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The Three Lockets [Chapter 13.2]

by Magestorrow

Author's Note: I had a lot of trouble starting this update off, but I was suddenly hit by the writing bug midway through it. I do think the quality might vary depending on which part of the chapter you're reading, but overall I think it's one of my strongest ones yet - I finally get to have Kartiel be a little more truthful about his feelings, and Cass makes a major decision on her own.

I hope you guys enjoy it. <3

Words: 2,001

Last Line(s): “I'll be in my room,” the Dark Mage suddenly said, turning on his heels and storming out of the room with a swish of his cloak. The door slammed behind him. The darkness remained constant; Cass was unsure if the threat was truly over, as Kartiel continued to stare in the direction his mage had gone even after he was long gone.

The basket and its flowers laid forgotten on the floor.

Now it was just her and the king.

A little voice in the back of her head was telling her that this was her opportunity to run. The Dark Mage was gone, and he was the one who had the strongest magic. Kartiel was thoroughly distracted by his sudden exit. The king might have been watching the door with sad violet eyes, but her soul knew Aldonius. It didn't matter that he was Kartiel now; the feeling in her chest hadn't changed just because she could give him a different name. Kartiel would watch her go the same way he watched the Dark Mage leave.

As she took a deep breath, she tried to come up with some sort of plan. She'd leave the castle. Then she run towards the town or the woods that surrounded it—she should have questioned why her dreams took place near a giant stone building, in retrospect—but she could make it if she ran fast enough. From there, she could try finding help. Maybe there would be someone who would want to help her if she explained her story, or-

Another deep breath. The darkness began to die down, now only up to her knees. She could figure out the plan later. She just needed to run.

One last glance at the king.

He was fingering his locket, but he was beginning to turn his attention away from the door. This was her last chance if she wanted to take advantage of the argument that had just happened. She took in a third gulp of air—this one was longer than the last—and darted for the door.

She was pushing through the open doorway. She could see the empty hallway. She forced her legs to move a little faster. She could make out a shape disappearing down the hallway, but the Dark Mage's receding figure was the only other person in the hallway. The darkness followed after her; she could see the little strands of it appearing in the corners of her vision, desperately trying to keep up with her.

She tried her best to not think about it.

She needed to get to safety.

She ignored her soul as it attempted to persuade her that Kartiel was safety. He was going to be her contracted someday, and those who were contracted trusted each other. He might have failed at doing that as both Aldonius and as Kartiel, but, the feeling in her chest argued, the principle still stood.

She could hear Kartiel's footsteps from inside the throne room.

She was a few feet down the hallway now. Her traitorous legs were screaming out; they didn't like being pushed so hard. But she couldn't afford to stop.

Couldn't afford to think about how running would do little to help now, since he would eventually become her contracted anyways.

(The footsteps were getting closer.)

Couldn't afford to think about how much she wanted to return to that room.

(They paused for a moment.)

Couldn't afford to think about how Kartiel, despite what she had heard, had treated her decently.

(They started again, now entering the hallway and bridging the gap between Cass and the king.)

Couldn't afford to think about how he had saved her life when there had been the confrontation with Prince Rodet, and how he had even healed the little scar on her cheek-

She skidded to a sudden halt.

(The footsteps stopped.)

Cass slowly raised one hand and touched the place where she had been cut. The skin felt normal when her fingers ran over where there should have been a scar. She hadn't put much thought into it at the time. He had said that he had healing magic. She had no reason to distrust him then. He had been Aldonius in her eyes, and Aldonius having healing magic felt right.

She fingered her golden locket.

Lira had said Kartiel had darkness magic.

It was why hers was a curse, wasn't it? The darkness was a thing she couldn't control, something that marked her down for someday becoming someone just as hated and feared as the evil king and his evil mage. She raised her gaze and stared at the door awaiting her at the end of the hallway; Kartiel's memories said it would lead out into the garden. If she just ran a little bit farther, she'd be free.

