Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),
Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!
First Impression: OKayyy this was quite nicely done I think. Its quite a complex piece here. Maybe one too many POV's there but despite that it brought across some pretty fun plot points I think and you constructed a pretty solid little tale here.
Anyway let's get right to it,
Ecbatana, a concentric fortress miles wide and tall, crawls sluggish over the snowdrowned Taiga on fat clasping legs. Deep, red overgrowths smother its utter enormity. Dark smoke gushes from its highest keeps, surging to its rear as it continues forever forward, chasing the golden shape of Sardis glittering in the distance from which mocking lyreborn songs falls back with wind. Down an arterial hall within marched a bearded old man, paying no attention to the vast murals, rows of books and rootlike plants stretching the length of its organic walls. Pale, emaciated animals scurry with him in and above the hall; they skitter to the end of his path, trampling eachother. He reads a book, itself a little covered in roots, holding it up to meet his downturned eyes with his right hand as the left keeps a jeweless yet tall and heavy crown from falling off his head. At the end of the hall, a massive gate meters taller than the man rose to meet the ceiling, each door a heavy stone carved with layered runic patterns surrounding portraits of kinglike figures. Behind the gate sat, in an enormous chamber of red marble and ornate tapestries intersecting giant columns, the God-king Chernobog slumped yet looming on a throne of calcified, mangled bodies. The talonlike fingers of his right hand dug into an arm while the other gripped an edgeless sword his own height. His tattered wings rested over the back, enveloping the entirety of his rear while bonelike burgundy plates covered his body rising into a blooming triple-crown of thistles on each of his three gaunt, skeletal faces. Above him gathered along the tiers of a ringed cupola the mindless chittering beasts.
Well that is quite the description to start us off with. Wow, definitely painting quite the impressive picture there of a pretty powerful looking person. I think you've done a wonderful job there with bringing that to light here It definitely manages to capture our attention through just that sheer description alone.
A slight crack opened through the door, and from it emerged the old man, overexerted and out of breath. He gathered himself there, cramming the book between his reddish-brown robes, adjusting the crown to stay atop his head and breathing deep. The ceiling grew silent as the last of the creatures filed in. The old man returned to a brisk walk across the room, ending as he reached the foot of the throne and looked up to meet his eyes with Chernobog, who looked down and loosened his hands. Following a brief silence and the formation of a worried face on the old man, his master grumbled with as gentle a voice he could, still tearing through the air as a scream. He raised his right hand, crossing its fingers, and from its edge sprouted a pale hyacinth, an ailing poppy, and a third flower which both were forbidden to see. He lowered his arm, opened his palm, and the flowers floated into the old man’s cupped hands. He held them to his eyes and stowed them inside his robe.
Ooooh well already it seems things are happening here and rather interesting things too from the looks of things. I can't wait to see what happens next here. That entrance alone by the person suggest that something is certainly about to happen here and happen rather fast too from the looks of things.
