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The Fallen King: Chapter Eight, Pt 5

by MaybeAndrew


Part Four 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, three, and four, Liam went to the graveyard, visited a trapped cattle, and then went shopping in the happy village. The joy was broken as everyone began to ask him stressed questions until his cousin Cormac comes and rescues him from the panic. 

“Thanks,” Liam said.

Cormac released Liam’s arm. “No problem. I was on my way to deliver the message anyway. Dad sent me, he said the meeting will be in a half hour. Thought it would be helpful to extricate you a bit earlier.”

“My wheelbarrow of supplies is still there,” Liam said.

“You can get it later, but if you are worried about something getting nicked, I can send a member of the Watch to guard it,” Cormac said. Liam frowned, Cormac was already comfortable giving orders to guards, and he wasn’t even a full squire yet.

“No, it’s fine,” Liam said. “If we’re going to the keep, though, it wouldn’t be bad to have my barrel for Lastrios.”

“I’ll get it,” Cormac volunteered.

Cormac nodded, ran back, and fetched it, holding it in one hand, still holding the shield in the other.

Why are you wearing your shield?” Liam asked as he took the barrel.

“Keeper Sitric wants me to get used to having it on my arm. He says it’s important to know how to be mobile while wearing it,” Cormac replied. He didn’t call Sitric’ father’ or ‘dad’ when referring to him in the context of his apprenticeship. Liam had never liked that. Sitric was the same man, whether he was acting as father, trainer, or captain.

“How’s your mom doing?” Liam asked.

“Good. She and the baby are healthy, and Aunt Donna is helping take care of everything,” Cormac said. “How was it up on the wall? A couple days ago, I mean,” He asked quickly, a hint of excitement in his tone.

“You sound almost jealous,” Liam responded as they stepped onto the green, boots squelching against the still-wet grass.

Cormac grinned and looked out past the many roofs and to the circular wall. “I am a bit. I’ve been training for years to fight Darkness on those walls, and you got to first.”

“It’s not a game,” Liam said, thinking of the bodies lying on the stone after the battle.

“But at least you know what it’s like now. I’ve never been allowed on the walls during a siege, not yet, at least,” Cormac said, still sounding excited.

“I don’t know if you want to know,” Liam said.

Matt had almost died. That could be Cormac someday soon. He could let out that same scream as Darkness corrupted his body - so untamed, so pure, so horrible. Maybe that time, there would be no one to save him, and he would sink deeper into Darkness until it consumed him.

“I have to. When Dad’s gone, it will be me who holds the Lownire blade and me who holds off the Darkness. I have to be ready,” Cormac said.

If Grandpa was right, there would come a moment when even Cormac, his determination, and his blade wouldn’t be able to stop the Darkness.

“I don’t have too long to wait to be up on the walls, at least,” Cormac said, not seeming to notice his cousin’s dark expression. “This festival of apprentices, I will be sworn a Squire Captain, then I’ll start training a company. We’ll just be messengers most sieges, but we’ll actually be allowed up there.”

They arrived at the foot of the Keep, its tall marble spires glistening in the afternoon sun, the two front doors letting out the sound of singing. Cormac, still talking excitedly, pressed inside. “And then, after a year of that, I’ll be allowed to duel for titles and will actually fight on the wall with the other Squires-”

Cormac stopped in his tracks, staring at something ahead. Near the front of the chapel, standing in lines in the pews, was a choir of young women. They were singing a mournful song in the King’s Speech, the stone chapel reflecting and reverberating their light but powerful voices. It wasn’t just echoing around the building. It was playing the building. The entire Keep was an instrument, vibrating with countless complimentary notes.

Not all of them were singing the same words, or even words at all - some of them were merely vocalizing, but together the notes became more complete.

In their sixteenth year, youths of both genders trained under one of the Keepers. They stopped their normal apprenticeships and learned to be soldiers or offerings.

