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Snow: The Tale of a Cold Heart (Part IV)

by Snowery


The fragile, glass goblet shattered in his hand.

Blood and water intermingled as they dripped onto his heavy, oaken desk. Pieces of glass were embedded in his flesh. Blood trickled into his sleeve. A burning pain had erupted in his palm and fingers, but Balthazar did not stir. He sat alone and unmoving in his dimly lit study. If a person were to see him they would have thought him a statue, cold and lifeless. They would not know the pain, anger and frustration that this broken statue felt. Everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong. People had died, money had been spent and time had been wasted yet he was no closer to a solution then he was before.

A war with Ascerai will ruin Liandor.

Tallon's words resonated in his mind. You are dragging us into an unnecessary war, Balthazar. You are sending tens of thousands of men to their needless death. I will have no part of this.

Balthazar clenched his jaw at the memory.

"Unnecessary war? Needless death?” He had roared in reply. “I am securing our borders! Ascerai have never been friendly with us-”

So you started a war with them.”Tallon had cut in icily. “No, what you really want is their metal mines so that you can forge more weapons, make war on even more countries and add them to your Liandorean Empire.”

Balthazar slammed his injured hand onto the desk, and grimaced as pain shot up his forearm. Things could have been so simple! If only the stubborn man had just put away his pride and his useless conscience. Now Ascerai was slipping from his grasp. He had been relying on Tallon's brilliant mind to save the war but... Tallon was dead. Tallon, his trusted advisor, his greatest ally, his-

My friend. My only true friend and I killed him.

Balthazar was breathing heavily. His chest felt like it was on fire. He hadn't planned on killing Tallon. Just scaring him into submission.

Clocktower was situated at the heart of the Rocky Ranges, close to Jiandri's Teeth. The march had been long and treacherous, and they had finally reached it to find a small army waiting for them. The siege had lasted three days and two nights, and too many men from both sides had perished. Balthazar had forced his way into the ancient castle, found Tallon and put him to trial.

I am the Emperor!” he had thundered. “My word is law and writ in stone! If you defy me, you commit treason.”

The fool of a man had just looked at the floor.

I am giving you one more chance Tallon,” he had hissed, “join me in my pursuit of Ascerai. Give me the advice that I will need. Design more of those ingenious machines that helped me to defeat Rissen, and I will spare your life and your family's.”

I have him now. Balthazar had thought smugly. He will bend for his family.

No.” The word had been like a slap to his face.“No more Balthazar, I am done.”

It was then that Balthazar knew he had no choice but to kill him. Insolence such that as Tallon had displayed could not go overlooked. Could not go unpunished.

You are Tallon Darr the Fourth. You are the Averence, the Architect of the Clock and the Keeper of Time. You were my most trusted adviser and my closest friend. Yet you still chose to betray me, therefore I hereby sentence you to die.”

Tallon had just looked at him with those grey eyes and nodded in acceptance.

Since you have made vain use of you head I will let you keep it,” he had declared. “Your heart though, has been your weakness thus it shall be your bane.”

The blow had been a swift one, straight through the heart. The hardest part had been looking into Tallon's eyes as he thrust the blade into his chest. Balthazar wasn't even allowed a moment to contemplate his deed because that old servant of Tallon's had started wailing, “The Averence is dead!” It had turned out that the Keeper of the Birds had been hiding in the castle rookery the entire time . He had heard the old man's cry, recorded the time of death and sent birds out to various tower clocks in Liandor. Thanks to the old man, Balthazar couldn't even keep the Averence's death a secret. Now none of tower clocks were working and acted only as a reminder of Tallon's time of death.

A knocking at his door brought Balthazar back to the present.

Yes,” he growled.

The door opened slightly and a tall man in a long, dark cloak whose cowl covered his face entered. “Gareth has been killed as you ordered, sire.”

Balthazar looked at the man. “Good work, Edrian, did you kill all of his family as well?” He saw the man hesitate.