She could leave Telorum. It would be impossible to get the information she needed now that she had been brought before the king, and impossible now that she had lost the one person she was going to confide in. The next step was to go back to Rey. She could follow the map Lira gave her, and hope that they would make more progress than she had guessed they would. She knew, somewhere deep inside, that it would never be the case, but what else was she supposed to do? She had nowhere else to go. Telorum had been her only plan.

Aldonius had been her only plan.

“You can go,” the king said.

The darkness—which had been laying calmly around her ankles as she thought—shot up in a brief spike. She hesitantly glanced behind her at Kartiel. He hadn't realized he had managed to get so close to her; they were only a few feet apart now. But Kartiel made no move to bring her back into the depths of the throne. He just stood there and watched her. She, in turn, did the same, staring at him over her shoulder as she tried to understand what had just been said.

It should have been an order. He was a king, and he must have seen her as someone who could be ordered around—evil rulers were supposed to be authoritative. That was what they had been like in her stories and her history books. They would have never just said for someone to go.

But it didn't sound like an order.

It sounded like he was almost begging her to go—begging her to leave his castle, leave his kingdom—even though there was a slight note of hopelessness to his voice. And while the doors to the garden were so close, and while she knew she be running as far away from this place as she possibly could according to her common sense, something about the way he spoke made her turn around.

“You would come back, eventually,” Kartiel added. He let out what sounded suspiciously like a sigh. How had she failed to notice how tired his voice sounded back in the park? “It's our destiny to become contracted, and nothing either one of us can do will stop it. But I suppose you already figured that out?”

She hesitated, then nodded. “...Don't you...Don't you want that?” she nervously asked. The darkness was practically nonexistent now, little more than a thin layer blanketing the ground underneath her feet.

“In all honesty, I don't,” he said. She should have been grateful that he wasn't interested in her in the slightest, but the five words made her feel like she had just been stabbed in the heart. “I'd prefer if you walked out that door and went back to Rey. It would make things easier for the both of us. But you would undoubtedly be brought here again by means I can only try to predict, and something tells me you intend to stay right where you are right now.”

She glanced back at the door, and then at him.

Maybe this was a lie. Maybe he was trying to trick her into staying by making her curious—make her question why things weren't adding up, and then she would want to stay so she could understand why this king was nothing like what she had expected. But it didn't feel like a lie.

“Why don't you want me to be your contracted?”

The hand fiddling with his own locket dropped down to his side, and he regarded her with a look that betrayed nothing. His memories were stubbornly quiet on why he wouldn't want her to be his contracted.

“Contracts are built on trust,” he simply said.

“I'm trustworthy,” she quietly protested, regretting the words the moment they left her mouth. She shouldn't have cared so much about what he thought of her. She should have been ecstatic by this turn of events, but every word that was passed between them only made her feel worse.

He shook his head. “No one is.”

She stared.

He let out another sigh. “So you're staying, then?”

She glanced one last time at the door.

She already knew her answer.

“I am,” she said.

He nodded, then turned his back to her. He began to head down the hallway. After a moment of hesitation, she hurried on after him. Though he was taller than her, he kept his pace slow—it wasn't difficult for her to keep up with him. “Orpheus prepared a room for you already,” he said. “It's near his. He was insistent that it was near one of ours, and his made the most sense.” Kartiel paused and glanced over at her. “You're not scared of heights, are you?”

She shook her head. “N-No. Why?”

He returned to facing the stairs. “Your room is on the highest floor of the castle. You can see the forest from its windows. Orpheus doesn't have a problem with heights, but your memories can only tell me so much.”

One hand returned to fiddling with his locket as he put his foot down on the first step. Now he began to increase his speed. She had to hurry to keep up with him as they climbed up the stairs. Her own hand began to fiddle with her locket out of habit, but she stopped herself when they came to the top floor a few minutes later. There was nothing to imply that the hallway that stretched on ahead of them was at the top of the castle, but Kartiel led her off of the stairs and into the hallway.

Though there was a few doors scattered throughout the hallway, two in particular stood out to her. Their designs were notably more elaborate, each with a significant amount of golden added into their dark design.