Two twins sat beside each other, a young boy and girl, holding hands tight between their pale, emaciated bodies, against rotting walls in the corner of a one-room wooden hovel. Only snow-filtered light entered the house through small, iced windows. They stared with vacant eyes at the empty black corner opposite them, just beside the frail entry door, unbothered by the creaking of a rocking chair across the room where sat an otherwise silent robed wizard. The black cloth enveloped it entirely save its face which was covered by an expressionless metal mask. It turned its head to them, body still rocking, and raised its right arm holding a small bell, now ringing, calling to the pair. They lifted themselves and, still hunched, crawled out of the hovel into the surrounding boreal forest drowning in still-falling snow.A distant howl passed through the trees. The twins hurried away from the house and climbed a dead elm which reached the height of most pines. They waited until a pack of wolves, each at least twice their size, passed slow in a line around them. They leaned forward through branches, watching. The trail disappeared into the wilderness before the boy called out in a shrill shriek the sound of a tree fox. The girl descended the tree and hid before the wolves reappeared and surrounded it; his scent was slight, but they too were starving. She moved low and quiet among buried shrubs and bushes being crushed by snow to the rear of the pack. The boy shrieked again, the wolves grew restless. The weak an injured were furthest from the tree. Some had arrows lodged in their backs, others bore wide cuts along their faces and bodies. One of which moved only a little, holding its head low to keep stress from its previously shattered jaw. She leapt, too light to be heard, behind that wolf, breaking one leg with her hands and dragging it away from the rest. She strangled it in her arms; it bobbed its head helplessly for a moment. No crack, the bones were already too frail. The boy called again, and the girl responded from the distant hovel. Hearing the latter, the wolves withdrew– still looking to the boy in desperate hunger. He climbed down and returned home where both twins picked at and tore off its skin and coat, which they laid out fur-down at the center of the room over which they ate raw the arms and legs, one of each for each twin. The carcass did not rot, spoil or even attract flies. Everything would die in the cold, and nothing could be born but whatever infesting thing occupied the hovel’s walls. They then split the torso, even as they could with bare hands, and ate its organs and flesh, then the head and brains. For each piece, the boy would offer some or all to the girl and every time she refused. The organs would not be split as they dared not stain the black wood floor with acid or bile, ruined as it was. The eyes were plucked out by the boy and carried to the wizard by the girl. Both turned their heads away as the eyes lifted from her hands and vanished.
Okayy well this paragraph for starters is just a little bit too large to properly read and digest there. I think you really need to get that split up into two maybe even three paragraphs there if that's to be properly readable there. As it stands it flows okay but its really quite hard to follow. Aside from the paragraphing problem, I do love the story itself here. A very intriguing moment that one, adding quite nicely towards making this opening even more enticing.
After the boy arranged each bone, fragments included, in a precise circle radiating from the skull over the coat, the twins returned to their corner and slept. No longer was night brought over the Taiga by the Moon, for she was gone.
Their dreams were new that time; no longer the vision of the Sun which woke the boy early with burned loins, no longer the three-headed demon which in mesmerizing dance kept the girl asleep through the boy’s pain. She dreamt of towers and houses, walking in incongruent, slow paths between each other, spewing fire at each other. The dancer was in the sky, distant, unimpressive to roving chaos below. The dancer was quickly enveloped and suffocated in smoke and the dream continued until every beast buckled and collapsed, burned almost to dust. She awoke just before the boy. He dreamt of an older man, lying stretched over soft soil and flowering moss, his hair extending outward and bearing blossoms and other frail plants along its strands. His lashes, like white roots, extended over his bright, glowing face reaching just beneath his cheeks. His eyes did not open, nor could they, yet he was in peace and never tried. All of it comforted him, for once. Even when every other hour within the dream a clear pond formed, coming over the soil and leaving just her face and all the flowers exposed, he felt well. And at the very end his eyes shot open, lids cowering behind his pupils trembling beneath the Moon just above him. Her face was black as starless night around her. Her sclera melted into the darkness, leaving only wide white pupils impaling him. His mouth filled with thick blood and poured from his lips. A peace came upon the boy, softer and more total than any he would ever feel again, before he was awoken by his sister. The bones and skin were gone. She gripped the boy as the wizard stared at them, unmoving in its corner of the hovel.
Oh wow this is really kicking off with quite some imagery there. First the bit in that massive paragraph and now here. We've got some incredibly powerful moments being breathed into life with this one. I think you've done really nicely there in that first section to really bring all of that to life so powerfully and draw us right in.
