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Before the Dragon - Chapter 26

by ShadowVyper


The Transport did nothing to calm the inner turmoil that shook Jerica to her very core. She felt the jolt of her body being thrown together a moment before she landed heavily on the ground. Her stomach twisted into an even tighter knot and she stumbled to her hands and knees a moment before throwing her meager breakfast up.

She staggered to her feet, sword in hand, and scanned the area. Her stomach sank as she realized they were at the top of the mountain once again. Kaidren's cave was off to her right, though the dragon himself was nowhere to be seen. Aerik was standing a little way off to her left, sword drawn, watching her warily.

No. This was all wrong. No, no, no -- she her rubbed her eyes, frustration surging through her body. She had been so close to escaping. And now she was back here. On this godsforsaken mountain. She felt her skin flush hot, rage bubbling up inside her, a spasm spreading throughout her entire body.

"You need to calm down."

"I need to go home," she shouted through clenched teeth, advancing on him with her sword raised.

"You do not want to fight me, Princess," Aerik warned, raising his sword in a defensive stance.

Jerica's eyes flicked across a patch of blood on his left shoulder, the fabric of his tunic sliced open to reveal a narrow but long wound. She looked at her own blade and saw it coated with fresh blood – evidence that his transporting her here didn't come without consequences.

She didn't answer him – she didn't need to. He didn't know her nearly as well as he seemed to think, if he believed that to be true. She did want to fight him. She needed it. If she didn't find some release, she might implode. She attacked with an over-handed blow.

The swords clashed together with a deafening clang that echoed throughout the valley below them. Specks of the blood flew off Jerica's sword, splattering each of them with flecks of crimson.

Jerica rubbed her face and then launched a combination attack on him half a moment later, throwing a strike towards his shoulder, his knee, a thrust towards his neck. He blocked or dodged each blow, stumbling backward under the intensity of her attacks.

Typically, Jerica was good at metering herself. She kept herself cool and collected, approaching duels like a scientist – carefully watching and analyzing each movement of her opponent, leveraging her observational ability to keep from having to win a skirmish using brute strength alone.

She often found that the matches she tried to muscle her way victory, especially in hand-to-hand combat, were the ones that she came much closer to losing. Strategy was every bit as needed as footwork and strength, when you were frequently half the size of your adversary.

And yet, as she launched her volley of attacks on Aerik, she couldn't care less.

Jerica slammed her blade into his over and over again, her arms trembling with the force of the swords colliding with such a heated ferocity. Aerik spent the first several minutes solely on the defensive, trying to anticipate her next move and get his blade between them before she could strike. She was as quick as she was fierce.

Finally, he caught one of her over-handed blows in mid-air and quickly stepped under it, forcing her to take a step backward. He launched his own volley of attacks, trying to take a break from the exhausting role of trying to anticipate her next move.

Rather, he made a pass towards her shoulder. A swipe towards her side. A thrust towards her abdomen, forcing her to leap backward in a last-minute move to avoid getting skewered on the end of his blade. Her right foot landed in the puddle she'd created minutes before and slipped from under her, making her slide.

Aerik thrust his palm out and struck her on the shoulder, hard, making her topple the rest of the way over. His blade came down on her neck a moment later, and she looked up into his hard expression as he stood over her.

Her heart was racing, blood throbbing in her ears so loudly she could barely think, much less hear anything. She swallowed hard, still unable to process all of the internal conflict flooding through her mind. Fear was predominant now, certainly. But the anger and frustration were only magnified by her mistake, making each emotion that much harder to control.

Jerica swallowed hard, trying to read his face, but it was in vain. It was impossible to tell what he might be thinking behind his drawn eyebrows and set jaw. She couldn't tell whether he planned on lecturing her on her brashness or running his sword all the way through her neck -- both seemed equally likely in that moment.

She also didn't know what to hope for.

Good sense said that she ought to talk her way out of this mess that she had, yet again, created for herself. And yet, a small voice argued that better sense would be to rile Aerik up until he finally finished her off for good. Good-bye and good riddance; no more emotions for her to work through, no more escapes for her to fail.

Jerica started sitting up, Aerik's sword slicing the skin on her neck and making warm blood mix with the sweat dripping down her neck. She clenched her teeth, bracing herself to keep going – to drive his sword into her own neck.