We managed to kill his wife, sire.” he replied.

Was his wife all of his family?” Balthazar saw the man flinch.

No sire. He also had a daughter, she... got away.”

Balthazar was silent for a minute then he said quietly, “Edrian, when I tell you to kill a man and all of his family I expect you to do as I say. I'm sure you do not want me to demonstrate my meaning using your own family as an example,” he restrained a smile as he felt the other man stiffen with fear.

Y-yes sire. She will be found and killed immediately.” Edrian bowed deeply before hurriedly exiting the room. Balthazar flexed his wounded hand. So many men had betrayed him. So many good men that he had to have killed. It was all such a waste. Gareth had been his best assassin, but in the end he had chosen to pledge his loyalty to Tallon. If it wasn't for Gareth, he would have the next Averence in his grasp now.

There was a light knock on the door.

"Come in," called Balthazar.

The door creaked open and a tall, old man with white hair and pale blue eyes slid inside.

"Sire," he said, bowing deeply.

"What is it Warwick?" demanded Balthazar.

"Sire, a well reputed singer has come requesting, insisting in fact, that he be allowed to perform for you tonight." replied Warwick eyeing Balthazar's injured hand, he knew better than to mention it. Balthazar frowned at his manservant. He had no love for music and an intense dislike for singers. "What is said singer's name?" he growled.

"He goes by Lucair, sire."

"Well tell this Lucair that I have no need of his services tonight or any other night. If he even tries to "insist'" on performing, you are to stick a knife through him."

"Yes sire." Warwick bowed again, he turned to leave.

Warwick,” he called.

Yes sire.” replied his manservant.

Bring me Edrian's family.”

A/N Hey all! Silver here. Just wanted to say that I hope I got all the italics right because I kind of got confused with where I had to and I didn't. Thanks for reading. :)


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Sun Jun 15, 2014 2:03 pm
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Deanie wrote a review...



Hey Silverlock!

Just here to leave a quick review! This chapter was fairly flawless so I don't have too much to mention that hasn't already been covered before this review already. So great job there. I loved the writing style you use here, and you introduced Balthazar perfectly. I can really see him as a prideful and fearsome leader. No one wants to get on his wrong side, but I can imagine there would be quite a few people who are secretly against him...

When Balthazar kills his friend, all you mention is the look in his eyes as he does so. I wanted to know what he felt. Was his own heart breaking a little bit as he stabbed his friend, someone innocent who only had a little bit of backbone and refused to bend to his every word? I wanted to see more emotions there, curious as to if what he did changed him a little bit or not.

Another thing is, did Balthazar ever really get to Tallon's family or not? Because we know from other chapters that his family is fine right now... so? Did he do it or did he have a bit of mercy on the family? Make sure it's mentioned, because I am curious to see if he lived up to his word, as he seems to be doing to Edrian's family.

Hm, I believe the daughter who got away was Lia? Which means Gareth is the father and he died because he supported Tallon. Ooh. I love those 'oh' moments where it feels like we are unlocking something in the story. Great job ;)

I am going to keep reading!

Deanie x




Silverlock says...


Deanie!! :D Hmm... you are believing right! XD I'll definitely work on what you mentioned. Thank you! :)



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Thu May 01, 2014 1:01 am
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birk wrote a review...



Hey Silverlock!

Back for chapter four. The last chapter managed to keep up with the quality of the second chapter. This one is definately shorter than the other ones.

Well, to be honest, I considered to skip writing a review for this chapter, as I actually have little to nothing to comment on. This part was very well written!

But, I have reviewed everything so far, so I guess I should do a quick comment before I move on to the next one. So I'll comb through it again and see if there's anything at all I could bring up.

First though, let's talk about the chapter itself.

We have another point of view character. And it's the Emperor! I was not expecting that. I love POV's from a more villainous character.

Another thing we found out was his relationship with Tallon, which was pretty well done. They seemed to have a genuine connection and you actually made me show some sympathy for Balthazar. That's quite decent.

