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The Fallen King: Chapter Ten

by MaybeAndrew


The Fallen King

Liam, under his grandfather's training, begins to master the Old Tongue, an ancient language of power. Liam is also a Keeper, meaning he is one of the three spiritual and physical leaders of the town

Chapter Ten

Songs and Sails

(art by Dall-e 2)

Six years before

The sun sparkled off the ocean as large waves rose and crashed against the shore. Wind howled past the lighthouse, causing the trees behind to dance and bow.

Liam sat with his legs dangling off the cliffs, watching that untamed sea. Today the sea was empty of the interlopers of men and their ships.

Empty, except for one.

Liam watched as the small boat shot along the water, slipping over the tops and crests of waves with the same ease as a beast galloping over the hills of its territory.

Unlike the other constructions of man, this ship was not a foreign visitor to the seas. It was its brother.

The boat turned quickly, skirting the edge of a wave and sending sea spray into the wind as it began to speed along the cliffs instead of towards them.

The man who made these turns was as much a part of the boat as the sail, standing on the small vehicle and leaning off of its side, keeping it turned by his own weight and his hold on the ropes.

Liam held his breath as the man picked up speed. Technically, Liam was supposed to be chopping firewood right now, but he never missed an opportunity to see his uncle onthe Keepers Ship.

Uncle Hadrian was going faster than a charging bull, slipping between the waves like he knew every contour of ever-changing water as well as one would know a lover. Liam watched as the man quickly turned his body and pulled on a rope. The boat turned into the waves, shooting up the large crest of water.

It launched over the top, using the wave like a ramp.

The ship flew above the sea, the wind still catching its sail, pushing it on. Its shadow traced along and over the waves, but the ship itself was feet above. So free that even the laws of gravity could not restrict it. For a moment, Liam thought it might never land, that it had broken its tether to the earth and would fly away with the birds.

But then it came crashing back down, sending up a spray of water as Uncle Hadrian turned the ship and made a couple of circles with it, slowing it down. He then turned and went directly towards the cliffs. Liam watched, breath held, as his uncle weaved between the rocks and islands. At every moment, it seemed inevitable he’d be crushed against those rocks by the winds or waves, but somehow he never was.

Knowing that his uncle would soon be back at shore, Liam stood and ran to greet him. He excitedly sped down the cliff steps, jumping and scampering over the rocks. Father often chastised him for not being careful enough, that if he went that fast, he’d trip on the terrain and go careening off a cliff. But Liam’s feet always found the next step without him having to look. It wasn’t quiet by memory or even luck. He was following a pattern, but one he relearned every time he ran. Like he was dancing to some unheard music, and his feet were placed correctly by the beats.

Soon, he was in the cove where his uncle was tying the boat to the dock. Liam pulled to a stop and watched his uncle from afar. He didn’t want to interpret the master at work. Uncle Hadrian looked up from his work, smiled, winked, and kept tying up the boat.

Liam waited patiently as his uncle finished up his work. After tying one last knot, the tall man straightened up, and walked over to his excited nephew.

Liam looked up at him and grinned. He wanted to be just like his uncle, able to fly over the waves.

"Can I go with you next time, Uncle Hadrian?” Liam pleaded.

Hadrian sighed. “No,” He said, his voice bittersweet. He looked out at the horizon longingly. “Because when I go out next time, I’m not coming back.”

***

Liam crossed out the rune. Writing runes, or spells, as Grandpa called them, was difficult, and this was not made easier by sitting in a tree. He put his quill in his mouth, holding it there as he repositioned himself.

It had been a fortnight days since he'd heard the old tongue. It had been the best fourteen days of his life. He'd spent it listening. Spending hours in the forest, in grassy clearings or treed tunnels, atop boulders or under the shadows of shifting clouds. He'd begun to hear the voice of the wind, the earth, the trees, and the crackling fire.

Grandpa was beginning to have him try to pick out individual words. Currently, he was sitting on the branch of a black oak tree, taking notes in the written form of the Old Tongue, runic.

Once he was in a position where a knot wasn’t on his rear, he took the pen out of his mouth and held it again. He had tried using coal pencils, but that didn’t work. They weren’t precise enough for runic, which was full of complex interconnecting lines. Some of it was mathematical, with the placement of the lines seeming like based on angles and numbers, but other times they seemed more like a flowing river and growing vines.

He listened to the trees again, holding the pen poised over the paper.

Grandpa had been almost disbelieving when Liam had come back from the waterfall saying he'd heard its voice. ("One week? That's a miracle. No one starts hearing after a single week!")

A breeze picked up, making the branches scrape against each other and cause the buds of the coming spring to whisper. Liam quickly began to start a rune as he heard another word he some what recognized. The tree's voice was creaky and old, but its tips were shimmery like leaves in the wind.