The boys trained under the Keeper of the Wall, and the girls under the Keeper of the Well. The young men learned how to use a variety of weapons, were taught military tactics, and began to practice a code of honor. When the year was over, all but the squires would return to their other trades, trained and ready for the return of their king. When he’d raise an army to reconquer his kingdom, Lownire would be that army and the men his soldiers.

The young women, too, learned. They were taught to read and write. They learned history, philosophy, and purity. Most importantly, they learned to sing.

As Liam was able to listen for a moment, he realized they were singing the song of the Offering.

There were no instruments, just human voices layered upon human voices, echoing against each other in the chapel and filling it with power.

‘One of these girls will die by those words,’ Liam reminded himself. That is why they learned to sing. The young men learned to die for Lownire by the sword and the young women by the song.

It may be powerful now when they sang it in a choir, their many voices echoing together in a keep, but it would be even more powerful when just one voice sang it. When one voice sang it alone in a dark clearing, those words would become more than words. The lyrics would no longer be practiced but held up by the Authority of the whole village and sealed with the singer’s life.

Liam couldn’t help but wonder if Arwen had been able to notice the beauty of the song when she had been singing.

‘Of course, she had,’ Liam realized. ‘She was Arwen. She always noticed.’

Liam felt a bubbling rage rising in him. Why did the song that represented something so terrible have to be so intensely beautiful? Why every year did the Keepers send a girl off to her death? Why did it have to be that way? Why had the ancient one, in his wisdom, ordained this tradition of death?

Liam realized Cormac had already started down the central aisle, moving quickly, his armor clinking slightly as he moved. His cousin’s eyes were locked on the floor, and his steps seemed wooden all of a sudden.

Liam ran to catch up with Cormac, confused by his marching body language. He glanced around, looking to see if maybe Sitric was around, but then his eyes caught it.

Standing near the back was the tall and stunning Beth. She had dark hair, large eyes, high cheekbones, and a thin nose. She almost seemed to hold herself like she was royalty. Beth had been Cormac’s sweetheart since he had been eight, and he was more scared of her than of Austermen. That is why he had cut off talking suddenly. Unlike Liam, he hadn’t noticed the singing. He’d been distracted by one individual.

Beth was singing, like the others, staring at the women in the front directing them, but Cormac acted as if she was looking right at him, and if his eyes met hers, he’d burn away like dry grass in a fire.

Liam shoved Cormac. “What’s of such interest down there on the ground?” He whispered.

Cormac glared at him, “What? I mean nothing… I-” He stammered. He cleared his throat and straightened up. “The architecture, of course.” He said plainly.

Liam snickered, and Cormac tried to maintain an unaffected expression but broke into a broad smile at his cousin’s laughter.

The two passed the choir and into the apse where the well sat. High above, a dome filled with stained glass let light filter down to the well, scattering off the walls that were carved with intricate designs and statues, ending in the intricately decorated stairs. The stone steps went up the back wall of the apse and were where the choir stood when performing during festivals. The stairs led down to ground level and continued two steps lower into the ground to the garden of the white flowers and the well. The ever-blooming flowers were like an iris around the pupil of the dark well.

The water was perfectly smooth and clearer than glass. The stone walls beneath it descend down like a tunnel into dark blue depths. It looked like it could go forever.

Sitting on the steps above the well, with a pitcher by her feet, and reading a book, was Gwendalion.

Liam knew she was probably going to be there, so he was fully prepared to greet her. Because of this, he did not even feel too caught off guard by her pretty green dress and the smile she gave as she saw him.

Gwen, Cormac, and Liam all greeted each other fondly. The three Keeper’s children had always been friends. For the obvious reasons - Cormac and Liam were cousins, Gwen’s older brother had been good friends with Liam’s sister, and their parents were always talking - but there was something more there, a deeper connection. The three knew that weight. They knew what it was like to have parents that were respected and feared, loved by some for the city’s successes, and even hated by others for the catastrophes.

They had always been different. Cormac was born to be the next keeper, Gwendoline studying to be a loremaster, and Liam living in the lighthouse outside the walls. Because of that, they had always been able to treat each other as equals, even when others couldn’t.

