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The Fallen King: Chapter Eight, Pt 3

by MaybeAndrew

Part two of chapter eight

The Fallen King

After his father's death, Liam inherits the title of Keepership to help lead the small village of Lownire. Feeling trapped and inadequate, he is glad when his Grandfather is awakened from sanity by words in the Old Tongue. ( A mysterious magical language that carries power.) Liam thinks his grandfather should be the Keeper, but Grandpa instead asks him not to abandon his Keepership and learn the Old Tongue. After a siege of Darkness and remembering a promise he made his sister before her death, Liam reluctantly accepts. In parts one and two, Liam ate breakfast, went to the graveyard, and is now supposed to go shopping.


Liam arrived at the South gate and there left his torch. Entering the village, he was glad to be inside its walls but not yet in the mood to be on the busy market street. Instead, he wandered to the edge of the town. From out there, by the walls, he could see how the town had grown up. It had started with big buildings and wide roads, but as these roads and buildings had grown up and spread out, they had eventually struck the walls. Discovering less space than they had expected, they had grown into each other, colliding at strange angles, making tangled alleys and buildings squeezed small and tall.

Liam let the flow of this tangle guide him, his feet being pulled and pushed by the currents of these rejoining tributaries and splitting distributaries of roads and allies, homes and shops. These paths were still relatively unknown to him and, more importantly, were mostly empty on a day like this, their inhabitants shopping or working. It was just him and Lownire.

Him, Lownire, and that smell.

He stopped and wrinkled his nose. It was a cocktail of undesirability, a mix of tanning leather, animal manure, and urine. Yet, it was so much more pungent. Somehow, there was a note of desperation in it, a sense beyond the scent.

As fast as it had come, it faded, like it had been a hint of something passing in the wind. Liam began wandering again but was surprised to find that he smelled it again, now stronger. The desperation was getting stronger too. He was closer to its source than he’d been before.

He stopped. It was like the flowing paths of the town were guiding him toward it.

He shrugged. He still didn’t have anything better to do. Half instinctively, he let himself be carried along the paths of the town, following the smell as it got stronger. After a moment, he found himself running. He smiled. Why not? He needed to do some exploring.

At an intersection of four roads, he turned onto one of the smaller cobblestone streets and halfway down that jumped down two steps in a thin alley between two brick buildings. It was cold and dark there, like a canyon. It opened up into a passage through a little garden and then out into a courtyard where three small children played near a well. He hurried past the children, up a set of stairs that led through an arch, and out onto a little cobblestone square. He’d definitely never been here.

The square seemed like an accident, the backs of two buildings and a crude stone wall closing it in. It was empty, besides a few barrels and clotheslines. Liam pushed forward, the smell nearly burning his eyes now. It was thick and nearly acidic, like whatever made it fermented. It was coming from over the wall. Grasping onto the rough stones, he jumped, scrambled, kicked, pulled, and was able to pull himself onto the top of the wall.

The smell hit him like a runaway cart, and he nearly fell back into the square. He gasped and coughed, covering his mouth with his cloak. He could taste it! His eyes burned and watered, and he tried to regain his balance.

Below was a shifting sea of black. Cattle, packed in tighter than he’d ever seen before, standing in piles of their own filth. They barely moved, only tails flicking here or there or a head lazily turning about.

Most of them seemed to be dairy cows, with large udders hanging beneath them. Two long barns flanked the cattle yard, with large doors, some of which were opened. On the far end of the yard was the city wall, and the thin stone wall Liam sat on was the other barrier that held the animals in. It seemed like a weak dam to the tons of concentrated life.

Liam stared out over the shifting mass in awe. He supposed it made sense, Lownires cattle would graze in the fields outside the walls during the summer, but in the winter, they would be brought inside the city walls. Many were slaughtered, but those that remained would have to be put somewhere. He had found where, out by the city wall, where their smell would do the least damage.

Liam felt his eyes drawn past the crowd and to a little alcove in the barn. One of the doors had been opened to reveal a little pen where it appeared a bull was being kept. He could feel the current now, almost physically, pulling him toward that space.

He sighed, looking down at the tightly packed cattle. To get to it, he’d have to squeeze in there. He could be trampled, he could be kicked… he could be covered in manure. Stronger than these fears was the tugging curiosity in his gut.

He sighed, taking off his cloak and hanging it over the wall. If he was going to get trampled in manure, he may as well not ruin his cloak either. He lowered himself between two cattle, careful not to spook any of the animals. His feet touched down into squelching sick. He realized at one point it had been straw, but now it was so urine and manure soaked, it was sludge.

He was down, and none of the cattle seemed to care.

