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The Hero's Brother (42)

by mellifera

They’ll be taken good care of,” Shiloh said for the eighth time in the last three days. She ran a finger through Carter’s curls as he trembled beside her. “It’ll be okay. They will be okay.”

He opened his mouth to reply, and a sob came out instead. He knew that, he knew it, but the fact of the matter was still the same and someone might as well have put a dagger through his chest.

Gideon sat beside him. They were in such a crowded place, he didn’t reach out to comfort Carter, but he was close enough that their hips and thighs pressed together on the bench the three of them were crammed on. Not to mention he’d been getting like this as of late- staring off, something dull in his eyes, or staying quiet for prolonged periods of time. Or, as of the night he’d come back after disappearing the night they’d escaped the Capital.

He’d gone off after Malika’s rescue with a dagger and come back with no dagger but a vial that Isha had said “looked a lot like blood”. Gideon had grimaced and told her to just use it. Drink it, pour it over her wound, he wasn’t sure. She did both, pouring most of it over her hip wound and drinking the rest. “It is blood,” she’d said. Gideon hadn’t said anything. Carter hadn’t said anything, Isha had only given him a look.

Carter buried his face into Shiloh’s neck as she continued to run her fingers through the curls at the back of his neck. He kept his left hand on his leg, where he could still touch Gideon with the side of his hand.

The cold wind that swept over them did nothing for the tears coating his cheeks. He was already freezing, and the wind made it all the worse. It was autumn now, and the sky was grey and bleary. Carter wished he were somewhere dry, because he could feel the mist off the ocean in the wind, could taste and smell the saltwater.

Even the waves, rolling and spitting as they were, looked dark and dreary. It felt like an echo of Carter’s soul.

He glanced up, eyes puffy and hot, to find Isha approaching with a tight smile. She glanced between all of them, and he could see her sigh, but he couldn’t hear it with the noises of the harbour filling the air. The scream of the gulls, the ocean, the crowds passing by.

It had worked. Whatever Gideon had done – Carter knew, deep down. Gideon didn’t come back with a magic vial of blood that had nothing to do with the sudden announcement that the Comtesse was dead – worked. The scar on Isha’s hip was ugly and marred now, but the magic had cleared the infection and closed the wound better than sutures.

Beside her, Finn peered down at them. He was quiet too, just like Gideon, and looked constantly tired. He still pestered them all at times, but it was clear he was suffering after the… God, everything. He also hadn’t gotten his hat back. His flaxen hair was tousled from the wind, and he was near-constantly touching it as if to adjust the hat that wasn’t there.

The ship leaves harbour tomorrow morning,” Isha announced. Her hair was back in a tight braid to keep it from the throes of the wind.

We should buy peppermint and ginger root,” Whisper said. They stood by the bench the other three sat on, with Koshar laying over one foot curled up. As if he could wrap himself up small enough to fit on their shoe. “It’ll help with the nausea.” They met Carter’s gaze a little pointedly.

He was steadying out his breathing, trying to allow Shiloh’s words to wash over him. They’ll be taken good care of. They’re safe. There’s no place for them on the ship. He sniffled, and his cheeks grew warmer again. Tears made his vision cloudy again, and Carter tried to swallow them back once again.

You saw how much those little girls adored all the horses,” Whisper told him. “I know you don’t want to leave them behind, but they’ll be happy.”

He nodded and offered Winnie a small smile. More tears slipped down his cheeks and this time he sniffled and brought his right hand to wipe them away. “Yeah,” he croaked. “Yeah. I know.”

Something tickled the back of his hand. He glanced down to see Gideon wiggling his smallest finger over Carter’s hand, tapping his gently. Carter chuckled in spite of himself and glanced up to find Gideon offering him a smile.

When Gideon looked at him like that, Carter could still remember the night they’d escaped. How Gideon had pulled him aside after Isha was taken care of.