Dazhdegerd raised himself onto an armored horse in a wide, empty and featurless chamber in the lowermost bowels of the fortress. He rushed through a few pages of his book before cramming it back into his robes. With a nudge, the horse charged out an opening and down a leg rising off the ground before leaping to the ground. Snow turned to steam against his skin. It melted on the ground as the horse passed through it, forming a trench in its path between envious trees. Wolves laid dead and dying in huddled clusters across the forest, being buried by snow. Passing a fallen elm, thrown to the ground by the weight of snow, Dazhdegerd came upon the hovel. He pulled his horse back, stopping it, and dismounted. After whispering to himself a prayer of fire, and gripping a curved sword sheathed in his robes, he walked to its door. There was no sound but that of snow falling in clumps of sturdier trees. He pushed the door open and stared into the room with stern eyes. The twins cowered in the corner to his right at the viellard to his left which turned its head to meet his. His eyes widened and soured red with disgust. The wizard trembled before its neck extended from the body and twitched with erratic wobbles as it moved toward him. He bared his teeth. The outer robes came apart, still hiding its body, and extended toward the old man. He drew his sword and slit the face. It bent away and for a moment and continued forward hacking at its robes and neck until he reached the body at which point he screamed Ayrir!, causing his sword burst into flames. He drove it into the wizard’s stomach, dragging it towards him. The wizard’s glossy black intestines rose from the cavity and spilled onto the floor. Fire spread across the robes, which along with the neck fell to the floor.
Well...that just hits you with some incredibly powerful imagery yet again there. Wow, no punches whatsoever are being pulled on this one. Its a little different to see a different POV happen quite like this but I think it works here especially with the clear transition and now we get a very solid look at what this person happens to be like.
He turned to the cowering twins, utterly silent in the corner. The girl shielded the boy in her arms. His look softened and he returned his sword to his robes. Intestines still lurched onto the floor, staining it with inklike fluid. A bubble at the center of the cavity formed into a lump which rose as a sac before Dazhdegerd, who turned to watch it. The casing shook and fell away to reveal another Aillen within. His skin was pink, eyes wide but clouded and hair curled with blooming and dying flowers. He rose and stretched with haunting slowness. Dazhdegerd watched, unbothered, until he stopped and fell unconscious into his arms. The fire spread into the walls, killing what was within. He walked to the twins, who recoiled into the failing wall. He shifted Aillen into one arm and reached to them with the other. From the edge of his outstretched palm-down hand sprouted a small, candelike flame. The boy moved from the girl’s grip and burnt his fingers grabbing it. He held Dazhdegerd’s hand and the girl let go, only holding the boy’s other hand. They looked at each other before the old man walked them out of the hovel. They stopped in the snow and detached for a moment so that, with a backhand motion, Dazhdegerd consumed with fire the already burning hovel. The twins stared as it collapsed and continued to stare as he guided them towards his horse. He set the twins before him and sat with Aillen still in one arm. His and the horse’s warmth kept away the cold as they rode back to the fortress.
Okayy that switch was a bit sudden there. I feel like you could've been a little bit better about that particular one. There's very little time spent with the Dazhdegerd and ultimately it feels like its not really something worth representing if its meant to be in such a tiny section. BEside that little issue though, once again a very powerful atmosphere being softly created here and I'm liking it quite a bit.
Though Chernobog ordered him to send the twins to live among the animals between the walls, Dazhdegerd sent them to his study. There the boy sat before its central hearth while the girl moved from him to a window through which she watched the passing Taiga. Presented to Chernobog in his throneroom, Aillen floated from Dazhdegerd’s arms to the God-king’s. He held the boy in one arm larger than he and stared at his sleeping face. The old man was sent away with a thoughtless gesture. Chernobog stood up and looked to the cupola above him, still occupied by beasts, raised Aillen in his arms toward it. The creatures bowed to the boy as he hovered to the center between them. Around him formed a spherical cocoon pink as his skin and alive as his hair. Silken strands spread from it through the holes through which came the animals. Tendrils branched throughout the fortress, reaching into every root and growth, seeding them with numberless little flowers which bloomed and died in droves. Ya skuchyla, sestra said Chernobog.
Well that's a slightly different image to what we've seen so far. Still very much on the deathlier side of things but oddly a lot more beautiful than some of the proper violence up to now. That's an interesting little detour that we've taken right there. I wonder what that will end up meaning here.