More connections are made, as we find out that Lia's father (and he now has a name!) was one of Balthazar's top assassins. And he and his wife was killed for allying themselves with Tallon.

This was all written great. The story unfolds perfectly as the chapters go on, and it doesn't feel like you drag out the reveal of what is going on. All the previous parts all seem to fit with how it's revealed as the story goes along.

One thing I loved was how even though Tallon is dead at this point, his character still makes an impression. How you brough back their previous arguments through Balthazar's thoughts was very well done, and I found no faults in it.

The dialogue is great, the paragraphs are structured well and are lengthy enough. And to top it off, I found very few grammatical errors. Fantastic!

Alright, I'll write as I go along:

Edit

People had died, money had been spent and time had been wasted, yet he was no closer to a
Threw in a comma there.

Edit
sending tens of thousands of men to their needless deaths.


Edit
Insolence such as what Tallon had displayed could not go overlooked. It could not go unpunished.


and sent birds out to various tower clocks in Liandor.

I really love the idea of these tower clocks all around the land. And it's cool the Tallon designed them. It makes sense that Balthazar could need his help in conquering other lands.

Suggestion
Balthazar was silent for a moment then he said quietly;
I think 'moment' sounds better here. Unless it was awkward silence? I also added a semicolon.

"Sire, a well reputed singer has come requesting, insisting in fact, that he be allowed to perform for you tonight."
One thing I'm really wondering is: who on earth is this guy? A bard? Why is he in the story? :D

“Bring me Edrian's family.”

Oh man, I love it! Just when you warm up to this guy he takes a left turn. Very grim.

Alright, that's pretty much all I could say about this chapter. Not much at all. Since beginning the story back when you first joined YWS, you have improved a lot. I know I did myself.

Also, looking through your other reviews here, I realize you did some edits based on Joebot's review. It's very good that you got a lot out of it, because as I try to decode his reviews....I have no idea what he's doing. :D

I guess I'll see you in the next chapter. And I hope that bard makes a triumphant entrance!

Keep it up, Silverlock!


Cheers
Birkhoff




Silverlock says...


Birhoff!! You are my favourite YSWer at the moment you know that? Thanks for sticking through this story! I'm glad that this chapter answered a lot of questions, it's exactly what it's meant to do. :D Haha, yeah Joebot explained their system to me in their first review so I understand it. I'll definitely be further editing this thanks to your suggestions!! Thank you!! :)



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Fri Jan 03, 2014 8:25 pm
joebot wrote a review...



You know how this goes.



The [x] glass goblet shattered in his hand. [This is a good image, but again the single standalone sentence feels repetitive to the point of almost monotony. In addition, I would highly recommend you identify who we're watching right away. Readers tend to not care much about what's happening until they know who it's happening to. ] [no new paragraph] [Drops of] blood and water [x] dripped onto his heavy, oaken desk. Pieces of glass were embedded in his flesh [and] blood trickled into his sleeve. [The reason I combined those sentences was so that the sentence structures would be mixed up a bit.] A burning pain [x] erupted in his palm and fingers, but Balthazar did not stir. He sat alone and unmoving in his dimly lit study. [He was like] a statue[:] cold and lifeless. [x] [Emotions did not crack the surface]. Everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong. People had died, money had been spent and time had been wasted[, and] [x] he was [still] no closer to a solution then he was before.

A war with Ascerai will ruin Liandor.

[I feel like the story is starting to get too many plotlines going. You've started each part from a different POV except for with Lia. So far I'm most interested in her story. In some ways the multiple perspectives is kind of interesting since I know it probably relates back to Lia (again, the character I'm most invested in right now) so I'm holding on, but the short attention span is starting to lose its charm. The effect is like reading four different novels at once.]

Tallon's words resonated in his mind. You are dragging us into an unnecessary war, Balthazar. You are sending tens of thousands of men to their needless death. I will have no part of this.

Balthazar clenched his jaw at the memory.