Gwen was very entertained by Liam’s whispered telling of Cormac’s bashful notice of Beth. Cormac glanced back at the choir and blushed.

“Talk quieter,” He said nervously.

Liam and Gwen laughed. Gwen laughed easily - something Liam didn’t mind.

“They can’t hear us,” Liam scoffed. “You seem more scared of them than you are of facing a siege.”

“That’s because he is,” Gwen said. “He can solve a siege with swords. He can’t do the same for women.”

Cormac clenched his fist and sat down. “Keeper Sitric never trained me in that,” He grumbled.

Liam laughed. “Don’t look at me. I won’t be much help there, either. Gwen’s brother is the best man to ask. I’ve seen the way half of the village looks at him,” Liam said.

“I guess being insufferable is the key, then,” Gwen said. “Besides some more charisma, do you two need anything? Lastrios, perhaps?” She asked, pointing at the barrel in Liam’s hands.

“Yeah, and we are here to meet with Sitric and Hugh,” Liam said, setting down the barrel on the last step.

“They’re in a meeting with farmers. They’ll probably be out here in a moment,” Gwen responded, pulling the plug out of the barrel. She took the pitcher and filled it from the well, disrupting the surface of the smooth water with it. As she poured the water into the barrel, the ripples on the well dissipated, and it was smooth again. Lastrios was strange like that. It always seemed to settle back to its soft state impossibly quickly.

Gwen did the work quietly. Liam just watched the water ripple and clear, listening to the sounds of the singing and the swishing of the water. Only members of the Keeper of the Well’s family could fetch the water.

“Does it ever get lower?” Liam asked, staring deep into it.

Lastrios water - supposedly made from a single tear from the old one. So pure a cup of it could clean a whole bucket of seawater.

Gwen shook her head. “Never, not in drought and no matter how much we use it.” She poured another pitcherful into Liam’s barrel. “It is the gift of the Old One to cleanse food and water from Corruption and purify and anoint the king upon his return,” Gwen recited. “They say that Somptura has a well like this, but it is not as pure as ours. It cannot purify other things. It is only pure itself.”

The thought of distant lands sent a little flutter of excitement through Liam’s stomach. Somptura was the only city Lownire traded with that seemed to have any semblance of stability. There were even merchants from Sumptura who visited Lownire in summer and traded their fine silks for Lownire silver or crops. All the other villages were small and would often fade away, being destroyed by Darkness or Austermen, sometimes sending a few refugees to Lownire itself. Liam had met many of the most recent refugees. They often stayed at the lighthouse for nine days before being allowed inside the city walls. Lownire welcomes outsiders, but they cannot bring Corruption with them.

The thoughts of a distant land closed as Liam remembered the promise he had made, like a weight on his chest. He had agreed to stay until the Shadow came. He was trapped inside the walls of Lownire, like those many cattle who spent their time in a little pen, smelling their own filth. Safe, helpful, but trapped.

Liam glanced out to the still-open door, through which the village green was visible. Children ran past, chasing each other and laughing. Past that, he could see people sitting out on the grass, eating, talking, or selling wares. Why couldn’t he be like them? Why couldn’t he be happy and content to be safely tucked in his pen?

But how could they be so happy, only days before Darkness had struck the village? All of their lives had been in danger, and four of their citizens had been lost. And that danger hadn’t gone away. It may be bright today, but the corruption still dwells in the shadows of the forest, waiting to strike when given the chance.

“Is everything okay, Liam?” Gwen asked. Liam looked over at her to see her sitting, having stopped scooping the water, but instead was looking up at him, eyebrows scrunched together in concern.

Cormac looked up, obviously so lost in his own troubles he hadn’t noticed Liam’s dark expression. Despite Cormac’s many strengths, he never knew how Liam was feeling.

“How is everyone so happy?” Liam asked, gesturing out at the village. “Only days ago, the village was under siege from forces of Darkness, forces of Darkness that are still there. I had to perform four funerals yesterday, and everyone is acting like it never happened.”

