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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 43: "The Apparitions"

by dragonfphoenix


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

Clarity.

Everything snapped into sharp relief. The tiny peaks dimpling the water underfoot, like mountain ranges in miniature. The sighing of the wind as it congested with the heavy aroma of saltwater. The splash of blood swirling off the knife as the water bathed it. The broken leaves of the palm trees swaying in the breeze. The undead armies grappling each oth—

I blinked. The what?

Pale apparitions floated across the water, the specters in various stages of corporeality and decay. Arms reaching, they moaned in tones that bordered exhaustion and ecstasy without being either and stumbled their way into whatever the Paeden horrors were called. They looked like derketo but were severely deformed, their arms, faces, and sides missing chunks of flesh. One was even missing half its skull, revealing glistening gray matter. Whether these absences came from their struggle against Thane’s ghosts or from undevelopment, I couldn’t tell, but the hideous creatures were issuing from under Nanshe’s dress like rats fleeing a sinking ship out the only porthole. They wailed like drowning banshees, mouths hanging open from dislocated jaws and missing ligaments.

Chills ran down my spine. Thane had never unearthed the dead in all his time since taking over from me. Raising an undead army was a risk, since it siphoned power from the summoning god. The derketo abominations, however, exuded a strange aura of life and death. While Nanshe looked like she was directly birthing the fountain of wretches, I sensed no fathering spirit singing in answer to the offspring. What I could feel made my toes curl.

Nanshe was injecting the fatherless spawn with souls stripped from her underworld, siring monsters that were neither dead nor alive, but animated with a bastard form of life. And she wasn’t holding back, either. As she clashed with Thane, flicking his scythe away with bursts of water, she poured her unbridled power into the spawning. The whole of her aura was on display, a baring of her soul that left me feeling embarrassed for how naked and utterly raw it felt. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

Gods never revealed all. Ever. Even when we fought each other, we always held something back. To reveal the extent of our powers was to expose ourselves to an inevitable doom. Without mystery, without the potential for infinity, we became bound creatures, and what could be defined could be limited, contained, and cast down. Only the most desperate or foolish gods unveiled themselves completely. And reckless gods were dangerous, because they had nothing left to lose.

Despite the gravity of the situation, I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. My mind was clear, now that I wasn’t bogged down by that frail, finite mortal form. I’d resumed my divine body which, to be fair, wasn’t in much better condition, but it wasn’t mired in the fog of hunger and sleep deprivation. I felt good, all the sluggishness from before evaporated. My mind was just catching up to the “why” I felt this way when someone yanked on the front of my robes.

“Can you fight?”

Ah, yes. The priestess who’d stabbed me. Her eyes searched mine as she pressed another dagger against my chest.

I laughed and slapped the dagger away. “That won’t work on me again. Not in this body, anyways.”

“It doesn’t need to.” She released me and stepped back. “Can you fight?”

I squinted at her. She didn’t look familiar, but I couldn’t help feeling like I should at least know her, with how forward she was being and how comfortable she seemed around me. “Azor—?”

“Don’t. Not here.” Eyes flashing, she assumed a fighter’s stance, the knife pointed at my chest. “My cover is still intact, and it needs to stay that way. Thane can explain later. For now—” her brow pinched as she frowned “—please, help him.”

So Azoria had embedded herself in the Paeden priesthood. Not unexpected from the Goddess of Wisdom, and I certainly understood the appeal of leaving her hidden. She could keep an eye on the enemy once this mess was sorted, maybe even take control of the priesthood if she hadn’t already. But the commoners must have seen us talking by now. I couldn’t just let her walk away unharmed if she were to keep her guise.

Well, let’s hope I still got it in me.

With a grunt, I lunged forward, grabbing her wrist and pulling her in towards me. I sidestepped inside her arm and brought my palm up to her forehead and sent a burst of power into her. She gasped and collapsed, letting the dagger splash into the water. I twisted her to the ground, careful to set her on her back so her avatar wouldn’t drown while unconscious.

My chest heaved from the sudden exertion, but my veins were aflame. It felt good to be back. I flexed my fingers, shivering as energy surged down my arms. Oh yeah. Really good.