He put a foot on her shoulder and forced her back to the ground. His mouth was pressed into a flat line, worry tugging his eyebrows down into a concerned glare. "Stop it."

"You need to man up and finish me."

"You need to calm down.”

"You first," she snarled, attempting to sit up once again.

Suddenly the same invisible force as the first day she'd been there wrapped around her entire body, immobilizing her completely. Jerica tried fighting, jerking against the un-moving force in an attempt to break free – but to no avail.

"Calm. Down," Aerik said firmly, frustration mixing with the concern. He hesitated a moment, seeming to consider what best next move would be, before he finally spoke again. "You're going to go to your room until you can cool off. We'll talk about what happened, later."

Jerica growled, a fresh wave of indignation washing across her as she fought against the invisible force. "You can't do this!"

"Watch me."

With that, the invisible force lifted her in the air and carried straight over the edge of the cliff – tossing her into her room and shutting the door after her. Jerica landed heavily, outraged at being thrown around like a rag doll, and leapt to her feet. She stormed towards the door angrily and tried to rip it open, but it was shut tight.

She tried once more, then growled in frustration and slammed her fist against the hard stone. She turned to the nearby table and threw it into the door as hard as she could, watching as the already-frail wood splintered into hundreds of pieces. She grabbed one of the larger legs of the table and slammed it into the door again, the blow sending a jolt up her hands and arms.

Jerica stormed around the room in a fit of passion, throwing anything that would come loose in her sparsely furnished room. She threw the small pitcher of water next to her cot -- which, she discovered, was a stone slab still connected to the wall -- and watched it shatter against the far wall, showering the floor around it.

She took one of the fire pokers and threw it as hard as she could, watching as it bounced off the door without leaving any more than a scuff against the thick stone that sealed her in the makeshift prison. Jerica stomped back over to the door and tried it again, slamming her fist into it again when it still didn't open.

Her hand screamed in protest, but it almost seemed like it made her feel better. Yes, her knuckles suffered at the abuse and every joint in her fingers felt a sharp pain stab through them, but that was a small price to pay for the release that she felt, as marginal as it was.

She punched the door over and over again, until her adrenaline had subsided enough for her to feel the pain that her self-abuse left behind. She looked down at her right hand to find her knuckles bloodied and jutting out at unnatural angles -- clearly broken by her own inability to control her temper.

Jerica clutched the hand close to her chest and stalked away from the door, pacing like a caged animal, trying to release the wound-up tension deep inside her. She couldn't get the village girl out of her mind. Or Kieran. Or Aerik's stupid, infuriating smirk.

She kicked the carnage she'd left in her wake, stomping back and forth along the wall next to the door. It was hard to say how long she continued on like that. It could have been minutes, or hours – it felt like years had passed, before she finally ran out of energy.

Eventually she sank down on her cot, utterly exhausted. Now that her anger had subsided there was nothing left to replace it but sheer, in-your-face weariness that would not be ignored no matter how hard she tried.

She looked towards the window mounted high on the wall and saw that it was starting to grow dark outside.

Jerica grunted and cradled her hand close to her chest, regretting the abuse she'd meted out and yet still too stubborn and prideful to admit it. She laid, completely still, for a long while more. The daylight soon disappeared entirely and was replaced with an eerie blackness that filled her room.

If she'd had more motivation she would have gotten up and tried to light a fire, to give her a little bit of light to see by. As it was, she laid in the darkness until she eventually drifted off into a fitful sleep.


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Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:13 am
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JabberHut wrote a review...



JUST AS EXCITING AS I EXPECTED!

I'm so freaking excited about the swordfight between them. Like... this is such a deja vu except that it's an entirely different scenario.These two have fought before! Aerik already knows her weaknesses and strengths in a swordfight, and Jerica, I'm sure, has learned some of his as well. What's different is this bloodlust mindset of Jerica's, unleashing an inner strength and adrenaline that Aerik hasn't seen before.

What bothered me was how Aerik ended it. :( It was so anticlimactic. I love that he used his magic, but I kind expected him to use it as a last-minute strat to protect himself from a potentially harmful blow, like freezing her mid-charge while he's defenseless on the ground or something. Instead, he uses it while he's already got her pinned down because she wanted to kill herself with his blade. It's honestly a very creative twist, just not as gut-punching cool as I expected after all the battles I've read prior.

