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The Last Spell 13.1

by SilverNight


Shane must have left a crack in the curtains, because the sun was streaming through emerald velvet when he blinked his tired eyes open. His room was far too green. Of course, the House of Courage stuck to a symbolic color scheme in its design, but they didn’t feel the need to drench every surface in it, unlike here. His sheets were in sage, the pillowcases were mint, the walls were the solid color of dusky pine. The hotel had no doubt been trying to make it look like his home, but it wasn’t working.

Maybe it should have worked on him. He’d lived in this city for four years, and his uncle had once stayed in this very room— and before that, his mother had too, and on and on. It wasn’t like he didn’t have a family presence here as well as one of his own. But it felt wrong, just as the overwhelming amount of green felt wrong. He wasn't settled.

His mother could have braided her dark hair in the mirror by the armoire, that soft smile floating on her face. Flint could have paced over the hardwood floor with a meeting on his mind. Shane wondered if the other Heirs felt haunted by the lingering memory of their predecessors here too.

Shane could have sworn he was too tired to be seeing properly when he rolled over in bed and saw a pair of yellow slippers on the floor instead of the off-shamrock ones provided for him. The color stood out fiercely, and there was no way those were meant to be here. Leilan. His friend had probably swapped them out as a joke. With a sleepy but amused roll of his eyes and an incredibly long yawn, Shane reluctantly pushed himself up and out of bed.

It was then that he remembered that he shouldn’t be putting on any slippers this morning, green or no. Mireya and Cyrin were going to come over soon, and for that, he’d have to look at least slightly professional. Shane sighed.