I’m sorry,” Gideon said. The night drew shadows across his face, and he looked gaunt. The crescents beneath his eyes looked darker under the moonlight. Gideon had pulled him outside, to the side of the house. He was staring at Carter and it looked, just for a moment, as though his eyes were glistening. “I’m sorry.”

Why?” Carter asked. He wanted to touch Gideon but was overcome with such a shyness. Was he allowed that? He looked… unbearably fragile. Gideon had never looked fragile before, but he did now. Carter was worried that if he reached out to touch him, he would shatter.

Gideon raised his hands, both trembling, and set them at the division of Carter’s neck and jaw. His thread his fingers into Carter’s curls, and gently pulled him down so their foreheads were touching. “I don’t want to be a weapon,” he whispered. His breath ghosted over Carter’s lips. “I can’t- I don’t-”

His voice cracked and a sudden, sharp breath blew across Carter’s mouth and cheeks. It took him a moment to realise Gideon was shaking beneath him, and there were tears filling his eyes.

Carter stepped closer until he could feel the tremors through Gideon’s whole body against his. “You’re not. You’re Gideon, you protect your- your family. And I-” The words stuck in his throat. Of course, now of all times. His throat seized and he forgot how to speak, his tongue was dry and-

I love you,” Gideon whispered. “I don’t- I’ve never… done that. I’m- God, Carter, I’m terrified. I don’t know how to love anyone.”

You, um,” Carter was shaking now too, “you love Isha. You know how- how to do that. I don’t- um, I don’t think it’s something you- well, know, but I-” Gideon shifted away slightly to look at up him. Carter didn’t know when his hands hand come to rest against Gideon’s wrists, still gripping the sides of his face. And Carter didn’t know how to say what he wanted to, what he needed to.

He dipped forward instead to press his mouth to Gideon’s. Instead of responding, Gideon stiffened and immediately let go of Carter’s face. Carter pulled away with a furrow to his brow, and Gideon quickly shook his head.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you’re fine. I just- let me-” Gideon his hands on Carter’s arms instead. His eyes were wide but didn’t look so glassy anymore. “Okay,” he said. It sounded like permission.

Carter peered at him a moment longer, before leaning down again to kiss him. It was not like the kisses they’d shared down in the cave. It was not perfect, but it was gentle. And Carter tried to pour his affection into it as he collected his words against his tongue.

He didn’t open his eyes when he pulled away. He didn’t go far, just enough to have a little space for air.

I love you too,” he murmured, and allowed the knot in his chest to start untangling as he released a soft breath again Gideon’s mouth.

He still did not open his eyes, but he could feel Gideon’s smile against him. Between the tears and the pain, there was a smile, and there was love. That was good.

Not gentle,” Carter scoffed. “Yeah, right.”

I can’t believe I’m about to get on a ship,” Gideon muttered beside him. He looked more alert more, glancing between Whisper and Isha. “I hate ships.”

So does Carter,” Shiloh chimed in. Carter swallowed thickly, throat opening up a little. He wiped at his cheeks again, and nudged Shiloh’s foot. He didn’t really want to talk, but he knew closing himself up wouldn’t do anyone any good.

Finn crossed his arms over his chest. “Guess you’ll have to keep each other safe from the dangerous ship then.”

Carter smiled, a little wobbly but warm. Finn’s own mouth curled.

Shiloh had told him what had happened, how she’d pulled him from the same golden pool she’d pulled Gideon from. That had delighted Gideon, who gleefully informed Carter that Finn had mocked him about it after he’d almost drowned and then down the same. Finn had rolled his eyes, but he’d looked more alive than he had before.

He hadn’t said anything about his memories. That, alone, was enough to tell Carter whether he’d gotten them back or not.

I’m the only one of us who has been on a ship,” Gideon pointed out. “You’ll be eating your words when your legs feel like water and you can’t keep food down.”

Then I hope my words are filling,” Finn snorted.