When Grandpa spoke the Old Tongue, Liam understood it without needing a translation. It wasn’t the same with the waterfall, trees, and birds. He had a basic idea, the waterfall was fast and proud, the tree was old and thoughtful, and the birds were chatty and gay, but he still couldn’t understand individual words.

Grandpa said that was always how it worked. He spoke the words with a human voice and tongue, so they would be easier to decipher. He said that every ancient spoke the old tongue differently - almost like dialects. Grandpa’s human dialect would be the easiest for Liam to understand, whereas it might take some time before he got used to the trees or the mountain’s accent.

Liam had begun to recognize some words and could pick them out of what was otherwise a mess to him. Other times, if he looked at the mess from far away he got a basic idea, like being able to feel a song without knowing all the individual notes.

Over the past two days, Grandpa had begun having Liam write down what he was hearing. That way, he'd improve at his runic and at picking out individual words. Runes had a pattern behind the lines, shapes, and spaces. It was kind of like a phonetic alphabet in that way, but with all the letters squished together. It wasn't strictly based on actual sound, but more of something bigger and more complex, like tone, volume, who was saying it, and something he couldn't quite capture.

As Liam drew in the spiral on the rune he was listening to, he realized he didn’t know this one. For most of those he’d been able to write, he also understood the meaning. Not this one. He was just vaguely writing down what he heard.

The wind calmed down, but he kept drawing. Now that he had noticed that word, he could feel it. It muttered to him where his back touched the bark. The trees talked slower than the waterfall, so that did make it easier to keep track of individual words.

He dipped his pen in the inkwell (he had used some wax to stick it to the crook of a branch) and added the last three lines to the rune.

Liam held it away from himself and looked at it with one eye closed. It wasn’t perfect - well, he actually didn’t even know what it was, but it mostly captured what he’d heard.

The other things he’d written were accompanied by translations and notes in the King’s Speech or common tongue. The three-fold translation helped him keep track of what they actually meant.

“That’s enough tree sitting for the day. Get down, Son,” Grandpa said, tapping the bottom of the tree with his cane.

Liam gathered up his things and jumped out of the tree.

“What did you learn?” Grandpa asked as the two began walking towards the treeline. This close to the lighthouse, Grandpa hadn’t bothered with making Liam bring the stones.

Liam checked his notes. “The tree was thirsty… roughly one hundred and twenty years old, and it mentioned something about bugs.”

Grandpa nodded. "Good. King's speech?"

Liam repeated the ideas in the king's speech.

"Old tongue?"

"Taloko-delda ord-ola-" Liam started slowly. He was trying to repeat what he had heard the tree say about its age, but the sounds came out clumsy, far from the words he had heard. It was like he was trying to talk with a bunch of pine cones in his mouth. It just didn't work.

"Ahh, all wrong!" Grandpa interrupted. "Stop. Your tone and rhythm is all off. Maybe try singing it?"

"Tal-kad elda-" Liam began in a sing-songy voice, not sure why that would help. It was equally far from what he had heard the tree say.

Grandpa raised a hand to make him stop again and shook his head. "Your sister never taught you to sing?" He said, exasperated.

"Nope, just the stories."

“That has to be remedied immediately. This afternoon you’ll go down to the Keep and request singing lessons from one of the loremasters. Say it's important to your training as Keeper of the Light. They can't say no to that."

The idea made Liam blush. Using his Keeperhood to demand he take singing lessons? Would he be forced to learn with all the girls?

“Singing?” Liam asked incredulously, “Is it really necessary?”

“Yes. Very. Controlling your voice is vital for learning the old tongue.”

“Can’t you teach me?” Liam asked.

“I’m better than most, but the Loremasters would be expert teachers of singing-”

“But-”

“No! No argument. You will go to the Loremasters after lunch and request singing lessons twice a week. I may not be a Keeper anymore, but you are still my grandson and apprentice. You will respect me. Do not forget that out of the two of us, I probably know how to learn the Old Tongue better.”

Liam clenched his fist as they broke through the treeline and started crossing towards the cliffs. His Grandpa never had anything to do. Why waste the loremaster's time with teaching Liam? He could just imagine himself stumbling through a song, every note painfully wrong, voice cracking, as judgmental Elizabeth or another one of the matrons watched.

"How many runes did you get?" Grandpa asked as they walked.

"Four," Liam said shortly, but his anger faded as he remembered a question. He pointed at the last rune he had drawn. "What's this one mean?"

Grandpa looked at it and raised an eyebrow. "You heard the tree say that?"

Liam nodded, and Grandpa chuckled. "One week and he hears the voice, and after three, he is already being addressed as well?" He said, shaking his head.