“Orpheus said he would show you around, whenever you eventually got here,” he informed her. He briefly looked in the direction of the door on his left. She nervously followed his gaze; that had to be the Dark Mage's room.

“ won't be?”

“I have a kingdom to run,” he said, an almost amused look flickering across his face before the emotionless expression returned. He raised a hand and pointed at the door across from Dark Mage's. “That's your room. Wait in there until Orpheus comes to get you in the morning—I'm sure he's already told the council that you've arrived, but it'll be easier if I can say something to them before you accidentally run into them.”

She glanced over at the Dark Mage's room.

“B-But he only just left,” she managed to get out. “How could he have already seen the-Do they live here, too?”

“They don't,” Kartiel answered. “Not many people do, anymore—the royal family has grown small over the years. Orpheus and I are its own permanent inhabitants, though I guess you'd be considered one of them now.”

He gave the door to the mage's room one last look, then began to head back towards the stairs. Her eyes widened in alarm. She had so much she needed to ask him. Even if now wasn't the time to ask her questions, it didn't feel right having him leave like this. Wasn't he supposed to explain everything to her? His real name may have been Kartiel, but Aldonius would never turn his back on someone.

He hadn't turned his back on her with Prince Rodet.

She grabbed onto her locket again.

So why was he leaving her now?

Her grip tightened.

Why did even her contracted not want to stay with her?

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Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:42 pm
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Panikos wrote a review...

Hey, Mage! Sorry it's been a while. Stuff just keeps happening and it's a struggle to keep up with it. Thanks for being so patient!

Small Comments

She'd leave the castle. Then she run towards the town or the woods that surrounded it—she should have questioned why her dreams took place near a giant stone building, in retrospect—but she could make it if she ran fast enough.

Didn't she say in the previous paragraph that Aldonius/Kartiel would 'watch her go', as in make no attempt to stop her? Why would she need to run, then? Unless she's worried about the guards stopping her, but none have been mentioned.

He was fingering his locket

Interesting that he and Cass share this gesture. I assume you intended that; nice touch.

Aldonius having healing magic felt right.

She fingered her golden locket.

Lira had said Kartiel had darkness magic.

It was why hers was a curse, wasn't it? The darkness was a thing she couldn't control, something that marked her down for someday becoming someone just as hated and feared as the evil king and his evil mage.

I don't...get her thought process here? I thought she was going to have a eureka moment where she realised that darkness magic was capable of good, because Aldonius/Kartiel had been able to use his to heal her. I don't get why her brain has looped back to the whole 'obviously it's a curse' spiel again - it feels out of place.

“I have a kingdom to run,” he said, an almost amused look flickering across his face before the emotionless expression returned.

Could've fooled me :P Every time we've seen Aldonius so far he's been either brooding in the throne room or AWOL, hanging out with Cass in Rey.

“They don't,” Kartiel answered. “Not many people do, anymore—the royal family has grown small over the years. Orpheus and I are its own permanent inhabitants, though I guess you'd be considered one of them now.”

Presumably they have guards, servants, etc. though? I'm just surprised that they've not run into any on they trek up to Cass's room. A castle this size, housing a monarch this hated? It'd take a lot of maintenance and protection.

Overall Thoughts

I'll keep this section short because I'm getting very tired and I've not got a whole lot to say. The problems in this chapter are kind of same old, same old - we spend too long in Cass's head at the beginning, and there's a whole lot of thinking and planning reactions rather than actual reactions. I expected Cass and Kartiel to talk more than they did, but it's not until about halfway through the chapter that he actually speaks. What conversation they do have is fairly insubstantial. I like the reveal that Kartiel is less happy with the contract than Cass is, but he's so mysterious throughout this whole scene that it feels like I'm having to make do on crumbs.

Cass also yo-yos too much between trusting Kartiel and thinking of him as evil and manipulative, which gets tiresome after a while. You could probably solve this issue if you spent less time on Cass's thoughts, come to think of it.

So, my final verdict on this chapter? There's some interesting titbits, but it would be more interesting if it was about half the length. I'd like more action and less thought. I also agree with Blue that Kartiel and Orpheus feel a bit too nice, so Cass's distrust of them is a little exhausting because I just don't share it.

