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Stones of Babel - Chapter 1

by Elfboy

I ran my fingers along the sun-warmed stone walls as I approached the archway. The palace was magnificent, the architecture and craftsmanship almost divine. Nimrod's palace at Hermon was one of the older sites in his empire, built before I became his master architect, and every time I was called to his chambers I marveled at my predecessor's unmatched stonework.

I had never been sure exactly who built the old cities, or why I replaced them, but whoever it was had skill far superior to my own. I'd give my life to have his abilities, to design a building of this grandeur... All Nimrod ever asked of me were simple, practical structures-- Fortresses, walls, garrisons, and the like. Buildings like that, any novice could build-- I wanted to create something with imagination. I just wanted to spread my architectural wings, was that so much to ask?

Walking through the main arch and up a beautifully carved stairway, I wondered what project Nimrod had requisitioned me to discuss. Perhaps new fortifications for Ninevah? Nimrod had already expanded its walls significantly in the last few years, but he was never one for considering anything finished until it was perfect-- and in the years I knew him, nothing had ever matched that vision.

But in my opinion, these handrails must have come pretty close-- the intricacy of the carvings was astounding. And the stone was flawless too, I'd never built with anything this fine. Whatever site it was quarried from was apparently reserved for Nimrod's grandest structures. I quietly noted to myself that none of my projects so far had apparently met these criteria in Nimrod's eyes.

Traveling deeper through the beautifully arched corridors, I started envisioning a few fresh plans for new defenses. I never liked to repeat any building twice, it kept me on my toes that way, and variety is a better defense as the strongest granite. Not that anyone else was really capable of assaulting one of Nimrod's cities; Besides our empire, only the fractured tribes of the Japhethites and my own forefathers, the Shemites, remained in the lands, each of them divided and spread out as my grandfather had advised them.

I was never sure exactly why Noah wanted our people to divide ourselves as he did-- after all, is strength not in numbers? If Nimrod and the other Hamites had spread out in the same fashion, we would scarcely be able to construct one of our mighty cities, let alone the vast network of fortresses that we rule today.

Still, I was perhaps not entirely certain that our great forefather's words were nonsense-- After all, he was the wisest of us all, and if not for him all our ancestors would have perished in the Flood. He taught us everything we knew, how to sow seeds, how to harvest our crops, how to keep our livestock, even most of my knowledge of architecture and building practices came from him. Perhaps he knew what he was doing when he gave us such strange council...

But no. I was confident in my king's ability to judge what was best for or people; He was young, strong, and clearly a brilliant man. Noah was nearing the end of his days when he commanded us to scatter. Perhaps Noah had merely been growing mad with age... yes, perhaps he was simply wrong. Did our people not live in splendor and riches? And what did my own my kin have, and the other tribes? Nothing but their flocks and their prayers. What was the value of such a meager lifestyle?

Finally approaching the doors to Nimrod's chambers, I paused, clearing my thoughts and wiping my mind of all my musings. After all, this was the king-- my king-- I was about to speak to. He only called me to his chambers like this once or twice in the course of a year-- Everything else was delivered to me by his messengers or officials. If I was about to speak to him in person, something truly important must be going on, and I did not by any means want to earn his ire by disregarding the reverence and solemnity due his presence.

A deep breath, and I knocked. "Kenan bar Peleg, Master Architect of his Majesty's court, here at the behest of my esteemed lord." I stepped back and waited for a moment before the great wooden door slowly swung open, two guards in fine crimson robes and armed with ornate brass pikes standing just behind it in a small torchlit chamber, hoods obscuring their faces in darkness. As the cool gush of air from the door's heavy motion rushed through my impractically light formal robes, I felt myself shiver-- half with the chill and half from cold nervousness-- as I gave a slight bow to these men.

"May I enter his Excellency's chambers?"

The guards gave a slight, solemn nod and stepped aside, gesturing in unison to a smaller-- though still heavy and beautifully ornate-- door with a heavy brass knocker in the back of the small corridor. I nodded my thanks and stepped forward, keeping myself rigid in their presence. I felt their eyes on my back as I passed them, their hidden gaze boring into me as I swung the knocker heavily three times. As I stood there sweating coldly, waiting for any response, I couldn't help but feel they were staring at all my weakest points, the places where it would take minimal effort to bring me to my knees with some wickedly precise touch of their weapons.