"Is it bad?" Liam asked, concerned.

"No, is bleeding amazing! I've never heard of someone being this naturally talented, never even read of it. You may whine about your apprenticeship, but you're learning impossibly fast," Grandpa said.

Liam felt a rising warmth in him. Life with Grandpa back wasn't terrible. Yeah, the old man was a bit cranky, but it was good to have the company. He also had lots of extra time, so Liam often came back from listening to a good meal and a clean lighthouse, two things he'd not experienced at home since Dad got sick.

And listening was wondrous. It was like his ears had always been filled with water, and now they were finally beginning to clear up. He was experiencing the world as he had always been meant to. Even the books about clouds and birds were interesting, stretching his mind and giving him new types of thoughts to chew on.

He was good at it too. Liam had never really been 'good' at anything before. He'd never been naturally gifted at his father's sword training, he was terrible at the chores he was given and worse at memorizing rituals and phrases in the King's Speech. But somehow now this just felt, natural, like he was supposed to learn it.

“So, what’s it mean?” He asked, pushing the sense of pride away.

“It was talking to you, acknowledging you,” Grandpa said, studying it. “Your handwriting is pretty terrible, so it's hard to tell, but it seems to be addressing you.”

“Me?” Liam asked, shocked, glancing back towards the trees. Sometimes, he forgot he was a part of it, not merely an outside observer but someone who could speak into the conversation and even be spoken to.

“You’re a part of the world, aren’t you? You were sitting on the tree, after all. But humans aren’t the best at hearing things, so the rest of the ancients don’t address us often unless they particularly notice us. The tree must have noticed you.”

“What was it saying to me?” Liam asked, feeling slightly guilty he wasn’t able to respond. It had been a nice tree to sit on.

“Can’t really tell. It might have just been acknowledging you, saying its best approximation of your name it can manage,” Grandpa said as they arrived at the cliffs. The ocean crashed below, waves washing over boulders and crags before rolling back out again. 

*

Questions:

Okay, these are getting a little repetitive, but we are working on similar things rn

1. Do you feel like you grasp how the Old Tongue functions?

2. What feelings does this chapter give you?

3. What do you think of the Uncle and his future in the story?

Part two of chapter ten: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work/MaybeAndr...


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Fri Dec 16, 2022 9:53 am
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hi Andrew!

I actually went back and read this one all the way from the beginning not too long ago, so hopefully I remember what has been going on recently. I'm not sure if I mentioned before when I reviewed, but I've really been enjoying the way you put the images at the beginning of each chapter. It kind of reminds me of more old fashioned children's books (think Enid Blyton) and I like the sort of nostalgic vibes it gives!

Anyway, onto the actual review:

I like how throughout this story you're giving the occasional flashback. They're not too often that they take away from the actual narrative and I find myself wanting to know more about Liam's past. In one of the recent chapters I found the mention of Liam's uncle to kind of come from nowhere, so it's good to have him feature in a flashback. Did Liam ever mention this conversation with his uncle to anyone? It seems the rest of the village think he's dead but he's perhaps...not? Or if he is, he knew he wasn't going to survive whatever was happening? Did he discuss it with his father or other uncle?

It had been a fortnight days since he'd heard the old tongue.

Had it been a fortnight, or had it been days? There might be a word missing here, but I can't quite work out what you were intending with this sentence.

Grandpa said that was always how it worked. He spoke the words with a human voice and tongue, so they would be easier to decipher. He said that every ancient spoke the old tongue differently - almost like dialects. Grandpa’s human dialect would be the easiest for Liam to understand, whereas it might take some time before he got used to the trees or the mountain’s accent.

I think this is an interesting concept and makes sense. Does that mean that when Liam/his grandpa speak the old tongue the mountains etc. find it harder to understand them?

"Your sister never taught you to sing?" He said, exasperated.

Wouldn't he know if Liam had been taught this? He was awake whilst his sister was alive, wasn't he?

Do not forget that out of the two of us, I probably know how to learn the Old Tongue better.”

I found this specific interaction odd, as isn't his grandpa the one teaching him? So of course he knows it better? I think I understand that he's trying to say he knows how it should be taught but that didn't come across clearly for me.

There hasn't been quite as much feeling of oncoming threat in the past few sections, so I'm starting to feel a bit more at ease. The pacing still feels good, though after this chapter I would say we're probably at risk of having too much info at once if we don't move on.

I think I get enough of how the Old Tongue functions to continue reading, but I don't feel I need any more than that as I'm not having to use it myself so I think you got the balance right!

An enjoyable part overall, and I hope this review was helpful.

Happy review day!

Icy




MaybeAndrew says...