Waiting for Dazhdegerd to return, watched only by the shadows just beyond the fire’s reach, Sayiina combed his study for something to occupy her. The boy napped at the foot of the warm hearth, undreaming. She pulled books from shelves, some larger than her, unable to understand their purpose yet pleased by the precise curves and shapes of their words. She flipped through a few quickly, taking in nothing yet growing happy as she did, and piled them where she sat. She took instruments from their hangars, blowing into flutes and plucking setar strings until the moment the boy covered his ears. She could not see the sweet smiles of the darkness around her. She studied pans and skillets without making a sound, opened jars and barrels of flour and spice and threw aside from a small altar its offerings of incense and an ornate dagger before marveling at icons and murals of figures in flowing orange dresses and jewelry red as their eyes along thick necklaces, bracelets and piercings.
This is a very interesting shift in POV this time. The sudden shifts are adding up a little bit to be on the slightly hard to keep track side but at the same time, they're so different it does make things interesting. Now this, arguably the most peaceful start we've had is already building some interesting tension there.
It was to that image of Sayiina watching his people, surrounded by his and their things strewn about, that the old man entered. A brief face of shock melted to her unfazed returned stare. He returned the instruments, books and everything else to their original places before picking a setar and small collection of stitch-bounded scripts from among them. He sat cross-legged before the fire, opposite the boy, and rested the lute on his thigh. He opened the songbook before him, leaning it against the stone base of the hearth, and sang in his language with a coarse baritone voice. Sayiina’s attention fell to it, and she mirrored the old man’s legs beside the boy. With his left fingers holding up the frets and right index striking chords, forming a soft, brassy timbre through the air. The boy awoke, dazed yet gripped, and anchored himself to Sayiina.
Well that's an interesting way to end. Surprising it managed to keep that more neutral done throughout the whole of it and we end on perhaps one of the nicest notes we've had so far in one of these POV's . It seems the initial burst of violence there was most of what we were going to get after all.
Finishing his song to their continued amazement, Dazhdegerd shuffled to his feet to grab a second setar which he handed to Ayaal. He then ran his finger over a row of codices and compiled essays until he pulled a large, plain, case-bound songbook which he opened and placed before Sayiina. He sounded out each word to a second song as his finger followed each symbol. He returned to his seat across the twins and played through that song, singing its lyrics for Sayiina to follow and plucking through each note for Ayaal to follow. Several hours followed with the twins learning only that they were supposed to understand, yet all three were content. As the twins slept in between blankets piled beside the fire. They repeated lessons for a while longer, taking breaks for the twins to explore on their own while Dazhdegerd read through more of his book before he returned to Chernobog through halls now filled with ephemeral flowers. Blossoms devoured the columns and corners of his throne room, even falling onto the God-king himself and sticking into his crowns. He ordered the old man to teach the children to shepherd the livestock of the fortress, which lived in an open area of rich tubers and trampled grasses centered around a well and shielded by a little firmament that melted snow into slight rain which filled it and kept alive the soil. Dazhdegerd complied, later bringing them to watch as he tended to four-eyed sheep, man-sized pigs and two-headed cows. Afterwards, he filled a bucket of water and picked an old sheep finished with its life which he brought both to an open adjoining kitchen. He set the bucket down beside a table where he beheaded the sheep with a long knife. The body was then skinned and hanged, taking his attention from the twins as he prepared it for cooking. Sayiina grabbed and separated its head from its jaw with a crack that alerted the old man. He turned to see the twins and swiped the sheep from their hands. A look of horror and confusion formed in their faces. A panicked Dazhdegerd grabbed a basket of round pistachios meant to be ingredients and handed it to the twins. They developed a taste for it, and the jawless sheep head was placed in the security of his line of sight beside him before he returned to work.
Oh...kay once we're back to the slightly more morbid images to be working with there although this time things aren't necessarily quite so bloody or dangerous as we saw at the very start there. There's almost an odd sense of care here even if it does seem to reflect quite a bit of terror still.
