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The Chosen Grandma, Chapter 59

by BlueAfrica


A/N: After Chosen One Edna Fisher realizes that sorcerer Redway is her not-dead-after-all son, Percival, she and the others ride a dragon to Coldwater to stop him from attacking the city. When it comes out that Redway was abused by his fellow Knights back when he was a Knight, a squire steps forward and says, "Me too."

Chapter Fifty-Nine

The squire's arms were covered in dark bruises and scars that looked like cigarette burns. Percival looked at them, his chest heaving. Then another squire stepped forward and did the same. Then another. Then an older Knight, hesitantly. Then more.

Many of the Knights looked furious, but nearly all the squires and several older Knights were soon standing there with their sleeves or pant legs rolled up or collars pulled down to show bruises and scars and burns and even, here and there, a brand not unlike Percival's. Edna couldn't stop staring at them. It wasn't that she hadn't believed him, that the Knights had abused him this way.

She just hadn't realized it was so widespread.

That so many of them had experienced it and put up with it and never breathed a word about it. Because they thought no one would listen or because they thought someone would blame them or because they knew it would only get worse. She understood that.

Behind her, Clem drew a sharp breath. Edna was too realistic to hope her sister hadn't gone through the same before she died. She reached back, found the girl's hand, and squeezed.

Percival's grip on his sword slackened.

"All of you?" he said.

The doe-eyed squire looked around at all the others with their arms held out and their cuffs rolled up and nodded. Edna let go of Benjamin and tottered back down the stairs toward her son. The magic threatening to rise up and burst out of him seemed to have died down. His chest was still heaving but the sparks had quieted and some of the color had come back into his face. His eyes were no longer hard and glittering but quiet and wet and a little red.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't think—I didn't realize—"

Edna touched his shoulder. He was shaking.

"Percival," she said quietly, "put down the sword."

He dropped it and fell to his knees, still staring at the squires, the Knights, with their bruises and their burns and their brands and their scars. His friends slipped out of the crowd and joined Edna at his side. She shivered, not sure what to make of them. But they stood there quietly, crowded around him, and they all looked so tired. Ash and smoke had settled in their hair and clothes and faces and they all looked so old suddenly. She realized for the first time that, if not for their dragons, they would have been horribly outnumbered. Their weapons hung limp at their sides.

"What is all this?" the same doddery old Knight asked from the bandstand.

Percival looked around dully as the Knight came down the bandstand stairs. Clem walked next to him with the Sword of Destiny still in her hands, but her eyes were fixed on Ag and Bill, who were glowering in the crowd. The doe-eyed squire made a move like he wanted to roll his sleeves back up, now that a head Knight was heading right for him, but the old man said, "Let me see, son."

The squire stood quietly staring at the ground as the old Knight examined his arms. At last he patted the squire on the shoulder and said, "All right," and the squire immediately hid his bruises away again, as if he had used up all his courage and couldn't bear to have anyone see them anymore. But the Knight wasn't done with him.

"Who did this to you, my boy?"

The squire said nothing. The other head Knights had come down now, too, and one of the younger ones, who might have been under Edna's age by some years rather than over it, said sharply, "Your superior officer asked you a question."

"The others, sir," the squire said, looking like he wanted to sink into the ground.

Edna's fingers tightened on Percival's shoulder. She remembered what he had said about things getting worse for anyone who dared complain and hoped that the head Knights would really do something about this, that they wouldn't let him go back into the ranks to be bullied and abused worse than ever.

"What others, boy?" the younger of the head Knights said. The older Knight waved a hand at him as if to say to give the boy some time.

The squire's voice went even quieter. "The other Knights, sir. A lot of the instructors. Anyone bigger than me, really."

The old Knight looked around at the others standing there with their cuffs rolled up and collars down, all looking about like the squire in that they might have wanted to sink into the ground. The head Knights had come forward to examine more of them now and were frowning.

"And this is the same for all of you?" the old Knight said.

They all glanced at each other to see if anyone else was nodding and nodded to.

"This is serious indeed," the old Knight said. "We shall have to investigate."

"A stain on our noble calling," the younger Knight said disgustedly. He touched his throat and said in a magically magnified voice, "Pending investigation, all Knights at this base are hereby suspended. Any bases that are found to have claims of abuse will be shut down until these claims can be verified and the perpetrators removed for questioning."