Hopefully he hadn’t woken up too late to have breakfast first.

~~~

With his hair brushed and some semi-formal wear on, Shane left his room and closed his door behind him, walking softly through the hall in case anyone wasn’t up yet. He needn’t have bothered; all the other doors, except the ones to the teal and bronze rooms, were already open. He wondered if they’d already started without him, and he hurried out.

Fortunately, he wasn’t greeted by six people sitting in their living room at a conference, but by Kasumi in the kitchen. She was rinsing out a bowl that looked like it had held pancake batter, getting it clean before she set it in the dishwasher. Sure enough, there was a stack of pancakes sitting on a plate beside her, which were nicely golden-brown. The stove griddle had clearly been used.

“Morning,” she greeted him as she pulled down more plates.

“Morning,” Shane replied. He paused, then added, “I thought we get complimentary breakfast here?”

“We do, but Kaja finds continental breakfasts not filling enough, and no one felt like going to the buffet, so I made this. Leilan and Dawn went downstairs just a moment ago, they’ve eaten already. Kaja has too, so take all you want.” Kasumi piled a couple pancakes on a plate. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

Shane hesitated, before he took a plate and a few pancakes for himself. “Nothing. Thanks, that’s very nice of you.”

She smiled slightly as she pulled out silverware for both of them. “Don’t be too impressed. It’s only pancake mix Daphne got for us, I didn’t make it from scratch. I can’t do much more than whisking three ingredients together.”

“I have about a 50% success rate with making toast, so I’m definitely impressed by this,” Shane said.

Kasumi shook her head with mock disdain. “Daphne also bought us berries to stock the place yesterday. They’re in the fridge. I assume you didn’t know already, otherwise they’d be gone by now.”

“Oh, yes,” Shane exclaimed, darting for the fridge, and he heard Kasumi chuckle behind him.

As he pulled out a carton of blackberries and piled them high onto his pancakes, he had to wonder about Kasumi’s attitude this morning. It’d been a while since he’d seen her in a good mood, much less one where she was considerate enough to make breakfast for anyone. Yet here she was, making pancakes and telling him where to find the berries, knowing that he probably wouldn’t leave any for anyone else.

“Is today a good day?” Shane asked as he sat down at the counter table.

Kasumi shrugged, cutting herself a bite. “We’re going to be restoring order to Aphirah, so I see that as pretty good.”

“Right,” Shane said, uncertain how much he agreed with her.

Kasumi must have heard it, because she glanced up. “What is it?”

“No, it’s nothing.” Attempting to dodge the question, Shane quickly took his first bite of the pancakes. They were light and fluffy, perfect with the sweetness of the berries. “Wow, these are really good.”

Although he’d been honest about the pancakes, Shane clearly hadn’t gotten good enough at lying to be a politician, because Kasumi’s eyes narrowed suspiciously at that non-response.

“Okay, fine,” he huffed. “I’ve got my doubts and confusions to work through, but I don’t really want to talk about it just yet. I do have a question for you, though, if you’re willing.”

“Shoot.”

“What was it with the movie theater last night?”

Kasumi paused, her fork hovering above her plate. “I don’t know,” she admitted, and Shane was pretty sure she was at least mostly telling the truth. “I just… kind of knew it was there. Like I remembered it somehow. I’m not sure how I did, though.”

“Did you remember the casino, too?” Shane asked.

Her brow furrowed as she frowned. “I… it’s hard to tell. It felt vaguely familiar, but I can’t think of a reason why I’d remember it or the movie theater across from it, because I have no idea why I’d have been to either place.”

“But you have been, you mean?”

Kasumi shrugged, slumping a little bit. “Look, I have no clue. I didn’t recall anything at all before I saw the location, and it’s all too fuzzy to tell. It might have something to do with my dad, it might not. I don’t know.”

Shane frowned in confusion. “Your dad?”

Wake up already, Shane, or else I’m going in there and dropping your history books out the window,” a heavy voice bellowed from the hallway, causing both of them to jump before Kasumi could answer.

“I closed my door,” Shane muttered, before he raised his voice. “I’m out here, Kaja! Leave my history books alone.”

Kaja came out, huffing something about how he should have let her act on her ‘fun’ threats for once. She’d no doubt been awake for a couple hours already, and she might have even hit the hotel gym for a morning exercise, from the looks of her sporty high ponytail of blonde hair and the water bottle in her hand. Shane had told Cyrin and Mireya that the Heirs weren’t morning people. That was a lie, except for him. He’d completely made that up to get some extra sleep.

"It's drafty in here," Kaja declared, setting her water bottle down on the counter with a loud clang. Shane winced and went back to eating. "Did someone open a window earlier?"

Kasumi frowned. "...No? Why would we do that?"

Kaja grunted. “Anyway. We’ll have to be ready to leave this place behind. It sounds like we’re traveling, although we don’t know where yet. I’m packed and prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.”

“Are we going to ditch Acelin and Daphne here and run off?” Kasumi asked. “I was lucky to get away unnoticed the first time.”

“We can worry about that later,” Kaja said, though that worried Shane very much at this very moment. “Hopefully those thieves won’t take us to Amber City. I think I’ll lose my mind if I end up in that airport again.”

“I have larger concerns,” Shane said flatly.