Still! I like that we used the mobility magic. It's another tie back to when they first met, when Aerik immobilized her while on the ground. You've done so well tying back to previous scenes in your novel these last couple chapters, and I just freaking love it.

I totally thought her bedroom door was wooden, btw. I don't know how I made that mistake, but it sounds like from here that it's a stone door. I assume held by manmade bolts or something, right?! Like.. the mechanics of that strangely intrigues me, as useless as it might be. XD

Jerica's bloodlust was, once again, handled so incredibly well here. It just made reading this fight scene so much more exciting because I knew how to read it. I knew what was going on in her head, despite the narrator constantly reminding me. My mind just skimmed over those bits as I read the fight 'cause it just flowed so well with her wild emotions.

I DID think the suicide thoughts were... out of place. It seemed like there wasn't too much build up to that? I was more content with her just wanting to go home, but I never really got any indication that she was ready to give up on the few people she loved by removing herself from the equation. She still just seemed like she was intent on going home, besting Aerik, and fighting the good fight for her loved ones (however many of them there are XD). She also was feeling rage toward Levin and was starting to feel this duty of removing HIM from the equation. So I guess there just wasn't much build up to her wanting to kill herself in the middle of the fight. Besides, great warriors have found themselves on that end of the blade many times before. What makes them great is how they get out of it, you know? I would think Jerica would have more drive than that, especially if she's read books about great heroes and such. Probably studied history lessons or legends about heroes. It just felt out of character, really.

But her tantrum was totally fun.

And she BROKE HER FREAKING HAND. Jerica, my dear, how many times have you broken bones in the past? 'cause you have broken an ankle and your hand since this novel has started. Your ignorance is astounding. I mean. IT'S FREAKING STONE, JERICA. STONE.

I loved this. I loved this chapter. And so many things. Ican really tell you enjoyed writing these last few chapters 'cause it just really shows in the emotion, the characters, the action -- and it just made it that more fun to read. You did a very good job. :)




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Thu Feb 14, 2019 3:03 am
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mellifera wrote a review...



shady! back at it again! *finger guns*

I mean,,, I'm back at it again. does that still apply if I'm the one who's back at it again?


Her stomach twisted into an even tighter knot and she stumbled to her hands and knees a moment before throwing her meager breakfast up.


Correct me if I'm wrong (because we established I'm abhorrent at timelines) but, didn't they transport earlier that day already? did she throw up again? (or am I really that bad and they didn't transport and I'm imagining things??)


Oof this is going to be a Heavy chapter I can feel it there is already a lot of Big Oof.


It bothers me just a little bit how the intensity of Jerica's feelings are constantly described as "emotion"? I mean, wait, it's more like,,, it's just repetitive, y'know? I think it's good to stay consistent with it and everything, but for example, this line?

If she didn't find some release for all of the emotions bubbling up inside her she might implode.


this just feels like hammering the point home. That sentence could just have easily been "If she didn't find some release, she might implode" etc etc, because at this point, the reader SHOULD know why which you having to spell it out, you know?


She often found that the matches she tried to muscle her way victory, especially in hand-to-hand combat, were the ones that she came much closer to losing.


honestly though I love the implication this sentence leaves and it feels more impactful now that we've seen some of Jerica's combat skills.

She also didn't know what to hope for.


:(

"Calm. Down," Aerik said. "You're going to go to your room until you can cool off. We'll talk about what happened, later."

Jerica growled, a fresh wave of indignation washing across her as she fought against the invisible force. "You can't do this!"

"Watch me."


above, we see as following: a Dad and a Teenage Assassin, locked in one of the "go to your room" arguments.


it's crushing to see how, as the story progresses, Jerica's slowly progressing from thinking with absolute certainty that she'll escape to thinking she has to either escape or die. like, there is no other option for her. It goes to show though like, YEAH she's a really fierce, powerful assassin and she's so cool but it's killing her too? and not just the injections but Jerica's mindset is very mechanical? I mean that in the sense that she views herself as existing solely to be the King's Assassin and having no other purpose/worth if she isn't back home. it's interesting to see this route for it rather than like, something to do with morality? I know she's warred with herself over people she's killed before but it's not like, the root of her trauma like another character's might be? it's interesting, but super sad.
can honestly say though that I have nO idea what's going to happen from here on out. only that I hope Aerik gets her out of that mindset. just, disappear into the mountains to live out your days with grumpy old man and dragon and it'll be great haha.