The squires looked up as if they could hardly believe it. Some of the crowd erupted into cheers, but most of them just stood there looking befuddled, and the Knights who had looked unhappy before looked outright furious now.

"You can't possibly suspend all the Knights," Ag said angrily, pushing through the crowd. "You can't shut down every base just because some of the new recruits can't handle a little hazing."

The old Knight looked at him with a stern expression. "This is quite beyond hazing, my boy. This is, I would almost hazard to say, torture."

"You can't shut down every base because this man—" Ag pointed at Percival, who was still sitting there as though numb—"this man, who flew in on a dragon with the intent to destroy the city, who's probably behind all the recent attacks, says the Knights—”

“This man will be dealt with,” the younger Knight said over him. Edna felt Percival’s friends move closer, ready to defend him, but he still sat there as if he hadn’t realized he’d been mentioned. “What he has done does not erase what these squires say their superiors have done. He will face charges, but our officers must also face the consequences of their actions.”

Ag’s face turned red. “You can’t—”

“Can’t what, young man?” the younger Knight snapped. The older Knight drew himself up to his full height, which was not very tall. “We are your superiors. If we say that you are suspended pending an investigation, then you are suspended and there will be an investigation. Your behavior now is hardly helping your case.”

All Ag’s hopes for the future seemed to be falling to pieces before him. He pushed the older Knight aside. The old man fell to the ground with a cry. Ag raised his sword and ran at Percival, and Edna almost hoped that Percival would get angry again, that his anger would save him after almost destroying him, but no: it had abandoned him at last, at this one moment where it might have helped—he looked up dully into the blade of the sword—his friends raised their weapons—

The Sword of Destiny blocked Ag’s blow. Clem stood there in front of Percival with a look of cold fury on her face.

“Back off,” she said. “You killed my sister. I’m not letting you kill Edna’s son.”

Edna could have cried with relief. She hobbled forward with her knitting needles raised. Ag eyed them warily but didn’t back away. But Percival’s friends had their weapons raised as well, and after a moment the doe-eyed squire stepped forward with his own sword, and then the other squires and Knights and at last, looking like they now really had no clue whatsoever what was going on, the head Knights as well, except for the two who had spoken: the younger of them was examining the older, who seemed unable to get up after his fall.

“Arrest that man,” the younger Knight said angrily. “And that other one, too. And—well—you’re going to have a lot of arrests to make.”

And the whole thing ended in confusion as Knights tried to arrest each other and Percival and his friends and even Edna until she beat them away with her handbag and said crossly, “Do you really think he meant me?”

The city had burned down; the fire marshals managed to put out the fires at last, but the city would have to be rebuilt almost completely. Percival was hauled to his feet and dragged off to who-knew-where, since the prison had burned down with everything else. Edna opened her mouth to say something to him, though she didn’t know what, but she saw his eyes turn skyward: his dragons were flying back to Dominion. She wondered if he wished he was going with them or if he was tired of living that way.

She caught sight of Methodius in the crowd as things calmed down, but Benjamin broke away from her and jogged over to him the moment they spotted him.

"Benjamin!" she called, but at least she felt he would be safe this time; he was running off toward a wizard, not into a blazing fire or a swarm of dragons. Perhaps he would strain himself and his injury would bother him again, but she hoped Methodius would be able to deal with that, even if he was awfully useless for a wizard. She saw him gesticulating urgently, and then the two of them headed back across the river together.

And there was Clem, still standing where she'd stood over Percival, with the Sword of Destiny stuck in the ground in front of her. Edna drew closer and saw that she was crying, fat tears sliding quietly down her face and dripping off her nose.

"Clementine," she said.

The girl turned and wrapped her arms around her. Edna hugged her and rocked her and felt the same.

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Sat Oct 13, 2018 4:18 pm
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Panikos wrote a review...



Hiya, Blue! The penultimate review! I've officially read the whole story at this point, so I want to do it justice in my last two reviews. I'm going to comment as I go again.

His chest was still heaving but the sparks had quieted and some of the color had come back into his face. His eyes were no longer hard and glittering but quiet and wet and a little red.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't think—I didn't realize—"

Edna touched his shoulder. He was shaking.


