Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Update to an Earlier Post

Hello Reader!  So I've posted a few excerpts from the novel here online, and I was looking through them earlier today with nostalgia.  I found one in particular that was very, melodramatic?  Ya, that's a good word for it.  A lot of my writing from earlier drafts of the novel was pretty melodramatic I'd say.  I've toned it down a lot, and tried very hard to impress upon the reader that there's actual humor in my world.  So while I've rewritten this specific scene, I've kept it somber.  I wanted to...well, that would be cheating if I told you what I wanted to do.  Let's see what you think of it!  Post up on the comments (I know some of you are very vocal) what you thought of the piece, and if you have the time, please compare it to the previous version of the scene!

Hey!  That's me!


So to give some context, Briok's father was murdered and at his funeral Briok was attacked by the Howlian mafia.  They were after him because he had witnessed a crime they committed, one against a government official and of course the criminal underworld hates loose ends.  In the end, Briok escaped them but wasn't able to properly attend his father's funeral.  In this scene, he's visiting the grave with his mother a day or so after the attempted kidnapping.

            It was early morning Monday, the first day of school for Atlantian children.  Briok’s swollen red eyes were boring into his father’s grave.  “Briok?  Briok, it’s time to leave,” Sheba Cwartel gently touched her son’s shoulder.  Time was showing its heavy toll on his weary face.  His brow was creased, his eyes full of both contempt and sorrow.  His hair was unnaturally dull in color.
            Sheba tried pulling her son up, but he pushed her off, still staring at his father’s grave.  Straightening her black coat, she looked at her watch.  It was nearly noon, and they had spent several hours at the grave already. Her wary eyes scanned the surrounding area, dark sunglasses hiding her own pain.
            The Burial Mound was at the top of a hill in Atlantia sitting on the edge of Atlantis’ craggy coastline.  Waves rolled back and forth against the slope where six Atlantian monarchs, Magna Beasts all, lay dead - dispatched at the hands of the Howlas.  The grass grew green atop the buried coffins, and the flowers had bloomed beautifully.  But a pall persisted.  A constant wind blew across the dewy grass, ever-present clouds clapped together from time to time, and the quiet never lifted.  Each gave the Burial Mound an exquisitely sad character.
            Sheba turned her gaze to the stone eyes of her husband, his likeness erected in beautiful marble over his grave.  He was holding a sword in one hand, an olive branch in the other, and his face was looking into the distance as it always did.  She barely contained the gasp of pain that escaped her lips.  Looking away, she caught sight of her son silently repeating something to himself.
            He was reading the tombstone with such intensity, his eyes burning into it,
Only among the aisles of the cathedral, only as we gaze upon their silent figures sleeping on their tombs, some faint conceptions float before us of what these men were when they were alive. – J.A. Froude”
            “That was your father’s favorite quote.” She crouched down to Briok’s level, “He lived his life by that quote.  He wanted very much to mean something.”
            Briok quivered.  Sheba tried to tame his hair, giving up after a few tries. “Your ambition is not the only thing he gave you.  You have his ridiculous hair,” she ruffled it gently, “you keep everything to yourself, just like him.  You even inherited his beautiful smile.”
            Briok seemed to have sunken into an even deeper depression with this litany.  “I even inherited his curse.”
            Not one inch of her flinched, but Sheba’s silence spoke volumes of a mother’s fury for her child.  “Briok,” her voice was caught in her throat, “It doesn’t have to be a curse.  You aren’t going through this alone, I promise you.  Whatever Amar does with you, I will be here.”  She pulled him closer, “You are my son.  You are not cursed.  And even if you are, I didn’t raise you to give up, now did I?  You can be the greatest one to have ever lived.  You can be the best, better than any of them!” When Briok’s eyes did not meet hers, Sheba gently took his head and pushed it in her direction.  “Where’s my happy Briok?  Where’s the strong man that I raised?”
            “I can’t, Mom,” he pushed her away, slumping to the ground, and burying his head beneath his arms.  Sheba could do nothing but sit next to him, silently cradling her grieving son.  He wasn’t even crying.  He was hiding.  From pain.  From burden.