The one to his left lazily turned and looked at him and then let out a stream of steaming liquid feces. It splashed, making the smell more pungent and sending some of the warm fresh stuff onto Liam. He backed away and gagged, his feet becoming soaked. Covering his mouth with his hands, he began to make his way through the crowd. The animals barely seemed to care, a few more throwing him bored glances and one mooing half-heartedly, but none giving him trouble.

Soon, he arrived at his destination. The alcove had clean straw on its floor, a small trough, and a door at its back corner. A small wooden fence separated it from the main yard and kept the rest of the cattle out.

Inside stood a bull. It was huge, almost more like a wall than a creature. Its long majestic horns were sawed off at the end but still looked like they could be dangerous. Blood flecked its fur, and there was a gash along its side. On his nose was a large ring with a thin rope hanging down from it and attached to the wall behind it.

It turned and met eyes with Liam. Its gaze was not like the other cattle in the yard. It was bright, almost intelligent. Its eyes were almost human-like and seemed to be seeing him as another living creature.

Liam, almost to his surprise, lifted himself slowly over the fence and into the animal’s pen. He almost felt like those eyes were pulling him.

The bull, still looking into his eyes, took a step forward, its giant body moving slowly. Now that he was inside the pen, there was nothing between himself and the immense animal. He was sure it could destroy him in a moment if it wanted to. Despite that, he still wanted to get closer.

The bull leaned forward as if preparing to take another step, but then the ring hanging from its nose pulled tight. It stopped and pulled back, letting the rope dangle. The rope was thin, so thin Liam thought he could have broken it with his own strength. Yet, the bull seemed completely reined in by it.

The animal looked away from him, huffing defeatedly. He could feel desperation emanating from it. The feeling of being imprisoned, of being unable to stretch your feet beyond a couple paces, of fermenting in the scent of your own feces, of eating old hay that would only get older.

Liam reached for the knife on his belt. If he could cut its rope, he could, at the very least, let it use this whole pen.

“Hey, kid!” An angry gruff voice shouted. “Get away from him!” Liam jumped back from the animal and almost tripped as he hit the fence. A man stepped out of one of the many side doors of the barn. The farmer looked like one of his cattle, bald with a wide nose and dark eyes. He wore dirty boots, overalls, and his shirt sleeves rolled up to reveal his hairy and thick arms.

“Get out of there!” The man repeated, gesturing. Liam stumbled over the other side of the fence, back into the squelching hay. He slipped in it and caught onto the edge of a cow.

“Who let you in?” The man interrogated, closing the door behind him.

“I, um,” Liam mumbled.

The man stopped as he spotted the dagger on Liam’s side. “Oh, Keeper Liam,” he said, looking between the dagger and Liam’s face, seeming embarrassed and surprised. He cleared his throat. “Sorry, didn’t recognize you, sir.” Liam straightened up, letting go of the cow and blushing.

“You need something?” The farmer asked, picking his way through the cattle to Liam.

Liam shook his head. “Umm, nope,” He said stupidly. The farmer raised an eyebrow curiously. “I was looking at the bull,” Liam said, gesturing at it like the man didn’t know what a bull was.

The farmer nodded, stepping next to Liam to look at the large cow. “Oh, that’s Ahab. He is certainly something to behold.”

“Why’s he in there?” Liam asked.

“He is causing trouble. Injured another one of my other bulls,” He admired the bull with a loving eye. “Third time this winter he’s gotten in a scuffle. Should probably just cull him,”

“Cull?” Liam asked.

“Slaughter,” The man said, looking down at Liam with a suspicious eye like he had just admitted that he couldn’t fully be trusted. Liam cleared his throat.

“Why haven’t you?”

“You can’t blame him. He just feels kinda penned up. He’s docile as a lamb when he’s out in the fields, but here, he can get moody.”

“He wants open grass,” Liam said knowingly.

“Yup, he wants to be able to move. The others don’t care, but he does. Not much can be done about it. If he doesn’t calm down in here, I’ll have to slaughter him. His seed might be good, but it’s not worth him killing other animals for it.”

“Why do you tie him up? Why not let him use the whole pen?” Liam asked, hoping to see the animal allowed to walk a little farther.

“Without the tether, he’d break this fence. It’s made of twigs for him. He’d come out here and cause more problems again.”

The bull began to walk in a little circle, barely at the end of the rope. He seemed restless.

“And that rope will hold him?” Liam asked

“Mhhmm,” the man grunted a confirmation. “He ain’t gonna let anything pull on that ring. It hurts like the devil. Even the toughest of bulls don’t resist being led by their rings.”

Liam stared at the animal. All it took was a thin metal ring in his nose to keep him there. Keep him trapped.

“I suppose if anyone would resist their ring, it would be Ahab,” The farmer said thoughtfully, “But if he starts doing that, then I’ll have no choice but to cull him.”