Still looking forward to the next one, though. I'm intrigued by the fact that Kartiel is so lukewarm about this whole thing. It makes me wonder if Cass's wellbeing is going to be jeopardised by this contract (more than it already has been) and Kartiel is the only one who's really concerned about it.

Keep writing! :D

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Sun Jan 13, 2019 1:38 am
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BlueAfrica wrote a review...

Do I have more than one review for you??? I don't know, because I finally went through and read all the chapters I was behind on at once and therefore can't keep them straight without actually going back and reading each one individually, which, let's be honest, isn't going to happen after I spent half the day yesterday reviewing and just read like eight chapters of your story. *sigh* I meant to get back to you before this, I really did, but I had just caught up from my last few weeks of school when you posted five chapters all at once aaaaaaaaaand it kind of killed my motivation for a while, rip.

So! Apologies but since I'm likely to keep repeating myself, Imma just write you one great big long review on all the chapters up to this point.

So, as previously stated, pacing is really an issue for me. I think it got better toward the end of Part 1 because things finally started coming together - Cass sets out on her own, she meets the Dark Mage, she reaches Telorum, she meets Kartiel, she realizes Kartiel and Aldonius are one. There are still definitely things that can be trimmed, even here; for example, I don't think it's strictly necessary to actually narrate Cassie's journey on her own, since nothing in particular happens until she meets the Dark Mage and we don't even get much worldbuilding because the description is very general. Overall, however, much better than previous.

That said, it took a really, really long time to get here, and I think that's the main issue with pacing so far. It took too long to get to the first really important place. Well, not quite the first important place. Here's what I find particularly important so far, although some of it's information rather than particular events or places:

1) Aspen and Cass find the lockets and are weirdly drawn to them.
2) Aspen and Cass somehow end up in another world.
3) Aspen and Cass learn that their lockets have significance here and that Cassie's in particular has a dark connection to a place called Telorum and one King Kartiel IX.
4) Aspen and Cass learn they have magic, but Cassie's magic is dark magic, which people of Rey don't trust. She starts feeling like she's cursed.
5) Aspen and Cass learn about contracteds, which are gods or fallen who choose to share a special bond with certain humans. Cassie's dreams most likely means she has a contracted, but she's not sure who.
6) Cass meets Aldonius, who she realizes must be her contracted - but he didn't tell her so.
7) To find a way home, Cass heads to Telorum to learn as much as she can about her locket, while Aspen remains behind so the people of Rey can study her locket to learn as much as they can about it as well.
8) On the way to Telorum, Cass meets the Dark Mage, King Kartiel's righthand man.
9) The Dark Mage brings Cass to Aldonius - it turns out that Aldonius and King Kartiel are one and the same. King Kartiel IX is Cassie's contracted.

Before I move on, I actually want to touch on the "to find a way home" thing. It could just be because I haven't read in a while and don't remember, but I'm not clear on why Cass needs to go to Telorum to find a way home or why they all think that's their best bet. Has it come up that no one in Rey knows any way to get them home? And if so, I'm wondering why people think there's any better chance that someone in Telorum will know. Or, like, why people think information about the lockets will unlock a way home, I guess. My point is, I didn't really follow the logic there.

Okay, anyway, back to a discussion of my list. I think that's all the super important main plot stuff (I know we've got Lira and her contracted in there, plus Rodet's jerkiness, etc, but I'm ignoring that for now for the sake of simplicity). I don't know exactly how many words you have so far, but I estimate probably somewhere around 50,000, which honestly is probably a low estimate because it's based on 1500 words/installment and I think you've generally had more than that (but I'm not sure). Since this is a YA fantasy (based on the ages of the MC, admittedly), let's assume you're shooting for a final draft of 80,000 words (because that's about where a debut YA fantasy should sit when you're querying).

