The Fire, Venom & Bone Saga: Chapter 1

His eyes widened and he clutched his throat as a thick green froth seeped from his mouth. His back arched as a violent spasm shot through him, and that’s when he shit himself.

In the morning, his assistant would find him face down on the floor in his robes, soiled from both ends. It would be a fitting end for the increasingly reclusive magi who squirreled himself away in his tower littered with unread books, empty wine bottles and a lifetime of regrets.

Grand Illusionist Thedorious Baltz waved his hand in front of him to dismiss the image, and knocked back the last swallow of wine in his glass.

He poured himself another. “Poison is just not a very dignified way to go, is it old friend?” He asked the bottle. “Of course it isn’t! I thought you might say that.” He sipped the drink. “Maybe we should try something a little less,” he paused, rubbing his chin, “messy?”

He waved his hand again. This time a younger version of himself hung before his eyes. His feet dangled inches above the floor. His body gently swayed. Baltz stood and slowly approached the image. Its hair was well-groomed. There was no thick stubble on its face. No crow’s-feet. No wrinkles. Time had yet to take its toll on his looks and conscience.

The robes it wore were a brilliant white, emblazoned with the blood-red seal of house Baltz, quite different from the stained and tattered rags that currently hung from his wiry frame. Most noteworthy though, his younger self didn’t reek of weeks old sweat and alcohol.

He stared into the dead eyes before him and marveled at how much more life they had than his own. Reaching out with his hand, he caressed the cheek of his younger self. “I’m sorry, Dor. We’ve made a few mistakes along the way.”

The old man walked back to his desk where he sat and took another sip of his drink. “This won’t do, either. No, no, no.” He shook his head, and sighed. “I need something far less barbaric.”

He waved his hand to dismiss the illusion, but the vision of his younger self remained. He waved his hand again. And again. He snapped his fingers, but to no avail. There he was, still hanging by his neck from a rafter. Still gently swaying.

He grabbed the bottle of wine off the desk, held it out in front of him and examined it. “If this isn’t a clear sign that it’s time to give up drinking, then I don’t know what is.”

His own voice came from the center of the room, where the body hung, “mistakes have most certainly been made, Thedorious.”

The bottle of wine slipped from Baltz’s hand and smashed on the floor. His heart thumped in his chest. His limbs went cold. He didn’t want to look, but he slowly turned his head toward the image.

The head of his hanging younger self turned to make eye contact with the old man. “But it’s time to right the wrongs of the past.”

Baltz leapt to his feet and backed away from the illusion until he bumped into the wall. He was short on breath, and his whole body was trembling. “Some wrongs can just simply not be righted,” he whispered.

The image smiled. “This one can. You should not have trusted him then, and you most certainly shouldn’t trust him now.”

Baltz knew the answer to his question, but he couldn’t stop himself from asking, “Trust who?”

Three sharp knocks at the door to his study broke his concentration, and the image disappeared. “Trust who?” He yelled at the empty room.

The knocks persisted. The Illusionist rubbed his eyes, ran his fingers through his hair and straightened his robes. “Enter.”

An enormous man in plate armor ducked through the doorway, and entered the study. He removed his helmet and looked around as if expecting to find more than just Baltz in the room. “Is everything alright, sir?”

“Of course everything is alright.” He looked to where the image had hung. “Did you come up here just to hassle an old man enjoying a quiet evening?”

“No Master Baltz, there is a rather-” the guard paused for a moment, as if searching for the proper word, “peculiar man downstairs requesting an audience with you. I tried to send him away, but he was quite insistent upon seeing you.”

Baltz raised his hand and waved the guard away. “I do not wish to be disturbed this evening. Did I not make this clear?”

The guard looked down at the floor. “Sir, he said it’s urgent.” He cleared his throat before adding, “Sir.”

The Illusionist snorted and rolled his eyes. “Of course it’s urgent, Rogers. Why wouldn’t it be?”

“He asked me to give you a message, sir. He said you would know what it means,” he paused.

Baltz threw his hands in the air. “Well, I can hardly wait to hear it.”

“He said that General Uxbridge’s army has been raised.”

The old man’s eyes widened, his jaw hung slack. “You described this man as peculiar? How so?”

“His robe, sir. Those colors. They shifted and flowed like,” he paused, “molten rock.”

The magi looked back to the center of the room where the illusion of his younger self had hung.

You should not have trusted him then, and you most certainly shouldn’t trust him now.

“Send him up.” The thought was enough to sober him. “Immediately.”

“Yes, sir.” Rogers placed the helmet back on his head and turned to leave.

“And Rogers,” he called.

The man turned around. “Yes, sir?”

“I want him to have a full escort, and additional guards at the door.”

“Yes, sir. Would you like me to wake the Clerics?”

“No. If this goes poorly, there will be nothing left to heal.”

“Yes, sir.” Rogers rounded the corner and disappeared down the hall.

Grand Illusionist Thedorious Baltz had never feared death, but the thought of dying absolutely terrified him.

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5 Responses to The Fire, Venom & Bone Saga: Chapter 1

  1. Abbas-Al-Morim says:

    I liked the chapter but I was a bit taken aback by Thedorious’ dramatic response to the talking illusion. While something like that is very dramatic, I expected Thedorious to make a more light-hearted response at first. After all, he was contemplating his own suicide options a moment before – and talking to his bottle. I don’t think a very drunk person would immediately react in fear to a talking illusion. I’d expected there to be a moment of comic relief followed by disbelief and then perhaps fear. Now, I’m certain you know Thedorious way better than I do and perhaps this was the appropriate response for him. The thing is though, as a reader I don’t know him yet (and I will never know him like you do) so these kind of discrepancies between logic expectation and reality can make the difference between a really strong and an average story. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t surprise your reader sometimes with a very emotional and unexpected reaction. But I think you should first give us an inkling of the character’s personality (and help us categorize the character in our mind) and then once we think we know him, you should try to surprise the reader. This is just my opinion though and I realize I’m nitpicking here. His reaction wasn’t unbelievable, it just didn’t seem to fit his inebriated state and his personality 100%.

  2. Abbas-Al-Morim,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and give such a lengthy reply!

    I think what you’ve pointed out is just me missing the mark with what I was going for, which is him losing control over the illusion (the illusion being a younger version of him, unlike the first one), then him becoming emotional after seeing the younger version of himself which held so much promise (before he made the mistakes which ruined him), then the illusion taking on the life of it’s own.

    That’s why he his reaction was so dramatic, and I didn’t just frame it in the right context. As a very new writer, your feedback highly valuable to me!

    Thanks again, Dan.

  3. Abbas-Al-Morim says:

    If you’re new writer you might be interested in the Brandon Sanderson lectures & class. Sanderson (an experienced and accomplished writer, you’ve probably heard of him or read his works) gives classes on fantasy writing at a college. Someone places them online here (http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/). He gives a lot of good tips and pointers for new writers (and experienced ones). What’s even better is that you can sign up for the online class. You’ll be expected to write 1000 words a week (for three months I think?) and you have to critique at least 4 other people’s writing per week. I think you might benefit from these classes – I know I will. They start on June 3rd and I think you can still sign up if you’d like. I did myself.

  4. Abbas-Al-Morim says:

    You’re welcome! My name for the class will be “Rawne”. If you ever see a piece of my work, make sure to check it out! I’ll definitely do the same.

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