She looked down at her right hand to find her knuckles bloodied and jutting out at unnatural angles


your ability to describe gore and the likes continues to fascinate and disgust me *wraps self in a rug and disappears into the floor*

She looked towards the window


now you got me thinking like jerica but, how big is the window? I don't,,, remember if she ever looked at it and thought "hm. too small can't fit" or there was like, iron bars on it or something that made it so she couldn't escape through it?


This is going to sound odd but? I'm glad that Jerica didn't do something like, break down into tears after she'd cooled down? Because like,,, that doesn't always happen. It's such a Jerica reaction to sort of,,, shut down, too? I don't know, that's an odd comment to make. I just feel like so many characters, in this situation, would have just gone off in hysterics after a meltdown like that, and I'm really glad that she didn't.


oof.


aAAaaaaaAAaa ok wow aanfkln I!! really want to know what happens but I know I gotta wait until tomorrow when I'm not sleepy and can actually review it. I did,,, really like this chapter though? it was super heavy but listen. as a high ranking member of the Angst Committee, I have a super weird enjoyment of angst. it's wEIRD but I just,,, aklasmd. but it was a strong chapter!! and I just, had a lot of thoughts about it? I don't think it was so?? critique-y today but I just kinda wanted to ramble about what I was thinking but I was kinda too drawn in to notice anything if there was anything??

but I'm rambling again aaa, really liked this chapter and you'll definitely see me again soon! :D

I hope you're having an amazing time!! <3




ShadowVyper says...


Thanks so much for the review! I really appreciate it <33 And I'm also really excited for you to get to the next chapter lol. Based on some of your comments in this review I'm not sure if you'll like it or not, but guess we'll see ;)

h e a r t b r e a k e r



mellifera says...


you sCARE me when you say things like this

<333



ShadowVyper says...


heh heh heh <33



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Sun Jan 27, 2019 10:13 pm
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alliyah wrote a review...



Hi again Shady,

I think this'll be my last review for the day -


We'll start with some Overall Comments again:

So this is a very emotionally heavy chapter for Jerica - and is a little shorter than the last few I think. I think that's probably good, because it gives enough time for the scene to play our without necessarily making the reader feel weighted down by what Jerica is going through.

Again this was a pretty smooth chapter, really well edited, with scenes that were easy and interesting to follow. -- A few overall thoughts I had --

1) I'm not sure if the phychological leap for Jerica from running to save her life -> to being willing to commit suicide is quite explored enough. I think it'd be more believable if Jerica was sort of bluffing, not believing Aerik would actually let her kill herself - but even with the given grief and anger in the last chapter I'm not sure that the psychological leap quite makes sense unless she's had thoughts of self-harm or suicide before in previous chapters that I've missed.

It does make for an extremely dynamic scene, that I couldn't pull my eyes from, and could almost see it playing out in a movie as Jerica tries to sit up to slit her own throat, and then Aerik forces her back down with his foot - however in reflecting to it, I'm not sure I sensed the emotion that drove her to that so there was a little dissonance for me (granted this may also be due to me not having read the previous many chapters).

2) My other overall comment is Aerik comes off as not just callous in this chapter but incredibly difficult to read I'll comment more on that in the specifics section.

Moving to some Specific Comments:

Quick note, I think you began your last chapter with a "stomach lurch" too, so be careful about having repetitive "openers" right next to subsequent chapters as they might end up feeling like fillers. Not an issue, just something to keep in mind, in case chapter 28 also begins with "Jerica's stomach was in knots".

I would love to know more about Aerik's thinking in the scene where it looks like Jerica is so angry and upset that she might kill herself. Aerik has gone for significant effort to re-capture her - so I would think he values her at least instrumentally, and it seems like this would be terrifying to see. His response though:

"Calm. Down," Aerik said. "You're going to go to your room until you can cool off. We'll talk about what happened, later."