            After several minutes without moving Sheba took control.  Slowly, with effort bridled, she helped Briok rise and the pair left the memories behind.  They drove away in silence, seeking only the company of their own minds.  When they had both finally arrived at the Villa, Briok hurriedly removed his shoes and threw them into his cubby in the garage.  Forcing the door open, Briok dragged his feet up the stairs to his room.
            The Villa, a cozy abode in a quaint neighborhood, was the de facto home of the royal family.  Of course, the anonymity of its inhabitants was of utmost importance.  The Villa was flanked by homes filled to a bursting point with guards who were on call every minute of every day.  Behind its sprawling backyard, almost an acre in size, the Villa had a small army hidden in the building that posed as a community center for the neighborhood.  And the street in front of the idyllic home was patrolled constantly by rotating squads of Atlantian guards, driving by sleeplessly in their inconspicuous vehicles.
            Sheba walked straight to the kitchen, closing the overwrought wooden door to the garage behind her.  Her heels clicked against the wood-tile floor, decorated with ornate rugs from all over the world.  The kitchen was a spacious area, with granite countertops and a large, impressive island in its center. Sheba took to the television in the adjoining living room, a unique contraption built for all the necessities of a home but also equipped with the daily reports and news that only queens were privy to.
            In one swift motion Sheba turned on the TV set, flipped to her briefings, and began cooking.  Her hand touched the top of the island twice, her eyes poring over the reports on the TV screen, saying “Next,” every time she was done reading about a report.  Four panels lit up on the countertop, each with concentric circles.  The panels were surrounded by a larger, black box that had four dials at its bottom.  Sheba’s hand trailed to one of these dials and set it on high.  She then took a pot out from the cupboard, filled it with water, and set it atop the stove.  “Get out of your clothes and take off that silly bandage the doctor put on you!”  Sheba yelled.
            Throwing all of her skill into it, Sheba made a ludicrously large meal for her son.  Pasta was the quickest menu item, with a heavy addition of pesto to satisfy Briok’s ravenous teenage stomach.  Sheba waited for the noodles by slicing chicken, absent-mindedly moving the knife up and down.  Decades of practice with her father had left her terrifyingly competent, to the point where much of the work had become cathartic.
            Briok never partook in cooking with his mother, most of the time being shooed out of it for fear he may accidentally blow something up.  Sitting down in the dining room just outside, Briok waited patiently while Sheba worked tirelessly.  With not a single sign of fatigue, Sheba plated her feast and put it to Briok’s mat.  But all that time waiting had distracted him from his hunger.
            All the normally appreciative Briok could do was stare at the gold chandelier hanging from the ceiling.  Its intricate design held ten bright lights in them, three of which had gone out.  “I should change the lights huh?” Briok asked, his tone deadpan.
            “You need to eat your food first,” Sheba spun her fork in the middle of her plate, but she too had seemed to lose her appetite.  Briok nodded and began poking at his food again.  The random clanking and clattering of forks went on, until Briok finished his third cup of water. 
            “I need to go to the bathroom,” he didn’t bother with asking for permission to leave the table.  He ran up the stairs and slammed the door.  Sheba merely stared at her plate, her hands frozen.  She could hear the pipes groan a little, and the wood beneath his feet creak as he stepped into his room.  Sheba wiped her mouth and rose from her chair.  She walked to the stairs, taking a grip of the polished wood rails to steady herself. 
            When she arrived in Briok’s room she found him sitting at his desk, fiddling with a ring.  “Where did you find that?” she asked as she stepped towards his bed.  The walls around him were painted in two shades of blue, a light shade on the top half of the walls and a much darker shade taking the bottom.  Molding divided the two, running the length of the room and into Briok’s sparsely decorated door.
            Sheba sat on Briok’s bed, ruffling the white sheets.  It was nearly half the size of the room, dwarfed only by the desk nestled between two windows.  One could see into the distant mountains to the north, the other looked down upon the radiant backyard and the multiple fruit trees Briok and his father had planted together.  Briok sat here, between the two windows, ignoring his mother.
            “Briok, I need you to talk.” Sheba turned his chair around and made him face her.  His brilliant green eyes flashed at her, his gaunt face and furrowed brow an almost exact copy of his father’s face when he felt sorrow.  Sheba could barely breathe.  She grabbed the ring from Briok, who cried out in anger.