Okay, the thing I don't get is why he didn't realise. He was a squire when he was abused, and given how many people have joined Redway's cause, it doesn't seem plausible for him to be ignorant about how widespread the maltreatment is. He's been attacking bases for how long, and yet nobody's ever raised the point that the very Knights they're attacking could be abuse victims themselves? It's certainly occurred to me. I feel like this reveal would've worked better if, I don't know, Redway's goals had been more selfishly driven from the start. Maybe if he'd had less people helping him out and we'd been led to believe that what happened to him was a minority case, this reveal would have more impact. But as it is, I've always felt like Red was taking revenge for a systematic wrong, not just a personal one - or at least that was the line he took. Which is why I find it hard to swallow that he'd never have even contemplated how many abuse victims he could be killing/injuring through his actions.

"This is serious indeed," the old Knight said. "We shall have to investigate."

"A stain on our noble calling," the younger Knight said disgustedly. He touched his throat and said in a magically magnified voice, "Pending investigation, all Knights at this base are hereby suspended. Any bases that are found to have claims of abuse will be shut down until these claims can be verified and the perpetrators removed for questioning."


This feels a little rushed. I don't doubt that it would happen, but it sort of comes across like you're just trying to wrap things up within this one scene, even though I imagine the immediate reaction to this would just be a lot of confusion and fussing around until, eventually, some order was restored. Given that the base was under attack until a few moments ago and Red was flying out here to kill the head Knights, it feels like they've got a lot to deal with at once and I can't imagine them being so decisive immediately.

Also, another thought about how you're handling this: it does seem that the Knights are split quite cleanly into abusers and victims, which feels - in both the context of real life and your writing - like a bit of an oversimplification. Considering that a lot of the abuse seems to occur under the guise of 'hazing', it seems perfectly possible that some of the people who were abused as squires would then go on to treat future recruits in the same way. Where would people like that sit in this whole investigation? Are they criminals? Victims? Obviously that's not a question best addressed in this chapter given how much you already have on your plate, but it would be super, super interesting if you had a character - maybe among Red's friends - who had both abused and been abused before it finally occurred to them how messed up the whole thing was. Because I can honestly see it happening. If you're stuck in the Knights and the only way to escape abuse is to start dishing out that treatment to others, people might see it as their only way out. Sometimes, it's easier and safer to join the bullies than stand up to them.

All Ag’s hopes for the future seemed to be falling to pieces before him. He pushed the older Knight aside. The old man fell to the ground with a cry. Ag raised his sword and ran at Percival, and Edna almost hoped that Percival would get angry again, that his anger would save him after almost destroying him, but no: it had abandoned him at last, at this one moment where it might have helped—he looked up dully into the blade of the sword—his friends raised their weapons—

The Sword of Destiny blocked Ag’s blow. Clem stood there in front of Percival with a look of cold fury on her face.

“Back off,” she said. “You killed my sister. I’m not letting you kill Edna’s son.”


This moment sort of feels like it's trying too hard to be satisfying. I'll try and piece together what I mean by that. Because Ag's such an irredeemable, awful toerag, and because his reaction to them shutting down the Knight bases is so irredeemably awful to match, it's almost too easy to hate him and want to see him get his comeuppance. It's sort of like a cheap laugh, except it's cheap character hatred? I don't know. He just doesn't feel very real.

It is so great to see Clem protecting Percival, though. If you'd told her she'd do that a month ago, she'd never have believed you.

She saw him gesticulating urgently, and then the two of them headed back across the river together.


YES GO FIX MY BOY KIERNAN

And there was Clem, still standing where she'd stood over Percival, with the Sword of Destiny stuck in the ground in front of her. Edna drew closer and saw that she was crying, fat tears sliding quietly down her face and dripping off her nose.

"Clementine," she said.

The girl turned and wrapped her arms around her. Edna hugged her and rocked her and felt the same.


If there's something I absolutely LOVE about this chapter, it's that you have the guts to end it on a sad note. They're not bouncing about or celebrating or making quips; they're just sad, because they would be sad, and because everything is a mess and Clem just found out how her sister died and Edna's son has been frogmarched off to jail. They've achieved what they set out to do in that they stopped Percival from committing any more murders, and the Knights are obviously going to be investigated, but you get the sense that they aren't really feeling the success yet. I adore the realism of that. And it fits with the time skip in the next chapter, where they've had the time to heal and to see the good in what happened here.