Sayiina played with the younger animals, awoken by her, kind to if not uninterested in her. Ayaal watched as Dazhdegerd cut the sheep into pieces which he cleaned, salted and set aside to marinate in salt, turmeric and garlic among other seasoning. The old man then poured basmati into a bowl of water, cleaned the long rice and let it soak as other ingredients were gathered before placing it over a fire at the center of the room to cook. Browned onions, cinnamon and a few herbs buried a rich scent in the rice. Some milk and crumbled saffron colored it yellow. With the rice cooked, a second larger pot filled with it and meat in layers. The entire thing was wrapped in doughlike clay save its handle and placed on smoldering coals within a fireless oven. With a paddle, Dazhdegerd covered the pot in more coal and with relief cleaned the tables, killed the fires and put away the ingredients.
Hmm we are in fact continuing with those more mundane notes there and I love the way that you've brought that to life there. Its certainly an interesting detour to end up going towards here towards the end, but it does also seem to make sense given the notes that we began on there.
Some of the cuts remained, cured, sealed in a jar which he carried up a tower overlooking the pasture and firmament to its darkened peak where, unimbued with magic and exposed to the tundra, the meat was placed among others to freeze. Sayiina battled calves and piglets below, observed by amused shadows out of her sight. Used to fighting weaker things, she lost every engagement. The calves especially threw her across the field as most wanted to graze. One cow, roused by the noise, grew tired of her bothering its child. She fled, running around the field only to realize that the pursuing beast was faster than her. She ran through open rooms surrounding the pasture, including the kitchen through which the cow obliterated its central hearth and sent spices of vivid warm and pale cold colors into the sky with shattered wood and clay. Turning back to leave the tower, Dazhdegerd jumped at the sight of Ayaal. The boy moved towards, worried, him only to be waved away by the old man, recovering. They descended the tower together and entered a scene of piglets scrambling to escape their furious mothers and avoid the cow still chasing Sayiina through whatever obstacle she hoped to slow it around the pasture. Unbothered calves ate in the center while their parents watched the pursuit and sheep slept in another outbuilding, shielded from the chaos. Dazhdegerd sat Ayaal at the gate of the tower and ran to Sayiina, one hand holding his robes up to avoid tripping. Voch! he yelled as the cow approached him, Voch’ imastun mard! She slowed herself just enough to bash his chest, sending him to the ground with a voiceless gasp and knocking the crown from his head. The cow returned to the others, and with the end of the chase the pigs returned to their mothers. Sayiina moved to look over the old man, panting, and Ayaal appeared beside her. Dazhdegerd made a little groan which turned to a sigh.
Hmm this paragraph here seems mundane enough there that it doesn't feel like the flow actually matter too, too much but still it is one that's just ever so slightly too large and could do with being split into two I believe just to make it a tad bit easier to read there.
A few minutes passed until he willed himself to his feet, the twins giving just enough room by moving back, and dusted his robes. The old man returned to the oven, surrounded by a destroyed kitchen, brushing coals off the clay-covered pot with his bare hands and lifting the pot out with a makeshift pole from a broken wood beam. He broke the clay off with the butt of the butt of a handleless paddle over what was once a hearth and opened the lid to reveal a fragrant yellow beryani. He found four wide, unharmed bowls and filled each with rice and meat with extra sheep for the twins. As the twins began to eat, Dazhdegerd rose with the fourth bowl and with a completely drained voice shouted Shan aghjik! A woman closer to their age than the old man rose behind Dazhdegerd from his shadow. Rice and meat fell from the astonished twins’ mouths. The old man turned to her without a thought and handed her the bowl, which she sat with and began to eat. Dazhdegerd poured water from the bucket into three wide, hollowed wine-horns (eschewing smaller drinking cups) and placed them before the twins and woman before filling his with the wine of an unharmed jar. The woman met the still-stunned twins’ stare after taking a few bites.
Well it seems after all of that, they do in fact sit down and eat a meal there. The preparations were in play but I didn't expect to it all play out quite like this. Its an interesting scene to throw in there ultimately and I think it adds quite a bit to the first chapter here.