The saltwater tickled Carter’s nose and he sneezed. Shiloh’s hand slid down his back until she was running her hands in soothing circles. But she was smiling, eyes crinkled at the corners and tempered.

He was going to miss the horses. He already missed the horses like mad. But he still had his family- Carter wasn’t going to call them anything else. He’d never had anyone but Shiloh and Winnie, and now he had all of them. Blood didn’t matter so much to Carter. His parents were gone. The rest of them weren’t.

It would be okay. They would be okay.

word count: 1,668

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1304 Reviews

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Fri Sep 20, 2019 1:30 pm
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JabberHut wrote a review...

LOL poor Isha. I love that she immediately detected that it was blood. Gosh, I love Isha.

He also hadn’t gotten his hat back.


NOOOOO the horses D: //sob


I really like that we're finally addressing the fear of ships. I don't know where they're all going, and I wish there was some earlier speculation about leaving the island for whatever reason. It was really just an unexpected turn of events that I am struggling to make sense of. I guess they're just going to travel to a new home now? Is there any place in particular they're heading? Are they traveling with Malika's pirates?

I really love that Carter lets go of his horses. That's huge for someone who relied on having the horses around, and the idea of him letting the horses go because he has what he needs is beautifully poetic. I'm really glad you saw that opportunity as a writer.

I also adore the idea of leaving via ship because, again, we're facing a fear that our characters originally would have avoided. They're okay with doing it because they have what they need. They're going to be okay, and a simple ship wasn't going to get in the way of their new lives. Plus, the idea of traveling from the home they all knew for years to a new destination with each other is a perfect way to end this piece.

The flashback to Carter and Gideon together was cute in general, but I don't really see Gideon's panic coming at all. He ended things with the Comtesse, and everything that happened in that room dies with her. I don't know why Gideon is so shaken up. I also don't know why he's whining to Carter about not wanting to be a weapon anymore. It all felt very out-of-character for him. I like that he's struggling to address his love for Carter though, and how awkwardly beautiful this scene was for Gideon trying to talk about his feelings. I mean, he thought about Carter while in the room with Aelina! That alone says something about how much he cares for Carter, and I think that's what he was trying to address here.

It would make more sense for Gideon to just say out-right, "I'm not fighting anymore." Like, Carter is gonna have to accept this decision because Gideon simply can't do it anymore -- this would make more sense for Gideon to panic about, like he made a decision and is scared of losing Carter for making that decision. But instead, after everything is said and done, he cries about it to Carter like he needs Carter's permission to not fight anymore. (Like, Carter didn't want to fight in the first place? I THINK IT'S OKAY, GIDEON.)

So basically, Gideon's goal behind his mentioning his retirement to Carter confused me. I don't know what he's trying to do as his behavior doesn't seem to line up with what I know of Gideon.


So there are some things I'll mention, though it's been long enough that you are probably aware of them all already. But I won't go into too much detail (I will try not to, I promise) unless you wish to discuss something further!

The novel started out so strong, but then we kinda lost sight of some of some of the characters. Whisper and Finn were such great characters, but they were never really used at all in the ending. But they both had a history, and they both had a history with Aelina. This all could have been affected or at least addressed by the plot itself. I've voiced a lot of my opinions on those two in the last few reviews, so I won't really regurgitate it all again. There is a lot of potential, though, for these two with what you already have.

Similarly, Malika and the pirates were left on the sidelines, but I think you're aware of that one. We'll never know if Malika's goals are achieved! (SEQUEL MAYBE ??)

Another character that disappointed me was Shiloh, I have to admit. The title even indicated she was the hero, but it didn't feel that way at all. She seemed rather useless, to be honest, and I would have loved to see more of her. She was introduced as a healer for Gideon and Isha, and even if the healer part was written out, she's still worked with these two before. Seeing the three of them in action would have been so cool, and it definitely would be enlightening for Carter! To see his sister in this other life that was kept a secret from him.

