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The Interlude (A TLTSW story) Chapter 1: Awakening

by VengefulReaper


Warning: This work has been rated 16+.

A/n: This series of chapters is a short story set in the world of The Lie that Saved the World and serves as an Interlude between Part 1 and Part 2 with the aim of fleshing out the antagonists of the main story. 

***

If you have not read previous chapters, there is quite a bit of context missing so here's an FYI on what you need to know.

Troy is a character briefly introduced in the early chapters of the book. He is an acquaintance of Ethan Rider, the protagonist. After an assault on a teleporting station which places his sister in a coma, Troy mysteriously leaves with the goal of acquiring enough funds to pay for her hospital fees. He is not seen for the rest of the story up until this point. 

Iassor, is the largest kingdom/colony on the Asteroid Belt and is inhabited by Beltians. Refugees from the Belt face several hardships on Earth due to the prevalent racism. As of the latest events, Earth and The Belt are not on good terms. The present governing authority of the Belt has been overthrown by an organization called SEKT (which happens to be the main antagonist group).

***

The sun shone through the window of his spaceship, casting the room in a dim orange glow as Troy rummaged through the box of supplies, he had packed. The contents shifted with soft rustles and clinks, each item bringing back a memory or emotion that weighed on his heart. His thoughts were filled with the image of his sister, lying still and silent in her coma, her once vibrant eyes closed to the world. He furrowed his brow and tightened the grip on his hands.

He wondered if he was making the right choice. Returning home at such a volatile point between Beltians and Earthers, Iassor was hardly the most accepting place even for its fallen prince.

"Damn it," he muttered, the words barely escaping his lips as he tried to focus on his task. As he continued to unpack his belongings, he hauled out his link from his back pocket and scrolled to Ethan’s number. He hadn’t checked up on his sister in…well…three months. He was nearing Iassor and would be within their colony territory within the hour which meant he would have signal to contact Ethan once more.

Troy's fingers brushed against something familiar; a tattered storybook his mother had written for him. The worn cover, adorned with delicate drawings of their kingdom, brought forth a flood of memories. He hesitated before picking it up, feeling a mix of both comfort and pain at the thought of his mother.

"Mom..." Troy whispered, his voice breaking ever so slightly.

He could remember how she used to read the story to him every night before bed, her gentle voice weaving tales of heroes and adventure that danced in his dreams. A smile would always grace her beautiful face, her eyes shimmering with love and kindness. It was a stark contrast to the cold, cruel nature of his father.

Troy ran his thumb over the faded illustrations, taking comfort in the warmth of his mother's presence.

“The Destined King,” he muttered, reading the title. “Life is a whole lot better when you’re young and innocent…”

***

Several years ago…

The Emperor’s Palace, Belt sector-55, the City of Iassor.

Troy skipped through the grand halls of the palace, his footsteps echoing against the high ceiling and ornate walls. Fingers trailing along the cold, intricate marble railing, he took in the elaborate tapestries depicting the history of Iassor that hung from the towering columns. As he walked, his eyes were filled with a deep curiosity. At the end of the long line of kings, he stood with his chest puffed out and his arms firmly on his hips.

“Your king is here!” he exclaimed in his squeaky voice that reached no further than the end of the hall.

“Usually, kings aren’t as short,” an authoritative voice echoed from the end of the corridor.

His mother, Queen Arelia, a tall blonde-haired woman with the sharpest motherly death stare Troy could fathom, was dressed in an elegant gown. Troy’s smile disappeared from his face. His time had come.

“Why are you not in bed, young man?” his mother asked. “If you don’t get into bed right now, you know what’s going to happen, right?”

Troy, realizing the severity of the threat, stood upright and nodded. It was almost nine. At nine o’clock exactly, his mother would leave the west wing of the palace. If Troy wasn’t tucked into bed well before then, there would be no bedtime story.

He raced off down the hallway, nearly bumping into pretty much every ornament.

“No running in the hallways!” his mother shouted after him.