“I like the girl.” she said as she looked to the twins and raised more rice to her mouth.
“I wonder why.” said Dazhdegerd with food filling his, unwilling to compromise his eating.
“Did the mother-cow knock the verbosity from you?” she sneered.
“Yes,” he retorted, “and age has rendered me insane.” She smiled. Ayaal’s look passed from the woman to Sayiina, then Dazhdegerd, then his own food as he continued eating. Sayiina kept staring; the symmetrical geometric designs laid over each other across a sleeveless grayish shawl laid over her torso merging with tattoos that ran up her neck and over her mouth and nose ending just beneath her eyes and cheeks bewildered her. The woman ran a finger down her tattoos and called them Kené. Sayiina returned to eating, and her eyes partially let go of their grip on her. The woman and Dazhdegerd finished and let the twins have the rest of the food and water which the twins turned to drinking straight from the bucket.
Hmm well that's almost a familial scene there in the end and I love that. It was definitely headed in that particular direction right from the beginning and I think you ended up taking it all the way really quite nicely in the end.
“How could they not have been cleared by hunting parties?” asked Yaguati.
“The wizard in which germinated the nephew of the Lord our God kept them in its den. I do not know why.” said Dazhdegerd. “Chrysogens must have avoided the area; surviving wolves cluttered it for safety.” The twins were unconcerned with their conversation as all four walked to the old man’s study (slow so as not to overwork him). Sayiina looked at the art across the walls, at hundreds of images of wrathful bodies charging each other, at their lords and monarchs standing above, before or below them and at scenes of wild castles blowing fire and ruin from their peaks and walls or wide landscapes of shapes and colors vastly different from the Taiga. Ayaal moved along the walls, picking wilted flowers just before they could die. Beasts passed the group regularly, moving in little packs under, over or beside them in the walls. They never attracted the attention of either twin.
Ohhh this is an interesting little conversation to turn towards there all of a sudden. We're seeing yet another perspective and now we're seeing something of a perspective on all of this before this all took place. Its a very interesting thing to think about.
Do they take well to clothing?”
“I haven’t bothered. I say with certainty that my beryani was the first cooked thing they’ve ever eaten, and that water the first they’ve drank.” said Dazhdegerd. They continued down the hall with little noise until the twins rushed to rest by the hearth as they entered the study.
“Keep teaching,” said Yaguati, “I’ll find something for them to wear.”
“Pray that Vengeance our God deems interference unnecessary.” said the old man softly. They gave each other feeble smiles. “And please do wait to re-encourage their savagery, I would like to civilize them first.” Yaguati walked into the hall and vanished in the shadow of a painting, eyes locked with Dazhdegerd. He pulled the book from his robes and finished it as the twins slept.
Hmm well that's truly quite the little conversation to think about there. The whole idea that they might all be thrust back into savagery after this purpose would have been served is a really interesting one there.
Lessons continued after they awoke and the three returned again to the pasture joined by Yaguati to care for the animals without incident. Dazhdegerd made a chickpea curry with round flatbread, uninterested in further interaction with animals. Again, extras were conceded to the twins.
Sayiina took to as many tongues as her Mot-papa, her “Near father,” and Ayaal formed somber songs more complex than anything the old man knew. He played alone in darkness, the sound of music radiating through the living walls and empty halls of the fortress. Both took to exploration of the palace as they pleased, sneaking into chambers forbidden by the old man under the guidance of Yaguati, their Gamotsan, their “Mystery.” Dazhdegerd bestowed unto the twins names from the peoples that once inhabited the Taiga, now slain, taken, or gone
Well this is a nice little ending. I think it manages to capture the vibe of it all fairly well and ultimately it feels like a nice little conclusion while it does almost manage to hint at much more to come so we do feel the need to go check out a second chapter.
Aaaaand that's it for this one.
Overall: Overall I think you've got a pretty solid little first chapter here. The POV's would be nicer if toned down a little and some of these larger paragraphs could do with being broken down but for the most part its a pretty solid piece.
As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.