"Unnecessary war? Needless death?” [h]e had roared in reply. “I am securing our borders! Ascerai have never been friendly with us-”

“So you started a war with them[,]” Tallon had cut in icily. “[Don't lie to me or yourself.] [You] want [x] their metal mines so that you can forge more weapons [and] make [more] war[. You're trying to craft an empire, Balthazar, and I am telling you that's a mistake].”

Balthazar slammed his injured hand onto the desk[x] and grimaced as pain shot up his forearm. Things could have been so simple! If only the stubborn man had just put away his pride and his useless conscience. Now Ascerai was slipping from his grasp. He had been relying on Tallon's brilliant mind to save the war but... Tallon was dead. Tallon, his trusted advisor, his greatest ally, his-

My friend. My only true friend[.] [x]I killed him.

Balthazar was breathing heavily. His chest felt like it was on fire. He hadn't planned on killing Tallon[,] just scaring him into submission.

Clocktower was situated at the heart of the Rocky Ranges, close to Jiandri's Teeth. The march had been long and treacherous, and they had finally reached it to find a small army waiting for them. The siege had lasted three days and two nights, and [and both sides suffered excessive casualties]. Balthazar had forced his way into the ancient castle, found Tallon and put him to trial. [Okay, so I'm guessing this is the other perspective from the scene in the prologue.] [I would look at this and try to stretch it and make it specific. How long ago did it happen? How long did it take for the armies to break through? Did Tallon resist capture? Or did he go down with dignity? Did they find the family in the castle? Did they drag him back to Ascerai? Torture him? You summarize a great deal of events in a few short sentences when you could use these sentences to not only further characterize Balthazar and Tallon, but also raise tension in the story. We want to know what this guy's style is and what he's truly capable of. Killing his best friend is a start; tying him down to a prison floor and denying him food -- or conversely, supplying him with a furnished room and meeting with him over tea -- gives us a clue into both characters.]

“I am the Emperor!” he had thundered. “My word is law and writ in stone! If you defy me, you commit treason.”

The fool of a man had just looked at the floor.

“I am giving you one more chance Tallon,” he had hissed[.] “[J]oin me in my pursuit of Ascerai. Give me the advice that I will need. Design more of those ingenious machines that helped me to defeat Rissen, and I will spare your life and your family[x].”

I have him now. Balthazar had thought smugly. He will bend for his family.

“No.” The word had been like a slap to his face.“No more[,] Balthazar[.] I am done.”

It was then that Balthazar knew he had no choice but to kill him. [Such] insolence [x] could not [be] overlooked. [Such insolence] could not go unpunished.

“ You are Tallon Darr the Fourth. You are the Averence, the Architect of the Clock and the Keeper of Time. You were my most trusted adviser and my closest friend. [Now you are a traitor and my greatest enemy.] [x]I hereby sentence you to die.”

Tallon had [only] [x] nodded in acceptance.

“Since you have made vain use of [your] head I will let you keep it,” he had declared. “Your heart though, has been your weakness thus it shall be your bane [bane wouldn't be the right word. Hamartia would work here, but I'll admit it doesn't have the same ring].”

The blow had been a swift one, [a blade?] straight through the heart. [!]The hardest part had been looking into Tallon's eyes as he thrust the blade into his chest. [Eliminate passive voice! Put us in the immediate scene, even if this is a memory. Something like, "As he tugged the blade out of Tallon's chest, Balthazar saw his eyes -- grey, deep, and dead." Always work in the present, even when in the past.] Balthazar wasn't even allowed a moment to contemplate his deed because that old servant of Tallon's had started wailing, “The Averence is dead!” It had turned out that the Keeper of the Birds had been hiding in the castle rookery [why would a castle have a rookery? And where ARE we, anyway? Anchor us in the scene.] the entire time . He had heard the old man's cry, recorded the time of death and sent birds out to various tower clocks in Liandor. [Again, put us in the scene. Don't tell us what he did; show us what he's doing as he's doing it. Stretch the scene.] Thanks to the old man, Balthazar couldn't even keep the Averence's death a secret. Now none of tower clocks were working and acted only as a reminder of Tallon's time of death.