“Of course you do,” Kaja muttered with a roll of her eyes.

“We met a crime boss yesterday. We’re about to abandon our duties as Heirs to follow two thieves wherever they want to take us. We’re going to participate in organized crime. I’d say my concerns are valid.”

“We won’t get into trouble for extending our travel, because we were only really here for meeting with the mayor and discussing it, and it sounds like those two swore to protect us,” Kaja said, reaching over to snatch a handful of blackberries from the carton. Shane watched on distressedly. “The crime boss was strange, though.”

“His name was… Sparrow?” Kasumi asked. “That’s what I find strange.”

“He was Kejvan, probably local or from somewhere in the coastal East, like Starlight City,” Kaja explained. “A lot of Kejvan family names take after an aspect of nature, sometimes an animal.”

“It’s a decreasing trend,” Shane added. “Kaja doesn’t have it, and once industrialization kicked in, nature’s relevance in Kejvan culture—”

“Your last name is literally Hawking.”

“He knew that,” Kasumi said pityingly. “He just wanted to talk about history.”

“When doesn’t he?” Kaja pointed out.

“Thanks, Kaja Lindberg, for your helpful evidence,” Shane grumbled, finishing the last of his pancakes.

The elevator dinged, and he suddenly realized that throwing around full names today was dangerous. Through the shot of quick panic, he felt incredibly grateful that no one had arrived a few seconds earlier when Leilan and Dawn stepped out through the opening metal doors, with Mireya and Cyrin just behind.

Shane watched the mages glance around the suite, and he wondered what they were thinking. Cyrin didn’t taken aback by any of the wealth on display, and mostly seemed to care about the windows and doors, from where his gaze was going. Maybe he’s stolen more impressive things, Shane reasoned. Mireya seemed to stare for a rather long time at the crystal and gold chandelier overhead, and he wasn’t sure whether she was being judgmental, intrigued, or admirative.

“Can I have some blackberries?” Mireya asked finally. “It’s hard to plan things when you haven’t eaten yet.”

“I literally offered to buy you a muffin with the coffee this morning,” Cyrin said. “You turned it down.”

“Yes, well, they didn’t have blackberry muffins.”

Shane held out the blackberries, trying not to look too upset about it. “Have all you like.” Please don’t do that.

“Thank you!” Mireya said cheerfully, taking a large handful that made him wish he hadn’t been so generous. Did pledging financial support extend to providing them with berries? It probably applied to being a good host.

“Is there somewhere we can sit down to discuss this?” Cyrin asked. “It might take some time.”

“Of course,” Leilan agreed, heading towards the sitting room the Heirs had met in the night before. “Right this way. Let’s get started.”


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Fri Sep 22, 2023 9:00 pm
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Ventomology wrote a review...



Well. Figured I should probably start somewhere on the reviews haha. Maybe I'll be caught up by the end of RevMo!

I'll be honest in my first read through of this chapter all I could think about was how Shane really is a kid after my own heart and I miss good berries so much. After growing up in produce central, the midwestern US is a travesty. That said, I am trying to figure out now if you mean anything by the number of times Shane thinks about berries here, because it's a lot for something that doesn't seem like it has good potential to be plot relevant and also doesn't really end up becoming part of a joke. It also kind of hit me out of left field, because I hadn't pegged Shane's narrative voice as being particularly concerned about specific foods. I can't remember anything from prior Shane chapters that made me think 'yes this makes perfect sense for this scene and this character,' and by now we're far enough in that I feel like I should be seeing real consistency of portrayal.

Which leads me into the thing that I think will really improve this entire novel: character dialogue style.

Now, you've established a much bigger cast than I would ever write, so mad props, but that obviously makes it much harder to create meaningful differences in how people speak--especially because these are all kind of normal people. In fact, Kaja, who fits this really stoic/strong jock character, actually to me has the strongest and most recognizable dialogue in the cast. She's especially terse, straightforward, and doesn't speak as often as the others. Paired with the excellent and consistent reminders of her physicality, she paints a really complete picture that stands out and never gets lost in other characters.

(Ok I'll be real... I like to include jocks in my casts for this exact reason. They're easy to differentiate from others without being obnoxious about it. Mireya, as the cheerful one, is also usually easy to pick out.)

So. There are five other heirs, two thieves, and myriad others. What do you do with them so that... maybe seven times out of ten, your reader could pick them out by their dialogue?

There are a couple of tricks I like to use. One is level of politeness/formality. I think this would be a great place to set your heirs apart from everyone else. While they may not have all had the same upbringing, the society they run in has likely introduced a kind of formality to their speech, or maybe in some of their cases, some codeswitching. The use of please, or the use of commands, or removing words that soften an ask while sticking more rigidly to proper grammar (no slang) could all be indicators of class.