Hey Icy, thanks so much for the review! I'm glad you like the pictures, I do to (:
All of those critiques are really helpful, and I will be working on them while editing this chapter today!



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Sun Oct 30, 2022 9:49 am
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi again Andrew!

First Impressions
I thought that flashback scene in the beginning seemed kind of ominous. It definitely makes me curious about the role Uncle Hadrian will play in the story, and I don’t think he’s going to survive for very long based on that last line of dialogue. There weren’t many strong feelings for me for the scene that takes place in the present time, mostly because it’s kind of quiet and contemplative for the most part. I thought the small argument between Liam and Grandpa seemed mostly to show the culture and I guess the gender roles in the story’s world? And also Liam’s insecurity about his voice, I think. So it didn’t give a big intensely dramatic feel either like arguments in stories tend to give, but I think it makes sense, since there didn’t seem to be much conflict/ foreshadowing of conflict between Liam and his grandfather from what I can tell. (though I haven’t read the chapter where his grandfather ‘returns’ so I might be wrong on that.)

The Uncle
I like the continuity of showing how humans are connected to nature in this story. Showing that with the ocean is also a fresh change from the more inland settings of Chapter 9. The scene of Uncle Hadrian riding the boat was certainly exciting to read and evokes a feeling of wonder.

But then it came crashing back down, sending up a spray of water as Uncle Hadrian turned the ship and made a couple of circles with it, slowing it down.

Something I wondered about was whether Uncle Hadrian’s boating abilities involved magic, or if the water in this setting works differently somehow. If it does, that’s pretty interesting, and I’d be curious to read more about that. If not, I somehow felt like his boat was moving a lot more like a modern-day motorboat would, especially with it hopping off the water’s surface and circling around – though that might just be my lack of boat knowledge talking.
Uncle Hadrian was going faster than a charging bull, slipping between the waves like he knew every contour of ever-changing water as well as one would know a lover.

One descriptive nitpick I’d have here if there isn’t much magic involved in this scene: “charging bull” and “slipping between” feel like contrasting metaphors, but they’re joined together in this sentence like the latter is supposed to be expanding on the former, which made the image hard to picture for me. I wonder if “going faster than a charging bull, yet slipping between the waves . . . “ or something similar to show that they’re contrasting might work there? Or changing one of the images to match the tone of the other?

The Old Tongue
I like the idea of Liam having to transcribe the Old Tongue with a phonetic alphabet. That sounds really challenging, and it’s also interesting that he also has to get in the prosody when writing the symbols as well.
Some of it was mathematical, with the placement of the lines seeming like based on angles and numbers, but other times they seemed more like a flowing river and growing vines.

This is also quite interesting! I’m not very experienced at all with constructed languages, but I remember seeing conlang scripts that either look like one (angular) or the other (vine-like) but not both in the same script. The International Phonetic Alphabet kind of combines elements of both, though, by adding things like diacritics, so maybe that is what this is based on.
Runes had a pattern behind the lines, shapes, and spaces. It was kind of like a phonetic alphabet in that way, but with all the letters squished together. It wasn't strictly based on actual sound, but more of something bigger and more complex, like tone, volume, who was saying it, and something he couldn't quite capture.
I thought it would be nicer to have a few more concrete examples of this and to show him writing down one of those elements. This paragraph condenses quite a bit of information together, and it would be nice to have some of it play out in the scene so we can imagine it.
Grandpa’s human dialect would be the easiest for Liam to understand, whereas it might take some time before he got used to the trees or the mountain’s accent.

Another nitpick: in linguistics at least there’s a difference between dialects and accents. Accent refers to only differences in pronunciation and sound-related rules, but if people speak different dialects, they might have different vocabularies, different word-order related rules, and in general just ‘deeper’ differences in the grammar of their language. My thought is it would be much harder for Liam to understand a different dialect than a different accent, especially one spoken by trees and mountains who lead much different lives from humans.

Overall
I’m curious to see how Liam will fare with his singing! I think this chapter is setting that up to be less ‘natural’ to him than the listening and stories, so I think we’ll see more character development there. I’m also eager to see how the Old Tongue sounds when spoken with the right prosody and if doing that will help Liam interact with the trees who seem to want to talk to him.

Hope some of this helps and feel free to request more feedback!
-Lim




MaybeAndrew says...


Thank you so much for the review Lim! Yes, the boat is partly kinda magic, but also, you'd be surprised by how fast sailboats can go, especially a small one, so they can sometimes do things like quick turns and jumps... but there is also a magic component here.
Your thoughts on the old tongue are extremely helpful and will definitely factor into the revision process.



Liminality says...


Aha I see! Yeah, I've not actually spent much time at all watching boats - that's really neat :D Glad the review is helpful!




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