything about, so why announce that it continues to exist,” Sitric said.

“It is a fair question. We do not like to keep secrets from the people, but the Keeper of the Light often receives guidance on how to act and to announce every piece of it to the whole of Lownire would just become confusing and cause undue concern. If it becomes relevant, you are correct that it would be wise to call a meeting of the village or send out a decree,” Hugh added gently.

“Yes, but until that time comes, we have other problems to deal with,” Sitric said. He turned back to his paper again, “This storm, regardless of what it is, flooded two-grain stores and destroyed three fishing ships. Last year’s harvest was low, as is, and with these two losses, our food will have to stretch even thinner. The farmers gave us their estimated storage,” He cleared his throat and read off the amount of dried grains, cured meats, cheese, and other stored foods owned by each farm family. When he finished, he put the paper down and looked at the two others. “How can we make it to Mayday with a fed village?”

“Where my mind goes is the ships,” Hugh said, leaning back. “The sailors who own them have lost their livelihood and their chance to provide food to the village. If we can find a way to build new fishing ships faster than normal, we could help them and help the whole village.”

Sitric nodded. “I can spare members of the watch on brighter days to build ships.”

“How much wood does the carpenter have? Would we purchase it from him? Is there enough for the ships?” Hugh asked.

Sitric stroked his mustache thoughtfully. “I suppose an allowance can be made for my best trained to enter the forest to fell trees,” Liam, barely listening at this point, was distantly surprised. Before May Day, being outside the walls was ill-advised. The forest was even worse. Year-round, it was avoided by almost all from Lownire. Many of its citizens had never stepped foot outside a path and onto the real forest. The situation must be truly dire for Sitric to allow it.

“Laim,” Sitric said, interrupting his thoughts. “You will go with them and bring light.”

Liam felt himself bristle at the word ‘will.’ Ordering him around like another soldier. Yes, he was a Keeper and had to attend these meetings and pretend he was a leader of the town, but he still got ordered around like a child. More proof that Sitirc didn’t actually respect him.

“I’ll see if I can,” Liam said, barely keeping the anger out of his tone.

Sitric eyed him, and Hugh glanced at him, surprised. Liam was almost as surprised as him. The plan was logical, but then despite himself, he hadn’t been able to fully accept the order. Sitric didn’t have the right to treat him both like a Keeper and a child. He wouldn’t let him.

“It would probably be within the next few days,” Sitric said, his normally steady tone almost seeming curious.

“I’ll see,” Liam said flatly. He’d already committed. Why quit now.

The two looked at him for a moment again and then slid off, discussing other possible solutions. Liam’s mind began to wander again, back up to the lighthouse and Grandpa and those strange words.

“-the displaced families, this will be even harder for them. How can we make sure that they have food and resources while they are trying to fix their flooded homes?”

“My own personal stores weren’t bad last year, so my wife has been feeding two of the families with our-”

“What about the siege stores?” Liam asked. The siege stores were a tax levied upon all farmers to put aside a percentage of their harvest so that lownire was always stalked to withstand a siege from the Austermen of upwards of a month.

Sitric and Hugh turned on him, surprised again. If Liam was going to prove he shouldn’t be ordered around, he thought maybe a manifestation of knowledge would do.

“One of the siege storage silos was flooded, and so its grain is ruined,” Sitric said, “And the rest we may be forced to use, but I’m going to avoid it if possible. We don’t want to put ourselves in a position where an ill-placed siege, plague, or bad harvest could actually starve us out.”

“But even if we replace the ships and build new ones, we aren’t going to have any more food than we started with. Time will be lost in the building of the ships, and we have already lost, as you said, two-grain silos. It seems the only available option is to use some of the siege storage. What do you suggest we do instead?”

Sitric narrowed his eyes at his nephew, not in anger but in confusion. “That is the purpose of this meeting, to come up with ways to get food that do not require the siege stores. I was going to suggest asking the cattle farmers to slaughter a few of their dairy cows. With that meat and a little bit of hunger, we make it Mayday, then food growth will begin.”

‘Food growth, that’s a thought,’ Liam considered.

Hugh nodded, “We could purchase the meat from the cattle farmers and give some of it to the families who lost homes or ships in the storm as compensation for their lost work time and to lower the price of meat in the market.”

“What if we could start some food growth early?” Liam asked. The two stopped and looked at him again.

“How would that be done?” Sitric asked.