That means that if this were the final draft, you'd hypothetically want to be about two-thirds of the way through the story by now, and I'm a thousand percent sure you're not. Which is fine for now, obviously - it's LMS, and the only problem with drafting during LMS is that your pacing is necessarily going to suck because you're trying to stay in the competition longest. You can afford to overwrite, explore every angle, follow every plot bunny that hops your way, but the downside is that you're going to have a lot to cut in the future.

Obviously from my past reviews, you know that a lot of the pacing issues stem from the sheer amount of interior thought from Cass. Of course it's fine to let us know what she's thinking, but I think you go overboard with it. It also turns into an issue with characterization because we get so much of Cass feeling sorry for herself that she starts to sound whiny and there's a danger of readers getting annoyed with her. I'm not precisely annoyed with her yet, but whenever she starts again thinking about how no one in this world likes her, how she's cursed, etc, etc, I find myself rolling my eyes like "okay yes yes I know but maybe we could move on."

On that note, specific to chapters 12 and 13, I found myself sort of ??? at her reactions to the Dark Mage and King Kartiel but also to the way they acted/were described.

Okay, so first, her reactions. I know Lira & Friends have told her that these guys are Bad News, but, I don't know, her constant thought that she can't trust them and that they're lying, etc, feels misplaced. Like, she hasn't been in this world that long, and she's been basically stuck in the palace, so she doesn't really even have a feel for how people in this world in general feel about the Dark Mage and King Kartiel. And their actions so far have been fairly gentle and kind, which made me go, "You know, you could always at least give them a chance or wait and see, okay, calm down," plus it's weird that, like, Rodet's yelling at her and LITERALLY ATTACKING HER was bad but somehow Kartiel yelling at the Dark Mage in front of her is scarier.

Additionally, Cass has relied so much on Aldonius' memories and feelings prior to this, but suddenly she's all about how other people feel about the Dark Mage and King Kartiel and isn't sure she can trust Aldonius' feelings about them, and it feels unrealistic after all the importance that's been placed on these feelings previously.

Moving on to the actual interactions with Kartiel and the Dark Mage. So far they've been set up as the villains of the story. Now, I'm sure you're going to go more the way of making them complex villains who aren't just Evil™, and I'm guessing Rodet and Lira's dad are going to turn out to be more villainous than the supposed villains, but I think you're overcorrecting right now. Rodet and Lira's dad seem too obviously villainous/prejudiced/hiding things, and the Dark Mage and Kartiel/Aldonius seem too obviously kind/worn out. There's no real hint that the supposed villains pose any threat whatsoever - except for the words of Lira and her father, and even that's really, really vague - whereas it's very strongly hinted that Rodet and Lira's dad are Bad News.

Of course I could be totally wrong about your plans, but be aware that right now things feel super obvious.

OKAY DONE FOR NOW but I promise I'll try to keep up on this better provided I don't have like five million chapters to read all at once please have pity on my poor undergrad-finishing self

Magestorrow says...

Hi, Blue! I meant to reply to your review sooner, but it completely slipped my mind. ^^" I completely agree with the pacing issues, and, like you, I'm definitely putting the blame on LMS. I talked about it on the club wall, but it's been hard taking breaks between chapters - I feel like I need to recap for myself, and obviously that's not very useful when trying to write a book that should be relatively concise. :P

Whatever I end up doing with Draft 2, I'm going to definitely cut back on the beginning of the story. I also really need to come up with some good examples of why King Kartiel and Orpheus are considered so evil, besides the basic "Well Telorum's bad, they have weird magic and they also really worship the fallen". Or maybe I should capitalize on that last bit in future drafts? Religion's been a major drive for conflict historically, and I feel like that might be the strongest point for why he's a bad dude. Do you think explaining more about the fallen's origins and customs would help with that?

Thanks again for the review! <3 I hope the next chapter's pacing is a lot better - I tried to stop myself from going too into depth with Cass's thoughts. :P

BlueAfrica says...

Yee, I definitely think having more of an idea of the conflict of religion AND past Bad Things/perceived Bad Things done by followers of the Fallen would really help.

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Thu Jan 10, 2019 2:58 pm
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FireSpyGirl says...

So much mystery!! Eager for more!

a little humanity makes all the difference
— Rosendorn