            “Give it back!” he reached for it, but Sheba held it back. 
            “Do you know who gave this to your father?” Sheba asked.  Briok immediately calmed down.
            “No,” he replied.
            “My father,” Sheba held it up in front of her, letting the light from the ceiling reflect off it.  “Before your father left Nizam with me, my father gave him this ring.  It’s made from lythe steel, only mined on Nizam.  It can’t be melted once purified, and it never loses its shine.”
            “Why did Abar give that to Dad?”
            “Well, your Abar was a proud man.  When my brothers died, he was broken.” Sheba brought her hands down to her lap, as she began her story.  “I was the only one left by the time your father came and asked for my hand.  Your Abar wanted me to marry a Nizami, someone who had worked in the mines just like him.  But what could he say to the King of Atlantis?  So,” Sheba smirked and lifted the ring up to Briok’s eye-level, “he gave your father this ring as a promise.  To take care of me the same way a man from Nizam would.”
            Briok stiffened, “Did you want to leave with Dad?”
            Sheba nodded, “Nizam wasn’t the best place in the world.  I’m not sure if it was because it was a colony, or if it was just the kind of people that had settled there.  But I did want to get away.  And your father was such a powerful, charismatic man.”  Sheba looked up into Briok’s green eyes.  His were like a doe’s, wide-eyed and hopeful.  “Your father’s eyes pierced me.  The first time I met him, well you know, we were in college here.  I was shaking, his eyes were so intense.”  Sheba smiled, caressing her son’s face.  “You’re the spitting image of him in everyway, but your eyes are different.  There’s more hope.”  Sheba smiled, her eyes grim.  Briok leaned in and took his mother’s hand.
            “Mama, are you okay?” 
            Sheba nodded quickly, “Of course.  Here,” she took the ring and put it on Briok’s finger, “Your Abar made this himself.  It’s an heirloom, something we pass down from father to son, over and over.”
            “I’m not getting married Mom,” a faint hint of a smile peeked past the curtain of fatigue and loss.  Briok massaged the ring now resting on his finger. 
            “It’s not just for that,” Sheba also smiled, “It’s a token of trust.  That whoever wears this ring will be a man, not a boy.”
            Briok’s fist clenched tight.  “Mom, what happened to all those times you told me not to be like him.  To be a better man than him.”
            Sheba laughed, a disconcerting noise that made Briok flinch.  He didn’t think what he said was funny, “What did I say?”
            “Nothing.  You’re right, I do want you to be a better man than him.  But not everyone’s perfect, and not everyone’s evil Briok.  Your father had many good things in him.  He was brave, he was charming, he knew how to talk to anyone and everyone.”  Sheba’s eyes were in another place, recounting on their own a fond memory of her husband.  “He would walk into a room and without even speaking, just by looking at people, he could make you feel as if you were his best friend for ages.  I want you to have those things Briok, those things that made him great.  And everything that made him less than perfect, you do the opposite.”  Sheba touched the ring on Briok’s finger, it’s silver warmed by the heat of his hands.  “This is also a reminder of everything good about your father.  Your Abar trusted him with me, and now I’m trusting you.”
            “With what?” Briok’s voice was quiet.
            “To be a man, no matter what happens to us.  Now come on, let’s eat.”  Briok was about to fight back, questions almost escaping his lips.  But Sheba pressed a single finger to his lips, tried taming his unruly black hair, then walked out of the room.  Briok sat there, his hand rubbing the ring idly while his mind floated to the legacy of his father.
            Seeing that he was glued to his seat, Sheba carried a large tray with his dinner to Briok’s room, setting it down quietly next to him.  Stroking his untamed hair, she whispered to him that she was going to the Palace to take care of some ambassadors.  “Tomorrow I’ll be gone to the Senate building.  Promise I’ll be back before dinner.  Eat your soup, and get some rest.” When Briok did not reply, Sheba gently squeezed his shoulders, “You can’t forget that you are still alive, Briok.  You still have things to do.  You’re fourteen years old, you are not a child.  When I come back, I want to see you cleaned up and in bed.  You of all people need the rest.”  Exiting the room, she turned on the lights.  Sundown was settling itself in, the deep shades of dusk spreading their fingers across the nighttime sky.
Hopefully this suits your fancy!  I hope it's at least better than the previous version, I definitely think it is!  Until next time then.

2 comments:

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