Along similar lines, the coteries seemed to just be forgotten. I actually forgot the name of the coterie leaders now, it's been quite a while. XD I think Corin was one, maybe Valin the other? Still, I would have loved to actually meet these guys, or at least get more insight into what their roles are like with Aelina. I mean, there was very much a Master Plan involving Aelina, and we didn't even get to see the assassination attempt. It would have been SO cool to see Aelina drink the poison and just not die because of her healing magic. Like, how goosebumpy would that be to witness??

Plus, bringing the coteries into light more brings Isha into light more as her family is suddenly involved.

We also never get to meet Aelina's betrothed or anything, and that was all left kind of hanging. I think, in the end, I'd have liked the situation to become more dire. It never really got to the point where I was at the edge of my seat (except for those cliffhangers threatening to kill characters AHEM). For the next draft, I'd probably think about a general outline of events so that you know where plot points will be addressed and can be sure that things are developing over time. This will also help with the timeline itself, as there was a lot of time-skipping that I wasn't aware of. It sounds like this might have taken much longer than a couple weeks. XD

Planning plot points will ALSO help with the pacing, too. As things develop over time, you'll be able to map out when and where this character or that character will shine. When will these key skills or knowledge bits be revealed. I think everything was developing EXTREMELY well, the pacing was phenomenal, until maaaybe around the pirates. I think once they entered the picture, there was a lot of juggling and almost panic trying to get everything sorted and everyone in their place.

So for the next draft, I would... admittedly, I'd say focus on the plot more since this novel has a LOT of stuff going on, and there's a lot of arcs to weave around. But as you plot things out, DEFINITELY consider your characters. I really like fleshing out characters -- and not just likes and dislikes, but I'm really talking about their motivation, their goals, what they want, what their history is, how things will end and if they get at least a little bit of what they want in the end. I hate to say choose plot or characters as I think this novel really relies on the need to flesh out both parts. You have a grand plot with coteries and Aelina, but your characters also have their own plots and goals to achieve. So while they all are probably handled or planned out separately, it takes a master planner to weave it all together, and I definitely think you're on the right track with what I've read already. You definitely understand that concept, so I think it'll just be more plotting funness for you!

And honestly, I think this will all help with fleshing out Aelina. She is SUCH a great character. She had such a strong start (and in such stark contrast to Gideon losing his head in anxiety was just even BETTER for her), but then she just went out like a light. But she's also a key character for your plot, so definitely reconsidering how coteries are played and all the characters in HER life will help flesh out Aelina herself. Aelina DOES have a lot going on in her life, but all those things go back to the plot and what is actually going on here. She's the mastermind after all! So yeah, plotting should naturally develop Aelina, at least a little bit.

I am just in love with what you have already, I can really see so much potential for what you have. The world is incredible. I love how mysterious the magic is. Despite people like Whisper understanding a little bit of magic history, it's still such an anomaly to the world. I love your characters, how diverse they are and watching them interact with each other. And I had like one more thing to say but it just escaped me so we'll never know what that is!

Thank you SO much for this story. It really has been so much fun to read. You have such a beautiful fantasy novel in your hands with such a complex world and complex plot and complex characters. I don't say lightly that you are on a GREAT start here. I hope I said at least some things that were useful or helped jog the brain a bit for your next planning session!

Beautiful job, and congrats on such a great achievement! If you ever have questions or want to talk about things, just send me a message. Plotting is far too much fun for me to pass up!

Keep writing!

Jabber, the One and Only!

mellifera says...

hey hi!! thank you so much for all your reviews!! you have no idea how much I appreciate them :D

I'm not even sure pulling specific points from your review would even be productive because I completely agree with everything you said xD The plots and pacing them all out I think is going to be the hardest thing to manage tbh I put a lot on my plate to handle in one novel, but then I also,,, interwove it so tightly that it's hard to untangle anything to remove, so... lots of revision work :P

I have a? post in my LMS Thread? that has all my second draft notes in it? By no means do you have to read it! but if you did, I'd love to hear your thoughts about plans for what's going to change!

do you think the story would have benefited at all if some/any of the subplots/plots that happened in the Capital occurred/leaked into earlier section of the story?