Less good was the battling duo of gods. The armies of both sides had grown considerably, and while Thane had generations of fallen to call on, Nanshe needed to partially...er, “grow” hers. But she showed no signs of slowing down, her movements becoming more aggressive the longer she clashed with Thane.

I winced as he got in a good blow. His scythe cut through a wave and caught her behind the elbow, nearly taking her lower arm off. Dark ichor poured from the wound, staining her vortex like an ink plume. Thane reversed his scythe and came in for an overhand blow, but she ducked and speared him with a dozen jets of water. With Thane off balance, she surged forward and knocked him to the ground, drowning him under a column of water.

“Hey!” I sprinted across the plaza, putting as much power as I could muster into my muscles. “Fish face!”

“You.” She spun, her eyes alight.

I almost instinctively pulled up. Her voice had taken on an echo from how much divine energy she was leaking, and her aura returned in force. It was far less crushing, now that I had an immortal frame to bear it, but it nearly sucked my breath away. As I stumbled, I also noticed the severed ends of tentacles on the left side of her head. Thane must have gotten in another glancing blow, but she hadn’t even noticed. If she wasn’t giving any thought to regeneration, she had really lost control.

The air crackled as she raised her hands. “You have no idea what consequences your actions have.”

“Well, considering I’m getting a friend out of an unpleasant situation, I think I might.” I slid to a halt just out of arm’s reach. The derketo abominations continued to issue forth around me, but they ignored me to grapple with Thane’s apparitions.

As I squared off against Nanshe, I reinforced my fists with extra essence. I could go for my Sword, but with how she shrugged off several blows from Thane’s Scythe, I didn’t think she’d particularly care about it. Plus, hands on was the best way to tackle this problem. I could channel energy into her if we made prolonged contact, and I could simply pummel her into submission if need be. Thane was taking his sweet time getting out of that water, though, so I had to keep her talking while I waited for an opening to tackle her.

Droplets of ice formed in the air between us and then exploded as lightning arced among them. More sparks danced along her blue skin, which started cycling through bands of pale light and darkness. Her eyes locked onto mine as she hovered just a hair above the water.

“The barrier is gone.” Her voice had adopted a third echo and fallen in pitch, rumbling with a hint of thunder. “We didn’t think it would contain her, but it should have slowed her down enough for us to bind her once again. Should have.” She punctuated those last words with blasts of chunky ice water.

My crossed arms stung as I bore the brunt of the attack. “Right. Which is exactly why you slaughtered our priests and kidnapped and tried to execute one of our own.”

“Would you have an enemy at your back while you struggle against a monster?” The water beneath her feet became agitated, the waves choppy and undisturbed by the bastard merfolk splashing into them. It was unsettling, the dissonance that image created.

I shook my head and tried to focus. I could feel tendrils of her energy snaking through the water, seeking my footing. Shuffling my feet, I edged towards her weak side, the arm that was still leaking ichor.

“All right. Say I believe you.” Another step, a tremor of something beneath the flagstones. “You do realize that’s still an act of war, right? It was hard enough justifying counter moves to your reclaiming ancestral territory, but now…” I shrugged. “We have an open invitation.”

“As do we,” Nanshe snapped. “I didn’t just catch him—” she pointed at Thane, who’d begun thrashing under the surface, “—out for an afternoon stroll. And that priestess who’s working with you.” Her sudden laugh was unsettling and grated on my ears and nerves. “She must have killed our Seers. It’s the only way the barrier could have fallen.” She shook her head, a maniacal grin on her face. “I knew something was special about her, but I never would have guessed that.”

“Life’s full of surprises.” I tested the ground with my toes. Solid, no hints of her energy destabilizing it. I tensed. “Like this.”


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Thu Sep 02, 2021 1:51 pm
KateHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm baaack for another review!!

First Impression: Well...another fun chapter...I am loving all of these action scenes here...after all of the slower paced bit we had, a nice couple of faster paced chapters is just what we needed to see and I feel like next chapter this scene is going to end in a very decisive ways somehow.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Clarity.