Seeing as this is the sort-of end (I know there's another chapter, but it's more of an epilogue than anything) I'll just address my main, plot-wide critiques here, mostly because I want to get the negativity out of the way so I can gush in my final review.

1) What the heck was the deal with the weapon? I'm going to guess that it's something you chucked in during the final 32,000 word rush, because it never surfaces and it doesn't need to be in the story at all. It works perfectly well just to have Red fly off and try and kill the head Knights; there's enough suspense and stakes without introducing a weapon into the mix, in my opinion.

2) Ag and Bill. You do such a brilliant good job with Redway and all of his friends/crew, and I've always considered your characterisation of antagonists to be one of your biggest strengths as a writer. Ag and Bill - but particularly the former - are the exception to this. Part of it is probably just that they show up so late, but Ag feels like a pretty hammy villain in terms of his motivations and demeanour. To clarify, I don't mind him being a twisted toerag. Twisted toerags exist. Just make him feel like a realistic twisted toerag, and like a person despite his horrible nature.

3) The role of the Knights and the nature of the abuse. I've talked at length about this in an earlier review, so I'll try not to repeat myself, but this plot point is the heart of most of the weaknesses in this draft. There needs to be a lot more clarity on how widespread the abuse is within the Knights. Does it happen to practically every new recruit, as this chapter seems to imply? Or do you want it to be less systematic, but just frequent enough to be an institutional problem? And does Redway know it's an institutional problem, or is he just getting revenge on the Knights for the personal wrongs that have been done to him? At the moment, there's a lot of inconsistency, which is perfectly expected given that this is your first run through. But obviously that something that's going to have to make a lot of decisions about.

They're the three main things. But honestly, what a story. I love how you handled triumphs of this chapter without forgetting the melancholy, because not enough writers know how to manage that balance. I'm going to save all of my overall praise (i.e. a list of everything I love about this novel and why I believe in it so wholeheartedly) for the next review. Until next time...

Keep writing! :D
~Pan




BlueAfrica says...


So I don't intend that the abuse would be split that way but I don't know how to get across that Knights who didn't step forward still went through it but are like "whatever, it happened to me, too, but you don't see me MAKING A BIG DEAL ABOUT IT, do you???" Soooo I need to work on that, but. Gah.

//Can you tell that plotting is my weak spot// It's really tragic and honestly I should stick to literary fiction because it's all character-driven instead of so plot-focused, so I could probably do that. But alas, I love fantasy instead.

Also I had the idea that Red tells himself that he's doing this for the institutional or systematic problem/for other victims, but deep down he's really doing it for himself, because he's hurt and angry, and so he's so vilified/dehumanized the Knights to himself that he completely fails to remember the actual victims who are still in the Knights. Only thaaaaaat did not come across at all. But anyway, that was my thinking as to why he seems to be doing this for all the victims but simultaneously fails to actually protect them/actually hurts them instead.



Panikos says...


Yeah, that definitely works for Red - up until now I totally got the vibe from him that he was kind of hiding behind the moral reason when really he just wanted to take his anger out on others. And I think that could work...if there weren't so many other people on Red's side who are more measured than he is. My question is more why they would let this slide, because even if they can't make him listen, I'm not sure they'd blindly follow him.

But like with plotting being your weak spot??? There's so much here. I think you've done way better than you think you have it's just like, figuring out how you're going to approach all these raw ideas and hone them into something even cooler. It's all there. And this is only the first draft so just bREAAATHE



BlueAfrica says...


Oh Pan, if you could just see the issues with the plot in my other recent story. Like, for real, I just struggle with plot so much. Like how does one make sense of things??? How does one establish everything enough that things don't seem to just come out of nowhere??? How does one Plot???

Anyway I'm pretty sure I actually have to overhaul, like, the first third or two thirds of the story anyway because I dedicate way too much time to retrieving the Sword of Destiny, rip me.



Panikos says...


YOU WILL GET THERE honestly I promise. it's all impossible until it isn't



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Wed Oct 10, 2018 10:30 am
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Magestorrow wrote a review...



Hey, Blue~! Sae here to do my promised review.

The squire's arms were covered in dark bruises and scars that looked like cigarette burns. Percival looked at them, his chest heaving. Then another squire stepped forward and did the same. Then another. Then an older Knight, hesitantly. Then more.


Yes, yes, yes.