I'm so glad you enjoyed this!! your enthusiasm and energy has been so wonderful to have hearing all your feedback and thoughts :'D

thank you so much again!! if there's ever anything I can do to repay the favour, please let me know!!

JabberHut says...

Oh, awesome! I'll definitely check that out, see what you have planned for all these lovely characters of yours. I MUST KNOW!

It's hard for me to answer that one, but I do think it would benefit from drawing more connections between the coteries and the capital. As it is right now, it feels like we moved on from coterie business when, in fact, they plan a significant role in the happenings of the Capital.

So I think the easy answer is yes.

It would definitely benefit from more events outside of the Capital, as that would contribute to the build-up of the main Fight, if you will, that takes place against Aelina. The key idea is simply that, though: making a better-paced build-up for the endgame fight against Aelina. If the endgame IS reaching the Capital and confronting the main antagonist, then it will absolutely benefit from more time outside of the Capital and focusing on more details, building up to that level of excitement for the reader. If the endgame is simply confronting Aelina, wherever it may be, then it's not so much about being outside the Capital as it is revealing the right amount of information at the right moments before the final fight. They could spend the entire second half of the novel in the Capital, but the final fight is going to be that spot or moment which seemed unreachable for nearly the entire novel beforehand -- and lo! they reached it!

I can definitely see how challenging it will be to map everything out, though! You've got your hands full with this one, but part of the fun in novel-writing is arranging all the events JUST right to tell a compelling story. It'll take a little extra effort when there's more to juggle, but you can definitely do it. You've already got such a brilliant start!

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Sun Aug 25, 2019 2:28 am
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Ventomology wrote a review...

Wow. You did it! You finished! Congratulations!!! Getting through a whole novel and doing lms are no easy feat, and here you are! Awesome job!

Chapter-Specific Notes:

1. I generally wouldn't advise opening a scene in a new place (and new time) with dialogue, especially if it's unspecific. If you really want to keep it, I'd add in the horses somewhere, because that makes it really obvious that we are in a totally different time and context from the place we just left off--Carter wouldn't just let go of the horses, after all!

In this case though, since we're at the finale and preparing to go on a boat and all, it might be a good idea to set us up in this dock or seaside city or wherever they are. I know we're not spending a whole lot of time there, and you don't need to come up with a city name or anything like that, but changes in location can mean a lot for a story symbolically, and I think for this one, the presence of the sea has potential to show how things have changed. It hasn't appeared anywhere else, after all. It's entirely new, for a new stage in the characters' post-adventure lives.

2. Is there any particular reason why you chose to flashback to the events immediately following the assassination of the Comtesse instead of going to that scene as it happened, and then into this epilogue? I don't think it's a bad choice, but I also wonder what it would do for your story if you had gone straight into the reunion, or if you simply hadn't mentioned it, and left the ending to be even more fuzzy.

3. I'm not sure you need the repetition of the end line. It feels like it's trying too hard? And this is an ending that is already somewhat bittersweet and fuzzy. If you only say it once, then you allow the line to be more uncertain and final.

4. Given the way the story went in chapter 41, I think this kind of vaguely unsatifying ending is a good choice, actually. You might not be entirely satisfied with it--I get that--but it tells a very different story than if you had neatly and kindly wrapped everything up, and if you like that direction, you should embrace it!

Full Novel Notes:

1. I would have liked to see stronger arcs for Finn, Whisper, and Isha, who I feel did not change all that much over the course of the story. I know we rarely saw into Finn or Whisper's heads, but it is possible to show change in characters who are not the narrator.

Of course, you should also keep in mind that six people is a lot! It is hard enough to plan out the changes and lessons learned by just one or two people, let alone six, and I commend you for taking the time to put together such a large central cast with diverse backgrounds and personalities. It's difficult to do, and you managed it!