Everything snapped into sharp relief. The tiny peaks dimpling the water underfoot, like mountain ranges in miniature. The sighing of the wind as it congested with the heavy aroma of saltwater. The splash of blood swirling off the knife as the water bathed it. The broken leaves of the palm trees swaying in the breeze. The undead armies grappling each oth—

I blinked. The what?

Pale apparitions floated across the water, the specters in various stages of corporeality and decay. Arms reaching, they moaned in tones that bordered exhaustion and ecstasy without being either and stumbled their way into whatever the Paeden horrors were called. They looked like derketo but were severely deformed, their arms, faces, and sides missing chunks of flesh. One was even missing half its skull, revealing glistening gray matter. Whether these absences came from their struggle against Thane’s ghosts or from undevelopment, I couldn’t tell, but the hideous creatures were issuing from under Nanshe’s dress like rats fleeing a sinking ship out the only porthole. They wailed like drowning banshees, mouths hanging open from dislocated jaws and missing ligaments.


Uuhhh...if I am not mistaken...someone here just managed to summon the dead to the world of the living at the same time as Charax umm...I'm assuming he's now in a random spirit form with his body being destroyed...and well I guess..this is I'm guessing both Nanshe and Thane squaring off...which I mean, what that seems like the logical direction for a fight involving gods related to death to take. This should be fun at any rate.

Chills ran down my spine. Thane had never unearthed the dead in all his time since taking over from me. Raising an undead army was a risk, since it siphoned power from the summoning god. The derketo abominations, however, exuded a strange aura of life and death. While Nanshe looked like she was directly birthing the fountain of wretches, I sensed no fathering spirit singing in answer to the offspring. What I could feel made my toes curl.

Nanshe was injecting the fatherless spawn with souls stripped from her underworld, siring monsters that were neither dead nor alive, but animated with a bastard form of life. And she wasn’t holding back, either. As she clashed with Thane, flicking his scythe away with bursts of water, she poured her unbridled power into the spawning. The whole of her aura was on display, a baring of her soul that left me feeling embarrassed for how naked and utterly raw it felt. But that wasn’t the worst of it.


Okay....well, it looks a) Nanshe is having to fully commit to this fight by the looks of it and she's pouring out every single ounce of everything that she's got and keeping Thane and his ghost army at bay. Aaand it looks like somehow this ghost army is going to drain Thane's powers and I am assuming Thane isn't necessarily at full power to begin with here...so that...that leads to a very interesting set of circumstances, where these two are both somewhat balanced here by the sound of things.

Gods never revealed all. Ever. Even when we fought each other, we always held something back. To reveal the extent of our powers was to expose ourselves to an inevitable doom. Without mystery, without the potential for infinity, we became bound creatures, and what could be defined could be limited, contained, and cast down. Only the most desperate or foolish gods unveiled themselves completely. And reckless gods were dangerous, because they had nothing left to lose.

Despite the gravity of the situation, I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. My mind was clear, now that I wasn’t bogged down by that frail, finite mortal form. I’d resumed my divine body which, to be fair, wasn’t in much better condition, but it wasn’t mired in the fog of hunger and sleep deprivation. I felt good, all the sluggishness from before evaporated. My mind was just catching up to the “why” I felt this way when someone yanked on the front of my robes.


Well...taking stock of the positive things in a fight seem like a great idea in general...especially a fight that is quite this dangerous...and especially said fight is technically not focused on you. Also...so this appears to be a physical body after all, but his divine form, which should mean good news I assume..aaand well...that description about what Nanshe is doing is certainly not looking good for our boys here...someone who's got nothing to lose is very dangerous goddess or not.

“Can you fight?”

Ah, yes. The priestess who’d stabbed me. Her eyes searched mine as she pressed another dagger against my chest.

I laughed and slapped the dagger away. “That won’t work on me again. Not in this body, anyways.”

“It doesn’t need to.” She released me and stepped back. “Can you fight?”

I squinted at her. She didn’t look familiar, but I couldn’t help feeling like I should at least know her, with how forward she was being and how comfortable she seemed around me. “Azor—?”

“Don’t. Not here.” Eyes flashing, she assumed a fighter’s stance, the knife pointed at my chest. “My cover is still intact, and it needs to stay that way. Thane can explain later. For now—” her brow pinched as she frowned “—please, help him.”