I couldn't keep my mind straight, all I could think about was their darkened eyes, whatever they looked like, coldly examining every crevice of my fallibility. I heard footsteps behind the door, and I tried to focus on the door, fought to keep looking straight ahead. I couldn't make sense of this, I had been to these chambers a dozen times, and the guards never made me feel this way before... What was I so afraid of?

I shivered hard and gave an involuntary glance over my shoulder, my stomach wrenching as I saw a red-clad hand inches away from my spine. I felt a yelp form in my throat, but it stayed paralyzed in my throat. I couldn't move, my mind went blank, and all I could think as the hand hovered closer was a strange kind of mental scream. My eyes were glued to the slowly extending bloodred finger as it moved closer, ever closer, ever closer--

The door swung open.

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Points: 38
Reviews: 4

Tue Mar 16, 2021 12:17 am
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jackwyndeonline wrote a review...

Jackwynde with a quick review!

This is great! You have excellent descriptions. You take time to give the character's inner monologue without ever getting trapped in it. You spend the first chapter with a strong establishment and a good final hook. It's a short chapter that works really well and doesn't lag.

I have two short suggestions. First, you have a steady stream of medium-length paragraphs. It can get kinda monotonous over time, so maybe consider breaking up the action with some short, punchy paragraphs, perhaps even one or two sentences long. Keep the landscape interesting as the reader's eyes go down the page and break up the rhythm.

Second, be careful with first person POV. You have the freedom to say literally anything the character is thinking, so make sure to only say what's most important. Keep the impactful sentences and be careful that you never talk down to the reader. You do a good job with this chapter, but just be wary of going over the edge into tiresome internal narration.

I thought this was great! Keep it up with this story!

Rock on!

Elfboy says...

Thanks for the review! I'm glad you liked it, and I'll definitely keep that feedback in mind moving forward. I appreciate it!

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1232 Reviews

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Reviews: 1232

Mon Mar 15, 2021 7:06 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...

Hi Elfboy,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

This is a very unusual story that I don't think I've read like this before. Writing a historical novel set in the time of the Assyrian Empire is something I don't think everyone does. (I had to look that up when I read Nineveh .D)

You have a very good way of rendering the story. It seems slow so that you have enough time to engage with what is being told, but not so slow that the "plot" gets bogged down. It's a very good introductory chapter with lots of visual sentences.

You combine the first-person narrative descriptions with the personality of the narrator himself, which I like. At the same time, it doesn't feel like a loose commentary, but like the educated opinion of Kenan. It's like
It's very easy to picture everything, you've really done a fantastic job of that. I also don't think it's a shame that at the moment you don't know exactly what Kenan looks like now, or how old he is (probably over 30-40 years already I guess, if he has such a good professional eye).
Especially at the end you also wrote his tension and nervousness well, which I think shows that he is in his element when he thinks and talks about architecture but still has doubts about his competences.

Now also at the end of the story I have to say that the title and the current direction the story is taking (at least my idea of where I think the story is going) is certainly not something you see every day. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes from there and how you continue to surprise us with your descriptions.


Elfboy says...

Thank you so much for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed it, I really appreciate you taking the time to write all this! And it's good to hear it feels unique, that's what I was hoping for haha. Thanks again!

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70 Reviews

Points: 15
Reviews: 70

Mon Mar 15, 2021 5:38 pm
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BEASTtheHUN wrote a review...

I like this story a lot so far. The flow is absolutely flawless. It moves it at a very good pace. The descriptive imagery is breathtaking. The hook is just right, and it makes you want to delve deeper into the story, the idea of the story seems really engaging. Your style is captivating and riveting, I can definitely imagine this scene, and that is the sign of a good writer. I am quite familiar with the original story, and the facts line up straight. Tag me on the next chapter, please. Continue to write, and keep writing this great piece of art.

Elfboy says...

Thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked it, I'll be sure to tag you next time!

France... doesn't exist?
— WeepingWisteria