Gwen put down the pitcher and pursed her lips thoughtfully. Cormac frowned, like the question confused him, and then looked at Gwen. Being the daughter of Hugh did bring its expectations.

“Liam, why is the sunrise beautiful?” She asked, sounding almost unsure.

Liam chewed his lip, already seeing where she was going, and it made him angry. “Four people died; it wasn’t just physically without light; this is different,”

“But the principle holds. Light is all the more beautiful and noticeable when there is Darkness,” Gwen looked out at the children, green, where one of the kids had just caught another, and they were laughing uproariously. She chewed her lip thoughtfully again. “It is not despite the siege that the village is so happy today, but because of it. What is the point of defending Lownire if it cannot be full of light and joy? Those four men gave up their lives so those children could giggle and run and so those markets could bustle, full of food and fathers. Is that not why you will defend the village, Cormac? So they can be safe to have joy?”

Cormac nodded slowly as if he hadn’t ever thought to say it that way, but he agreed with it.

“But they are not safe,” Liam said. “The Darkness did not go away; none of it did. In a few days, it could come again, and if it doesn’t, it will in weeks, and if that doesn’t, it will next winter. More members of the watch will be struck, more mothers will die in childbirth, and more children will become sick with Corruption. Lownire is surrounded by Darkness, and we will never be able to escape that. Don’t those children know that? Don’t we all know that? How can they play when they know outside their walls is death waiting for its chance to strike?”

“Because Lownire is surrounded by Darkness, we must play. We are an island of light and life, glowing all the brighter for being the only island. You cannot see the stars at day, but only at night. We must glimmer because nothing else does.”

Liam opened his mouth to object, but before he could, one of the side doors burst open, and the farmers spilled out. The apse was filled with the bustle of echoing voices.

Sitric stepped out, wearing his ceremonial armor, cape, and horn. It was all already glistening again, though it had been used in battle only days before. His left arm hung in a sling, but he barely seemed to notice, talking to the farmers with that same stone-like expression on his face he always wore.

Hugh came out behind him, wearing a simple white robe. Hugh was speaking to another farmer, smiling and nodding as the farmer expressed some concern.

Sitric nodded at Liam when he saw him. It was a strange nod. Sitric sometimes acknowledged his own men of the watch with the king’s salute - a fist to the chest. It was tradition, showing that both of them were subject to the king. But this was different. The salute he gave his men was a sign of gratitude for their respect and regard for their training. The nod Liam got was not an acknowledgment of Liam as a soldier but as someone of equal respect. It was a nod that was exchanged between two equal-ranking captains.

But Liam knew his uncle wasn’t actually giving that to him. He didn’t deserve it. He saw where his eyes really fell, not Liam’s face, but the dagger at his side. Sitric was not admiring Liam but the older brother who had been Liam’s father. The man who had held the blade and office of Keepership with such honor he had made them something to be respected. Sitric respected that blade, that office, and that brother’s memory, not Liam.

The moment passed, and Sitric turned his eye on his son. “Good work, Soldier,” Sitric said. “Go to the training yard. Finn should be teaching the boys dueling. Join them.”

“Yes sir,” Cormac said resolutely. “See ya,” He whispered to Liam and marched off.

The farmers were sent away with a few appreciative words from Hugh and ordering words from Sitric.

“Upstairs?” Hugh asked. Sitric nodded.

“Good luck,” Gwen muttered as Liam, dragging his feet, followed the two men to their meeting.

Questions:

1. What do you think of the three friend's interactions? Is it awkward or in need of editing?

2. Does Gwen's argument make sense, or is it faulty? 

3. Is Liam's switching emotions from serous to levity make sense to you? Does it communicate his childishness? 

Part Six


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Mon Jun 12, 2023 4:38 pm
IcyFlame wrote a review...



We've hit a break in the thunderstorm so I'm back to hopefully review another part of this! Let's get straight into it!

How did Cormac find Liam so quickly? And what would he have done if he was up at the lighthouse? Would they have had to send a messenger for the impromptu meeting?