“Sorry, Mom!” Troy shouted back, not bothering to slow down in the slightest.

Pushing open the door, Troy stepped into his mother's sanctuary, a room filled with the soft glow of candlelight and the scent of exotic flowers. Auntie Sally must have just cleaned his room. He pulled over his striped pyjamas and tucked himself into his massive king-size bed. The bed was so massive, he could fit six more Troy’s on it and still sleep comfortably.

“Mom!” he shouted from the comfort of his bed. “Hurry up!”

His mother entered the room with her reading glasses on and a book in her hand. It was one she’d personally written just for him.

“I was being far too lenient allowing you an extra scoop of ice-cream after supper,” she said, poking Troy on his nose, the love for him returning to her eyes.

She opened the book to the first page.

“The Destined King,” she began enthusiastically.

This is a new one, Troy thought.

"Once upon a time, there was a great king who ruled over Iassor with wisdom and compassion. He was known far and wide as the destined king, for he had been chosen by the stars themselves to bring peace and prosperity to his people.”

As she spoke, Troy could almost see the destined king standing tall and regal, his head held high and his eyes shining with conviction. He imagined the king's strong hands, capable of both wielding a sword and mending a broken heart.

"Under his rule," Queen Arelia continued, "the people of the Asteroid Belt knew no suffering or want. He ensured that every citizen had access to food, clean water, and shelter, and he worked tirelessly to keep them safe from harm. His reign was marked by fairness and equality, and he treated all those who lived within his kingdom with respect and dignity."

Troy envisioned the bustling marketplaces, filled with merchants and traders from across the galaxy, their wares spilling out onto cobblestone streets. He felt the warmth of the sun on his skin as children laughed and played in the parks, their joyous shouts echoing through the air. And he saw the faces of the grateful citizens, their eyes alight with hope and admiration as they looked upon their benevolent ruler.

"His noble qualities extended beyond his concern for the welfare of his people," said Arelia, her voice growing softer. "He was also known for his unwavering loyalty to his friends and allies, and his fierce courage in the face of adversity. The destined king was a beacon of light in the darkness, a symbol of hope for all who called Iassor their home."

With every word she spoke, Troy felt a growing sense of connection to this destined king. He could feel the weight of the heavy crown upon his brow, and the warmth of the people's love in his heart.

“But then came a darkness from within the bellies of the greedy,” she said as her voice grew ominous. “It swept through the land and consumed all it touched.”

Troy’s smile vanished as he looked at the pictures in the book. The people were running away, distress in their faces and a looming demon of darkness casted a domineering shadow over them.

“The people ran but it was no use. They were sucked in by it, never to be seen again. The king became worried and mounted his horse. His armour was golden, and his swords made from unbreakable steel. He lifted his sword and summoned his brave knights to fight against this dark evil.

“They rode and rode and rode. Over mountains and hills. Through craters and sun storms. Through cold and heat. They rode and slayed darkness wherever they saw it. Their swords cut through it like a knife through butter and their helmets brought a ray of light that the people could rally behind.”

Troy listened intently, watching the warriors in the book run across the page into battle. This was his favourite part.

His mother’s voice became stern. “But then the big monster came, filled with darkness and shadow and struck the destined king down. The monster’s blade was mighty and no match for the king’s mount.”

“Was the horse okay?” Troy asked, concerned.

His mother looked at him gently and chuckled.

“Did he ride off?”

His mother nodded.

“Well then I wouldn’t want a horse like that,” Troy said folding his arms. “My horse should grab a sword and fight for me like a real warrior!”

“Troy, a horse is an animal with four legs. We don’t find them here, but I have heard they are very elegant creatures.”

“Oh…” Troy’s brows furrowed. But then why does it need four legs? Can’t it just use two to walk and two to fight?

Noticing her son so deep in thought, she dropped her gaze to the book once more. “Don’t think too much. You’re only seven.

“Seven and three months,” Troy muttered with his arms crossed.