Hah...not from me you're cover is not intact...I knew it was you from the very first time you were mentioned...I am entirely too satisfied at having correctly guessed this here...excuse me...but also well...this is certainly an interesting move by her...I eagerly await Thane's explanation here.

So Azoria had embedded herself in the Paeden priesthood. Not unexpected from the Goddess of Wisdom, and I certainly understood the appeal of leaving her hidden. She could keep an eye on the enemy once this mess was sorted, maybe even take control of the priesthood if she hadn’t already. But the commoners must have seen us talking by now. I couldn’t just let her walk away unharmed if she were to keep her guise.

Well, let’s hope I still got it in me.

With a grunt, I lunged forward, grabbing her wrist and pulling her in towards me. I sidestepped inside her arm and brought my palm up to her forehead and sent a burst of power into her. She gasped and collapsed, letting the dagger splash into the water. I twisted her to the ground, careful to set her on her back so her avatar wouldn’t drown while unconscious.


Hmm...that was nice of him...you do love to see a fight scene involving an undercover person actually taking into account the existence of bystanders in fights, this is surprisingly rare sometimes, cause a lot of people forget to account for stuff like that, so I love to see this here.

My chest heaved from the sudden exertion, but my veins were aflame. It felt good to be back. I flexed my fingers, shivering as energy surged down my arms. Oh yeah. Really good.

Less good was the battling duo of gods. The armies of both sides had grown considerably, and while Thane had generations of fallen to call on, Nanshe needed to partially...er, “grow” hers. But she showed no signs of slowing down, her movements becoming more aggressive the longer she clashed with Thane.


Hmmm....well Charax, I love to see you happy buddy, but maybe you should stop observing the fight and flexing on yourself and actually jump in right about now or at the very least he needs to say something to annoy Nanshe...if he's not in a punching mood.

I winced as he got in a good blow. His scythe cut through a wave and caught her behind the elbow, nearly taking her lower arm off. Dark ichor poured from the wound, staining her vortex like an ink plume. Thane reversed his scythe and came in for an overhand blow, but she ducked and speared him with a dozen jets of water. With Thane off balance, she surged forward and knocked him to the ground, drowning him under a column of water.

“Hey!” I sprinted across the plaza, putting as much power as I could muster into my muscles. “Fish face!”

“You.” She spun, her eyes alight.


Oooh, couple of nice quick beats on that fight scene, you love to see a close up of a move like that, some good ol' fashioned physically pummelling is somehow always the best to see despite how awesome fight scenes with powers can be.

I almost instinctively pulled up. Her voice had taken on an echo from how much divine energy she was leaking, and her aura returned in force. It was far less crushing, now that I had an immortal frame to bear it, but it nearly sucked my breath away. As I stumbled, I also noticed the severed ends of tentacles on the left side of her head. Thane must have gotten in another glancing blow, but she hadn’t even noticed. If she wasn’t giving any thought to regeneration, she had really lost control.

The air crackled as she raised her hands. “You have no idea what consequences your actions have.”


She's probably about to do some sort of very dangerous kamikaze attack at this point...I mean, one does not get quite this reckless unless she's truly believing there that there is absolutely nothing for her to loose and she's about to just unleash everything and try to kill everything in a ten mile radius or something.

“Well, considering I’m getting a friend out of an unpleasant situation, I think I might.” I slid to a halt just out of arm’s reach. The derketo abominations continued to issue forth around me, but they ignored me to grapple with Thane’s apparitions.

As I squared off against Nanshe, I reinforced my fists with extra essence. I could go for my Sword, but with how she shrugged off several blows from Thane’s Scythe, I didn’t think she’d particularly care about it. Plus, hands on was the best way to tackle this problem. I could channel energy into her if we made prolonged contact, and I could simply pummel her into submission if need be. Thane was taking his sweet time getting out of that water, though, so I had to keep her talking while I waited for an opening to tackle her.


Hmm...the art of trash talk or getting villains to monologue is truly underrated cause it has saved many billions of lives over the course of hundred of movies and stories. ALso...well I can certainly get behind Charax's approach here, a bit of good ol' fashioned physical brawling seems very much fit for this current situation that we've got right here.