If Grandpa was right, there would come a moment when even Cormac, his determination, and his blade wouldn’t be able to stop the Darkness.

The even here doesn't really fit for me, given that Liam's just been saying in not so many words that he doesn't think Cormac is ready. Surely Sitric is more powerful, so it's not necessarily a case that not even Cormac can stop it?

Why did the song that represented something so terrible have to be so intensely beautiful? Why every year did the Keepers send a girl off to her death? Why did it have to be that way? Why had the ancient one, in his wisdom, ordained this tradition of death?

If we haven't covered it already, it would be good to know how far out we are for another one to be sent off? Has it just happened, or are we close to this happening again?
Also, do the Keepers choose a girl? Is he going to have to choose someone?!

Liam and Gwen laughed. Gwen laughed easily - something Liam didn’t mind.

I'm not sure I followed this part.

“How is everyone so happy?” Liam asked, gesturing out at the village. “Only days ago, the village was under siege from forces of Darkness, forces of Darkness that are still there. I had to perform four funerals yesterday, and everyone is acting like it never happened.”

This part felt a bit repetetive, given he's just had the exact thought in his head moments before voicing it.

1. What do you think of the three friend's interactions? Is it awkward or in need of editing?
No editing for me! It flowed well, and it was easy to read.

2.Does Gwen's argument make sense, or is it faulty?
I assume you mean for why people are happy? I think it makes sense, but this line felt a bit off:
It is not despite the siege that the village is so happy today, but because of it.

Perhaps it should be 'but because it is over' or something similar? I understand the point you're trying to make, but it didn't quite land for me.

3.Is Liam's switching emotions from serous to levity make sense to you? Does it communicate his childishness?
The emotional changes make sense, but it's just reminiscient of someone going through a lot like he is. I don't think it specifically communicates childishness though.

Only two parts left to go! Hope this one was helpful!

Icy
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MaybeAndrew says...


If we haven't covered it already, it would be good to know how far out we are for another one to be sent off? Has it just happened, or are we close to this happening again?

Samhain, the day that the sacrifice happens, is about nine months away, and that was mentioned in chapter two, but it might be worth mentioning again.
Thanks for all the feedback!



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Fri Jun 02, 2023 5:59 am
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cookiesandcream123 wrote a review...



Hi, MaybeAndrew! Here to drop another review! :D

This is another great chapter. The descriptions are well-written and the writing flows really well! I also enjoyed the worldbuilding in this one. You have a knack for weaving the lore into the story without making it feel bogged down. Ex: The transition of topic from Lastrios' well, to Somptura's well, to the worldbuilding & beyond was very smooth.

I'm glad Liam has friends. I'm guessing they already showed up in previous chapters, but again, despite jumping in during the middle, I don't feel lost or confused. Both Gwen and Cormac seem like interesting characters. Also, it's cute that Cormac got nervous around Beth XD-

"...and if his eyes met hers, he’d burn away like dry grass in a fire."


Woo, great simile!!
Now, for the questions:

1) No, I think it felt very natural. I also like the part when Liam teased Cormac about Beth, and then they both laughed about it. Really confirmed their friendship, and it was wholesome to read <3

2) Yes, Gwen's argument does make sense! I don't entirely agree with it (I think I'm kiinda leaning towards Liam's side, cuz I feel that it's not safe for everyone to be oblivious to the danger...) however Gwen makes good points as well. I just wish Liam had more time to argue; I'm curious to hear his reasoning too.

3) Yep -- I think this also went very smoothly, and I have a feeling that Liam and his friends are around teenage/young-adult age. I'm happy that Liam has support from Gwen and Cormac at least. It seems like he's lost most of his family.

All in all, amazingly done!




MaybeAndrew says...


Thaaank you so much for the review!




The idea that a poem was a made thing stayed with me, and I decided then that I wanted to be an artist, not just a diarist. So I put myself through a kind of apprenticeship in writing poetry, and I understood even then that my practice as a poet was deeply related to my reading.
— Edward Hirsch