His mother chuckled elegantly. “Let’s finish this up before you got to bed, shall we?”

Arelia cleared her throat and checked the time on her clock. “The destined king lay wounded on the battlefield, his golden armour marred, and his unbreakable sword shattered. Darkness loomed, casting a shadow over the once-bustling kingdom. The brave knights, who had fought valiantly by his side, were now scattered, their spirits broken by the overwhelming power of the malevolent force.”

Troy, still engrossed in his mother's storytelling, leaned forward, his eyes wide with anticipation. He wanted to know how the destined king would overcome this seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Arelia continued her tale, her voice filled with suspense. "As the darkness closed in, the destined king reached deep within himself, summoning a power unlike any other—a radiant light that shone from his very being. With a burst of blinding brilliance, he dispelled the darkness, revealing a broken man beneath, a man consumed by regret and despair."

Troy's imagination ran wild as he pictured this moment of moment of triumph. He clutched his bedsheets, waiting for the next twist in the story.

"The king," Arelia continued, "extended a hand of compassion to the broken man, whose name was Lord Aric. He had been corrupted by the darkness he had unleashed, and it had cost him everything he held dear. The king forgave him and pardoned him for he was not in control of his actions, rather corrupted by a darkness and blinded by its veil.

“A voice boomed from the heavens addressing the king. He fell to his knees, humble and eager to serve. The voice told him of the test sent to him in the form of the darkness. It said that only the destined one would see the inkling of light burning dimly within the monster. He was bestowed with clarity and a renewed sense of determination, to build what had been destroyed.

"Together," Arelia narrated, "the king and Lord Aric embarked on a journey of healing and rebuilding. They worked side by side, restoring what had been destroyed by the darkness. Villages were rebuilt, relationships mended, and trust slowly but surely returned to the kingdom.

"But the scars of the past," Arelia concluded, "served as a reminder of the price of arrogance and the power of forgiveness. The kingdom of Iassor flourished once more, not only under the wise rule of the destined king but also through the shared humanity that had been rekindled in the hearts of its people. Despite the hardships the king faced, he never descended into the darkness. He upheld his beacon of light and light is what saved his people in the end."

Troy looked at the people in the book, their faces filled with joy once more. He scratched his chin in thought.

“Mom,” he asked.

“Yes, sweetie.”

“This king reminds me of Dad a little.”

“He does?” his mother replied surprised.

“Yes… Just a little though,” Troy said hesitantly. He made a circle with both his arms. “If Dad was a little less round, he’d be more like him.”

His mother’s brow furrowed before playfully slapping his leg. “Don’t call your father fat. He’s trying his best. Understand?”

“But I called him round,” Troy protested.

“Shh,” she hushed. “Go to sleep. I need to go check on your sister.”

“But I’m not sle—”

Troy let out a massive yawn, covering his mouth.

“Sleepy…”

The last sight he saw before his eyes was the vibrant lights of his people from his window, their shadows dancing in the night. 

What's it like to be out there? he thought. 

***

10 years later.

Troy stood in his opulent bedroom, a room that once seemed like a haven of luxury but now felt like a filthy cage. The grandeur of the palace, which had once awed him as a child, had lost its charm. His eyes, once filled with optimism and naivete, were now heavy with the weight of what he'd seen.

He gazed out of the large, shining window that overlooked the kingdom of Iassor. The view had always been breathtaking, a picturesque scene of bustling markets, shimmering canals, and colorful rooftops. But now, all he saw were the hidden cracks in the facade of his kingdom.

The people of Iassor moved through their daily lives, but the weariness in their eyes that he was once blind to was impossible to ignore. Poverty and fear had left their marks, etching lines of suffering and despair on the faces of his people. He no longer heard the laughter or saw the smiles... only the screams and the tears that came with it.

Troy's heart ached as he watched a group of children playing in a dilapidated alley. Their laughter was hollow, a mere echo of the carefree joy he had once known.

