The premise of my weekly writing challenge is a simple one. I and a friend provide a genre and a theme to work with. 1000 word limit. A development of character, prose, exposition within that few words is something I’ve used as an exercise for years and having the opportunity to do with a friend is a wonderful chance. However, I feel getting my own thoughts on what I do subconsciously is a chance to expand my own limits.
For our second week, the genre was not mine to choose; my friend opted for Fantasy a setting I have far too much experience in reading and writing with. I have long written in the short form via Play by Post Forums with Fantasy as their core genre. So this was far from uncharted territory. The theme, however, was hopelessness.
I had an idea straight from the word go. I wanted to flip the conventions and make the protagonist of the narration the antagonist of the story. Avent Garde Indeed.
“Wake up, please wake up. Come on. Breathe. You can do it. Come on. Come on. COME ON!”
Jason’s stuttering from gasped in. Tears burned his eyes and ran down his blood and dirt-streaked face. The body of his wife lay limply in his arms. Her clothing charred beyond recognition. Melted to her blackened bloody skin. Her hair or what was left of it was patchy and brittle. Something rattled wetly from her lungs. Was it a breath in? Or just the air from his embrace being squeezed out. Around him. Chaos. The Black Wing. But why? Why Morenth? Around him, his fellow guards battled valiantly. Although they outnumbered their assailants considerably. Something was different this night.
Explosions had rocked the building and he had come running to this battleground. He had stood back to back with his Wife as they fought against The Black Wing. Yet they had failed to cause any impact with their own magic. It was only when he caught sight of the Twin Talons that all hope had fled. The Cannings themselves. It was at this moment that Issac had unleashed his own version of hell onto reality. Although with an entire wall nearly everyone in sight had been caught in the conflagration. Steel melted with flesh into a rotten mess. Morenth skilled with Incende as she was had failed to even mount any form of defence. Now with her corpse in his arms. Corpse? No, she was still alive. Jason stood shakily to his feet breathing hard and fast. He didn’t even hear the body of his wife moistly slap the floor. As magical energy started to surge within him his Cabalist Nature fuelled by his rage. No, they would die now. His scream rising into something primal and unnatural he watched as Serene. The Sygal extended her right arm. He almost didn’t hear the words. Yet despite his yelling her words echoed in his mind.
A fluid stream of red runes followed her hand before fading. The magic circle in front of her hand was a weeping monstrosity. No bigger than her hand span. As he flung his hands forward blue lightning flashed and streaked towards the pair. Screams echoed through the room. Not theirs though. Those bolts that glanced off the edges of whatever it was she was channelling deflected behind the pair. Striking indiscriminately. Due to the numbers present, it was almost only hitting his fellow men. Those more accurate simply shuddered with their full impact before racing up Serene’s arm arcing and surrounding her body. His barrage exhausted he watched as behind the circle her hand made a fist and with a burst of energy the magic around her fizzled into nothing. She was watching him with a small smile. Her right hand opened again behind the magic circle. The back of his neck was alight with the goosebumps of fear. That sticky cold fear sweat dripped under his charred shirt. Around him, the carnage of his own barrage combined with Issac’s efforts had reduced the room into ruin
“You know she had to die right? She was a tyrant. An enchantress”
Ignoring the sudden inability to breathe due to his rising panic Jason tensed his entire body and summoned every bit of power he possessed. As electricity discharged from his skin he flung his arms forward. Screaming in hatred.
“YOU DIE HERE TONIGHT”
His vision blinded as everything he had flashed forward in an ungodly burst. As the seconds dragged on all he could hear was ringing in his ears. His eyes slowly cleared from the white starburst. The first thing he saw chilled what was left of his mind to the very core. He started shaking. Serene was not smiling anymore. The desecration of his home was complete. He could see the lines where she had allowed his assault to pierce her shield. When had she expanded it? Her guildmates were unharmed. His house, the ground and his men were not. Those that had not been in close proximity to her those in the wing were not there anymore. Just charred ash. The very air around Serene was crackling and shimmering with the lighting discharging off her body. His own magic was dancing around her very form. Again the hand closed into a fist and in a flash, it all just vanished. Dismissed with so little effort.
Her shield dropped, the right hand swept again. This time blue and white runes. Two circles now in front of her right-hand spiralling.
A blurred motion and a flash of white erupted from it. His eyes hadn’t expected it, his body hadn’t expected the sudden agony erupting from his right arm. As blood spurted he saw a shard of ice impaled through the bone. His breath caught in his throat he couldn’t even scream anymore. Was it ice splintering at the edge or was it bone? His eyes caught sight of the next one. This one sunk into his chest catching the bottom three ribs expertly. As his left lung was torn asunder by ice and bone. A third smashed into his right femur almost tearing his leg off. He wasn’t dead, just burning in pain and ice. His jaw was shattered by the fourth shearing through his lower face. Why wasn’t he unconscious? Again his eyes betrayed him, A Black Wing was looking straight at him arm outstretched. He was being kept awake.
He was on the ground now, unable to keep standing. The Cannings stood over him. Serene looked at him coldly. Hatred in her eyes.
“He doesn’t get to fade to black. Not until he dies. Fix up that lung too. He doesn’t die quick. We have to send a message to Ashail. This is what happens.”
Serene knelt down to the barely breathing man as his lung slowly repaired.
“You will feel every drop of pain you and your bitch caused. You will not die tonight.”
In doing it this way, I’d given myself far more work to do, at least in regards to exposition in the word count I had. In order to convey a feeling of hopelessness, you have to set the stakes high from the very beginning. So I aimed to do that with plain flat out consequences of trying to pick a fight with those stronger than you. A melted corpse. To me, at least in my writing; Magic is not a toy. It’s a tool and a weapon. Incidentally mirroring my thoughts on guns. Either way, when it’s used by those capable, it’s a destructive force. In order to raise the stakes for the unlucky protagonist I opted for a clear demonstration of power, someone who was ‘skilled’ in fire magic was melted by another wielding similar magic. Naturally, that would provoke a response and Jason is not a without his own abilities however the important part of being helpless is that you don’t have power or control over what you’re doing.
This is where Serene’s actions become significant. It could easy to say that defended the response. But I wanted to show it, it has far more impetus at least to me if a message is sent. In this case on two separate occasions, the raw power thrown at her was dismissed with a closing of her hand. Simple. Powerful. Her retaliation is likewise, short, brief and without compromise. It’s her reasons which impart the true message here. By keeping Jason alive yet in all-consuming pain without letting him pass unconscious she is taking everything he has left and controlled it impeccably.
Did I capture Hopelessness? Looking at it critically. I think I got the essence, the instant of hopelessness. Had I the word count or the time I might have opted for something again, like last week; tied more in reality. The lack of exposition here hurt the overall message. A little bit too much to cover given my ambitious attempt. A fun one. I like writing the ‘bad guy’
Next Week- Genre (open) Theme Loyalty and 2000 words.