1. What do you think of the descriptions of Lownire? 

2. What does Liam's encounter with Ahab do to advance the feeling of him being trapped Are the similarities between Ahab and Liam too on the nose (hehe)?

3. What do you think about the strange feeling that led Liam to Ahab?

Bonus question: If you know much about cattle farming, any glaring mistakes? 

Part four

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Sat Jul 08, 2023 9:19 am
Rook wrote a review...

I'll answer your questions since I think by answering them, I'll be able to touch on everything I wanted to say anyway!

1. I always love towns that have grown too big for their walls and have decided to grow inward and get tangled and strange. I thought you did a good job of describing this overall. It definitely gives a specific vibe to the environment which I think is super important! Important locations can be like characters too.
I thought maybe a couple of things were missing. I'd like a couple more color and material words. Is everything made of stone or are there mixed materials? Has architectural style changed visibly with the newer additions to the city? What is the general color of the city, gray? an overwhelming assortment of colors? Or is there one color in particular that stands out, like if everyone used blue roofing tiles for example?
Another thing I thought was missing was people. I know you said that there weren't many people out and about, but in a big city like this, there will ALWAYS be people around. I live in the downtown area of a tiny town with a population of about 2000 and there are always people out and about during the day. You don't have to spend a lot of time on these people, but I think their presence is important to making the city feel like a place where people live. If you highlight just one or two that might catch Liam's eye, or some groups of people that share a characteristic, that can also serve to characterize the kinds of folks who live in your city. It's a really neat way to show and not tell. For example, if you had a big group of nuns walking somewhere, that might indicate that this city values religion, or there are at least many religious folks. The children that you mentioned were playing, do they look well-fed? washed? happy?
Finally, in a similar vein, just a couple more specific highlights of the city and its architecture could be useful. If I were to pull a couple highlights of details from my town, I might mention the fading mural from a long-closed grocery store or the giant wheel exhibited as a showcase of our roots as an important stop on the rails for lumber. Just a few details like this scattered through your description would make the city feel more like a real, lived-in place.

2. I didn't realize that the encounter with the bull was supposed to make us think of Liam, but I'm generally bad at picking up on that kind of stuff. I definitely think it shows he has empathy for the bull's situation, but the thing with the scent leading him there, and feeling inexorably drawn to the bull made me feel like there was something magical going on, like maybe the bull was a person (and maybe it is! I don't know!). I personally don't think the similarities are too on the nose unless Liam has a nosering. But I also haven't read previous chapters.

3. I mentioned it a bit in my last point. The feeling felt a little magical/supernatural/perhaps tied to fate. I did originally think he was just following his nose to a terrible smell which I didn't understand why someone would do that at first. But then it became clear he was following some other feeling, which I think makes sense!

And I think in that I said everything I wanted to!
Let me know if you have any questions, and keep writing!

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Mon Jun 12, 2023 3:13 pm
IcyFlame wrote a review...

Part three let's goooooooooo!
Thank you for linking the next part at the bottom of each of these it helps my confused little brain so much xD

I think this time around my comments are all within the three questions you've posed, so I'm just going to go ahead and answer them!

1.What do you think of the descriptions of Lowrie?
Ok so I can't actually remember what, if anything, we've seen of the town before. If you've already described it and this is just a refresh then I think this is plenty because you focus on the actual route Liam is taking that leads him to Ahab and that makes sense to further the plot.
If this is the first time we're seeing it then I think maybe a little more description would be nice. You touch on the cobbled stones and I start to get a feeling of like an oldy worldy quaint town but I need a little more imagery to really picture the place!
So that's not a straightforward answer, but you know your story better than I do so hopefully that's clearer to you xD

2.What does Liam's encounter with Ahab do to advance the feeling of him being trapped Are the similarities between Ahab and Liam too on the nose (hehe)?
I have mixed feelings about this. If Ahab is simply a plot device being used to show how trapped Liam is feeling then quite honestly I think you'd do better to cut this section. It slows down an already slow pacing, and it's just a reiteration of a fact that we as the reader already know. It also kind of goes against his sudden willingness to be involved in his grandpa's teaching so feels a little out of place in that respect. I think we need more set up of Liam's reluctant acceptance of his fate and then maybe the trapped feeling can come in from there.
If there's another reason for Ahab to be in the story then fair enough, but I think you need to clearly hint at that so it doesn't feel too redundant.

3.What do you think about the strange feeling that led Liam to Ahab?
Honestly I missed that there was a strange feeling because I just assumed the smell was super strong and that's what brought Liam to Ahab... I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary!

I'm about to have a thunderstorm here so not sure how long my power's going to hold but I'll try and get to part four!

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MaybeAndrew says...

Thanks for the review! Ahab will come up again as a more literal plot element, but he will always be used as a metaphor to respent how trapped Liam feels.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
— Marcel Proust