A decade ago, he had believed that his father would listen to reason and that he could bring about change from within the palace walls. But looking at his pathetic, greedy state now, Troy could hardly fathom winning with him. The palace, once a symbol of authority and nobility, had become a fortress of corruption and tyranny. 

"Something troubles you, dear?" Arelia asked, peering into his room. "What happened to you out there?"

Troy looked down at the storybook in his hand, the familiar illustrations of happy, carefree people a stark contrast to the misery he had witnessed. He flipped to the page where the destined king was supposed to bring justice and peace.

"You know...up until this point, I actually believed that this story was possible. I thought you made this book... this king... based on Father.”

Her expression softened. "Look, Troy. I know this is disturbing for you..."

"He isn't coming, is he?" Troy muttered somberly. "That time will never come. Not with the way things are now."

"Our world is not as innocent as that story, Troy," she told him gently. "But that does not mean we cannot strive to make it better."

“I should’ve…you should’ve…” he stammered. “Why didn’t you let me out earlier?” he asked with a tremor in his voice. “Why did I have to play in the courtyard instead of the streets? Why did I have to go to the richest of schools? Why did I have to sit here completely oblivious to everything? Why?

"It was your father's decision to keep you within the walls," Arelia finally blurted out. "He saw something in you from an early age that he feared. You were too pure of heart. To have your image of this world shattered at such a young age... it would break you. I was against it entirely, but there was nothing I could do to go against your father."

"He feared... compassion? Empathy?" Troy asked with a tremor in his voice. "I saw a child, no older than five, tugging at my clothes, begging for food. I saw an old man, lying in the dirt, left to die alone and cold. And while they suffer, we live in luxury, feasting on delicacies and dressing in silks."

“Poverty exists in every society, Troy.”

“But that poverty is all our fault, right? I saw the look on their faces when I walked through the streets with the royal crest on my shirt. Some were afraid but others… they had this disdain in their eyes,” Troy said shaking his head. “How desperate do you have to be to grovel at the feet of someone you absolutely despise?”

Arelia’s eyes grew in sympathy, but something told Troy she couldn’t offer anything more than that. He looked out his window, a new light being shone over his people. The music from the ballroom was so loud it reached his ears despite being on the opposite end of the palace. His brothers were probably enjoying themselves down there along with their father and his half dozen mistresses Arelia knew nothing of.

“I should probably go downstairs,” Troy said. 

"Troy!" Arelia called after him. "You don't have to go if you don't want to."

Troy refused to turn around. "It's best not to keep the guests waiting."

***

"Happy birthday, brother," a voice called out behind him. His two brothers approached with smirks on their faces. “What's with the long face?”

“Not in the mood, Ash,” Troy growled.

"Eighteen today, huh?" the older one continued, clapping him on the back. "You should be celebrating in the palace halls, not sulking over these... peasants."

Troy's jaw clenched, but he held his tongue. It wouldn't do any good to argue with them – it never had. His ears twitched at the sound of blasting music coming from the ballroom.

"Hear that?" Troy murmured, his voice barely audible. "While our people are suffering, there's a beacon of luxury right in front of them and you're standing here with that grin on your face like you own the world."

"We're royalty," his younger brother sneered, flicking a coin into the air. "We don't concern ourselves with the affairs of commoners."

"Besides," the older one added, "the more they suffer, the more they'll appreciate our rule. It's only natural."

"Natural? Is that what Father drilled into your mind while sitting atop his throne drowned in wine?" Troy scoffed, his anger rising to the surface. "There's nothing natural about this. The people are starving, sick, and dying. And we have the power to change that."

"Change it?" the older brother laughed, grabbing Troy's shoulders. "Why would we want to change anything, little brother? We have everything we could ever want. Women, wealth, fame…”

"Everything except a conscience," Troy muttered, shrugging off the grip. He stared at his brothers, their faces twisted with arrogance and indifference, and felt a bitter hatred churn within him. “You’ve both grown into arrogant, greedy pricks…Just like his highness,” he spat.