A knocking at his door brought Balthazar back to the present.

“Yes[?]” he growled.

The door opened slightly and a tall man in a [x] dark cloak[x] entered. [His cowl obscured his face but Balthazar knew him.] “Gareth has been killed as you ordered, sire[," the man said.]

[x]“Good work, Edrian,[" Balthazar said. "]Did you kill [the] family as well?” [x]

[Edrian hesitated.] “We managed to kill his wife, sire[,]” he replied.

“Was his wife all of his family?” [x] [Balthazar said venomously.]

“No sire[...] He also had a daughter[.] She... got away.”

Balthazar was silent for a minute[.] [T]hen he [murmured], “Edrian, when I tell you to kill a man and all of his family I expect you to do as I say. I'm sure you do not want me to [use your] own family as an example[.]” [x]

“Y-yes sire[," Edrian stuttered. "]She will be found and killed immediately.” Edrian bowed deeply before hurriedly exiting the room. Balthazar flexed his wounded hand. So many men had betrayed him. [x] It was all such a waste. Gareth had been his best assassin, but in the end he had chosen to pledge his loyalty to Tallon. If it wasn't for Gareth, he would have the next Averence in his grasp now.

There was a light knock on the door.

"Come in," called Balthazar.

The door creaked open and a tall, old man with white hair and pale blue eyes slid inside. [This is repetitive; it's too similar in structure to how you intro-ed Edrian. I would suggest having the manservant bump into Edrian as he exits. Then describe him in indirect ways -- a crumpled hand grabbing onto the door frame for support, for example. Mix things up. You don't want to sound like you're following a formula.]

"Sire," he said, bowing deeply.

"What is it Warwick?" [x]

"Sire, a well reputed singer has come requesting, insisting in fact, that he be allowed to perform for you tonight." [x]Warwick [eyed] Balthazar's injured hand [but] knew better than to mention it. Balthazar frowned at his manservant. He had no love for music and an intense dislike for singers. "What is said singer's name?" [x]

"He goes by Lucair, sire."

"Well tell this Lucair that I have no need of his services tonight or any other night. If he [tries again] to [']insist'['] on performing, you are to stick a knife through him."

"Yes sire." Warwick bowed again, he turned to leave.

“Warwick,” he called.

“Yes sire[?]” [x]

“Bring me Edrian's family.”


- - - - - -

Now THAT was a stinging ending. Holy crap. Okay.

I pretty much expressed all my thoughts in the text. In the start there I did say the lack of consistent POV was starting to distance me from the story but by the end of this I've started putting some pieces together. You've linked both Tallon and Lia as victims (I assume Lia?) and now I can see how the two are related in the story. Balthazar is a pretty generic bad guy -- power crazed, family killing, narcissistic jerk. It'd be nice to see some rounded characterization with him. Give him a dog or something.

Good work, I'm ready for part V.




joebot says...


Sorry, I entered it before I reviewed my own review! I missed these things:

Last sentence of the first paragraph:

"People had died, money had been spent and time had been wasted yet he was no closer to a solution [than] he was before."

--

In the scene where Balthazar is discussing the singer with Warwick, there needs to be a new paragraph for Balthazar's thoughts and dialogue. So:

"Sire, a well reputed singer has come requesting, insisting in fact, that he be allowed to perform for you tonight." [x]Warwick [eyed] Balthazar's injured hand [but] knew better than to mention it.

Balthazar frowned at his manservant. He had no love for music and an intense dislike for singers. "What is said singer's name?" [x]

--

And at the end:

"Yes sire." Warwick bowed again [and] turned to leave.



Silverlock says...