It wasn't that she hadn't believed him, that the Knights had abused him this way.


This sentence is a bit clunky, so maybe you should try adding some more words in or separating it into two separate sentences?

"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't think—I didn't realize—"

Edna touched his shoulder. He was shaking.

"Percival," she said quietly, "put down the sword."


Something about these lines were incredibly powerful to read. I think it's because Red is finally seeing the error of his ways, and instead of Edna yelling "I told you so!" she's just trying to get him to calm down.

She realized for the first time that, if not for their dragons, they would have been horribly outnumbered.


I know I should have guessed that based on the differences between the two groups, but it was definitely shocking to read that line. It almost shows just how helpless Red's group really was. They could try all they wanted to make a change, but they didn't have enough people to even stand that good of a chance. And it also shows some nice juxtaposition when paired with how the Knights - the true antagonists - have so many people in them.

"You can't possibly suspend all the Knights," Ag said angrily, pushing through the crowd. "You can't shut down every base just because some of the new recruits can't handle a little hazing."

The old Knight looked at him with a stern expression. "This is quite beyond hazing, my boy. This is, I would almost hazard to say, torture."


Yes.

“This man will be dealt with,” the younger Knight said over him. Edna felt Percival’s friends move closer, ready to defend him, but he still sat there as if he hadn’t realized he’d been mentioned. “What he has done does not erase what these squires say their superiors have done. He will face charges, but our officers must also face the consequences of their actions.”


And that's exactly what should happen. :)

The Sword of Destiny blocked Ag’s blow. Clem stood there in front of Percival with a look of cold fury on her face.

“Back off,” she said. “You killed my sister. I’m not letting you kill Edna’s son.”

Edna could have cried with relief. She hobbled forward with her knitting needles raised. Ag eyed them warily but didn’t back away. But Percival’s friends had their weapons raised as well, and after a moment the doe-eyed squire stepped forward with his own sword, and then the other squires and Knights and at last, looking like they now really had no clue whatsoever what was going on, the head Knights as well, except for the two who had spoken: the younger of them was examining the older, who seemed unable to get up after his fall.


Image


“And that other one, too. And—well—you’re going to have a lot of arrests to make.”


You have no idea how much this line made me grin.

She wondered if he wished he was going with them or if he was tired of living that way.


Awwwww.

"Benjamin!" she called, but at least she felt he would be safe this time; he was running off toward a wizard, not into a blazing fire or a swarm of dragons. Perhaps he would strain himself and his injury would bother him again, but she hoped Methodius would be able to deal with that, even if he was awfully useless for a wizard. She saw him gesticulating urgently, and then the two of them headed back across the river together.

And there was Clem, still standing where she'd stood over Percival, with the Sword of Destiny stuck in the ground in front of her. Edna drew closer and saw that she was crying, fat tears sliding quietly down her face and dripping off her nose.

"Clementine," she said.

The girl turned and wrapped her arms around her. Edna hugged her and rocked her and felt the same.


I love the juxtaposition at the very end of the chapter. Clem has tended to be the one who runs off, while Benjamin tends to stick around Edna. To have them reversed made both of their respective decisions - and Clem breaking down - even more impactful.

Besides that one little comment about the grammar issue earlier, I don't really have any critiques about this chapter. I know you still have one more left, but this chapter just felt right. I was having trouble figuring out just how you would end the novel while I was reading through it these past months, but I can't imagine you ending it any other way now. You've tied up the conflicts with the Knights. You've tied up the conflicts with Red. Clem's gotten the justice she's been longing for, and closure for her sister's death. (Kiernan might be dead or alive right now, but I'm guessing we'll find out about that in the next chapter.) This chapter just felt very, very fulfilling to read, and I'm very excited to see what note this story will end on.




BlueAfrica says...


Hooraaaaaaaay!

I love the juxtaposition at the very end of the chapter. Clem has tended to be the one who runs off, while Benjamin tends to stick around Edna. To have them reversed made both of their respective decisions - and Clem breaking down - even more impactful.


Ah, yes, I...definitely did that on purpose. *nods literarily*

Honestly I've been experiencing a lot of anxiety over this chapter since I wrote it (or possibly slightly before, even), so even if people are lukewarm on it but go, "these are good bones, you don't need a TOTAL overhaul," I'll be happy lol




The strongest people are not those who show their true strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about.
— Unknown