It seems so ordinary, almost like a stereotypical parent to their misbehaving teenager - I'm not sure if you could inject a little bit more as to an indication whether Aerik is angry, scared, surprised, threatening, worried or something else here - but as a reader I'd lov eto know since it feels like Aerik leaves a lot unsaid (like how nonchalant he was two chapters ago, upon hearing about a soldier assaulting a young village girl) - he has very little discernible reaction.

Eventually she sank down on her cot, utterly exhausted. Now that her anger had subsided there was nothing left to replace it but sheer, in-your-face weariness that would not be ignored no matter how hard she tried.


I find the scene where Jerica is punching the wall to be really enlightening into Jerica's character - because here again we're hearing that Jerica processes grief, anger, and emotion through physical exertion specifically fighting - even if it has to be against herself - that seems very in line with what I've read so far - and the scene again is well written, because as a reader to hear how calculated and almost unemotional in the last two chapters, I almost wanted to see her break down a bit, know what's going on in the inside is actually effecting her.

Jerica clutched the hand close to her chest and stalked away from the door, pacing like a caged animal, trying to release the wound up tension deep inside her. She couldn't get the village girl out of her mind. Or Kieran. Or Aerik's stupid, infuriating smirk.

this part is particularly intense, I like that Jerica thinks back to the village girl, because that was a terrible/gruesome scene for sure, and it makes sense that she would carry it with her - even though she didn't have a chance for a lot of reflection on it "in the moment".

With all of the running and adrenaline and fighting that Jerica's been going through - it seems like this was definitely inevitable!

That's all I had, again like I said, this was another interesting chapter, I might have to continue to follow this around now and again to find out what happens.

Image

Happy Review Day!

~alliyah




ShadowVyper says...


CONGRATS ON BEING ALL BLUE STAR-ED NOW! :D That's awesome!

And thanks for the review! This one is also super helpful!

Since you mentioned maybe being interested in reading more of this in the future... she has had some suicidal ideation in previous chapters. As you're probably seeing in these past few chapters, she very much ties her sense of self-worth to her prowess, so the frustration of being captured again hit her hard. But I also definitely agree that that could be made clearer and that Aerik could use some improvement xD He's been a tricky character for me to write.

I'm probably going to post the next chapter of this once review day ends (I've been sitting on it for several weeks as to not clog up the Green Room and it's been driving me insane xD). Would you like me to add you to the tag list? If not that's A-okay, but I have been finding your reviews very helpful and I'd be happy to add you to the list if you're interested!

Thanks again <333



alliyah says...


THANKS /if only they were Dark Cyan/ :D

And you're welcome! that added background helps -- and feel free to add me to the tag-fest I don't mind getting a tag, and I may poke my nose in a few more chapters too. :)



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Sun Jan 27, 2019 6:34 pm
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AlexaBWill wrote a review...



Good morning and happy Review Day! Let's get this work out of the Green Room. :)

First of all, I think you're doing a great job, and I enjoyed reading this work. I'll just go through the work as I read it.

In the opening lines: "The Transport did nothing to calm the inner turmoil that shook Jerica to her very core. She felt the jolt of her body being thrown together a moment before she landed heavily on the ground. Her stomach twisted into an even tighter knot and she stumbled to her hands and knees a moment before throwing her meager breakfast up." - I felt as if it was really overwritten. If you read that section that I quoted back, you'll find that a lot of that description is not only kind of simplified, but it's also unnecessary.

There are, however, high points to your descriptions, as well. Take this sentence, for example: "She felt her skin flush hot, rage bubbling up inside her, a spasm spreading throughout her entire body with the intensity of the emotion she couldn't control." In the context of the surrounding, simpler sentences, this emotional, visceral sentence adds a lot of punch to the story.

The plot itself is very fast-paced without feeling rushed, which makes it interesting. I will say, however, you probably could have sped up that action scene a little. I always find it odd when action scenes are described in great detail because that's probably not the mindset the characters are in during that moment.

Overall, though, I do really like the narrative, and the story really seems to be going somewhere. I'm excited to see what happens next.




ShadowVyper says...


Thanks for the review! :)




Maybe we're all just complex human beings with skewed perceptions of each other.
— Ventomology