Their smug grins vanished. “What's wrong with you?"

Troy looked around him. A day or two ago he'd be just like them, enjoying his newfound freedom to drown himself in wine and grow a belly of greed like his father. The music faded into the background as Troy focused on his empty plate filled with cake crumbs. The candle atop it had cooled down, showing the melted wax that had dripped down its side making the sole source of light around him vanish.

He turned to look at his brothers, the admiration for them he once had vanishing. 

"I saw it."

"Saw what? Santa?"

"...Reality." 

Questions

1. For those who have read the previous chapters, does the chapter prior to this one seem too open-ended/unfinished to switch to this one?

2. Are you having trouble keeping track of the timeline in this chapter? Would it be better if the whole "10 years later" part and onwards were a separate chapter?


Is this a review?


  

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Sat Sep 16, 2023 11:37 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Reaper! Lim here with a review!

General Thoughts

The timeline of the chapter seemed clear enough to me! It was certainly surprising to switch to Troy’s point of view. I didn’t think the previous part felt too open-ended though – I thought it was clear where Ethan’s side of the story was headed. I can imagine Troy’s side of things catching up to where Ethan is in the story again at some point.

As for my surprise – wow, I just hadn’t expected Troy would turn out to be a prince of Iassor! I thought he would be a fairly minor character in his first appearance, so it is unexpected and interesting that we’re seeing more development from him. I found myself rooting for Troy towards the end of this chapter. His disillusionment with his life and how he realizes his family is responsible for bad things happening makes for a compelling character arc.

I think Arelia’s fairy tale might have some thematic relevance to the story beyond being Troy’s lost childhood innocence. It’s kind of interesting that the amorphous darkness is given a human face all of a sudden and that the story ends in a reconciliation rather than a win-lose situation.

Clarity

I like that the first paragraph reestablishes Troy’s motivation pretty quickly. It gets the story in motion – though I wonder where his sister fits into the picture of the royal family, since in the flashback so far, he’s only been shown speaking to his brothers.

“How desperate do you have to be to grovel at the feet of someone you absolutely despise?”

This is a really good line! I like how succinctly it captures the idea of oppression. It’s also a good way to show the effect Troy’s experience had on him despite how we don’t actually ‘see’ it happening as readers.

Immersion

I like that Arelia is said to have written the book of fairy tales herself and is also shown actively raising her child. Usually fictional royals will be shown hiring people to take care of their family. But the flipside of that is that since they are rich, they do have more freedom of choice for certain things – so I feel it makes sense for a queen who loves her children to spend time with them like an ordinary parent would. Because of that, Arelia being a main agent in that scene made things more believable for me.

I did find myself a bit doubtful that Arelia’s fairy tale was made for a seven-year-old? I’m not sure if the typical seven-year-old would be interested in abstract concepts like “equality” and “dignity” and overcoming “adversity” – at least not without different wordings or illustrations. Maybe that’s just me, though. The narration of the fairy tale sometimes felt like it went on for quite a while and so I felt like I was suddenly in a different story than the one I had been reading.

Still, I thought the humorous exchanges between Troy and Arelia helped humanize the characters. The one about the horse especially made me laugh out loud.

Another thing that felt real to me was how the brothers reacted with surprise when Troy snapped at them. If Troy hadn’t been talking intensely about his misgivings before he went outside the palace, it would make sense that they think he’s mostly like them, and that now it looks to them like something “wrong” has happened.
The music faded into the background as Troy focused on his empty plate filled with cake crumbs.

I like the concrete detail of the eaten cake. It works nicely with the preceding dialogue by highlighting the situation surrounding what the characters are saying to each other. I also like that it subtly hints at Troy’s sense of guilt or responsibility for the commoners’ poverty.

Overall

I like how this chapter fleshes out Iassor and adds context to the events there that are referenced in the main plot. The theme of disillusionment is made clear, and the ending makes me interested to see what Troy ends up doing about his realisations.