Hey Joey!!
Thanks again for ANOTHER great review.
I know the povs are confusing, especially when reading online rather than as a proper book. Lia and Tallon are my main characters, Balthazar just gets inserted occasionally when I fell he's needed. Btw Lia is my favourite aswell :)
I'm glad you're starting to piece things together, this chapter was meant to clarify somethings and hopefully you'll figure how Lia and Tallon are connected and why Lia's on the run in the first place and why she was prepared. Thanks again!! :) :D



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Sun Dec 01, 2013 6:48 pm
Calvinn wrote a review...



Hey there Silverlock! Calvinn to review for you :)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that your piece was well-balanced. Just the right length, you know your grammar (a great relief), good dialogue, fluent writing.

That being said, there are certain parts of the dialogue which could be improved, and by improved I mean made more effective in the light of events. For example, you have a tendency to lay ALL things down for the reader. There's no distinction between said and unsaid, implicit and explicit, implied or otherwise - you place them all under the 'said' category. I'll show you -

“Since you have made vain use of you head I will let you keep it,” - I am absolutely sure you included this sentence to make it known to the reader that Tallon was not beheaded but stabbed through the heart. It's irrelevant!

However, I do like the fact that you had Balthazar himself kill Tallon. Being the best of friends, it seems only appropriate that such an act was carried out personally, not handed over to a common hangman with no particular interest in the matter.

Now - the efficacy of the dialogue. You did a great job of portraying Balthazar as half-evil, half-good but slightly tuned in to the evil side what with the way, Tallon's murder and all the trials he has had to face lately. Nevertheless, an emperor does not address his servants by their names - he must make them appear inferior and thus never address them personally:

“Good work, Edrian, did you kill all of his family as well?” - neither does an emperor compliment a soldier on executing an order as commanded. I must add a suggestion here - if you want Balthazar to appear more ruthless, the interactions between him and his underlings must be curt and utilitarian. For example, instead of saying, 'Good work [...]', he could simply state, 'His family?'. A mere inquiry as to whether his command was fulfilled completely.

(This is just a matter of personal taste). Instructing Warwick to kill the singer seems...overkill. You could perhaps accomplish more in a subtle manner - e.g. 'If he insists on performing....let him sing to the dogs.' Or something on those lines.

Overall, this is well-written! I enjoyed reading it and will definitely read the next chapters BUT...the novel needs FLAVOUR. Something to spice it up - basically every reader has read some sort of emperor-gone-bad-and-regrets-choices-but-creates-own-doom kind of thing. Surprise us. Shock the reader out of his wits. This is what will attract followers! I know it's not as easy as it sounds, believe me I've been there.

Thanks for the read, and good luck!
Calvinn.




Silverlock says...


Hey Calvinn, thanks for such a comprehensive review :)
I'll definitely take on most of what you said, especially about the emperor's speech. About the whole "stick a knife in him" I agree that it could have been done more subtly but sadly Balthazar isn't really a subtle man. Hopefully more of his character will be revealed at some point. Thanks for reading by the way, I really appreciate it. Yeah you're right about the flavour, I'll try to think of something to spice this up. This is actually a spin off from my main story and I only posted it to see what standard my writing was at.



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Sun Dec 01, 2013 6:13 pm
Frosting wrote a review...



Awesome! I loved reading that!
Now onto business.

Personally, I feel the Author's Note should be in italics, and at the beginning.

"Sire, a well reputed singer has come requesting, insisting in fact, that he be allowed to perform for you tonight." replied Warwick eyeing Balthazar's injured hand, he knew better than to mention it. Balthazar frowned at his manservant. He had no love for music and an intense dislike for singers. "What is said singer's name?" he growled.

It should be...

"Sire, a well reputed singer has come requesting, insisting in fact, that he be allowed to perform for you tonight." replied Warwick, eying Balthazar's injured hand, as he knew better than to mention it. Balthazar frowned at his manservant. He had an intense dislike for singers, and no love for music.

That's all I found, but thanks for writing this! I LOVED this!




Silverlock says...


Thanks for reviewing!! :)




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