“The flowers of the well grow year-round because of the purity of the water. If we could get a plot of land inside the walls, we could use it to grow a garden. Strawberries and potatoes and carrots, maybe. We could water it with pure Lastrios and use torches of Astrum to light it like it’s summer.”

“Impossible,” Sitric said immediately, “There is no such land to use, and Astrum and Lastrios are not meant to be mere tools for food. That is not what the Old One intended.”

Hugh nodded, “It’s an interesting idea, but it couldn’t be done. Only the flowers can be watered with pure Lastrios.”

“Regardless, even if it could be done, a few strawberries are not going to feed the whole town,” Sitric said, his tone almost humorous, like the idea was laughable.

Liam slid back in his chair, slumping as the two began to talk again. His ideas were dismissed, he was ordered around, and yet he still had to come. He was no Keeper. He was a formality.

***

Sitric was halfway to the door before Liam realized the meeting was over.

“Wait, I need a member of the watch to help me get my supplies back to the lighthouse,” Liam said.

Sitric stopped, hand on the door. “Ask Cormac. He needs experience outside of the wall,” Sitric said quickly. He then pulled open the door and disappeared out of it without a goodbye to either of them.

Hugh sighed and smiled as if it was somewhat amusing to him.

“Where is he going?” Liam asked.

“To the Tristain family, to extend his condolences,” The Tristain’s oldest son had been one of the four who had died during the siege. “That’s Sitric’s life. As soon as he’s finished with one thing, there is another to deal with, reports of danger to check, guards to organize, trials to hear, and contentions to break up.”

Hugh looked over at Liam, who was watching the door as it swung close. Liam liked Hugh, but he sometimes felt uncomfortable being alone with him. Hugh always seemed to be knowing what he was thinking, and Liam didn’t always like what he was thinking.

“He never stops, does he? We two can while away our hours with conversation and thought, but he’s like the waves of the sea. He never tires, no matter how many times he must rise again.” Hugh said. “That’s why Sitric’s the Keeper of the Walls, I suppose.”

“Isn’t Sitric the Keeper of the Walls because his dad was?” Liam responded, still slightly angry.

Hugh smiled. “That’s definitely part of it. He inherited the title from his father, but couldn’t he have inherited more? Can’t he be a Keeper because his father was, but also because he is the best man for the job? Can’t both of those things be true? He was personally trained by the Keeper of the Walls and has been holding a sword since his eighth birthday. Before his father was a Keeper, it was his father’s father, and his father’s father’s father, going back countless generations until the Old One. That responsibility cannot be kept separate from the family, so courage and nobility will run in his veins from those countless men who came before. That is why he is The Keeper of the Walls, because of who he is.”

“My dad would have been Keeper of the Walls if he didn’t marry my mother. By blood alone, I would have been next in line for the wall, so he’s just Keeper because my dad got married,” Liam said.

“But your dad did marry your mother. Your father would have made a good Keeper of the Wall, but he didn’t. That’s the funny thing about fate. It didn’t pick your father for Keeper of the Walls. It picked your uncle.”

Hugh paused and looked out the window. It looked only a few hours from sunset. “You should probably get going with Cormac if you want to make it to the Lighthouse.” Liam agreed, and they both stood up. “Would you take my daughter with you? She wants to get a book from the lighthouse.”

“A book?” Liam asked. Gwen had access to the Crypt, the huge library beneath the Keep. Why would she need a book from the lighthouse?

“It’s part of what she’s studying to become a loremaster - some type of song that she’s collecting - she says that there might be some of them in the lighthouse. She refuses to let me send members of the Keep to look. She says they wouldn’t know what to look for.”

Liam tried to not look stunned. Letting his own daughter wander outside the walls? Most parents wouldn’t have even let their children on the path in summer.

“I heard about what you did on the path, with the fire and the stallion. I thought that she’d be safest with you. If anything tries to get my daughter, use that little trick again.” He said with a wink.

Liam was taken aback. He hadn’t known anyone besides Sitric was even vaguely aware of that strange moment. That strange moment where Liam felt himself touch something beyond. “How did you…?”

“Sitric told me,” Hugh said, “Sitric and I talk a lot - part of the job. Whatever that was, it’s impressive. You’re dad never could do anything like that, and even your grandfather didn’t learn his strange ways until much later in his life. I’ve read a lot of books as Keeper of the Well, and you’re bringing back something old, something that could really help this village.”

“I don’t even know what I did,” Liam said, coloring.