Let me know if you’d like more feedback on something!
-Lim




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Wed Sep 13, 2023 9:15 pm
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Rose wrote a review...



Aloha Storyteller!

Beyond my beloved horizon, I'm setting sail into uncharted pages with an itch for adventure. Through binoculars, I spy with my little eye an intriguing story titled “The Interlude” that deserves a good review. Therefore, without further ado, let’s begin.

Image

I. Unraveling The Opener
Yes, I am one of those readers who hasn't read all the chapters of "The Lie that Saved the World", therefore I'm thankful you provided us with a some background info about Troy. I must say, the transition between the here-and-now and the several years later is quite surprising.
Meaning, when I read the beginning I had an ordinary man with a tragic past in mind, but noooo, he was a prince. Yup, surprising and interesting.

II. Ups and Downs
You use a lot of imagery in your story, something that I appreciate. It makes everything seem more lively and full of color.
For example this part:

The sun shone through the window of his spaceship, casting the room in a dim orange glow as Troy rummaged through the box of supplies, he had packed. The contents shifted with soft rustles and clinks, each item bringing back a memory or emotion that weighed on his heart. His thoughts were filled with the image of his sister, lying still and silent in her coma, her once vibrant eyes closed to the world. He furrowed his brow and tightened the grip on his hands.

You skillfully portray the scene, the "dim orange glow" and "soft rustles and clinks", they literally "tell" the whole story. They are minor things, but important things, or should I say crucial details. And also this one, "her once vibrant eyes closed to the world", I mean, wow, really, I could almost say that it delicately brushed against the heart, unleashing a rush of powerful emotions, but that would be a bit too dramatic.

The "10 years later" are perfect for this chapter, because it opens and closes just the way it should, telling the story that needs to be told. It does, however, make this chapter much longer.
You could consider closing the chapter with a cliffhanger, for instance; explain that Troy could go outside for the very first time, but he has no idea what awaits him OR he has already been outside and he comes back shocked, this leaves the reader wondering what happened...(cue the dramatic music)

Moving to the part where the queen tells Troy a bedtime story. Descriptive language, vividly written, remarkable writing style (I was even carried away by that story in the story), but of course, you know all that already. Instead, a minor nitpick from me; if Troy was seven, (correction) seven and three months, his vocabulary must have developed by around 50%, give or take. However, the vocabulary you used to tell the story of the Destined King seems a bit above average for kiddos of his age. I understand if you did it for the flow of the story, but just letting you know.

Please note that these suggestions are offered with the intention of boosting the story's depth and impact, so I hope they are helpful.

IV. In a Nutshell
It was a genuine pleasure to dive into this and it was definitely an absolute gem to read.
This is only Chapter 1, so I'm relieved that I don't have to wonder whether a second chapter is on its way or not. Your stories tell tales of fictional events that seem to become more and more realistic by the second. It's clear that you're a very talented writer with a huge imagination and a love for action and adventure. Keep on doing what you do!
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VI. Seek Inspiration Beyond
Feel free to check out The Origins of a Phrase by @Messenger for some extra inspiration and ideas to spice up your own storytelling!

That's it, that's all.
Hoping the review has been of value to you!

Yours in Puzzling Shadows,
Rose




VengefulReaper says...


Thanks for the review, Rose!

I keep forgetting the story is a kids' book lol. I'll have to downgrade the language there for sure!

he has already been outside and he comes back shocked, this leaves the reader wondering what happened...(cue the dramatic music)

Thank you so much for the idea! It already feels more impactful this way and I feel like that would also shorten the chapter length somewhat. *Less is more, Reaper... Less is more...*

Again, thanks for the review and for jumping into my story. Your feedback does wonders for me when I edit :)

-Reaper



Rose says...


You're welcome! Glad to hear that my review has been of value to you!




Be led by your talent and not by your self-loathing ... everything beautiful in the world is within you.
— Russell Brand