2. It's difficult to really critique pacing and stakes when I'm not reading a novel straight through, but I will say this: I think the way the end and beginning are written is very appropriate. They feel like the correct speed, like they're just ambling along. It's the middle where I feel like things get muddy.

I could not, for the life of me, figure out when we were nearing the end. If you hadn't mentioned it when you tagged me, I would not have known. There was always some new thing, like the undead armies, and it never felt like I had a clear grasp on when new information stopped, and when we could piece it all together. I didn't feel like the goals were clearly set out, especially when they changed, and once everyone set out together, the pace was off like a horse from the gate, and it never slowed or sped up until the very end.

At some point, the new things needed to end, and we needed a very clear turning point for the group as a whole. Because for all that the story ends with Gideon, it is a story about a group, and the group needs to have an arc as clearly and well-written as the ones you gave to Gideon, Carter, and Shiloh.

Again, this is insanely difficult to plan out! Heaven knows I needed clarity in my arcs for the lms novels I've written. That your plot is so entwined with the world-building, and that you have a large core group makes this planning all the more difficult.

3. And because I cannot say it enough, I love the way that history and magic put together this world, and I love how much the world itself influences and is part of the plot. There definitely are parts that could explained more clearly, but just putting your plot and world together in such a way is a feat already. It's very impressive, and you should be proud!

That's it! Again, if you have other things about this story you'd like to discuss, or need clarification on anything I've written in reviews, feel free to get in touch! It's been so much fun reviewing this novel. The writing is ambitious and exciting, and I'll definitely be back the next time you start a project.

Until next time,

mellifera says...

hey!! thank you so much for all your reviews!! (and I'm sorry I didn't reply! I really appreciate them all though!)

I actually do like the vague ending as well! It was just that I had never planned the ending, so it was kind of made up as I was going. I decided later on that I really wanted to tie up Gideon's character arc with the last assassination, but at the same time, I'm really unsatisfied that he just killed her... so easily? That sounds bad, but to me it just felt like I was giving him too much power? Also that there were no repercussions for doing it? I'm not sure, I have to Think About That ending haha.

Yes, I definitely agree about character arcs! I already knew what I was doing with Carter, Shiloh and Gideon, but Isha, Whisper, and Finn I learned along the way, so their character arcs were really undeveloped and kind of all over the place.

Also, about the ending: ye, I definitely paced it too slow in the beginning and then had all these others things that I had to cram into the end? So, the pacing definitely has to be rearranged, but I'm also trying to figure out how much of the ending subplots I can incorporate earlier? (and, just like the characters, a lot of the ending came to me as I was writing, which was another problem)

Also! I remember you mentioned that the magic worldbuilding was a little bit shaky? Which is 100% true I had no structure to rules to magic? That's something that I really want to work on in the second draft, because yeah it did feel weak to me even when I was writing it!

I also wanted to ask? If there was any confusion or like, feelings about the Comtesse? I felt like I didn't write her as well as I wanted to, and while I know what she had ambitions/plans for and such, I also feel like I didn't execute it well, and short of a monologue like a bad disney villain, there was no way to incorporate it? I don't know if you had any Thoughts about her while you were reading or felt like she was underdeveloped/felt unfinished in terms of a character with motivations or anything?

Again! Thank you so much for your reviews! I really appreciate them and it's going to be really helpful when I start planning the second draft <3

Ventomology says...

Hmmm... I think, if we had heard more about the Comtesse from the beginning--rumors, histories, more time in Whisper's headspace, etc.--then it might have made her seem more like the overall villain, and would have given us more information on which to hypothesize at her intentions. I agree that she doesn't need a monologue, or even for her motive to be clearly stated, but I think if we could see more of her direct influence, and if her plans had gotten further along, then we could piece together everything ourselves.

I hope that helps?

Make sure you marry someone who laughs at the same things you do.
— Holden Caulfield