Droplets of ice formed in the air between us and then exploded as lightning arced among them. More sparks danced along her blue skin, which started cycling through bands of pale light and darkness. Her eyes locked onto mine as she hovered just a hair above the water.

“The barrier is gone.” Her voice had adopted a third echo and fallen in pitch, rumbling with a hint of thunder. “We didn’t think it would contain her, but it should have slowed her down enough for us to bind her once again. Should have.” She punctuated those last words with blasts of chunky ice water.


OKayy...soo...wait a second, this is a bit unclear...who said that first line...the second part is definitely Nanshe...but the first bit comes off a touch ambiguous to me...I dunno, could just be me there.

My crossed arms stung as I bore the brunt of the attack. “Right. Which is exactly why you slaughtered our priests and kidnapped and tried to execute one of our own.”

“Would you have an enemy at your back while you struggle against a monster?” The water beneath her feet became agitated, the waves choppy and undisturbed by the bastard merfolk splashing into them. It was unsettling, the dissonance that image created.

I shook my head and tried to focus. I could feel tendrils of her energy snaking through the water, seeking my footing. Shuffling my feet, I edged towards her weak side, the arm that was still leaking ichor.


Hmm, well this is turning into a full on wrestling match now I see, complete with some very appropriate dialogue for such a situation...I'm also where this conversation is gong cause it sounds like it just might reveal a thing or two here...and we can have some answers to the mysteries we've been bombarded with in the previous chapters.

“All right. Say I believe you.” Another step, a tremor of something beneath the flagstones. “You do realize that’s still an act of war, right? It was hard enough justifying counter moves to your reclaiming ancestral territory, but now…” I shrugged. “We have an open invitation.”

“As do we,” Nanshe snapped. “I didn’t just catch him—” she pointed at Thane, who’d begun thrashing under the surface, “—out for an afternoon stroll. And that priestess who’s working with you.” Her sudden laugh was unsettling and grated on my ears and nerves. “She must have killed our Seers. It’s the only way the barrier could have fallen.” She shook her head, a maniacal grin on her face. “I knew something was special about her, but I never would have guessed that.”

“Life’s full of surprises.” I tested the ground with my toes. Solid, no hints of her energy destabilizing it. I tensed. “Like this.”


My first reaction to this part is "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" and that's a paraphrase...but umm..well that was an epic ending to this chapter...first of all, you can see the destabilization and just breakdown of Nanshe here..but also...whoops looks like both sides are openly going to have cause to declare war here...although whether that'll happen is still doubtful I suppose. Well..this ends on a lovely note..now I can't wait till we get more...

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: So we come to the end of yet another awesome chapter. Well, I feel like perhaps I can do a bit more of an overview of the plot in that next chapter when this fight is potentially going to conclude....but as of now...we're seeing a little bit more information slowly leak through to us and I suspect something big could happen soon. Well...on that note, that's all I have to say for today. Until next time :D

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry
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Wed Sep 01, 2021 9:10 pm
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Well, this was certainly an action-packed chapter!! I really loved the background action of Thane fighting Nanshe, and your characterization of Nanshe within the fight of how vulnerable yet powerful she was was very interesting and let us know a lot about her character. I also love seeing Charax square up. (I also hope you know that whenever you mention Charax fighting physically, I can't help but think of buff Uncle Iroh from Avatar: the Last Airbender, haha.) I think it was very satisfying (at least for me) to see him finally free of his mortal avatar.

One thing I enjoyed about this chapter was the subtle shift in power you were able to convey. I feel like for this "act" of the story, at least during the parts where Charax has been in foreign territory, there's been an obvious power against him. Nanshe was this scary sort of presence throughout the part, but now, in this chapter, she's finally getting her just desserts. I think you wrote that shift really well. Even before Charax had gained his powers back, it was already subtly brewing. Nice work!!

Also, now that the barrier is down, does that mean we'll see more of Malia soon??

Specifics

The undead armies grappling each oth—

I blinked. The what?