“Well, even ignoring that, I know of very few boys in their fifteenth year who can keep their head when faced with Darkness. You did.” Hugh looked back out the window, “Sitric would be dead if you hadn’t, and regardless of why Sitric was picked as Keeper of the Walls, we don’t want him dead.”

Liam looked out the window. The sun was getting lower in the sky, so he really should be going. He smiled sadly. He knew why Hugh had been picked, at least. Hugh could talk to you like you were the only person he’d ever thought about. 

Questions:

1. Is the meeting boring?

2. What does the way Liam treats the other two Keepers communicate to you about him?

3. If you read the last section, can you see the resemblance between Cormac and Sitric, and Hugh and Gwen?

Bonus question: Are the summary at the beginning getting too long, or is the detail helpful? Also, do you like these questions?

Part Seven


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Sat Jul 08, 2023 5:04 am
cookiesandcream123 wrote a review...



Hi again, MaybeAndrew! I am back to leave a review!

All in all, this is another solid chapter. It was interesting getting to see the other Keepers. Though, the contrast between this meeting and the one with Cormac and Gwen is quite obvious. It's clear Liam felt awkward here... understandably XD.


Jumping into the questions!

1. I agree with IcyFlame on this one. While there's quite a bit of information and politics and all that, it was pretty concise. It also has characterization, especially for Liam, so I can see why it's important!

I do notice that you scatter a lot of details throughout each chapter. (Ex: 3rd paragraph about what the meetings are usually like, the scribe, etc.) You've done great at pacing them, so it's not overwhelming. But just in case, you might want to be careful about including too many, especially if they won't lead to anything important later. Unless this is the first part of the novel, so that's why the world is still being set up.

2.

Liam, barely listening at this point, was distantly surprised...

The plan was logical, but then despite himself, he hadn’t been able to fully accept the order.

First impression: I think in this chapter, Liam's childishness stood out a lot. In the previous parts, it felt like he lacked confidence and struggled to live up to expectations. Here, though, it's clear that his uncertainty has kinda become a deep-rooted insecurity, and it's led him to act "competitive" and rebellious toward the Keepers. It now feels like a serious flaw of his -- which, if that was the intention, worked really well.

(I was quite surprised though. But maybe Liam has always been this way, or there's been a build-up, and I just didn't know since I jumped in recently.)

3. I haven't seen much of Cormac and Sitric, so not sure. But for Gwen, yes, I can see how she's similar to Hugh! Especially in the way they talk.

Bonus Question: Usually I remember from the previous chapter, so I just skip reading the intro. I think if it gets any longer (or stretches to future chapters) then yes, but right now, it's alright.
Yep, the questions are helpful!

Have a great day! :D




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Mon Jun 12, 2023 5:24 pm
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Nearly all caught up! I'm going to jump right back in again.

Liam hated the room. It was the room where he’d never been useful, where all he did was try to look focused and yet be ignored.

Liam, at least having something to add to this meeting, gave the other two the letter Grandpa had given him.

Super nitpicky, but I really felt the transition between these two paragraphs didn't work.

He didn’t know why Grandpa couldn’t have attended this meeting. He would have been more useful.

Surely because it was so impromptu he didn't even know it was happening?

1. Is the meeting boring?
I don't think so. Told from Liam's perspective I can see why he finds it boring, but it's concise enough for it to remain interesting.

2. What does the way Liam treats the other two Keepers communicate to you about him?
I think it's clear that Liam doesn't really know how he should be around the other two. I'm surprised he doesn't at least try to listen though, because the things they're talking about are things that might cause the village suffering. Liam's so far shown himself to be a very empathetic character so I would expect him to be more worried to hear that they haven't got enough food to see them to Mayday. I would more imagine him getting distracted trying to think up solutions than to just not listen because he finds it boring. Yes, he's a child, but he's not super young!

3. If you read the last section, can you see the resemblance between Cormac and Sitric, and Hugh and Gwen?
Yes I was actually going to comment on this independentely! You can definitely tell whose child is whose!

Bonus question: Are the summary at the beginning getting too long, or is the detail helpful? Also, do you like these questions?
Yes, it's so helpful! Less at the moment because I'm reading and reviewing in bulk but usually it's the perfect way to jog my memory.
The questions are different to how I usually review, but I like the feeling that I'm focussing on specific things you actually want feedback on :)

One more part to go!

Icy

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MaybeAndrew says...


Thanks for the review! I will take all of that into account in the edit!




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