Mireya and Cyrin, on the other hand, are established to have a second language under their collective belt. (iirc, one of them has that other language as their native tongue?) My own mother has lived in the US for thirty years now, but she still throws in unusual idioms that are directly translated from her native language. Stuff like this could really sell that aspect of the characters. The thieves are also "commoners," so I might expect them to have more slang.

Or! Maybe it's different slang. It really depends on the world you've made. And this is such a deep world that I think you can start to fit more slang that originates from it into your dialogue.

Some other things to play with might be verbosity (some characters may say ten words when one will do), the use of "enhancers" like "really" and "very" and fillers like "like" or "uh", or punctuation. And when you have a clear idea of how each character speaks, I find it becomes a lot easier to write dialogue tags that a really unique to each character as well.

...Anyway, I had to dig real deep for this one. Like others have said before, you've created a really well-thought-out world and magic system, and the plot is intriguing, and clips along at a fast, but not confusing pace. Excellent work all around.

Hope this helps,
-Vento




SilverNight says...


Ooh, this is very good feedback! Thank you so much for providing it!



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Tue Jun 20, 2023 5:36 pm
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MerleBlackbird wrote a review...



You seriously might be one of the best writers on here--at least of those who have posted something any time recently. Your writing style is EPIC. I would be curious to know how you got so good and how long you've been writing. I do get the feeling you have been working on this novel for a while. I can see the improvement from the beginning to this point. I love your humorful storytelling, even applied to serious areas of the storyline. It keeps the story engaging throughout, which is especially helpful in long discussions/dialogue that would otherwise be rather dry.

You also have vibrant characters. I love the character mix you have going on. Your characters are all so unique and lifelike, I feel like their interactions could solo a story, even without a plot! But the plot makes it even better! The thoughts, feelings, and intentions are communicated impressively clearly in your writing--if not spelled out in words, then by actions and behaviors. Very effective.

I also want to comment on your atmosphere. It can be be very hard to keep track of the small details, but you seem an expert on maintaining a constant 10+ things going on all at once. You never forget a detail of the setting, and you never leave out a character present. Your scenes are comprised of full atmospheres and active conversations.

Finally, you're doing something impressive in your proofing. I hardly ever see and error or a typo. Whatever you're doing - whether it's having someone else edit or just scrutinizing everything yourself - it's working, so keep it up.

Can't applaud your progress enough! Really actually wouldn't mind getting to know you more, I think I could learn a lot :-)




SilverNight says...


Hey Merle!! Thank you so much for this review, it means a lot :)



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Wed Jun 07, 2023 10:19 am
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Guess who's back for more! It's still Team Tortoise, and I'm still trying to make my way through the Green Room so what better novel to read than this one! I will definitely go back and read through the previous chapters when I get a minute, but I am starting to get an idea of different characters and plot already.

I liked the start to the chapter, and I get the feeling that's the only peace Shane is going to get for a while! The descriptions of green made me chuckle - I had no idea there were so many ways to describe the colour!

The interactions between Shane, Kasumi, and Kaja provide insights into their personalities and I'm both equally entertained and annoyed by Kaja xD. Kasumi's change in behavior and her willingness to make breakfast for the group is a nice touch, but it would be helpful to have a clearer explanation or reason behind her change in attitude - I'm not sure if this is what was cut off when Kaja entered the room? I think this might be a case of me not knowing the characters too well, but it certainly seemed like there were some things left unsaid!

The only improvement for me is that pacing of the scene feels a little slow at times, particularly during the breakfast conversation. You could think about tightening the dialogue and eliminating some unnecessary details to keep up a more engaging pace. I've tweaked some lines in the examples below which you don't have to use, but I'm hoping illustrate my point more clearly than the ramblings above!

I'm impressed. My success rate with making toast is about 50%.


Don't be too impressed. It's just pancake mix Daphne got for us. I can't do much more than whisking three ingredients together


We met a crime boss yesterday, and now we're about to abandon our duties as Heirs to follow two thieves wherever they want.


I've tried to keep the character's voices but just shorten up some of the longer points to help keep up the pace during what's inherently a slower scene. I don't think a complete overhaul is needed, but just a few tweaks to make the pace flow.

Let’s get started.

Let's!! I'll definitely be back for another chapter soon :)

Icy

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SilverNight says...


These suggestions on the dialogue are great! Your edits read a lot better in my opinion, so I'll definitely be rewriting them to be more concise. Thanks for your feedback, you've got this tortoise race! <3




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