I really loved this sort of 'record scratch' moment; I think you executed it really well. It made me exhale in amusement, so.

I felt good, all the sluggishness from before evaporated.


You've got a bit of a comma splice here; I'd either change "evaporated" to "evaporating" or just put a semicolon where the comma is now.

“Azor—?”

“Don’t. Not here.” Eyes flashing, she assumed a fighter’s stance, the knife pointed at my chest. “My cover is still intact, and it needs to stay that way. Thane can explain later. For now—” her brow pinched as she frowned “—please, help him.”


AHA!! I knew it!! Also, tiny thing: when you interrupt dialogue with a non-dialogue verb using em-dashes, the em-dashes go outside the quotation marks.

Plus, hands on was the best way to tackle this problem.


I think the accepted form of "hands on" is with a hyphen, so "hands-on."

“I didn’t just catch him—” she pointed at Thane, who’d begun thrashing under the surface, “—out for an afternoon stroll.


Same here with the em-dashes. Outside the quotation marks.

Overall: nice work!! I thought this chapter was appropriately action-filled, and I'm really curious to see what exactly Charax has planned for Nanshe in the next chapter! Until next time!!

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Wed Sep 01, 2021 2:45 pm
PhoenixEmberly wrote a review...



Ah, another Phoenix, that's interesting. I'm glad I can offer a review for this. I appear to be jumping into part 43 of this series, so I will have to review this as a standalone piece for now. As for what I am looking for in a good story, I enjoy writing that is easy on the eyes to read, has interesting characters, and a compelling narrative.

As far as your grammar and sentence structure go, it was really good in this story! One of the things that often bothers me in a story is when people's sentence structure is repetitive and stiff. Many of your sentences were decently sized, and while too much of that can be tiring on the eyes, you had a good mix of short sentences to give the reader a break every now and then, which is much appreciated. I didn't really catch any grammatical errors in this, so good job! I also enjoyed the language you used here, because it made in easy to visualize the story as it was happening.

When it comes to character, a quirk of mine is that I find it very difficult to care about characters with dull name. I know, it sounds very subjective, and it is, but if a story is entirely composed of dialogue between characters named, say, "John and Smith", it just gets boring to me after a while. While it's realistic for people to have common names, stories aren't necessarily bound by realism. It's okay to have interesting names for your characters, and so I high appreciate that you do here. It's a small detail, but to me, it makes the characters all the more investing.

As for the characters themselves? I loved them! For starters, you definitely helped me enjoy your characters by implementing them into a story filled to the brim with awesome imagery. Take these lines at the very beginning, for instance.

"Clarity.

Everything snapped into sharp relief. The tiny peaks dimpling the water underfoot, like mountain ranges in miniature. The sighing of the wind as it congested with the heavy aroma of saltwater. The splash of blood swirling off the knife as the water bathed it. The broken leaves of the palm trees swaying in the breeze. The undead armies grappling each oth—

I blinked. The what?"

Here we have some nice prose that sets up a cool environment. We also have a nice build up to the unexpected sentence towards the end of the paragraph, followed by a humorous reaction by the character. Immediately we want the scene to be extrapolated on and for us to be introduced to this unnamed character (Again, you'll have to forgive me for judging this as a standalone piece). It's a great hook for both the plot and the story.

Now for the final and perhaps most important part of character building, dynamics. How do the characters interact with one another in the context of the story? I found the interactions of Azoria and the protagonist to be very fun. The protagonist being somewhat sarcastic juxtaposed well with the very serious attitude of Azoria. Not to mention that I was immediately curious about the history between these two, given that it seems there's quite a bit of drama there. Well done!

Finally, the plot. The plot was an action filled fantasy where the protagonist and Azoria fought against the undead army and Nanshe. That's certainly a cool concept, but was it executed well? I believe it was! To me, a good plot is a good concept mixed with good execution. I love this idea, and as for the execution? I felt as if the pacing was done well. and as I stated above, the characters, imagery, and sentence structures were all done very well. I am glad to have been able to give my thoughts here, and I will check out this series.





Why can't I put the entire Bee Movie in the quote generator? Would you prefer if I put in the Shrek script instead?
— CaptainJack